THE THOUGHTFUL ENTREPRENEUR PODCAST

1864 – Intelligent Marketing Strategy with William Harris

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with theCEO & Founder of Elumynt, LLC, William Harris.

William Harris has highlighted the critical need to shift focus to the bottom line. He pointed out that chasing top-line revenue only sometimes equates to increased profitability and can sometimes have the opposite effect. Element's innovative systems are designed to help businesses optimize their campaigns while closely monitoring EBITDA.

William introduced two vital concepts: aggregate EBITDA and unit-level profitability. By analyzing each product's profit margin and customer acquisition cost, Element guides businesses in making decisions that substantially enhance their bottom line. This strategy is not only logical but also crucial for achieving sustainable growth.

One may question why not all businesses focus on EBITDA if it is so advantageous. The challenge lies in the difficulty of integrating profit data into advertising platforms. Many businesses and media buyers are more comfortable with straightforward top-line metrics, which can be deceptive. William stressed that a profound comprehension of the business, beyond just the industry, is required to master this complexity.

Although unable to divulge specific client information due to confidentiality agreements, William recounted the success of an outdoor apparel brand that revolutionized its advertising approach. By targeting their campaigns on more profitable products, such as their premium coats, the brand saw a marked improvement in profitability.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • EBITDA-focused growth optimization for e-commerce
  • Prioritizing bottom-line over top-line growth
  • Enhancing acquisition or exit potential with EBITDA strategies
  • E-commerce challenges and growth via advertising and media buys
  • Tactics for EBITDA-centric campaign optimization
  • Linking media buying to bottom-line profitability
  • Success stories from EBITDA-optimized campaigns
  • How EBITDA optimization boosts acquisition or exit attractiveness
  • EBITDA focus altering marketing team outcomes and views
  • Financial upsides of EBITDA optimization, despite higher costs

About William Harris:

William Harris is a distinguished figure in digital marketing, particularly known for his expertise in accelerating the revenue and user growth of e-commerce and SaaS businesses. As the founder and CEO of Elumynt, an e-commerce marketing agency, and the head of marketing for Sellbrite, a company specializing in multichannel e-commerce growth and management, Harris has a proven track record of success. 

William's work has benefited significant brands like Nike, Nickelodeon, and Jack Daniels, demonstrating his capacity to deliver significant results, such as achieving a 5,601% ROAS on Facebook ads and doubling a client's organic search traffic in a month through SEO. 

Harris contributed to a B2B SaaS blog's audience growth from 20k to over 100k monthly visitors in less than two years. His insights and strategies are also shared through contributions to top publications like Entrepreneur and Fast Company, and he frequently speaks at major industry events.

About Elumynt, LLC:

Elumynt has established itself as a leading Growth & Marketing Agency, humorously acclaimed as the #1 agency in Minnesota for two consecutive years by the founder's mother. Though shared in jest, this accolade hints at the agency's strong reputation and the high esteem it's held, even among its clients. Specializing in rapid business growth, Elumynt serves a diverse clientele, including venture capital-backed SaaS companies, e-commerce stores, and local small businesses. 

Their expertise is not confined to any industry, allowing them to apply their growth strategies across various sectors. The agency's ability to work with a broad range of businesses—from tech startups to traditional brick-and-mortar shops—underscores its versatility and effectiveness in driving significant growth and marketing success for its clients.

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Elumynt, LLC website at

https://www.elumynt.com/

Check out Elumynt, LLC on LinkedIn at

https://www.linkedin.com/company/elumynt/

Check out William Harris on LinkedIn at

https://www.linkedin.com/in/wmharris/

Check out William Harris on Instagram at

https://www.instagram.com/wmharris101x

Check out William Harris on Twitter at

https://twitter.com/wmharris101

Check out William Harris on Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/realwilliamharris

Check out The Up Arrow Podcast at

https://www.youtube.com/@uparrowpodcast

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/up-arrow-podcast/id1686736096

https://open.spotify.com/show/3VOqxnoXRyNNq1nsvL3P24?si=c0e3d91291ed46c0

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Transcript

Josh (00:00:05) - Hey, thoughtful listener, before we get going. Did you know that my company up my influence? Com has launched more than 200 business podcasts. The host of our shows are amazing leaders and collaborators. Folks I want to connect you with. Maybe you deserve your moment in the spotlight as a guest of one of these amazing shows. Just go to up my influence. Com where you can see more than 50 shows that are actively seeking business leader guests like you to celebrate right now in front of their high caliber audiences. Just click on the podcast tab and up my influence. Com where you'll see shows like Experience Focused Leaders Podcast. If you're seeking insights on transforming customer experiences, you can't miss the Experience Focused Leaders podcast with your host, Alex Kovalenko. Alex, the CEO and founder of relay two, brings his rich background from Stanford MBA, Wharton BSc and the University of Pennsylvania B.A.. He's a smart dude, along with his real world experiences of building organizations across global hubs to the forefront of this engaging podcast.

Josh (00:01:19) - Now, each episode is a deep dive into the world of customer centric strategies where Alex and his guests, seasoned business owners and industry veterans, share their invaluable insights. They discuss the latest trends, offer practical advice, and reveal the secrets behind exceptional customer experiences and business growth. Are you a business owner who values customer experience above all? Then this podcast is your go to resource. Better yet, if you've got unique insights and strategies that have helped you stand out in your industry, we'd love to have you as a guest on the show. Share your story with a community that's as passionate about customer experience excellence as you are. Tune in to the Experience Focused Leaders podcast for your weekly dose of inspiration and practical tips. Let's push the boundaries of customer experience together. With us. Right now it's William Harris. William, you are the founder and CEO of element. An element is not spelled like you might think it is. L u m y n t. Your website is element in that spelling.com. Well, it's great to have you, William.

Josh (00:02:34) - Thank you so much for joining us.

William Harris (00:02:36) - Yeah, thanks for having me, Josh. Excited to be here.

Josh (00:02:38) - And so please give us an overview of the work you do. Pretty exciting topic by the way to our friend that's listening. You may want to go to Element Comm. So you can kind of follow along. But yeah William give us an overview of your work.

William Harris (00:02:50) - Yeah. So the basic gist of what we do is going to be optimizing campaigns for growth around EBITDA, specifically for e-commerce stores. So a lot of people will optimize paid media, social media, you know, Facebook ads, TikTok ads, Google ads, YouTube, whatever. The optimize around, like a top line revenue number or what we call like Roas, we developed systems that allow us to optimize more towards the bottom line, which is a very interesting concept. I'm sure we could dig into it more. It's counterintuitive, and a lot of the things that people think would be, well, wouldn't that just be better if I optimize for the top line, should the bottom line go up? Not necessarily.

William Harris (00:03:24) - In fact, there's a lot of times that it doesn't. And so there's a lot of ways we kind of have fixed the way that people do media buying in the space and more specifically for e-commerce brands.

Josh (00:03:33) - Well, okay, help me understand the connection between media buying and that and how this fits into, again, looking at that overall bottom line number as opposed to because I agree with you, top line doesn't mean anything. No.

William Harris (00:03:46) - So there's there's two main ways we look at this. One is going to be aggregate EBITDA aggregate profitability. And so let's say that you're optimizing for a return of 4 to 1. And let's say that you're getting $100,000 in sales for that. But then if you go to a 3.5 to 1, you can get $500,000 in sales. Well, when you take out all of your cost of goods sold and everything else, the amount of actual profit that you got from that buy, that small incremental change, they're allowing you to scale five times more with just, you know, 0.05% change or whatever on the return makes a big difference.

William Harris (00:04:21) - The other side of this is going to be on a unit level, and this is where I think it gets really interesting and a lot more fun. Let's say that you have a product that is $200 and another product that's $100, and let's say that on the $200 item, you have a margin or a profit on that product of $50, let's say on the $100 item, you have a profit of $75, right? So once you factor in your cost of goods sold, what happens is a lot of people that are optimizing for Roas will miss this. Let's imagine that you have a customer acquisition cost of $50 for either one of these. You just set that as your campaign goal. We want a $50 kick. On the $200 item. Since you only have $50 profit, the 200 divided by 50 to acquire that customer is a 4 to 1 return on ad spend Roas, but you have $0 in bottom line from that one. The $100 item though. On the flip side, you had $75 of profit 100 divided by $50.

William Harris (00:05:17) - To acquire a customer means that you have a 2 to 1 Roas. Worst performance if you're just looking in platform, but that one actually improved your bottom line. This is what we've done, is we figure out, well, how do we feed that information back into the ads platforms? How do we make sure we set campaigns up in a way that better understands what your actual goal is, and optimize that way?

Josh (00:05:37) - Well, that just seems like common sense to me. And but difficult to do would be the standard way that we do business. Why is it not?

William Harris (00:05:45) - Because it's a lot harder. So it's very easy for people to just look in the platform and see what is collected as top line revenue. That's what the platform is reporting on. A lot of people aren't feeding profit data back into the platforms. It's difficult. And so I think that there's just a level of complexity that gets in the way for a lot of people. I also think that a lot of people don't think that way.

William Harris (00:06:05) - When I started the agency, I remember people saying, well, they don't understand my business. And I never worked at an agency before this. I was in-house at SAS companies before this and in an e-commerce company. And I can remember thinking, it's not that they don't understand the vertical, they just don't understand business. And so no fault to the media buyers, but the media buyers are only programmed to understand what they've been programmed, to which the platform's telling them top line revenue. They're reporting on top line revenue, it looks sexier, right? Top line revenue more than bottom line revenue. So you got a bigger role as this is fun. And so I think that it was more out of just a, let's just say a naivete,, as well as a complexity problem.

Josh (00:06:44) - So take me through maybe a story or two, or an example or case study of some clients that you've worked. And I know you've kind of touched on a couple here already, but maybe just one story where you can kind of talk about the before, you know, kind of the due diligence, the, you know, kind of the change in direction and then what those outcomes ended up being.

William Harris (00:07:05) - Yeah. I'm really bad at talking publicly about a lot of people. And a lot of times that's because they have really interesting NDAs to say you're not allowed to talk about are publicly traded., so without getting into maybe the specifics of names I'm going to think about, there is a, an apparel brand, a Coke brand that came to us, outdoor apparel brand, and when they came to us, it was the same concept where let's just say they're looking at hack across the board and they've got coats, but then they've also got gloves and hats and other things like that, and acquiring the purchase of a hat versus acquiring a purchase of a $500 coat. We're very different in far as what it meant to the business. So being able to come in and say, okay, based on what we're doing for your business, how do we make sure that we're optimizing this around what's more impactful for your business?

Josh (00:07:52) - Yeah. So obviously, you know, talk about the kind of primed for acquisition or primed for exit aspect of this.

Josh (00:08:02) - Yeah.

William Harris (00:08:03) - Yeah. So we've helped. Now 13 companies get acquired, one sold to GoDaddy., one sold for about 800 million won recently. iPod., when when we're looking at exiting, as I'm sure many of your listeners know, for the most part, the gold standard is it's some type of a multiple based on your EBITDA. And so when we're talking to businesses, EBITDA isn't always the main factor that we're optimizing for every business. Some businesses are smaller than they're looking for just acquisition right now. And they're willing to be less profitable because they're saying, I just need to acquire more users, more people into our customer base,, for a later time. Right., and so then we're looking at different metrics for them., but for a lot of people, they're reaching that point where they're saying, hey, we're, you know, we're doing 30 million, 40 million, $50 million a year. Right now. Our EBITDA is in a good spot. We're looking at being acquired.

William Harris (00:08:49) - Maybe we even have some conversations or an Loi or whatever. How do we make sure that we're optimizing towards what's most impactful for them? And that's where the EBITDA comes into play, because that's going to significantly increase whatever they actually end up with, either their payout or their earnout on that side of things., it also becomes more attractive, I think, even when you talk to a lot of the marketing teams at other, let's say, e-commerce stores. And here's another good example. There was one that came to us. Marketing teams aren't necessarily always thinking in terms of EBITDA. The marketing teams are still thinking in terms internally of as far as top line revenue or sales or customers. And I think that's by design and that's just fine. But there was a customer that came to us and we charged a little bit more than their previous agency. And I can remember the first month that we were with them. I don't remember the exact numbers,, but let's just say for easy numbers for here, we ended up charging them about twice what they had been charged from the previous agency.

William Harris (00:09:42) - So $20,000 to manage your ads versus $10,000. And I remember the marketing guy being a little bit shocked. He goes, this is terrible. I'm gonna get in trouble from my boss. Like, like, like what happened here kind of thing is like, well, wait a minute. You know, we were able to scale your ad spend by $200,000. You made an extra $1 million minus cost of goods sold, minus everything else. Minus. Yeah. You made it about $400,000 in net new profit within a single month of us coming on board. Is your boss happy with the $400,000 in extra EBITDA that you gained to pay us an extra $10,000? He goes, well, I guess when you put it like that, and it's like, that's exactly how I'd like to put it. And so I think a lot of this comes down to almost educating,, some of the brands that we work with on what are the private equity firms or these other people that are looking to acquire them, what are they looking for? How do we make sure that we start,, managing your campaigns in a way that's going to help for your future exit as well?

Josh (00:10:33) - Yeah.

Josh (00:10:34) - Okay. So your website is element.com. Like, how does someone know that they might be a really good candidate to work or partner with you?

William Harris (00:10:45) - Yeah. Our sweet spot is going to be somebody that's on Shopify. We do work with people that are e-commerce brands off Shopify, but that's where we have the most systems built out for,, typically within the 10 to $50 million range. We have some that are, you know, well over 300 million. We have some that are down in 1 million or whatever. But like, that's our sweet spot. And the reason why I say that is because if you're doing less than 5 million, a lot of times you just don't have the data for us and our team to come in and do what we need to do, and we need more of that data for what we're doing to really have so much of a really big, immediate impact. We don't have a lot of junior level people on this. These are senior level people, and so it costs a lot.

William Harris (00:11:20) - We're not the most cheapest agency on the high side of this, though. A lot of times when you get into really, really big brands, the reason why sometimes I would say they're not our favorite fit is because they're just slow. We don't like working with some brands when they get to the point where it's like, hey, great, that's something I wouldn't think you would. This happened one time. We wanted to implement Bing for them Microsoft ads, and I think it was about 13 months before they finally had all the approval to set the Microsoft Ads account up for us to even begin writing. So it's like, that's just brutal, where if you can't tell, we're high energy and,, I don't want to have to wait for all of those different things to be able to finally get something exciting moving.

Josh (00:11:56) - Yeah, okay. Someone is in that target, that range., what would you recommend? Like what is their path look like?, to, you know, maybe there's kind of initial conversation or can you walk me through that?

William Harris (00:12:10) - Yeah.

William Harris (00:12:10) - So the first thing that we like to do is just jump on a regular call where we're going to learn more about your business. And that's because there's a lot of these things that I just talked about that are nuances that I want to know. So I could bring that to our team. Before we audit your account., if you are looking to maximize EBITDA, that's a very different game plan than if you're looking to maximize user growth. And so we need to understand or if you're looking to raise a series B or whatever this might be, I need to understand those types of goals. I need to understand where your Cogs are. I need to understand where your opex is. I need to understand these types of numbers to be able to say, okay, great. Now team, take this in. When you do the audit, with this kind of understanding of the business, that allows us to be more intelligent. So we start with that call. We get access to the accounts. We do the.

William Harris (00:12:51) - We put together our plan and we say, okay, based on your goals and what we understand to be best practice within this, within our agency, not best practice within other agencies, this is how we're going to approach improving your ad account and growing you. And then from there then it's just a matter of okay, if that makes sense to you, let's move forward. If it doesn't make sense, but we'd like to start on a three month pilot with the goal being, okay, let's give it three months. Let's prove out our plan. And if that works, then let's continue to commit further.

Josh (00:13:16) - Yeah., your website is Mint.com. And aside from perhaps, you know, just booking a call initially. Do you have any resources or, you know, maybe anything on your social media or, you know, anything that you've put together or someone that's like, well, this sounds pretty incredible, but I'd love to learn a little bit more., and anything else that you'd recommend on that front?

William Harris (00:13:36) - Yeah, there's two really fun things there on the blog.

William Harris (00:13:39) - There's several really, really, really good articles that really help people to understand a little bit more about what we're talking about. One is going to be called the Facebook Roas death spiral., and it's this idea where people kind of get into this death spiral. They're trying to increment their their Roas, but to the detriment of their bottom line. And so we, we walk them through it's like 7000 words, but a lot of gifs and images and things to really help this make sense. If you're like, I think I get it, but I'm not sure if I get it, that will help them. A lot of other really good articles too, that show how we approach advertising, even on social media, very differently from others. One's going to be,, the TikTok ad what is it? Simpson's paradox with TikTok's ads. So Simpson's paradox is a,, statistical thing that you look at. We understand maybe something that seems like it makes sense and is completely the opposite of what you would expect.

William Harris (00:14:26) - And so similarly, Bayes theorem is another statistical analysis tool that we use. And when we're doing this, this challenges a lot of what other people are already saying. So if you're somebody who's following, you know, DDC media on Twitter, and you're seeing all of these people saying, oh, do this, do this, do this. We challenge a lot of that, and we actually do that from data science perspective. Those are good articles to read. The other thing would be the podcast., so we actually have a podcast as well, which is called Up Arrow and got a lot of really fun guests. Harley Finkelstein, actually the president of Shopify, was on there, Stephanie Pugliese, the president of Under Armour. So like really just brilliant minds taking us through their thoughts., as far as what it takes to grow and build an e-commerce business as well. And so we get into a lot of just our way of thinking, their way of thinking. So you could really start to see, how are we approaching campaigns differently from other people?

Josh (00:15:16) - Yeah.

Josh (00:15:17) - Final thoughts on where are we when it comes to E-com and the intersection between E-com and growth through advertising and, you know, kind of media buying, where do you see like maybe where we've been and, you know, kind of you're looking in your crystal ball. What's going to be pretty vital moving forward.

William Harris (00:15:33) - Yeah. So the profitability is extremely vital. We're seeing this a lot where there was a hyper,, push for,, acquisition over the last couple of years. PE money was very easy, VC money very easy to come by or a lot more easier than it was now. And that's tightened up. And so there's been a bigger call to you have to get profitable., so that's a big part of it. Moving beyond this immediate thing, though, I think that's going to continue to be there. E-commerce has gotten more, let's just say more exciting, but also more challenging. And I say that's exciting, though, because I like challenges where you used to be able to come in, kind of throw up the website, and for the most part, you were getting something.

William Harris (00:16:09) - There's a lot of smarter people that have gotten into this. And if you're looking at this saying, I have to be profitable on purchase one, there's a very good chance that there's somebody else in your category, a lot of other somebody else's in your category that have smart teams that are saying you actually don't have to be profitable until purchase number three. So here's how we're going to be able to optimize. And now you're competing against these people in their sophistication. So I would say that's a big part of this is you have to level up where you're thinking was before that. The other part about this that I'm excited about is spatial commerce. And so I don't know if you've seen the Apple Vision Pro or where that's going right now, but I did get the Apple Vision Pro day. It came out, and it's wild to see how people are going to start purchasing there. So Alo Yoga was the first one that I tested. I actually put a review on this on my YouTube channel. But you enter into the Vision Pro, and now if I'm going to buy their yoga clothes, I'm actually transported to like a beach or I'm transported to whatever environment you can imagine yourself actually using those clothes, those products, and now you're buying it.

William Harris (00:17:03) - It's much different than when I'm looking at my window here in Minnesota, seeing snow saying, I don't know if that's what I want to buy right now versus being on the beach saying, yeah, I want those swim trunks. And so watch my girls tease me all the time about calling swim trunks. I don't know if anybody else does. Swimming through whatever you call it, but the point is that I think the ability for people to be able to start buying things in a completely different environment than what they're they're seeing right now around them, is going to just enhance that understanding of the product that they're buying, the desire to buy that product, etc..

Josh (00:17:32) - Yeah. All right. So William Harris again element.com l m y n t.com. Again when you go there there's a button. Right now get a free growth roadmap which you can click on. You can check out. And again there's some really great resources in the blog as well. So it's a great conversation. William, thank you so much for joining us.

William Harris (00:17:53) - Josh was really nice to be here. Thank you again.

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