Growing a Business With an Amazing Culture and Embroidered Apparel
Tune in as we chat with John Erbert of Johnny Battle Logos, and embroidery shop in the Denver, CO area, bringing quality embroidered apparel to businesses. They are building a culture that inspires their team to bring the very best for their customers, and enjoy each day doing it.
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[00:00:09] Announcer: Welcome to the Sticker Stories Podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com. If you're joining us for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular listener, thanks for your continued support. In this podcast, we interview our customers to hear their founder stories. We talk business, marketing, and of course, stickers and labels. StickerGiant is the fastest way to print high quality stickers and labels for your business or organization. We offer one to two-day turnaround on a wide variety of sticker and label products, and we offer custom shapes at no extra charge. We will even set up your artwork, so it's ready to print. Once again, you can find us at stickergiant.com.
[00:00:48] Jesse: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the sticker stories podcast brought to you by StickerGiant. My name is Jesse Freitas. I am the Marketing Director and we are very excited to have on today John Erbert from Johnny Battle to talk about the growth of his business, and we're also going to jump into a little deeper discussion on the marketing strategies that have really fueled the growth of what they do. Without further ado, I'd like to welcome you, John, and have you introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what Johnny Battle does as a business.
[00:01:23] John: Thanks Jesse. Glad to be here. My name is John obviously, and I run a company called Johnny Battle, and Johnny Battle does pretty much one thing which is embroidery, and we do embroidered apparel for businesses. That's really our focus. We do screen printing for our customers that need it but our focus really is embroidery. That's the main thing that we do.
[00:01:49] Jesse: The really cool part about today, and John, and having you on is the synergy we have between our company StickerGiant, of course, printing custom stickers and labels for businesses. You all on the flip side are doing the embroidery and business apparel, but really our goals align, and in who we're marketing to and what we're doing is very similar, but let's step back a little bit. I want to hear more about, how did Johnny Battle begin? When did you have the moment of, “I need to start this business,” and what was your motivation behind doing so?
[00:02:20] John: Yes. I own a lawn care company, and I have for 35 years. We always wanted something to do in the winter months, and most people in our industry do snow, and I'm like, “We don't want to do snow. That doesn't seem very reliable.” We wanted to sell a product online, but we didn't want to sell a traditional product because with Amazon and everything else. With people retailing stuff like that, we'd be crushed. We thought, what about a product that had some type of product/service associated with it?
We went through a whole bunch of ideas, and I happen to be at our local embroidery shop getting some goods for our lawn care business, and as always enamored and amazed at these machines. Just watching them sew, and I'd go in there for 20 minutes, and just watch these garments being sewn, and I thought that was really cool. It just hit me at that moment, I'm like, “What about embroidery? Will that work?” We started dig into it and we thought, “There might be an option here for us, but we don't want to be a me too, because who needs another embroidery shop?” We thought, “What's our angle? What can we do differently than everybody else?”
In our industry, it takes about two weeks to get some garments sewn or embroidered, and we thought, “Boy, if we can cut that down to a week, we might have something that we could sell to people.” We figured it out, and worked on it, and we were able to get it down to two days. Right now, when someone orders and they approve their order within 48 hours, we can sew, and ship, and get it out the door. Which really gave us a competitive advantage compared to everybody else, because no one in our industry can do that now. That's how we got started and why we're doing what we're doing.
[00:04:13] Jesse: Yes, and I think you're pointing to two things, and that one is that, the reason we became so successful as a business, which I like to call the Amazon effect. People out there, customers, whatever you're doing in business, they expect things fast, and if you can't do it fast, they expect it faster the next time or they'll go find someone that does it fast. It's interesting to hear you talk that way, knowing our journey as a company and going from the two-day turnaround, and trying to get products to a one-day turnaround, and okay, how can we ship things a little quicker for people to to meet those expectations? I think the other thing I heard from that is, you just didn't want to buy a snowplow.
[00:04:52] John: Yes. A snowplow and along with that, we could have set the business out. I was so influenced because I've never had a real job in my life. I mean, I was an entrepreneur at 12, and we have the same customers that I had when I was 12 for 35 years. I've never done anything else besides this business. There's been times in our industry where I actually hated the people I worked with. I'd go home and I think, man. I look myself in the mirror and say, "I really don't like what I'm doing. I don't like the people that I'm with," and we just would hang in there and hope that it would definitely get better.
In our lawn care business, labor is such a problem, and with this new business, I didn't want to have that problem. I really wanted a family atmosphere. I wanted people that I could really respect at work and rely upon them. Part of this new business venture was not just to do embroidery, but we wanted to build a different business with a family atmosphere. We wanted to be around people we liked. We wanted to be around people that shared same values with us. We wanted to be around people that thought about the customer the same way we did.
I figured, you know what? I spend almost my whole day with these people. I want to spend it with people I really, really, really like and enjoy. That's the focus now with this business, and the backside or the by product is, we're going to make money. We're going to do good in the world. We're going to help customers, but first, let's have this culture and these people that are great together, because if we get that right, I think it's spills out to everything else.
[00:06:38] Jesse: Yes, culture is so important. I know we talk about that a lot around StickerGiant, and we really come together as a family, and everything we do is kind of centered around that, so I can relate to what you're saying there. Really quickly, let's talk about the risk.
I think risk is the one thing that's really hard for people when they're deciding to go. I'm not going to just do lawn care and this. Do whatever in the winter. I'm going to start this business, and you mentioned the machines. The embroidery machines you guys have are amazing. I've watched your social media videos, but that takes a lot of upfront investment. How did you get over that hurdle, if you will? Of plopping down the money, or finding the investment and taking off?
[00:07:21] John: We had an advantage which most people don't, and we talk about this advantage all the time in our company because we had the lawn care business to support us which made money, and so we had money to take from there, and to support us in the beginning, but we were very careful because we still wanted Johnny Battle to stand on its own. We started out in the lawn care shop, and the shop, you can just picture many mowers, and gasoline, and everything in this warehouse.
We had this one head embroidery machine that we bought, and we've said, "This is going to be our proof of concept. If we can fill up this one machine, we'll continue on, but if we can't, we won't." We had it in the back of the shop, and then grass was getting on the clothes, and so we built this little wooden kind of walls with plastic around it, and it looked like a meth lab, so it was nicknamed the meth lab. We go in there and sew.
The clothing still smell like gas because there's gas. Fans in the warehouse from all the mowers. We started out that way and we eventually got so busy that we had to expand and go somewhere else. We started out like we didn't have anything, and then we moved next door, and eventually our other business kind of loan the money to Johnny Battle to get started, and get on its own.
[00:08:53] Jesse: That's awesome. That's a really neat story, and from Walt White beginnings [laughs] of the messy lab to a nice shop now that you have.
[00:09:03] John: I got to tell you, that could be a funny story about that. I was telling somebody yesterday, so we had our first big contract was the Colorado Department of Emergency Services, and they found us online, and they said, "We want to come see you," and we we're like, "Oh, Okay." This is when we had the one head machine in the mowing shop. They came out and visited us, and there was like four or five of them. They get out in this black SUV with these badges on them. [laughs] We we're like, "We're done for. There's no way they're going to buy from us."
They came in. They talked to us. They saw what we did, and they're like, "Yes, everything you've done so far with this, has been great. Your communication has been right on. We trust you. You can make this happen," and they gave us the deal, and I was surprised.
[00:09:53] Jesse: That is surprising. That's kind of a fun story. Now, were they your first customers, or had you built up a little business by that point?
[00:10:01] John: We had a little business by that point. We had a few customers.
[00:10:04] Jesse: Let's jump into the marketing conversation a little bit. How did you go about finding those first handful of customers?
[00:10:12] John: We tried so many things. We started off in the offline world. We actually would get into our car and go knock on doors, on business doors and leave catalogs and tootsie rolls and information and introduce ourselves to other people. We did that for about two, three months and it got us nowhere but we were doing something I guess. I had a lot of experience from the lawn care company and the offline marketing world. We did a lot of offline stuff like that.
We started out sending postcards to different businesses and that type of thing. That bombed for us and we thought, we really got to learn and get into this digital side of things. We didn't know much and I didn't know much about the digital world. I started reading, listening to podcasts, and just started out learning AdWords and learning all I could about AdWords. We got involved in AdWords, started creating ads with a small budget and once we'd had success, we'd increase the budget a little more.
Right now, most of our customers, our new customers come from AdWords. We also do some Facebook marketing, that type of thing and then we do email blasts, and that type of thing to keep in contact with our customers.
Facebook's interesting for us. Where it doesn't work so well because we get interesting customers off of Facebook. We get that guy, which there's nothing wrong with him, but he's got a brand he wants to create. He wants to buy six hats, he created this logo and he wants to start a fashion line. He's very particular. When he gets his hats, he analyzes them to death. Every little stitch on them, but they don't do a lot of volume, very difficult customer and we thought, "This isn't the right medium for us."
What Facebook does well for us is remarketing. Once a customer visits our website we tag them and then we remarket to them in different intervals on the website. Maybe every one day, every 30 days, every 60 days, and every 90 days. That works awesome for us. I don't know what your rate is for conversions on the site but ours is around 2%. If that's true you look at it and say, "Geez, well, that's 98% of the people that aren't buying from us that came to the website for a particular reason." That was an eye-opener for us.
We're like, “We need to do a lot more things to go after this 98% that's not buying.” That's where the remarketing came in, that's where the email blast came in. I'll sit on the phone sometimes and call customers if we have a phone number for them and just reach out again. Try to get that 98% back or tell them our story or do something so we can start to develop a relationship with them.
[00:13:11] Jesse: Yes, 2% to 3% is pretty common for e-commerce sites on the conversion. Last time we checked, I believe we had about 2.8% if I'm recalling right.
[00:13:21] John: Which is awesome.
[00:13:22] Jesse: It goes with the time of year and what recent changes have we made. We do a lot of, maybe you can speak to this on the website front, within the past couple of years we do a lot of conversions tuning. Really playing with button copy and placement and what's on our site. Is there too much on this page? We'll do existence tests of certain features and we've been doing a ton of that for the last year now. Which has helped increase that conversion rate. I don't know if you all dabble in anything like that or can speak to anything related to the website that you focus on specifically?
[00:13:55] John: We haven't like you guys, I know when I visited you the first time that you guys did a lot of that stuff. We'll do some minor tweaks but most of our tweaks so far on the website come from feedback from the customer. We get a call and they're having a problem with a certain part of the website. We're like, "Let's fix that." Or we get a lot of questions associated with a certain type of thing on the website and we're like, "Let's see if we can address that so we don't get so many people that need to call. Let's see if we can fix that." We haven't got to your level yet but we're doing those types of changes.
[00:14:31] Jesse: What we do is very similar to that because a lot of times we'll run tests based on what people say. If there's customers out there listening, if you have input, please let us know because we will go and test and look at those features and build them out over time or remove some things. Like, "That didn't actually work the way we thought." We also do some heat mapping and seeing, "Okay, are they using this button? Are they going to the blog?" A lot of those different things.
Let's talk a little bit about content though. We've talked about Facebook, remarketing; that is wildly successful for us as well too. Just pulling that traffic from your website and showing ads to them online. How do you go about developing your content for all the ads and things you're running?
[00:15:13] John: Well, our customers are solely business owners and they're a great type of person to have as a customer. They're fun, they understand business, they understand the process that you need to go through. If there's a problem, they've had these problems before in their business so they're very accepting of these problems. First of all, they're great customers. We focus all of our content on them and try to reach them through the different types of media.
I know you guys have this saying, which is great, that every sticker has a story. We're not so far off from that because every logo also has a story and it's even more of an emotional story in some ways because it's clothing and it's somehow connected to their body. When they're wearing a shirt or a hat, it's almost a little more intimate because they have it on them all day.
What we like to do is we like to learn about our customer and share their experience with everybody else because they have such a great story. How they started, what they do, what's unique about what they're doing. They have so much great content that I couldn't come up with on my own. I could stay up all night and not think of this stuff. We just kind of just echo their story to some of our customers and just piggyback that. If that makes sense.
[00:16:42] Jesse: You know it does for us.
[00:16:45] Jesse: That's why I was saying we have a lot of synergy between our companies because that's really our focus. We create stickers and labels, we're not designers though. These are people, business owners, artists, all these creative people in the world coming up with this stuff that we just facilitate the printing and converting that print job on. We like to show what people are doing, what's their story. That's where I loved chatting with you on about Johnny Battle because you're so much on the same page to what we do and it's that we're storytellers. We're not just marketers. We are out there telling and helping people tell their stories and I think that's so important to understand in business.
Anyone out there listening, if they're starting a business or integral part of growing a business, that's the thing you got to wrap your mind around. You can just take off with that mindset of just understanding it's about the people you're serving.
[00:17:39] John: I think too in telling these stories. Actually, you probably don't know this but I learned this from you guys. When we first heard about StickerGiant from a customer of ours, they were in our shop and we started talking about different things and here's the funniest thing she brought up. She goes, "There's this sticker company I had to go pick up stickers for in Longmont," and she started talking about the humidity. She goes, "They have to keep the humidity at a certain level to do the printing and have these really cool expensive machines," and it peaked my interest.
She left the shop and I immediately went to my computer and Googled StickerGiant to see what this was all about. I'm looking around on the website and a day or two later, I get involved on the marketing side and I see this video of Andrew in your marketing department. It was like four or six-minute video of Andrew and I watched it and video is so great because the video helped to tell the story in such a unique way because you got the visual side, you got the audio side, and I felt like I knew Andrew. Never met him in my life, I'm like, "Of course, I got to call Andrew because he's the nice guy there. He’s the one I got to call."
I called up Andrew and he called me back and he was a nice guy. I said, "I have this business I'm doing and I've got some questions for you about marketing." He answered all my questions and he said, "We've this open book policy here at StickerGiant. You should come up to one of our meetings on Tuesday." First of all, I'm like, "What?" I'm blown away. I'm like, "We're invited to a meeting already? I'm going to see the books? I can't believe this."
I go back to my Production Manager, I go, "I'm going to this meeting next Tuesday." Ken is our Production Manager, he's up for anything and he's like, "Sounds great. Let's go." We get up here and got to see what you guys do. We got to be a part of the meeting, we got to see the numbers. There's very few companies that I have ran across in my life where I said to myself, "I'd like to run a company like this." I don't say I'd like to work for a company like this because I've never had a job. I always say, “I like to run a company like this.”
First of all, you had that company when I came. I'm like, "This is something that I would like to create. Something like this." You guys there's a company in Florida called PostcardMania that does postcards which has the same vibe that I'm fascinated with and another one who's a biggie which is Zappos, Zappos.com.
[00:20:14] Jesse: Yes. Zappos is really great.
[00:20:15] John: Every time in Vegas-- I can't go to Vegas without going on a tour of Zappos. You guys had this and I think what I liked about StickerGiant so much is you had that family atmosphere and in that culture that I craved. That's why I was so attracted to that visit.
[00:20:38] Jesse: Thank you for saying all that and for our listeners out there, we do run a company Wide Huddle every Tuesday at 9:00 AM so if you're in Colorado or the Longmont area, we do invite guests. If you're interested just to plug that real quickly, just email us at marketing@StickerGiant.com and we can facilitate what John just described. It's amazing to hear you say and hear your focus on culture and what you're doing with Johnny Battle.
Where you guys at today, what's next on the horizon? You talked about paid search and Facebook. Are there any new strategies you're looking at? Anything going on within your business?
[00:21:14] John: Yes, really the strategy for us is to continue to do all this digital marketing thing that we're learning and going on with. It takes -- This will surprise most people that online for us with Google AdWords, it cost us about $170 to $200 to acquire a customer. Most people say, “Wow that's a lot of money to get a customer.” We've talked to other people in our industry and we're close, they're close to that also so we don't feel like we're off in the field somewhere and just doing crazy things.
Since it cost so much to get a customer, we better damn sure we’ll take care of them. When we do that, that transaction better go smoothly, it better be easy for the customer, they better be, “Wow, I buy this from Zappos,” they better be wowed when they get their package.
One of the things we do is when you get a box from us, we have this cool-- We agonized for a month on our tape, how the tape will look on the box. We have this tape on the outside of the box. We have one of your stickers on the outside the box because it gives that impression of quality. We took the time to pay and put a sticker on the box with this great tape. When you open the box, we want it to experience. It had to be something like Christmas so it's wrapped in our branded tissue paper. Most times you get up box from embroidery, the clothes are going to be thrown in there haphazardly folded. If you've got invoice in the box, you won.
[00:22:52] Jesse: [laughs] I've done that. I have that experience.
[00:22:54] John: [laughs] We have this tissue paper and then we have this goodie sack and so inside the goodie sack is some stickers again that we have made by you guys. It has this cheeky little thank you note that's really fun, that's signed by the person who embroider the goods. We have jelly bellies in our box. We have a patch sewout they get. It's a great surprise. People are wowed because they're expecting just their shirts.
We've actually sent out boxes before when we ran out of jelly bellies and people have called. I mean, taken the time to call and say, "Order was great, didn't get my jelly bellies, what's up with that?" We know it touches people in that way. To really answer your question, we're trying to think of more things that we can do like that to give them a better experience because to go back to this, it cost so much to get them. We want to make sure that they're wowed and that they're our customer for life. Our thought process is, what can we do to make them a customer for life?
[00:23:57] Jesse: Absolutely. That customer journey that you speak about it's so important and those little touch points that we have to focus on and then I think you also brought up something about consistency. When you start doing those things and really invest in the experience, your customers are going to gain than they expected, you can't pull that back. It's so important to make that upfront investment and the time it takes to put the little thought into, “Okay, what are we going to do for our customers and to wow them,” and it's so important. I think you bring up some great things there.
Just to bring this whole story to a close about Johnny Battle. Anything else you want to share about Johnny Battle maybe where people can find you, check out more about you, check out the cool embroidery videos you all post on Facebook. I love watching those.
[00:24:44] John: You'd get us at johnnybattle.com and our Facebook is Johnny Battle also. Just type in Johnny Battle in a search bar and we’ll come up. I think on Instagram or Johnny Battle logos and YouTube, it's Johnny Battle logos also. You can get us anywhere from the website. People ask all the time, “Are you John or Johnny Battle?” I say, “No." I'm modestly, I'm like, I'm not, I wish I was because Johnny Battle’s a fictitious character. Johnny Battle is someone who can run a business, fight the fight, have a bad day, maybe have cancer, maybe have a horrible relationship but still just power through that and power on. That was the idea behind Johnny Battle is that life's tough, business is tough but this guy, Johnny Battle, can help you through one piece of it and that's your embroidered apparel. That's the whole concept of our brand.
[00:25:42] Jesse: That's awesome. The perseverance of running a business every day and growing it slowly but surely.
Well, thank you, John, for coming on and sharing your story about Johnny Battle with us, we really appreciate you taking the time. For those of you out there listening that are interested, we also have a video up on our social media @StickerGiant Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. All of those places, we have got a little promo video where we went and visited Johnny Battle. It shows their cool machines and John talking a little bit more about their business so make sure to check that out. Otherwise, we will catch you for our next episode of the Sticker Stories and we thank you all for listening.
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