Roosterly founder, Irfan Jafrey, found out the hard way that the strategy of ‘if you built it, they’ll come’ simply doesn’t work in today’s business climate. In this episode, he explains how the humble sales funnel is the lifeblood of today’s digitally native brands.
Brian Weinstein: Welcome everybody to Sippin’ & Shippin’. I’m your host, Brian Weinstein. We’ll be kicking it here every other Thursday, quenching your thirst for an insider’s take to enhance your customer’s experience. Grab your drink of choice, kick back, it’s Sippin’ & Shippin’ time.
All right. Welcome everybody to another episode of Sippin’ & Shippin’. I’m your host, Brian Weinstein, and I’m here as I am all the time with Caitlin Postel.
Caitlin Postel: Hey Brian, how are you?
Brian Weinstein: I’m doing well, doing well. And we have a very special guest today. Irfan Jafrey from Roosterly. How are you today?
Irfan Jafrey: I’m doing good. Thanks for having me.
Brian Weinstein: All right. Appreciate you coming on board and joining us today. So as we like to do every episode, when I remember, we’re all going to discuss a little bit about what we’re drinking today while we’re sitting around talking shop. So Irfan, what do you have going today?
Irfan Jafrey: This is mostly vodka.
Caitlin Postel: Ooh!
Irfan Jafrey: I’m teasing.
Caitlin Postel: There it is. Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Wait, I’m sliding back. I’ve got to go over to my cabinet. I’ve got a little spike I have to do here.
Irfan Jafrey: I’m just teasing. I don’t drink. This is an iced chai made at home.
Brian Weinstein: Very nice. Very nice. So, that’s a tea. So Caitlin, I know you’re always onto the tea.
Caitlin Postel: That’s right. Might become a shock to you, but I am sipping on green tea, pomegranate green tea. It’s a little later in the afternoon so I went decaf. So, I’m sure Irfan’ll bring it with the chai.
Irfan Jafrey: I think I will. I hope I do. We’ll see, because they’re watching.
Caitlin Postel: What have you got, Brian?
Brian Weinstein: So, I found a special little cafe. I went to fill up my car this morning at the gas station. I found a special little tea called Siete-Once. Siete-Once Coffee.
Caitlin Postel: Oh, geez. This sounds a lot like Targét to me.
Brian Weinstein: Well, it might be a little bit, so I’m not sure if it’s pronounced in Spanish. It does have a big 7 and Eleven on there. So, 7-Eleven coffee it is for me midday. So, appreciate it. So Irfan, tell us a little bit about your background and marketing. So, the subject of today’s discussion is really around marketing and how to best utilize it for driving traffic onto your site and keeping your customers as well. So, tell us a little bit about your background.
Irfan Jafrey: So my background was, I’m a recovering lawyer. I went to law school, so I found out that that really wasn’t quite a good fit for me. It wasn’t something that I was passionate about. Ultimately, I ended up working for Google where I spent a lot of time understanding how the general public conducts searches online, how they interact with websites, what are the components to not only driving traffic to a website but getting them to do what you want them to do? Maybe that’s filling out a lead form or maybe that’s purchasing something, but how do you have somebody consistently go through that sequence of events and feel like they’re having a very personalized experience where they want to come back over and over again? That’s been sort of my passion, I think, for the past 12 years.
Brian Weinstein: Excellent. Okay. And so, I mean, to me, there’s nothing more important than marketing to a brand, digitally native brand. It’s the most important thing. And it all starts out, and I know it’s talked about a lot but it really is true, it really starts out with that whole funnel concept, right? And so, what’s so important about that sales funnel and the way companies and brands are managing it?
Irfan Jafrey: So, the best way to explain it and the most concise way to explain it, for me, is to share a very personal story. So when I left my corporate role, I did not have sales experience and I thought if I throw up a website and have some basic components on there, people are just going to come to the website, they’re going to buy, and then it’ll be great. I’ll be hanging out with Richard Branson and Elon Musk or something. It didn’t quite pan out that way.
Caitlin Postel: So here you are with Brian and Caitlin.
Brian Weinstein: Hey, they eat well but.
Caitlin Postel: I mean, sorry.
Brian Weinstein: Hey, they could be listening. We never know.
Irfan Jafrey: They don’t take any day, by the way. I’ll take any day we’re going through.
Brian Weinstein: At least it’s analytics or suspect on our webcast. So, who knows? They could be listening.
Irfan Jafrey: And so I was pretty naive in how I went about setting up my own business, and I spent way more money in the most inefficient ways on bad marketing. I was running into people saying, “Hey, we can do Facebook ads for you. We can do Instagram ads for you and Google ads and all these things.” They sounded good, they looked the part, they had a fancy turtleneck on and then those sort of geeky glasses. So I figured, “Okay, cool. Take my money. Here’s three grand or four grand or six-month-“
Brian Weinstein: You took the bait.
Irfan Jafrey: “… the six-month retainer.” And at the end of that, or three months into that, I wasn’t seeing a lot of activity or at least consistent sales. And that’s when I started looking into how these large companies get traffic consistently, get people to buy consistently, get people to come back and buy more products and higher levels of services. And it really came down to, they had a system built that could repeatedly get sales, nurture those people who just bought, get them to come back and buy more things. And once you actually break down the components of what a sales funnel is, a sort of a digital marketing funnel, and you actually implement it and it works, and you sort of tinker and work out the bugs, you realize that for that same 3 or 4,000 that you’re spending, you can get 2X or 3X or 4X the sales.
And so here I was, and once I started noticing that, more and more people were buying from my website and I could actually pay the mortgage and pay all these other bills that I had piling up. It was actually life changing. And when you go through that experience, and by the way, I had just gotten married, we had a kid on the way, so things were, in the Jafrey household, were getting a little stressed, a little bit.
Caitlin Postel: Just a little bit.
Brian Weinstein: Just a little bit. Yeah.
Irfan Jafrey: And so once that, I went through a few cycles of getting less and less beat up and started doing better and managing our ad spend more efficiently and growing revenue, growing profits, I would literally, for free; I’m not a consultant. I don’t go out there and charge people for this. I literally just started telling everybody who owned a business or had a website, whether they wanted to listen or not, how they should set these things up and what they’re doing wrong, because I got so good at finding inefficiencies and seeing where we could shave off… So for example, when I started my cost per customer acquisition, was $50. For every $50 they spent, I got somebody to sign up or buy something from our site. Right now it’s $6 and make 32 cents or something, right? So, that means a lot in terms of how much that impacts your cashflow.
Brian Weinstein: Now, is that because of an increase in repeat customers? Is it because you’ve gotten that much more efficient at gaining that interest at the top of the sales funnel, or some combination of both?
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. It’s a combination, for me, of two things. Number one, targeting the right audience, right? Getting the right type of buyer based on… you know that Facebook and Google and Adget, you can target an audience so granularly. They know what we’re drinking right now, figure out so much bad data on who we are and what we do. So, part of it was that. The second part where I think I was really failing was when somebody bought something from our website, when they upgraded a level to a different level of service, there was really nothing that we were doing to build relationships. We weren’t sending emails, we weren’t sending texts, or if we were, they were just really annoying. They were really transactional. I think once that changed and we were focused on, how do we actually build a real relationship with each one of our buyers? Whether that means getting on the phone with them or sending them a text, and it was a real conversation that was casual and not business-y, that, it was like a light switch. It really changed how things work.
Brian Weinstein: So, is that a matter of you as an organization, especially on the marketing side, sort of finding your own company voice?
Irfan Jafrey: I think it’s two things. I think it’s yes, finding our company voice and being comfortable as a organization and who we are and sort of our culture. And we’re a small company, right? We’re 18 people, and we’re sort of this ragtag group of dorks. And we just didn’t really have… we weren’t cool. We were not people that regard as the cool kids in the cafeteria. And so we were just this odd collection of socially awkward people. We just didn’t know how to act when we’re sending emails or text messages, and so we had to think about, okay, what is a sincere, casual, authentic way to endear ourselves to people who are giving us their money?
Caitlin Postel: So, I guess that falls into the nurturing category, right? So they’ve already engaged; they called to action, they bought, and now you’re actively nurturing those relationships?
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. And you know what? I would say nurturing means different things at the level of revenue that you’re at. So for example, Roosterly, we’ve got about 2,200 and some odd subscribers to our social media product. Each of those people, they get an email and a text message from me with my actual cell phone number, which sounds absolutely bananas, but the number of people that actually take the time to reach out is really low, so it’s manageable. But the fact that I actually respond to those people, that means a lot to them. And so I’ve had people start out at our very basic level of service, and then over the span of three or four months they’re spending 5, 6, 7, $8,000 a month with us. So, that means a lot.
Caitlin Postel: Sure. So, that nurturing can kind of land at different stages of that funnel, it sounds like.
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah, absolutely. And when we were not doing that, we were losing clients because it was just sort of this apathy on both sides. And the other thing that I’ll say before I lose my train of thought is, it’s actually really gratifying because you, yourself, feel that you’re having some small, positive impact and contribution to helping these businesses. I’m not curing cancer, right? I mean, I get that, but I’m helping them with something specific that they need, and they’re feeling a sense of that; whether it’s perceived value or empirical value, they’re getting something at the end of that, which causes them to continue to come back.
Brian Weinstein: And do you think, looking at it backwards, right? So, now you’re at the bottom of the funnel, right? And there’s a call to action, it’s been taken, and now the ultimate goal is to have people continue to come back and have that action with you over and over again, just that repeat customer. But finding that, I guess, authenticity where you can convey that enough where someone wants to come back to purchase or acquire your services or whatever, does that help you when you go back to the top of the funnel? And again, just find that voice, find that authenticity that really comes through about your company to just attract that awareness.
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. That’s a really insightful question. So, how I think it helps us is it informs us on what we can potentially change and refine and make better. Recently, I know this might sound silly, but we started using emojis and gifts in our text messages, and the affinity that it brings from people who don’t know our brand, don’t know me, don’t know us, has been really positive because now they think of us as people that are real. It takes that sort of corporate element out of it. We didn’t know that. We’d just, we did that based on just a few tries. Now, one other thing that I will say is we don’t want every potential customer that comes to our website. So we’ll have interaction, and this is really important depending on what you sell.
We’ll have interactions with people via email or via chat or via text message that will provide insight to our sales team or our account management team that, “Hey, this is not a person that would be a good fit for us for these three or four or five reasons. Let’s take them out of the funnel.” And what that does is that reduces churn and it increases profitability because not all revenue, as you know, is good revenue. So, the overall health of the business over time increases as well through nurturing properly.
Brian Weinstein: Interesting. So is there a way where brands can be too focused on new sales and not enough of that repeat customer where they’re almost ignoring their existing customers? And how can we inform them on how to handle that?
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. And that’s what happened with me, too. I was so focused on, we need more traffic. I mean, when you’re doing things like search engine optimization or you’re utilizing these different marketing tactics, you sometimes get obsessed and get tunnel vision on random KPIs that take your focus away from what it should be on. And so for us, once we realized that, hey, it’s not about just traffic. Our best source of revenue growth is from the clients we already have, right? How do we create more stickiness with them? How do we create more compelling offers? And when you can do that repeatedly and refine that, the cost of the sale goes down because you’re not spending any additional resources virtually. I mean, you’re sending emails and maybe some text messages. It costs nothing to do that. That’s really important.
Now, my challenge was I don’t necessarily like emailing or messaging my clients unless I have something actually meaningful to say. We’re all busy. There’s a lot of noise out there. And so our focus is, look, we are competing for people’s time. We don’t want to be thought of as, “Oh gosh, here’s Irfan reaching out to me. I just want to delete this email or just cancel their service,” or whatever. So, it’s being comfortable putting some messaging out there and knowing that some of the feedback that you’re going to get might be people who might be frustrated or irritated or just like, “Hey dude, why am I getting all these emails from you guys?” But if you learn from that and start doing a better job, it’ll pay off in the long run. So my point is, just being overall a little bit comfortable, sticking your neck out, being vulnerable, and knowing that not everyone’s going to respond positively is okay.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s almost like a comedian being on stage, right? If you’re not afraid to take the shot and maybe fall flat on your face, then you shouldn’t be up there at all.
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. And you’ll find that the folks that respond negatively, they might not be the right client for you, anyway. Right?
Brian Weinstein: Right.
Irfan Jafrey: I could probably say some off-color things right now, but I won’t.
Caitlin Postel: But you’re not going to always be everyone’s cup of tea, right? And if you’re being authentic, there’s someone out there for everyone. So, maybe to your point. And I thought it was interesting the way that you spun it, right? It’s like, okay, everyone’s always focused in driving traffic. You made a point before about removing some of that traffic. Let’s not get caught in the weeds with people who aren’t necessarily our cup of tea or vice versa. And how do we continue to nurture those that are feeding into our bottom line so that you can buy a brand new turtleneck and glasses?
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah, it’s a neck thing. And the one other thing that I’ll say is, a lot of sort of, I think, small to medium-sized businesses have this assumption as if they need to be marketing on every platform. “We got to be on Google. We got to be on TikTok. We got to be on Instagram.” And that’s not really true. If you find that your best audience is on MySpace… I’m kidding. If you find that your best audience is on… No disrespect to MySpace. But if you find that your best audience is on LinkedIn, for example, then focus your ad dollars just on LinkedIn, and you’ll be great. But one of the thoroughly mistakes that we made was we were spending all these resources on blogging and on link building and everything, and as a small business we just couldn’t sustain doing all of those things. And so we just really had to measure, okay, which one is actually working the best? And let’s just do that. And so it’s really simplified how we work, and it’s reduced a lot of the anxiety that I have in terms of just work life and tracking all these different KPIs.
Brian Weinstein: Well, it’s an interesting. And I’m sure we can get really into the weeds on this, but can you tell us a little bit about how you measure the effectiveness of this nurturing and storytelling?
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. So, every lead is assigned a dollar value based on what landing page they came through, okay? And based on what stage they go to. So at any point in time, I can log into our dashboard, I know the value of the opportunities and what percentage of them have converted into paying clients. And I look at basically three or four things. One is our cost per lead, so CPL. And our C-A-C, CAC, our customer acquisition cost. And then I look at things like LTV, which is lifetime value. Those three things I can, at any point, rattle off those numbers to our board and I can tell them, “Hey, this is the good news. This is the bad news. This is how we’re fixing it.” But knowing that data is a proxy for me to understand if we’re growing, we’re stagnating or we’re just doing something that’s boneheaded.
Brian Weinstein: Of those three measures, what do you give the most weight to?
Irfan Jafrey: Oh gosh. That’s a really good question because it changes depending on the month or the quarter, or whatever initiatives we’re working on. But right now it’s customer acquisition cost. How much does it cost for us to get each new client? Because we’ve done a good job of doing that nurture sequence, so I know how long they’re usually going to stay, I know what products they might get upsold to or downsold to. So, that customer acquisition cost is really key for me right now.
Brian Weinstein: Okay. Actually, I would’ve guessed total lifetime value, assuming that that is just retaining or earning the client’s business, acquiring that client and then continuing to earn business over the course of time.
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: I would have to imagine, and correct me if I’m wrong, are you at that point with every new acquisition by that client, with every new purchase by that client, your dollar cost averaging, your cost for that client, lower?
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah.
Irfan Jafrey: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely, and then I spent probably a good, I don’t know, 18 months on figuring out not only optimizing our nurture sequence but also what services and products they should be upsold and downsold, and what times of the year those emails or those text messages should go out, because if you do it too early and they don’t trust you, they don’t know you, you haven’t built any rapport with them, they’re not going to buy what you’re selling. So, the key is really to do that at the right time. So, I’m really happy with our LTV right now. We can always improve, but I’m in sort of a scale mode right now where I just want as many new subscribers as we can possibly get, and so customer acquisition cost is the winner there. That’s why.
Brian Weinstein: Right.
Caitlin Postel: I’d like to go back to where you started your fund, which is with your story, with how you got started with Roosterly and just storytelling. So storytelling in general, as a tool, to keep customers engaged, and not just customers; prospects and customers alike engaged. So as a merchant, once you tell that initial story of, about us, how we get started, what are some unique ways to continue using that mechanism?
Irfan Jafrey: To keep, continue using storytelling?
Caitlin Postel: Exactly.
Irfan Jafrey: So, I would preface what I’m about to say with, it isn’t for everybody. And the reason why that I say that is because your audience, your prospects, they can sniff out if it’s inauthentic, right? They can sniff out if it’s like a marketing, gimmicky kind of a thing. We see it so much that we’re desensitized to a lot of it. What I noticed was when I started sending emails that I was somewhat uncomfortable with, like revealing more of myself than I actually like to, to most people, and we’re sending this out to people that opt into our newsletter or opt into our funnel. But here’s-
Caitlin Postel: So, you’re saying they asked for it? They asked for it, is what you’re saying.
Irfan Jafrey: They asked for it, right? And initially, I was really skittish, like, “God, do I really need to reveal how broke I was and the fact that I’d just gotten married?” And all these sorts of things that you typically don’t want to share but that adds a layer of realness, and then people can, and then they connect with you on a different level. And then they might reach out to you. I actually had a number of folks reaching out to me, still do consistently, and it was like, “Well, is this actually true? Can I hop on a call with you? And this is the problems that I’m having. I’m going through this, or I’m going through that, and da-der-der-da-da,” and it’s just like, “Wow. Okay, this is a whole nother level of connectedness that I didn’t anticipate.”
And I don’t always have the emotional bandwidth for that, but if I’ve got somebody who signs up and they have got questions, I don’t mind hopping on a call. If I’m going to put myself out there, I have to follow through with what I’m going to get. And it’s people in a lot of challenging situations with their business, and they’re like, “Hey, look, if I could just get 10 minutes of your time to ask you this question,” and then they are a client for life. But I’ve also just made an actual… even if they weren’t a client, I’ve actually just made a really cool-
Brian Weinstein: You’ve actually made a friend.
Irfan Jafrey: A friend, yeah. A relation.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah.
Caitlin Postel: So as long as it’s not forced, it can be a good tool.
Irfan Jafrey: Right.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Listen, Caitlin and I can relate. We’re both in business development and we’re about as extroverted as fuck, right? So this is, we are open books, but yes. No, but it’s interesting because to have that personality, or not have that personality, is one thing, but when you’re trying to convey a message to an audience, right? Who you want them to find something relatable about you, the services or the products that you’re offering, it’s important to find… and that’s why I keep going back to voice, to finding your organization’s voice, because it brings that level of authenticity. And I have to tell you that over the last two months, more so than ever before, authenticity seems to be a theme, that more and more people are craving that, and they don’t want something automated.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. No more “fake it till you make it”, right? Just fall flat on your face and hope that other people like that, too.
Brian Weinstein: Right. Exactly.
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly. Exactly. And so, is there a way to sort of tailor the customer experience and to learn more about the nuances of a client? Are there ways to understand that, as the brand or the provider who’s marketing out there, to understand more about their specific audience members?
Irfan Jafrey: Yeah. Yeah. So, I like to think that there is a limit to how much automation you can do and still provide a level of service that feels personal and tailored. So unfortunately, that component where we’re really sort of finding out the nuances of every client, that’s done through training our folks; our account managers and our program managers, to take the 5 minutes, or take the 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever it happens to be, and learn about this person. Go on their Facebook, go on their Instagram. What makes them tick? What are their hopes, their fears, their dreams? All of those things. Because when you use that sort of a human judgment component, that’s where that relationship is built. I tried doing that in vain through automation and it just, it makes you feel cheap, it makes the client feel like they’re not being taken seriously, and it’s just not a good customer journey or client experience. So the short answer is, that part is done manually in terms of finding out sort of the nuances of how you can best work with each client.
Brian Weinstein: Got it. Okay. So Irfan, as we look to wrap up here, just, what do you think is the number one aspect, I think, that people overlook in really developing their marketing?
Irfan Jafrey: I think it’s understanding where their audience is, is part one. Very fundamental, right? They sort of make giant assumptions on, “Hey, we got to be on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram.” Well, no. That is the shortest way to burn your whole budget without getting a single client. That, combined with a compelling offer. I think a lot of times what many small to medium-sized businesses do is they see larger businesses doing a certain type of tactic, marketing tactic, and they try to copy that. Good intentions, but that’s not necessarily going to work for you. So, it’s coming up with a compelling offer and understanding that if you’re a company whose brand promise is not built yet, whose brand is not built yet, trying to market like a Coca-Cola or some giant brand is just not going to work. You’ve got to find a way to build trust and credibility first, before you can just throw your logo everywhere and expect people are going to just be like, “Oh yeah. I’ll take two.”
Caitlin Postel: Right. Exactly. Exactly. No, that’s awesome. That’s a great piece of advice, and I think trying to be everywhere and everything to everybody is not going to be effective in today’s world; because it’s just so saturated that you want to really focus on who your audience is and where’s the best place to reach them. All right. Caitlin, did I leave anything off?
Caitlin Postel: No, I think we’re good to go.
Brian Weinstein: All right. Fantastic. Well, Irfan Jafrey from Roosterly, appreciate you coming on with us and imparting some wisdom to the audience this week. I’m sure there’s plenty around this marketing space that we could reconnect at some point down the road.
Irfan Jafrey: Awesome. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
Brian Weinstein: All right. Thank you everybody for tuning in. Caitlin, you want to take us out?
Caitlin Postel: Sure. Thank you, Irfan, and thank you everyone for listening. Make sure you subscribe on sippinandshippin.com or your favorite podcast platform; Apple Podcast, Spotify, whatever works. Give us a thumbs up. Subscribe. Love to have you guys here. Check us out back here in two weeks. Bye, guys.
Brian Weinstein: Take care.