Sean McGinnis is the SVP, Head of Marketing, E-Commerce & Customer Experience at KURU Footwear – a Salt Lake City-based direct-to-consumer footwear brand. KURU Footwear products feature a proprietary, patented technology built to eliminate foot pain. Sean sits down with Chris Snyder to discuss the challenges and nuances of running a successful ecommerce brand, including ecom platforms, paid and organic channels, and optimizing for user experience.
This episode is sponsored by Juhll. They are a full service digital marketing consultancy that has over 20 years of experience helping your business grow sales online. They've helped most of their clients grow more than 50% year over year by helping them meet their digital marketing goals.
Juhll Digital Agency works with companies who are doing $50 million in top line revenue that have a marketing budget of $2 million. They build your company from the ground up and they also help you in creating a strategy that will work best for your team.
"We are eschewing Amazon. We believe that we want to own the customer experience and we want to own the customer relationship and not for Amazon to own it." - Sean McGinnis
"And I would much rather be the guy fully accountable for managing the work of my team and delivering on the results and measuring it every single day, week, month. And living in the numbers and holding people accountable for their specific channel." - Sean McGinnis
"I said, hey - we're spending a shit ton of money with Google. Does it scare you at all that we have no internal competency on this? Like, we're reliant completely on an external partner to drive X revenue off of Y investment." - Sean McGinnis
Chris Snyder [00:00:43] Hello, everyone, Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder Showdown, president at Juhll Agency, and founder of FinTech Startup Banks.com. On this show, we take a no B.S. approach to business success and failure told through the stories of the top executives who have lived them. Join us today as we get the unfiltered backstories behind successful brands. Today, my guest is Sean McGinnis. He's the SVP, Head of Marketing, eCommerce, and Customer Experience at KURU Footwear, a Salt Lake City-based direct to consumer footwear brand KURU Footwear products feature a proprietary patented technology built to eliminate foot pain. Sean is a digital marketing veteran who has worked with the likes of Sears Parts Direct in Kelly Metal Detectors. Sean is here today to speak with us about enhancing the online customer experience and how COVID-19 is impacting direct-to-nconsumer brands like KURU Footwear. Welcome, Sean.
Sean McGinnis [00:01:47] Thanks, Chris. Great to be here.
Chris Snyder [00:01:49] Absolutely. Hey, we always kick this show off with a background and a little bit of a timeline. So why don't you tell us about your upbringing? Where you from and how do you get to where you are today?
Sean McGinnis [00:02:00] Yeah, it sounds great. So I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the western suburbs, little town called Elgin, Illinois. Most people are familiar with Elgin if they've seen at all the old Elgin watch factory used to be - where they built all Elgin watches long ago. I was always a sort of an athletic kid, grew up, went to college. My life plaint life plans changed significantly while in college. I wound up getting out in four years with an acting degree of all things. It wasn't really my first original plan. But, you know, things happen on life so big, so big.
Chris Snyder [00:02:32] Athletic guy goes to college to be an actor who originally went to college to be a doctor.
Sean McGinnis [00:02:39] So it's a chemistry and biology double major my freshman year. Yeah, I know. I know.
Chris Snyder [00:02:46] I live in L.A., and I can tell you right now my perception, which might be a little bit stereotypical, but my perception is a lot of these actors do not understand chemistry and biology. I would believe that their first choice.
Sean McGinnis [00:03:01] Oh, yeah. Unfortunately, I had a face made for radio. So acting wasn't in the cards in a long term play. But I got out on time was great. I took a job selling cars right out of undergrad, you know, moved around a little bit, moved to San Diego and lived with my dad and took a job at a law firm out there, and looked around. I was like, these guys aren't any smarter than me. You know, maybe I could do this for a living. I went down and bought every book I could on the law school admission test. LSAT. Took 15 practice exams for every night for three weeks leading up to the actual LSAT. Sat down in a law firm law library for four hours and took a practice test. Wow. Scored in the top 10 percent on the L sat nationally and that plus my C minus grade point average as an acting student got me into a universe of San Diego Law School. So I went to law school, got out, went right back into sales, and sold into law firms across the country. So spend about 10 or 15 years of my career selling legal research materials, law books, online legal research is right. Things were transitioning from the old print materials into digital. Sold original CD ROM packages instead of before online really, really hit.
Chris Snyder [00:04:21] And by the way, let's make a comment here. I believe back then, FindLaw, Thompson, these were door to door books.
Sean McGinnis [00:04:29] Oh, yeah.
Chris Snyder [00:04:30] You had a suit on. I didn't. You tried to fight through the lobby and what they used to call secretaries the gatekeepers for sure. You get in there and you had a pack of books, you had to sell these lawyers, right?
Sean McGinnis [00:04:43] That's right. Yeah, I'm for sure. Spent 10, 15 years doing that. I left the business briefly. So we were where I was part of the West publishing business that got acquired by Thompson that now is called Thompson Reuters. Left briefly after the acquisition moved back to Chicago. I was in New Hampshire at the time, move back to Chicago, and then two years later actually rejoined the business kind of with my tail between my legs. I thought I was a hotshot that could sell anything. Yeah. '97 -99. Late '99 I rejoined the business. And those two years that I was gone, two things happened. I built my first Web site on my own with the help of my sister who did a lot of the and coding. We launched a DVD movie review website back when DVD technology was so brand new that you never knew if you're getting a good transfer from the studios or a bad transfer is really a play for me to just get free movies from Hollywood. Yeah, so I started a Web site with thirteen movie reviews. I wrote myself and about two years later left it with several thousand movie reviews and twenty guys on staff. And I was interacting with Hollywood left and right, and they were sending DVD and I would distribute them to the team. The second thing that happened is Westport. Finally, you mentioned Findlaw. So that acquisition happened around that same timeframe and they actually happened shortly after that. So they had started to Build Web sites for layers under a different in-house company called Law Office dot com. So I come back into the fold as a sales guy and immediately sort of glommed on to this idea of selling Web sites and selling legal marketing services to law firms and became one of the better Versed salespeople and more high performing salespeople. And when they acquired finally, they spun that off as an internal division and plucked thirty-five of us out of that sales force of 500 people to go see this new salesforce and kind of figure out how to sell and help develop the training with a sales training program for that group was at Findlaw for a number of years after that. So sold in Chicago for a while. Moved the family to Pittsburgh and took over as the sales manager for a division in the Eastern Seaboard. Did that for three years out of Pittsburgh. And then was tapped on the shoulder and invited to go to Minneapolis, the corporate office, to lead the MCO team. So this was, I think two thousand. So been nine maybe. Yes. On the magic nine.
Chris Snyder [00:07:09] Now I'm imagining. Someone who's pretty hardcore sales, right? Smart, smart guy, hardcore sales. Definitely a go-getter. SEO is not what I would classify as you. So how did that happen? Because, like, you just you basically go from being the guy talking with all these high-class lawyers, putting suits on, banging on doors, selling software. I mean, who knows? Maybe you guys were trying to do legal zoom before legal zoom and now you're getting into SEO. How did that happen?
Sean McGinnis [00:07:44] Yeah. So we were very, very early. There was an executive, the president of the division that was at Findlaw. We were selling SEO services really, really early. And so I had to learn a fair amount about it to be able to talk, you know, speak to the issues and sell it in the marketplace. And then when I became a sales manager, what happened was I just I would I was just one of those guys with no fear. Right. If I saw something I thought would be useful to the whole sales force. I didn't care that they weren't on my team. I would just send something out to all 150 people in the organization. And so I would find things and share information. And so the reputation that I sort of developed inside of corporate was a guy who knew SEO well enough. And what was happening was they were spinning off the SEO team from the larger content team. They knew they wanted to have someone that was over that department specifically to drive on initiatives and create new products and all those things. And they just had a hard time finding someone they could lure. It was still so new to the office in Minneapolis. And so were you a practitioner or were you more of a strategist just on the SC over Unter? Yeah, I would. It's funny, I always call myself a generalist, right? I'm a business guy who happens to know enough about digital marketing to be dangerous. I was recruiting someone here locally to come in and take over quite a bit of the responsibility on my team. And the thing that I said to him as he had come up through the marketing function. Right. He was a paid guy who had played in all these channels. I was super proud until the last six months that I had never actually bid on a keyword in Google ads. You know, I have teams that manage 70 million and spent. I had never once built on a bit on a keyword myself. So I'm kind of a generalist in terms of a general business person, but it's very oriented toward the digital side. Understand a number of these channels understand how affiliate works. The pay channels work, the organic stuff works. As we talked about me, not really strongly grounded on the brand side, not a traditional marketer, per se.
Chris Snyder [00:09:51] By the way, who is? I mean, we can talk about that. But it seems to me like there maybe, you know, the Fortune 100 that maybe still stuck in that. But the rest of us don't have the luxury, I'll say out loud, to pontificate about colors and logos. And we got to run. We got to move.
Sean McGinnis [00:10:12] That said, I think all these things are important. And so, you know, together they make up the totality of how the brand interacts with the marketplace. Right. And so it's, there's a lot going on there for sure. So that's how I sort of fell into it. Not definitely as a practitioner, was not an FCO expert, but it was a guy who could sell SEOD services and understood the basics of how SCA worked.
Chris Snyder [00:10:33] Yeah, but you managed to I mean, you're very entrepreneurial. Clearly, you're doing a lot of entrepreneurial stuff and then you become like a professor at Elmhurst College.
Sean McGinnis [00:10:46] Yeah, that was a side gig. I love this. Yeah, it's there's always something going on, you know. So from Minnesota, we were there for three years. I took a promotion and moved the family back to the Chicago area where I was sort of the general manager of an online learning business and the bar exam preparation space, a little small business that Thompson Reuters was trying to figure out what they wanted to do. Along the way, I fell in at Elmhurst, which was my alma mater, so I can't remember how that all happened. A friend reaches out and says, hey, you know, she introduced me and they were doing an MBA course on social media. And I threw my hat in the ring, put together some some some content around that. I've never worked so hard for so little money at all. I vowed to never do it again. And I know that a lot of my friends actually continue to do it to this day and they find it incredibly rewarding. You know, working with the young folks that are learning those things and it really keeps you fresh, keeps you on your toes. Yeah. It's an exceptionally rewarding thing to do. And if a full-time opportunity became available, it might be something I would consider. But it's just not as an adjunct. Never again.
Chris Snyder [00:11:56] My wife and I. Who - my wife actually started the agency. And also we're big we've been business partners for 15 years. One of our clients, a large client, said, hey, you guys know a lot about this landing page optimization stuff. Yeah, because we used to do a lot of that. And this was before it was as easy as it is today. And they're like, why don't you come in? We're going to rent. Hotel conference room for the day. And why don't you give us a landing page optimization Deep Dove Devers? Yeah. And I was like, sure. No problem, I know a lot about this stuff. Yeah, and I think they gave us fifteen thousand dollars for a half-day. And when I started this, it was two weeks before the meeting. Yeah. The day I started it, I was kind of like, oh, shit. This is like this for real. Yeah. And by the time I was done, my wife and I had literally, like, left our lives for two weeks to create a 160 page PowerPoint deck. Sounds right. Because when you do this, you have to be very methodical in your thinking, in your approach, and you have to use the right words and you have to give real-life examples and you have to engage in and attract these people into listening to this. You can't just stand up there and do what you and I are doing or the shit about it.
Sean McGinnis [00:13:26] Yeah, well, yeah. And that's how 312 Digital came about too. So the next sort of entrepreneurial thing that I did was to try to do it. I had that same question of where do you go to learn this stuff. Yeah. There's just. By the time you actually sit through a course at a local college, if they have anything on it at all, it's just a roll of the dice. And it's probably too late if it's been approved by some committee. Yeah. So the thought was, you know, what if I put together a training course, but not online, because even then, even today, I still am not convinced people want to spend time learning online. I know the business model was we want you in a room, we're gonna cap the room at 50 people. I'm gonna pay some of the brightest people I know that are experts in this thing. A couple thousand dollars to come in and talk to you and they're gonna get two hours. It's not gonna be 30 minutes of guys like you and I standing up on stage at a conference. Yeah. Sharing best practices. This is gonna be a deep dove. This is gonna be like thoroughly presented and thought through. And so I did that. We had 40 or 50 people in a room. The first that was sort of an intro, you know, one to one. In fact, a couple of my friends wound up in there. We did a content marketing piece. We did an SEO piece. We did a paid search piece. I think an analytics piece. Great full eight hours. We covered lunch. You know, that whole idea was like to build out a Kaplin type of education system of like I still think there's room for that somewhere. I mean, the problem is now that you're getting more and more competition and most of it's online. But my thought was, you know, start in Chicago, build it up so that there's basically every two weeks or so you're doing another course on another specific and you do beginner, intermediate and advanced level courses. Then you go from there to St. Louis, you go to Indianapolis and you start out kind of, you know, virally spread. You find a local captain that sort of runs that city. You find experts that are local of that community. You build up a bit of a course, you know, that's sort of a standardized approach. And then you build a nationwide brand off of that somehow. I don't know who's doing that best today.
Chris Snyder [00:15:28] It's fragmented. It's super fragmented. And it's mostly. So guys like you and I mean, we used to do a lot of the work. Right. But as we've gotten older, I think it's better for us to be leaders. Yeah, we do have to manage. But there's three buckets, there's leadership, management, and then execution. Yeah. We've kind of grown out of the execution roll in and we should because we need to be able to connect all the dots in in in deep insight because so leadership is probably 20 percent of our role trait. You have a team of 10 or 15 or 20 charge. Right. Everybody runs and you run in front of them and. Right.
Sean McGinnis [00:16:12] Yeah, you've got to set the direction.
Chris Snyder [00:16:15] But then and then we manage. But what I see a lot of times is if you never graduate from the execution role and it's not a bad thing if you haven't, by the way. Sure. Some people are really good at that. Oh, my gosh. It's in we need those people. We need people with 10 or 15 years of experience that sit down. They put their fingers on a keyboard and they just fucking win. And you're like, I trust you so much and I love you. But then they turn into managers. And if their personality isn't right, yeah. They're not good managers and you know, they're not going to be leaders. Right. So I guess what I'm saying about the fragmented industry is a lot of these people who are super technical and tactical are going to have a hard time like building a KAPLIN or building an organization around data and analytics. Sure. Because by nature, those guys are nerdy, they're smart, and they're not very personable or communicative. And they're going to build an organization because they don't want to manage people. And I don't blame them. Right. Yeah, but that's a very interesting idea. Like. Gathering up all of these people and setting that management and leadership layer on top of it in a deep fragmenting the business, that would be interesting. That's an interesting idea.
Sean McGinnis [00:17:37] Well, still asking the question today. Where do you go to learn these things? And most people's answer is when I go to conferences. Right. And yet when you ask people what's the value of these conferences, the number one answer, in most circumstances, it's the personal connection. It's the conversation at 10 o'clock over a, you know, a martini at the bar or whatever it is. And it's that the moments, the serendipitous moments of where you get a chance to have a conversation, actually learn something super valuable because someone's willing to disclose some. Well, here's how I do it. It's a whisper. It's like, well, here's the secret. Yeah. Here's the secret to how I do this thing. And that's not structured enough in my mind to really warrant. You know, it's I'm saying most things have in place. Yeah. Those things have their place, but they're not worth two grand and potentially and they're certainly not a place where you go to get started in the industry. Like, how do you actually get started? We'll hear the ending to.
Chris Snyder [00:18:31] It's about application. Right. So you went to law school, you graduated. You know, I went to college. I graduated. It does not make you a lawyer or a good lawyer. It means that you know how to learn. Yeah. Good for you. What is more important is that you sit your ass in that chair and you start applying these skills in learning. Through doing. Yeah. In conference is a long time ago. My business partner and I said no more conferences. Not for anyone. You're not going you go on your own. You take the PTO days off work. You pay the two grand, you go on your own. Or what I started doing was saying, OK, you want to go to the conference, write me a PowerPoint about why you're going, what you're going to learn, of what you're going to teach this whole team when you get back, come back.
Sean McGinnis [00:19:19] Yeah, that was the mandate that we had at my last gig at a company called ClearLink here in Salt Lake that brought me out here. We spent a lot of folks the conference, but the mandate always was you come back and you teach everybody what you learned. Yeah. I have to take their own notes. That's part of the requirement. This is a perk for our most valued employees that we're gonna spend a lot of money to send you out there. And we did. I mean, I ate a team of about 50 people reporting to me a clear link. And we had a huge budget for conferences, but that was the requirement. Like, if you don't do that, you don't get you're not going to be invited the next year to go anywhere.
Chris Snyder [00:19:51] Yeah. I hear you. So generalist, business, entrepreneur guy. Went to 312 Digital, which is an agency.
Sean McGinnis [00:20:01] It was - that was the training business that I started on my own. Did a little bit of a fair amount of consulting through that as well, and then took a role. It's here. So I wound up knowing a guy who my old high school doubles tennis partner, about a 20 year plus year career at Sears on the logistics side. He saw this role that thought and thought it was an interesting fit potentially for me and send it in. And I submitted my resume and actually went through the normal hiring process, which is pretty words from one of the last times I've ever done that. So I acted as kind of as the Director of Marketing over this rounding error of a business inside Sears, you know, big Sears at the time that I joined was this. Most people don't know this. Most people think of Sears as Sears, right? We were the fifth-largest Internet company in the world.
Chris Snyder [00:20:49] Absolutely. Oh the number of SKUs you had just by default. The long tail you guys could have easily been that.
Sean McGinnis [00:20:57] The typical criticism of Sears is that they missed the digital boat, which is completely off base. I mean, they were the biggest you as Sears is the brand. What does it stand for? Right. You know what Wal-Mart stands for. You know what Target stands for. But at the time, Sears was huge online. Most people don't give them enough credit for that. So I was brought in to lead the marketing function of this little rounding error of a business that sold appliance repair parts online to the DIY community. So big, huge part of Sears. You know, you buy an appliance division was huge to begin with when you bought that appliance. Another big part is you could buy an extended warranty at the store or online. And unlike most unlike well, unlike Home Depot and Lowe's and many others, most serious customers knew about or thought about Sears to also maintain that appliance. Right. So if something breaks down, you'd call Sears to fix it and Sears would roll tens of thousands of trucks, 10000 plus vans that were Mark Sears or some other brand that they worked with. Send a technician into your home to repair that thing. Right. So think about the logistics in the back end and the warehousing and distribution and the market power relationships with the manufacturers to be able to handle all the parts for all that work. Yeah. Some smart executive business. Yeah. 20 years ago said what if we put that in the catalog and just sent it out to guys like Chris that were brave enough to try and replace the door handle on. Dishwasher all by themselves. Right. Maybe you're not that guy.
Chris Snyder [00:22:26] I used to be, but not. Oh my God, my patience. Now we pay experts to do that stuff.
Sean McGinnis [00:22:31] But there's a fair amount of folks that are brave enough to try those kind of repairs on their own. And so that's how the parts direct business got launched. And so I got brought in late in the game. You worked with and supported a really great business leader who is still a personal friend of mine. We just had a call a couple of weeks ago to just kind of catch up and compare notes and see what was going on with this Koban situation. And so he was the general manager, that business and the P&L owner and I led a team and built out a team to support that. So on the marketing side. So, you know, we're heavy in the paid channels working with one of the better agencies in the country on the search side. Not really having paid social, but really big on the organic stuff as well. And I remembered actually in my interview with him, similar thing talking about sort of SEO. I was I he could tell I was kind of concerned is like, what's the matter? I said, I'm not sure I understand why you'd want to hire me. I could tell it was going pretty well. He says, What do you mean? I said, Well, you know, you guys are your retail and your e-commerce and your B2C and your belt. You're heavy in paid search like. I don't have any of that skillset. He goes, yeah, no, but that's the whole point. We've got that covered. You're a guy that has SEO and social and content. And that's I need you to thank you to take us where I need to hire you. To take us. Where we need to go. Which was, you know, what a great statement from a leader who, you know, you're like, oh, you don't need someone who's done this before. You need someone to get you somewhere else. That's transformational. Yeah, it's inspirational. And that's the kind of guy that I absolutely wanted to work for. But I also got to break away from being known as just the SEO guy or just the legal guy or just the, you know, the B2B guy. I got to get into eCom and retail and really enjoyed my time. There had a great time building a team, hiring experts, as usual. What was your budget? It's pretty substantial.
Chris Snyder [00:24:29] We don't have to give me exact if you can't.
Sean McGinnis [00:24:32] But if we were low eight figures, I mean, and paid search, we were spending a good deal of money. I mean, it was a big business and a very profitable one. I mean, the year I joined Sears, I think overall Sears lost three billion that year. But we made a ton of money, you know, as a percentage. The hard part is it was so, you know that this is more of a general business conversation. But imagine a business like that that on paper makes a ton of money. If you tried to spin that business off and sell it to Chris for X dollars by literally calling it Chris's appliance repair part. So you see values immediately. There's a whole logistics back and synergy with that repair business. The association with Sears in general, the minute you turn that you relabeled at anything from serious to Sean's repair parts, it becomes incredibly valuable. Right. Are devalued overall. It's just it's a really interesting way to think about it. And the fact there is all sort of tossed into this larger Sears business is a lot of challenges, but it's a lot of fun to, you know.
[00:25:33] WHy'd you leave? I mean, it seems like that was a huge selling, a great opportunity.
Sean McGinnis [00:25:39] It was a fun business. So to have full transparency, two things were going on. I was I felt like I was contributing a lot there. I was a director-level employee inside big years. I was there for about two years and had been approached by a number of recruiters and had some other conversations outside of Sears as I was cutting my teeth and some these other things. And I'm just one of these guys that just wants to be super transparent about everything. And so H.R. was like, hey, what's it going to take to keep you? And I said, we need to make me at a DVP, a District V.P. Or Divisional V.P. Was their sort of next-level role. And the answer they gave was, that's great. That happens once a year. And here's the month where it happens. And every other V.P. across all of Sears talks about you as a candidate for that progression, despite the fact they were hiring external V.P. left, trying to you know, so they basically weren't valuing the internal talent that was there. No. And I got recruited by an executive recruitment agency to have this conversation about this other company in Salt Lake, which is. And ultimately, that was a great opportunity. Fascinating business. Really love my time there. So that was that brought me out here to move the family to Salt Lake about four years ago and took over as executive vice president at a company called ClearLink that does they partner with a number of the largest home services companies. And they're. Think of them sort of as a super affiliate business. Right. So they, my team, we had a hundred and fifty on my team. My team ran Web sites that looked and felt exactly like AT&T branded Web site. Wow. We spent our money in branded paid search in an agreed-upon layout with AT&T to make sure that we weren't usurping their dom. And so you would be. A bit on their keywords, with their mission, with our money. Drive them to our site. From our site. Drive them to our call center and then sign you up for AT&T. But you get. But AT&T gets the first position and the second position act and the third. And there's they are working with multiple players.
Chris Snyder [00:27:39] I love it. That's such a good strategy, although it's not very fair. But the strategy.
Sean McGinnis [00:27:44] It's a way to dominate for your branded terms. And, you know, the additional pitch was that we were better in many ways. You know, we weren't constrained by the unionized call center operations or what have you. Yeah, there's it's a fun business. I really learned a lot there. Let a large team tried to put some structure in place. They were really fast-growing and very innovative. You know, super data-driven. I really enjoyed my time there. And, you know, the pitch was, hey, come help us build this thing and take it to the next level. They were owned by some private equity at the time and the plan was to jettison to the next private equity business. Ultimately, six months in, they wound up finding a strategic buyer. It's a great fit. It's with a major call-center operator. So today, Psych's owns a clear link. The other thing that has happened there is that, you know, they've leaned into a lot of the non branded side of things, more like - imagine that are more traditional affiliate right. Comparison sites. Yeah, I mean, they're so good at that. And the team that they built around, that is just phenomenal.
Chris Snyder [00:28:46] So so the comparison sites, these guys have really made some heigh. These guys are 100 plus million dollar companies for sure, taking down a lot of profit. Other if you know the top 10 review guys. Yeah. These guys, they're all they're raking it in. And it feels like. It's an arbitrage. It's a skill arbitrage, right? Yeah, I mean, if you don't have the skills to do a good job of non branded paid search. These guys are setting up this web presence that basically takes your brand. Buys like a Google ad, buys traffic from Google arbitrage. Is that traffic into a CPC for use? You don't have to pay so much money. Right.
Sean McGinnis [00:29:31] It's that. And it's also dominating in the organic side. Right. I mean, think about it from a guy perspective. Many consumers want to go into a place where they can get an unfettered, authoritative, well thought out Yelp comparison between this service, that service, and the next service or this product. That product and the next product grown by is.
Chris Snyder [00:29:52] Oh, yeah. Yeah. Here is the advice which that brand cannot provide because they're the brand.
Sean McGinnis [00:29:58] That's right. That's exactly right. It's a great business model and it's for people like you and I that understand digital enough to go and play that game and have a passion. Typically, it starts out as like a I'm just gonna start a blog. You know, I got to start something out. And that passion turn or it's guys that are or women that are so they're thinking about this and looking for a product niche to go into it. Right. And so they're going to their passion about this hobby or the staying and they're gonna go start sort of sharing their knowledge. Right. And that knowledge sharing turns into, oh, I can monetize this. I can sell you something.
Chris Snyder [00:30:32] I'm going to tell you. Sean, I'm going to tell you, though, I think you already know this. I don't know if all of if everyone in our audience knows this, but it's really fucking hard. Yeah. Let me just go by this little URL called banks.com will set up affiliates will arbitrages to traffic each little baby. It's not easy.
Sean McGinnis [00:30:56] Yeah, I've had I've known a number of people that have got guy wound up buying a house in my neighborhood and he was an affiliate player in the financial services space. And so it's just it's such a fascinating world. But the folks that do it right just crush it. I mean, it takes a heavy, heavy investment. I mean, at one point, I think Nerd Wallet had a team of one hundred hundreds of copywriters and content creators and smart stretch strategy folks that were leading the charge there.
Chris Snyder [00:31:27] I mean, look at those guys all the time. And I'm like, OK. So, you know, I've done like the back-of-the-napkin calculations because I own one of these sites, obviously. And I'm like, OK, how many pages would we need to produce to create? Because if you run a big competitive analysis, you rack and stack them. You look at BankRate, Lending Tree, NerdWallet, Penny Horder, you just kind of go down the list. And then the realization hits you. Twenty-seven thousand articles need to be produced to build a hundred million dollars in rent or whatever, and they highballs this kind of goal per. Wait a minute. I need two million dollars for content alone. Yeah. And they have a ten-year head start on us. Now, what the fuck are we going to do?
Sean McGinnis [00:32:15] It's not. It's not easy for sure. And those you know. And, you know, ClearLink's biggest competitor is the company that went and bought BankRate. Red Ventures you haven't over there.
Chris Snyder [00:32:26] Phenomenal. They know what they're doing. And they've got a lot of great domains, too.
Sean McGinnis [00:32:31] And backed by some great VCs. Right. So they understand the opportunity there.
Sean McGinnis [00:32:35] Yeah. They bought BankRate for like one point two billion. I think lending trees market cap is three or four billion. I don't know what's happened during the little COVID thing, but there's a lot of these guys out there and you look at their business model, they have no warehouse. They have no supply chain.
Sean McGinnis [00:32:53] The margins look pretty good if you can pull it off. Yeah.
Chris Snyder [00:32:56] Trust me, they're really good. But if you've got to get the traffic right now, that's the trick. That's the all-stars there. It's just a lot of work. So let's talk about KURU. Yeah. So you're in Salt Lake, you're doing the clear the ClearLink game. You got 150 people reporting to you got a massive budget. And now, like, I've never heard of coolroom my life, which is why you're like, let's talk about KURU. How.
Sean McGinnis [00:33:21] Yeah. So actually, I left ClearLink last October and there was an interim stop there with a company called Kellyco Metal Detectors. I fell in with an ownership group there, went off, and led that business for a period of time and then decided we really wanted to be here in Salt Lake City. The opportunity there in that space just wasn't quite as big as I was hoping it was going to be. And so came back and re-engaged. I'd actually met the CEO at KURU about a year ago, October, and the Knoxville opportunity just sort of got in the way of our moving forward together. And I came back. He still hadn't hired a Head of Marketing, which was great and some things that transpired. So I joined the firm in October. So KURU Footwear. Great story. Our CEO, Brett Rasmussen, always super entrepreneurial, part of the sort of backstory of the company. We've got sketches and drawings from when he was a teenager in middle school.
Chris Snyder [00:34:17] Oh, you got to put those on your website,.
Sean McGinnis [00:34:21] Of Shoes in a catalog with like a strikethrough pricing and always at the higher end of the pricing scale. Right. So he goes off and gets out graduates from BYU with, I think a double degree in finance and English gets a normal job in the high tech space. Things go sideways and he gets laid off and he's like, you know what? Now's the time. I'm gonna I'm going to if I don't start and try this thing now, I'm never gonna try it. Yeah. So he goes off and puts this business case together in 2006 and enters the business case at the University of Utah. It's got they've got a great entrepreneurial institute called the Lassonde Entrepreneurial Institute at the University of Utah submits the business case as part of this annual contest that they have and wins the grand prize. Wow. 1006. So it takes that parlays that into, you know, rallies up his personal savings, gets alone, you know, takes on one really small investor along the way. It goes and starts having conversations with people. He's not a shoe guy. He's not a technology guy, but he's really, really smart. And he comes up with this idea that effectively, look, our shoes are all of our footwear today is really it's just been following this somewhat traditional progression. And there's this problem, which is that the heel on your foot is round and every normal shoe is flat. And being barefoot on these hard surfaces is flat. And as a result of those two things coming together, I mean, imagine a slow-motion photograph of a tennis ball hitting a tennis racket. What between that flat surface and that round surface, what gives every time? Right. It's the round surface. And the same thing happens with your heel over time. And so at the bottom of your heel, there's this cushion of fat that sort of sits below there. We take it for granted every day until it starts hurting. So he just develops this idea basically. What if I took the type of materials and the type of shape that you kind of can somewhat traditionally find in an aftermarket shoe insert and actually just engineered it in the shoe? Oh, it does. That's correct. Are you kidding me? So he's got this we've got this technology that we call core results, patented technology. It's all dynamically supports the heel of your foot with every single step it flexes. The more pressure you put on it, the more support that it gives around your foot. And due to some really, really smart engineering decisions that got made. And so he goes off and starts working with China in 2006 and seven to. Get these prototypes built. He's literally like Betty, sleeping on a cot in a factory in China. Right. The whole business plan was to go to market in a very traditional way through retail. Yes. Got some orders sort of committed to. I mean, I'm going to get I'm going to overdramatize the situation because I always get this part wrong. I wasn't here for it, but effectively, the shoes are in transit from China and Lehman Brothers goes belly up in 2008. Right. Yeah. While that is about the timing. So here's a guy who's the CEO of this company staring at this mountain of inventory in a warehouse that every dollar he's ever raised or save this sort of sitting on the shelves, he's like, what am I going to do? He's like, let's just throw up a Web site and try and get rid of the stuff. That's a liquidation strategy. I have. I hated my garage, literally. Yes. Working out of a spare bedroom in the house, in the garage and whatever throws up a Web site, builds it himself, writes it himself all the way.
Chris Snyder [00:37:54] By the way, Squarespace probably did not exist. It didn't it was not as easy back then as it is today.
Sean McGinnis [00:38:01] It did not. Writes it all in Drupal commerce is like, well, how am I going to take it to market? It's like I really haven't thought this through just yet. You know what? There's this thing, plantar fasciitis that affects the heel. My technology affects the heel. I'm going to just promise that it works. He's like, I have no idea if it was gonna work or not. It's just a Hail Mary. We'll see what happens. I'm either going to have a bunch of angry and pissed off customers in six months. We'll see. You know, throws up the Web site. They sell some shoes. They sell some more shoes. The seller starts to pick up. Yeah. The first batch gets through. He looks around. He's like, okay, now what? Like, do we shut it down or do we go order some more doubles down, order some more. For the first probably four to five years of the business, these customer reviews start coming in saying this is transformational. This is this has changed my life. This is completely eliminated my foot pain and literally for the first four or five years even up. Come on. That's just the placebo effect. I've told people it's gonna do that. So I think it's actually happening. Now, he really believes it. I mean, worth tens of thousands of customers have bothered to come back and tell us how it's working. And it's incredible. You know, go to our Web site at KURUFootwear.com, and look up any one of the shoes that we have online. You'll see people talking about I mean, we never every single review that comes in gets posted our Web site. We do not scrub. We do not cleanse. We do it. We do nothing. Everything always goes up. That was a decision made a long, long time ago. And so it's just it's been really cool. And so that, you know, they've developed and gone to new different styles and new technologies. And we're constantly pushing the envelope and introducing some new shoes. And so I think this might be the year we introduce more new styles than ever before. I want to say we're introducing five or maybe six this year. So we've launched a couple already. We've got another one coming live next week. Another one comes alive in July and then one in Q4.
Chris Snyder [00:39:58] So let's talk about. I was looking around and SEMRush a little bit. It looks like they really started the business from a traffic standpoint anyway. And this is just indexed. And anybody can look this up if you have an SEMRush account, but looks like they really started maybe taking off at the end of 2015, the beginning of 2016. So, you know, the CEO really weathered, you know, eight years of probably really hard work. Yeah. Yeah. Things like it.
Sean McGinnis [00:40:25] He was growing really, really rapidly for the first eight that that time period when you start when you measured, you observe that was the sort of the turbo rocket version. Right. Of the last couple of years, know 17 and 18 and often doing really well. Well, 17 anyway, at the end of 17 is when we know sorry, end of 18. So 17 and 18 we're growing. 18 is when we went at the end of 18, an update. So in between the time frame, when you launched this first site and Drupal, they migrated to Magento one, Magento two had come along and it gave it a few years to kind of like mellow and like, hey, we're gonna let him work out the kinks. At the end of eighteen, they launched a new site, and while they launched the new site, they also came up with a complete redesign that somewhat buried the lead a little bit. You know, we as I mentioned, really the main purpose of when our customers think of KURU is for foot pain alleviation, right? Yeah. That the narrative inside the business was that's not a customer that's going to take us to the next level of growth. Right. We've got to do way to get past that. And so the focus with the new design and the new site was much more on the promise of what being free from foot pain allows you to do as a human being. We're going to help you maximize your goals. You're gonna be able to go walk your dog. You're gonna be able to go hike. You're going to be able to. I'll be free again. You know, it's this idea of freedom, freedom of movement, freedom to pursue your dreams, freedom to self actualize.
Chris Snyder [00:41:58] Yeah. So it's more of a lifestyle message instead of a really direct niche problem that you need to solve, which is, by the way, I was listening to something this morning. That's where all the great companies start. Right. So Facebook started at Harvard. Then it went to all the other Ivy League schools and it went to the other schools. You couldn't even register for Facebook unless you had a .edu. Yeah. Amazon.com for that. You know, Amazon started in books. You can just go. There's a million of these use cases. So that's where KURU started. And now the name of the game is trying to figure out kind of where do we extend what other use cases can we tie to this? There's got to be there's going to be a sports use case, I would assume. Right. Because now the kids are on turf. They're banging their heels. Well, you've got kids. I mean, I don't know if you guys have kids sizes on my mind goes like kids sports.
Sean McGinnis [00:43:01] Yeah. We actually don't. It's fair. It's so that was part of the thinking at that time. And 18 was if we're gonna get beyond just the foot pain thing. One of the plays was let's talk to the Youngs, and convince them this is gonna happen to you if you don't take care of your feet. And you know, and all of our technology not only eliminates footprint, but also helps prevent foot pain. Right. The problem with that in the, in my opinion, this is, again, just me talking. It's not necessarily us. It's the brand. You know, my corollary there was: ask Obama how easy it was to sell the youngins on the fact they needed to buy health insurance. All right. When you're young, you feel like you're invincible. You think that nothing's a great point, but you're never going to be unhealthy. Or if you are, you're committed to working out. But like I said, it's to a point. I'm not so sure. Right. And so the thing that I talk about today is that the only thing that our customers have is every customer we have has two feet and one of them hurts. And the thing about that is that can happen when you're young. It can happen when you're old. It just - it goes across demographic lines. It doesn't matter the age, the gender, the geographics, the income level, the color of your skin. None of it matters. Everybody's a prospective customer. Whether you're 19 and you've got foot pain and plantar fasciitis or whether you're ninety-nine and you have foot painting or some other type of foot pain that we can assist with. Right. And so it's that makes it really hard to target. But there's this magic box called Google where people are literally self-selecting and raising their hand every single day and they're typing in best solution for this type of foot pain or best shoes for this type of foot pain or best. You know, I have this type of foot pain. How to what is about it? How do I get it diagnosed? How do I treat it? What are my treatment options? What are this? What are that? And so, you know, that magic box becomes INCRA. You know, we're not a traditional retailer. We're not a traditional lifestyle brand. We're not all birds is a great example. Real credible D to C company on fire. Right now they're killing it. They have a brand story and a reason for being in a target market and a demographic that they're targeting. And they also have a shitload of funding and they have a killer PR team there where they just announced a joint venture with Adidas. I mean, this is a phenomenal company, right? We can't target our audience the same way that they can as easily as they can, especially a couple of years ago, Facebook started the limit. And you can no longer target by health conditions, for example. Right. But Facebook was much more of a magic box for us a couple years ago than it is today. It's still a great vehicle to start to build brand awareness. But Google, you know, you're typing stuff these you're looking for answers to these questions that you have. And sometimes you can get really granular about the specific questions that people are asking. And then when we can. To your point, that's when you really SEMRush, you're seeing us sort of take off and then investment really start to pay off.
Chris Snyder [00:46:01] And you guys have probably one hundred thousand keywords at least that you have to sift through at least. So let's talk about you know, you'd mentioned Facebook a little bit. We all know Google's for high intent purchase behavior. We know that it's expensive. You got to work on it. It's one of the biggest channels on the planet. But once you get it, you've got it. Let's assume you got it. Facebook feels a little bit like a magic box. But you used to teach social media. You had an agency. You know what the hell you're doing. What is it? So let's say we have those channels nailed. What is it now like? What do we do? Like what? What's the strategy? Let's say that we have the one problem to solve. It's not a lifestyle problem. I'm just going to make that up. Yeah. You have this foot pain problem. We don't know where to go. We've got these amazing, testable digital channels that we can run hypotheses, prove it, disprove it, and go through. So where do you guys go from here from a channel standpoint?
Sean McGinnis [00:47:03] Yeah. So I when I joined in October, I laid out a vision for our CEO and had sort of three distinct phases in phase one was fixed digital. Yeah. And we're still not done with that for sure. Like it's a work in progress. We're wrapping up this week. This next week, we finish our paid search account, rebuild. That's been two months in the making. You hired an internal expert and paired them with an external freelancer expert who I used to work with. And they've been working on that.
Chris Snyder [00:47:29] Super risky, by the way. What Sean is talking about? First of all, take one step back. Migrating a Web site, super risky and painful. Speaking from personal experience. Yeah, for sure. Jumping around Drupal to Magento than going from Magento to Magento to. By the way, everyone listening. These things can ruin your business if you don't do it right now. I'm not even kidding about that. Like you could ruin your whole business doing things the wrong way.
Sean McGinnis [00:47:57] Let's talk about the migration for Magento one to Magento, too. So when we did that, we did a complete redesign. And part of that narrative that we were talking about just a minute ago was that we were going to not focus on the foot pain of the customer, per se, but talk about more aspirational, the things that allowed you to do. The decision that was made two years ago is we're gonna leave behind several hundred pages of content that we're devoted to, that foot pain idea. And so you had this massive drop in Nescio traffic. Yeah, those pages were for performing for certain keywords, good, bad, or indifferent. And so you had this sort of massive shift in the paid traffic versus what I call the free traffic. Right. The SEO, email, it's the owned versus earned versus paid. Right.
Chris Snyder [00:48:38] And so which brings down your overall cost per acquisition. Exactly. Endlessly. And by the way, this isn't a KURU problem. This is an everybody problem. If you don't do this shit. Right.
Sean McGinnis [00:48:51] Yeah. So we came in in October and started tracking. I went back basically to 20 and had copied over all of Google analytics data into a Google sheet by channel by week and by month. So it gave me a good foundation to understand what had happened in 2018 and 2019 as we started to look at 2020. And it gives us the ability to track that. And so one of the main metrics that I look at is the total percentage of free traffic versus the total percent, the percentage of free traffic versus percentage of traffic that's shifted dramatically.
Chris Snyder [00:49:23] What's your target? What's your best practice in your opinion?
Sean McGinnis [00:49:26] I don't have a great answer to that. Unfortunately, what I'm looking at is the relative contribution of those various channels. And I'm looking out and saying, where do I see the most opportunity? Right. So paid search is a great example. What what I inherited from the agency that was running our paid search account, I looked at it and thought, I think we can three to four acts, if not more of the revenue that's coming from there. As long as that's behaving in a way that I'm getting a role as that makes sense to me. I'll spend I don't care. I'll spend a million dollars a day if it's returning a certain percentage. Right. So you're only capped out by the number of people that are running those searches on Google and being and your ability to get your brand in front of them. And then you just look down the funnel and you say, what's the rest, the conversion fund a look like? What's the click-through rate? You're backing into a CPA number that you have to hit in order to be profitable for your business. And so. So the answer in terms of percentage, I don't care if the answer suddenly everybody started searching Google and only clicking on first being a paid search ads. I don't want to gauge people's behavior per se, but I also looked at CEO and said, well, here's an opportunity, a huge opportunity. So we took some of the old pages and brought them back onto the site. I had you know, I come from the SEO space and so we worked on some of that. We worked with the national contractor and we've more than doubled the SEO traffic and revenue to the business on a day by day basis from when I started. We're crushing it in some of the bigger channels, which is awesome. And that's been super valuable. And the next step is going to be to really focus on completing the digital sort of reformation. Right. Of like, let's fix all this stuff and make sure that every channel is learning from each other. They're figuring things out. That's the other thing. We're not a heavily promotional brand. You know, there are certain brands that focus on the offer or what have you. We're not one of them. We prefer to focus on the value that we deliver. And on the transformational opportunity, we present that our to our customers every single day. So part of that sort of fixing digital will be eventually to think about what's a VIP brand, ambassador, customer program, really look and feel like we've got a really nice points program that's foundationally in place. Today, we don't do a good job of promoting it. We don't do a good job of telling our customers about reminding them they have points to suspend things like that. So that will be all part of sort of fixing digital CRM.
Chris Snyder [00:52:03] So the CRM...So one of the things that I've been focused on, instead of giving more money to Google and Facebook like they need it, obviously you've got to wake up every day and do that. It's about table stakes. I'm not saying you don't do it, but one of the things I've been really focused on is figuring out how to build and building our own private networks. Right. So, I mean, I'll just use it loosely, like CRM. This is not any kind of new revolutionary thing. But if you can imagine how to transform your paid. And when I asked about the media mix, I think traditionally in most of the businesses, especially the conversion and performance-based businesses that I've been associated with, the rule of thumb has always been OK. Between 50 and 60 percent are going to be all paid. Right. Search, social, whatever, e-mail, whatever. Just stack it all the shopping engine, APSA stack it all in there and then, you know, 30, 30 percent of it can be organic because that's hard to do. And you're limited based on what your brand keywords aren't, stuff like that. And then another 10 percent of it or five percent of it can be earned. And now I'm thinking, you know, I thought about this while you were talking about the top ten reviews guys and things like that. I think now what we should be thinking about, and this is just a hypothesis, is how do we help organizations get away from this crack, this paid crack? You use that as a Kickstarter, but that is real. There's no asset value in buying a click from Google, sending it to your Web site. Ninety-nine percent of the time, if you have a one percent conversion rate, anything happening like what the fuck are you? It's fine. It's fine if you do it right. But what you really should do is try to take some of that money, my opinion, and try to invest in an asset, an asset value that grows over time and that you can lean in on it will lower your overall cost of acquisition. Building these private I'm going to call him private networks almost.
Sean McGinnis [00:54:15] Yeah. The other thing that's I think is super important to the question that you asked around sort of mix and things like that is what's the relative goal of the business idea? You know, I when I think I talk about digital a lot with my team and with the larger sort of, you know, folks in my network privately and I always talk about how you basically your operating orientation, your operating stance, for lack of a better word, you're either oriented for growth or you're oriented for efficiency. Yeah. One of those two things is true. And so you need if you're oriented for growth, you're more willing to spend into the yield curve and maybe even buy customers that are not profitable. I agree. You know, one of the things that I did in October when I first got here, I was trying to survey the landscape of what the other agency was doing. And the first thing that I did was to pause 20000 unproductive keywords. Right. So we literally refer to that as the baseline project. Yep. What what does a super-profitable or at least a marginally profitable month look like? From our perspective. And how does that sort of you know, where does that fit? I've sort of joked with my CEO like I can drive an X valuation to a Y profit margin or I can drive in a valuation to a be profit margin. Those are two completely different paths. And we need to have some sort of some certainty around which one of those two is more important to you. Yes, it is. Are you oriented toward trying to maximize profit or are you oriented to trying to get top-line growth? Yep. Part of that is driven by what's the long term plan from a district? What's the exit strategy or are we going to hold this thing forever and just ride it out? In which case, maybe profit's more important. Are you going to try and sell in five to 10 years, in which case, or is it a blend of the two? Right. And so you're trying to push for volume while staying profitable.
Chris Snyder [00:56:07] you can't do it. Sean, I love that you're saying these things because I thought I'd been batshit crazy for like the last 15 years. I tell clients all the time, I'm like, look, if you want growth, that's different than profit because you can't continue to spend this amount of money, there's not enough there. It's we call it a cost curve. Sure. You might call it a yield curve. Call it a cost curve. Like you run these models. You look back in time and you go look, when you hit that cost curve, all I need is the number where you want me to stop. And then I'm going to tell you, based on regression analysis, you can't spend more than this because it's a finite supply coming from Google or Facebook or wherever. By the way, in order to get really good at this, you need to spend a lot of money to be confident about the progression testing that you run. You can't half-ass this stuff, right? So we're not talking about companies that lack product markets. They kind of are trying to figure it out still. You know, we're talking about mature companies like Sears and KURU and some of the places that you've worked. One of the questions I wanted to ask you. Is what do you not like about agencies, by the way? I have a list a mile long and I own and operate an agency. Suddenly I give a shit what you say. I think it's important for the industry to understand, like, where are we fucking up? What do you not like about agencies? And then maybe what do you like about them?
Sean McGinnis [00:57:31] Yeah. Let's so I'm my general stances. I prefer to hire internal employees when that makes sense.
Chris Snyder [00:57:39] and by the way, Sean had an agency owned and operated an agency. So this is the other reason that I get permission to ask this.
Sean McGinnis [00:57:47] Yeah. For sure. It's - I take the best athlete approach. Right. So let's go back to my time at series as an example. I was working with what Gardener at the time had declared one of the top two paid search agencies in the country. A top tip, top rate gardener quadrant, the magic quadrant, spending a ton of money with them. And I had never done paid search at the time. Right. And I looked at my boss at the time and I said, hey, we're spending a shit ton of money with Google. Does it Scare you at all that we have no internal competency on this? Like we're reliant completely on an external partner to drive X revenue, off of Y investment.
Chris Snyder [00:58:30] So it's risk. It's just being a smart business manager.
Sean McGinnis [00:58:32] That felt like a risk to me. Yeah, and he agreed and he trusted me enough and said, hey, you know what? You're right. Let's dig into it. You put a business case together. Let's talk about it. So I asked them for a time study. I said, tell me what you're doing for me on a typical weekly basis. And of course, they drag their feet and didn't want to give me an answer. And I beat them up a little bit. And they finally came back and they gave me a little spreadsheet. Fifteen boxes or so of a spreadsheet that basically said, OK, on your account, here's the three or four different roles. The people there's a director that does this. And there's no person that does that. And the other person does the following. And we're going to group this work down into a certain number of years. They do this. They do this. They do this. They do this. So overall, I was getting about forty-five hours a week worth of work. Why five? Forty-five hours a week worth of work and twenty-six of those hours were devoted to meetings and reporting, but management, baby. So I'm getting about 19 hours a week worth of work to trying to move the needle on my business. Yeah. To actually grow this massive spend. That's roughly an FTE. That's one person's worth of time. Let's do it. OK. I got to take a stab at what we're paying. I'm not sure I should say this.
Chris Snyder [00:59:54] Well, back. Well, let's just. We'll use an index. Let's use an index. So let's say that Seres. They probably spent a shit ton more than what I'm going to say, but let's use an index for easy enough. Let's see, you guys spent a million dollars a month, which, by the way, there's no they probably spend way more than that. No, they get on Google alone, but a million dollars a month back in the day, they probably were charging between 10 and 15 percent of media spend.
Sean McGinnis [01:00:25] Actually, we had a much on a percent of media spend. It was still really, really light. Yeah. But it was like another thing for peoples worth of FTE.
Chris Snyder [01:00:35] Yeah. I mean, it's it and I've seen this and they've cut the rates have come down over the years. It's gone from twenty, ten years ago to 15 to ten. And now I've seen stuff out there like six and a half and I read something in one of the advertising trades. Maybe it's Publicis. You can't quote me on that, but they're saying. If you have a media spend of like thirty thousand dollars over the course of three months, we'll take your business. And if we don't hit your goals, don't pay us. Interesting. So getting back to your original question. My hunch is your apply pain like north of one hundred thousand dollars a month in fees is my hunch.
Sean McGinnis [01:01:21] Not quite that bad, but it was. But it was still it was comparatively out of whack. Right. So might the business case basically to the boss was like, I'm getting 19 hours of work that I care about for three to four FTDs. I wanna go hire two FTD and control their work completely, get 80 hours a week worth of work.
Chris Snyder [01:01:38] And how is performance? Because you may not have even had to ask these questions.
Sean McGinnis [01:01:42] Performance was great. That's the part. Like performance on paper was great. Right. And so but that's again, this is where you get into a potentially lulled into a false sense of security. On paper, it sounded great. And we're doing well. We're spending a lot of money. We're making money. On paper things are great. So the typical corporate marketing director would have said, why are you rocking the boat, dude? What are you thinking about? Yeah. And yet I felt like there was more there. And so I hired a team of two, hired the right people, hired an expert. Don't try. I actually owned by the new which she was doing to get us in the first. So and the other piece to know is so I'm a guy who had never done paid search at the time. And I come in. You talking about the number of keywords we had. We had over a million keywords in our account. And I was like, oh my God. I thought I was a Godzilla. Or, you know, like, this is the coolest thing. I lead a team that has a million-plus keywords in it. This is phenomenal. The person that I hired immediately took one look at that. The first thing she did was to delete 900000 keywords. Oh, my God. Because they were not productive in the account. They were cluttering up the account. They were either driving clicks and no conversions in the last year or not even getting clicked on. So what are you doing? What are you doing? And how do you manage that? Right. And so. That was step one. Then the next year, basically, we embarked on a complete account restructure and we grew revenue 40 percent year over year. And. So what looked like a really healthy, strong channel got lit on fire because we hired the right people and gave them the autonomy and the authority and accountability to really go and crush it. Right. So that my whole view of every agency is colored through that lens, which is most agencies today, if I went to hire an agency, someone like you or I would come in and pitch the work. And if they if the work was one, all of the actual execution would get pushed down to the most junior person you can get away with pushing it down to. And the whole model is basically we're gonna do as little work as we can get away with doing for as much money as we can get away with. Yeah, yeah. And I would much rather be the guy fully accountable for managing the work of my team and delivering on the results and measuring it every single day, week, month. And living in the numbers and holding people accountable for their specific channel. You've got an area of responsibility. Your job is to go crush it and paid search. Let's talk about the full funnel, the paid search every single week.
Chris Snyder [01:04:11] So and by the way, I just want to make a comment to everyone listening. Don't try this at home. You have to know what you're doing. If you think for once, if you haven't walked in Sean's shoes or you haven't been doing this for a very long time like we have. Don't try to be a superstar and go out and hire your own team if you don't have the leadership in management and in some level the execution experience to manage these people. Right. It's a difficult thing to do. But if you are a, you know, forget agencies for a second, would you work with someone? What is it now, then, that you know, the shoe company? Sears? You've got a lot of experience. What is the biggest gap now? Because I feel like the gap on Google experience the gap on Facebook, experience content, maybe not so much. I think video is still challenging, whereas the next frontier for people who want to provide real value.
Sean McGinnis [01:05:08] Oh, my gosh, what a great question. I think the answer is it varies by business. Right? So it varies by the relative maturity of the channel for each for that business. So one of the things that I look at and I communicate up to my CEO is I give him a relative maturity score of every channel on a quarterly basis. So it's one of the cars that I'm looking at is like, hey, dude, you know, I told you I was gonna go fix digital. Here's where we're at right now. Right. And so you would even ask what's next? And so what's next? It varies. And so I don't know what's next in terms of really turbocharging this business. Persay, once digital is fixed now it becomes a conversation with TV and radio and out of home and like, how do we build brand awareness? My goal eventually, five years from now, I want everyone that thinks about foot pain to think about Dr. Scholl's, not KURU footwear. Oh, yeah, we're a long way from that. Yeah, nowhere close to that.
Chris Snyder [01:06:01] That's a good vision, though.
Sean McGinnis [01:06:03] Most people have no idea who we are. Right. And so we solve a totally different job to be done. And then Dr. Scholl's does. But, you know, there is so much opportunity. We've got all this kind of current I'm looking at my dashboard right now. I've got all these current metrics and data and visits and revenue channel by channel by channel. You know, we should be doing a YouTube channel. That's much more information-Rich. That's talking about various types of foot pain and educating people. It's the second biggest search engine in the world. Right. We're almost erasable there. We don't even exist. And so there's a huge content play for us to be able to own that space because those people are typing those words into YouTube, as well as in Google and Google serving up YouTube results when they type it in Google anyway. Right. If they think it's the right answer that you might be looking for. We're going to send you to a video so we could be and should be building our brand authority on that channel as well. We've talked about building a newsletter that's so valuable that it stands alone on its own. It's like the world's healthiest newsletter, and it's provided by KURU Footwear, where it brings you into the brand. Aware of the brand. Right. It's more about fitness. It's more about foot health. It's more about, you know, that's a whole separate investment and a whole separate team that goes into that.
Chris Snyder [01:07:18] That goes in building that Private Network. Yes. Like your the equipment gathering the app, you're building that asset base. Obviously, it's an investment. In fact, your question earlier, you want profit or you want growth and you're going to invest. There's a reason why it's called investment. We're gonna take a flier on this here. The KPI is there. So we're going to measure ourselves. Right. We're still going to do a good job. We have a hypothesis. I got to tell you, man, that that idea, the YouTube idea. There's probably a couple more in there, you know, because you only get so much at Google and Facebook, you're going to be huge. Don't get me wrong. It's just we, you and I both know how big those guys are. Oh, what about Amazon?
Sean McGinnis [01:07:57] We are eschewing Amazon. We believe that we want to own the customer experience and we want to own the customer relationship and not for Amazon to own it. We think Amazon's great for people. When you're brand is so big, it's just another distribution channel.
Chris Snyder [01:08:13] Well, Nike didn't think so.
Sean McGinnis [01:08:14] Yeah, they were there. And then they left. Right. They just send out. So I think it's funny that I follow a lot of thought leaders in the e-commerce space. And one of the big trends that a lot of folks are talking right now is like content and commerce. Right. There's this thought that content is where you aggregate an audience, you build an audience, you get a brand-loyal audience, and then you figure out how to monetize it through some e-commerce play. Or maybe that's part of the larger strategy along. And then the flip side of that is the e-commerce companies coming at it and building a content engine that's not just about capturing people at the bottom of the funnel, but treating them differently when they're at the top of the funnel as well. And so the other thing that's really I think potentially that I'm definitely going to play with and test is the RTV. You know, I think an infomercial, a 10-minute infomercial for someone like KURU Footwear, where it takes some time to explain how this cupping technology actually helps love it. Your foot pain, explain explainer video for a couple minutes can only do so much on a Web site or on YouTube, a pre-roll, the 10 minutes getting someone like, you know, someone like you or I on TV to talk about the stuff who's going to be the voice of the brand. And that way I think that's a really worthy experiment and definitely something we've been talking about.
Chris Snyder [01:09:25] I love it. I love it. I'd like to if I can make any recommendations in those areas. I know a lot of people in Los Angeles and elsewhere, they've done a lot of the direct to consumer brands. The other thing that you could do it. I'm looking at your site. I mean, there's a product-led growth strategy, I'm sure, as well. you and I are talking about what we do, and that's fine. But we hadn't even touched on product-led growth strategy, cross-sell up, we sell to Sean, then we sell to Sean's kids. We sell to Sean's wife. We sell to Sean's nieces and nephews like there's so much. It's so exciting to hear how well you guys are doing and how much opportunity there is here. Even in light of COVID, which we had talked about, we don't need to.
Sean McGinnis [01:10:12] But yeah, it's super fun. I sort of joke that I'm dealing with business challenges that are the most exciting and interesting things I've ever had to deal with. I mean, Kobe got in the way a little bit then, you know, you had this big shift and people had to spend money in e-commerce because there was no other place, brick and mortar to go. If you look at our site today, the coverage is pretty bare. Like some most of our best selling shoes are out of stock right now, and it takes a while for us to replenish that. So you've got to time that right. So I'm influencing and having conversations with our product team and we're talking about, you know, trying to forecast out sales and look, while you're, you know, jamming your foot on the accelerator, trying to really grow the business as fast as humanly possible. There are other limitations, too, beyond just, you know, building demand. I mean, you've got to do it in a way that's responsible and respectful of what you've got in the warehouse. And so there's some tricky aspect step. But you're right, there are many new types of shoes that we can go build that would insert our to our technology into that. So I actually sent an e-mail to our entire customer base asking them to fill out and complete a little survey monkey form, open text box to please tell us how we could be better serving you.
Chris Snyder [01:11:24] Yeah, I love it.
Sean McGinnis [01:11:25] Thousands and thousands of responses I don't like filtered through them all. Read every single one of them. Categorized that feedback and presented back to the marketing team for the flood of feedback was marketing related or e-commerce related. How can our site function better? And a lot of it was product related. You know, w what's the strategy for which shoes we offer in a wide great example. Right. So many customers like please give us more white shoes. We'd like you guys. We love you. We want to buy more stuff from you. You only offer three of your styles. And why. Why is that? I want a wide and every courier that you make. Yeah, there are implications to that from a business perspective. Right. How do we manage that demand with what makes sense from a business perspective? How about extreme sizes? How far into the extreme size room do you actually go? Do we start offering size 15s for men? What's the business impact? That there are costs of manufacturing, those things that are not. You know, not that's not a sunk cost today, we do not have that capability, that means it's X dollars to go build that tool, you know, actually be able to build that, right? Yeah, it's so cool. Like we're having so much fun and really it's really neat to be all a talk to our customers and understand the things they'd like us to do and then to be able to go react them to go to those things.
Chris Snyder [01:12:38] Yeah. Connecting a guy like you with the product team and doing that really tight product-led marketing innovation. Test and learn strategy. That's so good for KURU. There they got to be pumped to have you.
Sean McGinnis [01:12:53] Well, we're having a lot of fun for sure.
Chris Snyder [01:12:55] Yeah, well, Sean. I have a feeling we're actually over time. But I just. Whatever. We just kept going home. But Sean McGinnis is the SVP, head of marketing, e-commerce and customer experience at KURU Footwear, a Salt Lake City-based direct consumer footwear brand. Sean, we could've gone on a lot longer. I'm glad we had this conversation. You know, I look forward to, you know, staying in touch with you and, you know, let us know if you need anything here at the Snyder's showdown.
Sean McGinnis [01:13:27] Yeah. Thanks. I really appreciate the opportunities. Great to meet you. And to be able to chat with your listeners and look forward to hearing this. And if there is a cause to do it again sometime in the future, I would love to love to chat again.
Chris Snyder [01:13:38] Then there will be. Thanks a bunch. Thank you.
Sean McGinnis [01:13:42] Thank you.