Connor Meakin was a runner who couldn’t run. A devastating foot injury in 2016 put an abrupt stop to his favorite thing to do: compete in marathons at an elite level. This athlete who loved nothing more than to be outdoors had his life upended with doctors doubtful he would fully recover. After fruitless attempts at rehab, he took his health into his own hands, adopting a new approach to his lifestyle. He soon discovered the benefits of bone broth. After healing his foot and getting back to ultra marathon running, Connor quit his job and launched Bluebird Provisions to share bone broth with the world. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Connor shares how he recovered from financial hurdles and pivoted online to save his business.
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Turning a career-ending injury into a business opportunity
Felix: You got into bone broth to help with an injury. Tell us more about your background and what happened, how you arrived at learning about or using bone broth.
Connor: I am a competitive ultra marathon runner, if you can believe it. The tricky thing about ultra marathons is that you have to run a lot to be able to compete and excel at them. The runners can probably see where this story is going. I had a lot of success in 2015, 2016, 2014 running and winning a lot of races. I had my goal race on the calendar for summer 2015, and trained a little too hard. Was training through some injuries and ended up with a very strange injury to the bottom of my foot. I ruptured my plantar fascia, which is common r in the Western medical community. I was doing what everybody does, seeing doctors, specialists, physios. No one really had an answer or a way to fix it.
I even had some doctors telling me after looking at the imaging that in their opinion it would never heal and I was told I’d never run again. Running being my passion, it hit me so hard. I was depressed. I was physically and mentally just broken and defeated. I felt like Western medicine let me down and started looking at some more Eastern medicine approaches to healing the body. A lot of that has to do with diet and certain things. Googling stuff, eating all these strange foods that supposedly had healing properties for tendons and joints. One of the things I came across for healing tendon injuries was collagen or gelatin. In my case, bone broth. Bone broth has the same amino acid profile or protein structure as collagen.
There was a researcher doing some research using gelatin and collagen to heal tendon injuries. I talked to this guy, he said, yeah, bone broth would be a good substitute. I had started researching and trying to make bone broth in my apartment. Much to the chagrin of my neighbors. I basically stunk up the whole apartment building for a few months there while I was continuously making bone broth and giving it to friends. I got so passionate about it because after a few months I started to feel better, my injury started to heal. Obviously that wasn’t attributed only to bone broth. I was doing a lot of other things with bone broth, but just the timing of it made me so passionate about bone broth that I wanted to share it with anyone who would listen.
I started doing a bit of research, Googling stuff, and looking at some companies. At the time there were a few companies in the US that were popping up and seemed to be doing okay, but nothing really any in Canada. I said, Hey, I could probably do better than what’s out there. I decided to start a local business here in Vancouver, Canada. I bought some equipment, rented a commercial kitchen, did it myself and hired people off Craigslist. Next thing you know, we’re being sold in grocery stores and now all over the place. It’s been a crazy journey.
Felix: You were creating the bone broth for personal needs. What made you take that step to create a business?
Connor: That’s a great question. Before this, I worked for a pretty early stage software company here in Vancouver called Hootsuite that became a somewhat big tech company–a decent Canadian success story for tech. I was a pretty early employee there and got to learn from the CEO and some of the executives. I was on the marketing team so I got a pretty good glimpse at marketing, branding and a lot of copy writing and those types of things. That planted the bug that I wanted to start my own business. Not being technical, I felt like I wasn’t really interested in doing software, but I always knew I wanted to start something. The food came in somewhat around that time as well.
I was always interested in cooking for myself and I was always that annoying person that was trying to find healthy spins on different recipes. I’d try to healthify certain recipes. Before the bone broth, I almost started a sock company with a friend. That was difficult. I almost started a cricket farm, which would’ve been a fully vertically integrated cricket protein product line. Back in 2015 no one was really doing that. It’s pretty popular now. I had a few ideas cooking and then the bone broth just seemed like that perfect mix of opportunity, timing in the marketplace, and a developing passion. What some people I would say need, and maybe don’t have before they started is a conviction in the product or service that you’re going to be selling. I certainly had that with bone broth.
Felix: You mentioned that there are at least a handful of other ideas that you wanted to pursue, but were those ones that you just didn’t have much or any conviction in wanting to pursue?
Connor: The socks, not really. The crickets I had a developing conviction for, but I think it was going to be too capital intensive to start a cricket farm. It was going to be operationally too difficult. I got spooked and found a somewhat easier path to follow for my first business.
Learning the difference between conviction and passion
Felix: Why do you think conviction is so essential, not just passion?
Connor: I would say it’s necessary because it’s difficult. Times are going to get so tough. Particularly with a self-funded bootstraps food product in ecommerce and consumer packaged goods, it’s really difficult to manage cash flow as you grow and navigate insurance and food compliance. With food–and I’m sure every other product–there’s a lot of issues too. If you don’t have conviction in what you’re doing and the greater purpose, then you might just pack it in when things get tough.
Not only that, if you don’t have a certain conviction in what you’re doing, you may have a year or couple years of good business where things are going well, but when things get a bit tough and more competition enters your niche or your market, there’s undoubtedly going to be someone who does have more or a certain conviction. That’s going to lead them to work a bit harder than you in the long term. That’s going to make it difficult if you’re not fully in it when some of your competitors are hung. Maybe you’re going to start slipping up and losing market share. It’s hard to do things for the long term if you don’t have conviction.
Felix: Are there ways to foster and grow conviction?
Connor: That’s a tricky one as well because there’s that whole trope of following your passion. People get in trouble because unfortunately some people aren’t passionate about a lot of things or anything that is worthy of a business. That’s why I say conviction. I think a lot of things are interesting. The more you get into certain things, I think you can really nurture that belief and conviction and develop it as you learn more. I would say in my case, I was somewhat lucky in that it came pretty naturally. I am interested in niche performance, nutrition and health food. It personally helped me. It was a nice combination. I definitely realized for some people it is more difficult to have that. My wife’s a good example. She owns a hair salon and she doesn’t cut hair. She’s the business side of it and she has a certain passion and conviction for hair, but it doesn’t light her up like bone broth does for me. I realized that it’s difficult for some people.
Felix: Conviction gives you that gas to keep going when times get tough. But how do you use it as a way to guide you into a product, into a type of business?
Connor: I don’t have a perfect answer for that, but yeah you’re realizing now that if it is a product you can make a business out of just about anything now. Whether it’s some sort of service based, course based, e-learning based. We’re seeing the productization of just about anything now. The good news is if you have an interest in just about anything, you can probably find a way to monetize it and make some money. It goes back to how strong your conviction is. Maybe if you don’t find yourself with a deep interest in something, as you’re learning more about it, you realize it’s not the right thing, maybe it is. It’s hard to say. It’s a case by case basis for sure.
Felix: I think it’s easy to confuse conviction with excitement. Do you find you’re good at making that distinction at this point in your decision making process for the business?
Connor: We’re dealing with this right now and It’s a really good point because our unique selling proposition is that we are the highest quality bone broth. So in Canada, that’s certified organic with the best sourcing you can find. In the US, that is non GMO, all pasteurized, basically the highest quality bone broth compared to the competition. The reason I bring that up is because we are working on the development for a new product that we’re launching to the US and the Canadian market and it’s incredibly difficult to develop this product. Now I’m at a crossroads because my conviction and my passion bring certain values with it from a food system perspective, a sourcing perspective, and a food quality perspective.
If you compare that to the competition, I would say a lot of them are taking shortcuts in their sourcing and manufacturing that makes a product more cost effective and perhaps a better fit financially. Maybe it’s easier for more people to use. Us being a more premium product, it limits the ingredients and the manufacturing practices we can use. I’m struggling with that right now. It’s like my passion is built on a certain ethical process for our products. Now we have this new product that is going to be so good, but we can’t quite do it the way that fits our brand ethos in terms of ethics and manufacturing and sourcing. I’m trying to figure out if we can find a way to still do that or do we go down this other road that doesn’t really sacrifice our morals or ethics? Maybe it uses a certain process or ingredient that is certainly still better than the competition, but not the highest, highest tier.
Felix: You made an observation early on, which is that there were companies down in the US, but none in Canada. Was it impossible to get the product in Canada? What was the niche opportunity that you saw?
Connor: At the time I was mostly looking online at US companies, but in Canada there was no one selling online. There was no one in grocery stores, like the Whole Foods of the world. There was one kicking around that wasn’t really a bone broth. They weren’t doing a very good job. Specifically in Canada, I said, “Hey, there’s really no one doing this. It’s a growing category. There’s some data out there now. I’m going to get this product to market quickly and hopefully get it on shelf at some of the good retailers and test things out for six months to a year and see how things go.”
Felix: What was the early development process like?
Connor: The tricky thing about food products is there’s not a whole lot of information online about how to bring something to market. It varies state by state, country by country. For example, insurance, workers comp, compliance issues, food safety certificates, those types of things. It’s difficult to figure all that out. Figuring all that out was a bit of a task. Nothing some Googling can’t figure out and talking to some people. Once we figured that out, we went shopping around, trying to find a commercial kitchen, looking at costs, trying to figure out margins on what this product might cost, what we might be able to sell it at in a grocery store, figuring out distributor margins, if we were going to go that route.
Luckily I had some early mentors who set me straight from a margin perspective because when you’re in grocery stores, the old trope is that everyone along the way has got their hand in your pocket making money. The only one not making money is the brand on the shelf. Realizing all those markups was definitely where you needed to start. Once we figured that out, it was a matter of signing a lease at a kitchen, figuring out which equipment we used. It was pretty funny in the early days. I actually ended up using equipment that homebrewers used, massive stainless steel kettles and pots that beer makers were using. I found those worked the best.
Then it was testing R&D, figuring out how we could do what I was doing in my kitchen at scale. That took a little bit as well, but nothing too crazy. We were a Renegade reg tag crew of people getting up early in a kitchen and packaging stuff. We had a delivery van locally for a while here. It was hard work, frankly. It’s a lot easier when you’re not doing your own production, which is where we’re at now.
Felix: Who were your customers when you first started out?
Connor: When we started out, I got a press hit here in Vancouver from a friend that I had met from working for this software company. He covered us, which was amazing. We got some decent online sales and they were only in Vancouver. We were able to deliver things without having to sort out the whole cold chain online situation, because at that point our products were frozen. As a result of them being frozen, that’s when I realized, Hey maybe cold chain online is not really ready for prime time yet. That was the decision to go into retail. In terms of getting those first retail accounts, we got lucky. I got some intros from the relationships at the software company I was at before.
Luckily the CEO, Ryan, introduced me to the founder of, Western Canada’s version of something like thrive market called Spud. They brought me in and were able to do quite well with them. Then randomly I got an email from the Whole Foods buyer for Pacific Northwest. I actually thought it was a joke. I thought it was one of my friends messing with me. This guy emailed me asking for samples and said some people had been asking about it in the store and I really couldn’t believe it. If I go back to reverse engineering that, maybe here’s a tip for the listeners, I don’t know if it would still work now. I actually sent a lot of my friends and family members to Whole Foods a couple of months before this email came in and I told them all, “Hey, do me a favor. Go talk to the manager and tell them they need bone broth on the shelf and request this one specifically.”
I can’t remember how many actually did it, but they were saying, “Hey, there’s this cool brand Bluebird Provisions making organic bone broth. You should bring it in.” It actually worked back in the day. I don’t know if it would work now, but Whole Foods and Spud were the two that gave us a shot early. I’m grateful for them because we wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for that.
Saving his company from bankruptcy by pivoting to direct-to-consumer
Felix: What did you change about the business to be able to support the retail channel?
Connor: I have a little funny story. Before we got a delivery van, I drove a 2001 Toyota Corolla. I’ll never forget pulling into a Whole Foods loading bay with that Toyota Corolla. I got so spooked. I was like, “oh man, I can’t show up at the loading bay with this Corolla.” So I parked on the street. I had a big dolly and I unloaded all these cases, it was like coolers that I borrowed from my dad and packed them all up on site, rocked up with my purchase order and a dolly full of products. I’ll never forget the buyer saying, “Hey, we got a loading bay right here you can bring the truck in.”
I think I lied. I told him the truck broke down or something, or something happened and we couldn’t reverse or something. There’s all these ridiculous stories like that along the way. As we grew, we had our own delivery fulfillment van and driver. Eventually as you grow, you have to use a distributor for retail sales where you’re going to sell into a distributor, they’re going to mark the product up 25 to 30%, depending what category you’re in and then they’re going to service each individual grocery store. That gets tricky because all of a sudden you have this margin that you think you have and maybe you’re profitable.
Once you hit a certain scale, you have to use distributors because the stores mandate that you use distributors. That gets tricky for your margin. Sometimes you have to raise your prices to be able to absorb that 28% margin. So we got distributors. Then you have to bring in sales brokers who’d represent your product to get them into even bigger stores. The grocery industry is quite antiquated and it’s all about relationships and who you know. Sold call calling, cold emailing work sometimes if you have a really good viral unique product, but a lot of the times you need brokers and they take 5%. You can see where this is going. Everyone’s got their hand out and the profits start drying up pretty quick, which is why we ended up transitioning to online when COVID started.
Felix: What was the sentiment of the business when you were deep into the wholesale space?
Connor: That was an interesting one because we also transitioned our production to a third party co-packer at that time. All of a sudden I went from being a production manager for a food company to being more of an outbound sales representative. That was interesting. I had all my spreadsheets and we were going to trade shows and trying to find ways to get in front of these grocery buyers because we hadn’t done online yet. I was like, okay, how do we get into the tier one grocery stores? You have to wait once a year when they do their review schedule, which is when they decide that they’re going to take new pitches for products for a certain section of the grocery store. You have to be prepared. The sales cycles are so long to get into new grocery stores. It didn’t really fit my skill set. I would say I’m more introverted and being brash–not aggressive–out there salesmen didn’t really fit me too well. I found it very draining and difficult and getting so many no’s from grocery stores.
Felix: Once you made this transition into direct-to-consumer and online, what new skill sets did you have to develop?
Connor: It fit my personality a lot better and it actually naturally fit my skillset a lot better as well. The quick story is during COVID our retail wholesale business went flat. It went down a lot that spring and summer of COVID and didn’t really recover until a year later. Had we not moved online, we certainly would’ve gone bankrupt. I feel for a lot of these small food companies and restaurants since a lot of businesses went bankrupt. It hit so close to home for me because we were close to that stage had we not gone online. The good thing about online is I came from a marketing background working four years for a software company.
I almost felt like I could use that part of my brain creatively. Previously there was no time for it because I was stuck getting up at five in the morning, making bone broth. That was great. That’s when I was able to learn more about things like SEO and email marketing and acquiring customers. It was like a relaunch of our business in a lot of senses. It made my days equally stressful at times, but more enjoyable for sure.
Felix: Tell us more about your experience with almost going bankrupt. How did you manage to turn the business around?
Connor: You say quickly. That was definitely the name of the game. I suddenly figured out that there were new ways to ship frozen products. Ways to keep it frozen longer while you’re shipping it. Insulated liners and all that. That opened my eyes to the idea that, “Hey, maybe I should revisit the margins for online again and figure out if it’s viable” because before it just wasn’t viable. With that, you mentioned we only had $150 in the bank account. I took out a line of credit and was able to get a bit of assistance from the Canadian government. They were doing some helping out small businesses get through COVID. I was able to use that money right away in the summer to get a new website up and running, and a paid agency from the Shopify experts panel. I paid them like $800 US to get us a new theme. It was pretty bare bones, but it got us up and running and had a somewhat professional website so that we could get things going properly. Then it was a matter of getting the right processes in place, figuring out the fulfillment side of things.
Once we figured that out, it was like, oh now we have to get some sales here because I’m sure every early Shopify store owner can relate. You build your website and the sales don’t just show up. You look at your traffic, there’s something like two people a day. It became a matter of really doubling down on what I was good at and what I was good at was writing. Figuring out SEO, thinking for the long term. I’m in this for the long term. I really wanted to build a foundation with which we could hopefully continually get traffic. I decided to learn SEO and double down on that, learn email and figure out how we can do the most with our money. I couldn’t afford to test Facebook ads and Instagram ads and figure out if something worked. We were literally down to our last dollar. I couldn’t light a bunch of money on fire with Facebook.
Felix: Do you remember when things started turning around where you’re like, wow, this actually might work. We can actually keep this business going online.
Connor: Throughout this time, I joined a lot of these Facebook groups for Shopify business owners. I’m probably in every single one of them. It was just great to hear what was helping them get through COVID. A lot of people were saying, “Hey, in March, April, do a sale right now because it seems to be resonating with customers. Everyone’s scared they want to order things to their home.” Things like that really helped us get through it. As a result, timing was difficult because bone broth is more of a winter thing and we were coming into the summer, but we were able to get through it with the limited email list we had already been growing as a result of just having a website and a couple sales through the summer.
I’ll never forget we had a labor day sale that did really well and I wasn’t expecting it to. Things like that to bring in some cash through the summer. All through this I knew that shipping frozen bone broth wasn’t going to work or scale long term. While we were doing that, I was really hard at work developing a shelf stable version of our product. What that looked like was me reverse engineering all of the, I would say the checklist of a D to C shipping friendly product. It had to be less than a pound when we ship one unit, it had to fit these certain dimensions. For me, that ended up being a dehydrated product where we worked on dehydrating our existing liquid bone broth into a powder. I was hard at work at that and selling online with the frozen bone broth to get through it. All the while it was like, okay, let’s just get this new product launched, because that’s going to allow us to launch in the US as well, which is a large market. It was like keeping things going until we could get this new product launched.
Felix: At one point you completely engineered a new product. You realized the liquid form was sustainable and had to completely re-envision the product.
Connor: Anyone who ships frozen, you’re just leaving a lot of margin on the table because you are typically shipping a heavier product. The weight’s going to catch up with you with UPS or USPS or whoever you’re using. You have to use insulated shipping liners, which are between $2 to $7 each. That’s going to eat up your shipping margin. You have to use gel packs or dry ice. That’s going to be another couple of dollars per shipment. Running the numbers and looking at the margin and how much you’d have to charge to make it viable in the long term. It’s difficult to do for a frozen liquid product or really any liquid product that’s just heavy. We had to figure something out that was going to be direct to consumer friendly. Brands need to figure this out. You need to find some product line or addition to your existing line that if it’s not already direct to consumer friendly, you need something that is.
Building a successful sales pipeline with email and SEO marketing
Felix: How did you target customers once you transitioned to online?
Connor: I would say going back to organic SEO or search engine optimization. Luckily we had stumbled into a few articles that I had written on our Shopify blog. I’d written these early on in and looking at the traffic a year later, they had some pretty decent traffic. I started learning about SEO and reading about some of these people back in the day, like Neil Patel, who were talking about SEO and niche websites and those types of things. I started figuring out that, Hey, you have to write these articles. They call them skyscraper pieces of content that are better than whatever’s out there right now on the first page of Google.
I started writing articles about bone broth, bone broth benefits, stuff about collagen as well. I found a process where I was able to get articles to rank on the first page. Some of them were in the first three. Before I knew it, we were acquiring customers a couple months after this for free. It was unbelievable. The scale wasn’t massive at this time, but because of the traffic, we were getting email addresses as well. We were converting somewhere between 2% to 4% of visitors who were giving us their email. At the same time, I was learning about email marketing with Klaviyo. I figured that out. I said, okay, SEO and email, let’s figure that out for late 2020, early 2021.
Doubling down on those two helped us establish a nice foundation for our ecommerce sales and revenue. Around 40% of our revenue was attributed to email. We were making the most of what we had and really just still scraping by. I thought there were some leading indicators that would tell me that things were moving in the right direction.
Felix: Email and SEO are a bit of a long term game. What were you doing to quickly get sales up and running?
Connor: Near term sales, we were investing heavily in referrals. There’s some apps that are doing this. I decided that instead of asking for reviews or asking for anything else really, I was like, “Hey, let’s use all that real estate on all of our customer facing communication to ask for referrals.” You have to be pretty aggressive with this to get it to work, but I just started flat out asking. I would personally ask any of our customers, “Hey, do you have one person that would be interested in our bone broth that might get some benefits from it? Please forward this email to them, we’ll give you a kickback.” It’s the whole give and get. We’ll give them a $15 coupon and you get one as well.
Being aggressive with that brought in a lot of our sales while the SEO was kicking in–just being able to nurture existing customers with the absolute best customer experience and support. Again, I learned those skills from working at the software company. I decided that support was going to be the most important thing to nurture our customers and turn them all into lifetime customers. Through word of mouth, we were able to get a bit of a flywheel in effect while the SEO and email was working in the background.
Felix: You mentioned these skyscraper articles, tell us more about what that looks like and your SEO strategy in general.
Connor: We were able to get up to around 50 to 60,000 unique visitors a month. Nothing amazing in the SEO world, but for a small Shopify store, I would say that’s pretty good for organic traffic. The first thing I would say to store owners is to make sure you have the on page, which is what SEO people call it. I call it the fundamentals. Make sure you have your website in check. Make sure it loads fast, or at least make sure it’s not obviously slow. Then you can invest in a third party app to make sure that your title tags and everything is optimized for your search terms.
We use one called SEO manager that makes it incredibly easy to make sure you’re getting that low hanging fruit: ranking your homepage, product pages, collection pages, all that fun stuff. Once you’ve got that out of the way, what I do and what I would say I’m best at, is the long form content. What a lot of these SEO people call the content cluster. The content cluster is essentially building a cluster of articles around one key piece of content or article. You have your skyscraper article, which for anyone who hasn’t heard this, you basically want to have the highest skyscraper for your keywords. You find the best article or the best few articles on the keywords.
In our case, it was bone broth or bone broth powder. I’d look at what’s out there. I would find the headings and the subheadings, and I would use some free tools to estimate traffic. I used Google’s keyword planner. I would use a website called answer the public that gives you some ideas for what questions people are asking on Google for certain search terms. The keywords you want to go after should hopefully give you somewhat an idea of a title and maybe an outline for your subheadings. From there, you’re basically answering questions that you are receiving or that someone would want to learn about when reading an article about the benefits of bone broth. For us, it is breaking down all those subheadings.
There’s a gut health benefit, maybe there’s a skin health benefit. You’re going to have basic subheadings that answer all the questions around those particular topics. Then once you fill that out, I would usually get around 2000 words, plus or minus. I would include some infographics that I would make in Canva. These are not professionally designed, but it goes with the doing more with less philosophy. I would get a few more images and graphs ideally, and then you have this one piece of content. You want to write five to 10 shorter articles that are supporting this one large piece of content. That’s important because in these short articles, they are maybe peripherally related to your main keyword in the one piece of content, but maybe they’re answering slightly different questions or worded in a slightly different way. In my experience, these are shorter: 500-800 words. The key here is you are linking only in one direction. You’re linking from these shorter clustered articles to the long, 2000 words skyscraper article. From what I know, these cluster of articles all to this one article sends the signal to Google that, “Hey, this piece of content is prioritized in the website.” That is going to hopefully favorably rank that article.
Felix: All the content you’re talking about is all on your blog.
Connor: Yes. This is all just on the blog or dedicated pages on your website. This is without any backlink outreach or anything.
Felix: So you implement SEO optimization. What’s your strategy for getting clicks on your products?
Connor: I’ve tried just about everything for this. Originally, I would paste in the buy button so that you can use the Shopify buy button. I found that it actually didn’t convert as well. Now what we do is you want an organic call to action, hopefully in the first couple of paragraphs of the article, because everyone’s scrollers. Then what we do is we also have two different calls to action that are images. I would make an image in Canva that looks like a little advertisement and it even has a little fake button all within the image that’ll be like, “Hey, try this delicious collagen rich bone broth.”
It’ll say, buy now or learn more with a button. In reality, the whole image is just clickable. I found those actually converted better than anything else. Then all the while you’re also embedding some email forms, maybe some pop ups to get the email list, because a lot of the traffic you’re going to get from SEO is pretty top of the funnel. They’re not necessarily ready to buy. Hopefully you can convert a certain percentage to your email list, nurture them with a good welcome campaign or offer and hopefully a certain percentage of those will eventually convert.
Felix: Were there any surprises in terms of what performed well and what didn’t when it came to your content?
Connor: It’s so hit and miss. I wrote an article early on that was just a difference between bone broth, stock, and broth. That was the one that gave me the signal that we’re getting a lot of traffic in some sales from this article. I was able to repeat that a lot. I started writing about collagen. Was able to get on the first page with an article about collagen that brought in most of our traffic for a year. Then I started writing about a lot of different stuff. Writing about general health food things, writing about apple cider vinegar. Writing about impossible foods and beyond meat. I found those didn’t bring in as much traffic and they certainly didn’t convert because it goes back to the idea of domain authority, where Google or search engines probably saw us as an authority for bone broth and collagen. Since we hadn’t been publishing a lot of articles about other topics on food and nutrition, like impossible foods and beyond meat, we were not an authority in their eyes. Those articles, despite being good in depth articles, sat there and didn’t bring in much traffic.
Felix: Did you ever hit a point where you weren’t sure how much more you could write on the topic of bone broth?
Connor: That’s what we’re coming up with right now. I feel like I’ve covered just about everything to do with bone broth, because it’s a relatively small niche. For that, it was answering basically every question about bone broth someone might have. Bone broth nutrition, how much protein is in bone broth, et cetera. I would say a strategy for listeners that is not talked about very often and what we’re getting into is writing buyers guides for your keywords or your niche. We’re finding that they don’t bring in a ton of traffic, but they’re so targeted that they convert quite well. For example, I’m writing buyer’s guides for the bone broth industry. It’s interesting. It’ll typically be a list, “Hey, here’s the best bone broths in the USA” and then ideally you’re going to list your product first. You’re also going to have your competitors or peripheral competitors below you on a list of five or 10.
People can look at our website for an example of this. Some people might think it’s risky, but you’re only going to link to your product. You’re going to write a little bit about your competitors but you’ll find that these convert incredibly well. They seem to rank quite well too. I would say that’s some low hanging fruit for listeners. The other interesting one if you’re a small brand getting started is writing comparison articles. This is a lot of what software companies do. You’re writing comparison articles between you and your competitors. You might think this is another weird tactic, but if you’re the smaller brand and your competitors are larger, you can use your competitor’s keywords in the title and in the article. You can actually rank for their keywords and “steal” some of their traffic for people that are searching for their items. If you think about it from an intent perspective, a lot of people when they’re searching for something they’re looking for feedback about this product or reviews on this product. If you write X product review, that’s going to entice readers to click through and read that. We’re finding that works quite well. The articles convert like crazy for that.
Using on-site quizzes to successfully build an email list
Felix: Nowadays do you have more of an idea or sense of will resonate and what will miss?
Connor: I have a good idea, but it goes back to the fact that we’ve covered a lot on bone broth. What else can we do with bone broth? Maybe we are going to generalize our strategy and pick another niche to focus on. I’m working through that right now. With our cadence, we do outsource some of the writing. I’m a pretty good fast writer, but even still I’m focusing on a lot of other things. With where I’m at now, I can usually write an article a week. It seems like a decent cadence for me and we can outsource some content as well. It’s a tricky one. It takes a bit of time, but once you get your cadence and figure out a template and a framework for your articles, you can do it quite quickly.
Felix: How are you incorporating email into your strategy?
Connor: Yeah. We are quite aggressive with email capture. Everyone hates the pop ups but there’s a reason why all the marketers use them. They work. If you come to our website, we’re going to hit you with a popup and an offer. I’ve tested just about every offer out there. There’s the typical 10% off discount code that most brands use. We found that what converts better is we’re going to enter you into a contest to win a one month supply of bone broth for free. That is what converts best for us. That’s going to be a popup when you land on the page. There’s going to be a similar popup when you go to exit the page. If you land on a blog article, you’re going to get another popup that is similar once you’ve scrolled through a certain percentage, we do 60%.
We also have email forms embedded throughout all the blog posts. With this, we are able to get between two and a half to 5% of all traffic we’re able to get their email address. I’ve heard of some companies doing a lot better, up to 10%, but my hunch is that they are not getting mostly organic traffic. Organic traffic tends to not convert as well for email or sales. It’s just a lot of people under the sun searching for certain things. The other quick, interesting thing I’d say is that you’re seeing some brands do is we have a bone broth quiz and we test offers there. If you land on our home page, that’s exactly where we’re going to filter you in.
The quiz is pretty simple. We use Typeform for it. It asks you to answer two questions about your background, your goals with bone broth, and your experience level with bone broth. That’s going to use some conditional logic to spit out a product recommendation. People seem to love the quiz, they seem to love having a personalized recommendation. From there they’re going to get a custom welcome series based on their quiz results. It’s pretty cool what you can do in the back end with Klaviyo and really just custom tailoring your welcome flow based on whether they came from a popup or a quiz result. We’re also going to tailor that messaging by geography. If you’re a US visitor, you’re going to get a custom welcome flow, a Canadian visitors going to get a different flow.
From there, we’re trying to get to the end of the initial purchase. We’re going to share a little bit about the brand, a little bit about my background, because our story resonates quite well with consumers who are looking for bone broth. We put our story out there first, and then we’re going to hit you with probably like around 15 to 20 emails in a cadence of every two to five days between emails. Hopefully we get a purchase. Obviously you’re not going to get everyone to purchase. We’re really hoping for a purchase or an unsubscribe because I don’t want people sitting on the list that are never going to buy.
Felix: Tell us about the bone broth quiz. How is it performing on the website?
Connor: If they start the quiz, the conversion rate is pretty crazy. I want to say around 40%. The tricky thing is just getting them to start the quiz. Then the other thing is they’re going to have to enter their email to get the quiz results. They don’t have to check their email to get the quiz results, they’ll get it within the quiz on the page, but they do have to enter it. A little bit of friction there for some people. That’s where you get the drop off, but we find it converts really well.
Felix: What other apps do you use to help run the business?
Connor: Shogun’s really good for us. We’ve used a couple different landing page builders, but if you’re sick of having product pages that don’t look as pretty as some of the websites you see, get a landing page builder–they work. It’ll pay itself off quickly with your conversion rate going up. We’re using Recharge for subscriptions, Stamped for reviews, and for our cart, we’re using Rebi. There’s a few different ones out there, but that increases our AOV and opt-in subscription rate quite substantially.
Felix: What do you think is the most important thing for you to personally focus on to get the company to that next level?
Connor: In the short term it is product development. Getting some new products out there because our existing dehydrated bone broth is doing amazingly well with consumers. We just want to continue serving our community with the absolute best products out there. Product development and customer acquisition are the two best things we can do.