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Q&A With Joe Spisak

June 29, 2022

Pete and Joe E-Comm Elevated Interview Marketing
Joe Spisak is the four-time e-commerce founder of Dicey, OK Boomer, ShipDaddy, and Overflow.

Marketing your e-commerce business can be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive, especially for a beginner business owner. In our first-ever E-Comm Elevated podcast episode, we shed some light on what entrepreneurs need to know about marketing by interviewing an e-comm veteran, Joe Spisak.

In addition to being Soapbox’s CMO, Joe has founded four e-commerce brands. At just 30 years old, he has accumulated a wealth of business and marketing knowledge. Recently, Joe sat down with Pete Quijada, E-Comm Elevated podcast host, and shared his thoughts on marketing strategies, bad business advice, TikTok ads, and so much more.

Our first podcast episode will be released soon, but in the meantime, you can read the transcription of our interview with Joe in Q&A format below:

Pete: So, you’ve founded four e-commerce brands: two direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, a third-party logistics (3PL), and a full-stack marketing agency?

Joe: That's right. I started out with a game called Dicey, which is a drinking game. Then I expanded into a more family-friendly game called OK Boomer, which is a trivia game.

(Check out our small business spotlight to learn more about OK Boomer.)

I had a good amount of success with both games, and that led me to start my own third-party logistics center called ShipDaddy.

I sold ShipDaddy back to my partners about a year and a half ago. After that, I ended up starting Overflow. Overflow is a logistics-specific marketing agency, but we're also a full-stack marketing agency for e-commerce brands.

Pete: At only 30 years old, where did you find the time to establish all four of these brands? Tell me a little more about your business journey.

Joe: Dicey and OK Boomer started as side hustles while I had a full-time corporate gig. I was a Network Systems Engineer for AT&T right out of college. While I was working at AT&T, I was also working on the games during the weekends. Eventually, it got to the point where I could work on the games full time, and that's when I pushed into ShipDaddy as well. So, I've been at it for a while now in the e-commerce space.

If I could give some advice to younger entrepreneurs, I would say don't be afraid to start your business as a side hustle. Everybody thinks that you need to flip the table and go full-time into being an entrepreneur, or else you're not living and breathing it. That's just not the case at all anymore, especially in the work-from-home environment that most of us are a part of now. It's the best time in the world to be starting your own side hustle and to start building something on the side.

Pete: Typically, interviewers want to hear about what went right with a business, but I want to hear about the struggles you had. I’m sure you wanted to pull your hair out at some point when growing these brands.

Joe: Oh, man, great question. There have been lots of struggles along the way with each brand, and the struggles vary greatly from brand to brand.

With Dicey, everything was a bit of a struggle. We were figuring out how to bring a product to market, how to create something high quality, how to find the right manufacturers overseas, how to import our product, how to find a logistics center, and how to set up a website... We were just teaching ourselves everything, so everything was a struggle. But then, you take that knowledge that you gained and those failures, and you look to make a better product the next time around. That's exactly what we did with OK Boomer.

With OK Boomer, we realized that we had a completely different and wider market than Dicey. For Dicey, our target audience was predominantly 21-30-year-old male college drinkers. Meanwhile, with OK Boomer, we had a wide market in the family board game space for all ages. With OK Boomer, we also had a really great personal story connected to the product, which was my family of board game lovers. It’s important to identify your customer base, who you can market to, and the different strategies behind that.

I think we ended up creating the first version of OK Boomer in around six months, versus two-plus years to get Dicey to market. That’s just a testament to how much we learned the first time around. It gets better the more you stay with it.

Pete: As you look back on all these companies you founded, how important do you think it is to have some type of marketing strategy in place when you're growing a business?

Joe: I mean, I'm biased, because I'm a lifetime marketer and salesperson, but you're not going to have anything unless you have a great marketing and sales strategy.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my marketing strategy was early on in my career with Dicey. I was trying to dabble in every different pocket of marketing to grow a brand. I tried to start an affiliate program, create content for 10 different social media channels, and do influencer marketing. I was also running paid ads on a wide variety of channels. I realized later on in my career that the best thing to do is to really find your niche. Once you do, keep doubling down on that strategy until it can become its own independent, net profitable feedback loop system.

Once you have that system in place, you can build other systems off of that. Start with a hyper-targeted micro marketing strategy, especially when you're just a little guy creating a brand from scratch. And then you’ll start to build out more systems and play in different areas as you grow. But I think, especially if you're early on in your entrepreneurial journey, you need to really pick something and run with it. Don’t try to spread yourself too thin.

Pete: There are so many marketing avenues available to brands. Can you break down some of them for us?

Joe: Sure. I'll use my first business Dicey again as an example because the success that we experienced early on was different than other businesses.

I was coming straight out of college. We had zero money. I was living paycheck to paycheck and putting everything I could into the business. We started off with just straight guerilla marketing and content creation. We created content ourselves as well as would reach out to customers and ask them to create content. At the time, we would offer to send them a free game or feature them on our Instagram page. We were really putting in the work and spending time trying to curate great content.

We then used that content to grow our Instagram presence, which started bringing in not only customers but business development opportunities as well. We ended up getting some attention from Barstool Sports, which got us onto Barstool Sports’ The Big Brain competition. The exposure from that competition helped Dicey get up to a few thousand orders coming in a month, and then that gave us enough cash flow to push into the paid ad space.

Next, we started running Facebook ads and Instagram ads. To run great Facebook and Instagram ads, you need high-quality content and a steady stream of that content so you don't have ad fatigue. So we used that first system that we had started to automate processes, like receiving content from people buying games from us. We took that content, and we used it to feed our next system.

I think that's one strategy that has worked really well for me and my businesses: Building independent systems, and then salvaging certain parts of those systems to help feed the next area of growth that you're going to build out.

Pete: As a business grows, something to take into consideration as a business owner is that every platform is not going to be 100% viable for your brand. Because of this, it’s okay to mix and match social platforms to find what's best for you. Joe, what has been your favorite platform to use so far?

Joe: Great question. So, that varies heavily by vertical for me, but I think, in general, TikTok is the place to be right now.

TikTok gives you an organic reach perspective, and you’re able to build an awesome community of people that like the products that you're selling. There’s also TikTok Creator Marketplace, where you can curate and shortlist influencers that you can filter based on certain criteria. I'm able to build a list of 25 influencers that I know have a large audience in the board game space, and that's very powerful for me to be able to reach out to these people and ask if they want to partner up on creating content for our brand. So, TikTok is my favorite right now for sure.

Q: For entrepreneurs, it’s all about networking your business and your brand. TikTok has really changed the game when it comes to social media marketing. Is there any other platform that you see is primed to explode in the marketing industry?

A: I'm seeing a lot of interesting apps and tactics in marketing right now. And I think it really comes down to what you’re selling and what your end goal is. My e-commerce marketing playbook is much different than my B2B marketing playbook. So, it really depends on what you're selling, what your growth goals are, how much money you have in your bank, and what systems you already have created.

TikTok Spark Ads is something that definitely has me intrigued right now. You can shortlist influencers, have them create content for you, and then they post the content on their own account. Then, you can run the ad white labeling the content from the influencer's account. I’ve been seeing a lot of success with this, and I've seen lots of other brands having success with this as well.

The influencer also gets a lot out of it. They’re getting great traffic to their brand, and you're blowing them up while also getting to promote your product. If you're paying the influencer to promote your product, the influencer is getting not only a paycheck but tons of views on their profile as well. It's a win-win situation for everybody, and influencers get to be selective and promote products that they care about.

Pete: I have one more question for you. What was the worst business advice you ever got?

Joe: Oh, man, the worst business advice... I think what I'll say to that is, it's not so much the advice you'll get, but the person you’re asking. I've learned that, unless someone has direct experience in what you're asking them about, take their advice with a grain of salt.

I used to take advice from lots of people. I’d try to get their opinions on how I should build my e-commerce brands, what I should do at my 3PL, or how I should grow my marketing agency. And, unless they've actually done that before themselves, just take it with a grain of salt. There are only so many informed opinions out there.

To learn more about Joe, check out his website.

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