Kurt Elster

August 29, 2020

In this session of The Personal Mastery Podcast, Kurt Elster speaks about how important it is to recognize that pivoting is not failure. He comments on his personal experience and what steps he followed to be able to get food on the table. Kurt speaks about the potential your business could have if you are willing to grow and evolve as a company, while always having the mindset that things will work out.
One of the most highly regarded independent consultants in his industry, Kurt is a Senior eCommerce consultant who helps Shopify merchants like Jay Leno’s Garage uncover hidden profits in their websites through his eCommerce agency Ethercycle. With one million downloads, Kurt is best known for hosting The Unofficial Shopify Podcast.

You can learn more about Kurt below:
Website: Kurtelster.com
Instagram: @kgelster
Twitter: @kurtinc


Arri Bagah: You're listening to the Personal Mastery podcast with Arri Bagah. Interviewing CEOs and executives who are performing at the highest level in their industry. Those who are living and working purposefully towards a vision in alignment with their values and in a state of constant learning about the Arself. Welcome to another episode of the Personal Machree podcast. And today's guest is Kurt Alster. Kurt is the founder and CEO of the unofficial Shop by Podcast, one of the biggest podcasts in the world with over one million downloads. In today's episode, we're going to talk about how to launch your Shopify store profitably. And we're also going to dive into conversion rate optimization and talk about what conversion better is an ugly website or a beautiful looking website. And at the end, we're going to also talk about how curtsies happy and performs at the highest level. We have a lot of content for you today. I'm excited for you to dive into it. So without further ado. Kurt, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Also, how are things going here? I know you're somewhere in Illinois,

Kurt Elster: I guess Illinois, I believe how we pronounce it here. No, I'm I'm 40 minutes from Chicago, like right near the Wisconsin border, hiding out in the burbs, trying to stay stay safe and saying go. You know, I've been locked up in my house since March. And I it hasn't been that bad. I was moping around the house. My wife goes, oh, no, you're stuck in this big house with your loving family and your job that you could still do because she is a travel blogger. So like she's done and that put it in perspective. So I was like, all right, no more complaining. I really like the many people, have it significantly worse than I do. So what am I complaining about? So and you're like us people being able to e commerce right now, being able to work remotely, that's definitely a blessing in itself. So I'm always grateful that right now I still have a job and still able to work from home because like everybody talks about working from home. But then you realize, like, over 70 percent of people can't even work from home.

Kurt Elster: Yeah, a lot of people just it's not an option for them. Yeah. The or it's like you're doing it, but you're also doing it with kids, which that's that's a lot of excitement to it. Let me tell you, it actually, you know what I do when I'm feeling down on myself, I write down a piece of paper, things I'm grateful for and I'll write down three things. And today was one of those days. But having a hard week. Yeah. And I wrote it down here. You could say it things I'm grateful for my wife being in demand and our children watch here and I'll show it to the other.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. To that's awesome. Yeah. I'll do that every day to every day. I write down three things I'm grateful for because it's so easy to like forget, like you can like easily have a bad day and then just forget everything that's going on. That's good in your life.

Kurt Elster: Yeah. Well in a lot of like what I've realized is, you know, for myself and probably for a lot of people, often bad moods or like just feeling like things are going so badly. It's recency bias. It's just like, well, too bad things happened like in recent memory. And so now you have let that color your entire vision. But actually this gets me to an important point mindset. Like we've already we're we're already diving into mindset. We're both already doing the same similar activities or the same activities to maintain mindset. When I started, I thought, you know, I've been doing this over ten years now. I was like a mindset that's just like some hokey pokey B.S., that just self-help nonsense. And now I was I couldn't have been more wrong. Right. My mindset is really I figured it out probably like five, six years ago. And it it's just been tremendously important to think about and be aware of. And if you think it's silly, like, OK, go for like a data driven clinical thing where you read stuff written by proper psychologists or you know or learn yoga, learn philosophy and figure out what like learn all the cognitive biases you could be exposing yourself to. That's all mindset like a totally sane and reasonable thing to do.

Arri Bagah: Well, that's like the biggest thing I've learned, too, is that business is probably like. Over 90 percent mindset because like what you apply in your personal life reflects in your business. So having a positive attitude and being able to like things that you learn by growing up, standing up for yourself, having confidence, all those things like really apply to business and like like mindsets. Like one of the things I've been working on over the past few years and then definitely reflected in my business as well.

Kurt Elster: Absolutely. It's huge. Yeah.

Arri Bagah: So you're in somewhere in Illinois? No, no. You're a car guy. Are you going on cruises right now? What are you going cruises or are you just doing all right?

Kurt Elster: Yeah, I, I'm a car guy. I got I got a Jaguar F type. It's manual. It's got the correct number of pedals, which is three. And our family vehicle is an F-150 super crew for the most absurd version of a station wagon I could come up with. That's the family truckster. My wife's like, let's get a station wagon or midsize SUV. And I'm like, let me have you test drive something else. And now I own a seven thousand pound truck because of that. And then I also have a chump car. So we spent five hundred dollars on a VW Jetta from 2002 that some hillbilly in Indiana bought. And then we outfitted it as a full proper race car for this thing called the Lemon's rally. And it's basically like if you took circus culture and married that to endurance racing, you have lemons where none of the cars could cost more than 500 bucks. So, yeah, no, you're 100 percent of car guy. Shout out to my boy Jay Leno. And now I've been driving the cars so little and I like not leaving the house. It is not healthy. I slowly, slowly losing my mind here, but just go like little trips going out in the car once a week. Once a week. I drive probably like about I do like 40 miles round trip just to get out of the house and not not lose my mind.

Arri Bagah: Yes, definitely one of those things I like to do, I like to go in a quick drive too especially here in L.A., you have these mountains like Angeles Crest Highway or the Canyons, and Malibu is just like so great to just go for a quick drive. Clear your mind.

Kurt Elster: Oh, yeah. Your your quick drive is 50 times better than anything I'm doing.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. So you're known for the Unofficial Shopify Podcast,

Kurt Elster: The Unofficial Shopify podcast, if you have to pronounce it correctly. Arri, the unofficial Shopify podcast.

Arri Bagah: The official unofficial Shopify.

Kurt Elster: Yes.

Arri Bagah: Can you talk about how like like first of all, how you grew up, like you didn't grow up rich?

Kurt Elster: No, no, no. We I grew up in a perfectly middle class life in Park Ridge, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago. What's funny is now Park Ridge is like outrageously expensive. So if someone were like where this guy looked, grew up and like looked up, the real estate would be it would not not do well for my claim that I grew up in a perfectly average life.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, and then how did that lead up to, like, starting to.

Kurt Elster: Get here starting at age eight? The no know there was there was a moment that was a defining moment in my childhood that impacts me now. And my dad got laid off and my mom wasn't working. She was a schoolteacher, but she was a full time stay at home. And so our sole income was my was my father's income. And he got laid off from his job unexpectedly. And he said, you know, if you work, that really had a big impact on him. And after that, he used to say, well, if you work for yourself, you can never get fired. And it's not like there was no as far as I know, there's no end to entrepreneurship in my family. But that that moment I went like, weighed the risky thing is working for someone else because you really don't have control. You don't know what's coming down the pipeline. You're not in charge of your income. And you if you have just like one full time job, you have a single point of failure for your survival. That's very scary. Like, to me, I don't know how people do that. It sounds insane, but I'm also experienced survivorship bias. Things worked out for me as an entrepreneur. So I'm like, well, why wouldn't everybody do this? And I'm fully aware that it's not reasonable for everyone. But no, like from then on, by the time I was a teenager, you know, you get that question, what do you want to be when you grow up? And I'd say an entrepreneur and they'd say, well, OK, well, what kind of business? And you go, well, I didn't figure that out yet. I don't know. I'm like something with cars, computers maybe. And I had plenty of false starts after that before getting here. But no, it really that it was, you know, just as a kid seeing my dad go through that and then later, like graduating into a recession in 2008, the economy wasn't so hot.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. And from there, like. When you got into business, did you, like, start a Shopify store or how did how did I lead into, like, getting into, like, Shopify?

Kurt Elster: Ok, so the yeah, I was struggling to get gainful employment and I didn't know what I wanted to do, know entrepreneurially and really, like in there is a lot of advantage to going to work for someone else in that, like you learn from them and you gain the ropes and you get inside industry access. And I went to work for a local aftermarket auto parts dropship for a new cars I new eBay. And I had business experience. So they're like, well, you're our eBay channel manager now. You're going to just everything related to eBay. Like we don't sell on eBay right now. We want to figure it out. And I did. And it worked pretty well. But I knew I knew I was betraying myself by not being an entrepreneur, by not owning my own business. And I'm like tying my shoes one day to go to work. And I just started crying. I vividly remember that being on the couch, their Converse All Stars. And it was because I knew, like, I had betrayed myself. And so I, I gave my I gave a seven day notice that day with no plan. The next day I'm in the shower and I go, I'm going to start an e-commerce platform and it's going to be for bike shops. So I was like, all right, I got an industry in a niche and I didn't know what I meant. Know so otherwise it like today. If so, go tell. You want to build an e-commerce platform for an industry, I'd be like, no, are you out of your mind? But back then I didn't know. And I because of the the recession, the situation as it was, I had a a a close friend who was a JavaScript developer who had been laid off. And so he was on unemployment and I was like, let's go build an e-commerce platform. And he was like, how hard could that be? Well, of course it was extraordinarily difficult. So we start doing this thing and it takes us like a year to build it and get absolutely nowhere. And I need to. But we got a great deal on office space because, like, no one could rent office space at the time either. So I had an office essentially for free, like the first six months. You have to pay for it, like, sweet. So now I got to pay rent and like utilities on an office and like I'm running, depleting through my savings, living off of ramen. And someone knocks on my door and says, hey, can you help us with our website? I'm like, no, that's not what we do. Like, what am I thinking? So I like scramble. I'm like, wait, no, I'll help. Hope so. I build them a website. It's like seven hundred dollars. I could pay the rent that month. Sweet. And then I decide and like they give me an intro to another local business. I want to build a website for them to two thousand dollars. This I'm like I can't even believe people are paying this. And then I did a clever thing. I thought so I printed out a letter of introduction, say, hey, local business owner, I just want to introduce myself and I included my business card and I stuffed these in envelopes. And then I wrote down, I found the first name of every business owner in that little area around our office that I could. And I got up at six a.m. and I slip those door, those envelopes under everybody's door and that I got work from that for a year. And somehow from there I said, you know, if that worked, you know what else might work? I bet I could do the same thing for creative agencies. So I started sending a modified version of the same letter to creative agencies in Chicago. And lo and behold, more than one was interested. They didn't think this was a crazy idea. So then, like I spend the next two years, I built sites for Verizon, the NFL, and Hilton Hotels when I had no design education, no coding education. And my experience was just like, you know, I could I happened to have been a wedding photographer in my 20s. So I was able I could work Photoshop, that was it. And everything else was self-taught. And at the same time, like, we're doing this gigantic project for Hilton Hotels, everything that can go wrong did go wrong. A horrible experience. We did get the site launch had finished, but I'm like, I can't do this anymore. And at the same time, a local friend who owned a bike shop said, I realize this is a long winded story and it's about to end. I'm sorry. A local friend who owned a bike shop said, hey, I hate my website, you know, websites. What do I do? I said, what don't you like about it? It was too hard to manage. I said, this is like I think this is 2011. I said, I heard about this thing called Shopify. And it sounds really easy. Sounds like what you want. Let's do it. And again, not knowing what I don't know, my first Shopify project ever without ever having use the platform, I said, let's design, let's design to develop a custom theme. And I designed an entirely custom theme having never you Shopify. And because the thing was so well documented, we were able to build the theme. It worked exactly as we expected with like no hiccups. And I went, well, this thing's really great. And they took notice. Dan Everleigh, who was like employee number forty there, said, you should join our Shopify Parner Program is called Shop by Experts. And so it's getting leads from that. And so when this Verizon Hilton we were when this Hilton Hotels project was driving me crazy, we did finish it. And they did use that site for several years. I said, you know what? I'm just going to do only I we should just do only e-commerce. Let's just only do e-commerce. And so I built a productized service offering and landing pages for like six different e-commerce platforms. I tried them all and we didn't have anywhere near the same experience that we did when we did that Shopify project. So at that point, I said I going to do something scary. It terrifies me. Let's just nitsch down to exclusively Shopify. I had like 600 people in my newsletter at the time. I said on the shop, the guy within a month of that I had someone I didn't know refer me to someone I that know going, hey, I know you're the Shopify and they need help. And from there then I started the podcast and I just I that was five years ago. At that point, I just kept showing up every week. I published that podcast. Every week I wrote about Shopify and I just kept going. And I got a little better every week. And now, you know, the in demand and successful and happy and thrilled to be here. It was the best decision I ever made. I wish I'd done it sooner.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, and going back to like the time that you actually quit the job, like you didn't know that it was going to work out and this goes back to like mindset earlier, like a lot of people can go into entrepreneurship because they don't know if it's going to work out right. Like you had you get a seven day notice and you just quit. And like in life things and the working out, like, you just got to take that first step. And I think that was something like.

Kurt Elster: That's the other thing I learned, too. You're absolutely right that ultimately, like, you don't just screw up and then you cease to exist. Right. Like everything works itself out, out of necessity. Now, better at some point it gets bad enough where you're like, I'm going to figure this out. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. And I was also, you know, I was in a lucky position. I did not have any debt at all. Literally none. Not everyone could say that. And so I was lucky there. I was extremely risk averse and conservative. Not something you expect in entrepreneurs, but many are. And I was. And so I had very, extremely low expenses. I had three roommates and not a particularly amazing apartment at all. And so that helped. And, uh, yeah, but then my first business idea didn't work and then my second one tore my hair. I was tearing my hair out so I had to be willing to to pivot. And I think, like, really the biggest mistake that can happen along that journey is not like a you got to start. So not starting. You guarantee failure, but it's. Thinking, I think the biggest lesson was thinking that pivoting is in some way a failure, and of course, it's not like failing is failing. You learn something, but pivoting, though, that's just like you have to revise an idea over time. You will gain experience, you will gain knowledge and you'll figure out what does and doesn't work. So you absolutely should be revising and evolving and changing that idea. If your business looks the same as when you started it 10 years ago, that that's a red flag. Right. It should look different. And that was like one of the first early lessons I had to learn, because the business now resume, other than the name, has nothing to do with the original idea.

Arri Bagah: Mm hmm. And right now, your company, if I pronounce it right, is Ethercycle.

Kurt Elster: That's right. That's a stupid name. It's terrible. Yeah. You come up with that name. It's a portmanteau of Ethernet and bicycle because it was supposed to be e-commerce platform for bike shop stores. So ether cycle. And like I've gotten, the people are like, do you recycle, exercise bike? It's like literally a phone call I got once. The one advantage to having that name, though, it's a made up name. And so people can go, oh, what's it mean or what's the story like? There's a little bit of advantage there in that it like it's an icebreaker. And when you have a made up 10 word name like that, well, I could register that everywhere. I mean, even 11 years ago when I was 11 or 12 years ago, when I registered that name, there was no it was still like a complete nightmare to get a dot com domain name. And now it's even worse. So making up a name that that's the advantage there. Now, do I wish I had something different now? Sure. It should just be like Elster Consulting Co, right, E.C.C. Done. Yeah. There we go. It's like will become EC Elser Consulting. You heard it here first. Arri you got the scoop.

Arri Bagah: I'm going to order my domain right now. So right now, you're still in the service business?

Kurt Elster: Yes, yeah, we do. We got some apps. I got the we make one hundred and twelve thousand dollars a year from podcast sponsorships and are our biggest app just broke one hundred thousand dollars in revenue. And we also do the consulting services and the consulting services has always and still is our biggest revenue source. And even like within the cult, the consulting services really like the core best offering is still essentially front end development, like theme design, development setups. There you go. I laid it bare. Arri you got it out of me. Gave you all the financial info.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. When it comes to launching a brand, I know a lot of brands. It's on Shopify. Super easy for someone to throw something up and get up and running. Right. What are the benefits of working with someone who has expertise like you? Because it's definitely cost them more to get up and running. And that's something that I hear brands talk about. I can set up a one hundred dollar theme, but why should I hire someone like you if you.

Kurt Elster: That's a good it's an excellent question. I actually prefer when a merchant has set up their store themselves, when they have done that first and then they got to a point where they're like, all right, I have exceeded my own skills, my vision, like, I understand how this works. I could talk the language now and I could communicate what my vision is, what I want, and I know where my limitations are. And now I need someone else to implement that. I actually prefer that. And what's interesting about there's an interesting thing happening here. Shopify is very easy. So of course, I'm not sure I set it up myself in setting up a theme. If you use a theme from the Shopify theme store, I have heard from someone on the Shopify theme team when I was Shopify Unite the developer conference, they said, you know, we actually we don't want themes in the theme store that have a ton of options and configurations because it's very intimidating. We want a theme that limits options intentionally. Like Debut theme, the one that is installed by default has very few options. So there's also that's part of why merchants like, well, I could set it up myself. It's easy. Yeah. Yeah. Like when you hire me, it's probably to do like either you're heavily customizing a theme in which case you like, you better know CSS and or it's you know, we've got a much fancier theme like Turbo or Flex or Superstore, you know, one of those where there are just endless configuration options. And even I don't I, I don't think I've touched every single template or option in those themes. Yeah, but the end result is you get you get something fancy and then you're also borrowing my expertise like I have touched at this point thousands of stores. I've seen analytics and data for thousands of stores. So if you have a problem or you're in a space where you're like, well, we don't know what to do next, it could be helpful to have someone who has fresh eyes, who's coming from the outside looking in and has all this background experience to go, OK, I've seen this before. And I think, you know, based on other brands that are similar and successful, this is what I think you should do next.

Arri Bagah: And, you know, that's kind of like how I look at it here to work with brands, that we work with a lot of brands. Right. We're able to see what's worked for all these different brands. So there's just a lot of experience that's coming into the decisions that we're making for new brands and that just like saves them a lot of time.

Kurt Elster: Yeah, well, absolutely. It's a shortcut. And it's also like, you know, at the same time, even if you could do it yourself and you as the business owner, is that the best use of your time, regardless of like what it is? Is that the best use of your time? Even like in my house, I've got a I'm quite handy. There's plenty of stuff I could do that off. And I'm like, let's hire someone else to do that. Like, I'm not paying them on my lawn. I certainly I could work a lawn mower in the lawn is not that big. Right. But, you know, maybe I just let a professional do it faster and better for a nominal fee.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, and that's something that I recently like when a business owner wants to get into business, especially on like on any platform, right. Like you got in the business to sell the product to make a product that solves a problem. Right. I can get in the business to actually market the product. So that's something that I see when I talk to actually founders there like we started. And but we want to keep actually, like marking the product. It's like you can hire experts who can do that for you in probably way better, even though it's going to cost you more. You're going to save a lot of time and money and probably generate a lot more revenue as well.

Kurt Elster: Absolutely.

Arri Bagah: So you talk a lot about conversion rate optimization, and you actually got to optimize Jay Leno's website.

Kurt Elster: I saw oh, I built the current one. Oh, yeah, yeah. Oh, actually, this is a I just told the story to someone recently. They said they were saying like, oh, do you ever do cult outreach? I said, how do you think I got Jay Leno? And they said, What? I go, Yeah, it was like I was just I was cruisin Facebook. And one of the, uh, one of the guys who was involved posted in the plus community. And I just messaged him and I didn't ask for it. I just said, hey, I'm a huge fan. I'm into car detailing and I love what you're doing. I think it's so cool because I really appreciate that. What do you want us to send you? One of our welcome boxes? I was like, yes. And he did. They sent it to me. And I'm like, this is so cool. I love it. And thank you so much. And as a thank you, I recorded a screen cast and just have some, like, quick and easy ideas for you. And so I said that over there. From there I'm like, if you've got any questions, happy to answer it. Well, that turns into a couple turns into a project and then that turns into like a recurring retained services agreement. And lo and behold, like we ended up developing and relaunching or an optimized version of that site. And then later we rebuilt it entirely in Turbo. And I've met Mr. Leno twice and got to go and tour his garage, which that is like. Wow, all time one of the highlights of my adult life.

Arri Bagah: That's amazing. So what is so important about conversion rate optimization, because like when you talk to ecommerce businesses, right, they get their website up, marketing is going great. And then when you mention conversion rate optimization, it's like a website is already converting. What else could be done? There's a lot that you can actually do.

Kurt Elster: Yes. So conversion rate optimization, I really I think it's a misnomer, like essentially in the way that we pursue it and in the way shop by merchants implemented conversion rate optimization. Really, you're saying like I'm going to look at one KPI, one key performance indicator that's conversion rate and we're going to do stuff to try and increase that. And that's probably with like split testing where like, oh, what should the button color be? A lot of that is so far down the road from where merchants actually should be that it's insane. Like, really, I don't view it as its conversion rate optimization. I view it as revenue optimization or return on ad spend optimization. So if you can increase so like revenue optimization, we're going to invent this thing here. If you can increase conversion rate, let's say like there's all kinds of metrics that'll that'll pull the lever on profitability. If I can increase average order value, if I can increase customer lifetime value, if I can increase return customer rate, add to cart rate reach, checkout rate, conversion rate, all of those are ultimately going to increase revenue. They're going to improve return on ad spend. They're going to result in a better customer experience. So what I like to do it like I want conversion rate optimization is so, so narrowly focused. I want to look at the store stats. And because I've got that experience, it's like I've seen thousands of shop by store dashboards at this point. I'm going to look at it and go, all right. Based on my experience, I know that this one, it's like, OK, you think you want conversion and optimization, but really what you want is to make more money. And in that. All right, looking at your KPIs, I have a feeling your return customer rate is actually the thing holding you back. So here's a series of ideas we know from past experience work to increase that. Let's implement all of those wait 30 days and see if we increased return customer rate and if we did. OK, now what what's the next week is KPI, you know, based on experience, I think it's average order value. OK, let's come up with a bundle strategy and let's come up with a cross-sell up sell strategy and a post-purchase. All right. Now, like you kind of see where this is going, but all of those lead to better return on ad spend, more revenue, more profit. And that's a function like that's those are all the same outcomes that we hope for from traditional conversion, rate optimization, conversion rate optimization. I really think it's like you have spent you built the site, you spent one to two years figuring out what your customers want, getting your business processes in place. Then you spent the next one to two years optimizing for every one of those key KPIs key performance indicators. And then finally, you go. We have literally run out of ideas. We have solved every customer service issue. We have revised our positioning. We've done for like ten rounds of copy editing. Now we are going to throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. And so that's when you get into split testing where you're like, we just have an idea. We literally don't know if this will improve things or not. Split test it. Oh, OK. That now we know empirically which one of these layouts performs better, which one of these headlines performs better. All right. Move on to the next one. And that's why I like I call it CRO, because the people that's what people are looking for. Like, it's really a thing down the road. You know, there's so much to do beforehand. Quick wins and best practices.

Arri Bagah: Now, there's like this huge fight when you talk about CRO, right. Like is you have that fight between marketers or like conversion rate optimizers and the designers where people say ugly websites tend to convert better versus beautiful websites that don't convert as much. What is like your stand on that?

Kurt Elster: So I think it is all right. I don't want it to be true. But yeah, two of the three highest revenue sites that I ever worked on were ugly as sin one was ugly to the point of being broken. They were doing twenty million a month and I was like, this site looks janki what happened here? And there were literally like dropdown. There was a drop-down menu or something you have to do with a menu that like it was flat out broken and the site was still doing twenty million. And so like at that was the moment where I went, oh shit. Oh no. Ugly does convert doesn't it. Yeah. And it's not that ugly converts like don't take your good looking website and be like, all right, let's see if we could like put some zebra print on here and really get this thing. Look at jacked up. No, it's because like when it's an ugly site offered, you know, ugly air quotes, oftentimes those sites, they're. Ugly because they're very functional, they're ugly because they're very usable or they're ugly because, like, well, people don't read, there's too much text, you know, the sides like a big wall of text, but nah, that has SEO benefit. And maybe people, the people who buy do read. Right. So, like, I don't think it's necessarily that the site is this ugly is a is just an aesthetic. It's just a side effect of like a very functional, usable website. Right. Yeah. I had someone designer was like, hey, how come that cycle site's not really designed? I was like a it is really designed. I did it. And maybe it's because my focus was on typography. So that's why you think it's not designed, is because I just wanted something someone could read, like open up a newspaper. It's just text and narrow columns. It is a tried and true format that works and the web is 90 percent typography. Honestly, the best things we've ever done for conversion rate optimization are copy editing is just improving headlines and product descriptions on a site. And like that's not the sexy stuff that people want to see with these big, like, minimal, modern, ridiculous designs. Like just give you something that works. I'd love a.. Design now, like my one of my favorite sites is Pit Vipers Dotcom. The site looks like the design was aggressive, was like meant to be aggressively unfriendly. And it's like Fullard Windows 95 and it's the coolest thing ever. And they're very successful.

Arri Bagah: Oh, yeah, we have a client right now that I think two months ago did like over a million in one month through SMS alone was a very ugly site. And it was just so crazy to think about, like all these beautiful sites that brands spend so much money making and that just reduces their conversion rate. But going back to typography, it's really important to also talk about that. Right, like long-form copy versus short-form copy, because, like, these beautiful sites usually have like some really cute super short headlines that don't really sell the product, whereas these so-called ugly websites have longer copy, really sell the product, which is basically what makes a convert, right?

Kurt Elster: Yes, absolutely. Sales letters work and you should view your product descriptions as sales letters. Your about page should be a sales letter. Your home page should have a sales letter. Sales letters work to make money they always have like that. It's part of how people communicate a pretty design, doesn't it? Looks pretty, but it doesn't communicate anything other than like maybe you spent too much on on on the web design. Right now, in some cases, words like design is one of your key brand attributes, like someone like Apple. I mean, it'd be weird if Apple had an ugly website. Right. But, you know, you get these brands. It's like I sell T-shirts. I want a website like Apple, OK, A, you can't afford it. And B, why do you want that? Like, it's the T-shirts are not the result of some extraordinary industrial design process. You know, like typography is where the action is at and trying it or copywriting I'm sorry, like typography. The site has to be legible. So your font should probably be bigger than you think and make sure they're high contrast and narrower columns than you think. But then. All right, the content itself is the most important part similar to this podcast. Good audio quality doesn't hurt. Bad audio quality doesn't help. But the content is the only thing that matters. And that's the same with the copywriting on the website if you want the crash course in how to figure this out. I read a bunch of copywriting books and I did not understand, none of them clicked with me. The one where I went, oh, OK, I got it. This makes sense to me. Was the brain on it? I read the brain on it took me 30 minutes in a Starbucks book by Sean DeSousa. And then I put it down, took some notes and realized, like, OK, now I understand proper conversion based copywriting, one search. It was a mindset shift. Right, audit the brain audit by Sean DeSousa. It's so good.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, we'll definitely get that in the show notes here. I'm definitely going to check that out, too, because I've always been fascinated. I read all of his work around. Copy, right?

Kurt Elster: Yeah, I read that one, too. Like, I read all the classics and none of it flatly. I just didn't. I didn't fully comprehend them, and then I read the brain on it and I was like, all right, I got it. Like after this, I understand copywriting. I'm good to go.

Arri Bagah: And the brands that you have in your portfolio right now through your service services, what do you see working in terms of like helping brands grow profitably? Because recently we've seen all the news around these big brands making a lot of revenue come out and say that, oh, we're losing a couple million dollars a month.

Kurt Elster: Oh, yeah. Like those big DTC darlings. Yeah. Well, for them it's because they're blowing money ain acquisition costs. They're just trying to drive around to do a to inflate it so they could resell the thing a little different. But I didn't like our most successful brands do have one thing in common. They all spend money on Facebook ads and they all are prolific content creators, and that extends to their Facebook ads. So they always got like just phenomenal, great social content. They've got stuff getting updated daily. It creates and then that has the side effect of creating a community and it creates brand loyalty and it creates word of mouth and it creates SEO opportunities. So much comes out of being a prolific content creator, AIBA prolific content creator. I wouldn't have this career if I didn't do it, if I hadn't been working in public for the last 10 years. The like really like that's the thing is just these brands that are have a content calendar and that are focused on creating content, especially video content, because it's so engaging and it speaks to professionalism where the moment you see like great quality video on a website, you're like, all right, these people know what they're doing. I think that helps dramatically.

Arri Bagah: Hmm, yeah, I think we're seeing brands or every company becoming more of like a media company first.

Kurt Elster: Yes.

Arri Bagah: Where are you putting up as much concern as possible just to build up that audience of people who might be interested in the product that you're going to be launching? And when you do launch that product, you already have an audience that you can sell to. So you don't have to necessarily do paid acquisition yet. You can run the product on that initial audience, get feedback, improve the product, then you can go out and start spending on acquisition.

Kurt Elster: Yeah. Right. Right.

Arri Bagah: Mhm. Yeah. So in the world of Shopify, Shopify Unite, which got canceled this year, are you excited about. No. No excitement on that. Not the virtual one either.

Kurt Elster: There was a lot of you know, they needed the feature announcements. I, I definitely at Shopify Unite is the only conference that I'm like this is the one I must do no matter what. There isn't any others. And so I really enjoy it. And I was bummed about it. But obviously, like, it's there's zero choice. The they did a webinar conference that was it was good. It was well produced. It was essentially like the keynote from Unite that gave you all the product announcements and of the product announcements. The one I'm most excited about was also announced that the previous unite and that section's everywhere and like this is a monumental undertaking to implement. But it will make merchants lives so much easier in configuring their store, whether they do it themselves or have someone else do it. But just maintaining themes in general, it will like finally fully, it'll get it. It'll get shot. Feis themes closer to being, you know, like a no code builder, like web flow. And it'll also completely separate, ideally style and content, which is going to make updating or changing theme significantly easier right now. Upgrading a theme or changing themes. I mean, that could easily be either task can easily be a four figure project and you'll still end up with like it still going to be like two weeks of, you know, let's find out what we unintentionally broke. But I think sections everywhere will just dramatically improve that like entire theme experience for merchants.

Arri Bagah: So you're talking about sections on the product pages. Correct. Because like right now, brands do have to set up like a different app to be able to add different sections on their product pages.

Kurt Elster: Well, some themes will support it, but there's there's a lot of limitations to it. Like out of the sandbox. Themes like Turbo or Flex will have a product template called product details in which you can go. And your theme editor could add a whole bunch of blocks, different sections, and or put your own content into it. Make a really cool, like long form landing page, a lot like the really fancy Amazon sales pages for all the people. Nobody reads everything should be in a tab. Go check out the Amazon page. I don't know if you've heard about this company called Amazon. They're getting to be kind of big in e-commerce and they have extremely long product pages with no no accordion menus, no tab descriptions, just content it details and everything you need to know anyway, building out like sometimes they'll have fancy layouts and a product details template will let you build out one of those fancy templates. But if you change themes, you lose it. And you need to go into the theme files themselves and duplicate that details page for every variation you want on it. So, like, there are some weird limitations there that merchants up for like a theme developers, they're like, what's the problem? I don't care. But for a sane person, it's it's time consuming and a little a little scary as far as the learning curve goes. Um, sex is everywhere really will solve a lot of those problems and it will make yeah. Merchants get driven nuts by it not being able to do fancy layouts in blogs and. Yeah. Product pages. This will solve that and apps you won't have to mess with, like moving an app snippet code around the theme. An app can write its own section into the theme and then you drop the section wherever you want it. How cool is that?

Arri Bagah: Yes, that's amazing. That will definitely help brands be able to build those long-form sales pages through product pages. So it's definitely exciting getting more into some personal stuff here. Are there some things that you do that really help you in terms of daily performance, like a certain more morning routine or like what do you do when you wake?

Kurt Elster: All right, step one, get yourself an Adderall, a prescription. Not that now. All right. Drink a lot of water. No, I think the thing that really helps is, is routine number one, trying to maintain a routine and like, get the basics down. You know, like I drink a glass, literally. The sounds stupid. I start my day with an eight-ounce glass of water. I think that yeah, I think that's important. I go to bed at the same time every day. I get up at the same time every day because sleep is so important. I engage in a lot of mental health practices to try and keep myself sane and and be like forgiving and kind to myself. So I think self-care is important. You've got to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. It's like start with that. You know, maybe work out for 30 minutes every day if you can. That stuff helps. And then like from there, all right, I sit down at my desk, I block out my day like I use Calendly to do my all my scheduling, I try and just avoid as much bullshit as I can. Like, you will not find any email address for us anywhere on the Internet, and this is by design, is to force people into like, all right, well, we need a warm introduction to get a hold of this guy to try and just reduce the sheer number of, like, weird outreach e-mails I get and so be. I think my point is to be fiercely protective of your time like no one get the basics right, never to be fiercely protective of your time and be unapologetic about it. You know, if someone's like, hey, can you work on this on Thanksgiving? No, no, I cannot. All right. No, like, setting those those boundaries is a good thing and perfectly acceptable. And then. All right from there, OK, now you could do your work, but you should be in charge. Your inbox should not be someone else's to do list. You should before I ever check that inbox, I. I keep a notebook on my desk with this big notebook. I got all kinds of fancy pens I like and I just take notes all day long. I just like my mind map because you can only hold so much in your head. I'm just a a prolific note taker and set out to do what I'm going to do. And then and then just try and keep your kids from bustin in on your office as though it's the last thing, we have similar routines here. I try to drink water right when you wake up because it wakes your body up.

Kurt Elster: Yeah, it sounds silly, but I like it. I think most people don't drink as much water as they should. Yeah. And I do like to write down my to do list too. And once I have my days scheduled, I don't like change it for anyone. I try to if I have set things out I want to do for that day, I have to get those done and then I have the time, then I can add on other things that people send me as well.

Arri Bagah: So you see, it's good advice. Yeah. You seem like a pretty happy guy. You're not working like 16 hour days.

Kurt Elster: No, I know. Know when I get to is what I get to and I'm in I'm in more demand than ever. And truthfully, right now, my calendar's booked out 20 days right now. And people are like, oh, can you book something sooner? I really have to talk to you. And I'm like, look, if it's that urgent and you need to rush through this, then like it could be the coolest project in the world. But I'm sorry, it's fundamentally it's not a good fit. And, you know, being not taking on knowing what my limits are not taking on more than I should. Well, that goes a long way towards sanity, like a lot of people are like, oh, how do you get so much done? How are you so productive? Well, it's because I say no to like 85 percent of things that are presented to me. And that's Derek Seevers, I think was the one who famously said, if it's not a hell, yes, then it's a hell no. And so, like, if you're not excited about it, you don't want to do it. If you're not like, yes, I absolutely probably you should just say no to it and it will just free up so much space in your head. Like think about your short term memory. Phone numbers are only seven digits long because that's about how much like how big a list a person can can hold in their head at any one time. Well, so if you're trying to do more than seven things total like already, it's more that literally more than you could conceive of without writing it down. Right. So it's like you can see where people get themselves in trouble, which is taking on too much. And in your head, the problem is like the tiny task still takes up the same amount of short term memory space as the big task. So, like, as you take the stuff on, you can rapidly, especially for someone like me who is prone to anxiety, they make stuff crazy very quickly.

Arri Bagah: Well, Kurt, thank you so much for being on the podcast. And before we end here, where can people find you?

Kurt Elster: Google me. Oh, my gosh. Google Kurt Elster. Head to Kurt Elster dotcom site for my newsletter. That comes from my actual email address. That is the way to get my email address for my newsletter. Get reply. If you send me a thoughtful question, I will send you a thoughtful answer. Maybe, probably I might be cool.

Arri Bagah: So if you're listening on iTunes or Spotify, we're going to have a couple of questions that Kurt is an answer for us and that is going to be on YouTube. So we're going to end it here for Spotify and iTunes. So head over to YouTube to watch the second part of this episode. I hope you enjoy this episode of Kurt, if you're listening on Spotify or iTunes, make sure to follow this podcast and leave us a five star review. And as always, thanks again for listening to another episode of the personal Nasserite podcast.