Maker of Bagels. Direct response copywriter. And coach and mentor teaching restaurant owners how to find customers online, Annie Aaroe shares her biz brilliant and how her bagel business bounced back after the pandemic. (And what’s new on the horizon for her.)
Annie is the owner of Bagel Grove in Utica, NY. She’s been in business for 30 years…growing and building her bagel business. Then, well, 2020 hit. After completely shutting down in April, she had to come up with a new plan. A new strategy. And new marketing.
One of the things you’ll hear in this episode really struck me…what was a booming million-dollar business became a mom & pop business. Annie was creating the new normal for her business. And a new service Annie came up with to offset (help offset) the wholesale part of her business and actually brought a sense of normalcy to her customers. And…how a Youtube ad gave her a 12% return.
And how her skills as a direct response copywriter have given her the marketing edge.
There are a lot of gems in this episode so pull up your chair to the kitchen table and enjoy the show.
P.S. Annie has a little something for you too…The Maker’s Guide to Getting Inside Your Ideal Customer’s Head Remember to…Go To File → Make a Copy – save to your drive
Full Transcript (unedited)
Hey there, Annie, welcome to two hands made this,
thank you, I’m excited to be here.
I’m excited to have you especially because there we have so much in common. Where you know what you do now, your side gig your, your, your next thing that I can’t wait to really dive into it with you. So this is this is definitely going to be a fun conversation.
Yeah, I hope we can get to everything that’s, that’s, that’s gonna be the goal.
We’ll keep on going until we do. I try to keep this, but you know, it’s it, you know, I want to always make sure that I’m hitting points. You know, we were talking before, you know that it’s important to talk about those beginning moments, those aha moments, you know, those failed campaigns, which we’ll get into, and all those moments in between because as, as business owners, as marketers, you know, we kind of forget those little things may mean something to somebody else listening. Or it could be that little nugget that somebody needs. So that’s why like, I love diving into everything. And you know what, there’s a fast forward button if there’s something some part that people don’t, that they don’t want to listen to. That’s all good. You know, we’ll hit that. But, um, yeah, the
idea that there’ll be a part of my journey, that’s how I’ll be like, oh, that that’s,
that’s what I’m going through, or Yeah, exactly. You know, that whole, like, Yeah, I did that, too. You know, so that’s why I like to cover all those pieces, because you never know, where somebody’s been, or where somebody’s going, that need exactly what you have to offer. As far as you know, your experience, your wisdom, your, what you’ve done before, what worked, what didn’t, you know, so, and it also helps people feel like they’re not alone, in this whole adventure, because, you know, you can hit on a couple really crappy campaigns and be like, Ah, this is not worth it. But then you find out that other people do too, and what they did to get out of it, or the shift, tiny shifts they had to make to make it, you know, okay, I’m staying in.
keeping going. So, um, how I always start, I mean, I have I have a bunch of notes here, because we talked before we hit record, I want to make sure we get to them too. But what I want to start out with to is really, you know, that kitchen table epiphany, you know, when you when you remember starting so you have you have bagel Grove. You’ve been in it for a while you’re doing this side hustle. But you know, let’s go back to you know, that maker moment that kitchen table epiphany that you had when you started.
Yeah, it was that like, well, I’m gonna, I’m going to have to share at least two maybe three. Cool, because if we go back to the very beginning, I was still in college, or I guess, just barely graduated. I was deciding whether or not to get married. So I was 22. and wanted to be a writer. I had majored in creative writing. And also wanted to say world I was an activist really idealist about changing things for the better. And so the first epiphany was sitting down with my boyfriend at the time, and him saying my parents had this bagel shop that pointed been in business for I guess, 1012 years. And they’re done. They want to get out. They tried selling it that didn’t work out. Let’s, let’s tell them, we want it. Let’s take it over. And it really wasn’t much of an epiphany. I just was like, Okay, I guess the moment that the decision was, maybe we can change things for the better through this business. Mm hmm. And then I was like, Well, if we’re already going to upstate New York and middle of nowhere, and I don’t know anybody fine. We’ll get married. Like, I know what that that’s what you want. So it was a it was a bit of a backwards. Okay, let’s just try this. And then, you know, fast forward 17 years later, I’m still running the bagel shop. Not no longer married to that man. But I still have his parents his family’s bagel shop.
Oh, that’s an interesting story.
Yeah, that’s the whole story in it in and of itself. But um, so then, really, the business was already successful. We just came in, we learned how to run it. And then we just kind of ran it the way it had always been. And when I say sexual, it was over a million dollars. That’s great. So that’s great. I mean, I put his family had four children and put them through the kids through college 20 employees, a huge wholesale business. It was a big, it was a big thing running. So there was really no reason to change it. Just make sure we were keeping things relevant and changing little things to keep it exciting, but we didn’t have that huge hurdle of getting name recognition or winning, winning customers. We already had this huge customer base. So we ran it like that through having my children. I mean, I still have my children. But through being home with them and, and homeschooled for a while. And then the to the divorce and I decided to buy him out and stick with the business. Because at that point I thought, you know, we’ve really got something here and I didn’t want it to go away. I wanted to keep it for my children, whatever that might mean.
that I met our mutual friend Abby Woodcock through a business course we were taking through the SBA puts on, and it’s always in the back of my mind was knowing I kind of wanted more, I still wanted to be a writer, but didn’t think that was possible. So I just was kind of always thinking, Oh, what what else can I do? Should I go back to grad school? But the bagel shops, a lot of work. So right? It’s kind of an mothering, I kind of had these two pretty big jobs.
So I mean, Abby, and Anyway, she lights a fire underneath me that I didn’t really realize was there until one, one day I’m in the shower actually was in the kitchen table moment as a shower moment. And it just occurred, it just hit me that what Abby was doing, wasn’t writing a novel. You know, she had this other way of making money while writing da, I could do this as a side hustle. And I could do it while running the bagel shop. Because in my mind, I thought, it’s client works. You can start small and start building something. And then when I am ready to leave the shop, and my kids are grown, and I’m ready to either just close it down or maybe sell it or pass it on to them. I’ll have this this other career to step into.
Right. Right. Right.
So that was the aha moment was really just oh, you can make money writing?
Like, isn’t that amazing? And yeah, not only for that, but because you’ve run your your bagel shop for so long. It’s kind of like you don’t realize how much coffee you’re writing. Yeah, anyway.
Yeah. And I always thought about that. I just didn’t know what it was or no have any training or think about it, even learning more until that point.
Right? Isn’t that interesting? Because that’s kind of how I fell into back into it. I had it. I did. I did freelance copywriting before I had any of my businesses. Then I had, you know, I have my kids. And then between kids where I live, and then you know, pre internet trying to meet with clients got really hard, because I’m so far away from everybody. So I was like, Okay, what else can I do? And that’s when you get creative. And you you make a product? trade around it? Oh, yeah. Right. So you know, back on my way.
I mean, the interesting
thing about my story is like, I didn’t ever have that creative product, I just bought an existing business. So I’m really going through a lot of that upstart stuff now. And those ups and downs.
I’m 40. So I, you know, it’s different to do it when you’re later on in life than when you’re just starting out. I think you have more skills.
You do. And you when you’ve learned more, you’re not such I don’t want to say kid, but you know, yeah, you have all the life experience, and you know, the business experience and those things. So, you know, because, yes, I know, our mutual friend, Abby, it’s great, because she’s like, Oh, you’ve got to meet Annie, you know, not only does she have this great shop, and you know, we’re I want to get into talking about your YouTube channel. And you know, you’ve got a product, you’ve got a big product business, because again, you’ve got major wholesale, you have your direct to consumer. Yeah, everybody’s coming in for their bagels. Yep, beings had to really change, you know, and we’ll talk about side hustle as well. But, you know, this is the this is the thing that I find, again, is the gap, no matter if you’ve been doing this for 20 or 30 years, you know, there’s always going to be shifts and changes. So what do you do? I mean, you’re already I was gonna ask you the brand voice question. But you’ve already, you know, already had an established brand voice. So you can do that. So you can continue that voice so to speak? Well, I
yeah. I think that
change happened, just like with everybody when COVID happened. So the really my life story, you know, my kids were the biggest change that would happen in life, as your kids grow, you know, life changes, but the business was super stable, even after the divorce and running it alone. I was it was surprisingly still the same business. And I just figured out how to do it all myself. And then COVID happened. And now I’ll get I should, I guess kind of get the story. We shut down. You did, and then decided to restart. And in that shutdown time, the business changed completely. Part of it is we lost all our wholesale. So even before the rest of the country like before the NBA closed down. colleges were sending their students home in early March, and the colleges were our biggest wholesale customers. So we lost that that business overnight,
and it was only
about a quarter to a third of our income, but it was two thirds of the labor. Oh, wow. So it that’s a weird thing. And it was a steady income. So even if it’s only a third, even if it’s only 25%, some years, it’s that steady, steady income that you know, you can rely on, you don’t have to advertise for, you know, we’ll be there. So to lose that is like, okay, we don’t even we don’t know who we are anymore. And then businesses or other businesses are closing, we just, we’re down to just the hospitals. And that’s when we said, okay, we’re not making money, we’re gonna shut down completely. And then, I guess that so we shut down in April, when we finally laid off everybody. So I say we, it’s me and my partner, my Michael, Mark, my husband, Michael, her husband to be Michael. So we shut down in April and didn’t open up until July. And in that period of time, we had to sit and I was ready to never, ever go back. I was sick of having employees. I’ve had employees my whole adult life. And it was like, I’m not sure I can keep doing this. And I had started the freelance writing. So I thought, you know, can I make this work instead? And so the decision through that shutdown, I started writing emails to the bagel Grove list, we decided to go in and bake and deliver bagels one day a week, throughout that whole shot downtime. And it kind of reinvented what bagel Grove is and reinvented my role in it. And certainly, because I already knew online marketing, it took on this whole piece, I was already kind of ahead of the game. That’s
I had that those skills. And I knew pretty I knew right away this is this is where it’s at.
Okay, that’s amazing, though, because you are definitely far farther ahead than most, because even like for you know, I think some of our local shops, and thinking about you know, brainstorming some marketing ideas for them and stuff to there. It’s it. It’s almost like there’s a resistance to it, because it’s like the same old. Well, we got to think of a way to do the same old thing we were doing, just do it differently. But you really had to take you really had to take a big shift.
Yeah, well, restaurant owner, and I’m assuming I only know restaurant owners, probably true of all makers, you have so much to do every day, so many little fires to put out that the worst thing to hear is you gotta do one more thing. Yes, you are sure that you have the skills to do it or be it’ll be successful. You just you’re like, nope.
I am totally maxed out doing this
already. And marketing is always seems to always be the last thing. Yeah. You know, yeah, that any kind of a product business does, even though we all know it’s important, it’s the last thing that happens, because there’s production. And there’s I mean, there’s so many other things that you get to do. So. So you’re ahead of the game here with this.
Right, right. I mean, I want to say too, I think for a lot of people marketing is especially before COVID was radio, print, and TV. And they don’t think of it beyond that. And those all three of those mediums are extremely expensive, and really hard to measure exactly whether they’re working. So that leads also to the frustration. It’s like, Oh, you want me to and you hire an agency to do those things, right? Even social media, I hired agencies to like do my social media feed, it was a huge amount of money. And they were terrible at it, because they’re not. They were good, but they’re not bagel growth. So how authentic can they be? Yep. That’s a hard thing when that’s your idea of marketing? Because there’s no way to measure? Well, it’s
throwing the money to the wind. Right. And it’s I don’t I hate to use the term old school for that because it is more old school. It’s but it’s just marketing. If you’re an if you’re, you know, product business, it’s never thought about going online.
Yeah. Or using our even knowing how to market online. Yeah, right. Right. Most user social media.
Yeah, right. Right. And
the Facebook ad, the ad, I can’t think it’s called right now is over, you know, overwhelming it. You have no idea about product testing, or how the online marketing world works. You were just a person going in, you’d be like, forget this.
Oh, forget it. Yeah. Know what those buttons mean? Seriously. So it is daunting. It’s definitely daunting. But the fact that you you know, you pick that up, so you started Alright, so let’s start with this because we’re going to go into some ugly cries. You know, I mean, again, you’ve had, you know, 1720 years of this business that kind of kept going, you’ve changed. Now you’re starting to do these campaigns that are totally different than anybody else’s probably doing right. I mean, to get an email from my bagel person. First of all, I think that would be the coolest thing. Being a geeky online you know, marketer that I am too. So what was that? Like? Like? Alright, so you start you started doing these campaigns? I’m sure you had some ugly cries in there.
Yeah. Well, I’ll
try. I’ll start with the positive. I’ll start with what what worked because it was really just kind of unfolded on its own. I think I sent my first email to my bagel Grove list. Maybe in January or February 2020. So before the shutdown
now, before you go into I don’t need to cut you off. But so when you say your bagel Grove list, the fact that you are actually had a list is impressive. Yeah, and I
How did I even have that? I guess? I don’t even remember how it started. It is easy with the products to get an email list. I will say this because the discount works. Okay,
yeah, I could create
a different lead magnet an info product. Because I know you know, you don’t want to sell yourself short with discounts. But if you want to grow your email list, just give people $5 off, you know, in a way that people can’t you know, give something free and you have you have an email list boom.
Right right. Especially like when they come in like Saturdays you know use this you know, usually discount grab your, you know, grab your dozen, or whatever. Yeah, and
and for me, because I’ve been around so long, I have a ton of name recognition. Yeah. And we’re in our local businesses and then we saw online we don’t ship anymore. People go to Vegas calm just to find where we are find out our hours. They maybe they Google us, but a lot of people are landing on websites. So having that lead magnet pop up on our website brings a ton of traffic traffic then people are like, Oh, I wasn’t even ordering. But now I am because I get $5 off.
That’s also Yeah, okay. Yeah.
Anyway, the point is, I just started emailing when the shutdown happened. But I was already mentally committed to like, I want to do this for my business. I want to try this out. I was sold. I know enough copywriters to know that email marketing worked, and I love reading their emails. So as the shutdowns happening, and the world is crashing around us, I’m just reading these emails. And they’re very deep, kind of like me talking about the word informative sharing decisions, bagel Grove was making Hey, if you’re a customer, what are ours for now, or here’s what’s changed. But then once we were completely shut down, it became much more about the why. And my angle in was always here’s what bagel Grove is doing. So I wasn’t ever telling people what they should do, right. But one of my best emails was titled liminal. It’s a liminal thing. And liminal was this word I learned in college in the history of music course, I just love the word. It’s a word that describes in between the transition in between the period. So I just defy told that story, I’d find the word and then I talked about the place we were in, it was right, we were just about to reopen. And the world This was now July, so the world was starting to reopen in different ways all around the country. And people responded so well, because I was talking about real things, you know, that were from my heart, because we’re all going through them. And it didn’t seem like too much to talk about that stuff. It’s a little harder now, because I want to stay relevant. But it’s less pressing. But the point of that story is that it built up this camaraderie with my voice. People were people called my emails, they didn’t know what they were, they said, Oh, I love your online, your blog, your online blog, or the blog that you send out. So it’s just kind of convince people, hey, this is worth reading. And the cool to get feedback.
You did. And the cool thing about that, as well
as people when they people reply to your email, yeah, you know, it’s a conversation because you you hear back from people, and then you know what they’re thinking when they’re reading it and
see, and that’s totally just session. It’s an online conversation, because you’re not, you’re not able to have that face to face conversation with your peoples. So you’ve figured out how to have it. Yeah, face to face. Yeah. way to put it, but to get people talking, because one of the one of my biggest pet peeves for any kind of product maker is to just keep blasting out offer after offer. Because what happens after a while your list goes blind, right? You’re not giving them anything new or interesting. You’re not sharing that conversation with them. And so they stopped reading your emails, right. But you know, you want guys to stay relevant. But you were, you know, you can, again, I just can’t say anything other than you continue that conversation, which I bet your audience loved. Because, again, it’s a real conversation they would have with you when they walk into your shop. Yeah.
That’s an interesting thing. I always had this vision of of a restaurant or when I was running the business for all these years. Gosh, I wish I were more of a maitre D like welcoming everyone in knowing all my customers names and I’ve never been like, I like to just hide in the office and do my office work and I love my employees, like my employees. As much as they’re different. It’s difficult to have employees. They really light me up, right? But customers, I just, it’s weird, I’m outgoing, but I get, I get really serious and businessy. So I never had that, that real camaraderie in person in my restaurant, but I totally have it through the emails and through, you know, even if I get a suggestion or a complaint, it’s a chance to just be myself, I guess cuz I’m a writer, it’s just so much to share that.
That is so interesting in such a good point. Yeah, think about that as as, you know, a brick and mortar. You know, man, I mean, when there’s a lot Believe me, you probably know you’re out going. But you’re you’re one of the it’s more rare. I can’t tell you how many makers I meet that are like I’m such an introvert. The last thing I want to do is really go talk to you. It’s really hard. You know, so this is a really good point to make about how you can just change the conversation if you don’t feel comfortable. Even if you’re outgoing, right? If the conversation doesn’t flow is easily one way. You’ll find another way. Now, how did you meet
busy during your open hours, you don’t always have time to get into a full conversation. Or if you are, you’re, you’re shirking off, you know, really what you should be doing?
Yeah, right. Right. And you could ask this 11 Yeah, right at 11 o’clock at night. Yeah, exactly. Right. That’s amazing. Okay, so you had these email campaigns that were really starting to work for you?
So that was one thing. And then another thing that happened right before we reopened, is I took a copywriting course. And that was what forced my hand to finally call up some customers. I was like, I need to do this research. And I know that I know what the research needs to be, I need to talk to my customers. So by that point, because we’ve been doing these weekly deliveries, I had a real sense of the names of my best customers, I didn’t always have the best systems before to know names of the biggest vendors. We had an old POS system. So now I knew who these people were. And we were going to their house, you know, delivering every week. So I sent out a few emails, personal one to one saying, Hey, I, I’m developing a new product. And I would love to have you answer some questions. I gave them the choice of I could email them the questionnaire, or we could have a conversation over the phone. So three of them want to talk on the phone, and three of them were like, yeah, just email me the questionnaire. Nice. One person I didn’t hear back from, which was fine, because she had given so many great comments on Facebook that I already knew kind of what she
already had your voc.
She just didn’t respond to the email, I don’t know if it got lost. So the customer interview was, I mean, I know one of your things at the end is to give a tip like marketing tip, but I have told numerous I it’s applies to everyone but a brick and mortar for sure. Sit down with customers as nervous as it makes you to have that conversation or to initiate it. Start with one somebody you have a little bit in common with. And just break that ice and say, Hey, would you sit down and talk to me? And the second thing is when you develop your questions, don’t make them surface questions like really talk, talk about how they feel when they get your product, you know, what they what problems they were having, before they chose to get your product. And even with bagels, those questions brought out emotions really will tell me Oh, when I’m incorporating courses with a bagel shop, they’re like, Oh, well, it’s a bagel shop. There’s not too much, you know, pain and problem, you know, emotion related to it. And I’m like, oh, there, you should just focus on the joys. You know, it’s always the advice. Just focus on the value and the pleasure that you bring them. No, there are.
Okay, I want to hear some of these. Can you share? Yeah, amazing.
So a big one is has to do with COVID that our deliveries brighten people’s day, because so let me back up and say, out of that shutdown time where we were delivering once a week I had this idea to create a subscription subscription product. When we reopen it, I thought, hmm, you know, this is kind of the online thing. And we had two people who I noticed her ordering every week or every other weeks, let’s turn this into a subscription.
at the time, they were getting them regularly and now they are subscribers. They will tell me sometimes just unsolicited, they’ll email me and say the bagel delivery brings us so much joy. It’s something we can look forward to. It’s something that happens regularly in this time of upheaval. So so that’s one is just these this thing they can rely on. It’s brought them a sense of normalcy. I’m there bagel delivery. The second is is the pleasure of eating a bagel but it isn’t just that this one person eating a bagel and this this isolated event. It’s my kids love the bagels. It’s my kids will go crazy. If we’re out of bagels, you know and then we’ll get mad if we don’t have bagel Grove bagels. So really understanding of the who these families were I have a bunch of older couples that were the Y have emailed me a story about Oh, my husband eats you know, jalapeno cream cheese with raspberry jelly isn’t that weird? But I, you know, but it really means something to her to make that for him, or another woman lost her husband. And they had always eaten bagels together. And she’s emailing and saying, this is something I still I have my bagel every Saturday, and it makes me think of him. So it’s like, could you get more real than those stories? Totally. That’s your bagels? Bring bringing that up for them. But no one would tell you that if you didn’t ask, no one would ever say these bagels, you know, are connected to this deep, deep thing for me, unless you figure out how to just get people talking. That’s so the customer interviews is huge. That’s,
that’s amazing. I mean, just as you’re talking about that, is also bringing up my my bagel experience with my local bagels. Like, you know, you bring them home on Sunday for the kids, you know, one, they rifle through the bag one gets the cinnamon reason one gets the French toast one gets the every you know what I mean? It’s just we forget that a product can bring up those experiences for us. So I love that you’re talking about that in this way. Because so many people think, well, what when I asked my customers, you know, I sell a product. If you can do it with a bagel, you can do it with anything.
I would love to give my questionnaire that I used a way to your listeners, I’d have to kind of reformat it. But if you would love to
do absolutely, I will put it in the show notes.
I just took a bunch of like copywriter case study things that are that are for info products, and just revamped them a little to be able to talk to people about a physical product.
Okay, I will I will put it here in the show notes that you’re you’ll give me a survey. And we will share that so people can see because I think that’s important. And you know, your you know, with the questions that you’re asking, like you said, you know, you revamped a little bit everybody’s questions will change just a little bit. So that’s kind of cool. And you know, that everybody has to has to customize it, personalize it to their people. So I love
to get you going in now to be like, what do I start? And then Okay, I start here now Oh, yeah. Now well treat it this way. Or, you know, and we’re having a conversation with a customer, of course. You follow up, you know, if they say something really juicy, of course, you’re gonna follow up and I want to hear more about that.
That’s amazing. Yeah, that’s, that’s amazing. I’m, I’m just writing, I’m taking notes as you’re as you’re talking to, because I want to make sure I capture I mean, obviously, the transcripts will be here, here. So people can read the and get the entire transcript, but I’m looking at these are, you know, the ugly cries, I’m gonna, you know, because I was talking about the ugly cries. But here, the ugly cry for you was the pandemic. I mean, that totally shut your business down. So that’s probably one of the biggest ugly cries I have ever heard of, you know, and this goes for a lot of businesses. So I love that you’re diving into these the sweet moments of these campaigns, because, oh, they like they are super sweet. You know, these, you know, the fact that you’re doing this kind of work as well, because, again, we talked briefly before, there’s such a big gap in marketing and and helping other product makers market in such a way that’s not like the old ways of doing things, right. It’s a television ad, it’s, you know, I need to do a press release. I need to be on TV what you said earlier, there’s, there’s really no way to measure the ROI for those.
Right, but this way without doing a coupon. It’s the only way and then exactly, but this way is so measurable. Yeah,
yeah, it’s so measurable. And it just like makes my it makes my copywriter hurt. So happy.
And the other thing I’ve said too, about what we as makers and restaurant owners have, I think over big industry is, so big industry does all of these tactics, but they just test like crazy. So they just have a bunch of different ideas. And they throw them all out there because they have huge ad budgets, and they can just test it all and see what’s working. And even though I don’t have a huge ad budget, so I I can’t be as keyed into the numbers and testing all these things. I have my heart because I am the business like I am dealing with the customers day to day I am dealing with the product. I know the history, I know all of it. So you just have to trust that and follow. Follow that lead. Because I think that’s the thing that will convert the best and not ask yourself what could be better? No, the best thing is going to convert it’s going to be the most honest. The thing that’s going to feel as honest and it’s going to feel as honest your customers is whatever the truth is, and the advantage of owning our own businesses. We know that truth. We know one story just happens relevant. We know what products are the most exciting to people, right? We know what’s going on in our communities, you know, whatever space you’re in,
and in That’s, that is such a great point, because you can you can speak to that in such a way that no big business will ever be able to do that. They don’t know their communities that way. You know, they don’t they don’t know how to have those conversations, you know, it’s going to sound very generic, you know, and again, and now you as a copywriter, as well, you know, how important it is to, you know, stay away from being general generic, stay away from right General, like really dive in. So I want to hear now, okay, so you’ve done these things. For bagel Grove, you’re now have this the this, I don’t want to I don’t wanna keep saying side hustle, you have this?
Well, because I do. I also write for clients. So there’s a side hustle that I’m still working on.
But But like, you’ve done this, and now so now, again, it’s kind of like more of this epiphany that you’re seeing now that you’re doing this as far as messaging as far as being in that. And I mean, we can we can talk conversion numbers, if you have them. Yeah. Got what are you finding? A that you’ve learned? From all this, you know, from using the skill as a copywriter and writing messages now, you know, what’s that big moment of learning that you’ve experienced? Because, you know, again, you’ve kind of alluded to that, and these top, you know, these top things that you’ve done, but like, it’s really gone, you know, I never would have thought of that had I not been doing Yeah,
writing? I think, I think two things. One is numbers. The boost in sales, and I haven’t even gotten into my YouTube ads, which is has started out, I want
to talk to us a second,
using marketing as these online marketing skills for bagel Grove. So both the emails and the YouTube ads and videos. I mean, when I started my first YouTube campaign back in January, so before the shutdown, January is our slowest month, we always used to run a coupon in the local newspaper, we decided not to run the coupon anymore. I ran a YouTube ad. And sales were up 12%. Just boom, just wow, overnight. It’s like we launched the ad. And I had I worked with a guy, I paid him a lot of money. But Patrick Kenny, who’s, who’s this YouTube specialist. It wasn’t it was incredible. He just dialed in that ad and it had a huge boost. And I was like, oh boy, this is this is the secret. And then yeah, it’s cool. Two months later, the world crashed. But yeah, well, so one is definitely numbers. And the second is learning what my brand,
I think I’m
still figuring out exactly what our brand message is. Because it’s so it’s a mom, it’s become more of a mom and pop. So we used to be a million dollar business. Now we’re at about 500,000. We lost that. So when we reopened, I didn’t say this, we did not reopen in the form that we had that we used to be. We used to be 20 employees. Now we are five, wow, I used to work in the office and run my kids this there and everywhere. Anytime I want it now. I am, I am there from open to close. But we are only open for hours, we are only open five days, not seven, we just shrank. So even though the bagels are the same, and the branding in terms of logo and name obviously is all the same. The experience of it is quite different. And we’re navigating as the worlds now starting to open back up the vaccine is out and people expect I’m in a really rural area where people are ready to for things to get back to normal. You know, they never wanted any of this to happen sort of attitude. Yeah, there’s a big like, push like, okay, when are you going to open your dining room again, you know, when are you going to have better more hours? So I’m navigating? Nope, this is the new normal for us. It’s working so well. But remind me to go back and talk about a little bit how we were doing before the shutdown, okay. I have to figure out how to tell my customers, you can still trust us. It’s okay. You can come you’ll make it the shorter hours, we’re still here and get ahead of the conversation. So they’re not coming back at us angry?
Yes, why aren’t you back to normal?
Instead, I’m ahead of all of that with always a positive message. This is who we are, this is what we’re doing. This is how you get our bagels. And anyway to answer your question writing the emails, I do a lot of video. And also the all the steps that go into before you can write an email have helped me figure out what our message is who we are who we need to be right now what our customers are most interested in. And so I think marketing can be this very outward thing but can also change your day to day because it focuses you in on really the core of your business marketing is not an external thing that you stick on you know it’s not a facade it’s actually just broadcasting who you really are. When it when it works when it does, you know done well.
But again, you know if it if it if you miss a beat a little bit, you just changed a little bit because oh yes, you know,
right and That’s, I mean, who you are is fluid, I think is the point.
yeah, I think that it’s become stagnant for a lot of people. And then if you change a little or your mark, these are all marketing terms. But if things change, as they always do, you may not be on top of that, because you’re in this fixed idea. Well, I spent all this money on this logo. Well, that’s not your brand. That’s just your logo, right? Your brand is your brand is the words you use. And it isn’t just the copy that you wrote, you know, three months ago. It’s what you’re saying now in, in conversations in your emails in in everything that you’re writing. And that can change.
And it should and that like, as you’re seeing because of all this, and yes, we went, I went now you said we’ve got to go back to the pre COVID. What was going on business wise? Yeah. And and you know what, I bet your your, the way you spoke to people change just from that.
For sure. For sure. I’m way more invested in the business than I was. So the reality of before COVID. bagel Grove was in trouble like I tried to I met partly met Abby, because I was searching for a way to make the Oak Grove successful again, it had started to sales. For the first time in the 20 years, I’d been there were plateauing. Hmm. And labor just kept going up and up. And up. Not to mention, it’s getting so much harder to find good staff, because it’s really hard work. It’s very labor intensive. And people you know, their work ethics chain, don’t even take crap on people. Just the work ethic has changed. People aren’t aren’t expecting more to do expect me to do last for more money. Yeah. So I was like, this business model needs to change. And I heard a something on the radio one time that the people who tried to be more but but passed away from COVID have, you know, often have pre existing conditions. And they were like, same is true with businesses, the businesses that pass away have pre existing conditions. And I was like, yeah, bagel Grove had a pre existing condition. We were not healthy. The YouTube ad, that big spike was really encouraging. I was like, maybe this is the ticket. I’ll save this business through marketing. But we were on unstable ground.
part of the COVID was like this chance to reevaluate and say, Okay, what works and what is sustainable? and what isn’t working, because now we’ve we’ve shut it all. So we have a chance to rebuild it. When it’s a moving train, it’s really hard to shift and readjust.
Yeah. knowing what I know, now, I would do it. Because if things aren’t helping you, you need to do surgery.
What and sometimes, you know, like you said, you don’t see it, you know, you may have this pre existing condition in your business that you don’t see. Yeah.
You don’t know how to fix that. I knew I tried to open a second bagel girl. That was one idea. did a bunch of market research ultimately pulled the plug on that. And then I took this business course. And what came out of the business course was meeting Abby and going like, maybe I don’t want to do bagels, maybe I want to do writing instead.
Which is what I did.
Yeah. But also to be honest about that too, with myself. Like, you know, if my heart isn’t in this, no, one of the business isn’t doing well. I think there’s the two are so tied, I mean, talking. Yeah. My mindset has always been like, Money Follows your, your mindset about it, and not the other way around.
control it. But
I mean, it’s it’s hard to say that, you know, you know, a huge event, like this past year, kind of changed everything. But sometimes, you know, like you said things have to I mean, things have to really be to say break down, but be like, I mean, it has really been your face sometimes. Yeah, it’d be like, Okay, I see this. Now.
Sometimes you just need to pause. You’re just going going going every day. It’s hard to find the time to evaluate things. Yeah. So I mean, that’s why people go on retreats. That’s why people step away and all sorts of ways. This was just a huge stepping away because business ceased. Yeah. And when you have employees, you’re beholden to your employees, you can’t just take a week off. Because you have to pay themselves. Yeah, take a week off. It’s too expensive. So you just keep going for the employees sake. And for the sake of I got to keep this thing going. Yeah. And then so COVID was this exterior reason to totally stop and then say, Okay,
let’s be more intentional. Yeah, yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. And I’m so glad we’re talking about all this stuff in the deep, the deep detail that you are, like you said, you know, you can’t just talk about the surface stuff. You really have to dive in and find out what people need. And you have to find out what you need to do. Is it yes, you know, because it’s really easy to lose passion. Yeah, exactly. You know, and then if you don’t find that thing that keeps you and it’s and it’s okay, I mean, if you lose passion, you don’t want to do it anymore. It’s okay. That’s what I ended up doing with. With my skincare company. I just kind of like Okay, you know what, I really don’t have that passion on that side anymore. I really loved all the money. And I loved creating the website and doing all the marketing and sending the postcards and the catalogs and the emails and the this. I’m like, you know, that’s not for me, I decided, you know, I really took a look at that. And it was mindset, it was passion, how can I help other people? And you know, the fact that you’re doing this, and thank you for joining me tonight, because this is like that piece to it. Sometimes people really need to hear, because they’re not finding it anywhere else. And they need to hear other people going through it. And like, Okay, first of all, I’m not crazy. Second of all, these are really good ideas that I could Yeah, you know?
Yeah, I mean, I think that the piece for me was sticking with it. Sometimes when I didn’t know whether I should or not, I don’t think I made the right choice. Like, I think probably should, I could have gotten out years ago and done something else amazing with my life. I didn’t have the courage or my kids, which was smaller, for whatever reason, but because I chose the path I did now. Now there are these benefits to sticking with something. And now I have so much history, I have so much. So much of a base already set to work off of. And that’s just kind of my story. And I really think you can, you can do it. Whatever way feels right to you. Yeah.
And that’s certainly what I’m finding, you know, the more people I interviewed for two hands made this, you know, people are really doing it their way, the way that it makes sense. And, you know, and, and I love the fact that even as a community, a lot of times, we don’t have people we need to, you know, we can talk to like this, right? You may have, you know, community of friends, you know, in locally, you may have maybe an association you belong to, but the more we can open up other people, other product makers, to other product makers, yeah, whether it’s a bagel store, a skincare company, a candle company, a leather company, you know, we can all provide each each other with this greatsword resource, and this great bit of information and, like how we can find our passion again, and and get excited about it again, and do something a little bit different and go from changing, you know, what wasn’t feeling passionate, and maybe what wasn’t working to really like turning it around again, and like, Oh, I have fun. I’m having a lot of fun doing this again. You know, so
that’s cool. Nothing feels better than sharing from somebody. Oh, you go through that, too. Yeah. Like, it just takes the weight off. You’re like, Oh, it’s not just me who struggles with this? Right? It feels so much I feel so much better. And you can’t have those conversations, unless you’re talking to other business owners is Yeah, yes. I
think like you said
in any, it doesn’t matter what your product is, if you’re a business owner, you go through the same things, but you wouldn’t know that unless you have a chance to talk or to hear.
Totally, absolutely. And and I’ll link it in the show notes as well, in a previous in a previous episode, we have my friend Carolyn her for talks about the depth. And that’s absolutely everyone goes through exactly what you’re saying. So you know, whatever your dip looks like, you know, we all we all go through it, but having those people you know, and again, thank you for sharing your wisdom and thank you for sharing, you’re so honestly, about your business and that it’s okay to do two things, you know, you can be you know, you can have your product business, and you can, you know, I mean, honestly, you’re starting to think maybe you’ll have an exit maybe you won’t, but you can go on and on and do something else because now you have this other skill that’s very valuable, helping somebody else right. You know, so that’s cool. And
then the piece that that combines them is with Abby and I are trying to do something similar to you is we’re working on a podcast to teach other restaurant owners online marketing, it’s kind of where the two come together and I don’t know if that will ultimately be where I’ll land but I kind of think that makes sense. Hey, you know, it’s like the the two forms of experience well here’s how I can give back perfect day.
And again, yeah. And I think you know, because it’s because so many people are online and because in whether you’re again restaurant, whatever you’re making, whether it’s you’re making food, whether you’re making a physical product, whatever. Yo Yo I’m finding that people really do need to understand this the online world as well because that’s where everybody Yes, you know, and that’s where you know if you’re a restaurant and you have you know, email oh my god you know you can reach so many more people that maybe they don’t live in your town but when they come through their shopping, I love the fact I’ve got to go back to this which is why everybody can’t see me But why did you raise my hands to this one when you said you have a subscription? That’s what I’ve been talking to some of my local people look businesses about I like why not do a subscription so good for wine as a restaurant? Because we’ve got several that have you know, again affected similar to you Your your waitstaff is still your waitstaff but why don’t you? I mean, yes, it might be a pain in the ass to put them in the car, but they can wait. They can be the waitstaff delivering homes, you know, giving out people the experience at home. So you can still, you know, maybe they’re waiting 20 tables a night, so they can have 20 deliveries a night still is still delivering the experience that people need. And make it Yes. I love the fact that you said makes them feel normal. So yes, yeah,
yeah. And the other cool thing about the subscription service for me, I mean, I thought of it just to replace wholesale as a steady as a steady income. I mean, it’s nowhere near the numbers that our wholesale used to be. But it is that piece of the business that you can somewhat say, Okay, I know how much income I’ll get each week from subscription. But the other thing it’s given me is kind of this test kitchen of my best customers. So I have like, we call it my office manager and I are who deal with the subscribers or email. It’s like, we give them a concierge service.
there are VIP customers, they already were by VIP customers. That’s why they became subscribers. But also we treat them that way. Because that’s what they get for being subscribers, they get access to us. You know exactly what they want all of the insights into what they will do have this week, or why couldn’t you make this bagel? Or we always give them the freshest mean, we always bagels fresh with the dough sits for three days. You know, but our subscribers get the best possible dough that could possibly come out of our first batch.
I love it. Yeah.
but it really is the back and forth. Like they get the best. But we also get to know we get along to them. So we know you know what our customers want. Up close, then we can apply that to the whole business kind of
you know, that’s amazing, of course, and personal allied subscription is that conversation. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Alright, so as we close up here, because I really wanted to touch back on that because I think that is such an amazing thing that you’re doing. And I think more people should do it. The subscription model, can you go over again, like your top three tips, because I want to make sure that we highlight those as well. Obviously, sit down and talk with your customers is definitely number one. Definitely,
yeah, yep. Figure out figure out who your best customers are, and then have to figure out how to have a conversation with them and learn why they choose you. Second, would be to be yourself to really. And that’s it’s kind of a buzzword II thing to say. So you have to figure out maybe looking at how you’re not being yourself and see what’s not working, maybe look at something that’s not working and saying well Could I just make it more authentic? It doesn’t have to be mean it has to be the me show all the time. Right?
you do have to if you don’t care about it, then your customers aren’t going to care about it. So just figuring out how to be yourself and and I think for restaurant owners that idea of the restaurant owner is the persona of the business is not used ever. restaurant owners hide behind Yes, the food so that’s a message I want to give restaurant owners know people buy from people so be the be the face of your business. Yeah, you know how to sell jewelry if you sell people are going to want to know who you are all the things that are interesting about you that have nothing to do with jewelry. Yeah, and they will buy from that and the best example is the salt I don’t know if anybody’s ever heard of this salt lady did a similar thing started writing emails during COVID she’s the Alaska salt company these emails have nothing to do with salt she’s they’re crazy they’re both curse words are full of means they’re just all about her and her family and her struggles but they’re fun to read makes you want to salt because you want to be connected to this company to her you know what she’s doing? I think that really works and love that gives you energy and cells and then the thing I didn’t want to talk about much in this interview is video if you will feel comfortable and video to do video I lots of Facebook Lives I still do YouTube as you know and especially if you’re mostly online people want to see they want to see you they want to be able to put a face to the brand
yeah totally and because you’re not really having those face to face conversations anymore it’s
just a way to have face to face have real conversations even though they may not be you know direct as as direct you know people like you said people can still see you people still you don’t feel you they see your eyes they you know see you know all that other stuff that all the other kinds of parts of communication and if and as a maker you can always showcase whatever you’re making is there’s a visual element to it like info products have a harder time with video because how do you show you know course. But if you’re making something than a video is the best way even somewhat time It’s better than pictures because it feels more authentic because they can see you using it or they can see. And if you don’t feel comfortable about a video find a friend or a customer who is, yeah. There’s this whole world of influencer marketing that I think small businesses can use. And just find some customers who are on social media. And if you trade product or you pay them or whatever you work out,
will you post about my product? Totally Pip. Can I use that in my ads?
It’s what a great people think influencer marketing is like, it has to be a big name or it has to be a celebrity. Oh, no. Your customers can be your biggest influencers. Yeah, yeah. I love that point.
I think the most successful the client that I one of my main copywriting clients is a is an influencer marketing software. So I’m listening every week to their podcasts and learning a lot about influencer marketing and for sure the most successful companies work with work with really small influencers who were there, you know, most excited customers
right that’s that’s that’s such a great thing to leave with that on because I know so many people think again, I don’t know how to have an influencer How can I do influencer marketing? Again, they need to be paying people, your best influencers are those people but your customers that love you the most?
Yeah. And to be candid, I haven’t done it yet. So these things, I do what I can and yeah,
it’s on your to do list.
Exactly. You get to the restaurant you can
write Yeah, because as makers, we all know that it comes you know, marketing is one of the again, one of the things that we do last. Yeah, we just try them and see how they work and
just do something, I
think just do something and go from there. And this has been the best conversation. I love every piece that you talked about. I love the fact that you know you’re using your copywriting skills as part of your business and you’re doing something totally different for a bagel business. You guys, it’s a bagel business. Yeah. If any can do it, you can do it too. So, yeah, Annie, thank you so much. And we’ll see fun. This is fun. And we’ll see you guys next time on two hands made this