Episode Show Notes
Episode 5 features Rob Lightner, Co-Founder of East Brother Beer Company; Linh Judin, Owner of Itsy Bitty; and Derric Haynie, Chief Ecommerce Technologist at Ecommercetech.io. Rob, Linh, and Derric discuss the recent boom in eCommerce, their individual journeys with it, and advice for leveraging one’s online presence to sell better.
Rob Lightner is the Co-Founder of East Brother Beer Company, a production brewery, and taproom located in Richmond, California. Prior to founding East Brother Beer Company, Rob spent several years in the nonprofit sector establishing and maintaining revenue-generating corporate partnerships across the media and technology spectrum. He also spent 15 years at Sega of America in San Francisco in a variety of positions including research, business development, and strategy. His early career began in Tokyo with an advertising agency. Rob was born and raised in Oakland and attended UC Berkeley where he earned a degree in Japanese.
Linh Judin is a seasoned marketing strategist and technology professional, equipped with extensive experience in both marketing and 17+ years in the tech space. She is a self-proclaimed “tech geek” with the ability to translate complex technical terminology into approachable language any business leader can understand. After serving at technology powerhouse companies like Atlassian and IBM, Linh combines her deep technical understanding with her marketing expertise to help companies reach new customers and grow their businesses. She founded and currently runs her own marketing firm, Open Lock Marketing, where she works with a team of talented creators and digital experts to support her clients in designing and executing marketing strategies to increase profit and generate leads. When she isn’t strategizing, Linh can be found working on her latest passion project, Itsy Bitty — an eCommerce business focused on stylish baby gifts and toys. She's responsible for designing, coordinating manufacturing, sourcing, and (of course) marketing the brand.
Derric Haynie is the host of “The Future of Ecommerce” podcast and Chief eCommerce Technologist at Ecommercetech.io – where eCommerce stores go to research, discover, and buy the right tools to grow their store. Half of his day is spent reviewing tech tools, and the other half is talking with merchants to help them discover which solutions are right for them. When he’s not doing that, you can find him speaking and networking at any of your favorite eCommerce events.
00:00:00 - Introductions
00:04:31 - What led to selling online
00:06:28 - The kind of companies that took part in the eCommerce boom
00:10:27 - Opportunities and constraints for established businesses trying to have an eCommerce presence
00:13:23 - Lessons learned in the eCommerce space and present and future plans
00:21:14 - Best practices to capture direct-to-consumer leads
00:26:41 - Lessons learned about business and/or the industry after launching a website
00:33:36 - Examples of good tools and features to look for
00:36:31 - Discussion of staffing needs
00:38:41 - Things to improve or learn as your eCommerce journey continues
00:41:41 - Using metrics to determine ROI
00:46:37 - Advice to companies beginning their eCommerce journey
00:51:06 - How to leverage online presence to sell better
Gregg Profozich [00:00:02] In the world of manufacturing, change is the only constant. How are small and medium-sized manufacturers, SMMs, to keep up with new technologies, regulations, and other important shifts let alone leverage them to become leaders in their industries? Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC, highlights leaders from the modern world of manufacturing from SMMs to consultants to industry experts. Each quarter we go deep into topics pertinent to both operating a manufacturing firm and the industry as a whole. Join us to hear about manufacturing sectors' latest trends, groundbreaking technologies, and expert insights to help SMMs in California set themselves apart in this exciting modern world of innovation and change. I'm Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC. I'd like to welcome you. In this episode, I'm joined by Rob Lightner, cofounder of East Brother Beer Company, Linh Judin, owner of Itsy Bitty, and Derric Haynie, Chief Ecommerce Technologist at ecommercetech.io. Rob, Linh, and Derric discuss the recent boom in eCommerce and how it's evolved over the years. The group offers insights on their individual journeys with eCommerce and how it has changed their businesses. The group closes with lessons learned and advice for those just starting out, including how to leverage one's online presence to sell better and tools that help them get started. Welcome, Rob, Linh, and Derric. It's great to have you all here today.
Rob Lightner [00:01:27] Great to be here.
Linh Judin [00:01:28] Thanks.
Derric Haynie [00:01:29] Good to be here.
Gregg Profozich [00:01:30] So, before we get into our discussion today, let's take a few minutes for each of you to introduce yourself and give an overview of your company and who the majority of your customers are. Rob, let's start with you.
Rob Lightner [00:01:39] Hi. I'm Rob Lightner. I'm one of the cofounders of East Brother Beer Company in Richmond, California. We've been around about four years. We're a production brewery, which means we produce beer to put in kegs and cans out into stores, and restaurants, and bars, and grocery, and liquor stores, and whatnot. We also have an on-site taproom here in Richmond, where you come and sample the beer live.
Gregg Profozich [00:02:01] Excellent, Rob. Thank you so much. Hope to get up to the Bay Area and have a chance to enjoy that taproom. So, if I understand correctly, your business model is B2C. You'll be talking from that perspective today.
Rob Lightner [00:02:11] That's right.
Gregg Profozich [00:02:12] Okay. Linh.
Linh Judin [00:02:13] Hi. I'm Linh Judin. I am the owner of Itsy Bitty. We're a woman- and minority-owned family business. We're pretty small. We're about three employees. It really started as a passion project after my first child was born. As a first-time mom, we started accumulating a lot of junk because we were trying so many baby products. So, it was obvious that we wanted to try something different with toys and baby products that were sustainable. So, that's essentially what we offer — baby products and gifts. We sell globally.
Gregg Profozich [00:02:47] Excellent. Linh, thank you so much. So, if I understand correctly, you're also B2C.
Linh Judin [00:02:51] Yes, that's correct.
Gregg Profozich [00:02:52] Okay. Then Derric, thank you for being here. You come from a little bit different background. So, for context, can you tell us a little bit about what eCommerce is and maybe how it's evolved over the past few years.
Derric Haynie [00:03:02] Yeah. So, I'm the founder of ecommercetech.io. We connect eCommerce teams with eCommerce tools. So, I literally spend half of my day demoing new technology and then the other half of the day helping merchants figure out which the right tech tools are for them. So, as it comes to the industry at large and what we've seen in the last few years in eCommerce, we've seen a natural proliferation of the industry in which you've seen it become a lot easier to become an entrepreneur, to start a business. Many of these businesses now have grown into that billion-dollar-plus threshold. So, it's not just a small-time business. It can grow and it can scale. There are platforms out there that are helping you — Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, all of these. Then because of the proliferation of eCommerce, we're also seeing a massive proliferation of eCommerce technology, tools that are enabling merchants to do cooler, better things — helping with return management, manufacturing, and supply chain, of course, conversion rate optimization. We have AI coming into play here. All of these things are just really the beginning of what we could say a form of consolidation in the market, where you are seeing these technologies come together as the "all-in-one tools." There's no real such thing, but some people like to call themselves that. That presents an interesting problem to merchants as they look across the landscape and really try to figure out what is right for them.
Gregg Profozich [00:04:23] So, a lot of different aspects and facets to the eCommerce industry and the plethora of tools that are out there.
Derric Haynie [00:04:30] Yes, absolutely.
Gregg Profozich [00:04:31] Okay. So, now that we know a little bit about each of you and what you do, let's talk a little bit about your eCommerce journeys. So, Rob and Linh, what led you to the decision to begin selling online? How did you develop your capability to use eCommerce as a sales channel for your business? Linh, why don't you go first?
Linh Judin [00:04:47] So, I really wanted to sell online, because I wanted a wider reach, considering that when we design, and manufacture, and source, it is global. Many of our products are made and manufactured over in either China or Vietnam. So, I just thought having the ability and the platform to sell globally since we already do operations globally, it just made sense.
Gregg Profozich [00:05:11] Okay. Rob, your decision?
Rob Lightner [00:05:13] It was driven by panic and terror due to COVID. We did not start at all with the intention of selling beer online. In fact, we were just selling T-shirts, and caps, and merch, basically, merchant swag, because people like to get that in. You can get that further afield, but beer is a very... It's not a product that lends itself to eCommerce. It's heavy; it's fragile.
Gregg Profozich [00:05:39] And it's regulated, right? It's also regulated to a degree.
Rob Lightner [00:05:40] Exactly. Actually, you've hit on probably the most challenging part with beer specifically. Each kind of alcohol — wine, and spirits, and beer — they're all regulated differently in terms of eCommerce. The bottom line for us was that two-thirds of our channels were cut off with bars and restaurants closed, and our own taproom forcibly closed due to the pandemic. So, everyone, in this industry at least, and, of course, many others were scrambling. We thought, "Okay, how are we going to continue to get some beer out there and keep the lights on?" So, that was the trigger for us.
Gregg Profozich [00:06:13] So, it started with panic and terror and turned out to be lemons became lemonade?
Rob Lightner [00:06:18] Yeah. We're still working on it. We certainly haven't perfected it. But yeah, it definitely helped a lot.
Gregg Profozich [00:06:23] Okay, excellent. So, Derric, I'm sure Rob and Linh's stories sound familiar to you.
Derric Haynie [00:06:28] Yeah.
Gregg Profozich [00:06:28] Is there a pattern that you can identify in these types of manufacturing companies that have been part of this eCommerce boom, if you will, over the recent months? Is it mostly B2C, or are we also seeing it in the B2B space?
Derric Haynie [00:06:39] Yeah. I think Linh's journey is part of the “I saw a need and I solved it,” and then Rob's is like, “yeah, we just wanted to sell beer and all of a sudden invest in this.” I've definitely seen this before. When it comes to identifying successful merchants, I think it's always about finding the right niche and the right opportunity as well as having very core strengths across a variety of things, including product. So, really understanding your supply chain and how you're going to get this product procured at a reasonable rate. Are you going to own your own manufacturing? Are you going to put products in a warehouse? Are you going to ship from your own house? What does it look like when your garage is filled up with boxes, and your children are now working to put the product in the box to fulfill your orders? Then I think there's a strong operational and financial sense that needs to come into eCommerce early. So, as I've seen a lot of founders with great ideas, I've seen a lot of them fall flat because they couldn't manage to find profitability in the finances; they didn't understand the core of their business model and business metrics; and ultimately, they couldn't scale to the point where cost of acquisition was going to be lower than lifetime value. So, I think that one is very core to the merchant success story. Then, of course, the most important one is marketing. This is why the niche is so important. If we want to just buy some generic products, we go to Amazon. There's beer, probably... I don't know. Is there beer sold on Amazon? I'm not sure. But I know that there are a lot of kids' toys sold on Amazon.
Rob Lightner [00:08:13] They'll send you to Whole Foods these days.
Derric Haynie [00:08:16] Then you can buy from the delivery. I've actually bought alcohol through that delivery through Amazon Fresh recently. So, there's competition that we could just go to the generic provider. There's a lot of other established players in the space. So, when you think about marketing and the market as a whole, you think, "How am I going to penetrate a market such as beer or CPG? How am I going to penetrate a market such as kids' toys and goods when there are all these players in it?" The only way to really have success with that is by pioneering some sort of niche or what is currently being called a digitally native vertical brand, which is just a fancy word for selling one or a handful of really specific products and doing a really good job in that vertical. Things like Timbuktu for backpacks for tech; Dollar Shave Club, obviously, had the low-cost razors, is one of the pioneers; Away for luggage that has technology and batteries inside of it. So, you think about how these different brands have owned these key categories and been able to pioneer what have primarily been well-dominated in red ocean spaces but come with this blue ocean strategy from a marketing and market standpoint, whether it's direct to consumer and virality on social media, whether it's just how you do your emails. I've seen a few brands that just have outrageous emails that you just have to go tell a friend about. One of them that comes to mind is this company 1-900-ice cream as an example, just randomly off the top of my head. Their emails are ridiculous, and they just make you want to buy ice cream online, which is interesting. So, see, I think the commonalities in real success stem from great product and understanding of that product, how is that product going to be truly differentiated in the marketplace, and how are we really going to reach the mass consumer in a reasonable acquisition cost is really what we're going for there. But, of course, it really comes all the way into brand strategy. Then who's running the numbers, and how are we going to keep cash flow and our heads above water while we invest in all this inventory, and have to pay for all these ads, and have to manage the gap from buying on the manufacturing all the way to selling to the end consumer?
Gregg Profozich [00:10:27] So, Derric, thank you for that. Some great information. I think a lot of that was around the new company, the start-up company, the early-stage company. Can you talk a little bit more about what established and mature businesses might do? What are the things that they're going to have to consider? What are some of the constraints? What are some of the opportunities that eCommerce offers to them?
Derric Haynie [00:10:46] Yeah. I think when you think about manufacturers moving into direct-to-consumer, there's always been an opportunity there. This is just, in a way, about moving down your own vertical supply chain. So, I've seen in other industries somebody that started... My father's friend started as a framing developer framing homes. He ended up buying a lumber plant, and he did a full vertical integration so that he sold his lumber to himself, and then he built the house with that lumber. I think that's what manufacturers have the opportunity of doing is moving downstream in this regard. It's significantly different, though. Where I've seen the biggest miss in this is how we're capturing end-user personal identifiable information and then continuing the conversation with them. So, what I mean is, especially if you were in retail or other locations, you were selling a product, and you've got your product in the hands of tens of thousands of people, but you don't know who they are. So, if you've got phenomenal products, and you've got resellers out there for those products, how do we close the loop so that that person is now coming back to you in a direct-to-consumer channel? A few ways that can be done is changing the product. You can even change the tag on the clothing, or on the bottom of the beer, or inside the cap. You can put a little hashtag or something like that. Then people are using a hashtag on social. You can use that to follow up with them to capture that personally identifiable information, build that one-to-one relationship with them, and then use that to spring the direct to consumer channel into full force using what you already have, which is a product that is in the hands of a lot of people; you just don't currently know who those people are.
Gregg Profozich [00:12:26] So, thank you for that, Derric. Rob or Linh, any comments to what Derric just said? Strike any chords with you?
Linh Judin [00:12:32] Our experience working with the different wholesalers and warehouses or manufacturers, I can tell you that within the last year, of course, during COVID, we had to really plan our inventory. We had to really decide on what we were going to produce and plan early on. To your question earlier, Gregg, about how has this pandemic affected the business, I can feel so many competitors getting into the space right now. I guess everyone had that bright idea to start an eCommerce business. It's going to be interesting to see how many of them really last. But we feel the constraints of the manufacturers not delivering on time. We feel it from the procurement not getting in on time of deliveries and so forth. So, it's been a pretty interesting ride.
Gregg Profozich [00:13:23] So, thank you, Derric, Rob, and Linh. At this point, I'm curious to hear a little bit more about your eCommerce journeys. We understand why you got into it in the first place from your earlier comments. What have you learned? Where are you now? Where do you see yourself going kind of thing? Talk about that a little bit.
Rob Lightner [00:13:37] The jury's still out, honestly. There is something there for us. As I said earlier, primarily our model is selling to people who come into the taproom and order a pint or take away a four-pack or selling out into a distributor who then sells to retailers. While things were shut down, we definitely sensed and benefited from fans of our beer not able to enjoy it on-site or at their favorite bar or restaurant. Therefore, they were very open to an eCommerce model. It was comprised of a couple of different things. In some ways, we created this store. We already had a store, as I said, for merch, but we added beer to it, which was complicated, by the way. But once we did that, we could either send it to them or they could come do curbside pickup. But now that things are opening up again, that has decreased, because people are like, "Oh, good. I can go out and have a pint at my favorite bar." For us, we're still trying to figure out how long this is going to last. One thing that we did, which was the idea of... Some brewers have done it. The idea of our marketing folks was to do a subscription box, and that one seems to have legs. So, we're really, really happy with that. There are still people out there who don't want to go out. So, something where we say, "Put your beer on redial," and we just send you the same four-packs, or case, or whatever on a monthly basis. So, that's something that we anticipate continuing. But honestly, the need that was filled while everything was shut down, now that everything's opening back up again, maybe that need isn't there anymore. So, it's an interesting... Like I said, we're still waiting to see how it all plays out.
Linh Judin [00:15:15] Rob, I think that's awesome that you guys innovated. I'll just say that.
Rob Lightner [00:15:18] Thank you. It was really tricky. Like I said, beer is tough, because it's the packaging — it's a fragile thing. The cans get dinged up — and which carrier you use. The website that we were using would auto-populate tax and shipping. We couldn't do that, because those carriers wouldn't deliver beer. There was a lot of challenges to it. You send it out, and it sits on someone's porch or sits in some warehouse for a week in 80-degree weather. It's like, "Never mind. Send that back. We'll send you some fresh stuff." So, there's a lot of challenges in this particular product category.
Derric Haynie [00:15:54] I love that you went to subscription. I'm curious about retention metrics around that. I think you're in a consumable, renewable space. If people love the beer, they're going to want to get more of it. So, I'd imagine you have a good opportunity to grow that into the hundreds of thousands of subscribers level.
Rob Lightner [00:16:15] If we had 100,000 people buying beer on a monthly basis, dude, we'd hang it up, and we'd be done.
Derric Haynie [00:16:23] It's possible.
Linh Judin [00:16:26] Yeah. I was going to say that's your goal.
Rob Lightner [00:16:27] I love it. Yeah.
Derric Haynie [00:16:28] What do you do to keep people buying beer from you, again and again, to keep that fridge stocked, essentially?
Rob Lightner [00:16:34] So, here's something that our taproom manager came up with. It's awesome. Every month we have a different theme. We partnered with a coffee roastery recently and did a little thing because coffee and beer is a thing. We put a bag of... They're an Oakland-based small coffee roaster called Proyecto Diaz. They're great. It's great coffee. I don't know where you guys are all living and located but...
Derric Haynie [00:16:59] I'm in Walnut Creek, by the way. So, I'm going to be checking you out.
Rob Lightner [00:17:01] So, we put a bag of coffee in the box. It was a coffee theme box. Another one we did movie night. We put a bag of popcorn and some — I don't know — little swaggy stuff that's movie-themed. What are some of the other ones we've done? I think we did a chocolate one. So, each month you get the beer that you ordered, but you also get this little treat. We just throw it in there, and people love it. So, I think it's a way to build anticipation. It's like, "We don't get the same stuff every month and get bored as a result. I get what I ordered plus what is this month's theme going to be." That's working pretty well.
Derric Haynie [00:17:37] Yeah. You're discussing the difference between renewable and a discovery subscription product. You're combining them both, which I think is really smart. So, you have this core consumable, renewable product that I expect with this variable. What other surprise am I going to get? So, I think that works really well.
Linh Judin [00:17:55] Rob, that's awesome that you guys shifted gears that way going from brick and mortar to online. We were pretty much the same way. We started off selling our bags and introducing it to people who had similar needs. The first product that we came out with was actually called the Bitty Bag. It was to carry a lot of breastfeeding tools and supplies without having to look like a crazy bag person with different baggies. Because of the marketing that we did, we actually expanded and decided to go online. So, similar to you guys, where you shifted online, it was the same process but just different needs, I guess. It wasn't a pandemic that drove us to go online. I can tell you now that with Itsy Bitty, the biggest thing that we're facing right now is scaling and scaling correctly. Because there's a lot of components with the business, we just want to make sure that we continue offering the customer service and the quality products but also doing a price point that makes sense for everybody.
Rob Lightner [00:18:56] I have a question for you, Linh. So, Derric mentioned customer acquisition and making the connections and the...identification, basically. How do you guys go about building your list, and building your audience, and making those connections, and then continuing to engage with people to not only maintain interest amongst existing customers but add new customers?
Linh Judin [00:19:20] Yeah. That's a good question. So, my background is in marketing. I actually own a brand agency. So, I'm going to turn to marketing and say that this is really what's driving our success. We have a lot of different tactics that we implement, things like influencer marketing, and we do a lot of email marketing. We work a lot within the paid ad space, as well. I feel like because I had the foundation of marketing, it was easier for us to get online, whereas I don't know how a lot of companies out there are doing it if they don't have that background because there's so much to take in. There's a lot of strategy that needs to be put in place. When we think about eCommerce, there's multichannel, and then there's also omnichannel. In this case, when we talk about the different channels, there's social — so, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. Then there's also the different marketplaces, such as the Etsys and even Amazon, if you want to go that route, and then the traditional online, which is your store, and then offline, which is your brick and mortar. So, when we talk about the digital stuff that we do, it's definitely within the social and then the different marketplaces as well as running a couple of different ads across Facebook, Google, and Pinterest, because that's where our target market is.
Rob Lightner [00:20:41] Interesting. Yeah, there are definitely parallels with our business in terms of the influencer marketing. We send out samples and hope that people post them, and talk about them, and share with their friends, but we also do paid advertising, as well, to try to build the brand, show them where the product is. So, we actually do it. We've got the eCommerce bit, but then most of our business is still brick and mortar. So, we're doing the advertising to send people to where our product is.
Linh Judin [00:21:09] Yeah. Another strategy that we use quite a bit is actually our customer loyalty.
Gregg Profozich [00:21:14] So, I think that we're touching back on something that Derric mentioned earlier. It was the idea that we're going to go direct to consumer now with our eCommerce marketplace. Then we have to capture their user info and start nurturing those relationships. I think both of you were talking around that idea, also. Where does eCommerce meet inbound marketing and that lead nurturing workflow to get people to number one, be aware of you, to all the way through the pipeline, to being regular repeat customers who are advocates for you and sharing about you on social media? Let's talk a little bit about that and some of the efforts there. Derric, any pointers on how to do that right and what some of the best practices are?
Derric Haynie [00:21:52] Yeah. I could speak to this for hours on end. But let's start maybe with the tools that we have at our disposal for this — let's call it full-funnel marketing — all the way from the influencer sparks the idea that I need this product. So, the end customer sees you on Instagram, and they go, "Oh, I would like this beer," or, "I would like this bag," or, "I would like this product." They come to the site. How are we going to convince them to purchase? So, that is cliché, called conversion rate optimization. A few basic principles of it that I think are always important. Reviews and having the review tool in place. Showing that you've got a lot of reviews makes people feel very comfortable. If you don't have a lot of reviews, then just showing people that are really happy with the product and highlighting one or two big reviews. You can also put the influencer into the review platform itself so that you're showing the same person that that influencer maybe came over from. Then once we get closer to the purchase, cross-sales and upsells are a really important part of that final stage of the funnel as well as our abandoned cart sequences across email, SMS, and possibly other channels. Then once they've purchased — we just hinted at it — loyalty, having a loyalty tool and loyalty program in place so that we can incentivize telling a friend, so that we can incentivize repeat purchases, so we can say, "You're going to buy our beer instead of their beer because we're better, and we have a community, and we have a relationship with you that is already established." I think those are some of the main components of it.
Gregg Profozich [00:23:22] So, Rob and Linh, what have your experiences been along those things that Derric was just mentioning, the whole full-funnel, and then the ongoing community aspect of it? What have you done in your efforts to try to build those?
Linh Judin [00:23:34] Well, we've been doing everything that Derric had mentioned. Again, I guess it's because we're familiar with it. One of the first things that we did when we got online, other than create the site itself, was built out our sequence. We understood how important it was for that customer journey for them to go through. In addition to that, running different campaigns simultaneously to get the brand exposure, or at least build brand exposure. Then after that, of course, making sure that we maintain the clients that we've already built in because, as you guys know, it's much more expensive to acquire a client than to maintain them. But a lot of businesses actually don't even think about the maintenance side of it. So, that's something that it's full circle that people should consider. I think that's why we were able to become successful in maintaining what we've had.
Rob Lightner [00:24:26] Yeah, I think given that we're... I wouldn't even call it a hybrid business. Honestly, most of our sales are brick and mortar. But in thinking about eCommerce and how this has become a complementary or maybe supplementary component of our business, we obviously want to continue that. Prior to the pandemic, we didn't think about it at all in many ways. That's the way the world is going. eCommerce continues to increase every year. It's something we want to continue to focus on. We have in our modest way the full complement of marketing, from influencer marketing to email newsletters to our existing fans to digital advertising on multiple platforms, paid advertising. So, we've got the earned and the paid. But we found that we're always in the brand-building business. Any company, any brand is. A lot of the communications we put out will say, "Find our beer at a retailer near you." You can click on it and find where we're sold, or have the beer shipped directly to you, or have it delivered, or come for curbside pickup. So, we always have those explicit call-to-actions. We find that when we include those in our communications, they actually work. You got to remind yourself it's a cluttered world, and people are pelted all day long with everything. But when you make it easy — click here, get your stuff — you're great. Another thing that we did, we put a program in place called Beer Thy Neighbor. It's the curbside thing, meaning you buy it online, you get the transactions all done online, but then you come to the brewery and pick it up. We would give you an option to buy one extra kit, whatever you were buying, a four-pack, or a case, or whatever. You could buy one extra can, but you wouldn't get it; the next person who came in would get it, and you wouldn't know who that is. But you just bought a beer for like three bucks. We made it super cheap. But then that made it so that someone rolled in to pick up their order, and we said, "Oh, the person who just came before you bought you a beer. Here you go for free." People love that. It didn't really cost us much, but it really built a lot of goodwill, especially in a time when people were feeling isolated, and anxious, and needing a little goodness and joy in the world. A can of beer can do that. So, there's little things like that. We did that in the physical world, but it really took place on the eCommerce platform. So, it was something that, again, we were just looking for ways to not only, again, bring some joy to people, but honestly, selfishly, distinguish ourselves and try to make ourselves a little more memorable.
Gregg Profozich [00:26:41] Excellent, excellent points. I think those are very creative ways and very simple things that can be done. But as you were talking, I was thinking about how important it is to have a well-thought-out user experience. Stand in the customer's shoes and figure out what they're going to experience when they come onto your site, and how they go through it, and make it as easy as possible. Make it easy for them to get to what they want, and interact, and move on with the other things in their very busy, cluttered lives. I think those are some key things I took away from this portion of the conversation. Let's talk a little bit more about your internal learnings. What did you learn about your business and/or your industry when you started selling online? Rob, why don't you take this one first?
Rob Lightner [00:27:16] If you look into the alcohol industry and do some reading and research, you'll find that the wine industry is way, way more sophisticated and further out than the beer industry. The wine lobby is much more unified and stronger, such that if you're a winery, you can ship to all 50 states with little issue, no regulatory problems. With beer right now I think there's about a dozen, which means the vast majority say, "I can't even ship beer because of regulations in those states." They're all very state-centric, and they're all different. We learned that it's very complicated. The US Post Office won't ship beer. So, we got a Squarespace website, and it would auto-populate with USPS with a freight number and tax. We had to create all these workarounds on the platform itself. Realized that the platforms aren't always set up for the particular product that you're trying to sell.
Gregg Profozich [00:28:10] That's probably going to be a common experience for everyone. The platforms are set up to be generic marketplaces?
Rob Lightner [00:28:16] Yes.
Gregg Profozich [00:28:17] Which means that they're marginally good, at least for everybody, but not perfectly good for anybody.
Rob Lightner [00:28:22] Exactly.
Gregg Profozich [00:28:22] There's always going to be a little bit of customization or a little bit of workaround we can expect because of the nature of the platforms. They're meant to be very broadly applicable. So, they have to have things that are common in places. Functionalities and things that are very specific to an industry, not going to probably be there.
Rob Lightner [00:28:37] Yeah. One other big challenge for us is delivery. This gets to the ABC, the California ABC, and any other state you go to. Since it's alcohol, it has to be accepted and signed for by someone 21 and older. We are held responsible for this because we're the licensed entity that's selling the product. But in some cases, we're relying on some delivery person who isn't thinking and doesn't read the instructions that we explicitly print on the box, and just leaves it on the porch, and drives away. That puts us at risk. So, we've had to spend a lot of time in education and communications on the box and communications with our freight carriers to make sure that we're not putting ourselves in a risky situation.
Gregg Profozich [00:29:26] So, Linh, I'll ask the question to you. What did you learn about your business or industry when you started selling online?
Linh Judin [00:29:31] Operational-wise, I would say that the biggest challenge or the biggest learning that I've had so far is with the different technologies. I would say that we're pretty savvy when it comes to understanding different technologies, understanding how things integrate, but very similar to what you were saying earlier, not one size fits all, and there's a lot of customization that happens even on the eCommerce end. Just your site alone, you can't just depend on a theme. Then whenever you have to worry about the fulfillment and inventory management, good grief. We're having to manage not only on the manufacturing side when things are coming through but on the design side, on our side. There's a lot of moving parts and a lot of pieces which I completely underestimated going into it.
Gregg Profozich [00:30:20] Definitely learnings in all cases, and most of those learnings mean opportunity, depending on how we wanted to look at them and respond to them. Let's talk a little bit more about your online stores, in particular.
Rob Lightner [00:30:32] Yeah. You were talking about the customer experience. For a little while, we had a situation where you've filled out the form with your address, and then it took you somewhere, and you had to do it again, which is just awful. In this online world we live in, we're constantly having to put our information in. So, you want to minimize that to the extent possible. So, we have to figure out a way to change that, because you're going to lose them. But we really thought a lot about that experience. Minimizing that friction is paramount to maximizing the experience and people's feeling good about you. When you don't have a good experience, like, "I'm not going back there." That's the last thing you want them to think.
Gregg Profozich [00:31:09] Exactly. Exactly. Linh, your experience?
Linh Judin [00:31:12] Yeah, I would say the only other thing that we ran into a hurdle with the setup was the tax, similar to what you were saying, Rob. You have limitations with your business, I would say, a lot of limitations and restrictions. But with us, tax, just because we have to think about our global reach, that was a bit of a challenge.
Derric Haynie [00:31:31] There are tools that help with duties and taxes internationally, a couple of them. Let's see. One that comes to mind is, I think, Avalara, and then Zonos is another one. I think when you start international expansion, it's very complicated. I'm by no means a master at it, but that's exactly one key moment where you open up this door of all the tools you need to go internationally. Of course, you've got to figure out manufacturing. Can I get a warehouse in Europe? Can I get a warehouse in Asia to house this and distribute from there instead of shipping all the way from the United States? Or the worst idea would be I'm securing my supply chain from Asia, shipping to the United States, and then sending the product back to Asia for the end customer. That is a lot of wasted travel time for your product. Then you mentioned inventory management. I think as we expand internationally, expand our warehouses, how do we understand the management at various warehouses, and how do we keep that inventory balanced? Oh, my gosh, it's a big problem. So, predicting supply chain becomes much more valuable. Then, of course, there are a few tools in the inventory management space that have become pretty good at doing that, but usually, they're only good at predicting the sales of products that you've already had. Linh, it sounds like you have a lot of new products that you come out with on a regular basis. So, you have a very big problem of how much product do we procure, and where do we put it, in what warehouses? Then if you're wrong by even just a little bit, your margins go down, and then you're not profitable. So, I don't envy that problem. It is quite something. Luckily, the technology has come a long way using AI and predictive measurement. You can get some form of idea. But at the end of the day, I think it's still just a lot of guesswork. Guesswork isn't good, because the risk is margin. The risk is actually having money left over at the end of the day. Yeah, that's a tough problem.
Gregg Profozich [00:33:36] So, Derric, you mentioned some of the tools. I think that's a great line of thought we should explore a little bit. Tools for supply chains, tools for tax, etc. for those. How about if we just go to the basic eCommerce tool themselves? If I don't have an eCommerce platform right now, what are some of the tools I might use to host and open my first online store? What are some of the good ones out there and some of the features that I should look for?
Derric Haynie [00:33:57] I'm definitely biased toward Shopify as a platform. I just want to say it. I've studied the top 200, 300 Shopify apps, and Shopify is my bread and butter. So, with that said, I'll just say yeah... Depending on the type of merchant and the size of store launching on Shopify, and even Shopify Plus for merchants has a lot of upward scalability and a lot of apps and connectivity, which is one of the reasons why I do like it and prefer it. But there are some other... You've got WooCommerce and BigCommerce that are definitely viable and similar competitors to Shopify in the space. Then you've got Magento on the top end of the market, typically, which would be for larger retailers, definitely more for international brands. In a way, you could say they're above market on the simpler Shopify platform. But with that customization that Magento offers, it comes with a significant amount of complexity, which means, for instance, just really simply, Shopify manages your servers. You don't get any access to the Shopify server. So, if you need your own servers for some reason, then you have to go with a different platform. But once you go with Magento, you need a DevOps person to run your store. That's at least $80,000 a year just for the person. You also tend to spend more in development when you're on that side. So, ease and flexibility, the three on the bottom, and I guess WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Shopify. Even below that, you have Wix and Squarespace for smaller merchants, or Rob, in your case, when you're blended online and offline. It can be a little bit simpler to use and then also a little bit... You don't have to plug as many tools into it or if you do, the tools can be third-party. But again, what you get from all three — Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce — is that the tools have been built specifically to integrate with the eCommerce platform. I think that's one of the things that you need to be looking for when choosing a platform is either what are my existing tools and how's it going to integrate with this platform, or what tools do I need to be successful? Plan and map that out. Most people going into eCommerce aren't really mapping that out properly. They're just starting the Shopify store and then figuring out what tools they need, which is a little haphazard. But mapping out what tools you think you want based on the growth rate of the company, the investment you can make into this channel, etc. Then you go, "Okay, what platform is going to be best with that toolset that I'm looking for?"
Gregg Profozich [00:36:31] Derric, some great points there. Thank you so much for sharing a wide variety of different platforms. So, I think it's important to our users that anybody setting up a site really takes some time to do some research and looks for the best tool to meet their needs. So, Rob and Linh, let's move into the staffing. We've talked about the online platforms. What did you have to do internally? Did it require more people? Did you have to repurpose people you had? What did you need to do to get up and running on an eCommerce platform?
Linh Judin [00:36:55] Yeah, sure. So, I actually have a staff of people already working for my brand agency. So, I shifted a lot of their attention over to getting our site up and running and making sure that all the marketing materials were in place. I would say, though, that the first person that we had to hire for our business was a photographer because imagery is so important. I don't know. I would imagine it's important for all of eCommerce, but especially in our field, where we needed to have both product photos and lifestyle photos, that was one of the main hires that we had. Then at this point, as we are scaling, I'm looking to hire more people to do the fulfillment. I think that's a good problem to have.
Gregg Profozich [00:37:35] Needing more people because of growth is usually not a bad problem to have. That's what we're all looking for. Rob, what was your experience?
Rob Lightner [00:37:42] It's funny you say photography. Our marketing manager is an amazing photographer, and we have a photographer that comes in occasionally. So, I'm totally in sync with you. They're like, "I'm shocked at just the poor quality you see out there." I think that's an easy...not necessarily easy, but it's an important way to differentiate yourself. We were, I guess, weirdly fortunate that... Our taproom was closed. So, we had a taproom team that we wanted to keep employed, that we did through a combination of PPP loans, but they didn't have anything to do. So, we're like, "Oh, good. Well, we can run this eCommerce program," which they spent a lot of time on. Now, honestly, we're in a little bit of a quandary. Okay. Now things are opening up again, and their jobs are back. They're actually a lot busier than they used to be. We're scrambling to figure out how we continue to do this. So, I guess we're faced... I've come to the same conclusion. We need more people, or we need more hands in some way. So, we're trying to figure that out right now.
Gregg Profozich [00:38:41] Okay. So, let's talk a little bit about your expertise and knowledge in eCommerce. Are there any aspects that you wish you knew more about when you started? What are the things you're trying to improve on or learn as you're continuing on your journey?
Rob Lightner [00:38:53] It's that thing where you don't know what you don't know. I know there's tons of stuff that we could be doing, but I don't even know where to start sometimes. I feel like we have the basic building blocks down. We have a working model. Derric, you mentioned some things about customer acquisition, and making those connections, and SEO. That kind of stuff has always been like a black box. A lot of people say, "Oh, yeah. You got to do this, you got to do that." We do some of it. We feel like yeah, maybe it's working, but it also seems like it's constantly evolving. So, just the mad scramble that is the Internet, and the gazillion brands out there, and other entities trying to get your attention, how do you break through that clutter? So, that's something that's always on my mind for us. I think that's what it is. It's making those connections online.
Derric Haynie [00:39:40] Rob, you make beer for a living. It's everybody's dream.
Rob Lightner [00:39:45] We're experts in that. I'll tell you that.
Derric Haynie [00:39:48] Yeah. If I could for a second on your front here, I think that the secret to clearing out that clutter starts from understanding the metrics that really matter in the business. When you have clarity on what metrics you're looking to improve, you have clarity on what to focus on. Of course, we want to sell more beer. That's a given. We want growth and all that stuff. Then we have to look at these secondary levers that do accomplish that. So, you can get one customer to buy again; you can get a new customer in the door; you can also get a customer to buy more every time. These are the three main levers. Then look at each sublever within there. Do you want them to buy in person, online? Of course, we've already talked about nurturing the relationship and all of that stuff. So, just making sure that... I'll give you an example. You spoke earlier about buying a beer for the person behind you in line. I think it's brilliant. The question is: did it work? What are the trackable metrics that you can calculate? Is the person that bought the beer for the person behind them more likely to repeat purchase? Is the person that got the free beer more likely to repeat purchase? How do you track that? How do you measure it? How do you improve it? If it's very successful, then you might want to scale it out. Maybe it's $2 for the free beer behind you because you realize it works really well, and so forth and so on. So, I think just figuring out how to really track these things. If things aren't trackable or they're not tangible, you got to put the system in place. They don't have to be 100 percent trackable, because I know we're dealing with an online/offline model. It doesn't have to be everything is perfectly tracked, but if you can track some of it, it'll give you some idea of what you should be doing.
Rob Lightner [00:41:30] Yeah, yeah. Those are great points. Oftentimes, as we all know, you have an idea in marketing, especially. You do something and you're like, "It's a great idea. Did it work? I don't know, but I really liked it."
Gregg Profozich [00:41:41] So, I'd like to tie in a little bit of that, because you're echoing around the theme I think we should address a little bit. There's a lot of metrics we can track. We want to track those metrics to see how effective we are and see what's working and do more of the things that are working, do less of the things that don't seem to be, etc. But ultimately, it comes down to am I getting a return on investment for my eCommerce platform? So, how do you measure that?
Linh Judin [00:42:01] At the end of the day, it's really your P&L, your profit and loss. You take a look at the cost — at least for us, it's the cost of goods sold — and all the costs and materials needed for the product itself. In regards to measuring everything else that touches it, we look at attribution, we look at customer lifetime value — how long they've been a customer — we look at upsell, cross-sell. We look at metrics pretty much every day to make sure that we're sustaining. We set goals by the quarter to make sure that we're overachieving them. Then, of course, in between if we don't, then what do we need to tweak, or what do we need to change, or what do we need to stop doing, essentially? That's pretty much how we determine our ROI. It's really black-and-white for us because we know how much we're putting in and how much we're getting back.
Rob Lightner [00:42:47] We know it's a good thing to do. In other words, our model is based on selling to a distributor, who sells to a retailer, who sells to the end-user. There's a lot of steps of margin. So, we can sell directly to the end-user, which our eCommerce initiative is. We know we're making money. It's just how much? I think what we need to do — I'm glad you asked the question because it's been on my mind, but now maybe it'll be stepped up a little in priority — is to look over time and say, "When we started, we were doing this, and now we're doing this," and chunk it out, and be able to say, "As we shifted in shipping costs, and we moved to a different carrier, and we tried some different things, and spent different amounts of money on customer acquisition, how did those things change over time?" and establishing some benchmarks or goals. Again, bottom line is I know it's a good thing. When you can sell directly from the fermenter to the glass or the can, there's a decent amount of margin in there.
Gregg Profozich [00:43:49] So, Derric, I'd like to talk about that a little bit, measurements of ROI. As you work with clients, how do you help them understand the ROI of their eCommerce investment?
Derric Haynie [00:43:57] I like how Linh says it starts with the P&L, because that is the first thing that everyone has to have is good financials in order to know how much we have to invest maybe into testing new channels and strategies for the next quarter. Once you've got a goal and your P&L is in order, then we have to go deeper into these secondary and tertiary metrics both for channels, for the website itself. So, just conversion rate, number of visitors, where are they coming from? What channels are they coming from? How is each channel converting? What's my profitability by channel — so, my cost by channel — and then revenue by channel in order to understand Instagram influencers might drive tons of traffic, no sales. We have problems like that. Then I think what a lot of people actually forget is the ROI of the individual tools they might be using. So, a review tool designed to increase social proof on the site, increase conversion rate, how do we justify the cost of this tool and the revenue it's generating? Rob said he knows that it's a good thing to be moving into eCommerce. A lot of people would say it's probably a good thing to have a review tool and get reviews from customers. How do we quantify the metrics? So, there's a few different things you need to track — the people who have given you a review and look at their lifetime value as compared to other cohorts' analyses. You want to understand your review rate, which is the number of people that are reviewing you. If we think that reviews are going to increase loyalty and retention, and lifetime value, then we want to figure out how to increase the number of people to get reviews. Then we also want to look at the conversion rate on the site and how that changes when reviews are presented on the site. Those things are hard things to track. It's really granular. It's not the same thing as selling beer to a distributor. It's actually quite tedious, boring, and it gets convoluted very easily, just because you've got that thing going on, you've got something else going on, and then you forget about it, or you got some of the data but you didn't get of all the data for that. At the end of the day... We talked a little bit about focus. You don't have to be so granular as I just described, but if you want to improve something, you'd have to look into it. So, instead of a black box, I'll call it the Schrodinger's Box. In order to know the state of your loyalty program, the state of your onsite conversion rate, and all of these things, we have to go into the box, look at the metrics, and then say which one of these metrics is the easiest to improve, most leverageable, and then set some goals somewhere down in there where those goals will, of course, trickle down to revenue goals, which improves the P&L.
Gregg Profozich [00:46:30] So, a lot of different things to consider but definitely ways to get measurements that give you the information you need to make good decisions.
Derric Haynie [00:46:36] Absolutely.
Gregg Profozich [00:46:37] So, wrap up with just a couple of last closing questions. Then we'll do a quick summary here. Knowing what you know today, what advice would you give a company just starting their eCommerce journey? Rob, why don't you go first on that one?
Rob Lightner [00:46:48] To me — I think I made this point before, but I think it bears repeating — it's the customer experience on the website. So many times you're on a website, whether you're buying something or even — we've had this experience — to just try to sign in, you have an account already and try to sign in. They're like, "Forgot password. Forget it. I'm not going to deal with that anymore." So, that experience, to me is... That's the key point. That's like going through the front door. If that door to your store doesn't open, or you bang on it and it's not opening smoothly, forget it. I'm going somewhere else.
Gregg Profozich [00:47:24] I think that's a great point, too, Rob, because so many platforms out there, so many companies have got that down. We've come to expect it now. So, if anybody who doesn't meet that level of ease... I can find what I want; I can get it quickly; I can do what I need to do and move on with my busy life. That's just so important, I think. It's right on target.
Linh Judin [00:47:42] Yeah. I was just going to pretty much add on to that and also highlight something that Derric had said earlier, too. With us, I think it's because we like to play around with technology a lot and test. Don't do that. When you start out a business, don't test different technologies, because it's going to be a much bigger hurdle for you. For us, we decided to test out different back-end systems. We decided to test out different accounting systems. Do you know how many times we had to upload and download CSV files just to get it all right? I wouldn't even say it's perfect now. We're still trying to find that best technology. I do realize that it may not exist at this point, but we're willing to try and still find it. But nonetheless, if you're starting out, don't test. Just do your research, and don't do the trial versions. Just stick to something.
Gregg Profozich [00:48:39] It's almost, Linh, like you're saying don't try to make it perfect; make it functional, because it's going to have to evolve anyway.
Linh Judin [00:48:45] 100 percent. 100 percent.
Gregg Profozich [00:48:47] Derric, any thoughts on that approach?
Derric Haynie [00:48:50] Yeah, absolutely. I think the other reason, Linh... I think it's a phenomenal point. Just find the tools, get settled. Don't try and change it every other day, or you're going to have problems. Spend that energy that you were just talking about on getting the next customer, because that's why the business will succeed, not if the tool is the right tool, at the end of the day. So, I am totally with you there. My thought, too, is depending on how you're breaking into eCommerce or getting started if you're coming from a manufacturer standpoint or established business and eCommerce is going to be a wing, I think you have a huge leg up over other entrants. But every, let's say, new eCommerce entrepreneur or CEO out there, your success is based on three very specific factors. First one is skill. Do you have any? So, Linh, you mentioned you're a branding expert, which I love and makes you immediately really powerful on the marketing side of the business. I'm sure there's been a few things on the manufacturing and financial you're like, "Oh, my gosh, what a headache." But having run an agency myself, I know that you still had to look at P&Ls there and figure out how to afford things. So, that clearly gives you the expertise. So, you have a good amount of skill. So, skill is important. The second one is resources. Do you have the cash flow, the capital to actually sustain the business through what I would call its initial launch and start-up costs? Rob, this is actually a little bit scarier on your side, because even though you've got the established business, launching eCommerce could drain $10,000, $20,000, $30,000, $50,000 pretty easily before you really start to pick up customers through that channel. Then you look at your balance sheet and your profit and loss at the end of the year and you go, "eCommerce is sucking us dry." So, there's challenges there, and sometimes it's tough to get over that hurdle where you're actually profitable. That's why most people fail is because they never actually overcome that hurdle. Then the third and most important factor of all of them, which is market dynamics, which are sometimes within our control and sometimes not within our control. Understanding that in the pandemic, people want to drink more but simultaneously they're not going to our location, and understanding how that plays into sales forecasting as well as demand for alternative products and things like that. I think combining those three things together, you have to have them all in order to really be successful.
Gregg Profozich [00:51:06] Great ideas. Skill, resources, and market dynamics, three keys to keep in mind. So, Derric, I'll let you wrap this up with the last question. What advice would you give to people about how they can leverage their online presence to sell better?
Derric Haynie [00:51:20] It's been a theme as we've been talking about throughout. It is about user experience and the relationship with the customer. So, Rob's cool program about buying a beer for the person behind you, I think it's just altruistic; it's good. It's something that you can do to make your customers just feel loved. Figuring out what that is for your business, and doing it, and doing it well in order to have a great relationship and to make it maybe a little bit more tangible as a result. It's customer experience. Customer service, everyone says they have good customer service. At the end of the day, stellar customer service is mandatory for you. If it's a live chat, responding within 90 seconds; if it's an email, responding within the same day; making that return purchase easy so that they don't just churn because they're frustrated, or replacement. All of the post-purchase ways that we're going to keep our customer happy even when they're having a bad time with our product.
Gregg Profozich [00:52:18] Excellent points. Stellar customer service, I think, is something you can't possibly minimize. So, to wrap up in a summary here, I think that during our discussion, I've learned, at least, that eCommerce is a very competitive space. There are a lot of people in it, especially because of the pandemic. Folks have had to find alternate ways of getting to market and trying to keep cash flow and revenue going to keep their businesses afloat. So, there's a lot more competition out there. There are lots of tools and platforms that are available. From eCommerce websites to some of the analytical tools, lots of different things out there, and it can be a very complex landscape. Research is paramount to being able to be successful for going into this. It's important, also, to connect your eCommerce efforts with your inbound marketing efforts. So, once you get a customer and get somebody on-site, how do I nurture that lead? How do I nurture that relationship to make sure that they feel like they're part of the community and that we keep an ongoing relationship, as Derric mentioned, to be able to sell more or to sell more frequently to that person? Then we talked a little bit about the importance of making it easy. The user experience, the customer experience, and their journey through your website. How easy is it? Walk in their shoes and figure out what it is that's going to make it the most enjoyable, easy, and efficient use of their time to get what they want and get what they need from your site. Then I think we also talked a little bit about the importance of the look and feel of your site. Make your site attractive and professional. We talked a little bit about the importance of photography, and product images, and things. It's almost like you were saying that the quality of the site equals the quality of the product. There's a natural relationship there of how we perceive things as consumers. Continuously improve. Incremental improvements on something functional, as opposed to waiting for perfection to launch or waiting for perfection to try to get it done. I think that we really wrapped up with two key ideas. Number one, the three success factors — the company's internal skill, resources, and understanding of market dynamics. Of paramount importance and foundational to all of this being successful is the customer service. When there are issues, when there are complaints, when there are questions, being very responsive, and getting the customer satisfied quickly, because ultimately, the customer's always right. If they don't feel like you're treating them that way, they won't be back. So, Rob, Linh, and Derric thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing your perspectives and insights with me and with our listeners.
Linh Judin [00:54:31] Thanks for having us.
Derric Haynie [00:54:32] Yeah, thank you.
Rob Lightner [00:54:33] Thanks for having us.
Gregg Profozich [00:54:34] Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a pleasure to have you here. To our listeners, thank you for joining us for this conversation with Rob Lightner of East Brother Brewing, Linh Judin of Itsy Bitty, and Derric Haynie of eCommerce Tech on Is eCommerce Easy Money? Thank you so much. Have a great day. Stay safe and healthy. Thank you for listening to Shifting Gears — a podcast from CMTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and post it on your social media platforms. You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your preferred podcast directory. For more information on our topic, please visit www.cmtc.com/shiftinggears. CMTC is a private nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, workforce development, and consulting services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state of California. CMTC's mission is to serve as a trusted advisor, providing solutions that increase the productivity and competitiveness of California's manufacturers. CMTC operates under a cooperative agreement for the state of California with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce. For more information about CMTC please visit www.cmtc.com. For more information about the MEP National Network, or to find your local MEP center visit www.nist.gov/mep.