Gary Nealon took Kitchen Cabinets & Built 8 Figure Business Around It
Gary Nealon knows a little about building businesses. Gary successfully scaled his first company RTA Cabinet Stores to over $25M in 2016, with projected sales of over $40M for 2017. He also landed himself on the prestigious Inc. 5000 list for the last five years.
What’s noteworthy is that he took one of the bulkiest, awkward to ship products (cabinets) in an incredibly saturated market and scaled it in a way no one else had. They’ve also been featured on HGTV, the DIY Network, and A&E.
Along the way, Gary spun off a marketing company to develop the software needed to solve the issues they were facing in marketing RTA Cabinet Store. The end result: two SaaS platforms, several mobile apps, and three more SaaS platforms coming out this year.
Wanna know how Gary did that? His secret sauce is understanding his business and his customer thoroughly. In the interview below, he shares with us his thought process on how he narrows down and focusses on specific profiles of people.
Q: To start, could you share with us on how you got started on this journey, and what were your motivations to do so? What was your focus when you first started cut on the eCommerce industry?
Gary Nealon: So for me, I’d actually got into kitchen cabinets it wasn’t a passion or anything of mine. My foreign business partner, his uncle was importing kitchen cabinets and we’ve approached them about building a website and just helping them with my marketing skills. And he wasn’t interested so he didn’t think that they would actually sell online.
So what we did that went out and built a website and started from scratch, didn’t know anything about the industry. I didn’t know anything about cabinets but I knew enough about marketing to be dangerous so launched the website and actually our first source of traffic was from Craigslist. We are posting ads in cities all over the country and getting email responses, and then I put a heavy push into SEO. We did a lot of article content writing, building back links to the site, and that was really what kind of got started in the space and got to #1 in five ranking on for just spell all the keywords that we’re targeting.
Q: You’re now a consultant for eCommerce businesses looking to be dominant in their niche. What piece of advice would you give to a business that’s looking to establishing for their niche market?
Gary Nealon: For me, my biggest thing is really understanding the avatar of your customer. I know a lot of business owners say they have a general idea of who their audience is. They have like an age range, or they’ll have like an income level but they don’t understand what they’re hobbies are, what sites they’re visiting, what sites they’re following, what news they’re reading, where they’re getting their information.
All that becomes really important because when we first started the cabinet business just like everybody we were targeting just general broad terms. But when we took a deep dive into the avatar of our customer and who is it. We actually found out that we had 5 different customers. So each one of them had a very different reason for buying from us and they had different words or buzz words that they used when thinking about buying.
So when we’ve reform related to all our marketing to really target those pain points and those interests, everything changed. So our cost per acquisition went down, our advertising cost went down, our click rates went up, our conversion rates went up. Everything was just so focused on those specifically their language and their pain points.
Q: You took something so difficult to sell online and transformed it into an 8 figure business. What was the one thing that really boosted your business to that level? In other words, what was the game changer, and how did you discover it?
Gary Nealon: Yes, it goes back to that one as well, understanding the avatar and really segmenting our marketing strategies to specifically talk to them instead of having a broad reach approach. Another one would be our strategic partnerships so we looked upside going downside going to sales process and establish really strong partnerships with no competing brands that we could do at least sharing with pixel swapping and just generally help each other grill. So I’d say those were two of our really big ones.
Lately, I would say our other one is building out social media assets and leveraging social media heavily to sell kitchen cabinets. So I think those are the three that you want me to answer. If you have any questions let me know but I will send this over to you now.
Q: As a consultant, what pitfalls do most brick and mortar stores fall into when starting out in e-commerce?
Gary Nealon: I would say if they are true brick and mortar and they going to eCommerce, they become either in jeopardy or struggling the most. That’s because they rely on one source of traffic. It may be amazon or google search or paid traffic, they don’t diversify enough. The worse thing you could do is have all your traffic coming from one traffic source and suddenly the terms and conditions changes or they decided they don’t want you on their site anymore.
And suddenly you lose all the traffic, so what we try to preach is traffic diversification and making sure that none of your traffic sources are more than half of your business. For us, I don’t think we have a single traffic source more than 10% of our business. So, you know if facebook shut us down tomorrow we wouldn’t be out of business, we just take a hit on sales but certainly wouldn’t completely destroy the business.
Just diversify your traffic sources, whether it’s through different marketplaces or different forms of advertising or content creation.
Don’t become sole dependent on one source of traffic for your business.
Q: Marketing on the internet is a major concern and one which can be quite a mystery to many traditional business owners. What are the steps they will need to take to a: get up to speed, and b: to hire outside help (including consultants)?
Gary Nealon: One of the things I always see, people try to do everything inhouse, realistically you can’t. Even for us as we were growing, I think that was the thing that held us back because we didn’t outsource most of it.
Because you have to advertise for google, paid advertising at facebook, you have a content creator, you have SEO geeks. All these people that could have a major impact on your business.
So for getting started, if somebody is coming from a brick and mortar or traditional business, they don’t have an internet presence I would stick to use something that is really easy to use, maybe Shopify where you can get started right away. And then start looking for outside help, so that you can fill in the gaps for the other stuff.
The other mistake I see, they try to do all at once. They try to do facebook advertising, google advertising, Pinterest advertising, all at once. They don’t have the true sense of how to do it, literally throwing money out of the window. One thing we did that was smart, we owned it on one platform, learned it really well and move to next one.
Q: What is the one takeaway from this interview to our audience?
Gary Nealon: I would say if you are getting started out, or you have been in business for a while, understand who your customer is.
It changes everything you do from how much you spending on marketing, where you spending on marketing.
I think that was our biggest mistake during early days. For example kitchen cabinets we were targeting keywords like “Buy kitchen kitchen cabinets” all those buying terms you would use for cabinets. Instead of talking to the people on the topics they want to hear and talk about. There is so much information out there right now, and even google search started moving from keyword search to intent search.
So focusing on why they are buying, where they buying, what their motivation is behind it and understanding their pain point will change everything, from the marketing standpoint.