“Fake it ‘til you make it.” That’s what they sometimes say about succeeding in business. But there’s an argument to be made for embracing the small in your small business.
It comes across as genuine, your customers connect more with you, and your passion for your product becomes your brand.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from an entrepreneur—who redesigned the entire biblical library for a modern reading experience—about how he found success as a small operation.
Adam Greene is the creator of Bibliotheca: the biblical library separated into volumes and designed purely for the enjoyment of reading.
Felix: Today I’m joined by Adam Green from Bibliotheca. Bibliotheca is the entire biblical library separated into volumes designed purely for reading, and was started in 2014, and based in North Carolina. Welcome, Adam.
Adam: Hi, Felix. Thanks for having me.
Felix: Yeah. Excited to have you on. So couple details about the product that I already mentioned, but can you tell us a little bit more about it? Where did the idea behind the original product come from?
Adam: In a nutshell, I think the idea comes out of a very personal experience that I’ve had with the Bible, which is that I grew up in a pretty rigid, sort of fundamentalist environment, and the Bible was very central to everything about life in that environment. Yet it wasn’t really appreciated or enjoyed as literature. And so it wasn’t until much later that I started digging into kind of the roots of the faith of my youth, and trying to understand things a little bit better that I came across some really great work by biblical scholars, one in particular, Robert Alter, who do a really nice job of unpacking the value of the Bible as human literature.
And it was really surprising and engaging for me to interact with it in that way. And I thought it would be nice to have a format, a physical expression of this literature that sort of emphasized that aspect of the content, so that’s what I set out to do with Bibliotheca.
Felix: Got it. Now, who’s the typical buyer that you have in mind, because you’re alluding to is that the Bible has always looked the way it looked for a long time. You came along, introduced the new way to consume, new design of how it should look. Who did you imagine you had would purchase, would own, one of your products?
Adam: Well, I’ll have to answer that in two parts. First of all, it’s not a new way, actually, to experience this literature. The literature, especially the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible comes out of oral tradition. So people kind of carried these stories around for hundreds and thousands of years until someone finally wrote them down in the form that we have them today. But when they wrote them down, they weren’t all collected at once and presented, “Oh, here’s the Old Testament, and here’s 40-something books ready for your reading pleasure in one volume.”
They were written into individual scrolls so you’d have the First Book of Samuel as one scroll, the Second Book of Samuel as one scroll, the Book of Genesis as one scroll, or maybe later on you’d get the first five books of Moses as one scroll. But the idea is essentially that these books were passed around as individual titles appreciated as individual works of literature. And so my project was really not so much to come up with a new way, but to sort of revert to an older way, the original way or [inaudible 00:04:19] original way of encountering these texts.
Even the New Testament texts were passed around as individual texts for hundreds of years before they were combined, and this was long before … I mean, when they were written, they weren’t known as the New Testament. In fact, they weren’t even considered to be part of the holy Bible. That was a later development as well. And I thought that was interesting, and a lot of people, especially with my background don’t know anything really about the formulation of the Bible. I didn’t; I know that, and I know a lot of people in my circle didn’t really know much about the evolution of the Bible, and how these texts had sort of slowly become accumulated, and decided upon.
And in fact, even the earliest editions of biblical literature that we see combined into a single volume don’t agree with the editions we have today. In other words, there are works included in those big compilations that we don’t include anymore today. And there are works that we do include that weren’t included in some of the earliest compilations of biblical literature. So in other words, what we call the Bible … I mean, the word Bible sort of applies to one book, but really it’s many books by many different authors over a large span of time. And, yeah, that’s a long rabbit trail. Sorry to explain that one aspect of the question.
Felix: No worries. Yeah.
Adam: But it’s an important part of the whole project, I think. A lot of people have assumed, “Oh, the Bible’s never been done like this before.” But in fact, a few other people have sort of caught on to the same scent that I did, the sort of sensing the roots and the development of biblical literature, and have done similar projects over the centuries. There probably have been six or seven other similar projects in the last 150 years. And so this was just my kind of reiteration of that, saying, “Hey, let’s reconsider this. Let’s talk about the Bible as literature again. And try to enjoy it.”
Anyway, and the second part of that answer is who did I think it would appeal to. And my honest answer is I honestly wasn’t sure who it would appeal to at all. I figured maybe I would get some bibliophiles, some book collectors, and maybe some, I don’t know, seminary students or biblical studies nerds, or something. But what we found in reality … we funded this through a Kickstarter, initially, and what we found was that our customer base was incredibly varied. We have people from all different sorts of backgrounds, and that was really pleasing to see. I’m very happy to see that it appealed to lots of different sorts of people, and lots of different age groups with lots of different faiths, or no faith.
And certainly, the majority of our customers, I would say, are Christians, but I’ve also enjoyed seeing … we’ve got a lot of Jewish customers, and a lot of atheist customers, and Catholic, and Orthodox, and it’s a very wide variety of customers that we have. And I think that’s because … and this sort of takes us one step further into marketing strategy, although when I conceived of it I wasn’t thinking of that term in my head, marketing strategy.
When I launched the Kickstarter campaign, I was determined not to align myself with any particular religion or denomination. I simply wanted to present these texts as the foundational, and immeasurably influential texts that they are, and they’re also very beautiful. That’s something that Robert Alter who I mentioned earlier demonstrates very well. These texts were meticulously crafted, many of them, and they’re worth reading in their own right whether you subscribe to any of the religions that sprang out of them or not.
Felix: Got it. Now, because there are different types of potential consumers, buyers, customers of the product. You went through a whole list of potential buyers that are completely different. I’m sure they have reasons for purchasing as well. How do you think about marketing to them, if they have different reasons for buying your products?
Adam: Well, for me, I think marketing has always been really hard for me. I’m not a salesy guy. I hate marketing jargon. I can’t bring myself to jump on that bandwagon where … I don’t know. I find that … first I’ll be a little cynical and then I’ll try to be more positive. I find that what I see is there’re a lot of us out there who are trying to get our own projects off the ground, or trying to be creative. And so what we do, what I’ve seen as a trend, is we create these websites, and we create this marketing, copy all this jargon that you see the same kind of jargon on a corporate website, a big corporation. We’re trying to give out the impression that we’re established, and we have a big team.
And when we’re not established we don’t have a big team, and really we’re creative people trying to get projects off the ground, and trying to basically skip the middle man. I think that’s what a lot of Shopify store owners are doing, and Kickstarters as well. That’s how I funded my project. We’re trying to skip the middle man. We don’t want to have to answer to venture capitalists or any kind of investors. And so I think that type of transparency is really important. I think as opposed to trying to come off like we’re the same as those really well established corporations with 150 employees. I think just being a guy who wants to do something, that resonates with a certain kind of customer, because they can relate to that, and they understand it, and it’s the truth. And I think people can sense the truth.
And so I don’t think that marketing … I don’t have any formal marketing strategies implemented into my business model. All I have tried to do so far is be really intentional about what it is. And so when you ask about how I market without having a really specific demographic I’m aiming for, I think what you do, or what I do, anyway, I just turn that back on myself, and I say, “Let me just tell people what I care about, and show them what I’m doing, and the people who are going to respond to it are going to respond to it.”
I think, at least for me, I’m a millennial, I know that most advertising is targeted at me. I can sense that, and I think that comes through, and sometime I go for it anyway. But sometimes it turns me off, and I think, “I know you just want me to buy your thing. I know you don’t really care about your thing. I know you don’t really care about the people who made your thing, or where it came from, or where the materials were sourced, and you’re just trying to sort of bedazzle me with how nice it would look in my living room, or whatever.
And, yeah, another rabbit trail, but I think what I want my customers … I want whoever sees what I’m doing, and understands it, and appreciates it. That’s whose attention I want to get. And I don’t have any special way of narrowing that down. But I will say, like I said earlier, I did try to keep religion out of the marketing. And I think that’s one thing that’s very different about my product than others that deal with the same literature. Obviously, most people who are publishing the Bible are Bible publishers, and most Bible publishers are run by religious organizations, and they kind of pitch to their demographic within their kind of religious circles.
Felix: Why was that important to you to take that approach or not take that approach? Or why was it important to you, intuitively, to keep religion out of the marketing, or the way you present it, what you were creating?
Adam: Well, I think first of all because you have to really ask yourself who did these texts belong to. So many people claim to sort of possess them as their own. Did it belong to mainline Protestants, does it belong to Catholics, does it belong to Eastern Orthodox Christians, does it belong to Judaism, and … or I mean, what faiths really does it belong to. I mean, the answer is no one and everyone at the same time. And in my opinion is it belongs to everyone, of course. I think it was written by humans, and it is for humans. Human literature like Homer is human literature. And we should have access to it, and I think when you put religious language over top of it, and kind of market it through … my upbringing, we called it “Christianese” when you start talking in the language of your immediate religious circle, you immediately alienate everyone outside of it.
So for example, if you’re a Bible publisher … In fact, I know Bible publishers do this, and part of the reason I didn’t do it is, because I was kind of trying to avoid this, but Bible publishers will sort of market their texts in a certain way. They’ll sort of refer to it as the word of God, and there’ll sort of be really clear undertones of what that means specifically to them, and what it should mean specifically to their customers. And I think that’s interesting, because I don’t think the Bible is only valuable to people who hold that belief that the Bible is this supernatural text. And so talking about it that way is kind of, probably … It’s an unintentional thing, and I think Bible publishers are doing, but they’re definitely saying, “Well, if you don’t agree with our pitch here then it’s really not for you.” Or they’re just trying to get the people who already agree with them to buy their product.
And I didn’t want to dictate for anyone what they should or shouldn’t believe about it, coming to the product. I think it was really important for me to kind of say, “Look, to be honest” … I mean, and I don’t talk much about my own personal beliefs, but to be honest, especially when I launched the project, I was very unsure even what I thought about the texts. The idea sprang out of a time of exploration for me where I was really trying to figure out what it meant to me, having been the central text of my entire life up to that point. I was really reevaluating why that was so, and whether it would be in the future or not, and how to view it moving forward in my adult life.
And so that kind of reevaluation, turning over stones, and whatnot is what spawned the creative act of making Bibliotheca. And so the same goes for the marketing, it also inspired me not to pigeonhole the text into … I didn’t want to give the impression that I knew what it was good for other than that I know it’s important. I know that it carries a lot of weight, that it has very influential … that it tells us a lot about ourselves, and that whether we’re responding it, or rejecting it, or building on it, it’s kind of the text of the Western literary canon to be contended with.
Felix: Yeah. I’m not sure you like to think of it this way, but you really took a product that already existed for the most part, right? There was already, of course, biblical text out there already. And you brought it to an underserved market that was previously probably alienated, I think. You put it perfectly where when there are Bible publishers out there that are specifically catering their marketing and their product to a very specific type of person, that can automatically alienate everyone else. And you recognized that, maybe, directly or through the process of creating your product that there was a group of people out there that might be interested in the Bible that aren’t going to fit into that marketing or that messaging that was coming from these Bible publishers.
Now when it comes to your approach, it sounds like you just kind of communicate what’s important to you, become very transparent, and they you’re hoping to attract like-minded people, or people that are interested in the same or have the same kind of passions as you. How do you do this on a daily basis? What are you actually doing to get your beliefs, your passion, and that transparency out to the world?
Adam: Well, I will say it started with the Kickstarter campaign. And I think it was really important to work with … Sorry, I’m stumbling here a little bit. But I had some really good friends who are great at telling stories with video, and that was, I think, the most powerful piece of the Kickstarter campaign. That was the thing that got passed around the most; people talked about it a lot. Later it came up on lists of this is how you make a Kickstarter video. It was sort of examined, and dissected as sort of being a model Kickstarter video. And I can’t take any credit for that. That was my friends Danny Williams, and Joseph McMahon who shot and directed that.
And I think that telling of the story in a video environment where people could see my face, and they could see me working on the product, and they could see me, and some of the people in my life at the time when we launched the campaign interacting with the prototypes, and just hearing me talking about it unscripted was really important, just telling the story. And I needed that because I wouldn’t have been good just sitting down in front of the camera, and giving an elevator pitch as you can tell already I kind of drone on and go on rabbit trails. But these guys are really good at kind of directing me, and they wouldn’t allow me to read off of a script. They asked me questions they wanted me to answer. And then they cut and edited this really beautiful 7 minute and 46 second video. And that is much longer than sort of the recommended length on Kickstarters. 7 minutes and 46 seconds is kind of ridiculous, actually.
But, again, that was one the strongest pieces of the campaign. And so fast forward, now we’re about three and a half years after the launch of the campaign. Just, actually, last fall we created a new video to replace the Kickstarter video, because, obviously, the Kickstarter video references the Kickstarter, and the fundraising. And I think we had it on our sight forever but it was kind of confusing, and we had the actual books out. We didn’t have to film prototypes anymore, and so we wanted to just create something new.
And so we spent a lot of 2017, actually, working on this new video. Several different shooting sessions, and recording sessions, and we had it scored, and all this stuff. And I think that type of tool is really important, a story telling tool, that you can just sort of say, “Here, this is it. This is the product.” And then if people, after watching that kind of video, are engaged then they can go dig, and look for more specific information. But the idea is … and so, yeah.
I mean, really to answer your question. What I’m doing on a daily basis now is … Well, now I’m just doing customer service. I’m dealing with customers who like their tracking number is not working, or their product got damaged in shipment, that type of thing. That’s sort of the day to day, less developing new projects, and all that type of thing. But in 2017 as I was sort of … we launched the Kickstarter in 2014. We finally, after many delays, published and delivered the books, actually, at the end of 2016. And so last year, well, we were sort of catching our breath after this really intense sprint of finishing the books. We were reevaluating, “OK. Now, what content do we need to really explain what this is so that when people come to our website they understand it, and can sort of decide whether they are interested or not.”
And it’s not a cheap product either. It does really take some pondering. Shopify is great because you can sort of see how many visits people have made to the store before they purchase. And I see there’re a lot of people who have made quite a few visits to the store before actually purchasing, because it’s not a small purchase. But it’s the book that’s made with really fine materials, and materials that come from companies that treat their employees well, and it was manufactured by a company that treated its employees well, and paid them well. So it’s worth what you pay for.
Felix: It takes some time to at least commit to paying for it, right?
Adam: Right. And not many people want to spend $199 on books. Books is no longer the type of treasured object it was in the past, you know?
Felix: Right. That makes sense. So I do want to talk about the Kickstarter campaign, because a lot of the success, a lot of the origin of the business sprang from the Kickstarter campaigns. You launched two campaigns raising a combined over $1.5 million. It sounds like a lot of it came down to this video, and you mentioned it was over seven minutes long. I did watch the video, the entire video. Like you said, it is longer than what is “recommended,” what is “highest converting” in terms of how long your video should be. Why do you think it worked for you? Why do you think a seven minute video worked for Kickstarter campaign?
Adam: Well, I think … OK. So when I launched my campaign, I’m remembering now, someone who was involved, helping me build the campaign, had sent me a link to this article. It was something like how to raise 100K, or how to have $100,000 Kickstarter campaign, or something like that. And it kind of step by step went through all these strategies that you should implement into your campaign to ensure its success, and it was creating templates to send out to bloggers, or publications, magazines, or whoever you wanted to feature your product. And there was all kinds of things about building a following before you launch, and there was all kinds of things about how long the video should be, and the things the video should touch on.
And it was very convincing, and I thought, “Well, if I don’t do these things, the campaign is not going to be successful.” And I had sort of set that email aside and that link, thinking, “All right. Well, I’ll implement this after I launch.” I’ll go through, and then I’ll kind of do everything. Day one, I’ll send out emails to bloggers. Day two, I’ll try to be more active. I didn’t even have an Instagram or Twitter account when I launched my campaign.
So I wasn’t really abiding by the rules, and I was afraid of failure for that reason, because I thought in order to be successful people have to know who you are, and you have to have a following of some kind. Otherwise, no one’s going to hear about it. But the approach that we took in making a video, and writing the product description was very much let’s just tell people what we think is important about it. And if that ends up being more than two or three minutes long, so be it. So we thought, maybe, five minutes would be a stretch, but it ended up being 00:07:46 actually. And I said, “Well, I honestly don’t feel like I would want to say any less about it, and I don’t want it to feel rushed either, so let’s just keep it at 00:07:46 and see how it does.”
And so we did, and it went really well. I think that’s just because there’s a weird paradox where I think, “Yes, if I had abided by all of those rules that this article had set out for me, I think, yeah, it would have been successful, maybe even more successful than it was.” But I think what’s interesting, especially about our world today, where we’re really absolutely saturated with marketing and advertising. And like I said, we had a really sensitive kind of … the millennial generation is very sensitive to that, because we have been advertised to our entire lives, and just are constantly inundated with advertising, so we sensed it.
And, I think, what’s interesting about my campaign is other than the fact that, yes, I was putting something out there, and I was asking people to contribute to make it a reality, there was no marketing in it. There was no advertising in it. It was just a … I didn’t do any Facebook ads. I didn’t do any Instagram posts. I didn’t do any … I was just really, genuinely trying to get this thing made. My goal on Kickstarter was 37,000 and we ended up making $1.4 million in that 30 day campaign, and far exceeding our expectations. And, I think, part of that was that when people watch the video they didn’t feel like, “Oh, this guy’s just … he’s trying to get my money.” I think what they saw, and what was true, in fact, was that I desperately wanted to make this thing. I desperately wanted to see it become a reality, because I wanted it for myself, something that I wanted to have and use myself, and that I genuinely thought other people can benefit from.
And I think in this age, in this time we live in, it’s not common to come across people who they’re excited about an idea, not because they care about it, but because they think it will generate capital. And they think that maybe five years down the road somebody will buy it from them. And I don’t want to get into whether that’s … the ethics of that or not. I don’t really care, but I think that’s where a lot of people can easily go wrong where you’re coming up with a product that’s … it’s importance is negligible, maybe, some trinket that you can use for the current iPhone model, but then you’ll have to throw it away when the next iPhone model comes out. But it’ll be so hyped up, and marketing will be so in your face, and sort of … The seller is trying to tell you you just need this thing in your life. You can tell. You can sense that there’s no real passion there for this product. Clearly, who would care about some iPhone gadget that much? It’s not going to be life-changing.
But, I think, when you find projects, and these types of projects exist all over Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a mix of a lot different types of projects, but I have seen a lot of projects where I see in the creator a real desire to see something they care about made. And Kickstarter really is the only platform that makes sense, because no investor in their right mind would give money to their little passion project. And that I think is what happened. I was just trying to be honest about what I was trying to do, and it kind of blew up, and took me off guard. And that presented its own problems, being unprepared for the size of the campaign, but it was a good problem to have, obviously.
Felix: Right. Yeah. I think the longer video format allows you to have that time to be more transparent, and to allow people to see the passion, the authenticity come through. And I think when you do have a shorter video within like, maybe, 1 minute or, maybe, 30 seconds in some cases, you’re kind of forced to be more salesy and pitchy, because you have to get everything out there. And so I think that’s possible when you have the opportunity to talk more about the intention, the reason behind why you’re launching this campaign, creating this product. You’re allowed to do that a little bit when you have the room, the runway, to do that with a longer video.
So when you and your team were putting together this video, and because you’ve gone through this experience now a couple of times, what have you learned about how to tell a story through a video?
Adam: Well, I do think to kind of add to what I just said a little bit. I’d still think it’s important to give the gist of the project early on in the video so that you’re kind of saying, “Here’s the project in a nutshell, and there it is. If you want to just stop watching the video now you could, basically. But if you’re still interested there’s more.” That’s kind of the vibe that we go for with our videos, because we know not that many people are … probably less than half of the views … probably far less than half of the views that we have you can measure that on Vimeo, how many people actually finished the video or not. It’s definitely less than half of the people who watch the video finish it.
It’s always been that way even with the original Kickstarter video. That was the key to our success, that video. Not that many people finished it. So I still think it’s important to say what you need to say in the first two minutes, but I’d also feel like it’s important to draw people in with something more than, yes, marketing jargon. You can’t just give people an elevator pitch, but, of course, it depends on the nature of the product. Like I said before about the iPhone gadget, the iPhone gadget could be some little fancy case for my iPhone that helps me utilize the potential of my iPhone. That can be useful to me, but I don’t want you to sell me on the fact that it’s going to change my life. I just want you to tell me what it is, that it might be kind of nice, that it will improve my life. It’s got to be more casual. I think you have to sort of weigh the product against the marketing, and they have to match.
Felix: I think a super long video in that case where it’s a very clear product, a very clear reason, and you make it too long just might not even fit, right, might not work, because I might be thinking, “Why do I need a seven minute video to explain an iPhone case.”
Adam: Right. Right. So, yeah, you’ve sort of got to find the proper vehicle for the content you’re trying to deliver. That’s always something that I’m thinking about. And I feel that the way that we did the video, and the way that we’ve done our imagery and our language all sort of lends itself to this to my own personal view of the texts, which is that it’s incredibly important, and it’s sort of infinitely valuable to read, and enjoyable to read. And that physical objects in the modern age are … It’s important to think about how they’re made, and how they get to us, and so there’s this sort of weightiness to it.
And sometimes, to be honest, I even feel like our own videos are a little overdramatic, but that’s just sometimes, because I only feel that way when I’m worried about what other people are going to think. And to be honest, I’m sure we’ve lost some customers because they think, “Oh, my gosh. These people just take themselves way too seriously.” This guy is ridiculous or whatever, but that’s OK, I think, because I feel like at the end of the day I’m being genuine, and I’m able to really communicate what I want to communicate.
And I don’t necessarily think narrowing down your customer base is a bad thing. You really want customers that understand what you’re doing, and that appreciate what you’re doing. If you’re just trying to get as many people as possible to buy your thing, you’re just going to have a lot more difficult customers to deal with. And, yeah, you don’t want that, so. And we’ve had really great customers, I will say, so.
Felix: Got it. Now, you mentioned that your two friends that helped you put together this video. They helped you by asking you specific questions for you to answer during the video. Do you recall what are some of the more general questions that other Kickstarter campaign creators, anyone that’s creating a video, to tell the story of their product, their company? What kind of questions should they try to answer in those videos?
Adam: Well, I think that very important, especially for my project, was the question of why. Why did you do this? Why do you think it’s important? And that is a hard question to ask, so it’s an easy one to give a kind of superficial answer to and move on, or to not even answer at all, and just move directly to the what. What is this thing? What is it? And I think that that is something that you really want to really focus on is dwelling with the why. I don’t even know if our original Kickstarter video answers that question that well, but I remember that being a really difficult one for me to answer, and I know they used pieces of my answer to put on the video.
And so that I think is what will set a product apart is if you have a creator, or a team of creators who are really passionate about this thing, this product that they’re making. You want to know why. You want to know why they’re so passionate about it. Why do they care so much? And if they just jump right in to what it is, I think it’s easy for potential customers to kind of get lost. Traditional marketing strategies is here’s why you want this, basically. Here’s why you need this in your life. But, I think, a lot of people in our generation, like I said, much more sensitive to that. And I think often times what we’re looking for, more than why I need it in my life, is why does it exist in the first place. Does it have a purpose? And who are the people behind it? Where did it come from? That’s what I want to know as a consumer. And I think that’s what a lot of other people want to know, so that’s the type of thing I try to communicate when I’m talking about my projects.
Felix: Now, you mentioned that this video, the latest one, was you also had got the video scored. Were you a part of that process as well?
Adam: Yes. It was a long and painstaking process. It’s hard because I’m not a particularly musical person. I certainly don’t know anything about music theory, but I worked with someone to create an original score. And it was, yeah, and so I’m giving him all these descriptions like it needs to be a little bit more neutral here, maybe a little bit darker there, or maybe a little bit lighter there. Of course, he just kind of has to take stab at it when he goes back to the recording studio. But it was a lot of fun, and I’m really glad we did it.
I think it is really well suited to the new video. It’s really somber, very atmospheric, and it’s all cello. So it feels very organic and, yeah, I enjoyed it. But it was a challenge for me, because I am probably the most difficult possible client to have when it comes to that sort of thing, because I’m so opinionated, and I’m so particular. But I didn’t really have the tools so I felt bad for, Chris was his name, Chris Joye, J-O-Y-E, but he was incredibly patient with me, and spent a lot of time really trying to understand what was I was going for, the emotion I was going for. And I think he nailed it.
Felix: Awesome. Yeah, just watching the video, the second one, I mean, certainly the sound is very immersive. It does pull you in. What made you decide to go down this route instead of just finding, maybe, paying … I’m not sure how much it cost to purchase some kind of soundtrack, I guess, for your video. But why not go down that route, and just kind of be done with it? What made you decide that you wanted to create something original?
Adam: It was actually the directors. The same two guys who did the original video on Kickstarter, they did this newer video that we have up on our website. And Daniel and Joseph were … they didn’t force me into it, but they did twist my arm a little bit. And sort of say, “You really … this footage is really good.” We worked with one of their really good friends, Eric, to shoot the footage. And we rented these really nice Cooke lenses, and the footage was just looking so beautiful. And they were thinking, “We might as well just go all the way, and get an original score done for this.” And so I said, “OK. Well, who do we work with.” And they gave me a recommendation.
And there were a few points where I thought, “Man, this is a lot of work. This is a lot more money than I would have to spend.” In fact, the first video, the Kickstarter video, we used an artist whose name is Chris Zabriskie, and he makes all of his music available for free. You don’t even have to pay him a royalty. You just have to give him a credit, which I think is really cool. He’s got all this music up on Spotify, and SoundCloud, and all sorts of different venues where you can access his music, listen to it for free, download it for free, and even use it in your videos for free as long as you credit him.
And we had used him for several videos, because we did a couple update videos as well throughout the Kickstarter process. We did another video for a Kickstarter gold campaign that we did last year. And then we were actually planning on using him for this video until they sort of cut the footage together, and said we should get an original score done. But that was appealing to me, the idea. The video from start to finish would kind of be from scratch that everything that we used in the video would have been really made exclusively for the video. We didn’t use any stock footage, and we didn’t use any music that was recorded for another purpose. We commissioned our own composer to make a song. He commissioned his own musicians to record it, and that just kind of made it feel a little bit more special to me. And we wanted this newer video to function for a long time, and we want it to be the introduction of Bibliotheca to the next five years of people who come and visit our website.
Felix: So for anyone else out there that wants to invest in creating their own video first of all, and then also getting an original score for it. Do you have an idea of how much time or how much budget you need? You don’t give us these [inaudible 00:45:44] by your particular set up, but if they are to get started down this route. How much are we talking about in terms of time commitment, or how much would it cost?
Adam: Well, videos are a lot of work. But I think they are the most important tool, especially for Kickstarter campaign, to being successful, at least and that’s been my experience. And I don’t really know, I mean, it’s hard to give a ballpark, because it just really depend on what your needs are, and where you’re shooting, and if you need actors or not, and et cetera, et cetera. But I will say for the original Kickstarter campaign, I worked with really good friends. And they knew that I didn’t have any money [inaudible 00:46:31]. But I insisted on paying them, and then they very kindly quoted me a low price. But, obviously, the success of the campaign enabled me to go back to them afterwards, and say, “OK. Really, guys, how much is this worth.”
But they were willing, had I failed or had I just barely met my goal. They were willing to work for less than probably what their time was worth, definitely less than what their time was worth, because [inaudible 00:47:04] friends. But videos aren’t cheap. That’s the other thing. The last video that we made, I really want everyone whose involved to feel like they’re being compensated well, because I want them to be invested in the project. There were a few times where I thought, “Man, how can I stay within my budget here, and should I be doing this original score, or not. I don’t know.” But, yeah, it’s a huge time investment if you want to be involved in the decision making. And I am very much one of those founders who, probably, to a fault wants to be really involved with everything that is out there, and available to the public to see about our company and our product.
And, yeah, I mean, we’re definitely for the most recent video, we invested a lot of money, thousands of dollars. Probably over $10,000 into that video. But I’m just doing the math in my head really quick, because I haven’t looked at … I’m not looking at our monthly statements or anything right now, but it was a huge investment. But I think over the five year to ten years span of time that we hope that video will work for us, I think, it will definitely pay for itself. But the original video for the Kickstarter campaign, that was just some friends working together. I asked friends to be in it. We didn’t pay actors for that. We just went over to a friend’s house, and shot a bunch a friends, and asked some people to come out to the coffee shop, or the bookstore, and film them there.
And I think that’s important. It’s interesting that, in a way, that the low budget video that we created was the more successful video. Obviously, I haven’t even announced this new video. We haven’t done a campaign with it. It just sort of appeared on our website one day. But it’s working for us now on a daily basis. People come and they visit the website, and that’s one of the first things they see. But it’s interesting to think about how the first video that we really just kind of threw together on a low budget, and there were a lot of things that went wrong with it. One of the scenes we were supposed to shoot at, they had to cancel on us at the last second, so we had to find a different place to shoot. And we didn’t have any money [inaudible 00:49:55] time.
But it was the heart of the project, I think, carried that video through and made it successful. We were working with really standard equipment, just everybody’s purse. We didn’t rent any fancy things. It was just very straightforward, and that, I think, it says a lot for what you can do with what’s available to you.
Felix: Yeah. I think you hit it on the head where it is a big time and capital investment, but it’s not something that can you just create once then use it once. It can be extended for a very long time. You’re projecting 5, 10 years, and it could probably exist on multiple different platforms for you as well.
Successful on Kickstarter; successful on your website. Are there any other places that you try to get your video out to, or do you try to cut it up in any way to fit into other mediums?
Adam: Sure. Yeah. We haven’t done any … It’s kind of a weird thing with me where we haven’t done any paid advertising yet, but we’re getting to the point now where we probably should, but I’m having a hard time with the fact that I’ll have to stop saying that we’ve never done any paid advertising. But we have, actually, already created some really short Instagram videos from the footage that we took for the newest video by even just cutting out portions of that video, or taking footage that we weren’t able to use in the video, and using it in different ways. And so we kind of just have a backstock of things that we can use in different environments whether it’s on Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter, which really are the only places I really imagine us doing any paid advertising in the future.
But we still haven’t really figured out the specifics of that or how we’re going to approach that, but yeah, it was definitely a worthwhile investment. We have way more footage than we put in the video that we can continue to use, and draw from. We’re actually already in the process of developing another video out of the footage that we made, and all it’ll take is basically for me to record new voiceover. We want to make a video specifically about the translation that we used. And so I just need to record some new voiceover, and then they can use the footage they weren’t able to use for the video we have up on our site now. It was definitely a great investment. And I feel really good about it.
But, yeah, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram … I have been surprised [inaudible 00:53:02] think, again, Shopify sort of lets you know where your traffic is coming from. A lot of it comes from Twitter, and it’s been very organic, because I don’t get on Twitter, promote my product, or anything like that. People will post a photo of their books, or they’ll say something nice about it, and direct people to our site. It’s been sort of surprising. Twitter is sort of the last place I thought would be where we would get customers, but we get a lot of traffic coming form Twitter.
Felix: Yes. It’s really not one of the number one social media platforms as much lately, but that’s impressive that a lot is coming from Twitter. So when you are creating these videos specifically for ads, how do you approach it differently? How do you decide what … because, obviously, you can’t be seven minutes long, time, when it’s on Instagram or Facebook video ads. How do you decide what should into that shorter time frame?
Adam: Yeah. That’s a tough one. We struggle with that a little bit, and had a little bit of back and forth with my video guys where we’re sort of trying to figure that out, because we want to bring the same kind of slow, and relaxed feeling to the Instagram ads, except it can’t really be slow, because people are literally scrolling down to their feet, and they’re just going to pass over it if you don’t get to the point. But what we have found is actually that when people just look at the product, they respond.
We found historically that it kind of captures peoples attention. So our strategy for those shorter videos has been: All right, let’s put the product in front of people right away. And the product sort of … It begs the question: What is this thing? It looks like something I’d be interested in touching, or pulling out, and opening, and seeing what’s inside. Tell me more about it. That’s kind of the reaction that we’ve gotten from people when they don’t know anything about it, and they see it. And so that’s sort of been our approach for the Instagram thing is let’s just put the product there, up front, and then they can read more about it.
Felix: So it’s more product focused this time?
Adam: Yes. It’s definitely more product focused. There’s less of a roundabout kind of explanation. It’s more like here’s this thing; it’s almost like a surprise. We did a giveaway on Instagram, and it was just we posted a picture of the product, and it said giveaway on the post, and then it basically said, “Win this Bible.” And then, yes, it’s a Bible. And that’s sort of the surprising thing for people when they see it, and they think, “What. That’s not a Bible. I’ve never seen a Bible that looks like that before.” And so that sort of pieces is like the intriguing-
Adam: Yeah. “That’s the trick we play” to get people’s attention.
Felix: I like it. Awesome. So thank you so much for your time, Adam. So bibliotheca.co that’s bibliotheca.co is the website. Where do you want to see this go this year? What do you want to take that the products that you’re creating that the company that you’re creating … Where do you want to see it go this year?
Adam: Well, Bibliotheca, it’s kind of become its own thing. And it still requires some attention and a lot of customer service, because we have a lot of customers, and it’s kind of a heavy product, and there’s shipping issues, and things like that. So it has a life of its own, and we’re maintaining it, but really what I want is to create something new this year, or several new things this year. And another goal that I have, eventually, for Bibliotheca is, I think, all the funding that we got on Kickstarter allowed us to create a really, really nice product. And we were able to deliver that to all of our Kickstarter backers for the $75 contribution they made, or the $85 preorders after the campaign, et cetera.
But the backstock that we ordered kind of … Because we made everything super premium, we used all the nicest materials, all the inventory that we have we kind of have to sell for a higher price to keep things moving to kind of pay for overhead, and to make it worthwhile. So my goal also is to create a more affordable version of Bibliotheca sometime in the near future whether it’s this year, and the next three or four years. And we’re talking to, actually, some publishers who want to help us do that. So they kind of have the infrastructure to do that. But otherwise, yeah, I’m ready to publish some other texts in a really nice format. And I’m excited to a launch a few new projects, hopefully, in 2018.
Felix: Awesome. Thank you again so much for your time, Adam.
Adam: Yeah. Thank you, Felix. Thanks for having me.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peek for what’s in store the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker 3: Go straight from Kickstarter to Indiegogo. So someone saw an old Facebook post. They could still have a way to buy the product even if the Kickstarter ended.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the e-commerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30-day free trial. Also, for this episode’s show notes, head over to shopify.com/blog.