Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, world! My name is Louise B.Maciulevicius, my husband Edvinas Maciulevicius and I are the founders of Silksocial. Our business does one thing and one thing and one thing only - produce rockstar video ads for eCommerce brands.
Today we’re doing a turnover of around $30K/Month working with eCommerce businesses from every corner of the world. The knowledge of what type of ads work best on social media is our company's biggest asset. True story, we started the business out of desperation when we were broke and thousands of miles away from home in Merida, Mexico. More importantly, our first client came from right here - on Starter Story!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I got into the creative industry through my passion for sales and acting! I had a long career in sales working with big companies like Homeaway and Airbnb. Before we started this venture my husband and I was newly married and on a mission to chase the American dream!
Video production is a very competitive space so if you do want to launch a business in this field you have to find a way to differentiate yourself.
We got a one-way ticket from Ireland to California without thinking of a plan B. I was gonna make it as an actress no matter what. Before we knew it, three months had gone by and we were running out of money and out of options. I learned the hard way that it’s hard to get a gig when you’re on a tourist visa! Looking back at it now, our plan did have some major holes in it, but I’m much happier for trying and not succeeding (yet!) than living with regret and the thought of “I wonder what could have been”.
We had too much pride to simply hang it in and call it a quit on our big adventure. Instead of going home, we decided to go even further away from it, to a town we’ve never even heard of a week before being there. A place called Merida, in Mexico. It was there that our candle started to burn on both ends. Not only were our funds close to a literal zero but options for getting clients and starting a business in Merida were close to none. That’s when I decided to put my sales skills to work.
My husband was a film and TV commercial director and I knew that with our combined skill set we could make something happen. I started scraping the web for potential leads who may be interested in video marketing services and came across Starterstory! Hundreds of start-ups are all looking to grow and expand their businesses online. I knew I had hit the jackpot!
After sending through dozens of emails we got a few promising responses and even managed to get on a few calls. It took every ounce of creativity my husband and I could muster to create tailored proposals to get some business with. The first few were not so successful but this didn’t stop us. We were tenacious and more importantly, we had no other choice! We were in the middle of Mexico, remember! Not the best place in the world to run out of funds!
After a couple of weeks of failed efforts, we finally managed to land our first client! It was a sustainable product company from Denmark, we found them here on Starter Story and they are our client to this day.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Through this job, we discovered a big need for a very specific service. Most importantly we started to learn just how much knowledge needed to be developed in the field of e-commerce video ad production. There were plenty of video production agencies in the world but most of them were generalists that do all sorts of video. We made a conscious decision to double down on e-commerce video specifically and learn what makes the difference between a flop and an ad that will turn your marketing campaigns into cash machines.
I was the producer and the featured actress of the first ad that we made and my husband did pretty much everything else! We had a small budget to prove ourselves and we blew all of it on the production. Luckily this paid off as the small sweat equity investment turned into an almost 2-year long relationship, not to mention a great brand video and millions of seconds viewed on Youtube. For the budget we had, the ad did pretty damn well! Check it out below:
18 months since the conception of our business and we have started to develop some reliable creative service fulfillment systems. With a background in video production, my husband Edvinas had good foundations for the whole process of creating great video ads, but this needed to be tweaked and adjusted for today's e-commerce market.
Where do you start when creating an ad? Nowadays every one of our campaigns begins with a big idea. In the words of David Ogilvy “Every great campaign is built on a big fat promise”. He wrote that about 60 years ago and it is as true now as it was back then.
A big fat promise has to have three key components;
1) It has to be intellectually curious, 2) It has to be emotionally stimulating and, 3) It has to present an opportunity for the audience.
Here’s an example of a bad promise: “Sustainable product company releases new reusable tissue box”. Nothing new or exciting here.
Now here’s an example of a “big fat” promise: “Finally, a company that makes the switch from single-use to reusable tissues easy, convenient and sustainable!”. See the difference? For the right person, this hits all three points mentioned above.
Once we have our big idea down on paper we go ahead and develop an original brand concept. This process usually takes between 3-5 days but sometimes it can take up to a few weeks and it’s an essential step in helping brands differentiate themselves in the flooded e-commerce market.
We have sent hundreds of cold emails. The trick to getting a response lies in doing the research. When it comes to cold B2B emails quality always trumps quantity.
This step involves doing market research on our client’s competitors (direct and indirect), finding gaps in their creative approach, and figuring out how, through video, we can help our client’s products stand out from the competition and secure their brand from copycats.
Then comes the usual pre-production work. From scripting to storyboards, sourcing actors and locations as well as collaborating with our online team of editors and CGI artists to make sure everyone is on the same page and in line with our tight deadlines.
After that, it’s off to the production and post-production stages which I’m sure are similar across the board. It’s very hard to differentiate yourself from production quality alone. It doesn’t take a lot of skills to capture a good-looking video in 2021. Anyone with the latest iPhone can do it from their pocket! That is why the biggest value of our company lies in the knowledge of persuasive techniques as well as service fulfillment systems. It’s something we hone in and develop with every project we complete. We ask our clients to share with us the performance metrics of the best and worst ads we hand over to them. The answer is in the data and we are piling up the information with every video we put out! Here is another one of our scroll stoppers to keep you awake!
Describe the process of launching the business.
Video production is a very competitive space so if you do want to launch a business in this field you have to find a way to differentiate yourself. We knew what made us different from the very start as we wanted to serve the eCommerce community exclusively. Although in the beginning, this was tough as we turned down opportunities to produce videos for other industries, in the long term it really played to our strength.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t take a job if there’s no money in the bank. When you’re bootstrapping it, you have to do what you can to build that momentum. I remember we did one corporate gig about 8 months into building our business and it really helped us out financially. Having said that, if we continued to pick other jobs here and there instead of working hard to get eCommerce clients, we would have never been able to master the craft of eCommerce video and set up to scale our business.
There are a lot of moving parts in Silksocial, by no means is it an easy business to start. Apart from figuring out a way to get clients you also have to be great at fulfilling the service and this can be complex if you don’t have the background. There’s a big difference between being great at creating a video and running a video production business. We had to learn the hard way how to create systems that allowed us to manage up to 5 productions a month, all including different actors, locations, props, and crew members. If you do this insufficiently, you can be working yourself into a negative balance sheet!
In the beginning, we created tailored proposals for every one of our clients, since then we’ve moved to a more packaged approach. Not only has this saved us a lot of time, it actually made our work better. By adding boundaries to our creativity we found that we got a lot more out of a single production day. By working according to our creative guidelines we were able to produce replicable results for our clients.
We rely on trialed and tested visual, persuasive, and psychological techniques to deliver consistent results. There are many ways to bring these to life, that’s where the art comes in, but the last thing we want to do is to create a stunning and expensive video that does not convert!
As eCommerce service providers we are kept accountable for our work. Our clients can come back and tell us that our video is or is not performing as expected within days of launching. That’s why we like to put a lot of thought into the scripting, copywriting, and storyboarding of our ad. We rely on the knowledge of psychological experts and data, and not our creative gut alone. The alternative can be very costly for us and our clients!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our business kicked off with cold email outreaches to eCommerce business owners from every corner of the world. At this point, it’s safe to say that we have sent hundreds of cold emails. The trick to getting a response lies in doing the research. When it comes to cold B2B emails quality always trumps quantity.
In the beginning, this was pretty hard as we had no website or any references. We only had a link to our private portfolio and the tenacity to follow up until we got an absolute no. And even then we followed up some more! It’s actually how we landed the deal for the Junk in Your Trunks video. It was the right follow-up at the right time.
We’ve learned that you have to spend a lot of time working in your business before you can graduate to working on it. To this day we deal with our clients on a one-to-one basis but we have created more scalable methods for gathering leads. The best thing for us has been sharing the knowledge we learned about the video with the eCommerce community (without giving away client trade secrets of course!).
We started by sharing some pointers in some eCommerce Facebook groups and have since developed this further into a Youtube channel. It’s called Silksocial and if you’re selling products online you should check it out! Although we’ve just gotten started, the information we share here seems to attract just the right kind of clients.
Apart from the Youtube channel, our website has also played an important role in building trust with potential clients. People who are true eCommerce experts really understand the nuanced differences in our video work so they resonate with us. Having done this for almost 2 years now, however, I can safely say that a website alone will not make or break your business. It’s only something we developed fully late last year and we were able to attract plenty of clients through email outreach alone before that.
How you do anything is how you do everything and every email we sent out is just as important as the final videos we deliver. We’ve learned that above all else, to get and maintain clients you need to become someone they can trust. The simplest and most difficult way to do this is to always deliver on the promises you make. For us, this promise means creating video ads that will outperform whatever our clients had before they worked with us. This is not always an easy promise to keep but the fact that we work with our clients until we find a winning creative they are happy with makes a huge difference.
Business owners don’t have the time or the energy to bounce from one agency to the next every other month and Silksocial would be a lot tougher to scale if we had no return business from our clients. That is why we are picky about who we work with, because when we take on a product to promote we truly make it our own.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we want to serve the community that helped us to build this business. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford our video production services because of the time and fixed costs involved. That is why we decided to package the knowledge we’ve learned into an information product that will be far more accessible to people starting. We want to break down what we’ve learned from dozens of productions creating hundreds of videos for eCommerce businesses in every niche we can think of and a few we would have never have thought of!
How you do anything is how you do everything and every email we sent out is just as important as the final videos we deliver.
Although it’s hard to guarantee a campaign will be successful from the video alone, by including a few proven persuasive techniques like having a great hook, presenting the problem, presenting the problem as a solution, social proof, and a strong call to action, you can greatly increase your chances of success. Your video is oftentimes your first impression and with the course, we’re building we’re gonna be breaking down exactly how we produce ads like the ones below and how to apply the principles behind these videos to any brand.
After that, we’ll be looking at launching our own physical consumer goods product. It’s something we don’t want to say a lot about, as we still need to develop our prototype, but we have a good team with us and working on nothing but e-Commerce consumer goods product videos we have a pretty good idea of how to launch a product.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Over time we’ve learned that though there are no guarantees that your ad will succeed, we do our best to hedge the risk for our clients by creating multiple variations of the video ads we produce. We also use proven visual and persuasive techniques that we found highly increase the effectiveness of video ads across the board.
A great video needs to start with a great hook! There are a few ways you can do this and we break down the psychology behind a great hook in one of our Youtube videos below. After that, you want to be sure to show your brand within the first 2-3 seconds. Almost 100% of the people you advertise to will see those first 2-3 seconds of your video and significantly less will watch anything at all after that. If you fail to show your product or brand within this time frame you fail to show your brand to almost all of the people who you spend your advertising money on!
Then you need to make sure you stress the problem your product/service solves in a way that creates an emotional connection with your audience. The best way to do this is to think of the value your product gives for your specific audience rather than the product’s features. No one cares or wants to learn more about your “50,000 RPM Muscle Gun”. Instead, you need to educate your audience on how your product can “Significantly reduce recovery time and increase performance with a new muscle massager, proven to reduce lactic acid build-up in your body.”
We found that every great social media ad helps customers overcome doubts and fears with social proof (hint, is in the name!). All the ads we produce today have customer reviews, testimonials, and user-generated content (UGC) tastefully embedded in them. If you are advertising your product to someone who’s never heard about you or your brand then you need to do as much as you can to convince them that you are a brand they can trust and that you will deliver on the promises you make. There is no easier or more effective way to do this than to include testimonials from real clients.
The main purpose of any ad we put out is to sell the product. This is why every video we create ends with a strong call to action. You need to tell people what you want them to do! It’s way too easy for creatives to get lost in the brand story of the ad and forget the fact that we don’t want to entertain our potential customers but to turn them into paying customers!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For sales we love emails! Love it! When it comes to sales we found it’s still by far one of the most effective tools! After that, we found that sharing insightful and applicable knowledge with the community on our Youtube channel and within Facebook, groups has been very useful for us. We would definitely recommend using these when starting.
Typeform has also been very beneficial for us since we’ve embedded it on our site. It's a really good way to capture emails and qualify leads. There are plenty of people out there who will need whatever service your business is providing but not all of them are a good mutual fit. That’s why having a tool like Typeform can help you pre-screen the people who reach out to you.
For our service fulfillment the tools we use most often come from the Adobe Suite. It’s really good value for your money. They have a monthly subscription plan so there are no big upfront costs like some other software.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Being a young Muslim the Quran is by far the most influential book in my life! After that, my husband and I both love Robert Kyosaki and all of his books! We highly recommend reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, and The Cashflow Quadrant, especially when you're starting!
After that, it’s got to be The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It’s way too easy to fall into the trap of having a full-time job rather than being a business owner in this industry. We’re still working on developing better systems for our business, from sales to service fulfillment, but without this book, we may still be aimlessly working from one project to the next looking for something that sticks.
If you are looking for some great advertisement inspiration I highly recommend reading The Confessions of An Ad Man by David Ogilvy. This book is full of applicable golden nuggets that can help you write better sales copy and produce better ads!
Lastly, when starting it can be hard to stay focused on the most important things as everything seems very important. That’s why I recommend reading The One Thing by Gary Keller. We refer to this book all the time to make sure we keep the most important things most important.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The way I see it, we are still only starting ourselves! We don’t have that much to teach outside of our own field, which for the moment, is quite narrow. I would much rather recommend reading books about people who have built a legacy that will last way beyond their lifetime. That’s our goal for sure.
The most important thing however is to simply get on with it! Don’t overanalyze. Jump into a field and soon enough you’ll know whether it’s right or wrong for you and at that point, you will pursue it further or drop it and look for a new venture to start. Sure beats waiting around for COVID to come to an end before making a move.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Not for the moment but we are always on the lookout for creative talent to collaborate with, especially in post-production. If you’re a good CGI artist or a great editor please get in touch! We’d love to mutually expand each other's networks!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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