PODCAST EP 4
Simon chats with Peta Ellis, CEO of River City Labs.Listen Now
Manage My Wedding is the number 1 app for wedding planning on the Itunes App store and provides a platform to help brides and grooms plan their wedding in one location.
You can contact Yvette Sitters on LinkedIn.
Simon Dell: Welcome to the Paper Planes Podcast, Yvette Sitters. How are you?
Yvette Sitters: I am fantastic. Thank you, Simon.
Simon Dell: Now, thank you very much for joining me on the show today. For everybody’s benefit out there, just tell everyone who you are and what you do.
Yvette Sitters: Yvette Sitters, I am a mother of two young children, and I have a wedding planning business which is around wedding planning for bride and grooms to plan their perfect dream day, and I have an online wedding store as well. That’s currently what I’m doing right now.
Simon Dell: And it’s called ManageMyWedding.com, which people would have heard in the introduction. Let’s push it one more time. Looking at your background, event manager, sales manager, event manager, event manager, event… You kind of know events, don’t you? That’s kind of your background.
Yvette Sitters: Yes. So I have been working for over 20 years in the events area and hotels also. I’ve ventured out a little bit here and there out of events, but I’ve always been drawn back into it. So, that’s where my passion and my love is, and the wedding is something that was probably my very, very first events job, really, when I was straight out of uni.
I always enjoyed that. I’ve done many other events, but the wedding industry is huge. There’s so much that you could do and it’s something that I really love.
Simon Dell: And you say you’ve been doing this for 20 years. And for anyone who looks you up on LinkedIn, you look like you’ve got out of university last week. I was sitting there going, “How does she look so young?” and look at all these things about weddings and stuff like this. You have just revealed your age there on the podcast, or roughly your age. I guess the idea for the business is fairly self-explanatory, because you obviously had a history and events, weddings, planning. Where was the trigger when you said, “Bugger working for everybody else. I’m going to do this myself.”
Yvette Sitters: That was a significant trigger for me. I always loved working. I started work when I was 11 years old cleaning shelves at a pharmacy in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast, and illegally of course. And I from then on always had lots of jobs. So, I always wanted to work as much as I could. I always took on work like it was my own business.
So when I had my first child, I realized, “Why am I doing this? I’m working 7-hour weeks minimum for somebody else.” And that just didn’t really make sense to kind of do anymore. But I loved working. I wasn’t a very good stay-at-home mom. I was a good mum, but I wasn’t very good at just being at home. And I was bored crazy. So, I started to develop and design on a scrap piece of paper a wedding planning app because I was constantly organizing weddings for family and friends for free, as you do.
And it was becoming more regular, and I would charge someone here and there, and I thought, “I’ve got all these resources that I’m just giving away for nothing.” And the app world was at the time growing quite quickly, but of course, becoming more expensive to build an app, so I thought, “I better jump on board before that all is too much and I’ll be a nobody.” So yeah, I spent my maternity leave just creating an app and trying to — not at the time really knowing that I was creating a big business for myself, but more putting my hobby into something that I loved. So, that’s where it kind of spurred from, that I knew that I want to do this for me, and I’ll just do it on my own to start with and have a go.
Simon Dell: You very casually say, “I went and built an app.” When I’ve spoken to people who’ve built apps in the past, there is normally a long trail of dead bodies, pain, money, all those kind of things. Talk to me. What do you do day one when you go, “Right, I’m going to build an app.”
Yvette Sitters: It’s a big, big beast. I’m not going to lie about that. At the time, I had no idea. I literally just thought, “I’ll just go and find an app developer and tell them what I want, and that’s how it will happen.” No, that is not how it happens and not how it did happen. I’m very detailed in everything I do, so I was very detailed on exactly what I knew the app should look like, and how it should perform, and what people should see. But then the tricky part came when I actually had to try and find an app developer.
Simon Dell: Of all the people I’ve spoken to on this podcast, you’re not the only one that that problem has occurred to. I’m interested to hear the process that you went through to solve that.
Yvette Sitters: Well, I spoke to someone that knew someone that built the app. I didn’t really know a lot of people. I knew a lot of people that built websites. That was not hard to find, but just finding someone to actually build an app was a bit more trickier. And what I was finding was everyone that I spoke to claim that they built apps at the time. This was 2015, but they actually were people that were just starting to play in the app area, and they were actually website developers and website coders.
So I went through so many people. I had some people price me telling me my app was going to be $20,000. I had some people telling me my app was going to cost me $500,000 to build. It was just crazy, and I just had no belief in anybody that I met. It was crazy. So that process alone went on for me for two years. I moved from Adelaide to the Gold Coast, it still went on. I still met people that I couldn’t get what I wanted to do or say, “We could do that bit but not that bit.”
That for me was a massive learning curve. In Australia at the time, there just wasn’t as many people as I was expecting to find to do what I wanted.
Simon Dell: How did you solve that in the end? What was the outcome?
Yvette Sitters: I was doing some contract work actually for a huge online hair and beauty company at the time ry.com.au. And they had someone who was doing some work there also, and he just happened to mention to me that on the side he developed apps.
And I thought, “Oh yeah, here we go. Here’s another person claiming to build apps.” And he actually did build apps and he was actually very damn good at it. So, I happened to find him just in a passing conversation in the kitchen.
Simon Dell: Is he still working on it?
Yvette Sitters: Yes.
Simon Dell: Okay, so he does that all for you?
Yvette Sitters: He does. Yes, he does all that for me still. He’s helped build my other online store and he does all my updates. He’s fantastic. They are fantastic, I should say.
Simon Dell: Okay, so you’ve got the app up and running. One of the key questions that I obviously wanted to ask you was: How do you get more people using it? Where do you advertise? What’s the process for you recruiting more users?
Yvette Sitters: My business personally came down to the App Store. That, at the start, was the biggest thing for me, was how I marketed within the App Store. There are other wedding apps that do other things, but it’s like its own SEO engine. So the way that you word everything within the App Store, you have to ensure that you are constantly getting reviews, that you’re constantly having people using the app.
That for me was the main thing. But at the beginning, I went out to as many people as I could find and said, “I need you to test the app. Tell me anyone that’s getting married.” And I just brought as many people on board as I could to help push that forward. So, that all then became a big email database, and I think it started with 60 people that were just helping me to push the app, and it grew from there to tens of thousands of users.
Simon Dell: Is that still how you do it? Do you employ any other channels in terms of growth?
Yvette Sitters: Yeah. I do a lot of stuff. I do a lot of press releases. I push a lot on social media, LinkedIn, everywhere, any possible marketing tool that I can possibly think of. Mostly social media because find a lot of the big wedding directories and businesses don’t actually want to help promote my business because I’m taking business away from them.
Simon Dell: You’re stealing their traffic.
Yvette Sitters: That is right, yes. But my number one driver is still remaining, staying number one in the App Store is the biggest driver for me still.
Simon Dell: Let’s touch on that then. You mentioned writing things properly. What are some of the other things that get you to number one on there and keep you there?
Yvette Sitters: Reviews are key to getting you high in the App Store, the amount of downloads, the amount of productivity, so people using the app, people coming back to the app. As I said, SEO within that app as well, the words that you use. And also just the functionality of the app and making sure it doesn’t crash. Now, I’ve been very lucky. In nearly two years, I’ve never, ever experienced a crash yet or a bug, so extremely lucky.
Simon Dell: Absolutely. And looking at the reviews, you’ve obviously got a lot of reviews, a lot of five-star reviews. Obviously, there’s always the odd one or two gripes in there. It probably makes it seem more genuine actually if there’s someone having a gripe in there.
Yvette Sitters: It’s interesting in the app world. Most of the gripes are issues because people don’t know how to use the app properly. It’s not usually an app issue, it’s people. Or you know, everyone has a personal opinion on if they like an app or not, and sometimes, our app’s not to them, don’t use it, move on. But they don’t, they prefer not to.
But also responding to reviews is a huge thing that helps in the App Store. You need to respond to reviews, and that really helps keep you in the top charts also. Many people get lots of written reviews. Lots of apps get written reviews and they never respond, and that’s also a huge big driver.
Simon Dell: I guess they’re probably actually helping in terms of there might be things that you’ve potentially missed in the app that they don’t understand, or user experience issues that perhaps you could make clearer.
Yvette Sitters: Yeah, definitely. They sometimes suggest something that definitely is on your radar, but it just might not be the right time for you to actually update and develop that within the app yet. And it’s not yet part of the marketing plan that you want to go down. But they don’t realize that when they download the app, that it might not have that feature.
Simon Dell: And I guess one of the other issues is that people are generally just assholes sometimes. You can’t please all the people all of the time. So you know, just accept that… And it’s people that give one star reviews to apps when they don’t understand it or they haven’t really used it. That would really irritate me if I had an app.
And I never forget, the hotel I booked for my honeymoon when I got married seven, eight years ago, I remember reading the reviews of the hotel that we booked in Cancun, in Mexico. It was five-star all the way down and there was a one star review. And the one star review was something like, “I know the hotel was great. The food was great. The staff are great. The pool was great. The weather was great. Everything was great but the hallway outside our bedroom smelt a bit funny.”
And they’ve given it a one star review based on that. And you just go, “You know what…?” Those are the sort of people where I would find their name and never let them stay in my hotel ever again, you know, and I guess you just can’t do anything about people like that, can you really?
Yvette Sitters: No, you can’t, and it’s the same as Google reviews, Facebook reviews, reviews everywhere. There’s just so many bad reviewers, but I found it a really good marketing tool now to also go, “Okay, that person, they didn’t like that so I’m just going to quickly jump on Instagram and I’m actually going to do a story about that topic.”
Not aimed at that person, of course, but around that topic, and explain to people how to use that part of the app. And then you go — so you can kind of find those reasons to then make it a really good marketing tool for the day.
Simon Dell: I’m going to try not go off on a rant about a prospect client that we lost earlier this week because they emailed me asking for honest advice about their business and their digital marketing. I gave honest advice and then they told me I was wrong and said they didn’t want to hear from me again. I’m like, well, what was the point of asking for the honest advice then if you didn’t want the honest advice?
But anyway, I digress. Talk to me about how you monetize the business. Were you thinking day one, “Here’s how I’m going to monetize it.” Or were you going, “You know what? Let’s just build this, hope it works, and then I’ll think about how I make money later on.”
Yvette Sitters: This was a big learning curve for me. Because I didn’t know a lot of people that had built apps and I couldn’t find a lot of people to talk to about apps at the time, I just thought in my mind, “Oh, I’ll build an app and everyone will buy the premium version.” Which I do actually have a really high conversion within the App Store, for but I didn’t realize how low conversions. An in-app purchases is like 1 to 2% of your users. That’s standard average across the board. I had no clue. I couldn’t really find those statistics anyway, so I just thought everyone’s going to pay for premium, of course, and I just thought I would make money every month.
And that was a huge realization for me that apps don’t actually really make money. And yeah, I can’t keep going along like this. So I then thought it’s time to monetize the database. And the first thing that popped my mind was, “Oh, I’m going to build an online store, so let’s go and do that.”
Had I ever done ecommerce? No. So, I was trying a lot of new things which I enjoy because it’s a challenge. But yeah, when you go in blind and you think you’ll be absolutely fine, there’s lots to learn. That was the idea on monetizing the app, is to monetize the database and such.
Simon Dell: So I guess the app really is a lead generation tool for you in terms of driving people through to the store.
Yvette Sitters: Definitely, yeah. So the app is my email marketing.
Simon Dell: Okay, so you’ve monetized it. I’m interested also to find out what sort of tools that you use in the background as a small business. This is where it’s slightly nerdy, but what do you use for email marketing? How do you post on social media? What do you use for managing your tracking all your sales? Are you using Xero? And perhaps, is there any other tools that you recommend in terms of from a marketing perspective to help run the business?
Yvette Sitters: I use Shopify for my online store. I absolutely love that. Fabulous software. I cannot recommend enough.
Simon Dell: Lots of Shopify clients we have, so yeah.
Yvette Sitters: That was the first thing I used and the one thing I’ve stuck with. I originally was using MailChimp but then moved across to Klaviyo about seven weeks . And wow, that is amazing. That’s probably the best thing I’ve done yet and probably my favorite software that I can highly recommend to everyone at the moment.
Simon Dell: Explain to me, why Klaviyo? Why did you pick that one?
Yvette Sitters: So I did a lot of research to find out there’s a little bit of a fallout at the time between MailChimp and Shopify, and some of the things you could and couldn’t do. You could get a plug-in, but I thought, “It’s time to actually do the research properly.” And I did a lot of market research, and Klaviyo could do a lot more things that a lot of the others couldn’t do.
It’s a lot smarter. It picks up your VIPs much easier, it picks up your repeat buyers easier. It helps you do better abandoned cart emails. Everything else is just streamlined for you. And if you don’t know email marketing software easy, it’s very good at teaching also. It’s been fantastic. It’s an excellent tool.
Simon Dell: What about some of the other stuff you use? You use Xero Personal?
Yvette Sitters: I use Xero, yes. I love Xero.
Simon Dell: Is that all integrated with their website as well?
Yvette Sitters: It is, but you do still have to do a little bit of manual work as well. But Xero is an easy tool. It’s a great tool. It’s something that I’ve always used. Shopify, reporting is a little bit tricky, so you do still have to manually do some things into Xero.
Simon Dell: Okay, alright. You also mentioned earlier, I just want to touch on, you talked about a conversion rate. And you don’t have to tell us this if you don’t want to, but I’m interested to understand some of those conversion rates that you’re looking at at the moment in terms of numbers of people, conversion rate that would upgrade to the premium version of the app.
What sort of conversion rates that you would get on as an online store? And I know there’s a lot of very successful online stores running out there at 2-3% conversion rate, but it’s always good to kind of see where other people are at.
Yvette Sitters: Our online store runs at a 22% conversion at the moment, which is not too bad. And I think that that comes down to those people that have already been using the app. They already trust you.
You’ve already got a little bit of relationship with them. So I think it’s much easier to try and sell to someone that’s using a product of yours already. Really, that’s just a repeat customer, I think. They’re not using another app, but they’re still a repeat customer of Manage My Wedding.
Simon Dell: What’s your top sellers on the store? What’s flying out the door?
Yvette Sitters: The flying out the door product for us is a ‘Will you be my bridesmaid?’ candle. It’s such a big deal at the moment to wow the person that is going to stand by you on wedding day.
So, that’s that’s our biggest driver, which is great because that’s something they buy as soon as they get engaged because they want to spoil that person. So that’s also another great thing because then they come back and buy something else later down the track when they’re planning the wedding.
Simon Dell: And I guess from an e-commerce perspective and a product perspective, how are you sourcing all these things? Because again, from an e-commerce perspective, I’ve met a lot of e-commerce retailers over the past sort of six months with a very different mix of where they get their products from and how they source them, or whether they own them, or whether they’ve manufactured themself in China, or in Vietnam, or blah blah. How is that working for you at the moment?
Yvette Sitters: I have a big mix. Originally, I was going down the dropshipping avenue which just didn’t work in the end. I just couldn’t keep that level of customer service that I wanted to keep, and I didn’t have good quality control and many other things. And brides are very, very picky and that sort of thing.
So in the end, I scrapped it and I started again. And now, I have a mix. Some things I have manufactured as my own product and made in China, but a lot of my items are actually from other Australian suppliers. So, I try and support them as much as I can if the price is right.
Simon Dell: How did you find the China experience of buying something, manufacturing it in China? Have you actually been there or is it all through email?
Yvette Sitters: At the moment, it’s all through email. I do plan to go over there though hopefully within the next six months just to meet some of them that I’ve had a good experience with. Because I’ve had some really bad experiences as well. But they’re very good at providing samples, thank gosh, because although samples are costly sometimes, they are a blessing.
Simon Dell: Yeah. I’ve been looking at stuff from China for a long time, but breakdown in communication over email — the communication in email is never great. I really feel that if I just stood there in front of them for a couple of days, it would be a lot clearer and I’d build some better relationships, but you know, it’s getting on the plane and doing that whole journey.
Yvette Sitters: Absolutely. You have to sift through a lot of the crap to get something really amazing at the end.
Simon Dell: Yeah, absolutely. Last few questions for you. Brands that you like in the wedding space, who’s doing it well in terms of — they might be a product you sell on the website. There might be a venue, a brand that you look to that does the whole wedding thing really well?
Yvette Sitters: There’s a few that I actually would say do it really well. I think that when you’re looking at someone — I’m going to go to the States now, but there is a company over there [INAUDIBLE] not which I’m not sure if you’ve heard of or not, but they do weddings really, really well. They really capture the bride. They do their marketing well. They promote well on social media. They do everything so slick, so great resource they are. They’re a good one to follow.
Simon Dell: Second to last question: What have you got planned? What’s coming up next? Any new parts of the app that you’re releasing? New products on the website? What’s the next stage for growth for you?
Yvette Sitters: So, we’ve got quite a few different plans, but we are adding products usually weekly at the moment to the store. And we are releasing an update actually within the next two weeks to the app. It’s quite a big update.
It changes how bride’s budget for their wedding, and how they track their payments, and it just fine tunes that a lot more and gives them a lot more access to understanding where their money is sitting. It’s quite a big update and quite a big change, which is exciting but also nerve-racking.
And we also have some big plans in the next 18 months to do with some future online — another online platform in the wedding arena as well, which I cannot say too much about now.
Simon Dell: Keep it close to your chest.
Yvette Sitters: But watch this space.
Simon Dell: Awesome. How long ago did you get married, just out of Interest?
Yvette Sitters: I got married 5 1/2 years ago. I had to think about.
Simon Dell: Were you a bridezilla?
Yvette Sitters: No. I’ve just written a really good blog on bridezillas, actually, because there’s really plenty of them out there.
Simon Dell: I bet you see a few on the website on the app, don’t you?
Yvette Sitters: Oh, gosh, yeah. You see some crazy people and you see some crazy mothers as well, in-laws and mums could tell you they’re crazy. I was not a bridezilla, but I was very — I could say probably controlling. I’d probably didn’t let anyone do anything for my wedding. I did it all myself.
Simon Dell: It sounds like my wife. Anyway, moving right up. Okay, last question. If somebody wants to get a hold of you, if they want to ask you a question or interested in finding out a bit more about the business, what’s the best way of talking to you?
Yvette Sitters: They can find me on LinkedIn under Yvette Sitters or they can go to Facebook or Instagram and find me under Manage My Wedding, or go to ManageMyWedding.com.
Simon Dell: Brilliant. Thank you very much for your time today. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show, and good luck with everything that you’ve got planned in the next 18 months.
Yvette Sitters: Thanks so much, Simon.