Want to grow fast? You need to understand your customers – with Ric Rodriguez from Vashi (episode 304)

Ric Rodriquez is the Head of Search at Vashi, and co-author of the Amazon best seller “Mastering In-House SEO”. Vashi is an ethical fine jewellery service that puts its customers at the heart of the design and making process – especially when it comes to custom engagement rings. They were founded in 2007 and are busy disrupting the jewellery industry – including going from a digital team of 5 to 40 in recent months!

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About Ric

304 Podcast Shownotes

After a career in the music industry, working with bands doing PR the migration to digital made Ric realize he could build a full time career out of link building and SEO.

Ric has worked on the brand, agency and vendor side—something that he says gives a really different perspective on how everything works. 

About the Business

  • UK based based with six stores across the UK
  • Digital website based in the UK
  • Sells mostly within the UK
  • Customized off the shelf platform

Truly Custom Jewelry

Vashi focuses on the importance of personalization and they have built a business by offering genuine co-creation.

From small engravings to custom engagement rings, Vashi will work with customers to design something that has warmth of personality and is truly unique.

Ric says that they are really different from other jewelry businesses because they do truly custom designs, not just customized versions of the same designs. 

Vashi keeps a lot  in-house and the company really values talent. Even though Vashi has been growing rapidly, the company has a genuinely collaborative and close knit culture.

There is a high level of respect among everyone that Ric says makes the job a true pleasure. 

Building a Unique Experience—Online

Jewelry marketing as a whole is experiential and Ric says selling the experience and perception isn’t necessarily new in the industry.

What makes Vashi stand out is that they let the customer know they are truly there to help with a high level of customization while still functioning as a traditional eCommerce shop. 

Value Over Keywords

At its core, search is built to answer questions. Ric prefers to focus on communicating value above optimizing for keywords.

He says that his views are radical in the SEO world, but as search engines move towards looking for value over quantity, he’s being validated in his long held belief. In this vein, Ric doesn’t use keyword plans and doesn’t track volume.

He points out that even though that volume represents lots of people, they are really early in the journey and not easily converted. 

Start From Scratch

As a complete novice in the world of jewelry, a great process Ric went through when he started at Vashi was a deliberate, documented online self education.

Through the process of learning the entire industry from scratch, he was able to uncover some really interesting topics that he would later use to connect with customers.

He says that winning the hearts and minds of customers is really being part of the constant conversation wherever your customer is. You can try and do it with advertising and your best guess of where your customers are, but backwards engineering the process and doing the research yourself is a far faster and more effective way to the same end.

For big ticket items, people know that your business will deliver on the basics, like getting the order processed and delivered. What they’re really looking for is getting more information.

To be really useful you really need to hold people’s hand through the discovery and buying process. Being a regular touchpoint and voice of reason, you’ll be top of mind when the customer is ready to purchase.

Rethinking the Customer Journey

Ric thinks about the customer journey as a set of moments, not a formulaic path. The internet is really just a social graph (people) and information graph (search, content).

The moments happen when those two worlds meet. When and how they occur is impossible to map definitively. Humans are intrinsically spontaneous and Ric points out that you’ll never get it right.

You’ll be better off digging into and delivering answers to the burning questions of your customers.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Brand driven organic search

Tool Top Tip

  • Chrome Plugin called copy All URLs. Allows you to copy, paste all your open web browsers into a spreadsheet and then automatically relaunch all of them simultaneously.

Growth Top Tip

  • Start from scratch. Pretend you know nothing and learn everything you can and fill in the gaps.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • Taylor & Hart’s Nikolay Piriankov who’ve grown to £2.5m selling diamond engagement rings online
  • Launching a watch store by focusing on brand and customers with James Reeves of Diefendorff
  • Founder and CEO of Ettitude Phoebe Yu who’s achieving 15-20% monthly sales growth

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