Winning at Talking to Your Customers | Gwen Hutchings

Today's guest is Gwen Hutchings. Gwen is a brand strategist, ecommerce marketer, and copywriter. She's made her clients well over $25 million dollars.

Join us for our conversation about Gwen's deep understanding of people and their motivations -- and how you can put this to work for your store/brand.

Like what you hear? Find Gwen at

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Full transcript of the episode:

Understand who your customer is, understand what it is

they want, what it is they're trying to accomplish,

and not just in terms of solution to the

problem that your product solves, but in their life.

Hey, everybody, you're listening to

the Traffic Handler podcast.

I'm your host, Amy Biddle.

We're about out getting new customers, making new

sales, and growing your retail business with Ecommerce.

My guest today is Gwen Hutchings.

She's a brand strategist,

ecommerce marketer and copywriter.

She's made her clients over $25 million.

With her deep understanding of

people and their motivations.

Brands she's worked with have seen results like

6X email revenue growth,
5X social media growth,
4.5X returnon ad spend,
and 2X lifetime value.

And that's just in the first year.

Gwen, welcome.

Thank you so much for having me,

I'm so excited to have you here.

You and I have great conversations about content for

Ecommerce, and this is not our first conversation.

So tell me, first of all,

we'll start at the high peaks.

How on Earth did you do all of this?

I always work on a team.

I can't take full credit for everything.

I lead teams and teams that have

their knowledge and expertise come together, do

a great deal to help those things.

But ultimately what it comes down to is

knowing how to talk to your customer.

And if people don't speak to their customer the

right way, they are not going to sell them

anything, no matter how good their SEO is, no

matter how much money they spend.

Yeah, absolutely.

You and I were talking about this the other day

when we were getting ready to have this conversation.

Messaging is key, and if you don't have the messaging

right, you're not going to resonate with your customers.

You're not going to probably even reach them.

They may see your stuff, but

you're not going to reach them.

So with that in mind and we'll dig

into this as we go through this conversation.

But how do you determine how to say what you

need to say to your audience, your customers, your prospects?

That's a really good question.

I think it ultimately comes down to two things.

One, stop talking about yourself.

I think that's one of the biggest

mistakes that retailers tend to make.

They think their story is unique

and different, and it may be.

And they think that their product needs to be all the

features need to be talked about and things stop it.

People generally aren't there for that.

They want to know what you can do for them.


And the second part is understand who your customer

is, understand what it is they want, what it

is they're trying to accomplish, and not just in

terms of solution to the problem that your product

solves, but in their life, what do they want?

Really tap into them as a human and

talk to them like they're a person.

Right. So I know that your clients have stuck with

you for quite some time in some cases.

So you have time to kind of

try new messaging and test things out.

Is that a rigorous, difficult, painful, like, I'm not getting

into sleep process or how do you do this?

Fortunately, I get plenty of sleep most of the time.

Part of it comes naturally to me

because I grew up doing theater. Right.

So I spent a lot of time learning to

get into people's sites and understand in theater.

The thing is, what's your motivation, you know?

But customers are no different.

When someone comes to your store,

they're looking to accomplish something.

So when you can understand their motivation, then it's

not a really difficult process to start understanding what

they want and how to communicate to them, how

you can help them with that.

You don't have to be up online.

And yeah, we test different messaging, for sure.

But what we generally start with is understanding who already

is buying from us and who we want to be

buying from us that we're not reaching and kind of

getting into the differences between those groups and maybe what

we need to be saying a little bit differently or

how we need to be positioning a little bit differently

to potentially reach that next group.

It's not arduous.

It just takes a little bit of tapping into

your own human empathy and getting to know what

people are ultimately trying to do in their life. Right.

So that requires really advanced

kind of listening, doesn't it?

Yeah, it does.

And I would suggest it's less listening to experts

and more starting to listen to your customer.

And if you don't have access to the customers themselves,

which can be hard sometimes if they're on an email

list, you're not seeing them face to face.

One of my favorite things to do is to

start looking up media created by that customer.

So if I know that I'm trying to speak to a

40 year old woman, I'm going to start looking on the

Internet at social media posts from 40 year old women.

I'm going to go on TikTok and watch

what the 40 year old women are talking about.

I'm going to read articles by and also

articles about that demographic that tap into the

problems they're struggling with as a demographic.

I'm going to read books, I'm going to watch movies.

I mean, any kind of media that can get you tapped

into them and kind of listening to them by proxy. Right.

That will get you there, right? Exactly.

And I know most of us, as marketers are

generally not selling to people who are us.

I know that we're trying to tap

into the minds of people who are

different, like different ethnic, age, everything.

It could be an entirely different demographic.

And yet we need to get in there

into that conversation that they're having in their

heads, which is just Marketing 101 getting into

the conversation that people are already having.

And I'm trying to remember who

to attribute that quote to.

It is Marketing 101.

And yet so many of us are so bad at it.

As a woman, I can't tell you how many times

I have gone to the store or seen a product

marketed and been like that was definitely written by a

man, a man who has no women in his life

and does not understand and did not ask.

And that's not to put down men by any means.

It's just that there are some men who do

a lot of advertising and marketing who haven't learned

what it actually is women want, you know. Right.

Maybe after having a baby, our

first concern isn't losing weight.

Maybe it's more getting sleep, bonding with our

baby, those kinds of things, those disconnects.

So it's basic marketing, but

it's not getting done, right?

Exactly, exactly, yes.

So, alright, let's do a kind of... role plays are stupid.

Here's a case study.

Client is getting low click through rates on

ads, which is an immediate signal that says

you're not talking to your people.

Your ads just at a very elemental level, click through is

low because your ads are not talking to your people.

So what's the first thing you do?

What's the first test you might look at?

You know, having gotten that feedback.

All right, these ads are not working.

Now what do we do?

The first thing I would do is try to find

somebody who's in their customer group and show them the

ad and say, tell me what you think.



I don't ask other marketers.

Ask a customer.

Yes, exactly.

I love that. I love it.

And no wonder you're getting the

kinds of results that you get.

Because when your target audience tells you exactly what

they want, then you can do more of that.

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And I also will also go into the ad.

The second thing I like to do is say,

are we being negative and focusing on their pain

or are we flipping it to the positive and

focusing on what outcome they're trying to get? Yes.

People don't want to be reminded of the ways

that they're hurting or the ways that they're frustrated.

They already know.

So we can tell them what's going to happen better.

Sorry, that didn't make any sense.

When we can tell them the

better outcome they're going to get. Yes.

Then they're more likely to engage with us.


That is perfect.

So how about a moment to brag?

Give me a story about a client that you worked with.

You don't have to name them here's a client that I

worked with, and this is what I did for them.

Can you give me, for instance? Sure.

So I had a company that I

worked for in house for a while.

And when I went in, they had a massive email list.

But they believed email was utterly dead

because they were making tens of thousands

of dollars a year from their email.

So within the first year we

went in, we tweaked the messaging.

We changed the way that they

were visually representing their customer.

We changed the way that they were speaking to them.

We changed the way they talked about their products, and

we changed the strategy with the email as well.

And we took them to over a

million dollars in that email channel.

Just in email.

I love that.

It was really fun to see

because they had that big list. Yes.

Where we weren't fighting for the ability to

get the words in front of people.

It was purely a test of the messaging. Right.

Since, you know, it was the

messaging that you were focusing on.

It was the messaging that got you from tens of thousands

to a million just an email that's not new customers.

That's existing customers.

And maybe some prospects in there, too, right? Yeah.

I mean, definitely the email list grew.

But part of that is because when you start speaking to

your customers the right way and they start buying from you,

then they start telling people about you love it.

So it was a combination of the two.

I love that. I love it. Great.

So that's the thing that gets the six times email

revenue growth and four and a half times return on

ad spend and doubling the lifetime value of credit card.

That's where that comes from.

I don't know what the number is.

Now, I researched this recently.

It's somewhere between the cost of a new customer

is somewhere between five times and 25 times.

And there's no agreement on this.

The cost of an existing

marketing to an existing customer.

I agree with you how that can go. Absolutely.

And ultimately, this whole conversation

boils down to emotions, right? Yes.

If you're selling them product features, it

doesn't matter how great they are.

You're just not going to tap into that desire.

Emotions is what you need.

And when people can identify with your product as

something that is part of who they are or

something that helps them be who they are and

they form that emotional connection, you go from being

a turn and burn company to creating something sustainable.


And by emotions, you're not talking about

what you were talking about a minute

ago, which was focusing on pain points.

I think the older marketing lessons were,

well, step on the pain points and

really put your heel on that nerve.

And it's not like that.

It really isn't.

So that emotion is going to be

here's what it's going to be like.

And tell me if you agree with this.

Excuse me.

Here's what it's going to be like

when you come on board with us? Absolutely.

There's been a shift over the past five years or

so towards aspirational marketing, and I think that's ultimately what

that is is showing people who they can become or

what they can achieve with your product instead of telling

them all the things that they already tell themselves all

day are wrong with them.


That's talk about making the world a better place.

That's good.

That's like fixing marketing.

I've been in sales and marketing for decades,

and just the whole "step on that last

raw nerve" that always bothered me.

So I'm glad for that.

Well, and that really just came

from my own feelings about it.

You know, as someone who's had my own struggles, I hate

it when a company makes me think about that more.

That's not what I want. I didn't come to you.

I don't want to give you my money.

If you are making me feel bad about myself. Right.

Or reminding me of the ways that I already feel

bad about myself, I don't need to be reminded.

Don't worry, I'm fully aware. Right. Exactly.

The stuff that keeps us up at night is not the

stuff that we want to think about during the day.

So let's talk about customer journey.

Okay, great.

So just making a short leap to a

slightly different angle on the same topic.

How do you feel that you need to differentiate how

you talk to people based on their level of awareness,

based on that whole Eugene Schwartz levels of awareness pyramid

that we hear about all the time.

And yet we sit down to write an ad and

it's just like, oh, well, I'm talking to the warm

market the same way I'm talking to the cold market.

So how do you approach the customer journey, the levels

of awareness of a prospect or a returning customer?

Yeah, that's a great question and kind of a really

big topic, but ultimately, yeah, you have to speak to

them differently, otherwise you're going to lose them.

You know, a lot of us like to or have this

instinct, I guess, to give people as much information as possible

up front and tell them all the amazing things that they're

going to feel and be and do and accomplish.

And it's overwhelming.

It's like drinking from a fire hose, as they say.

We start with just making them

aware that we exist, period.

And the biggest picture of how we can help them.

So instead of saying this product, we'll do this, and

this product will do this, we say, look at this

life that you could be living or that you already

see yourself in and you fit within, you know, this.

We are just speaking to them overall about

their lifestyle and about who they are.

And then we slowly bring them down and drip them

down into well, this could help you with X issue.

Maybe you're having problems with sleep.

Let me go ahead and show you some sleep

products we have that are going to give you

the most restful sleep you've ever had.

Oh, did you know about our founder?

The reason they created this is they had the

same issue with sleep, and they feel amazing.

It's just bringing them down

those stages of awareness slowly. Right.

Because ultimately you want to get them to

buy the product, but first you have to

get them to care that you exist. Right.

And people will care when it affects them in

the way they need it to affect them.

Absolutely not.

Because we're beating them over the head with

this message that we want them to hear. Yeah, for sure.

And ultimately that's kind of

what lifestyle marketing is about.

And that's the approach I tend to take is instead

of saying buy our product, buyer product, buyer product, we're

saying, come with your life, like us, come join us.

We're having a party.

Don't you want to come? Yeah.

And I think for most people, that aspirational message.

First of all, it's still unique

enough that people want that.

Oh, look at this ad here's.

This person on the beach.

Well, I live in Detroit, so I'm not going to be on

a beach, but I want to feel like that kind of thing.

I'm not actually in Detroit because

I live at the beach.

But you know what I mean?

You have the dream already.

I'm already living the dream. Right.

We're trying to get other people to live

the dream no matter where they are.

And I'm not slamming Detroit.

I actually think it's a really cool place.

And I have a cousin who lives up there.

But you're dreaming of the beach.

Yeah, exactly.

All right.

This is really cool.

So let's talk about social media... it's one

of the things that you have done.

It's just one of the different types of channels.

So let's tackle social media growth for a minute because

that was a five X leap for you, for clients.

How do you do that?

How do you take somebody from

"your social media is really mediocre".

And now we're going to tune that up.

How do you do that? Ultimately?

I mean, it comes down to the same thing,

but the great thing about social is it's interactive.

So if you're giving people things that they can respond

to you're posing questions or showing them something that makes

them say, oh, my gosh, that's so cool.

People are compelled to respond because this

is the way we've learned to communicate

over the past ten years or so.

I also really think there's a lot to be

said for giving away free information on social media.

So when I worked for an outdoor company, we had

a lot of focus on over the fire cooking, and

we would give out recipes on social media.

We show picture beautiful food cooking over

the fire and say, here's the recipe

for this right there in the caption.

Or, you know, here's how

you make this beautiful cocktail.

Or we'd have someone in the stories just asking people

what they want and then giving it to them. Right.

And that doesn't have to be a difficult prospect.

I mean, give me the recipe for Open Fire Cash Utility.

That's got to be easy as can be.

Yeah, exactly.

And the beautiful thing is then if you have

that photo of the Open Fire Cashew Chili. Right.

And you've got the recipe, well, not everybody's

going to see it on social media.

So you can then put it in an email.

And then at the bottom, you can put

a few pictures of the different pieces of

products that were used to cook it.

So if you're selling cast iron, then you can

show them the cast iron cookware that was used.

And then you can put it on your blog as a recipe.

And you can send that out later in the month as here

are some things you might have missed from us this month.

So you take this one piece of content

you're making that has a message and value

you're giving the customer something instead of just

constantly asking them for their money. Right.

And you can use it in all these different ways and

get a real bang for your buck and make sure that

as many people as possible are hearing that message.

Right. Exactly.

Because people tend not to leap across channels.

Like, we're all using email and a certain percentage

of us are using Facebook or Instagram or TikTok,

but we may not jump channels.


And even if you engage with a brand or a

store on multiple channels with algorithms and filters in your

email and just the sheer deluge of information and content

coming at you, you still might not see it unless

it comes to you in multiple ways. Right. Awesome.

You know, multiple ways brings

up the topic of frequency.

And I know that for people whose Facebook ads I

run, we'll do to a warm market, we'll do a

frequency of up to 40, which seems like a lot.

But people are not seeing the ad that many times.

So Facebook may report a 40.

But I would hazard a guess that people are

seeing an ad maybe five times in that 40. Yeah.

And if they're actually seeing it and taking it

in is even less because we are so trained

to just scroll past anything that resembles an ad.

Right, exactly.

Oh, now that's an interesting thing.

So anything that resembles an ad, do you find that

making content for any channel, any platform that doesn't look

like an ad gets in better or how?

That's a great question.

And it partially depends on vertical. Right.

And what kind of industry and customer you're serving and

there are times that ads are great because people go,

oh, this is something maybe I don't know about.

But if you're hitting your warm market, it's better to

keep it looking less like an ad, unless you're having

a sale or something where you just want to let

them know, hey, you can save some money right now.

Come on over.

I'm not a big believer in super long captions

that are mocked up to look like a story,

but really, people don't read it that way.

It feels disingenuous. Yes.

So when I say that it doesn't look

like an ad, maybe your ad is more

recipe, even though you're selling cookware.

Or maybe it's an ad about a makeup tutorial.

If you're selling a beauty product, it

doesn't have to be disguised as content.

You can just make content.

That is an app. Yes.

And I think that's going to be the way that

you're really going to get that genuine empathy going.


And there's definitely a place

for traditional ads, too.

I'm very much an advertising minded person in

the way I think about campaigns and things. Right.

There's a value, but you need to mix

it up and see what resonates with your

audience and which ones perform best.

Yeah, this is brilliant.

So, Gwen, we're going to have a

bunch of stuff in the show notes.

We're going to have the link to your website.

Do you want to talk about how people

can work with you and talk about your

website and talk about how to get started?

What do people do? Great.

The easiest way to get in touch with

me is to go to my website. (

If you message me on LinkedIn, I might not see

it for two months because I'm just not on there

a lot.

I tend to work on retainers.

I work as a consultant.

Mostly I like to come in, work with your team

to figure out, or just if you're a small business,

just you, and figure out what it is you need,

where you're going wrong or where you can improve.

Maybe you're doing things right.

You just need to take it a

little bit further in some direction. Right.

And then I like to set you up to succeed and step out.

I'm not a big one for being the executor all the time.

I only do that in very limited capacities so I can

help you find the people that you need to execute.

Mostly, I just want to help you figure out how to

speak to your customer and get the groundwork for that lead.

That's great.

And for most small business owners, the avatar

is first and foremost, they like control.

So that offer from you.

And I love that you're nodding.

For those who are just on audio

for this, Gwen is nodding ferociously.

We've both worked with the avatar of

the ecommerce business owner, and control is

first and foremost the thing.

So for you to come in as a consultant is

brilliant because then we could just say, hey, you do

these things and you're going to see improvements because you've

got the track record, you've got the chops, you've got

the experience to know when store owners when business owners

do these things, they get results that have looked like

this for other people and so they will look like

this for you. Absolutely. Brilliant. Good.

Well, and we know that they like control

because we work for ourselves too, right? Absolutely.

Oh, control freak. Absolutely.

Yes, absolutely.

I won't go back to the corporate world anytime soon.

Yeah, exactly.

This way you get to do your

own thing and help other people.

And that old Zig Ziglar thing is, "If you help

enough people get what they want, you get what

you want," and that's a great way to live. Yeah.

And that applies to your customers, too. Absolutely.


It's the same thing we've been talking

about for the last however long.

It's been almost half an hour.

So the whole idea is help your customers get what

they want and kind of to recap what that means

is they want to feel good about themselves, about their

lives and as your brand can be part of that

uplift that aspirational message to them, then they'll bring you

along and let you be a part of that lifestyle. Yeah.

If I may just add one last thought.

It's like you want to be the Oprah of your industry.

Oprah is who she is because she

makes people feel good even when they're

talking about things that might feel bad.

She understands people and she helps

them get what they want.

You know, that's perfect.

That's a perfect way to end. Great.

Gwen, thank you so much for being here.

Reach Gwen at

That's and I'll have your information

in the show notes.

Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you so much for having me, Amy

Today's episode is sponsored By Bold Apps.

Bold offers a full suite of proven Apps for

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You've been listening to the Traffic Handler

Podcast, getting new customers, making new sales,

and growing your retail business with ecommerce.

I'm your host, Amy Biddle.

Get more at Until next time, go sell more stuff.


Podcast music by Dan Lebowitz.