Your E-Commerce Business

Is Struggling to Scale This Year


I've been scaling eCommerce companies and consulting founders, venture capital, and private equity funds for nearly 8 years, now. Long enough to get carpal tunnel and more grey hair than I'd care to admit. What I'm about to share are things I've only discussed privately in backdoor rooms with other insider industry veterans that I trust. I've never gone public with this. Until now.

No one wants to come for their own colleagues or their own industry. Truth be told, it's an unspoken rule amongst marketers that you don't disparage the space or those in it. Unless you want resentful glares that feel like daggers thrown at you at every marketing conference you attend and are super stoked about getting passed over for main stage opportunities, at least.

But as of the time of this writing, I've come off yet another discovery call with yet another founder who's burst into full-blown tears because he realized how misled he'd been by other marketers in the industry and felt so exhausted, betrayed, and let down. It's the 16th call I've been on this year alone that's featured outright sobbing, not counting any of the calls taken by our sales reps who can relay their own harrowing tales of witnessing woe.

I've seen and heard too much. Too many eCommerce business owners' lives needlessly destroyed, too many people led astray, too many who have gone from excitement to despair and dread about their work, and the space is beginning to feel like a cesspool of collusion, greed, irresponsible actions, gross negligence, and blatant incompetence that is hurting innocent people who are just trying to build something for themselves and their families.

Marketers and agencies prefer not to speak on this publicly, but the less founders like you know about what's really happening, the longer the entire industry will continue to devolve and the more eCommerce brands like yours will get the short end of the stick, losing fortunes, relationships, confidence, and peace of mind.

Knowledge is power, as they say. And it's time you knew the truth.

Not long ago, I stood in front of an intimate, private dining room at the St. Regis Atlanta that was full of eCommerce founders, co-founders, and their Chief Marketing Officers, and asked them to raise their hands if their brand has run paid social traffic in the past four years.

All but one or two raised their hand. So I gave another prompt:

"Keep your hand up...if you've spent more than $1,000,000 in paid social traffic this year."

About two-thirds of the room shifted in their seats and meekly put their hands back down.

The remaining raised hands seemed to be raised just a touch higher than before.

You could just feel the smugness.

Until I dropped my next instruction:

"Now keep your hand up...if your business has been profitable and has actually grown this year."

Smugness was replaced with a sense of unease and nervousness, which crept into the room as the remaining participants looked around the room at one another.

And one by one, founders and CMOs, chuckled, a little sheepishly. There were only four hands left.

I peered at those with their hands still raised. Huh. Interesting. I told the four remaining:

"Put your hands down. You guys know you're not allowed to play this game. You're already clients."

The nervous evaporated as the room erupted in laughter.

Funny, but true.

This wasn't a room of startups or rookies just starting their eCommerce journey. They weren't even new to the growth and scaling phase of that journey.

These were the same people who've been in the game for years, spending tens of thousands on "mentors", investing thousands or even tens of thousands on paid traffic training programs, cutting five and six-figure checks for masterminds, and paying extremely high five and six-figure agency retainers. Who had lost momentum and were seeing little success in a post iOS14.5 world.

And nearly half of them, in addition to running these eCommerce companies, are selling people like you courses, e-books, retreats, and group coaching to show you How They Did It.

I've gotten where I am today in part by being discrete, and for some I'm even bound by NDA so I'll never name names.

But there's a very good chance you've seen their ads.

I fervently wish I was surprised by any of this.

But I'm not. I've seen it time and time again.

An alarmingly high number of people believe the market correction we're seeing, where brands are flailing in the dark, missing revenue projections and are forced to tighten budgets and teams to shore up cashflow, is largely due to Apple's updates and the air of economic uncertainty. And that has played a role, to some degree.

But what you're experiencing now has been a very long time coming. A series of unfortunate events in the making. And it's a well-known secret among industry elites that can't stay secret for much longer.

I've been scaling eCommerce brands, architecting scaling and growth programs for companies, and leading the charge on paid social programs by running traffic for nearly a decade now.

My global team and I have managed over $130 million in ad spend, consulted on countless more, and generated over $1.5 billion in revenue for brands across 72 markets.

Many of them are brands you know and love and some of them are brands even your grandparents know, too.

Chances are you've never heard of me. I don't run the circuit, I don't try to go viral, I don't kiss the ring. I don't vy for big stages. I don't have to.

Anyone who's anyone knows the genuine silent killers are the ones with their heads down in the weeds as practitioners, working in-house or consulting at some of the fastest-growing companies and corporations in the world.

And (no shade, but) I haven't met one yet who has ever heard of Russell Brunson.

We speak on stats, not stages.

We buy board seats, not Birkins.

In short, I get the benefit of both worlds: I'm an insider and an outsider at the same time.

See, my expertise was forged in the fire of experimentation, data science, and corporate strategy for a Fortune 25, which is quite the departure from the traditional Internet Marketer Origin Story.

I don't show up to the funnel hacking events, I don't spend money on lambos, and I've never yearned to be branded with someone else's eight, nine, or ten-figure belt or plaque.

But in terms of expertise, I've been deep in the trenches, heavy in the weeds working side-by-side with CMOs, founders, and their various marketing teams to help them scale to new heights. We've helped them generate $1.5 billion in revenue (and counting).

The beauty of observing the cultural goings on of industry from the outside is that you see the gaps and problems that most marketing professionals don't see, or at least don't want to openly talk about.

The beauty of having insider, in-depth expertise is that you can connect the dots in ways that founders like you cannot. I have access to $130 million in ads data (and counting), about 20x more than what most founders, CMOs, directors of growth, and marketing managers know what to do with, let alone have access to.

And both perspectives play a role in why we've been able to create and deploy customized, bulletproof growth and scaling programs for our eCommerce clients. It's allowed me to zig when others zag, and to see a lot more of the chessboard, so to speak.

But both of these perspectives also, on a very human level, combine to draw connections that absolutely scare the @$#% out of me.

Because lately, the data is converging to tell a story about what's really happening, and what's about to happen.

And a lot of people, inside the industry and outside of it, are in for a terrifying, very uncomfortable awakening.

I've heard a lot.

I've had hundreds and hundreds of intimate and vulnerable discussions with eCommerce founders.

And at this point, I'm furious.

Over the years, I've stood in front of many a room, sat on many a Zoom, and recorded many a Loom. And founders' stories are nearly always a variation on the same theme.

They told me they'd done everything their coaches, gurus, and marketing managers, and CMOs had told them.

Evolved into master implementors.

Followed the marching orders given in masterclasses, webinars, masterminds, courses, and trainings.

Implemented the "proven" templates, scripts, course videos.

Filled out the workbooks, checklists, spreadsheets.

Read the e-books. Studied the basic brand jargon masked as frameworks.

Flew out to the retreats.

Hired the agencies, teams, and marketers recommended by their friends, colleagues, and mastermind leaders.

And still got little in return. They were either still in the same predicament, or even worse off than before.

Teary-eyed founders have confided in me that they'd cashed out their 401ks, cashed out on stocks, bonds, or crypto portfolios, drained their life savings, depleted their raised capital, remortgaged their homes, borrowed from friends, or reinvested months to years of their company's profit to invest in these options.

But worst of all, they lost time. An investment they can never get back.

Their relationships with their children suffered. Their marriages fell apart from the stress. Their mental and physical health and wellness declined.

All for naught.

Given I don't work in an industry like oncology or emergency care that sees death, loss, and physical suffering, the number of times I've had to console adult men and women in various stages of anxiety, stress, and grief is pretty obscene.

These people did everything The Industry told them they were supposed to do.

And what did they have to show for it?

What started off years ago as a series of unfortunate but rare occurrences has become an industry epidemic. And it's reached such critical mass that the only way it'll end is when the entire internet marketing industry experiences what financial analysts would call: a market correction.

And that correction, that decline? It's already started, and it has you, your brand, and hundreds of thousands of brands like yours, in its crosshairs. Here's why.

Ad costs are ever-rising, the window of visibility into data in a privacy-first world is smaller now than ever before, and that same mistrust founders like you are feeling about marketers, agencies, coaches, and gurus?

Welp, your audience of consumers are feeling that same way about brands who are showing up in ads and their social media feeds through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok advertising. Because they're irked by a lot of the same marketing philosophies, business philosophies and practices that the people you've looked up to have hammered into every facet of their trainings, agency SOPs, and rules of engagement.

In kind, they've become more desensitized to (traditional) eCommerce advertising than they've ever been in history.

I'm going to get into this perfect storm that we're in the middle of as a result, but in short: it just got real.

This isn't merely a rant from a weary media buyer, growth strategist, and CMO who's had some drinks and seen some things. What I'm going to show you is going to completely change how you see the industry you've relied on to build your livelihoods, empires, and legacy.

And you're about to discover the real reason your eCommerce business has been struggling to grow and scale lately, and how you can make your business impervious to not only the impending market correction, but the volatility that's existing in the market due to economic uncertainty, data privacy, the platform dramas of paid social–the whole nine.

Or, you can keep doing what you've been doing as you watch yourself get priced out of the paid traffic game and see your ability to scale grind to a halt. Forever.

First, if any of this is to make an iota of sense for you, I need to pour you a double shot of context. Straight, no chaser.

Because there's a really simple reason why this mess is even happening to brands like yours.

As the homie Marcellus said in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

And I'm SICK to DEATH of standing quietly by, watching the elephant in the room plow through unsuspecting eCommerce brands.

Up Next: Part 2 | The Conversion-Crushing Emergence of The Perfect Storm (of Mediocre Marketing)


  • Most brands are struggling to scale and grow profitably with paid traffic, influencer marketing, email marketing, and more. You're not alone. Not by a long shot. But you're not to blame. You don't know what you don't know. And you only did what you were being told.

  • With rising ads costs, diminishing window of visibility into data, and distrust in the market at an all-time high, we're in the midst of THE largest market correction in digital history. It's already sunk thousands of companies and is due to sink hundreds of thousands more who have unknowingly built their marketing and advertising systems on a foundation of sand.

*This exposé was inspired by many sources, authors, and practitioners in the space and outside of it who have grown equally weary of what’s been going on, many team meetings, many learnings from my own experience speaking with and working with a myriad of brands and investors, and many discussions with founders on the challenger brand side of the market doing $10K/month to $20 million/year… not to mention chats with industry insiders and fellow thought leaders operating at the top of their game. None of this exists AT ALL without all of your musings, thoughts, insights, observations, experiences, venting, vulnerability, bravery, sharing, snark, and candor over the years. Thank you all for your contributions, big and small.  

Special shoutout to Alen Sultanic and Andre Chaperon for their perspectives, wisdom, innovation, and inspiring me to be bolder and put myself out there more.

Psssst, these publications have sought out my insights and expertise.