“Online Marketing for Your Small Business Can Make or Break You” with Steven Burton
By Casmin Wisner
“From the beginning, I’ve tried to convey a culture and attitude of not being scared to share ideas, make mistakes, or strive for greatness.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Burton, Founder & CEO of Perfect Tux, a formal wear e-commerce company. Burton is the 33-years-old and a lifetime entrepreneur, having started his first e-commerce business at the age of 18. Though his goal is to create a successful business, his mission is to educate minority youth on the importance of being well dressed, owning a business, and building wealth. And thus far he is succeeding. Perfect Tux has done nearly $1 Million in revenue in roughly two years and has been featured on CBS’ The Talk. They will also be featured in the upcoming films Ocean’s Eight and Pitch Perfect 3.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I like to say that I’m a lifetime entrepreneur. I started my first e-commerce business called HipHop-Wear.com, right out of high school in 2002 and it was pretty successful. What I built from that allowed me to chase my true passion — music. I chased that dream for about nine to ten years. I picked up a gold record along the way and started a music licensing and publishing company that provided music for tv shows and movies. My music was heard on networks such as BET, Hallmark, Lifetime, Disney, FX and more.
While I was pursuing music I was also working for another e-commerce company in the menswear industry. About five years ago, I was feeling burnt out with the music industry and wanted to start my own business. I was tired of working for someone and giving them all my knowledge and ideas while not reaping the benefits of it. In 2016 I quit my nine-to-five job and founded Perfect Tux.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of our vendors made a mistake on a large customer order once that ended up being far more complicated than we thought. The customer was leaving the country and in order to get it to them in time for their event we had to ship the package international — I didn’t realize it needed to go to Austria!
What do you think makes your company stand out?
Perfect Tux has established itself as a main competitor in the online formal wear retail market by utilizing an aggressive marketing strategy for intent and ready-to-purchase customers, creating a user-friendly website for the modern customer, and understanding user data to capture conversions.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
From the beginning, I’ve tried to convey a culture and attitude of not being scared to share ideas, make mistakes, or strive for greatness. I have a quote on the whiteboard in the office that says, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Everyone sees that quote and it just brings home the fact that I would rather you reach for the sky and let me scale you back than for you to be too scared and cautious, waiting for the perfect and ideal situation.
Also — I think keeping your employees up to speed with business goals and progression is key to making them feel invested in the company’s success.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who has helped get you to where you are?
This is a tough question because honestly, business-wise, there hasn’t been anyone that has helped me that I would consider a mentor or someone I had a close personal relationship with. But there has been some great help at organizations like the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and SCORE along the way. It’s really sad, but the fact of the matter is I’m the first person in my family to start their own business, and I only have one other friend that currently has their own business.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This question kind of ties into my answer to number 5. I’m able to help others, specifically minorities, that want to start their own business and are looking for guidance and mentorship. Just the other day a cousin of mine emailed me about how they could start their own business. I was so happy to be able to give them all the info that I wish someone gave me.
I’m an active member of the Los Angeles Black Investors Club, I’ve put together local meet-ups with friends and family on the topic of business and personal finance, and recently, I’ve visited an inner-city junior high school to speak about the importance of entrepreneurship and judged a business pitch contest.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
- Understand your industry and competition. There was a reason why I was able to hit six figures in revenue in a few months after launching the business. I understood my industry and competitors, and knew exactly what they lacked. I used that information to my advantage.
- Understand inventory, returns, and the effect those can have on your bottom line. When I first started my business, I bought a bunch of inventory for what I thought my customers would like based on my past history in the industry working with another company that didn’t end up selling. This was a bad decision because I was going after a different type of customer — and what works for another company may not work for yours.
- Collect data, analyze it, and use it to improve your conversions.Especially with e-commerce, data is king! You need to be using tools such as google analytics, any internal data tracking systems, and website pixels.
- Familiarize yourself with online marketing. It can make or break you!Today, with search engines, it takes about 6–8 months to start to rank on Google organically, and the majority of the real estate on the page is all paid ads. And it gets even smaller on mobile search results. So if you want to instantly get in front of people on search engines and social media, you have to do PPC advertisement.
- Understand CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost). Being a new e-commerce website, you wont have too much organic traffic so you’ll be paying for a lot of your visitors. It’s important to keep your CAC at a profitable number while doing your marketing.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?
“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Robert Johnson (founder of BET) — He was the first black billionaire and his story is so inspirational. I would love to pick his brain about his journey.
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.