Podcast episode “Building Your Brand Through Local Events with Ambroise Debret”


This post first appeared on Ambroise Debret’s website.


Last week, one of our organizers has been guest of Extra Paycheck Podcast for a 67th episode about MTL+ECOMMERCE! In this 45 minute episode, he has a great conversation with Alex Sol about event organization, growth hacking and how to leverage side-projets to build your network and personal branding. This podcast has received good comments and we decided to share it with our audience, you! You can either listen to it with the options presented below or read it with the full transcript.


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The Full Transcript:

Alex: Welcome to yet another episode of Extra Paycheck podcast, this is episode number sixty-seven, and today’s special guest is from Montreal – his name is Ambroise. He’s an entrepreneur, a growth-hacker, and an event organizer. A great show is ahead of you, so enjoy today’s episode.

Hi Ambroise and welcome to the Extra Paycheck podcast.
Ambroise: Hi Alex, thanks for having me.

Alex: Please tell us a little more about yourself and what it is that you do as a business’s main activity that we’re here to talk about today.

Ambroise: So I was born in Germany and then moved to England and all around France, and when I was eighteen I decided to come study in Montreal. So I studied business at HEC Montréal, specifically marketing and IT. Then I worked at a startup (Now In Store) studied, did a Master’s degree, , and now my full time job is a growth-hacker and product owner at Yellow Pages. So basically I work on mobile apps and websites, work with developers, and try to make those websites and apps grow. Something I do on the side is as you said is MTL + Ecommerce, which I think we’ll talk about more specifically tonight. So MTL + Ecommerce is the biggest monthly Ecommerce event in North America; we started it three years ago, it’s a non-profit, and we have around 150 to 200 attendees per event.

Alex: Okay, so tell us a little bit more about these events. You said it’s a monthly event, right? What happens at those events?

Ambroise: So those events are where the ecommerce community in Montreal gathers every month. This initially was started by Charles Brun; I worked at his startup (Now In Store) two years ago and I got involved. It started as a very chill event at bars with developers in ecommerce, and it grew to what it is today – I would say a world class event, we’ve been featured in world rankings in the ecommerce events, we have speakers coming from New York often times, so it’s really well known in Canada and North America.

Alex: Awesome. So to me it’s kind of a big thing because if I would want to put up an event of any kind, on any subject really, I wouldn’t know where to begin because to me this is pretty much impossible to do. There’s so much that comes to mind when setting up an event like that, and I think it could be extremely difficult. So maybe you could give us some hints on how an event like that could be set up?

Ambroise: So the first part is to choose a topic and to stick to it. I see too many meet ups starting as a startup event and then growing into something else, stuff like that. So MTL + Ecommerce is, I would say, a known event; we have been doing this for three years, so we have some kind of systems and routines in place. But I would say stay simple. The format we found works best is having two speakers speak for twenty minutes each and then have Q & A’s. People also come there to network, have a bite, have a drink; so yeah, I would say stay simple, stick to your topic, and build upon that.

Alex: Makes sense. And I guess the more you do it, the more connections you get, you just get better at it as you said – you have systems in place eventually, and it becomes a little bit easier and less chaotic. Let’s look at your event, and maybe you could explain why exactly you’re doing that event. Because as we just talked about, it does take a lot of time to set up, it takes a lot of effort; what’s the reason for doing these events every single month? Why are you doing that?

Ambroise: When I started doing events, I was a student at business school. I wanted to get involved in student associations, and basically every student association organizes events. That’s when I got started with events. I was doing it mainly for networking and growing my network here since I’m not from Montreal. I would say it really helps with personal branding. So if you organize events in a specific industry, soon you’ll have one of the best networks in your industry because people talk about the event, they come, they meet you, and this network also follows you on your personal accounts. When I began helping with MTL + Ecommerce, I had a small Twitter account, then I leveraged MTL + Ecommerce to build my personal blog and grew my Twitter account. So it’s really kind of a deal you make with yourself: you grow your events month by month, and it also helps you grow your personal branding.

Alex: I think this is a really good answer, and that’s where it becomes a lot more interesting for people who are for instance listening to this podcast, because that’s a goal for many of us – to build our personal brands, to build our following online especially, and an event like that would be a great way to do that. But once again I think there’s a difference between doing one event and making them a regular, reoccurring thing.

Ambroise: Yeah, really. And we talked about personal branding, but I see some companies doing events, so there’s many ways to leverage events. For instance, I know companies that organize monthly meetups; basically they put their companies as sponsors to organize the event, and that’s their way to pay back to the community, meet everyone, and also to find new prospects, new leads. So in every industry you can have new leads that way. For instance, at the beginning of our events we introduce our sponsors; they are paid sponsors, but they do that to have visibility in our community and online. You get to have people come to the event and ask you about your product or service, that’s really great for them.

Alex: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. A lot of companies would set up events like that, but I’m sure a lot of companies would prefer to partner up with a local event that already exists and just throw some money at you and be like “can you promote us or just have us within your event as a sponsor” for visibility.

Ambroise: Another way to do that is to host events. So we have five, six paid partners for our company and we also have some community sponsors that don’t pay us and we don’t pay them, but we promote each other and make sure to build a coherent community around our field. Also, like I said, you can host events at any place. We basically rarely pay for a room, we have sponsors like Shopify and Light Speed in Montreal that hosts our events on a regular basis, and that’s a great way for them to have people come to their offices, to recruit people, and be visible without having to pay since they already have the venue.

Alex: That’s really awesome. Can you maybe dig a little bit deeper into getting those paid sponsors? How do you actually get companies to listen to you, to trust you and your event, and how do you approach them about getting sponsorship from them for your event?

Ambroise: Once again, it’s all about network. In our case, since Charles Brun (who funded the meetup), in Montreal he founded the restaurant chain Juliette & Chocolat, he also had his startup, so he kind of a global network even in the U.S. and in France. So if you launch an event next month, you won’t have PayPal or Shopify as a sponsor. But you could have some great local sponsors, for instance since we had Cake Mail as a sponsor in the beginning, they’re kind of the Montreal-based MailChimp. Then you grow your sponsors as you grow your events, they get more interested. Some people will be at your event and ask if they can sponsor, but it’s not about having all of the sponsors that you can. We’re very selective about sponsor because it takes a lot of time, and also sponsors don’t want to be competing with other sponsors. So if we have an ecommerce agency or a web hosting agency, they don’t want to be around other sponsors.

Alex: Do you mean they don’t want to have other sponsors sponsoring the event, or they don’t want other companies who are in the same space as them also being a sponsor of the event?

Ambroise: They don’t want companies in the same field, yeah.

Alex: So they’re okay with other companies, say if it’s the web hosting firm, they’re fine with having some marketing firms sponsoring your event at the same time?

Ambroise: Exactly. And a big challenge is to have them pay you in time, so what I suggest is having them pay you in advance. For instance, have them sign a contract for six months and have them pay upfront, because otherwise cannot always contact them to get the money – it’s an issue at the beginning. And also something great about sponsors is that not only do they help you at the event, but they also help you find venues and speakers. Because the people who sponsor events, they go to a lot of events that are a huge international network, that really helps when it’s time to find a speaker.

Alex: That makes a lot of sense. We talked about the good things, the positive things about creating those events such as networking, creating a contact base of some sort, people who follow you and like your brand. Can you actually set up an event around those kind of events in your opinion? With a purpose of not monetizing your brand, but making money off the event itself, how possible is that?

Ambroise: Of course many people do it. Basically, for the kind of event we do, we have two sources of income: we have the sponsors who participate to pay for the food, the drinks, the venue, and you also have the tickets. In our case, we have early bird tickets at ten dollars, then we switch to twenty dollars, which is also the price they pay at the door if we’re not sold out. So with those two streams of income, you could easily make money off of it. In our case we chose to be a non-profit because this way we stay true to ourselves, not like other events. And also, a good way to make money off of it would be to do classes and training. We did one pilot in September, it was a Google Analytics class, it worked really well; for a year we’ve talked about it a lot, basically one of us could live off of MTL Ecommerce if we spent all of our time doing that.

Alex: So basically if you did that full-time, you could easily live off of that only? Just from the events?

Ambroise: Exactly.

Alex: Okay, cool. So now I want to speak a little bit more about, once again organizing events and stuff, maybe you could share some strategies of promoting those events? Because setting up an event is one thing, and imagine if even if you found some very small local sponsors, and it’s a company that wants to be involved but they’re a small company so they don’t have a network of followers, so it’s hard for them to help you advertise and market the event. So pretty much you’re stuck alone with marketing and advertising the event. You could give out some tips and hints on how one could advertise the event and get the most people possible coming to it.

Ambroise: Sure, I’d be happy to. So the first part of organizing an event is finding your speakers, sponsors, and your venue because this defines the date of your event. Once you have the date, you can basically begin promoting like crazy. It depends also if you’re doing a small local event, it’d be easier to find a small place and speakers to talk there at that time, but if you have well-known speakers like we had Harley Finkelstein from Shopify who’s the COO, it’s going to be a bit harder. So I would say once you have that, you’re good to begin promoting. It’s happened that we had the speakers and venue one week or less before the event and still sold out on tickets. So once you have that, if you’re beginning with Meetup.com and Eventbrite, because those are places people come to find events like yours. So they have some internal traffic and you won’t have to build a website from scratch at the beginning. For promotion and event growth hacking ,social media is a great place to start. In our case, we leveraged Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, even Periscope. Facebook is pretty powerful because you can easily reach your network, so you can have a page for your event series, you can have an event on Facebook which is really powerful since you can invite people and they’re set up in a way that if someone is coming or maybe, you’ll see notifications as opposed to a Facebook page, so that’s huge for us. We also do some ads on Facebook, very small budgets, but it helps us reach specific people that we want to target. You can also have them like your page afterwards, which is nice. On Twitter, you can reach out to people you know who are influencers in your industry, so just tag them in a post, ask them if they’re coming, ask them what they think about the topic, you can even begin to gather some questions about the presentations. Since we’re mainly talking about pro events, LinkedIn is also a place to go; you can post on your personal network, personal accounts, we’ve set up a group page. Also for social media, ask your sponsors to post on their social media; even if they’re small, it’s going to bring some people. Your speakers are the same. Also in tele commerce, with a team of five people who do that on their site. But we all post the event on our LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and even ask our volunteers to do so. That way you start with a small base of people. Of course, if you start with Meetups, then they have a newsletter system built in so you can easily reach out to all of your members. As your listeners know, email is a powerful way to reach out to people, even if you use your own email list.

Alex: Thanks for that. And I think a lot of the things that you mentioned is not event-specific, it’s pretty much for any business; all of those strategies are really powerful if done properly, and could bring in the traffic, the money, the people, everything else.

Ambroise: Exactly. And my full-time job is growth hacker, so I think it helped a lot to build those networks and to automate a lot of stuff. If you do that on your own time, you don’t want to spend six hours to plan a post on your social media, so you could automate that. If you have it posted on Instagram, you could have it posted on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. You can also set up some automatic posts where you have a blog post shared via social media or email.

Alex: Since you mentioned the term growth hacker, maybe we could go into growth hacking a little bit. First of all, let’s start with you explaining what growth hacking is for those who might not be familiar with the term.

Ambroise: Okay, so it’s kind of a buzzword, everybody kind of has their definition of it. For me, it’s all about the product in the end. So you build a good product, people won’t come to it; but if you build a product that encourages people to share it with their connections, their friends and family, then you have better chances of having it grow. Also, many people think of growth hacking as a set of tools, a set of tricks that can increase your conversion rate by .5 percent, but in my opinion Growth Hacking more about creating systems around your product or websites. Automation’s like I just said, so you can focus on what’s really important for you.

Alex: Maybe you could give us some real life examples of growth hacking that you have done personally to help you either grow an event or grow your brand or anything, really.

Ambroise: So a simple one is with MTL+ECOMMERCE accounts; so on Twitter I have set up If This Then That and Buffer in a way that when Shopify posts a blog post on the blog, it automatically gets posted on our Twitter, so it saves us a lot of time during the events. Also during the events, you don’t want to be posting all over social media, so usually we have a volunteer that does that. But you could simplify his or her life with automations. For instance, when you do a Periscope, make sure that it’s posted on Twitter, Facebook, all your account basically.

Alex: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So I guess in your case and your specific industry which is a growth hacking, is pretty much getting the most value of your actions by automation, by simplifying things, by I guess batching things; just getting more results out of the same effort in a way.

Ambroise: Exactly. And also finding what your customers really like and want in your product.

Alex: Yeah, I guess that’s kind of the golden egg kind of, the secret to success. You could spend years building a software or product of any kind, to only find out after two years that nobody wants your software or the quality’s not there. So the actual point is finding out what people want and giving that to them, not what you think they want.

Ambroise: Exactly. Being as lean as possible and testing everything on the way.

Alex: That makes a lot of sense. I’ve been looking at another research that you just mentioned “If This Then That”, that thing could be incredibly interesting and I just started using it not too long ago. For one of the examples I’m using it for, when I post a picture on a very specific Instagram account, I use If This Then That to automatically repost that picture on the Facebook page for the same brand or the same account, in a way. A lot of people told me that “it’s easy, like you shouldn’t do that on Instagram. It’s super easy, you just click on share and you set up your Facebook account with your Instagram account and it’s just the push of a button.” What I found out in my case, let’s say I have four Instagram accounts set up on my phone. And whenever I add a Facebook account to my Instagram account through my phone, it stays on one single account. So let’s say I have my personal account, and I want to post a picture. If I do a share, it’s not going to share it on my personal account, it’s going to share it on my business page. Basically I think it’s a problem with Instagram that they don’t allow you to pair up very specific Instagram accounts to very specific Facebook accounts through your phone. But the use of “this then that” to kind of solve this for me, and it’s saved me so much time.

Ambroise: I can imagine. And the “this then that” is kind of the personal way of doing marketing and automation on that level, you could check out also Zapier, which allows you to build very low automations, collecting many systems.

Alex: Are you ever in doubt about these systems and these services? Have they ever failed you?

Ambroise: I’ve been using If This Then That for two years now, and it never really failed me. When it failed me, it was because I didn’t set up the recipe (as they call it) properly. So in the beginning you’re going to do some try and miss. For instance, I planned for my Instagram to post to my Facebook, but it only posted the link at the beginning; so it’s really about finding the right recipe for you. Also something very interesting is that you can collect the buffer or other tools like that that can publish at the best time for your agents. So if you post your Instagram picture for instance at eleven at night, your post on your Facebook and Twitter can go on the next day at the perfect time, so it really improves your reach.

Alex: Yeah, that’s actually very interesting. But then once again, you’re mentioning something that I think a lot of people, especially beginners in marketing, aren’t very well aware of. You need to find the best time that your audience hangs out where and what they do and when. For instance, on one of my Instagram accounts which is about motorcycles, I noticed that most of the likes that I get to my pictures, most of the comments, is when I post between seven in the morning and eleven in the morning on weekdays. That’s one of the accounts; other accounts have different times when they get the most likes. So this made me think “wow, so people who like motorcycles and who look at motorcycle pictures is people who are working at whatever job they have, and they just waste their time in the morning instead of getting work done, they’re looking at pictures of motorcycles.” This specific crowd, that’s what they do. And sometimes it’s mind-blowing, it’s like “okay, so for them I should not post in the evening”. Then you have like a treble account on Instagram, and those people like it if you post it in the evening, say starting at 7 PM – that’s when you get the most activity. That’s something I find really, really crazy and that’s something that if you figure out where your audience hangs out and when exactly, and you set up those postings to go out exactly when they’re there, that’s when you get the most results from your social media efforts.

Ambroise: That’s a secret. At Yellow Pages I work on an app called ShopWise, which is an app that features deals and flyers from retailers in Canada, and our target users are basically stay-at-home moms who like to save money, so I can imagine it’s a very different crowd from yours that you just described.

Alex: Totally. Even that, stay-at-home moms you would think “okay, they stay at home, they’re free the whole day”, but that’s not true, they aren’t free the whole day, they have things to do. And I’m sure most of them do things in a very similar way and their off time, when they’re browsing the internet, is also around the same time of the day for most of them. Not for all, but for most.

Ambroise: You also see some of the different levels of tech-savviness. Some of them are more comfortable with Facebook, some with Pinterest, Instagram, so that’s always about testing and seeing what works best with your crowd and product at the end.

Alex: That’s an interesting one. Tell us about your very specific event, have you noticed one of the social media channels being a lot more used by your targeted audience than the others?

Ambroise: For events like ecommerce, we see a huge difference in between events and at events social media. So in between events, our crowd is more on LinkedIn and Facebook, that’s why we heavily promote. So sometimes we do a boosted post on Facebook, and the max must have been about 80 likes, which is not that much but we don’t put that much into it. Also during the event, especially people in e-com, they Tweet like crazy. So we’ve hit Canada’s top chart with our hashtag once, so it’s very interesting to see how people use different social media during specific times. For instance, we were thinking of leveraging SnapChat as social media, because in the event you see many young people SnapChatting, so we could maybe buy kind of a layer with our logo in it.

Alex: That’s actually very interesting. I think this is also when you see the difference of appropriate social network because a lot of people don’t get Twitter, they don’t like Twitter, they say Twitter is useless. But I’ve noticed too, at events such as yours, a lot of people are using Twitter not before or after the event, but during the event. This is when you get to read people’s emotions, reactions, opinions, thoughts, and whatever. I don’t know why, but I noticed during the events, everybody’s on Twitter.

Ambroise: I have a few ideas on why. As I said on social media, we have someone during the event always on the social media to post about the presentations, also to mention and reply to people, especially on Twitter. People come to events to network, to hear interesting things they want to share, and if you engage with them they kind of want to have a conversation about what the speaker is saying. It’s also a good way to gather questions for the end of your presentations. As I said, at MTL Ecommerce we do twenty minute presentations and about ten minutes of Q & A, and sometimes you’ll have a blank in the audience about questions. Some people are too shy and ask their questions via Twitter, so we have to ask them for the people. I find it pretty interesting.

Alex: That makes a lot of sense. So I have a next question here, once again about the events. What do you think, or what was in your opinion and experience, the hardest thing or the hardest part about setting up a local event?

Ambroise: Hmm, good question.

Alex: I thought you were going to say everything.

Ambroise: That’s kind of everything that’s true. But I thought about it a bit all year, but it’s finding your speaker and venue, then at our state in ecommerce it’s pretty easy to sell our tickets on our website with an ecommerce solution to sell them, people know us, etcetera. But I remember when I joined in 2014, I think, we were struggling to fill a sixty-person room, but now it’s really easy to fill a two-hundred-person room even more. Every event has its challenge, for instance the last event was our thirtieth edition, and fifteen minutes before people came in the room we had to change all the room’s setup: the projectors, the chairs, the sound, the mics, all because a speaker was not comfortable speaking that way. In the end it made a lot of sense and we did it, but you can never predict how it will go during the event – that’s always an unknown. What I learned is that you can prepare all you want before the event, have a program, have volunteers, but you’ll always have something.

Alex: That’s crazy. You have to be ready to improvise and then switch up and change things around.

Ambroise: That’s the fun of it.

Alex: For the podcast, it’s a bit similar to event, I guess. As in finding people to be on the podcast and finding speakers for the events; as you said, it’s quite difficult. And it’s not just getting people on, it’s not just having the people agree to be in your event, but you have to make sure you find someone appropriate for your event and someone you think would be able to give out interesting content because in the end, that’s what it’s all about. People go to your event because they want to hear and learn interesting content; that’s what it’s all about in the end.

Ambroise: I find podcasting and event planning is similar in many ways; you have to find speakers, you have to make sure to find the right speakers that reach your audience, and you also want to influence your audience a bit so that it reflects what you want for your podcast or event. You also plan for weeks beforehand, and it’s just a one-time, one or two hour and that’s it.

Alex: That’s true. Alright Ambroise, you just shared a lot of tips on the subject and you told us how amazing local events can be, and someone listening to this podcast is saying “you know what, I’m going to do that, I’m going to do a local event to grow my brand and to get more awareness about my company or about what my business does.” What would be your number one tip, your most important advice to someone setting up the event for the very first time?

Ambroise: I’d say stay simple; it’s always better to have a well-functioning, maybe one speaker event that lasts one hour and has the right people come. I’ve often seen events where there are four, five, six speakers that were not chosen carefully and that the people can’t relate to. And that’s what it’s all about in the end – people want to come to events and begin to apply what they learned the next day at work or whatever they’re doing with that.

Alex: That makes a lot of sense. I think if you’re keeping it simple, especially for your first event, it will make things so much easier on you, and I think there’s a lot less chance of you screwing up.

Ambroise: Yeah, but now you know I’m a testing advocate, so it’s the same for events. You can test events and see how it goes; if you have the feedback you want, you can stick to it, and if not you can switch ways – that’s what we did with our training event in last September. It worked but we needed time to structure and do more of those.

Alex: Yeah, totally. And what, in your opinion, is the future of MTL + Ecommerce and your involvement in it? What do you think is going to happen in the next say year or the next five years?

Ambroise: Interesting question. So the founder of MTL Ecommerce now lives in New York, so we might want to get abroad for events. We’re open to partnerships; we’ve had partnerships with the people in ecommerce in Montreal, we started speaking with people in the Vancouver and Toronto. So since we know we have a good working recipe, and that we’re independent from a particular company, one could well see that we’ll expand soon; that’s why we took the summer off – we won’t do any events in July and August, but we’ll be back in September with more structured team and events. So hopefully if wherever you live in North America you’ll have NYC + Ecommerce, Vancouver + Ecommerce, some of those.

Alex: That’s interesting, I’d like to see that grow in North America, maybe all over the world eventually. But I’m sure there’ll be a lot of effort and a lot of time to get there. Do you think you might go into that full-time at some point doing just that?

Ambroise: I don’t know, we could have had a deal with that team that would keep a full-time job and run that on the side, but if it makes sense for me at one point, why not.

Alex: So it is a possibility at some point, maybe.

Ambroise: At some point, depending on the size it takes and everything.

Alex: Alright, awesome. I have another question about the very specific event that you’re doing – MTL + Ecommerce. Why ecommerce? Why did you choose that topic? Because you said at the beginning, if you’re planning an event to choose the topic of your event and that’s what you should stick to. So in your case, why ecommerce?

Ambroise: So I wasn’t there when MTL + Ecommerce first started in 2012, but I know there was a real need of this topic in the Montreal crowd, so it’s a bit like I know you have some podcast (episodes) about finding niche websites and a niche you can get into. It was kind of the same – there was a real lack of ecommerce, it was all new, everyone was talking about it. It’s a bit the same with growth hacking now, I see some people trying to do some event to start something. So once you have a topic, ecommerce is pretty broad for us. We have people who are really in ecommerce, all the services you can have around that, so agencies, people who help people build ecommerce websites, also internet advertising. So a lot of what your audience is about. From what I learned during those events and even the events organized at my business school previously, you have to pick a topic that’s not too niche but not too broad either so that you can attract the best people in your niche or industry and really make a value at an event.

Alex: That makes a lot of sense, and I agree with you totally one-hundred percent that ecommerce is huge and it’s only growing. It only makes sense to have more of these events, because I know that I was involved in some marketing meetups back five, six, seven years ago in Montreal. It was so underground and so small that it would be five or six people attending; it wasn’t an event, it was a meetup.com so we would like meet up at a coffee shop, and there was like five people talking about online marketing and Facebook advertising while there were events with three-hundred, four-hundred, five-hundred people going on. People talking about marketing, but it was really outdated like, “should you get your company into the Yellow Pages physical book?”, “should you make a website?”, not “how to do a website” but “should you do a website”! And then people were talking against it like “no, websites are useless and it’s not going to give you any more business”. I was at one of those events and I was like “seriously, we’re living in 2010, why are you talking about TV ads” and stuff like that; we should be talking about internet and what’s happening now. And that’ how I came across some of the very small meetups back in the day. There wasn’t anything like MTL + Ecommerce back then, I guess. So for me it’s very interesting to see a local event on this subject, it was needed a long time ago.

Ambroise: Exactly. MTL + Ecommerce and many meetups began in very small ways. For instance, I remember the first one was held in a bar in downtown Montreal, and many developers were struggling with building ecommerce websites. So now it’s more senior ecommerce directors and people in marketing, but it really evolves a lot in these three, four years.

Alex: Yeah, totally. Well it has to evolve, that’s kind of the point of it all.

Ambroise: Have you thought of holding an Extra Paycheck event in Montreal or wherever you’re traveling? That’d be nice to meet your crowd out there.

Alex: I thought of some point of making an event, not the Extra Paycheck related but more of a very basic crash course on earning money using the internet. So basically what I find hard about that is that I would like to give a big outline of things, like “well, here are the ways you can monetize online: you could do affiliate marketing, your own products, offer courses, be a freelancer, build websites” because there’s a million things you can do online to make money. So for me, the hard part about even thinking of setting up such an event is like should it be a more niche event, as in “how to make money as a freelancer programmer or coder” or basic “how to make money online”, which is a huge difference, right? The crowd in both cases would be really, really different. My problem is if I would make it very big and generic, like twenty ideas on what you can do online to earn an income, would that attract people? Because it’s everywhere; it’s not one subject, it’s everywhere. I’m not sure if people would attend that kind of thing.

Ambroise: Maybe since you have this credibility with your podcast, it might be worth a try.

Alex: Maybe, I’ll have to think about it. Thanks for reminding me. All right, so we’re going to be ending this podcast; thanks for so much information about the events. And could you share some ways for people to maybe find out more about MTL + Ecommerce and find out more about you and how they could get in touch with you?

Ambroise: Sure. So my personal Twitter account is @ambroisedebret, my website is ambroisedebret.com. By the way, I have a specific toolbox that features some of the tools I’ve mentioned, like If This Then That, Buffer, and stuff like that. I also have an extensive post on event growth hacking. If you want to find MTL + Ecommerce, you can find us at mtlecommerce.com or at @mtl_ecommerce on Twitter.

Alex: Awesome, thanks for sharing that. And for those who don’t want to go to the Show Notes page, the website is ambroisedebret.com. That’s your blog, right?

Ambroise: Yes, that’s my blog.

Alex: Awesome. So go check it out if you’re more interested in finding more about growth hacking, setting up events, marketing, and all those kinds of things. I’ll add all of the links in the show notes page. Thank you so much for being on the show, thank you for sharing your insights and your experiences and your tips.

Ambroise: Thank you for having me, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some help for your events.

Alex: Thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of Extra Paycheck podcast. As usual, I’ll be putting up a Show Notes page at extrapodcast.com/67, this is where you’ll be able to find some show notes from today’s episode, to find some links and resources that were mentioned as well find out a way to get in touch with this week’s guest. Also head over to extrapodcast.com in order to subscribe to the show, leave a review and rating, and then this will help the show tremendously. Thank you so much for tuning in once again and I’ll talk to you next Monday.



Enjoyed this? Read Ambroise Debret’s blog posts on his personal blog.


Interview with Corinne Lalonde from m0851: improving the user experience everyday

Corinne Lalonde

m0851 product image

With the MTL+Ecommerce #30 Anniversary Edition approaching, we decided to give our readers a foretaste of the event by interviewing Corinne Lalonde, e-commerce manager at m0851 and speaker at the upcoming event. This well-known company designs and makes in Montreal a wide range of leather bags, accessories and outerwears. Established in 1987, m0851 will soon celebrate its 30th anniversary. What caused this company to get on a such successful path? Corinne Lalonde’s expertise will certainly provide us a first clue before the event.

Hi Corinne,

1- Could you tell me more about your role within that company?


I am the e-commerce manager at m0851 and my objective is to make the e-business grow. I am in charge of everything that touches the web from digital advertising, back-end management to social media and customer service. We work a lot in team so i am not by myself.

2- What makes m0851’s e-shop successful?


There are a lot of things involved. m0851 is a life project, a family company where mutual help is important. Every actor can flourish in the enterprise and bring his own touch. Teamwork really contributes to m0851 success. We also work hard with partners wich are experts in their field that support and challenge our ideas. Finally, it is our diversification strategy that makes our success.    

3- How does m0851 improve user experience everyday?


We stand behind our products and this is why we offer a one year warranty on every product; afterwards we offer a repair service through our stores. Since the web has risen, m0851 uses all the touch points with its customer which means that we are everywhere the customers wants us to be to help and advise them. We can answer those questions quickly. Online, we are working on the user experience. That is my next mission.

4- What is the role of the e-shop compared to physical stores for m0851? Are they two different things or do they follow the same path?


We, in facts, have three different models: the corporate shops, the franchises and the e-shop. The last one is a complement because it is often an entrance for people to the brand. They come to get information on the products, to learn about our manufacturing process or our history. This will convince them to come in the store and purchase. This is a complete cycle for the consumer.

5- The fashion industry is very competitive, how does m0851 manage to stand out?


m0851 had a strong brand image for a while and we respect it in everything that we do. The image stayed authentic. All products are locally built and respect a long process so we end up with quality products. This is what people are looking for. This is what differentiates us from our competitors and the retailers that do similar things. We are not afraid to take risks and do things differently. Innovation through experimentation helps us differentiate.   

6- The customers are more and more demanding and their expectations keep changing. How does m0851 adapt to this trend?


As I said earlier, we’ve been giving our customers what they are looking for for 30 years: authentic, high quality and Canada-made products. That’s why we are always able to get new customers.

7- Which companies are you inspired by?


We really like what Everlane, a California-based enterprise that creates clothes in a totally transparent way, does. They let the customers know why they are paying that price. Personally, in terms of design, i really like Mango and Zara. In terms of experience, i like Asos. They have a ton of different products, but the buying process is clear and direct, and that speaks to me. I really enjoy Bespoke for men. They developed a brand image that is on point, that the customer can identify to.   

8- Do you see new opportunities and possible developments in the e-commerce industry? What about m0851’s e-shop?   


At the moment, we are talking a lot about big data analysis, which we use to optimize websites and personalize the customer experience. It is a step in the right direction, but we still think that user experience is linear while we know that a website is everything but linear. The web is not only a book that you go through, it is multidimensional and you can do whatever you want of it. Each and everybody has his own universe on a website. So customization is good, but it is wide and we do not create interactive experiences on a website. So that is an opportunity that is yet to be developed.

The fact that we do not use our 5 senses on the web is also a problem. How do i make a person feel or smell the leather? Leather is very emotional and we can work on that. There are a lot of good opportunities to take. At m0851, we will try to give a new web experience that will be introduced on Thursday.   

9- To conclude, would you have any advices for a company that wants to start its own e-shop?


Being accompanied is really important. Having a trustful partner with certification, and mostly not be afraid to ask for help and experience to other e-commerce company, especially in Montreal where the community is small, is the key before you start your e-commerce. Once you have somebody to help you, don’t be scared to try new things.  

Thank you to the second speaker of the event Corinne Lalonde for allowing us to learn more about m0851 and for sharing her experience about e-commerce. We appreciate her time and we are looking forward to listening to her presentation on Thursday.

Interview with Chronogolf : Building a BtoBtoC platform disrupting the golf industry

Chronogolf team
Chronogolf team
Chronogolf team


Hi Guillaume,

Your company, Chronogolf, was created about 3 years ago. In the last few months, Chronogolf was everywhere on the news: TVA, Canal Argent, Journal de Montréal… You’ve recently raised your second funding round for 1.5 million, congratulations !

Today, we have a few questions about your BtoC platform Chronogolf.

1.Your core business is BtoB with your golf management software, but can you tell us more about the BtoC part? (the market, the trends, etc.)

  • Guillaume:

Chronogolf has been created on the premise that the modern golfer is evolving faster than the golf club itself. He likes to play on multiple courses and uses a smartphone or a tablet to book his tee times. On the other side, golf clubs find it very difficult to reach, attract and increase loyalty among this new audience. This is the reason why we decided to create Chronogolf: a golf management software that enables golf managers to streamline their operations, organize their planning and have sophisticated, yet easy to use, tools to market and remarket to golfers online. At the same time, we have built the chronogolf.ca marketplace, where golfers can find and book tee-times in real time, invite their friends, calculate their handicap and much more. The golf management software and the marketplace are two parts of the same entity, creating value for both the golf player and the golf manager.

2.What is your place on this market ?

      • Guillaume:

During the past 2 years we went from 10 golf courses using our solution to now a little more than 230. This translated in 2.5 millions golf rounds booked on our marketplace, by around 250 000 golf players.

3.Just in Canada ?

    • Guillaume:

We have clients in Canada, USA, France, Australia, Morocco… and we’re not done yet! Golf is a sport played all over the world!

4.What are the biggest challenges faced by the golf industry?

      • Guillaume:

There are approximately 57 million golfers in the world, which makes it one of the most popular sports on the planet. This being said, it is true that golf needs to redefine its image. The greatest challenge of the industry for the next decade is to bring the new generation of golfers on the field. And again, this generation has very high expectations in terms of quality of services. They expect their experience to be as easy and pleasant as if they were booking a hotel, a flight, a spa session, etc. We see this challenge as a great opportunity for us to bridge the gap and help golf courses to make the transition to the digital world.

5.Did you have any difficulties going through this transition?

      • Guillaume:

As in every market that is redefining itself, the biggest challenge is to overcome resistance to change.

There is a bit of evangelisation to be made in order to convert the old generation to the web. That being said, the fast expansion of tablets has been a great help for us. Seniors have massively adopted the iPad, which they find less overwhelming and much more intuitive than a computer. As of today, around 40% of our bookings come from tablets, and this number still amazes me!

On a more technical standpoint, seasonality is also a challenge, especially when it comes to user retention. We have to be creative during the winter, so that our customers keep thinking about us. We need to remain their first reflex when it comes to booking on their favourite course once the sunny days come back.

6.What do you do to retain your customers during winter?

      • Guillaume:

We have a winter web store, where golfers can pre-purchase special promotions for the next golf season. This is also very popular among our golf managers, who see this as a great way to promote their courses during the off-season while getting some revenues.

We also send weekly newsletters to our community of golfers, where we talk about the industry in general.

Finally, we are very active on our Facebook page. We post fun and engaging content on various topics around the game.

7.I have been following you since the beginning and I’ve seen major changes on your website, especially regarding the UX… Can you tell us more about that?

      • Guillaume :

At the beginning, we were focusing almost exclusively on the Golf Management Software. We needed golf courses to use our system so that the golf players could book online.

With more than 230 golf courses using our system at the moment, we are now focusing more and more on the marketplace. Our focus and dedication is to deliver the best possible booking experience to our golfers, both on desktop and mobile platforms.

Since we want to make things as simple as possible for our users, we opted for easy search on the website and we integrated an interactive map. A user can search by entering a country, a region, a city or the name of the course itself. The interactive map will help him refine his research, find the best deal and more. We really got inspired by the AirBnB user experience to build our platform.

8.What will be the next steps for Chronogolf (BtoC) ?

      • Guillaume :

– Continue to A/B test our booking engine to increase the user experience and provide the right content to the right golfer.

– Integrate a loyalty and referral program so that our most active users can spread the word and share among their friends and family.


Thank you Guillaume for sharing this with us! It was great to learn more about the golf industry and how Chronogolf positions itself to disrupt it. Congratulations on your accomplishments and we wish Chronogolf the best of success for the years to come!

Website BtoC: Chronogolf.ca

Website BtoB: pro.chronogolf.ca