Mastering Ecommerce Strategy and Cultivating Creative Content

In this Ecom Experiences episode, Samir Balwani sits down with Colin Nielsen, the CMO and Marketing Director at Tier 1 Concealed, to talk about marketing leadership and strategic ecommerce growth.

Colin Nielsen is the CMO and Marketing Director at Tier 1 Concealed, where he has been instrumental in driving the brand’s growth and recognition in the concealed carry enthusiast space. In his role, he is responsible for product development, content creation, and spearheading marketing initiatives. Colin’s expertise spans graphic design and strategic planning, combined with a keen understanding of market dynamics and consumer behavior within the industry.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [1:01] How Tier 1 Concealed evolved from a startup to a leader in the concealed carry market
  • [2:26] Colin Nielsen talks about his role’s unique challenges
  • [8:01] Colin’s approach to current and forward-looking strategic planning
  • [12:37] The critical role of content creation in showcasing product effectiveness and reducing skepticism
  • [21:59] Ecommerce product launches and website redesigns: Tier 1 Concealed’s future goals

In this episode…

What does it take to market high-quality, customizable products in a niche industry? Balancing strategy and creativity can be a tricky affair, especially when your target audience is known for their exceptional discernment and expectations. How can you meet these expectations and create a brand that resonates and grows? 

As a marketing leader managing strategy for a dynamic team, Colin Nielsen emphasizes long-term strategic planning for creative projects. By combining a holistic vision with a flexible strategy, you can adapt to market changes and consumer preferences. Your creative approach should involve developing engaging video content that showcases your product’s uses, educates consumers, and fosters trust and appeal. Additionally, these efforts can be combined with animated product launches to provide clear benchmarks for marketing goals and fuel brand engagement and sales.

In this Ecom Experiences episode, Samir Balwani sits down with Colin Nielsen, the CMO and Marketing Director at Tier 1 Concealed, to talk about marketing leadership and strategic ecommerce growth. Colin shares his methods for strategic planning, how to leverage content creation to demonstrate product effectiveness, and Tier 1 Concealed’s future product launches and website redesigns.

Where to listen:

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Quotable Moments:

  • "Trying to take in the market as a whole and looking forward is just one aspect of strategy — being dynamic on the fly is just as critical."
  • "If you don't make time for the vital stuff, like strategy and creativity, all the fundamental work will be fruitless."
  • "As a marketer, one of my favorite things to do are product launches. It's less ambiguous and more about making people fall in love with the product."
  • "Most of the content revolves around us shooting, which allows us to showcase high performance to match the high-quality standard of our products."
  • "I try not to look at my emails in the morning because that will really put you in a reactive mindset, as opposed to an active mindset."

Action Steps:

  1. Set aside time for strategic planning.
    • Focusing on strategy allows you to guide your organization toward long-term success and stay ahead of market trends.
  2. Embrace the role of content creator.
    • Crafting and sharing high-quality content establishes your brand's authority and generates customer engagement, which is crucial for growth.
  3. Balance reactive and proactive tasks.
    • Managing your time to avoid being continuously reactive can improve your focus on critical, result-driving activities.
  4. Leverage the influence of niche celebrities.
    • Utilizing the niche influence of team members as brand ambassadors can enhance authenticity and connection with customers.
  5. Regularly reassess product presentation and purchase experience.
    • By continually refining your online user experience, you can increase customer satisfaction and reduce purchase friction.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:00

Hey welcome to another episode of Ecom Experiences a podcast where ecommerce marketing leaders who want to grow and scale their brands faster. Join us as we interview some of the smartest brand founders and marketing leaders in the industry. Explore the lessons they learned discover the keys to their success, discuss what excites them most about the future.

Samir Balwani 0:28

It's Samir Balwani. Here hosted Ecom Experiences where we talk to brand founders and marketing leaders about their experiences growing brands. This episode is brought to you by QRY. QRY is a paid media agency that helps brands balanced brand awareness and performance marketing to drive predictable and profitable growth. To learn more about how we can help you visit, I'm really excited about our guest today I have Colin Nielsen, the CMO at Tier 1 Concealed. He's awesome to talk to super chill and has so much to share. Thank you so much for joining us, Colin.

Colin Nielsen 1:01

Thanks for having me.

Samir Balwani 1:03

Let's start with the let's start with the easy questions. First. Tell us about Tier 1 Concealed.

Colin Nielsen 1:09

Okay, Tier 1 Concealed is a it's a simple, simple description is it's a wholesale company. But the real description is where we create and curate products and content for the high performing protector or concealed carry enthusiast specializing in holsters that are like top tier, hence the name Tier 1.

Samir Balwani 1:39

Oh, I love it.

Colin Nielsen 1:41

And what's your role? Colin? I am the Chief Marketing Officer CMO. And what is that among? Among a million other things? It seems like?

Samir Balwani 1:50

I mean, that sounds right. Right, that marketing is a catch all of half the time, right.

Colin Nielsen 1:56

And with us being a little bit smaller, you kind of have to just fill roles as they as they either evolve or, or, you know, open up or whatever. It's

Samir Balwani 2:07

It's the curse of being marketing in this day and age where you have to be a Swiss army knife, where data analytics and creativity are both things that you need to really understand, which means that you can be slotted in for operations, product design, development, whatever needs to be done, right. Yeah. And so I love that because that must mean that every day is different. Can you walk us through like, a regular day for Colin?

Colin Nielsen 2:36

Oh, I don't know if there is one of those. I think gosh, what is oh, let's see. So regular day would be wake up early, I'll get to work. The first thing would be to just kind of like, hang out with my team a little bit, I meet with them, see what's going on, and kind of discuss the day a little bit. And then if we don't need to do that, if everybody's kind of like in the thick of it, I'll probably sit down and look at my my I have like a little notepad that I'll write down. The first thing I'll do is I'll sit down and write down all the things that I need to do that day. And use. Usually, I'm just kind of aggregating them into one sheet from a bunch of like, post it notes or something that I have somewhere. Or where I've got a whiteboard in my office that I feel things are. And so I like to throw all of those into one spot where I can, like, have one spot to check things off for the day. So I'll just kind of organize my day, basically. That's my first thing. And then well, I'll set it up to attempt to do that anyways.

Samir Balwani 3:56

Invariably gets derailed in about five minutes. Yeah, it's

Colin Nielsen 4:00

so true, again, with all the hats and things you got going on. But I think the after that, it's usually some kind of I try not to look at my emails in the morning, because that will really put you in a reactive mindset, as they say, Yeah, sort of an active mindset. But sometimes I do stop doing that, because there's a lot of stuff going on in my email, as you can call it, you know? But then I'll usually I try and do all my creative, like super creative stuff. First thing, okay, if I know I have some big project or something that I really need to like, dig deep on, then I won't even talk to the team unless they're a part of what I'm doing. Right. I'll just go in my office and like focus on it and try and get in get in the zone.

Samir Balwani 4:58

Like flow state Going right? Yeah,

Colin Nielsen 5:01

exactly. Because I do I do all the graphic design as well. Okay. So like, if it's something that's heavy in that project space, then yeah, you know, I'll just kind of get in the flow and hang out and do that for a while then I tend to, then we'll probably usually that gets gets me to lunch. And then I'll go to lunch with the, with the guys. And then we'll come back, and I'll probably send you an email and responsive type work, which is a bunch of slack messages and stuff that I got to deal with. And all of this is, if I'm not getting interrupted, which nine out of 10 times, I gotta do something like go over to manufacturing, or to customer service, or, or get on meetings with our media buyers, or are, we're in the middle of rebuilding an entire website, from scratch. And so I have a couple of meetings a week with our dev team. And especially when we're kind of in this like final stretch, yep, there's a lot of stuff coming up. Because we have big ideas, big ideas with the site. And now we're trying to figure all those out as we go. That's

Samir Balwani 6:30

awesome. So So talk to me about some of the challenges that you're starting to experience, it sounds like a day to day is pretty, you know, amorphous and flexible. And yet, there's these large projects that you're working on everything from graphic design to the new site launching to managing your media team. You know, when you think about the challenges and the things that you're dealing with on a day to day basis, what are the things that take up the majority of your time? Or are giving you what are you keeping you up at night?

Colin Nielsen 6:57

Oh, geez. In my role, I would say. So, unfortunately, management stuff keep takes up a lot of my time. Like people, people stuff, interesting. Because trying to, you know, keep the team going. And it's kinda, it's kinda difficult sometimes. So you got to be able to not only create, like, stand on your own stuff, but like, sometimes, you more or less got to figure out stuff for other people to do. If that makes sense, if they're not if they're outside of like, their normal stuff, because sometimes they are. Yeah. What keeps me up at night is probably people stuff and strategy. That sounds off strategy is something that needs a lot of time.

Samir Balwani 8:01

Can you expand on that? Like, what do you mean by strategy? What are the things that kind of make you that you're thinking about, from a strategic standpoint,

Colin Nielsen 8:10

just just, you know, like, trying to take in the market as a whole. And try to instead of like, looking at specific things, especially in our industry, there's a lot of things going well, I guess, in any any industry, but our industry has a lot of drama going on. And it's interesting, especially in the sales, social media space, and so it's hard to sometimes to, to filter out the dumb stuff, that doesn't mean anything that will be gone tomorrow or the next week, and kind of look at an overall picture and try not only design a strategy for that, like it, like being a part of that or, or, or whatever it is, like solving a problem or however it is, but for but more importantly by trying to see where it's going to, you know, be there and kind of be ahead of the curve and stay relevant. Stay you know, stay on top of things, and have had a real strategy. That's, that's something that we're trying to really do is have strategy in place instead of, you know, just come in and do stuff. Yeah, yeah, no, that's really honest. When I say that reminds me of so. Please, I was gonna say that reminds me. Oh, excuse me, going back to what you asked. I think that takes up probably the most amount of time. That's more specifically trying to generate ideas for content, stuff like that. And work through content ideas with the team that takes up a ton of time and also creating content Luckily, I got a good team for that. And sometimes we, you know, like, we go up to our company ranch a lot. And that's, that's four hours away. So we usually sleep there. So like a content content idea could end up taking two days, up at the rest. So that takes a lot of time to. That's

Samir Balwani 10:22

really interesting. So I just want to chat a little bit more about this concept around strategy. So when you say strategy, what do you define that as is that forward planning? Is that, like, how would you know? Or how would you? What do you need to feel like you've solved that strategic problem? Or have a good understanding what your strategy is?

Colin Nielsen 10:46

I could define that a little bit. But I don't know if I could tell you the answer for what I need. Because I'm still looking for that. I think everybody is and if they tell you what, that they feel good about it, then either they're masters, or they're lying. But I think that there's two parts to strategy, you talked about it being for looking, but I think it's more there's two parts, there is the forward looking part, which is, you know, your more traditional strategy, but I think that current strategy being a dynamic one is something that's not talked about very often. Because as important as your strategy is, and having, you know, your, your, your end, post your goalposts gotta be dynamic on the fly. You know what I mean? You gotta have a strategy to be able to adapt with stuff. Right? So if I successfully adapt to something that happens in the middle of something I'm trying to accomplish? I consider that a pretty big success. That's awesome.

Samir Balwani 11:55

Yeah, that makes sense. And it's kind of interesting to hear on your your take one. I think strategy is something that keeps most CMOS at night, because up at night, because it's really am I guiding this organization in the right direction? Is it something that, you know, should keep you up at night? To be very honest? Yeah,

Colin Nielsen 12:20

it does. I think it's, it's probably the most important thing you can do in any leadership role, especially in marketing, because it's such a crazy busy space. And yeah, changing every day. For sure.

Samir Balwani 12:37

The second piece of it that I thought was really interesting was your your take on content and how important content is for you? Can you expand on the kinds of content that you're creating, and how you guys realized that it was such a valuable piece of your marketing puzzle?

Colin Nielsen 12:52

Well, so we kind of just, it's valuable to our company, because of how our company was formed, basically, the owner of the company, the founder, is probably one of the best shooters out there. And he's, he's just an absolute stud when it comes to that, and he just started, like, building an Instagram based off of doing crazy, crazy, crazy shooting, like stuff you'd never see like shooting a tic tac with a pistol from breezy 10 yards or whatever, or I've even seen him. You can and then, you know, sending out my pistol, the shell expels out into the air. He turns and shoots the shell out of the air. It's, it's wild. So he said, Get building a pretty big following with that. But all the while he was struggling to find the holster that was good for him. Because he's very, he's very analytical in terms of like physical things that he's using to he really breaks down his shooting. It's pretty, it's pretty interesting to watch. And he did that with his holster and ended up just kind of making his own bid all the people he would shoot with and then his Instagram followers back was that holster you're using and they asked enough. You know, it's this typical startup story. They asked enough for the product. He decided to start making it for people. He made enough for people for friends and stuff that he was like, dang, I could sell these. Yeah. He started the company started making them and had to shut the company down after a month because there was too many orders. He didn't know what to do. So he was like, whoa, okay, let's recalibrate and figure out how the heck to do this. And his social media was his personal social media was growing pretty fast. And that's where traffic was coming from. Mainly I love that because

Samir Balwani 15:04

it's almost like a celebrity driven brand. You know, we have these like ideas around celebrity driven brands being it's got to be, you know, a Hollywood celebrity, but for a niche product like you're a celebrity means celebrity in the niche at which he is. And so while you may not think about it that way, it kind of is a celebrity driven brand all said and done. And then his content is really pushing, pushing that product and kind of you know, I was talking to another marketing director, and he talked about how skepticism was always one of those things that keeps people away from products. And so seeing it being used, and doing some phenomenal things kind of takes away a lot of that skepticism, because you see it

Colin Nielsen 15:49

in use. Yeah, so that's, that's probably that's one of our main strategic, like, lifelong evergreen strategic goals, as a company is to, since we're that high, we're selling that high performer. Yeah. Who, by the way, is one of the pickiest people in any industry. I'm telling you right now, these people out here that we, so we, all of our content revolves around us as a company. Yep, being high performing shooters, and concealed carriers, and so on, most of our content revolves around that. And we produce a ton of content. We're doing a YouTube every week, plus, YouTube shorts every day, plus three, three posts every day on Instagram, and a few reels on Instagram a week, stuff like that. And they're all really, really good content. And I think most mainly, our YouTube revolves, actually, all of it revolves around us shooting. So everybody on the marketing team is probably in a tough five 10% of shooters out there. And it probably less than five, it's, especially some of them. They're incredibly good. And of course, who is in content to he? He's obviously amazing.

Samir Balwani 17:18

That's really cool. So it's almost like your marketing team is built with the influencers that you would have gone and worked with anyway. So you might as well just have them as part of a marketing

Colin Nielsen 17:27

tip. Yep, that's, that's a good way to describe it.

Samir Balwani 17:30

That's really interesting. And how do you guys use that content and paid media? does it translate into paid media? I guess, how does knowing that you guys are creating so much content for social and urine sites? How do you get it to kind of expand out from just that?

Colin Nielsen 17:49

Yeah, so syndicating your content is something I'm still working on. But it's definitely a priority of mine. So that I don't have to create new content every second. So yeah, I definitely use as much as I can. In paid media. I'll try and luckily, we got a stud of a video editor on staff and he can cut anything into whatever I need. Or if I need something really can pull from existing content, he'll just make it or we will make it either way. But yeah, we definitely try and do that I try. And it depends, because like, if I'm doing a specific I have a specific idea for an ad. And I think I can do it without filming content. Oh, cool. I'll try and do that. Like if I if it's like, it's especially like a static app, like a picture or something I will, I like to I try and deliver just being a picture. I try to introduce graphics into it. Even if it's not even necessarily graphics, just like, I guess the word would be compositing, where I'm messing with a photo to make it tell a better story, or whatever. Something like that. I do that a lot, too. That's really interesting that our ads, or ads revolve heavily around copy too. So unless it's a video, I guess, yeah.

Samir Balwani 19:23

Yeah, it makes perfect sense. But listen, Colin, we've talked a lot about challenges. And we talked a lot about things that you have that keep you up at night. So what are you most excited about as we kind of look ahead?

Colin Nielsen 19:36

So one of my favorite things to do as a marketer is product launches. It's a lot less ambiguous. In terms of the goal. The goal is to sell the product and hopefully, introduce it to the market in a way that makes him fall in love with it. And so it's a little bit more straightforward. So I can really focus on So how I do that, and that's where it's super fun because I can not worry about the end goal. And focus on how we get there a little bit easier. And so having said that, we have a few big products coming out this year that I'm super excited to launch and design like whole launch just around. Those will be fun. So

Samir Balwani 20:25

funny. Marketers are love product launches, it's just something you talk about that isn't a discount or a sale or like, product launches are the best. Yeah,

Colin Nielsen 20:33

I and I, and I am excited for the website, too, that'll be cool. We're doing some pretty interesting things with our website that, that, uh, no one in our niche does, because I don't know if already said all of our products are handmade to order. So there's like a lead time of stuff. And one of the biggest hurdles I've had as a marketer is, since a lot of it is custom, because everybody has their own gun, and then happy everybody has hazard doesn't have a light that they attack like a weapon light. And all of that can change the mold we're using to make their holster Plus, they get to pick the color of the holster and some of the hardware pieces. So there's like almost exponentially amount of combinations. So we're constantly having to add to that library, physical molds that we make these holsters out of. But it also makes it really challenging in terms of how the end user experiences the purchase. Like has their purchase experience, because they have to build it out essentially on their website. And if they're not incredibly know, like, they know a lot about every aspect of it. They'll get confused really easily, especially in the world of Amazon where it's like a buy type thing. Yeah, it's like.

Samir Balwani 21:59

Yeah, it's very customized to so it takes a lot of steps through the whole process. Yeah,

Colin Nielsen 22:04

so we just been really focusing on tackling that to make it a better user experience. And educate them more as they go along.

Samir Balwani 22:13

That's really interesting. Yeah, that's where some of the educational content and probably some of the videos that you could be super helpful.

Colin Nielsen 22:20

Yeah, we try and create a lot of content around it. But people are silly. They just said they won't watch anything, even if it says, Hey, learn how to use this. Click here. They're like, man, wait, how do I use this? Yeah,

Samir Balwani 22:35

yeah, yeah, I got that for sure. So Colin, last question. Your What advice would you give a new marketing leader or CMO in their first 90 days?

Colin Nielsen 22:49

I think that, and I'm still working on this myself. But I think one of the most important things you can do as, especially in a leadership role in marketing, is try not to get bogged down by the fundamental stuff, the fundamental work, so much so that you don't have time or energy, or the willpower to focus on the vital stuff. Because fundamentals are great, and they're important. They get you know, you got to do or someone's got to do. Yeah, but if you don't make time for the vital stuff, like strategy, you know, the thinking stuff, the creative stuff, stuff that makes a difference. All the fundamental stuff will be fruitless. It'll just be busy work. Yeah. Yeah,

Samir Balwani 23:37

it makes perfect sense. That's great advice. Don't get bogged down in tactical, everyday things and just kind of yourself up and take a look. Sometimes, yeah, you got

Colin Nielsen 23:46

to take that bird's eye view and see where you go on and see where you want to be and stuff like that.

Samir Balwani 23:51

That's awesome. Colin, thank you so much for joining us today. If someone wants to find you online, where can people learn more about you?

Colin Nielsen 24:04

So if a few months ago, I started trying to do this thing called CMO Colin. Yeah, and that's what I have an Instagram handle and acts and stuff like that, but I haven't done anything with it yet. But if that's eventually there will be marketing stuff there. But like, if you wanted you could follow me on @guns_n_graphics on Instagram. Or probably more likely, as you could check out Tier 1 Concealed a love it. We'll have

Samir Balwani 24:33

links to everything in the show notes. Colin, thank you so much for coming today. Yeah, thanks for having me. It was cool.

Outro 24:45

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