How Elon Musk’s New Rocket Helped My Online Store Take Off

1 · by Dennis Moons · Updated on 14 February 2018

Last week was one of the most crazy and awesome weeks of my entrepreneurial journey.

It all started on Tuesday at 2:15 am when my phone alarm buzzed me out of bed.

I jumped up (yes that’s what I do) and started setting up my workstation in the living room.

I opened up the blog post I had posted the day before to run through it one last time.

Its title?

SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon Heavy Test Flight

I had written and published the post, but the launch hadn’t happened yet.

That’s the reason I was getting up in the middle of the night. To watch the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

If that went smoothly, I would be in for a thrilling day. If it failed, I’d shelf all my plans and go back to sleep.

But what does Elon Musk and the Falcon Heavy rocket actually have to do with my business?

The (First) Moment of Glory For Apes In Space

For the last 5 months, I’ve been building a new online store in public. It’s called Apes In Space and I sell space posters.

The current Apes In Space homepage

I’ve tried a bunch of things to try and get traction, and have documented everything in detail.

And up until last week, I haven’t had much to show for the 70+ hours and +$1,000 that I’ve sunk into this project.

But with every marketing experiment I do, I track what works well, and what doesn’t.

And that’s how I found an inkling of success.

Back in December, I created a post around the anniversary of the first SpaceX rocket landing. For the post I created video which reached a lot of people and got a lot of engagement.

I didn’t make any sales from it, but was amazed how easily it spread.

So I knew wanted to try a light variation on this with the next SpaceX event.

And this turned out to be a pretty solid bet.

The Results Of My Falcon Heavy Launch

To put the numbers below in context, let me tell you about the previous 5 months. The store made exactly 3 sales for a total of €73.66 (about $90 USD).

Here are the results for the week since the Falcon Heavy launch:

Shopify sales report for the week after the launch

Quite the difference right? 😬

Here is a more detailed breakdown:

  • Revenue: €790.03 ($968.41)
  • Orders: 29
  • Website visits: 4,394
  • Video views: 21,146 Twitter + 29,402 on Facebook
  • New email subscribers: 19

In the rest of this article I’ll cover the following: what exactly I did, why I think it took off and how you can replicate this for your own store.

Betting Heavy On The Falcon Heavy Launch

My content marketing efforts for Apes In Space have been limited to covering historic events. These are things that happened 10 or 50 years ago.

I find it fascinating to research and write these articles, but I’m aware these articles only have a limited audience.

The Falcon Heavy launch was the first event I covered as it was unfolding real-time.

So when I had the feeling that this might be a good opportunity, I wanted to be prepared with the following:

  1. A blog post with more detail about the launch & landings
  2. Posters with the most epic moments of the launch & landings
  3. A Facebook ad campaign to increase the reach

For all of these, I needed images and footage of the launch & landing. So I created all the above with placeholders that I would swap out when I got the real photos.

Another thing I did was submit all of this new content to be indexed by Google.

I was probably going to be one of the only sites that matched the query around posters, so I wanted to make sure that Google knew my pages existed.

I don’t know if this was essential, but I did pick up a lot of extra search traffic. Here is a look at my Google Search Console:


But I get ahead of myself.

SpaceX did and AMAZING job. The launch was an epic success. I was watching awe for the entire launch. Chills rose through my body as the side cores were landing simultaneously.

One moment I was in awe. The next I realized that this was the money shot:

Chills-producing shot of the Falcon Heavy side cores landing

Looking at it I still can’t get enough of it. So beautiful.

SpaceX had a livestream up on YouTube. So as soon as it was over, I grabbed the video and edited it to include the most amazing moment: the side booster descending and landing.

I put that on Facebook and it instantly took off.

Despite having only 77 likes on my Facebook page, half an hour later, Facebook stats showed that 99 people had seen the post, and watched a total of 422 minutes.

That’s over 4 minutes of video watch time for every view.  🤯

Instant engagement with this Facebook video

Here is what happened on Twitter:

This is one of the most epic videos you’ll see for a while 😮 #FalconHeavy #SpaceX

— Today’s Apes In Space (@Apesinspaceco) February 7, 2018

This tweet got a whopping 500 likes 😮

Which is even crazier. Because the Twitter account had only 6 followers when I put the tweet out. The only thing I did before it took off was retweet it with my personal account with about 900 followers.

I realized I didn’t have any link to my site in it. So I replied to that popular tweet with a link to siphon some of that attention back to my store.

Pouring Gasoline on The Fire

Seeing how well this video was doing organically, I wanted to put some money behind it.

I figured that for the coming months, this would be THE event for my store. So I wanted to milk it for everything it had.

Twitter Ads

Twitter was a quick call.

I had never ran any Twitter ads before.

Their interface and campaign types were super confusing, all I could do was created a boosted video campaign. I tested the effectiveness of Facebook video campaigns a while back (short answer: it wasn’t very effective), so I was curious to see the results on Twitter.

And after a little bit I saw I spent €7.87 for 105 video views, about €0.07/ view.

This is pretty disappointing because the tweet was going semi viral and was racking up thousands of views for free.

So I paused campaign.

I probably could have made tweaks to the campaign to make it more effective, but decided my time was better spent elsewhere.

Facebook Ads

I had spent €285.56 on Facebook campaigns in the months prior to this event. That helped me to figure out which audiences responded the best to this type of content.

So I created ad sets with 2 ads each:

  • A commercial one: the video post above with a Shop now button taking people to the SpaceX posters category page
  • An informational one: same video but with Learn more button taking people to the blog post
the 2 main ads in this Facebook ads campaign

The commercial one did the best, it got down to a €0.1/click while the other one got about €0.4/click.

Then something strange happened.

In the first few hours, the commercial ads were doing really well. High relevance scores, a good click through rate and a cost per click in the €0.03/click range.

If you can bring interested people to your site for €0.03/visitor, I’ll throw a lot of money at it. Because it might not help with sales, but helps with awareness and email subscribers.

So I upped the ad set budgets to €50/day piece and went to sleep.

When I checked back in the morning, the cost per landing page view had skyrocketed.

It took me a while to figure out. Facebook had decided to remove the call to action buttons from my ad. So all I was paying for were video views :/

I edited my ads, but then Facebook took 1.5 days to review the “new ads”.

Then the video had lost most of its momentum and the CPC went up to €0.25-0.3.

Pretty shitty move Facebook…

Instagram Ads

Like the other platforms, I posted a video on Instagram.

Since I have a tiny audience on Instagram (14 followers), it only picked up a few views.

I was in ad-spending-mode so decided to turn that video into an Instagram ad.

I ended up spending about €40 at €0.7/click, so put those on hold as well.

Just looking at that thumbnail, it probably wasn’t up the the Instagram beauty standards.

Google Adwords

I already had Adwords campaigns running.

So when the number of searches for SpaceX posters spiked, they picked it up.

I was going through the search terms report there (an essential piece of optimizing your Google Ads campaigns!)

Google Adwords search terms report showing very interesting search queries

This is data for just 2 days. You don’t often see popular queries get CTR above 50%, so its safe to say these were very interesting.

I already had the Falcon Heavy posters in the store, but didn’t have the Starman ones for sale.

This was Elon Musk ace up his sleeve. The Tesla Roadstar they launched into space also had cameras onboard, which turned into Youtube livestream.

This gave pretty amazing shots, I have to say on par with the Earthrise and The Blue Marble photos:

The Spacex Starman riding in his Tesla 😎

So with people going nuts about it, many started searching to see if there was a poster available.

As soon as I added the series of Starman posters, traffic spiked and sales started rolling in.

Of all the products that were sold in the week after the launch, 70% were Starman posters.

These product pages also do really well in the search result, ranking at the top for searches like “spaceman poster” or “tesla spaceman poster”.

That’s delivering very cheap sales!

Why This Worked

The biggest lesson I’m taking away from this is that when you have something that people really want, it WILL take off.

In this case it was the video and the posters of the starman floating through space.

That’s why it did so well on Facebook, that’s why it did so well on Twitter.

Because if we’re honest, most of the times we’re just fooling ourselves that what we’ve got is what people want.

(I’m guilty of this myself, so when I say we in this post, its as much a reminder to myself than it is advice for you readers :-))

You come up with sort of a good idea you’re excited about, run a survey or ask some people face to face.

The people we ask give us feedback. And then something weird happens.

We don’t hear “No I hate it and I think you’re stupid”’. But we hear “It’s not perfect but you can do this, I believe in you”.

And as it turns out, this is exactly what we wanted to hear! Now we can finally create the thing they want (we think).

But once you start promoting it, things get really hard.

It’s like there is a brick wall in the middle of the road. We’re in a car and all we can think of is keep driving into that wall, backing up and doing it again. Until, we hope, we get to that tipping point where we can finally break through that wall.

I’m talking about Facebook ads where you’re spending $1 for a visitor that instantly leave your site. Or writing 53 blog posts over the course of 5 months and get a total of 20 readers per post. Or social media accounts where you hours and hours posting and “engaging” with others, and only have a handful of followers in return. Posting/spamming a link to your store in 30 Facebook Groups and get 0 likes or visitors from it.

When it’s really good, all of the things I just described will take off a lot easier.

Tapping Into Your Own Niche’s Falcon Heavy Launch

I don’t have magic formula for you to do the same.

As I said above, getting attention online is super hard. It takes a lot of experimenting, investing and luck before you find something that you can exploit.

If things were easy, this blog wouldn’t exist. (And you probably wouldn’t be able to make any money with ecommerce).

I know I’ll get this comment after I publish this post: “Sure Dennis, you picked a super sexy niche like space exploration. It’s pretty easy to get attention if you’ve got Elon Musk working as your influencer.”

But even if you’re working in a less sexy industry (like most of my clients), I’m sure that there are some events / occasions you can tap into.

For me this means being well prepared for everything that SpaceX and similar companies do. Having discovered this hot segment, I’m sure I can do more interesting things with it.

I’m not expecting a big hit like this (maybe not until the BFR launches). But I’m sure I can pick up a lot of small wins by tapping into events that are currently on the media (and people’s radar) that are tied to the space niche.

This reminds me a bit of a concept called newsjacking that was popular a couple of years ago.

The idea is to position your products or content in such a way that you’re tapping into a bigger news story.

This will get you the attention and PR leverage to get coverage.

You might not make sales directly from these efforts. But if your targeting is right, you’ll increase awareness, get some new subscribers and score some links.

Back to you

What did you learn from this launch? If you have any ideas how you can leverage something like this in your niche, let me know in the comments!

Dennis Moons

Dennis Moons is the founder and lead instructor at Store Growers.

He's a Google Ads expert with over 12 years of experience in running Google Ads campaigns.

During this time he has managed more than $5 million in ad spend and worked with clients ranging from small businesses to global brands. His goal is to provide advice that allows you to compete effectively in Google Ads.

Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.


1 responses on "How Elon Musk’s New Rocket Helped My Online Store Take Off"

  1. Gohitbid says:

    Such an useful information, thank you for sharing. Enjoyed readingpost on your blog.

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