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#33: Developing Relationships for Strategic Sales Growth with Amy Zitelman of Soom Foods

UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#33: Developing Relationships for Strategic Sales Growth with Amy Zitelman of Soom Foods

Amy Zitelman is the co-founder and CEO of the premium tahini brand, Soom Foods. In this podcast episode, join Alison and Karin, co-founders of UMAI Marketing, as they chat with Amy about her journey of bringing high-quality tahini to consumers here in the states. Discover how Amy successfully rooted Soom Foods in B2B first, created valuable relationships with chefs and influencers to help spread the Soom word, and how she’s been using UMAI’s Consumer Goods Growth Course to expand and train her marketing team (we love to hear it!). Sit back and turn the volume up! 🔊

Let Us Break It Down For You…

[0:45 – 5:09] Introduction
[5:10 – 8:14] Market research before launching
[8:21 – 13:05] Soom’s omnichannel approach
[13:06 – 18:08] Tips for brands with high competition on shelves
[18:10 – 22:36] Nurturing influencer and chef partnerships
[22:46 – 26:11 ] How Soom created a foundation in restaurants first
[26:11 – 28:18] B2B vs. D2C channel marketing
[29:24 – 33:37] Navigating financial teams
[37:14 – 38:32] Amy’s advice to a small CPG business owner
[38:47 – 39:52] Outro


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#33: Developing Relationships for Strategic Sales Growth with Amy Zitelman of Soom Foods

Karin Samelson: [0:45]
Welcome to the UMAI Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Karen and Allison, co-founders of UMAI Marketing, and we’re being joined by Amy Zitelman, CEO and co-founder of Soom Foods, the leading North American purveyors of tahini and tahini products, and who also happens to be a member of our Growth Course community. Welcome, Amy.
Amy Zitelman: [1:10]
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Karin Samelson: [1:12]
Yeah, thanks for making the time. Well, we’d love to just get started by learning a little bit more about you. So how’d you get started? Why tahini?
Amy Zitelman: [1:22]
Yeah. Great question. Well, I’m the youngest of three sisters, and my middle sister, Jackie, moved to Israel in 2008. Shortly after we graduated high school, my oldest sister, Shelby, spent a year in Israel in 2011 and at the time, Jackie was dating her now husband Omri. Omri has been in the tahina, as they say tchina in Israel or tahini industry, at this point for almost 20 years. And when Jackie and Omri were dating, Shelby got to know Omri and got to understand tahini better. And really just started asking questions, which was, “Why was the tahini so much better in Israel? Why wasn’t there good tahini available in the States?”
And also, “What did we even really know about tahini there?” And those questions really just started to frame a business idea. She pinged me, the youngest sister, just graduating from University of Delaware. I studied interpersonal communication and I really brought some of the background that I got at UD into shaping our initial strategy and business plan for hopefully making tahini a more popular ingredient in the American market. So we spent a year and a half doing market research and really understanding the opportunity. And in May of 2013, we imported our first very small container of tahini and started selling it here in the Philadelphia area.
Karin Samelson: [2:50]
Awesome. Well, I really want to know why is tahini so much better in Israel?
Amy Zitelman: [2:55]
It’s better in Israel. It’s better in Lebanon. The secret is in the seeds and also in the manufacturing processes. But similar to coffee or wine, the region where sesame seeds grow, produce a different flavor profile, quality, and consistency. And then of course, there are roasting and pressing processes that longstanding manufacturers have perfected. And so the seeds that Soom currently works with, are seeds from Ethiopia, they’re called White Humera Sesame, and they grow in the Northwest Humera region of Ethiopia. And they’re really coveted for their nutty flavor profile. It gives tahini a lot more versatility than tahini that are made from sesame seeds from South America, Asia, India as well, and also ratio of oil to sesame meat, that plumpness of the sesame seed that makes for really creamy and hopefully easily emulsified tahini product to use in your kitchens.
Alison Smith: [3:55]
That’s amazing. And I have so many questions for you, but before we get too far, I have to share my special guest. I had this in my pantry. It Soom’s Premium Tahini. I did have the Chocolate Tahini, but it is all gone because that one is just… You can’t stop once you start, so good.
Amy Zitelman: [4:20]
Well, I’m glad to see it. And, yeah, our goal has really been to get tahini into every pantry across the country. That for us, has meant from professional kitchens to home kitchens. And we wanted to also educate the American market, not only of how they could use tahini at home, but it’s versatility. And that really lends itself to the sweet flavor profile, that nutty flavor profile, which set itself up nicely as an alternative to Nutella and other sweet spreads on the market, in our chocolate spread.
Alison Smith: [4:53]
Yeah, absolutely. And y’all do a great job with recipe content across the board. It makes the product really easy to consume and I love that y’all do that, but I want to go back to spending a year and a half on market research alone. Would you recommend other brands to do that and tell us what you learned along that path?
Amy Zitelman: [5:17]
I think yes and no. It really depends what another brand’s goals are or timeline is. Being so young and coming straight out of college, I had the time to live in Israel for a year, go to Ethiopia, actually twice in 2012, for the sake of it. And I didn’t feel as much of a rush to get the product into market, but I wouldn’t say that that year and a half of market research, was through paralysis of needing to really understand what the market was. It was more so our organic timeline that my sisters and I were on. I think one of the things that paralyzes people from getting started, is this need for everything to be perfect. And especially in a digital age, the brand, and the look, and things like that, and that was not at all what held Soom back.
I mean, we launched with even not that that is even uglier labels than the label you just held up, we were able to rebrand a few months ago, which we’re really excited about. But for us, it was understanding the product and understanding its potential space here. And it just happened to take that long due to life circumstances mixed in. But I wouldn’t say that there was anything special about doing that for longer. I think it’s an ongoing process too. Market research, we should all always be getting feedback from our consumers and understanding what’s resonating with them, and what’s working in our marketing strategy and in our product communication. And so that’s just an ongoing thing that should happen forever, for a brand.
Alison Smith: [6:54]
Yeah. Completely agree. And I love that you stated the paralysis that can happen, especially when starting a business. I mean, that’s a huge leap for anyone and we’re big fans of just trying to find that balance between the quality and doing things right, but also just getting going, because like you said, you have to learn along the way. So that’s important, I think.
Amy Zitelman: [7:24]
Yeah. And there’s something to it being the least viable product, like the best quality that you can accomplish with your resources and still be putting the product into the market. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that as long as your business model is aligned with projecting that into, not even just projecting that, presenting that into the realm of realities. But yes, I think that there’s always opportunity to grow, to improve, and to wait until you have this idea of perfection. Until you actually start doing something, you don’t even know what that perfection could be, would ultimately just hinder anything from really getting off the ground.
Karin Samelson: [8:09]
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’re glad you did because we love the product.
Amy Zitelman: [8:14]
Thank you.
Karin Samelson: [8:16]
Yeah. Well talking a little bit more about that growth that you just mentioned and getting going, and actually growing, what has been one of your biggest wins in your business so far?
Amy Zitelman: [8:25]
Yeah, well, we’ve had an omnichannel approach that might be different than other brands’ expectations. I know it was different than what we set out when we started Soom, which was, we wanted to get Soom onto every grocery store shelf immediately and into every person’s pantry in their homes. And what we didn’t realize were, there were other channels and other industries where tahini was a viable product, a really valuable product for the sake of growing a business and for contributing to that. And one of those industries was the restaurant industry and so part of our market research stage, we were able to talk with an amazing chef and restaurateur here in Philadelphia. His name’s Mike Solomonov, with his partner, Steve Cook, and they own the CookNSolo restaurant concept in particular, a restaurant called Zahav, which won the James Beard Award for Best Restaurant in 2019.
It’s an Israeli restaurant and at the time that we were starting Soom, we asked him also, “What tahini are you using?” And he said, “I can’t even name the brand. It’s nothing special. It’s not a very high quality.” And having his opening, that opening into his kitchen, into his pantry, really facilitated the push that I think that we needed to get the product over here and into distribution. So I think our biggest win following that, was 18 months later, Mike actually published a cookbook called Zahav and tahini was a big part of it. And he mentioned Soom specifically in that cookbook and it really facilitated a huge leap in brand credibility, and really initiated that influencer model that could happen organically for a brand like ours, which is a big part of brand strategy these days, almost 10 years later.
Alison Smith: [10:20]
That’s awesome. I would love to hear more about how that initial connection came to be. Did you just do a cold reach out, did you stop by the restaurant or how did that happen?
Amy Zitelman: [10:28]
Yeah, exactly. My oldest sister, Shelby, had been living in Philly. She went to college here and knew the restaurant in its startup days through hosting happy hours there, before it had become the force that it had become. And it was, it was just a cold outreach, saying, “My sisters and I have a business idea about tahina. We’re wondering if we could pick your brain a bit?” And that’s really been our approach along the entire way. I mean, it was the same thing going from grocery store to grocery store, which is, if you start by understanding what your potential client needs, you can get to the solution for them a lot faster, as opposed to making assumptions, or projecting, or even trying to sell in that first conversation.
For me, my approach to developing those relationships and those pipelines towards ultimately closing a deal, is finding out what somebody’s troubles are, what issues you can fix for them with the product that you’re providing. And so we use that initial cold call and cold conversation. It’s also my leading spiel when I was at a farmer’s market or demoing in a grocery store, more in-real-life marketing opportunities than the digital world, that I know we’ll talk about a lot, but asking somebody, “Are you familiar with tahini?” And then just finding out what their baseline is for the product that you want to tell them about, is just a great way so that you don’t lose somebody by making the wrong assumption.
Alison Smith: [12:04]
I mean, that’s so important. I love how you did that approach, “Let me pick your brain. Let me solve your problems.” And just like you said, that goes into B2B. That goes into D2C. That’s exactly how you market your brand with consumers as well as, “How can we solve the problems and pain points that you’re going through with my awesome product?” So that’s awesome.
Amy Zitelman: [12:28]
Thanks. Yeah. And I mean, I have to say that Soom has also been in a unique circumstance where there aren’t a lot of other people selling tahini. There are definitely more now, but back then, almost 10 years ago, there weren’t. And so wasn’t a lot of noise to have to cut through, in order to become that known or go-to brand for the products once they found a place for it in their behaviors.
Karin Samelson: [12:53
Yeah. That’s such a good point and something that I think a lot of the small business owners come up against, especially when they’re just concepting an idea. So what would be a good piece of advice to a founder that may want to bring in a product that does already have competitors on the shelf?
Amy Zitelman: [13:15]
Oh, God, I don’t envy people that choose to do that. I always joke how lazy me and my sisters are for not having to compete on that level, say with bars, or granola, or fill in the blank, of these more competitive categories. I think the most important thing that you can do, is to find your point of differentiation. I mean, I know I’m guilty of it too, where somebody’s demoing a bar and I say, “How is this different than another bar?” And if they don’t have the answer quickly, then I’m not sure if I’m going to decide to make space for it in my cart that day.
But otherwise, I think finding allies and ultimately influencers that can help build your credibility faster than you might be able to, is a way that Soom was able to jump up a couple rungs as it related to just tahini’s viability in the market, finding chefs of restaurants that talked about how great tahini was, but also specifically how great Soom was. We sampled with no intention or no expectation that they’d actually feature it, tahini to so many bloggers and Instagram influencers. And I mean, this was eight years ago. So I know that the market for all of that has changed tremendously, but putting the product into the hands of people that can facilitate a faster and further reach, I think is a great strategy for hopefully overcoming some of those obstacles or challenges.
Karin Samelson: [14:47]
Yeah. And I mean that’s a great note because regardless, yes, of course, the strategy has changed when it comes to influencer marketing, but something that you said and something that has held true all this time, is that when you partner with people that actually care about the product, that actually believe in the product, that’s when the magic happens. So it’s incredible that you found this chef. I mean, I need to go look at that cookbook and see how you’re featured because what a win, and that is because you nurtured the relationship.
Amy Zitelman: [15:19]
Right. And when it happens organically and it truly is authentic, that comes through. And I think my favorite thing that has evolved since Soom started, or five years ago versus today, is the difference in value of user-generated content. It doesn’t need to be totally polished. You don’t have to have paid for it, which there was a three to four year window there, where influencers were requiring a lot of money, brands might not have had it. You didn’t really know what was a really authentic recommendation versus an ad. And all of that shifted tremendously. I mean, really, I think thanks to COVID and this idea that anybody can generate content, and I think it’s become, and you two are the experts here, and I know I trust my marketing team for this, even more valuable to have a high volume of user-generated content as opposed to curated or paid-for influencer content.
Alison Smith: [16:17]
Spot on. That’s so spot on. I mean, we preach constantly that lofi video, or still imagery, is going to impact the end user, the consumer, so much more than a polished advertisement or creative in general, generally because it’s that realness. You want to be able to relate, and it builds trust and social proof with brands. So I love that you brought that up because that is something that so many younger brands experience in their earlier days, that they’re saying, “I don’t have the budget to create these super visual pieces of content and I don’t have the budget to do all these things.” But making those relationships or doing things yourself, or asking your friends and family to film things for you on their iPhone or Android, whatever, is super important and impactful, and a lot cheaper.
Amy Zitelman: [17:22]
Totally. And I mean, we do recognize the fact that especially as it relates to food, it needs to look appealing, right? I still don’t post, even if I go to some of the best restaurants and the lighting is really dim, I’m like, “I’m not going to post a picture of my plate right now because it doesn’t actually look that good.” But that’s not to say that it has to be curated through a professional photo shoot either, by any means. But I think that there’s a time and a place, and a stage of growth, where it’s worth the resources to invest in really high quality content. But the foundation comes from authentic testimonial and that is never going to be a curated, beautiful, pretty picture.
Alison Smith: [18:08]
Absolutely. Yeah. So I would love to hear more about the relationships that you created what? Even eight years ago. How do you continue to nurture those influencers and those chefs, and continue those partnerships?
Amy Zitelman: [18:25]
Yeah, I mean, the chefs was the part that I loved the most. To open up new markets, I traveled all across the country and put tahini in a Rolie Bag and knocked on restaurant’s doors while they were prepping for dinner service, and pissing off the chef, saying, “Will you just try our tahini?” And then I would try to visit and go back as often as possible. And some markets, it was once a year. In other markets, it might be two or three times a year. And for me, especially having studied interpersonal communication, it was those relationships and the healthfulness of connection that I think superseded even the product itself. At the end of the day, anything it has competition.
Tahini is a commodity. There are lots of tahinis on the market. If you’re selling a product in a more competitive category, there’s obviously going to be people nipping at your heels and your ability to connect with people, and for them to trust and rely on you for things beyond just the product itself, I think helps solidify that more long-term and withstanding relationship. But I just believe in connection. We reach out to our influencers, we follow their personal journeys. When they have a baby, we send a onesie-type thing. And the other thing is that we just work to respect the fact that they’re humans, we’re humans, we’re all in this together, and if there’s an opportunity for us to help each other, then there’s an opportunity. Or if the timing’s not right, then it’s not right, but just maintaining really clear expectations and reliable relationships, has helped us weather all that time.
Karin Samelson: [20:14]
That’s such a good note. We push on this a lot with, especially when we talk about influencer partnerships and really just asking somebody to be a really strong word-of-mouth recommendation for your brand, is the importance of that relationship. It’s just like it can feel so transactional through the phone screen. And so little things, I love that you said you send a onesie when they have a baby, and just those connections that is so unbelievably important and really not too expensive. And you actually look at the grand scheme of things and how many people that they’re going to be sharing your product with.
Amy Zitelman: [20:55]
Yeah. And we facilitated influencer kits where quarterly we sent out a jar of tahini, a jar of chocolate, some recipe cards, things like that. I think making it as easy as possible and as the path-of-least-resistance as possible, for some influencers who reached a certain caliber of “commission,” I mean, it was before we implemented some of our more commission applications and things like that, as it relates to working with people these days. But if they accounted for a certain amount of sales on our website, we sent them a $200 gift card to Whole Foods.
We really just wanted to make sure that we were adding value to their work and not just asking for value from them. And that’s been our approach and I think is actually a great representation of what tahini does in dishes. Tahini is very rarely the star of a dish. It’s supportive. It brings out the best of the chickpeas, and the garlic, and the lemon juice, and hummus, or the bananas in a smoothie, whatever it might be, it’s so subtle, but still really strong, and healthy, and all those things. And I love when our business practices model the qualities of tahini as well.
Karin Samelson: [22:13]
Oh, that’s awesome.
Alison Smith: [22:15]
I know. That’s great.
Karin Samelson: [22:15]
That was very strong symbolism. I love it.
Alison Smith: [22:19]
I’m so curious. What do the onesie you say? Anything cute?
Amy Zitelman: [22:25]
They say Teeny Tahini, 
Alison Smith: [22:26]
Oh, yes.
Amy Zitelman: [22:28]
For a long time, they were just a little sesame seed, but we outgrew that logo and image and, yeah, now just little Teeny Tahinis entering the world.
Alison Smith: [22:36]
Adorable. I love it. Well, yeah. So we talked a bit about the pain points you were solving for your partnerships and relationships. Can you tell us about a challenge or pain point that you or Soom has experienced, and how you got through it?
Amy Zitelman: [22:55]
Oh, God, there’s been so many. I also want to reiterate and be transparent in the fact that Soom as a marketing engine and as a consumer-facing marketing engine, is really a newer endeavor as it relates to our business. A strong foundation of our company, in particular the first six years, was focused on the restaurant industry, which has very different requirements as it relates to expectations for marketing and for brand activation, and things like that. We always had our product available to consumers through Amazon, and of course, on our website, a little bit through grocery stores, especially in the Mid-Atlantic region, from DC to New York.
But so much of our business came from restaurants, that the marketing side of it, things that your UMAI team and clients would likely relate to the most, have really only emerged in the past few years. And that was because of a huge surge of consumer sales and access because of COVID. When the restaurant industry shut down and people started cooking at home more, all of that groundwork that we did with recipes and preparing for more people to have tahini into their homes, finally clicked. And so in that, we hired a VP of marketing, Dana Mensah, who’s the one that’s implemented through my growth group, into every associate that’s come into our marketing department since.
We’ve built out our marketing department. We have new labels and brand, like I was sharing before. And so, one of our biggest challenges has been balancing those channels and the resources that you put into them, and the purpose of marketing within those channels and the return that you could get from those channel marketing endeavors, but we’ve had anything, I’m super transparent about it, as challenging from a recall that we had to participate in, in November of 2018, that really impacted the credibility and strength of the business through 2019.
Of course, on the heels of that was COVID. We have distribution and operation challenges. Tahini is really heavy and very messy, and so bottles break in transit or buckets are damaged in shipping, and managing the relationship with the end user, whether it’s a restaurant or whether it’s a person that ordered one 11-ounce jar, has always been important for us, because of course things can go wrong. I think it’s how you manage people’s expectation and the communication through those challenges, that really puts you on one side or another, as it relates to the outcome.
Karin Samelson: [25:37]
And I mean, after hearing that, it’s just also a reminder on the complexity and how many things can… You do need to have your eye on so many things at once. And even if something is so detrimental, that you would think would be detrimental as a recall, when that happens, it’s like you can recover from it and that’s proof that you have. And it happens all the time. I think the PR teams are really good. So you might not know it has, but it does happen. Cool. So yeah, I think that I was really surprised. I don’t know if you were, Allison, how big your B2B side of your business is, and for some of our brands, I mean, that could be definitely something that they’re interested, getting into more restaurants, getting into more wholesale. So how does that B2B channel differ from that D2C channel in terms of marketing?
Amy Zitelman: [26:30]
D2C takes a lot more time and costs a lot more money. I would say that the volume of consumers that you need to acquire, is very resource-intensive. And whether you’re acquiring those people digitally through your website, through Amazon, or a third party e-commerce at this point, or in the grocery stores, there’s a lot more content and cost associated with that channel. The challenges in food service are ultimately in the complexity, like no different than the consumer channels, in the gatekeepers and the decision-makers. A lot of times, especially as it related to Soom, our decision-makers were chefs, but there are times in a larger organization, like a fast casual change, where the gatekeeper is somebody in the finance department and they are more concerned about the cost of the product than the quality of the product or the performance of the product in the recipes that they’re using at the store level.
And so I think that understanding who your buyer is and the gatekeepers, whether that’s an individual, which is more likely in B2B or all the noise that I think exists on the consumer side, is really important in terms of understanding and differentiating between the channels. But the beauty of food service and restaurants, fast casual chains, small manufacturers, is that they buy more product and they buy it more often. And so when you do get tahini into a restaurant, a restaurant might use 40 pounds a week and a consumer at home, no offense, Alison, but might be sitting on an 11-ounce jar for God knows how long and never finish it or never even open it.
Alison Smith: [28:18]
Well, I will say it last a long time, consumers.
Amy Zitelman: [28:21]
Yeah, it has a very long shelf life. 
Alison Smith: [28:25]
It’s worth it, the money.
Amy Zitelman: [28:27]
But that’s just the reality of it. And it’s not to say that you’re not our ideal consumer, that you wouldn’t love cooking with tahini. I have friends who have my jars sitting in their pantry and I’m like, “Why aren’t you using it?” And that’s because human behavior and consumption behavior is super complex. The reasons why people decide to initiate a behavior, an action, are influenced by so many things. You mentioned social proof, Allison, which is one of the strongest and really top three, I think, as it relates to enacting behavioral change. And so that’s what I love and what I really encourage other food founders to consider is, is there a market or a channel where the volume is higher and the velocity is faster, because that’s a great foundation for growing the consumer side more sustainably.
Alison Smith: [29:18]
Absolutely. Couldn’t have said it better. I am curious though, do chefs pass you on to the financial teams and have you had to sit down with those people?
Amy Zitelman: [29:31]
Yeah. In a few instances, some of the larger channels that we work with, but it’s no different really than, I think, your negotiations with a buyer in a grocery store, which is, “What are the margins going to be and what is your potential velocity or consumption? And where is the interest from the consumer?” Right? The grocery store’s consumer and end user are the people bringing ingredients into their home or packaged goods into their homes. The restaurant’s consumer is the person choosing to order it and eat it. And so if your product is not adding value in either of those circumstances, to either of those consumers, then they’re not going to purchase it. And the thing that’s been most glaring to me especially the past six months with this economic turmoil and this ideas of inflation is, it’s value that’s most important to people.
They have to like your product, but it also has to match how much they’re willing to spend on it. There’s a threshold for loving something and then it becoming too expensive to love it enough to actually want to buy it. And that was something that we were able to learn through the restaurant industry, because so much of it is also margin-driven, as opposed to where you can fluff around that or manipulate by focusing on a core consumer and maybe be able to kick that can down the road, because your early adopters don’t care how much it costs. Eventually though, to reach the masses, somebody cares how much it costs and it’s in relation to how much value it adds to their lives.
Alison Smith: [31:04]
Right. And the reason I asked is, I’m just imagining the financial teams that restaurants be cutthroat and even so more so with inflation, everything like that, so yeah and not having the value, the taste buds of a chef. So just curious how those conversations go and how you navigate them?
Amy Zitelman: [31:27]
Yeah. And I mean, the important thing to keep in mind and understanding your consumer or your client is, chefs are also very emotionally-driven. But through that, especially our philosophy of connection and relationship-building, that help solidify a place on a menu. Another thing that’s great and to consider is, once tahini is cut into a dish, it’s hard to replace that with something else because it could interrupt the recipe, and then you’d have to retrain your whole staff about how to make it.
So in some ways there’s security and in some ways there’s risk, and all of these other, I think, threats of disruption, but that’s any industry. At the end of the day, you want to create this textbook of, “This is how to win on D2OC online, and this is how to win in grocery stores, and this is how to win in restaurants.” And as you know and everybody listening to this, knows if there was a real playbook, then that would be a New York Times Best Seller and there would be a lot more people trying to do what we’re all doing.
Alison Smith: [32:29]
Yeah. I mean, I’ll read it, we’d all read it.
Karin Samelson: [32:33]
Yes, we want it all.
Amy Zitelman: [32:36]
It’s not to discredit what UMAI Growth Course does, what my team loves about it, are real-world examples of what has worked for other people, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you also. And I think having that perspective and having a team, or a curation, like what UMAI provides and be able to think about, “How does this apply to us in our product, in our brand?” or, “How might we be a little bit different?” is so helpful in the onboarding of new strategies when there’s a lot of noise going around about what really works or what you should be doing. So I know that’s why our marketing team loves the Growth Course, is because of those real-world examples and also just strategic concepts that are good to think about, as opposed to saying this is a 100% going to get you there.
Karin Samelson: [33:29]
Yeah. Be aware of anybody who says that.
Amy Zitelman: [33:31]
For sure. I was going to say, wouldn’t that be nice if we could be so bold?
Amy Zitelman: [33:37]
Karin Samelson: [33:38]
Well, while we’re on the topic, I mean, we enjoyed our conversations with Dana and I believe Julie, is that correct?
Amy Zitelman: [33:46]
Julie was in it at first, and then we had Maya, and now we’ve just onboarded Diana. Like I was sharing, part of our onboarding process for social media and communication associates, is the Growth Course. So we’ve had several people within the organization take it.
Karin Samelson: [34:04]
That is so exciting. That is exactly what we are hoping for, for it to be an ongoing resource for y’all, because as things change and digital always changes, we will always be updating and providing other resources for y’all. So I love that you guys are hanging out and sticking around, and being super active with it. That’s awesome.
Amy Zitelman: [34:23]
Yeah, we really appreciate it. I pinged, I guess I slacked Diana before and I said, she’s the newest, “So what do you like the most?” And she said a variety of things, but in particular, there was an email marketing module with a downloadable PDF, and she loves the template for email marketing strategy. So thank you for that.
Karin Samelson: [34:48]
Woo. Okay.
Alison Smith: [34:49]
Yes. Love that. Everyone doesn’t think email is as sexy as all the other levers. So sometimes it gets overlooked, but I think deep down, it’s one of our favorites, it definitely moves the needle.
Amy Zitelman: [35:03]
It’s the valuable for Soom. I would say if I were to rank our marketing resources in terms of return on investment, the first one is still traditional PR. I mean, to be able to be featured in a publication like Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, we see real-life immediate returns to our website orders, Amazon checkouts, things like that. The second one is email. And granted, it’s just harder to track as it relates to the influencer and social media-type content that’s being put out, but as it relates to, for me as a CEO and not a marketing brain, I really covet and just love our email marketing channel and we put a lot of our strategy and resources to it. So anytime we can improve that and improve its return, is something that our marketing team is constantly strategizing about.
Alison Smith: [36:05]
Yeah. That’s great to hear. And just to pull it back to how you’re speaking on relationship-building, I mean, you are arriving in someone’s inbox, a consumer, or a fan’s inbox, and you get to have that direct connection with them through email and that’s a pretty personal place to be. So yeah, I think it really ties nicely into your overall mission as a brand.
Amy Zitelman: [36:30]
Yeah. I also think when people choose to open your email, they’re choosing to engage with you. How many emails do we all just delete every day and not to say that everybody opens our emails? I’m not even sure what our open rate is these days, but the people that do, are really engaged and so providing them with appropriate and meaningful content, is really important. And then obviously, curating a larger email list, it’s the top priority because that open rate will always be in relation to how many people are on the list. And so to grow that, is very important at Soom right now.
Karin Samelson: [37:05]
That’s awesome. Love to hear it. You guys, watching y’all’s growth, is super exciting for us, so we love following along. Well, I guess the last question we have is, what would be your biggest piece of advice to a small CPG business owner who might be going through it right now?
Amy Zitelman: [37:23]
Oh, well, I love this. I have a 4-year old son, but we watch Frozen a lot, and we watch frozen II a lot. And there’s a quote in Frozen II, it hit me so hard when I was watching with him, which is, “When you don’t know what to do, just do the next right thing.” Right? There’s no way to know exactly what you need to do to get from A to Z, but you can figure out what to do to get from A to B, and B to C, and things like that. So that’s my biggest piece of advice, I think, is just to focus on what you can control and manipulate, and work on those small wins, in the meantime, leading up to a larger goal.
I also think setting intentions and writing down a one-year goal and breaking that down into what needs to happen this quarter and then beyond that, what needs to happen this month and then what needs to happen this week, to make sure that month piece is done, that quarterly piece is done, leading up to that one big, or two, or three yearly goals, is a great way to tackle some of those more daunting projects.
Alison Smith: [38:32]
Love it. Yeah, absolutely, can’t handle anything unless I break it down and I love that Frozen quote. I’ve not heard that before.
Amy Zitelman: [38:43]
I think it’s Frozen II.
Alison Smith: [38:43]
Frozen II. Okay. We’re going to need to pull that in. Well, Amy, thank you so much. I feel like there’s a lot of great pieces of advice for really any level CPG brand here. So thank you again for giving us so much. And would you like to leave our listeners with how they can contact you or Soom?
Amy Zitelman: [39:08]
Sure. Well, you can find all of our contact info on our Soom Crew page on our website. So that’s You can find lots of recipes on tahini there. And I think the best two ways to follow and stay engaged, or maybe three ways, I should say, Instagram, LinkedIn now, it’s amazing how that, I think, channel has shifted over the past year or two. And then also on Facebook, we have a Soom Foodies group. So if you like food and you like tahini, it’s a really fun casual group to be in. So that’s our real play on Facebook these days.
Alison Smith: [39:44]
Exciting. Well, we’ll be sure and link all of that in the show notes for everyone to find.
Amy Zitelman: [39:51]
Thank you.
Karin Samelson: [39:52]
Thanks, Amy.
UMAI Social Circle is a CPG, agency-driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind-the-scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, Catch you back here soon.
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#32: Going “All-In” on your CPG Business with Morgan from Granarly

UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#32: Going "All-In" on your CPG Business with Morgan from Granarly

Granarly founder, Morgan Potts, joins Alison and Karin to discuss her dream of bringing granola baked with whiskey to the masses. She shares her business philosophy, how her brand landed on the shelves of Whole Foods, and how taking leaps of faith in business ended up driving much of her success.

In this episode, Morgan shared how she made the jump from “half-in” to “all-in” on her CPG business, and what it’s been like running the daily operations, sales, and marketing! See what’s in store for Morgan and Granarly on this episode of UMAI Social Circle!

Let Us Break It Down For You…

[0:45 – 4:47] Introduction
[4:49 – 7:46] Why granola?
[7:51 – 11:20] Morgan’s entrepreneurial journey
[11:21 – 12:38] Morgan’s big wins & how she made them happen
[12:50 – 18:10] Getting on Whole Foods shelves
[18:11 – 24:45] Advice to other founders in your position
[24:50 – 27:44] Inspiration
[28:44 – 30:41] Morgan’s experience with UMAI’s Growth Course
[30:42 – 33:32] How Morgan continues to market her brand to scale
[34:34 – 36:15] Resources and outro

Mentions from this episode: 

Learn more and Join there mailing list –

  • Shop Granarly, here
    • use the code “UMAI20 20% off
  • Instagram, here
  • Facebook, here

Reach out to Morgan –

  • Email:
  • Instagram, here

Stay in touch:

Join UMAI’s Facebook Group: CORE 3

#32: Going “All-In” on your CPG Business with Morgan from Granarly

Alison Smith: [0:45]
Welcome to the UMAI Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Alison and Karin, co-founders of UMAI Marketing. And we’re being joined today by Morgan Potts, founder of Granarly, a better for you granola brand made with bold flavors and also a member of our consumer goods growth course. Welcome, Morgan.
Morgan Potts: [1:10]
Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here and I am-
Alison Smith: [1:13]
We’re stoked, too.
Morgan Potts: [1:15]
Stoked, love that. Already speaking the lingo at Granarly. Yes, I’m excited-
Alison Smith: [1:18]
That’s right. I’m in the Granarly headspace, that’s right.
Morgan Potts: [1:20]
You are. Love it. I love it. That’s amazing.
Alison Smith: [1:25]
But, yeah, we haven’t seen each other in a while, so it’s definitely time to catch up.
Morgan Potts: [1:30]
Yes. Lots to catch up on with me. I … As you know, and follow on social, I am all over the place, but back in Austin. Thank the good Lord. So I’m excited to see you all in person, hopefully. And, yeah, this will be a fun conversation. There’s lots happening.
Alison Smith: [1:45]
Absolutely. So let’s start off with your background. How did you start Granarly? How did you get to this point? Let us hear it.
Morgan Potts: [1:55]
Let’s hear it. Okay. I’ll keep it short so I don’t talk all day long. But I have a degree in animal science and I love mentioning that because I feel like the more people I talk to as I grow up, I guess you could say, a lot of people are either using their degree for their career or they’re like, “I have nothing to do with it.” And I just think it’s funny that I thought I would be a vet. So that’s my background. But growing up, I always thought I would be an entrepreneur. My mom was always like, “You’re going to be an entrepreneur,” but I’m stubborn and I wanted to go save the elephants in Africa and go that route.
So that’s my background. Right after college, I got accepted to vet school or … Right, my last couple months of college, I got accepted to vet school on an island and in Grenada and I was so excited, but the week I got accepted to vet school, I had this dream. And then the dream, it was put whiskey and granola and call it Granarly. And fast forward, that’s what we’re speaking about today. But since then, and we were just talking about this right before the show, it’s been quite the journey. I have not always just done Granarly, but I have worked for Women Founders. I worked for companies like Outdoor Voices, Impact, Cardi, and just really wanted to learn business and everything ever since I started Granarly and turned on vet school.
So that’s where I’m at today. And I’ve been saying this for a couple years, but I’m finally, finally, finally almost to the point of just doing Granarly. So that’s the goal. But, yeah, that’s a brief history of the past seven years.
Karin Samelson: [3:22]
That’s a big deal going from grinding with a lot of different things into just growing your brand. How does that make you feel? Are you excited?
Morgan Potts: [3:35]
I’m super excited. It is scary, but I think … I’m 29. I don’t mind mentioning that on here and I think it’s worth mentioning because when I was 22, I said, “Before I’m 30, I want to go all out.” And I … It’s one thing to preach on our brand. I preach get outside, get out of your comfort zone, take risk, and go for it. And I feel like I do that in a lot of ways, but if we’re being honest and transparent, which I love to do, I haven’t fully done that in every capacity.
And when I woke up on my 29th birthday this year, I said, “If I’m going to preach this brand, I got to live it out.” And so here I am going for it, and it’s really scary, but I feel so supported. And every time I let go of other things distracting me from Granarly, I see something grow in our brand and then the company and in myself. And so I just know that it’s finally time and I could not be more excited. So, anyway.
Karin Samelson: [4:22]
Love when the universe pushes us in the right direction.
Morgan Potts: [4:26]
I know. I tried to get another job and literally like not got fired, but that sounds bad. But basically the door shut on me and I was like, “Okay, world, I see you. I’m going to do it.” Yeah, I’m not even going to glance it the other way anymore. So it deserves it.
Karin Samelson: [4:41]
Yeah. Yes. The brand that you’re building deserves your time and energy as much as you can afford. So you said that Granarly came to you in a dream, but is there any other reason why granola?
Morgan Potts: [4:56]
I love that question. So the Granarly came to me in a dream. I was about to go snowboarding and in my little gnarly brain, I was like, “Oh, whiskey keeps you warm on the mountain. This will be the perfect snack.” And so honestly, I wasn’t much of a granola consumer and I would never make fun of someone, but I would see it around, it was expensive. And I’m like, “I could make this at home.” I never, ever, ever thought I’d be making granola. And it’s humorous now because it’s my livelihood, I guess, you could say.
But what I did notice when I started doing Granarly is, one, whiskey comes from grains. And so it made sense for it to be baked back into a grain product. So I thought that was really cool. And then what I noticed when I was walking the aisles researching about Granarly and figuring out where we wanted to go, I noticed that the granola aisle is the same. All the packages look the same. And I realized that everyone uses it as a topping. Everyone’s like, “I put this on my smoothies. I put this on my yogurt. I eat this with milk.” It was always a topping. And what I say about Granarly is we’re not just the sprinkle on top. We like to be the main event because I wanted to make granola snackable. I’m like, “There’s a million granola bars out there. There’s trail mix, but there’s no in between.”
And so we started our food truck in Austin. And then from there, people love the granola so much that we started doing little two-ounce packages and making it snackable where we were reteaching consumers to consume granola by itself.
Alison Smith: [6:25]
What a journey. I had no idea that you had a food truck, by the way.
Morgan Potts: [6:29]
Yeah. Yeah. I don’t … That was another adventure I could talk about for this entire podcast, but that’s what brought me to Austin, actually. I … For you people listening, this is worth mentioning, too. I do things backwards and I applied for a food truck competition in Austin because I wanted to move here. And literally within 30 minutes, I got accepted and I didn’t have a food truck. And they were like, “Can you send us a picture of your food truck?” And I was like, “Oh, it’s in the shop,” and I’m not kidding. Two days later, I got a food truck. I renovated it for a month. I moved to Austin a month later. I was on the news the next day. And then the next day, I competed in the food truck competition. And that was my first ever time opening the doors of our food truck.
Alison Smith: [7:10]
I love it. I mean, this really goes to show taking chances, they work out most of the time.
Morgan Potts: [7:19]
Most of the time. I mean, [inaudible 00:07:19]-
Alison Smith: [7:20]
Even if you fall on your ass, I mean, you learn something, right?
Morgan Potts: [7:23]
Exactly. I was like, “What’s the worst that could happen? I was smart about the money with it. We didn’t put a ton of money into it. We made it really cute. And I was like, “You know what, this is worth doing.” And I feel like that’s being an entrepreneur and you all know, you have to learn to pivot and not go where the wind blows, but see what the consumers want. And I was like, “Well, at least this gets me to Austin,” and I will forever be grateful for that. So, anyway.
Alison Smith: [7:46]
Yeah, exactly. And probably a platform, too, to start off with. Well, yeah, tell us more about the entrepreneurial journey. What are some wins and also pain points that you’ve had to deal with in the past, what, seven years?
Morgan Potts: [8:00]
Yeah, seven years. It’s crazy. I feel like it’s been a journey and I’m sure you all can relate the more I talk … I love talking with people. I feel like my … I always say my favorite part of Granarly is these relationships and these conversations because the more I open my mouth and talk to others and allow them to speak is that we’re all trying to figure it out, we don’t all know the answers, and I think that’s been the biggest thing. And maybe when, for me, along the years, is just learning from other people. I went into this not knowing what the heck I was doing. I didn’t know anything about nutrition labels or food safety or manufacturing, co-pack, all these things. And I’ll toot my own horn for a second, I think it’s a blessing and a curse, but I don’t overthink.
So with the food truck, I just go for it and figure it out. So that’s been really fun. But with that, I was actually reflecting on my drive back here to have this call and interview with you all about if I would’ve had a different mentor when I was 23, Granarly may look completely different right now, but she was who I got connected with. She manufactures Granarly right now and she runs a family-owned mom-and-pop style business that is really successful, but is a lot different than now where I want Granarly to go.
And so I have no regrets, but I think along the way, I didn’t raise money. I have done this by myself. And now that I’m finally at this point where we’ve seen so much organic growth, I’m excited to bring in a partner, I’m excited to build a team, I’m excited to raise money, but we’ve definitely had those moments where I look at our bank account, we have $50 and I’m like, “Well, now what?” I don’t … So I feel like … But I feel like that’s with anything in life. And that’s the moments I’ve had over the past seven years is like, “Is this worth it?” And to me, it’s absolutely hell yes. I would do it over and over again, no matter what the hardships have come. And they are there, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, even if I act like it is sometimes. So I don’t know if that answers your question.
Karin Samelson: [9:55]
Yeah. I mean, what a feeling to be doing this on your own and being like, “Okay, the possibilities are endless, but also it’s really freaking scary.”
Morgan Potts: [10:10]
It’s very scary. And I think that’s the moment I had this past year is I got to a point where it was my baby, my passion project. I wanted to grow it, obviously, and not have control over it. I’ve been very open handed with Granarly, but I’m at the point now where I’m like, “If I want this to be a multimillion, billion-dollar company and sell it one day, I can’t do it by myself.” And so I have to really push control. I have to figure out what I’m really good at and what I’m really awful at. Figure out what that looks like to bring people on and just know there’s people out there way smarter than me.
So I think that’s been a big pivot is I want to have conversation with people and make decisions with someone. And that’s something that I haven’t had for the past seven years necessarily. So I’m excited to step into this new chapter of Granarly and build a team. So, yeah.
Karin Samelson: [10:57]
Yeah, that’s super exciting because if you’re listening and you don’t know Morgan, she is a people person. And she has many mentors, many connections. And I think that that’s an incredible thing for any founder, any business person, anybody just having the right mentors and the right community makes all the difference. So …
Morgan Potts: [11:19]
Karin Samelson: [11:20]
… you talked a little bit about those pain points, but what are some wins? What are some big wins you’ve got?
Morgan Potts: [11:25]
Ooh, big wins. I love this. Well, the most obvious is our launching in central market almost a year ago in September and across all Texas. Yeah. And then our recent launch into whole foods in Austin. It’s crazy. I was demoing there today. I’ve been demoing all week and this is worth mentioning, too. You see me on the aisle on this photo at whole foods and I still can’t believe it, and I have to get better about celebrating the wins because it’s a huge deal and that’s something I’ve wanted and prayed about and believed for since I started Granarly when I was 22. But to actually see it, it’s like I have all these other stressful things that I need to be dealing with, but I have to take a second to be like, “This is a huge deal. This is exciting. We’re in freaking whole foods.”
And so … But I’m out there demoing every day, sitting behind a table, passing out samples. I’m at the farmer’s market for four hours every day, but it’s fun. And so with all the wins, there’s all the other things, but that’s been a huge win for us. Yeah. Grocery. And then, gosh, I don’t even know. I’m like there … I have other things we’re working on that some I can’t mention and some I can’t, but just the growth of Granarly and seeing it around town and places I don’t even know it existed, that’s cool.
Alison Smith: [12:38]
Yeah. I mean, I think central market and whole foods is a big enough win for us to talk about. And I would … I think we should explore that more. I mean, tell us how that came to be and what you did, you think, to get Granarly on the shelves and two huge retailers.
Karin Samelson: [12:57]
And also, how did you get on that shelf talker or that shelf thing? I want to know. I … How did you get on that?
Morgan Potts: [13:08]
I think … You mean the picture of me?
Karin Samelson: [13:10]
Yes. I don’t shop at whole foods, so I haven’t seen an IRL. And when I do, but, yeah.
Morgan Potts: [13:17]
Give me a selfie. Please let’s take a selfie. It’s our selfies. So that’s a great question. I think whole foods has really been working on highlighting their local products and local companies because you walk to aisles at whole foods now, and there are local signs everywhere and it’s so cool. I love seeing it with other brands and seeing familiar faces from people in the CPG community here. So I didn’t pay extra for that. I don’t know what I did. Maybe I’m just a nice person. I have no clue, but that was really cool to see in the aisles. And I was very surprised by that.
So let’s talk about … I’ll group them together. I’ve had different experiences with them and I won’t get into the details of them, but I do have to say, first and foremost, working with central market and whole foods with local and Texas has been amazing. They love working with small brands. They have been nothing short of helpful. And especially central market just … I mean, they send you these forms and I’m like, “I don’t know where to start with these,” but just walking you through them, not making you feel stupid and really nurturing you, allowing you to come in and demo. I go drop off my orders directly at whole foods around Austin just because I love to meet the people that are stocking the aisles and are talking to the customers about what products to purchase.
So I do think … You go back to what you said, Karin, like nurturing relationships with people does go a long way because we’re all human and we’re all just living life. And so what happened is the same time I bought the food truck in 2017, I was here at the whole foods at the domain, and I brought my bags of Granarly into whole food. And I put them on the shelve and the guy on the aisle was like, “What are you doing?” And I was like, “Oh, my product’s going to be here one day. I just know it. And I just wanted to see what it look like.” And he was like, “Wait, what is your product?” So we got to talking. I was like, “I’m just so bold.” I was like, “I have to get someone’s attention somehow.”
And so he took to the back. I met the store manager. They were so nice. They’re probably like, “This little girl, what is she doing?” But they gave me an email address, the whole thing. And the buyer that purchased it from me this year is the buyer I got connected to back in 2017, which is crazy. I found my old notebook. I journal everything because I love moments like this. But … And I posted this on my social media when we launched. Looking back, if we would’ve gotten into whole foods in 2017 or 2018 when I thought I was ready, would’ve been awful.
I am so glad that we were not there because I’ve grown as a person, I’ve grown as a business owner. I’m way more connected. Granarly has a better presence here. And then our branding, we rebranded during COVID and now our brand is what gets the most comments. Anyone I meet at whole foods or central market is like, “Your packaging is like no other.” And so I just am so grateful for the timing of everything and persistence. And I really do think persistence and just nurturing friendships before you start selling really goes a long way because at the end of the day, people want to buy from people and they want to know that you believe in your product and you are passionate about it and you’re going to keep going. So that was a very longwinded answer.
Alison Smith: [16:18]
No, but it was a good one. No, I mean, I have two questions. First of all, did he remember, he or she remember you?
Morgan Potts: [16:27]
I think it was one of … I mean, yes and no. I think it was one of those like it got passed down and it got mixed in and I just didn’t give up. I’m big on the follow through. I’m like … I mean, I let email … No, no, you all emailed me and it’s gone way down my inbox. I’m like, “I got to keep up.” And so even if they weren’t like, “Not right now,” or “Try again next time,” I kept trying again and I kept finding ways in. I really do take notes right now until someone’s like, “No, we will never, ever, ever, ever, ever bring this product in our store,” I’m going to keep trying.
Alison Smith: [16:58]
You’re like, “No, please do not contact me. I’m getting a restraining order.”
Morgan Potts: [17:01]
Alison Smith: [17:03]
That’s when we stop.
Morgan Potts: [17:04]
Yeah,”Okay, fine, I’m throwing in the white flag.” But, no, I think … And they don’t refresh their categories all the time so I think it really is a timing thing. And I had to change how I think about things and my buyer was just doing her job. She wants products on a aisle that are going to make sales for whole foods. That’s her whole job.
And so I had to remember, this is not a personal thing. This is a business thing. And so when I started talking about our success at central market and bringing in a new consumer to the granola aisle that’s more of the cool whiskey dads then the moms of the world. Then things started happening.
Alison Smith: [17:37]
Yeah. I think it’s just such a good lesson to know that you’re going to get a lot of no’s and it was probably in your best interest. You might have not have gotten your product, taken off the shelf as quickly because you didn’t have that community built up as you do now. So no, it doesn’t always mean no, it just means no right now.
Morgan Potts: [18:00]
Exactly, exactly. And I am so grateful. Looking back, I am so grateful it didn’t happen until this time.
Alison Smith: [18:07]
That’s great.
Karin Samelson: [18:10]
So … I mean, we can talk all day about the hardships of being a small business founder, but what I really want to know is, what are your favorite things about growing your business? And if you have any advice to other founders as to what they could do to maybe try and improve and feel better about when growing their brand.
Morgan Potts: [18:36]
I love that question. I think it’s all a reframing of the mind. I think … I get in these reps where I feel like it’s the end or I don’t have any ideas, but I think my favorite thing about owning a business is the sky is the limit. We get to create, we get to dream. And I don’t know, I take things in the mindset of why not do that. And I’m getting smarter now about asking conversations and being more wise with money and I can’t just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, but I do think it’s fun to think outside the box.
I’m pausing for a second because I got distracted because I’m dreaming right now. But, yeah, I think that that’s my favorite thing about Granarly is not being limited to just making granola. And I mentioned this right before our call and I want to talk about it right now. But if I started Granarly as just a whiskey granola company and left it at that, it will probably be great and that’s fun and all. But I just know our new mission is get outside and get out of your comfort zone. And I really believe that when you get outdoors and move your body, it changes something in you mentally, physically, it’s just good for your soul to be outside.
And then also taking risk and getting out of your comfort zone, it is challenging, it’s scary, but it really does help you tap into your potential and unlock parts of you that you may not know existed. And I had to do that with myself and it’s been the most green feeling ever. And I know that’s a little woo-woo, but I really believe that we’re on a mission to create products to encourage you to do that in either small or large capacities, whether it’s going outside on a walk and sharing a snack with someone or going to hike Mount Everest. I mean, it could be anything, but we’re launching a line of whiskey. I can mention that. We’re launching … Yeah. And I have this thing I’m working on that’s like a on-the-go whiskey to take while you are skiing or snowboarding or on a … People throw back a little hard on shots.
Morgan Potts: [20:43]
And so I’m marrying a snack with a shot situation and I can’t really give all the details right now
Karin Samelson: [20:48]
Oh my goodness.
Alison Smith: [20:50]
I know it’s exciting.
Morgan Potts: [
Yeah. And then our lama odist, I called him the God of granola the other day. I probably shouldn’t call him that, but he’s like our adventure guru. He’s our inspiration and we’re personifying him. I want to write a children’s book about him and I want to launch some greeting card lines. I just feel like there’s lots that I can do with what we, as in the team I’m building, can do with Granarly that’s not just granola. And I think that’s my favorite part to circle back around through your question.
I think that when you think outside the box and think bigger than just yourself, there really are so many things that can happen. And my advice to people starting out, or no matter where you’re at, whoever’s listening, no matter where you’re at in your adventure journey, I call it that because I don’t think that I was talking to … I have a therapist and I like mentioning that. I was talking to her the other day and she’s like, “When you’re hiking a fourteener, you get to these peaks where you need to take a breath and drink some water, eat a snack before you keep going.” And you can see the top of the fourteener and you know it’s there, but you have to regroup along the way, or you’ll be so famished and parched by the time you get to the top and you may not be able to make it.
And she’s … This summer, I took a little hiatus. I went back to Georgia for the summer with my parents. And I had that. I said, “This is my moment to regroup.” And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. And that’s why I want to mention to people listening is it’s not linear. It’s not going to be always perfect and it’s going to have hardships, and you’re going to have moments of amazing growth. And you’re going to have moments where you’re like, “Why am I even doing this?” I have those all the time, but it makes the win that much better. And if it’s something you believe in and you’re passionate about, and you couldn’t see a day without, then keep going.
And I think my biggest piece of advice I’ve learned and I love sharing with other people is to talk to other people that aren’t your friends and family, like mentors and business owners, and get honest feedback because not all feedback, even if it’s negative, is not bad. Your friends and family love you so they’re, of course, going to be like, “It’s perfect,” but I think it’s important to hear well-rounded feedback and then base your next move or decision on that, but also staying true to your mission and vision for what you’re doing.
Alison Smith: [22:56]
Yeah. I really like that. And just like Karin was saying earlier, just praising you for how you’ve surrounded yourself with people who can give not only feedback, but trusted advice and guide. I did … What you’re saying about taking a hiatus and taking a break, I think that’s so important, especially as entrepreneurs, business owners, anyone, truly …
Morgan Potts: [23:22]
Yeah, anyone.
Alison Smith: [23:24]
… who has a job or doesn’t, I don’t care. There’s a million decisions that you have to make in the day. And there’s a thing called decision fatigue. And it makes you burn out really quickly, where your brain is just like, “I cannot even think of what … Is it a yes or no at this point?” It’s a real thing and the only way to really solve it is to reduce the amount of decisions, take breaks. It could be months long. It could be just one day out of the week where you’re like, “I am doing deep work and I’m not talking to anyone. I’m just thinking today.” I think that’s super important.
Morgan Potts: [24:04]
Alison Smith: [24:05]
So I’m glad you mentioned that.
Morgan Potts: [24:07]
Yeah, we’re not meant to be robots. We live in this world where we feel like we have to do, do, do and go, go, go. And that’s why I love encouraging people to get outside because I have … Some days, I’m so swamped and I’m like, “You know what, the last thing I need is a walk for 15 minutes.” But it’s the most healing thing I could have done all day for myself to clear my head, even if it’s not long. So, yeah, I totally agree with you. And it’s a hard thing to grasp because it feels like you’re behind, but you’re not. It’s really setting you up for more success, I think.
Alison Smith: [24:36]
Exactly. Yeah. But still, just the excitement and energy that we just heard is you are onto something and you’re killing it. And so I would love to know how you stay so inspired. I know you talk about getting outside and all that, but who inspires you?
Morgan Potts: [24:58]
Oh, I love that question. And I wish I had one person that’s my role model that I look to, but genuinely, and you all are going to laugh and be like, “You’re so freaking cheesy,” it’s people like you all, like my friends, my community, and just even going to demo whole foods and seeing the look on someone’s face, especially like a guy. And I’m like, “I make whiskey granola,” because they just see me with my little samples and look at me and I’m like, “Whiskey granola,” and they turn and then they try it and the look on their face like, “Oh, this is actually really good.” That’s what keeps me going because it’s just like the surprise factor and the … I don’t know, I just love it.
And so I really do feel like it’s the people I have in my life. I don’t think people that I surround myself with would let me give up if I tried. And I talk to people, especially women in business or wanting to start businesses, reach out to me often and ask similar questions like this. And it’s my favorite thing in the world to just encourage them. And I don’t know all the answers, but just be realistic. And so that’s what keeps me going. I don’t have … I mean, I have so many role models and so many mentors and so many people I look up to that are way more talented and successful than I am. But I really do think it’s the people that, hopefully, I can encourage and inspire one day and hope to do along the way. That’s why I keep going.
Karin Samelson: [26:16]
That’s so sweet. That’s so sweet.
Morgan Potts: [26:18]
It’s true.
Karin Samelson: [26:19]
I love symbolism. And I also love therapy. And I love … My therapist was talking about this and taking breaks, but I’m just going to keep building on it because when you take those breaks and you’re drinking water and you’re eating a snack, you’re also enjoying the view from where you are, and it’s still pretty freaking awesome.
Morgan Potts: [26:44]
Karin Samelson: [26:45]
It’s not just when you get to the top, that view’s amazing, too. But I think that that’s something that you do really well. You’re enjoying these parts that might not feel the most glamorous, but you’re making the most out of it, and it’s just really fun to watch.
Morgan Potts: [27:01]
Thank you. You’re so sweet.
Karin Samelson: [27:03]
Morgan Potts: [27:03]
I just got chills. But then … And it’s so true. And one of my friends when I first started Granarly, he said, “You can treat this like a runway. You can either run really fast and fall hard or you can strut yourself and take it all in,” basically, like you’re saying. And not that you can’t. There are businesses that have overnight success and that’s amazing and more power to you, but I am so grateful as much as I’d want to be onto the next adventure right now, I am so glad that these past years have been that. Stopping and looking around, learning along the way, and haven’t just been easy because I don’t think I would’ve learned as much and I’m still learning. So, anyway.
Karin Samelson: [27:42]
Always learning.
Morgan Potts: [27:44]
Karin Samelson: [27:45]
Love that. Well, Morgan, we mentioned this at the very beginning, you are a part of our growth course community, which we are so …
Morgan Potts: [27:53]
Karin Samelson: [27:53]
… thankful for. So we want to ask a couple of questions around that if you’re open to it.
Morgan Potts: [28:01]
Let’s do it. I love being a part of this community. I’m probably the worst student you’ve had, but that’s okay. We can talk about it.
Karin Samelson: [28:08]
We can talk about it.
Alison Smith: [28:08]
I’ll never forget, Morgan’s always in her car whenever we do …
Morgan Potts: [28:12]
Oh, yeah.
Alison Smith: [28:13]
… live calls. She’s always in her car driving with her video down here and it’s like, “Where are you going now?” She’s always on an adventure.
Morgan Potts: [28:22]
Always. And I’m like, “I learned so much and I still am.” I still talk about you all’s course to people. I … Anyway. You’re going to ask questions, but I loved it. I just can’t with myself sometimes 
Alison Smith: [28:35]
That was awesome.
Karin Samelson: [28:36]
Yeah. We’re just happy that we have you here for 40 minutes. We’re here with you. So what was one of the favorite things you liked about taking the course?
Morgan Potts: [28:48]
I think … Well, let me mention, you all know Kate was part of it and she’ll be on the podcast and she’s one of my best friends and she just spoke so highly about it. And I know her business changed so much from it. And so it was a no-brainer for me to do it. And I think I am not afraid to admit, I learned so much. And I said on … The community was so great for me and just the meeting times and you all. And I was going to say how you all dumbed it down for me, but I think the better word to use there is it was so approachable, which I love because it can be intimidating. There’s so much, it’s constantly changing.
You all are always still, to this day, sending me updates on what’s changing with Instagram, what’s changing with X, Y, and Z, and it’s super helpful. And I think that you all really care about what you’re doing. You’re really skilled in it and you’re always staying on top of it and learning, and it’s helpful to someone like me that’s all over the freaking place and would love to focus everything on marketing, and ads, and email, and campaigns, and all that jazz, but it was just tangible and easy to incorporate into our business, if that makes sense. So I really do think that that was my favorite part. I learned so much.
Alison Smith: [29:55]
We loved having you in the community. And you’re still there, you’re just busy, busy, getting into central market.
Morgan Potts: [30:02]
I know. I need … I know. And I’m like, “I needed to be better.” Our website has gotten no attention, but I still reference all the sheets we did and everything like that. I’m like, “It’s super helpful.” So I just think that, yeah, I can’t brag enough about how easy it was to comprehend. So I’m excited to incorporate more.
Alison Smith: [30:23]
Thank you, Morgan. That’s nice.
Morgan Potts: [30:25]
And you all made me not be so scared to spend money on ads, even though I’m not running any right at this second, but I probably shouldn’t say that. But that was my thing. I was like, “You have to spend money to make money.” And I’m like, “I don’t care if I’m in that,” but you all made it more approachable for me.
Alison Smith: [30:39]
That’s good. Yeah, that’s a big one for us. So since this is for the most part, it’s a digital marketing podcast for CPG. What are you most interested in pursuing or what are you currently doing with your current marketing?
Morgan Potts: [30:56]
I have started implementing SMS marketing, which has been fun, and I’m still nurturing my email list, but I did set up evergreen campaigns and that has been great. I have evergreen campaigns with my emails and my texting, and that’s great because those are just flowing without me even touching it. And I think that’s one of the best things I learned from you all is just getting my systems organized. So as an only person doing this right now, I need things to be happening when I’m not happening. You know what I’m saying?
And so right now, we’re not doing any paid marketing at the moment just because our website is getting renovated and we have some exciting things coming to the site with the launch and whole foods and central market. But I am about to start running ads and incorporating things I learned from you all to promote more shopping to the stores to support the stores because I want to do well in central market and whole foods here so we can grow nationwide. And I really do think that’s going to come from some marketing. So that’s my focus right now.
Obviously, I’m always on Instagram and I’m still running that by myself and I use my social calendar to get all that set up and everything planned. So that’s just rocking and rolling, too. And even just down to the basic social calendar that you all gave me, that has been just my bread and butter. So I think that’s all we’re doing right this second. I’m trying TikTok, but there’s so much-
Karin Samelson: [32:22]
Aren’t we all?
Morgan Potts: [32:24]
Morgan Potts: [32:26]
I’m like, “We need to hold catch-up call just on all the new things happening in the world.” I’m like it’s just forever changing, I think.
Karin Samelson: [32:31]
Yeah. Yeah. We need to have another side combo, for sure.
Morgan Potts: [32:35]
Karin Samelson: [32:36]
But just … And a friendly reminder that you never have to do all of it. Even if you have the tools in your toolbox, you don’t always have to use them. Use what works at the time, what’s going to actually help you move the needle and go from there. That’s really exciting, though. You’re always crushing it on social and I need to sign up your SMS.
Morgan Potts: [32:56]
Yes, you do.
Morgan Potts: [32:58]
Yeah, that’s been a fun one and something new. And I feel like text marketing is … I don’t know, people are into it now. So I fall for text message marketing. So I was like, “Let’s try this out.” But, yeah, I think … And I love that you said that because I beat myself up with not doing enough a lot of times, but focusing on these grocery stores right now has been my focus. And until I bring on some other people on our team and have some growth, that’s just … I’m doing the best I can right now. So, anyway.
Alison Smith: [33:26]
Oh. But, yeah, let us be the one to tell you, you are doing enough and you’re killing it.
Morgan Potts: [33:32]
Thank you. You all are so sweet.
Karin Samelson: [33:34]
Who are you going to be hiring first?
Morgan Potts: [33:37]
So I brought on … His name is Matthew and he’s amazing. And he is my-
Karin Samelson: [33:41]
Shout out, Matthew.
Morgan Potts: [33:42]
Matthew, I don’t know if he’ll listen. I’m sure he will. He’s a dad to two boys. They’re so cute. And he’s married and he’s amazing. We went to college together, but I brought him on as my sidekick, I guess, is the best way to put it. He’s really well versed in systems, operations, and finance, which are three things that I do not like. And so he’s getting into the nitty-gritty of all our numbers, figuring out how much money we need to raise, figuring out where our money’s going, all that jazz. And he has been a lifesaver. So I brought him on about a month ago.
And then with that, we’re planning out our first fundraise and then we’re planning out what our key hires will be. So stay tuned.
Karin Samelson: [34:19]
Whoo, Matthew. Let’s see it. Let’s …
Morgan Potts: [34:22]
Let’s see it.
Karin Samelson: [34:22]
… do this.
Morgan Potts: [34:23]
And put him on the spot. He’s got a lot of work to do. I was going to help him ready for a fun time because there’s nothing short of that around here.
Karin Samelson: [34:31]
That’s just CPG.
Morgan Potts: [34:33]
It is, it is.
Karin Samelson: [34:34]
Cool. Morgan, we enjoyed having you on so much. So glad you’re back in Austin, too.
Morgan Potts: [34:39]
Karin Samelson: [34:40]
Let’s definitely go get some happy hour coffee, dinner, whatever. But would you like to leave the audience with a link or call to action? What do you want to tell?
Morgan Potts: [34:48]
Yeah. So you all can find Granarly at I have a code just for you all for 20% off and it’s UMAI 20. So we’ll put that in the show notes or somewhere and you can shop If you’re listening and you’re in Austin, we are … Again, you’ve heard this a million times, we’re in central market and we are at whole food. And also, if you’re listening and you are just starting out in your company business, you have an idea, you want to talk any of those things that I mentioned, I love connecting with other people. And the best way to reach me is probably on my Instagram, which is Morgan A. Potts and just DM me or send me an email,
I love to hear from people and would love to grab coffee or have a Zoom. I welcome that with open arms. And, yeah, just stay tuned. Sign up for our email list and sign up for our text message marketing on our website. And there’s lots of exciting things coming you all’s way.
Karin Samelson: [35:44]
Awesome. Thanks, Morgan. We’ll put all of that in the show notes so people can find direct links and …
Morgan Potts: [35:50]
Love it.
Karin Samelson: [35:51]
… yeah, keep killing it.
Morgan Potts: [35:52]
Thank you all so much. This has been so fun. I want to talk forever with you all.
UMAI Social Circle is a CPG, agency-driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind-the-scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, Catch you back here soon.
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#31: Creatively Marketing your Herbal Brand while adhering to Regulations with Zoë and Summer

UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#31: Creatively Marketing your Herbal Brand while adhering to Regulations with Zoë and Summer

We’re speaking with Zoë and Summer, herbalists, creatives, and regulatory nerds to share how herbal brands can creatively market their brands despite strict regulations. Zoë, a PhD in Plant & Soil Sciences, and Summer, Communications Manager and author of Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook, met while working at one of the largest herbal tea companies. They both dropped out of the corporate world at the same time and decided to join forces. They realized that in the world of herbal products, the regulatory and creative teams deeply need each other in business.

In this podcast episode, join Alison and Karin, Co-Founders of UMAI Marketing, as they break down the journey of Summer & Zoë, as well as how they help herbal brands succeed.

Let Us Break It Down For You…

[0:46 – 4:32] Introduction
[5:58 – 8:11] The Emblossom conference journey
[9:09 – 12:20] Overcoming hurdles as herbal brands
[12:57 – 15:35] Marketing and creativity tips
[15:56 – 20:37] Defining regulatory categories
[22:40 – 29:11] The right approach to marketing your herbal brand
[30:59 – 33:42] Who should be in your regulatory Rolodex?
[33:46 – 36:16] Resources to use for FDA and to stay up to date on regulations
[36:23 – 39:10] Other resources and outro


Mentions from this episode: 

Learn more about –

  • Find Summer at warmly, the agency, here
  • Find Zoe at HerbNerd Research, here

Join their mailing list –

Stay in touch:

Join UMAI’s Facebook Group: CORE 3

#31: Creatively Marketing your Herbal Brand while adhering to Regulations with Zoë and Summer

Karin Samelson:[0:46]
Great. Welcome to the UMI Social Circle, where we’ve taught consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Karin and Allison co-founders of UMI Marketing, and we’re being joined by Summer Singletary and Zoe Gardner of Emblossum, a three-day conference for emerging herbal product businesses. Thank you guys so much for joining us.
Karin Samelson:[1:11]
To start, let’s give our listeners just a little bit of a background. Zoe, what does your background look like?
Yeah, well, I’ve been in the herb world for about 20 years now and always guided by my love of the plants and it’s taken me to all kinds of places I wouldn’t have expected. I was in academia for a while and focused on botanical safety and the safety of different herbs, and then went on to run R & D, research and development, at a major herbal product company where Summer and I met so I’ll leave that for her introduction.
Part of the safety work was writing the Botanical Safety Handbook. It’s a book that goes over the safety issues of about 500 different herbs used in herbal medicine so it’s a really thorough resource and it was a great grounding for the technical work going forward. I have my Ph.D. In plant science and kind of went on from the work at the company. I’m a corporate dropout like many of us are here I think, and decided to become a consultant. I work as a regulatory consultant for herbal product companies and Summer and I, and another colleague co-founded Emblossum Herbal Business Conference a couple of years ago. It’s been a wonderful smattering of activities along the way.
Karin Samelson:[2:28]
Yeah. You are an herbal expert that’s for darn sure. It’s great to have you here and helping our brands that might not know that they’re an herbal brand, but just might be, and we can get into that a little bit more later, but Summer, what is your background?
Yeah, a bit of a windy road. I can’t say that I imagined that I’d end up in marketing, but here I am and I love it. I started getting into plants more deeply in college, where I was really into developing community gardens with friends. We did one on campus and I was really more focused on creating food equity and growing organic gardens and creating more access. It was through gardening that I actually fell in love with the plants and around that time was the last recession. I got out of college with an environmental studies degree and a passion for herbalism and there wasn’t much going on so it actually gave me this unique opportunity to dive into what I was most interested in, which was herbalism and gardening at the time. I came from that angle at first and studied at herb schools, a couple across the country.
I’m from Florida. So originally there and some in Vermont and then eventually I led to California and when I finished my schooling at the California School of Herbal Studies, it was just perfect timing. I had been marketing unknown to me the whole time. I had cabbed an Instagram and a blog. It was that time when blogs were very popular and I was doing marketing, I just didn’t know it at the time. It was just perfect timing. One of the bigger tea companies, if not the biggest herbal tea company in the United States, where I met Zoe. They needed somebody to develop their Instagram and start their blog. I ended up working on the marketing team and developed my chops as a marketer and I absolutely loved it.
I realized that when you work for a brand that has a really strong purpose and message, it can be quite easy to be a marketer. I think that’s probably the goal for most marketers too, is to work for a brand that they’re very passionate about. I was very lucky and learned a lot about social media advertising, compliance, writing creatively within the guidelines, and copywriting. Now I have a small boutique communications agency and also co-run the Emblossom Herbal Conference with some amazing humans. Yeah, herbalist and marketer, strange duo, but I absolutely love it. It’s really fun to be able to work with the plants every day in that way and write about them.
Alison Smith:[5:18]
Absolutely. I love both of y’all’s stories and they kind of match Karen and I as well, where we work together at a larger place, and then we went off and came back together to create our own thing. Yeah, so we met Summer and Zoe and all the other amazing people that run Emblossom Herbal Conference. Karen and I were lucky enough to speak at one of their last conferences and it was wonderful. The community is just rock solid, really smart people doing really cool things. I would love to hear more about how the conference came to be, how y’all decided that it was a good fit, and there was a white space for it.
Yeah, well, it was 2020 when we started it, which was, as we all know, without saying a crazy year. We had already been freelance both of us for a bit. We do a lot of work together when folks need both compliance and copywriting and creative marketing work. We’re a good team. And we love working together. We found ourselves with Jacqueline, Jacqueline Smith, shout out to our third Emblossom founder. We found ourselves in this space where we are at home, not much to do, lockdowns, and we are just hearing from our clients this huge need. Not only was it hard to be in business at that time, but the guidelines were already challenging as emerging brands.
We started offering free monthly webinars to folks and from topics, everything from general manufacturing practices to compliance, to social media marketing, to financing and loans. We just saw that there were hundreds of people signing up and definitely 30 people showing up live every time. We thought this is just our core network. We don’t even have an entity yet. It’s just kind of us putting the word out there in a grassroots way. This is really successful. I wonder what this would look like if we made it a bigger, more intentional event and that’s how the event was born. It was funny. We did a couple of press things in the beginning. I remember this sweet man who was interviewing us. He’s like, “huh, this is really niche. Who’s going to show up?” We’re like, “we don’t know, but you know, we’re just going to see what happens.” Actually, over 200 people showed up. There are actually a lot of herbal brands that are craving this information that is accessible and scalable so it’s been really, really fun.
Karin Samelson:[8:13]
Well, that’s just so crazy impressive that you guys just realize that, “Hey, there’s a need for this because people are showing up and they’re consuming our content and they want more.” That is so proven, 200 people that is an incredible success so congratulations on that. We got firsthand experience with that. Like Allison mentioned, we had the opportunity to speak there and your community is strong and they’re smart and they ask all the good questions, and just very cool. If anybody is interested in that, you guys got to go check it out, we’ll keep it in the show notes for sure. But moving into kind of some of the things, some of the challenges that herbal brands might face. We talk to a lot of small emerging consumer packaged goods brands, but those challenges might be a little bit different. What are those big hurdles that herbal brands need to overcome, especially in the beginning?
Yeah, I think from the regulatory point of view, I’m just always going to answer with the regulatory nerd answers here so from the regulatory point of view, it’s first understanding what category you’re in. I think for food companies, it’s really clear. They’re food, it’s something tasty or nutritious to eat, but with herbs, everything runs a spectrum from food to medicine. There are no clear lines in an herbalist’s mind. Whether you eat the herb or whether you put the herb on the skin, it’s all herbal medicine from somebody who’s trained as an herbalist, but FDA doesn’t see it that way. No surprise. Figuring out what category you’re in, which will make a difference as to what you can say about your product, how you need to manufacture your product, and a whole bunch of other things.
Figuring out whether your product is a food or beverage, so that would be one category. Whether it’s a dietary supplement, that would be in the category of kind of anything that helps gently fix. So it’s herbs and vitamins are all in the same category. Whether it’s a cosmetic, which is something used topically, or whether it’s a drug, so that’s mostly going to be out of, out of the reach in terms of compliance and manufacturing and all that. It’s an FDA category that they’re very clear about. Drugs heal things and other products do not. That’s the first one is getting clear on the regulatory category because that’ll determine what you can or can’t say about a product. So that’s, that’s number one.
I think one of the other big challenges that herbal brands face is the passion of the founders in a really good way. Most people educated as herbalists who have had really positive experiences with the herbs and then go on to start an herbal product company are people who love to educate about herbs and there’s so much that herbs can do. It’s really hard to know all the things, but only be able to say a small fraction of what each plant can do.
It’s just challenging, and I guess hand in hand with that is the fact that the regulations are fairly murky. There’s some guidance, but there’s not a ton of clear guidance and there are a lot of expectations from the FDA. What is it that you can say about a product that’s going to be okay, versus a statement that might get you a warning letter? Sometimes the difference is really small. As one wild example, if you talk about a product that treats constipation, that would be considered a disease, but if you talk about a product that treats occasional constipation, then that could be a supplement. It’s an occasional thing. It happens to all of us, but it’s not chronic constipation. There are really fine lines between some of the things. There’s nowhere on the FDA website that delineates exactly what you can and can’t say, so a lot of folks carry anxiety around that because they’re aware of the regulations, but haven’t gotten good guidance because it’s hard to find. Yeah.
Alison Smith:[12:23]
Yeah. I just have to say, I just love y’all’s duo. Zoe is regulations and FDA and Summer’s like, here’s how you can massage it and share it with consumers. I would love to hear, speaking of all that, because it is very scary and you’re not just if you’re an herbal brand scared of the FDA, you’re also scared of getting your marketing channel shut down, therefore not being able to market your business. It just is a trickle-down. Summer, I would love to hear how creatively and how through marketing, you take everything that Zoe just talked about and get it out there and amplify it.
Yeah, totally. Yeah. You know, it’s no easy task. Obviously, as marketers, we know that it’s going to change with the brand voice and what the brand is about and their positioning and things too. I really encourage founders or copywriters or marketers whoever’s working on the project to just stay positive. I think the guidelines are in some ways kind of nice because you don’t have a totally blank canvas. You have a prompt at hand which kind of can make your life a little bit easier sometimes. Also, it’s kind of good for the industry not to make wild claims. When we see things like we saw things around COVID-19 that were… It harms the whole industry when we oversell and under-deliver. In some ways these guidelines are, I think as an herbalist, they could be a lot better, but in some ways, it really, really protects us as a whole.
That’s the first step is just to try to stay positive. Then the next step I usually think about is I, as a copywriter, think about the brand voice and how to make things playful. Also, we’ll go into a little bit more about this, but within the guidelines thinking about what is the context that this person is using these plants, and how is the design lending itself a little bit more to the brand and communicating. As an example, if you want to serve a clinical look, then maybe you’re packaging has that kind of clinical look and feel, or if you’re having an herbal food where it’s more of a beverage where it’s a beneficial tea that somebody needs to drink every day, maybe it’s labeled as a tonic and it feels playful, approachable, and tasty.
I think the product itself and the design can lend it to that and also the colors and the illustrations. A lot of times people shout out plants on the front of the packaging or the images. There are actually a lot of ways that you can stay creative within the guidelines. I think just as highly educated plant people, we want to share everything and more so it can feel a bit daunting.
Karin Samelson:[15:35]
Oh, well, it’s exciting to hear that even though it kind of is intimidating and can be a little bit scary, for lack of a better word, you can still get super creative with it and still have fun with it as long as you’re talking to the right people. We’re going to talk a little bit about that later too, but coming back to the regulations, we’d love to learn a little bit more on the specifics on the regulatory categories that you were talking about when it comes to food and bev or cosmetic and how you go about just handling that.
Yeah. I would say how you go about figuring out which category you’re in or deciding which category you want to be in. Yeah, it’s tricky. So let’s see, the first thing is to know the category. As we mentioned, there’s food and beverage, there are dietary supplements, there are cosmetics, and then there are drugs. We’ll leave out drugs for now. The key thing to remember is that your category is determined by the intended use of the product. You could have the very same product and you could be a food or you could be a dietary supplement depending on what you say about the product.
For example, with peppermint tea, you can have peppermint tea and you can sell that. It can be a tasty, minty tea, everybody loves peppermint, and that can be in the food/beverage category or you can sell peppermint tea. You can have a claim on that package and say, this is peppermint tea for relief of occasional indigestion, for help with tummy rumbles, for upset stomach, and because you’re making a claim around how that tea can benefit a system that puts you in the dietary supplement category. So again, exact same product, but depending on how you’re indicating your consumers to use the product, then that’ll put you in a different regulatory category. That’s often a hard one for people to wrap their head around. The ingredients matter, but what matters more is the intended use and the claims for the product.
Another one we like to talk about a lot as a great example is oats or oatmeals. There are oats as oatmeal that we eat for breakfast. Herbalists like to use oats the seeds just before they’re ripe and those go into tinctures or teas and they help calm the nervous system. They basically come from the same plant part harvested at slightly different times, but with different uses. Then you can have oats ground up in moisturizing creams, and it can be a really great moisturizer. Oats is also allowed as an over-the-counter drug ingredient and so the same ingredient but can be used in very different products. That’s getting clear on the categories and figuring out the intended use of your product.
Karin Samelson:[18:34]
Karin Samelson:[18:37]
Oats. I was just like, oh yeah, we’re talking oatmeal here.
Yeah. Oatmeal.
Karin Samelson:[18:43]
Yeah. Just that alone makes my brain kind of turn on like, okay, what other random ingredients like that are just so much more robust than that one use case that we’re so used to?
There’s a lot.
What makes it really complicated? Yeah. As you can see. Yeah.
Alison Smith:[19:06]
I was going to say, this is why y’all are important because I’m like, “well, what does that mean?” Yeah. That’s tough. Did we, did we cover all the types of regulations or is there anything else that you wanted to cover Zoe?
Yeah, I guess the other piece. The area that I focus on is mostly labeling claims, et cetera. The other huge thing is the manufacturing practices. Foods have a lot of regulations around food cleanliness and all kinds of practices in your manufacturing facility, cosmetics a little bit less so, but there are still paperwork requirements and tracking and regulations on the ingredients that go in. When you go to dietary supplements, it gets a lot more complicated. There’s a bunch more testing. There’s testing of all the ingredients for identity, strength, and composition so making sure that the ingredients are strong enough for their intended use and then finished product testing. Again, that same peppermint tea, you’re selling it as a food, you have certain manufacturing requirements, but then you sell it as a dietary supplement, and all of a sudden your costs go way up because you need to do a whole bunch more testing on the ingredients in there. So, those are the two main sets of regulations that herbal product companies need to be aware of. There are a few more small ones, but those can be for down the line.
Yeah. I just want to jump in and say too, I imagine people that are listening right now, especially if you’re considering starting a business and this is all new, you might be feeling really overwhelmed and something that I really like that Zoe says a lot too and I think some of our other colleagues have said before is that compliance is a journey. It really is because the laws are constantly changing. They’re being adapted. They’re also just really hard to reach even as multimillion-dollar companies so don’t be too hard on yourself and do as much as you can now. Usually a journey and a spectrum of compliance, not saying that you should do anything illegal. I think there are some areas you should be more risk-averse than others. Like that example that Zoe said with peppermint, maybe you don’t have the funds right now to start a supplement brand, but you eventually really want to make claims. Maybe you start out in the food category with your peppermint tea, and then eventually when you’re moving and shaking, you can go ahead and make it a supplement. It’s not to say that this is completely prescriptive, but it is how the laws are written so just to add that in there
Karin Samelson:[21:59]
I mean, language is so important always, but even more so here. It’s a really good reminder, but that compliance is a journey reminder is just so good because especially with something that’s not black and white, it’s just, you got to remember that things change over time and to just go with the flow a little bit more and just come to it with a little bit more patience. With that kind of risk and gray area that we’ve been talking about with herbal CPG, especially in marketing, how do you generally approach this through your marketing? Is every platform the same or do you have to approach it differently?
Yeah, that’s a great question. Zoe and I work on this together a lot and what we’ve kind of summarized over the years is the packaging. It can be really expensive to change, right? We tend to advise folks to be more by the books when it comes to physical things that are printed and packaging. It also can affect your partners because if you have to change all your packaging or I don’t know, somehow they get looped in, it can just not be the best experience. It doesn’t happen often, but you don’t really want it to happen, especially on a bestseller. Then you go to digital spaces more so, and you think about product pages. If you’re having things like advertisements, go back to product pages that’s probably another one I would be maybe less colorful with all the descriptions and all the things you want to say as an herbalist.
I would say you can take more risk there and I’ll let Zoe pop in and make sure I’ve got this right after I go through it. I would say that would be somewhere maybe less and then once you get to blog and social media and things like that, we tend to say more. Those things can be updated so if somebody contacts you can go ahead and update those pretty immediately. You’re not going to get warning letters from meta or advertising private platforms as much. You’re not going to get dinged. You’re not generally advertising to a blog page. You can sometimes so just think those things through a little bit before you go on your claims journey.
Karin Samelson:[24:40]
Yeah. Zoe, anything to add to that?
What do I want to say about that? Yeah. Right. There are printed materials and those are tricky. There’s a spectrum of risk. What I often see is small companies push the edge a little bit. If you have a small business, it’s a side hustle, you’re just selling at the farmer’s market then it’s easy to say many things and not be too worried about enforcement. What I often see is as companies grow bigger and get more responsibilities to employees, investors, and anybody else along the way, they get more conservative. Yeah, there’s that change that happens over time and with greater responsibility. FDA, I think it’s good for folks to keep in mind does do a lot of their monitoring online. The easiest thing for them to do is to pay people sitting at computers to search key terms that they’re on the lookout for, and they’ll search websites. They’ve been doing social media. I just saw a little piece that said there was just a warning letter that went out that included a claim made on social media eight years ago. They’re getting their search skills strong and they’re going…
Alison Smith:[26:02]
They go back eight years?
They went back eight years. I’m not sure how they did it, but yeah. It’s a little startling. Social media can be a great place to try things out and then you just want to keep in mind that as time goes by, it may be good to clean up the older stuff, especially as FDA or other organizations just have different priorities that they’re enforcing around.
Alison Smith:[26:29]
That’s really great advice, I think, to go back, because like you were saying, I got really excited when you said it’s a spectrum. When you’re first starting out you can be a little more, I don’t know, maybe a little bit more aggressive in your claims, but as you have more responsibilities, like you said, most likely more capital, you have more resources, you have more education, you’re making less and less of those claims, but what you just said is so important. Definitely go back in time and clean things up once you start understanding what you can and cannot say.
Yeah. Just to add too there are some big trigger words too, and you’ll notice when things ebb and flow. When you follow the regulations more and we’ll share some resources at the end, but you’ll notice there are some hot phases or trends. The regulators will kind of follow those. If you have cures, heals, COVID-19, and things like this it’s just going to really put you at risk. It really is a spectrum, but also knowing what words are on the side of which things. Making any disease claims you really want to do things that support body systems not heals X, Y, Z, fixes, cures. Just learning the terms to even search for is probably a good place to start as well.
Yeah. The other tricky thing we’re seeing is that it’s not just FDA anymore, that a lot of different hosting services want to reduce their risk also so whether it’s Shopify or Meta. I had a client who recently got a 24-hour notice from Shopify that they were about to stop her payment processing because they said she was selling pseudo supplements and she’s got a good dietary supplement brand. We were able to work with them, but it really is these other platforms that are enforcing their interpretation of FDA regulations and that’s where folks are getting into trouble even more so than with FDA. Just such frustrating spots at times, with Meta, it can be just many hours trying to get recourse on why your ads aren’t showing or things like that. The more you stay towards compliance, the less challenge you’ll face there, but you’ll also be saying less about your products, which is a marketing disadvantage so there’s a balance to be struck there.
Alison Smith:[29:12]
One hundred percent and we’ve dealt with Meta for a decade, maybe close to two at this point. One little trigger can shut down your account, and then we’re seeing it, like you said, with Shopify. That’s your livelihood right now so it is very scary and it really is your responsibility if you’re using these types of ingredients to know these things and to keep on top of it. One thing we say with social media, in general, is when in doubt exchange words for things like supports or helps and Summer, I’m sure you could speak a lot more on that, but it just kind of helps your brain train to say it supports this instead of it cures you or anything like that.
Totally. Yeah. There’s a lot you can say, actually, but I think when you first find out the regulations, you’re like a deer in headlights. You’re like what? I can’t talk about all the wonderful things that herbs do. I want to scream it from the rooftop, but then you realize there are other channels and people always find their way to the information that they need. We have such great access. Your product might just be the amazing first step on their journey or their aha moment that leads them down the path to other books and courses.
Karin Samelson:[30:44]
Yeah, definitely. We’re talking about how scary it is, but Summer we love that you’re bringing us back to earth because people are doing it every single day and there are things and resources that you can utilize. Let’s talk about those resources a little bit. Who should be in your Rolodex when you are wanting to start an herbal brand?
Yeah, that’s a great question. We say a lawyer who tells you what you can’t do. That’s a really great person to have. They’re also the first person to call if you get a warning letter. Don’t reply on your own. That’s a big thing we’ve learned over the years. There’s a very expected process that goes through and you might save yourself a lot of worry and back and forth if you kind of go the way that they’re expecting things to flow and it’s just good to have a lawyer if you do end up getting that call. A regulatory consultant, like Zoe, that researches what you can do. Zoe also does a lot of different things like figuring out the right amount and the right dose for certain claims. One herb might do dozens of different things, if not hundreds, but if you’re going to make a certain claim, it might need to be at a certain dose to state that it does that. So having a regulatory person that can look at that, look at how to put it on the label, how the packaging can look, it’s pretty comprehensive.
Then a copywriter that makes it all sound more appealing. Those are kind of the three people we think when you’re doing communications and positioning your botanical brand that are really important. Kind of like we were talking about before this call too, you might think I’m not an herbalist. I don’t have an herbal brand, but if you have some of these active ingredients, you do. Just knowing that too. If you’re using things like adaptogens and you’re using things that are more for the supplement category and you’re positioning as in food, you might actually need to pay more attention than you think. So again, working with the regulatory consultant to figure that out with your positioning would be wise if you’re using botanicals that have a little more oomph to them.
Karin Samelson:[33:07]
Nice. We have two of the three here, unfortunately, or fortunately. Allison and I are not lawyers.
Alison Smith:[33:15]
We’re not lawyers.
Karin Samelson:[33:16]
If you guys have any lawyer recommendations, we’re happy to put those in the show notes too, just so people can can see, but Zoe, did you want to add something to that?
Who was next on the list? You need a copywriter because there are all the boring regulations that I focus on and then you have to have the person with the enthusiasm and the light to make everything sound good in spite of all those guidelines so that’s the other person on the team.
Karin Samelson:[33:42]
Yeah. We got a good balance here, which is awesome.
Alison Smith:[33:46]
Okay. Zoe, did you want to talk about FDA labeling guides, all of that jazz as well? Okay. Let’s hear it. I’m just going to re-ask that. Zoe, what other resources do you use personally often to check in with the FDA and all the regulatory people?
Yeah. All those regulatory pieces. One of the things I find myself using most often is FDA’s labeling guides. FDA has labeling guides for foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. For companies that know what category they’re in and are updating their labels or creating their labels for the first time, those guidelines are super helpful. They go into excruciating detail and it’s all in there so all that information is there. FDA warning letters are horribly dreary to read and one of the most important or most helpful resources so there’s a whole database of warning letters that go out to all the companies the FDA regulates. They will say claims that they did not like on a product and they’ll talk about things that they saw in a manufacturing facility that were not up to their expectations. It’s a really wonderful way to just get a sense of what they care about and therefore what other platforms will care about as well in the future.
Alison Smith:[35:24]
That’s all… Sorry to pause you there. That’s all front, anyone can access those?
Anyone can access that. Yep. There’s another consultant Asa Waldstein and he has a wonderful newsletter. It’s called Warning Letter Wednesday. He also has it on LinkedIn with some little videos. He can save you the work of reading all the warning letters and he brings highlights and talks about those so those are wonderful. In addition to his newsletter, the American Herbal Products Association has a weekly newsletter to help keep up on industry trends and also has some of the FDA actions in there. Then as we talked about before the Emblossom Conference. We hope to keep it an annual event and it’s really one of the best places for small companies to come and get clear on the regulations, on the trends, and hear from a wide variety of people. We usually have lawyers, copywriters, marketers, finance folks, and a bunch of other people to help everybody along in their journey.
Karin Samelson:[36:17]
That’s awesome. The Emblossom Conference is once a year, but outside of that, do you guys have other resources for folks?
Yeah, we do. We both have our own consulting businesses so if you want to work together one on one, I do copywriting, and communications and Zoe does regulatory work. We’re often a good duo or if you need any of those things, we both do that and we are coming up with some very special offerings that are coming soon. Without going into too much detail, if you are well on your journey and you need some deeper support, we’ll be offering some programs and classes coming up soon in-between time for people that want to dive deeper between conferences. So is where you can sign up for our email list. I’m sure we’ll have it all in the show notes so if you want to pop over there and sign up for the email list or just say, hi, we’d love to meet you.
Alison Smith:[37:24]
That sounds exciting and mysterious. I’m already on your mailing list so I can’t wait to find out, but you can find Summer and we’ll put all this in the show notes at and then you can find Zoe at and all this will be in the show notes for y’all to check out. Thank you summer and Zoe. This was so enlightening, so much good information. We really appreciate it.
A pleasure to be here with you and just a word of uplift to all the herbal companies out there. You can do it. It’s a journey and the support is out there. I’m just excited about everybody who is an herbalist and you know, wants to bring out products to help folks. There’s a lot to be done there.
Yeah, we need you so don’t be discouraged. We need y’all leading the industry. That’s a big reason why we do what we do. We believe people that believe in the plants and have a relationship with the plants should really be steering the ship in this industry and a huge part of it if not at the front. It’s really important that people that care about our ecosystems and our traditions and the plants, that they’re a bigger part of this industry. We’re really passionate about that so don’t be discouraged. It’s going to be okay. That’s my big ending moment.
Karin Samelson:[39:11]
Love it. Thanks so much, you guys. We can’t wait to share this with our herbalist and botanical brands. I’m sure they are getting a whole lot out of this because we definitely did.
Awesome. Thank you for everything you all do.
UMAI Social Circle is a CPG, agency-driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind-the-scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, Catch you back here soon
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#30: Define, Align and Activate a Killer Brand Strategy with Katie Mleziva

UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#30: Define, Align and Activate a Killer Brand Strategy with Katie Mleziva

Independent Brand Strategist, Katie Mleziva left the corporate world after working with brands like American Girl and Kraft Foods to pursue her own entrepreneurial journey as an independent Brand Strategist working with smaller more natural food businesses and farms. She joins UMAI Social Circle podcast to chat about why brand strategy is paramount and dives into detail on her three-pronged strategy for brand success. Let’s get into it!


Let Us Break It Down For You…

[3:48]  Introduction
[3:49 – 7:03] Katie explains what a brand strategist is.
[7:24 – 9:12] Zoom out to redefine your overall brand strategy
[9:43 – 11:11] How to become the brand owner
[11:22 – 13:33] Traits of being a really good brand manager
[14:11 – 19:10 ] Katie’s three-pronged strategy
[20:11 – 23:11]  Use this strategy to continue building your brand!
[25:07 – 27:25] The second stage of brand strategy, align.
[27:52 – 31:08] Discovering how to activate the strategy you’ve created.
[32:30 – 34:44] Inspirational brands that stand out
[35:03 – 38:37] Closing thoughts and how you can contact Katie!


Mentions from this episode: 

Learn more about –

  • Real Food Brand, here

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Join UMAI’s Facebook Group: CORE 3

#30: Define, Align and Activate a Killer Brand Strategy with Katie Mleziva

Alison Smith:[0:45]
Welcome to the Umai Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Allison and Karin, co-founders of Umai Marketing. And we are being joined here today with Katie Mleziva. Did I say that right?

Katie Mleziva:[1:03]
You got it.

Alison Smith:[1:04]
Okay, good, of Real Food brands. Hi, Katie. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Katie Mleziva:[1:12]
Oh, I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Alison Smith:[1:14]
We’re excited, too. So first of all, how has your week been?

Katie Mleziva:[1:19]
Good. The weather has been pretty good here in Wisconsin in the summer. We really rely on these summer months for some nice warm weather. So yeah, it’s been good, thanks.

Alison Smith:[1:30]
Oh my gosh. We are opposite end of this spectrum. Right. We, we cannot go outside right now unless you’re going straight to water. We’ve actually been having rolling blackouts to-

Katie Mleziva:[1:44]
Oh, wow.

Alison Smith:[1:45]
… preserve energy. So, yeah, a little jealous of the Wisconsin summer right now.

Katie Mleziva:[1:52]
We’ll talk in winter and then yeah.

Alison Smith:[1:54]
Right. Maybe we could like split our time between Wisconsin and Texas.

Katie Mleziva:[1:58]
There you go.

Alison Smith:[2;01]
And that would be perfect.

Alison Smith:[2:04]
Oh, man. That’s awesome. Well, first of all, we’d love to just get your background, hear from you how you got started, and where you are now.

Katie Mleziva:[2:14]
Yeah. Yeah, good. Well, I started my career at large companies, so American Girl, the doll and book and magazine company, and then Kraft Foods. And then I did a short, well, it was six years, so I guess not that short, in health insurance. And so, the interesting thing was that I saw kind of the front end of the food at the big food companies, and then sort of in some ways, the back end, what happens through the health insurance company when people aren’t taking good care of themselves.

Katie Mleziva:[2:46]
And so, all of these things along with starting to have my own family and my own health just really led me to think, “I really want to use these skills that I have to work with natural food companies.” And I specifically like smaller, more emerging natural food companies that are, I like to say, shaking up shopping carts. They are looking to do things differently.

Katie Mleziva:[3:09]
And so, I left the corporate world and went out on my own to be a Brand Strategist, Independent Brand Strategist. And so, I have a network of people such as yourselves that I collaborate with, but I’m a solopreneur, and I love working with smaller food brands and farms to really define their brand strategy, which I know that we will talk about a little bit more. But to me, it’s just a lot more than selling food. It’s about the sustainability side and the health side and the small business side, so there’s lots of reasons why I feel lucky to do what I do every day.

Karin Samelson:[3:49]
So Katie, brand strategy, you’re a Brand Strategist. That’s a term that a lot of people use, we hear so much, but it’s kind of not clear to a lot of people and sometimes to us, what exactly that means. So could you explain what brand strategy is for the regular old person who’s never heard of it?

Katie Mleziva:[4:11]
Absolutely. And I’ll start by saying that this is not just a food term. This really goes across all industries. So before I focused on food, I worked with all different kinds of businesses. And then I really said, “You know what? This is where my passion is. So I’m going to focus here.”

Katie Mleziva:[4:27]
So when we talk brand strategy, there’s a common confusion between brand strategy and a visual brand. So your visual brand is your logo and your fonts and your colors and things that are very, very important. And when a lot of designers specifically are talking about brand strategy, they’re talking more about visual brands. Some designers actually do both. They do the backend strategy work to inform the design. Some designers prefer to have you share the strategy piece, and then they do the visual brand.

Katie Mleziva:[4:59]
So there’s these two pieces to it. The visual brand is a piece of brand strategy. It’s an outcome. So then you say, “Well, okay, so what is the bigger brand strategy, as the way that I view it anyway?” It’s really almost more like your business strategy. It’s not necessarily all the details that go into the business strategy, but it’s more at that level of strategy in your business. It is the North Star that ties together everything that you do.

Katie Mleziva:[5:27]
So I like to explain it by sort of a three-step process. So we define or refine your brand strategy, and I’ll share what that includes in just a second, and then align your entire team around that or all the different areas of your business, and then activate. So a lot of people like to go right to activate, but it’s hard to activate if you don’t have these strategic inputs.

Katie Mleziva:[5:53]
So some examples of those inputs are things like, I like to just reference back to the three Cs, so your consumers, your competitors, and your company and your competitive advantages within your company and what really sets you apart. So we take those pieces and we say, “How are we going to position your brand to meet the needs of your consumers in a way that your competitors either can’t or won’t.”

Katie Mleziva:[6:21]
And in doing that, there’s a lot of work that goes into kind of doing that simple thing of positioning your brand. But in doing that, that sets the stage for aligning both the front and the back end of your business towards where you’re going, like I mentioned, a North Star, that thing that you’re working towards to continually deliver on that positioning that you’ve selected.

Katie Mleziva:[6:44]
So I know we’ll break this apart a little bit throughout the conversation, but at the highest level, that’s what it is. It’s the thing that unifies everything that you do on the front and the back end of your business, both yourself and your team, to be working towards owning that position and serving your consumers needs.

Alison Smith:[7:02]
Yeah. I love how you said that this is what you do before you get into action. So just to really define that, for people listening, this is what needs to happen before you go out and market your brand, or before you engage with a PR agency. Or maybe if you are already doing that, it’s time to step back and redefine the overall brand strategy. Is that right?

Katie Mleziva:[7:31]
Yeah, absolutely. So, a lot of partners can get this information out of you, but I kind of say, “Why not come to the table with the basic information, at least, and then the partners can ask questions and help you dig in further and refine it.” And then, I guess the point is, let them do the work and focus their energy and the time and your budget on the things that they do best, and come to the table with some of these foundational pieces, so that then they can help bring it to life versus trying to slog through it with you drawing it out of you when you haven’t set aside the time to think about it prior to engaging with someone like yourselves or web designers or packaging designers or any of the partners.

Katie Mleziva:[8:15]
And I’ve heard multiple times people say, “I know I really need to work on my brand strategy as my brand grows, but I’m going to do it after my website redesign.” And I get it. As much as I understand my ideal world is not always the world, you have to know who you’re talking to and how your brand is differentiated, and the high level messaging as well as the support points. What kind of photography are you going to be using?

Katie Mleziva:[8:45]
So again, that visual brand does play into it, but even things at the bigger picture, when you’re developing your product formula, what are those guide rails that you’re going to follow from the beginning or reformulate a product recipe? So it really does guide everything. Whether you’re doing this and wearing all the hats or you’ve got a cross-functional team, it really guides everything that everyone does.

Alison Smith:[9:13]
Yeah. I’ll just say, Katie and I had a chance to talk before this call and, Karin and I, being in the service industry, we see this all the time with clients or our course members, where they outsource all these different endeavors, and all these outsourced teams are a little bit confused. They have a different idea of what they need to be doing or how they need to be doing it. And it’s really you, the brand owner, that has to have that solidified and unify all your teams. Otherwise, you’re not going to get what you want and you might end up wasting time or spending money, things like that.

Katie Mleziva:[9:58]

Alison Smith:[9:59]

Katie Mleziva:[10:00]
Yeah, absolutely. I like to think of it as a hub and a spoke. So typically, with the size brands that I work with, they don’t have a specific brand manager, sometimes, but not always. So often then, the owner of the business is still serving as that central point, that is working with all the different team members. And so, one of the hats that they need to wear is that brand manager hat, thinking about everything working together and the filter of when you have a documented brand strategy that everyone is briefed on and then working against, and then you can use that filter when you’re reviewing creative or recipes or partners or anything. It just really helps everyone get on the same page.

Katie Mleziva:[10:46]
And there’s obviously a lot of emotion when you’re reviewing, let’s say marketing execution, but this helps keep people in their logical brain as well, or at least have the conversation, “I hear you on this. Also, this is where we said we wanted to take it. So this is why we went this route.” And at least it helps you tee up the conversation if somebody is kind of taking a different route than everyone had agreed on.

Karin Samelson:[11:11]
Yeah. So you just mentioned that if you don’t have a brand manager on your staff, you kind of have to be that brand manager, as the owner of your business. So what are some personality traits, what are some traits that make a really, really good brand manager, so that our founders can listen and be like, “Okay. I don’t have any of those. I might need to outsource this.”

Katie Mleziva:[11:34]
That’s a really, really good question. So brand managers really, they are the Jack or Jill of all trades, where in larger companies, you own the P&L and you’re working with financial folks. You’re working with the packaging designers. You’re working with the operations team. Literally all the areas of the business, the buck stops with you. So being able to multitask, being able to rely on experts, other people who are giving you information. And you need to be able to process that and ask good questions, even though you know that you are not the expert in all those areas. So I guess selecting people and then trusting them to be your guides, that’s a piece.

Katie Mleziva:[12:23]
There is that mix of art and science, where there’s the quantitative side, so you have to be really great with the numbers, but then you also have to be able to think about the market research results and how that would, for example, play into creative design and marketing plans and things like that. So it really takes a lot of different sides of your brain. And at larger companies, that’s often how it works, ownership of the P&L and running cross-functional teams.

Katie Mleziva:[12:54]
For smaller companies, sometimes the brand manager is more the one that is specifically keeping all of the marketing pieces on track to be cohesive and consistent. So I’ve seen it both ways. So in that case, it’s more of someone who is a good project manager, somebody who has big picture thinking, but can also really get into the details and proofread copy and make sure that you’re using this word over here and you want to use it consistently, and are you using it consistently throughout everything you do? So somebody who can bridge that big picture and really detail-level thinking. Does that help?

Karin Samelson:[13:31]
That’s awesome.

Katie Mleziva:[13:32]

Karin Samelson:[13:33]
Yeah. That’s super helpful. Because I always think when one of our brands is hiring a brand manager, in past lives with other companies, I’m like, “What all is that person doing?” So that really is very helpful.

Katie Mleziva:[13:46]
Good. I loved that role, because you kind of have your hands in a lot of stuff. So I would say curiosity, too, always wanting to learn and be interested in what’s going on is a good trait too, because you guys know, there’s always a lot going on in businesses.

Karin Samelson:[14:04]
Yeah, for sure. Sounds like a fun job. Sounds like real exciting, never boring. So you do talk about, so you have your define and refine, align, and activate. That’s your three-pronged strategy, right?

Katie Mleziva:[14:24]
Yes. Yeah.

Karin Samelson:[14:25]
So, what are some of the benefits of that define and refine, of really documenting that brand strategy?

Katie Mleziva:[14:32]
Yeah. Okay, good. So, I mentioned some of the inputs that we look at, consumers and competitors and your own company’s advantages. There’s a little bit more that goes into it obviously, but those are what I see as the inputs. And then, the outputs of that process are things like your brand pillars. I’ll come back to each of these, but brand pillars and personality and positioning and your brand essence. So by pillars, what I mean is that as you’re going through all of this, one of the first things that we’re doing, so most of this is internal strategy at this point. Sometimes it will spark ideas that teams will take and run with. But we’re really, I like to say write first for internal, because if you’re writing right away for external, the pressure is just so high to try to wordsmith. So right now we’re just trying to get all the ideas down.

Katie Mleziva:[15:25]
So we’ve got our inputs: consumer, competitor, and company. Then we look at the pillars. So we say, “Okay. What are the three main legs that this brand stands on? So if I just had a couple minutes to tell you about a brand, what would I say are the three most important things?” Part of the brand strategy process is a benefit ladder, where we tease apart the most functional attributes of a brand, and ladder that up to the more emotional benefits.

Katie Mleziva:[15:52]
And so, often that is one of the key pieces that feeds into the pillars. The pillars often have something about the product attributes that’s really core to the brand. But then we don’t want to just stop at product attributes. We want to make sure that we’re also having something be central to the brand that is a more emotional connection with people.

Katie Mleziva:[16:12]
So the brand pillars are really something that’s sort of an internal guide, but it also then once you say, “Okay, these are the three things that my brand is all about,” then it helps you with messaging to say, “Okay, and here’s the 20 other things that I would say about each of those.” And it sparks ideas for people like yourselves, where you then know how to create strategies around bringing that to life. But the brand can bring to the table, “I know my brand and here’s the things that we stand for.” So that’s the pillars.

Katie Mleziva:[16:44]
Then there’s the personality. So I like to say, if your brand was a person at a cocktail party, how would you introduce them? And so, we use characteristics that can help again, creative teams, especially bring that brand to life visually and in copywriting.

Katie Mleziva:[17:01]
And then, the positioning is a statement that you get really succinct. So I like to think of this as kind of a funnel. You’ve got all your inputs at the top, and then we whittle down and we really are wordsmithing until we can be really concise in terms of that positioning statement, that puts into words that idea that I was saying, of how are you going to meet your consumer’s needs in the way that your competitors can’t or won’t?

Katie Mleziva:[17:27]
And then, one of the last two things is the essence. So if you just had a word or maybe two, to boil everything down to that was the core of your brand that you wanted to permeate throughout everything that you do, what would that be? And that really helps people. We put this all on a one-pager and they keep it on their desk. And sometimes, they refer to the whole 30+ pages if they want the more detail, but this one-pager really helps people have a reference point to go back to. But that essence is something that really sticks with them. It elicits a feeling as you think about that word, and that’s what you want to make sure is that thread that runs throughout everything that you do.

Katie Mleziva:[18:10]
And then the last piece is the brand story of the definition phase. So I am not a copywriter, but as part of my process, whether it’s the online program or working-one on-one, we do have a story statement. So that is the kind of thing where it’s a paragraph. It’s high level, but it gives a partner that’s going to work on the activation a sense of, “Here’s where we’re going with this story of the brand.”

Katie Mleziva:[18:37]
So, just one more quick thing there. I like to say that the brand story is… There’s a difference between history and a brand story. Brand history is a good place to start, but it’s the past, and a brand story is where you’re going and inviting people into. So that’s sort of that jumping off point where I end the formal define, refine phase of the work. And then we start to say, “Okay. Well now how can we make this show up in everything that you do within the business and across all of the different players?”

Alison Smith:[19:10]
I really love, I think, it was a part of the pillars, where you moved from functional to emotional. Is that right?

Katie Mleziva:[19:18]
Yeah. It was as a lead in to the pillars is the benefit ladder.

Alison Smith:[19:23]
The benefit ladder.

Katie Mleziva:[19:23]

Alison Smith:[19:24]
So love the benefit ladder, moving from functional to emotional. I feel like that’s a step that a lot of brands may miss, and just talk about the functional aspects of their business. But to really attract and create a community and followers and people who love your brand, there has to be an emotional reason for them to want to purchase from you, to put it quite plainly. So I just think that’s such an important step, that if you haven’t thought of that as a business owner or a brand marketer, then absolutely, get to writing on paper wherever you take your notes and start thinking in that way. So you just mentioned all the work that needs to be done before the action. So tell us more about how food business owners use all of this strategy on an ongoing basis to continue to build their brands.

Katie Mleziva:[20:29]
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mentioned that once you have this documented, the benefit is that it takes a lot of things that are in your head or like Karin, I think it was you that mentioned that different team members may be thinking different things. But it puts it in a documented place where everyone can reference it. So, as I mentioned, a lot of people will put up this one-pager in a desk or in a little plastic sleeve, or somewhere where it’s really readily available, so that literally, as you’re making any decisions throughout the day, at some point it becomes secondhand, but they reference it to say, “Okay, how did we say that? Or how did we want to say this? Or does this new opportunity align with what we said was our main focus?”

Katie Mleziva:[21:15]
So they use it as sort of a litmus test. And I’ll get a little bit more specific, but that’s at a really high level. It serves as this foundation of something that helps make decisions, because as you guys know, there’s no end of opportunities when you’re thinking about marketing plans or partners. There’s so many ways that brands could go, but this helps you make sure that you’re talking to the right people at the right time and partnering with the right, whether it’s brands or vendors, they can help you get there. And so, that’s one of the biggest ways that people use this literally every day as a decision-making tool and kind of test to bump things up against.

Katie Mleziva:[21:57]
The other piece though, is at a more specific level, thinking about making sure that the creative, just as one example, is consistent and cohesive and all telling the same story and moving people through the purchase process. So that’s where your expertise comes in as well, to make sure that that’s happening. And once you know the brand strategy, to help your partners deliver on it. But without having a partner like you necessarily, people are sort of left to their own devices sometimes, or having multiple team members working on it. And so, this allows people to make sure that they have consistency.

Katie Mleziva:[22:39]
And I know that sometimes people say consistent is boring, but consistent does not have to be boring. It’s just making sure that… You can switch it up and surprise and delight people. It’s making sure though, that you are on strategy and on message, and it looks and feels and sounds like the same brand every time, so that you become recognizable and give people the words to be able to tell their friends and get excited about it. So you’re actually doing people a disservice when you’re trying to change things up too much. And so, this serves as sort of the guardrails to be able to do that.

Karin Samelson:[23:14]
That’s so important. We can think of so many brands that we have worked with, where it’s just like, we’re doing that here and this there, and how does that match this? It’s pretty wild how that can happen so quickly too, because it’s an on and off switch. It’s just like you think that everything’s going one way, and it turns out that all these things looked really jumbled and just pieced together, and they don’t really fit in this perfect puzzle anymore.

Katie Mleziva:[23:49]
Yeah. Yeah. And I like to say that, “One plus one equals three.” So when people are allowing you to do your thing and have it be cohesive and all work together, it’s going to be so much stronger than trying to just piece it together. Now, I know that sometimes things change over time, but you make a decision and say, “Okay, we’re going to change something” and sometimes it takes a little while to roll things out. But that’s different. That’s intentional. What you’re talking about is, it’s not that someone’s not a smart person, it’s just that sometimes with brands, people get an idea or someone else on the team gets an idea, and unless you’ve got this processor or again, kind of test to bump it up against, you’re right. It happens quickly. People make decisions just to get it out the door, and then it’s not all working together as well as it could be for the brand.

Karin Samelson:[24:42]
Yeah, totally. And on the note of happening quickly, growth happens quickly sometimes. And so, when you start hiring people and you start hiring agencies to help or internal employees to help, if it’s not aligned, then you’ll be moving backwards, so love that.

Katie Mleziva:[24:58]
So true.

Karin Samelson:[25:00]
Okay. So we talked about define and refine, and we’ve talked a little bit about the align, but how does the second stage of aligning, using your North Star that you mentioned, how does this impact the business externally?

Katie Mleziva:[25:20]
Yes. Okay. So that’s a really good point. So there’s the internal impact of the team being aligned, but then the external impact is sort of like we were mentioning, that the consumer is seeing a consistent brand. They know what to expect. You can still surprise and delight them with fun, creative, or fun, new flavors, or showing up in places, distribution channels that they wouldn’t expect, but it’s still always strategic and on brand. So the consumer starts to really get to know what to expect from you and what to trust, that your products and your brand delivers. So that is one of the biggest things, is that internally you’re aligned, but then externally people know what to expect and how to talk about the brand.

Katie Mleziva:[26:04]
So I was mentioning word-of-mouth. If we are consistent, and people know how to talk about the brand and what those highlights are, you get sick of talking about the same things over and over as a brand leader, but people need to hear it so many times because we all get hit with so many messages in a day. So when you’re consistent, then people start playing those messages back to you, maybe in comments, but then you know that, “Okay, this is good. They’re using my words. And then they know how to go describe it to somebody else as well.” So we’re listening to use their words, because we want to talk in their language, but then it’s really cool also when we hear them playing back what we’re trying to get across too, of what the benefits of the brand are, because it feels like they’re really starting to get it and excited to share with other people then.

Alison Smith:[26:54]
I love that you hit on that again, because that really resonated with me when you said you’re giving people the words to talk about your brand. That is so cool and such a goal of any brand, to have that word-of-mouth marketing and to hit it really hard, that people know exactly how to talk and share your brand in a delightful way and the way you want them to share it. So that’s really powerful.

Katie Mleziva:[27:26]
Yes. It is.

Alison Smith:[27:27]
Okay. So we talked define, refine. We talked align. We talked a bit about activate, so using all the work you’ve done on a daily basis until it’s ingrained in your head, and also sharing with any of your marketing partners during that onboarding process, and making sure that they know that they need to follow these guidelines. So anything else with activate, in terms of using all this work that you’ve just done?

Katie Mleziva:[28:01]
Yes. I’m glad you asked. There is one thing I want to mention, is that it is a little daunting sometimes to do this work, whether you’re just starting up and setting a strong foundation, or you’re looking to scale and realizing that you need a little refinement before you can really take off. And so, once you get through the defining or refining, that seems like the hard part. And it is a lot of work, but as you can see, the efficiency and cohesiveness, it really pays out.

Katie Mleziva:[28:30]
But the thing that can feel overwhelming then is that where do you start? You’ve got everything then that you want to go and change. And we know that it’s impossible to change everything all at once. So what I like to suggest is to list out all the different areas of your business that this would impact. So this starts to happen in the align phase, where you listed out at like a 10,000 level of all the people who need to be educated or have this shared with them. So you’re not starting totally from scratch.

Katie Mleziva:[28:57]
But you look at that list, and then you kind of break it down further and say, “Okay. Website, social media, posts, emails, a lot of the things that you work on, but also then thinking about ingredient labels or packaging designer.” You start to really think about all the different tactical things in the business and say… I like to have a chart, just because I love frameworks. I think it helps streamline complex topics. And so, if you labeled the chart high impact and low impact, and then high effort and low effort, and you plot out these tactical things, you can see which ones are high impact, high effort, and which ones are high impact, low effort.

Katie Mleziva:[29:44]
So starting with the high impact, low effort are the things that are usually the best place to start. So maybe it’s a website where you can’t… It’s a lot of effort to redo the entire website, but maybe you can start to sprinkle in photos and copy that support the new brand. Or maybe it’s even just changing a couple of headlines or the about us page. There’s some things that you can do that are sort of quick and easy that can help align faster. Or maybe you can start to influence the social media posts or emails, so all the things that you all are working on. And just thinking about, “How can we do those first?”

Katie Mleziva:[30:18]
Now, maybe a whole new website redesign, or a complete product reformulation or a new product that you want to launch, those kind of things might be further down the road, so you plot those in a different box. But we really want to focus on those low effort, high impact opportunities.

Katie Mleziva:[30:38]
But then it’s nice because you’ve got them all listed out. You can kind of let go of the ones that you see are high impact and low effort, because you’re like, “You know what? I may get to that, I may not. But it’s a lot of effort and it’s not going to be a really big impact on my brand. So I have other places to focus.” And it’s really nice, because it kind of releases the pressure of having to do everything, because at least you’ve got it captured there and you can work your way around the box. So hopefully that’s helpful in case anyone starts to feel overwhelmed once they do their brand strategy work.

Alison Smith:[31:09]
That is in incredibly helpful.

Katie Mleziva:[31:12]

Alison Smith:[31:14]
We are big on really trying to defeat overwhelm, just like you said, because this food and beverage business, there’s so many elements to it. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed thinking about your brand strategy, especially if you’ve been around for a bit and you haven’t done this work yet, I can see how that can be extremely overwhelming. So I really like how you laid that out and just work smarter instead of just trying to overhaul everything.

Katie Mleziva:[31:50]
Totally. Well, a lot of times I think founders… Well, what I was going to say is I think sometimes they just kind of think that the team has the same vision in their head, and it’s not intentional. They’re brilliant, but not everyone can just know all those brilliant thoughts. So that’s one reason why documenting and getting it out and yeah, having everyone on the same page, it can be such a relief for both the founder who is taking those thoughts out of their head and synthesizing them, but then also the team who doesn’t have to guess and try to draw it out.

Karin Samelson:[32:22]
So one last question for me, and this comes from us always using other brands as inspiration. We love looking at brands that are doing it right, to kind of help us, give us ideas and help us navigate some things. And something that you said earlier really resonated, where you said you want to give, and we’ve said it many times after, we want to give our audience words to describe our brand. And so, the first brand that comes to my mind is Omsom. They say the same words over. They’re a proud and loud Asian ingredient, product that wants to have bold flavors. I’m literally saying the words that they say all of the time. So what are other brands that you see that just kill their brand positioning?

Katie Mleziva:[33:19]
Yeah. One that comes to mind, and I don’t work with them, but I just have loved it, is Recess, the drink Recess, because I can rattle off several things. The positioning is so clear in terms of kind of taking a break or having a recess. And I think it’s an antidote to modern times, is one of the things that they say on the website and on the can. And then the other one, oh, I think on the website, it is, that we all have too many tabs open in our brain. So they set up so perfectly the idea that we are busy and we need to just… It’s not that we necessarily deserve it or should do it, it’s like, we need this. You need to take a step back and just let yourself breathe and reconnect, reboot maybe, they should say, if they’re talking about the technology stuff.

Katie Mleziva:[34:15]
So their visual brand also is very different. When you see the website, it’s not a traditional look. And at first I wasn’t sure what to think, but then I was like, “You know what? They own it, and they’re consistent across everything that they do.” And so, I think that’s one where the product and the packaging and the website and the social, to me, everything really aligns very well. Omsom is a great example too, though.

Karin Samelson:[34:43]
Yeah. Love that. Recess is fun. And I love… You can get exciting with all that technology, like, “Have you tried unplugging and plugging yourself back in?”

Katie Mleziva:[34:52]

Karin Samelson:[34:54]
Yeah. There’s just so many things you could do with that, which is really fun.

Katie Mleziva:[34:56]
They need you. Yeah.

Karin Samelson:[34:57]
I like that. Yeah. You can hire us, Recess. Don’t worry. Awesome, Katie.

Katie Mleziva:[35:04]
Yeah. This has been fun.

Alison Smith: [35:08]
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we just want to sum it up with, we’ve kind of talked about the benefits of getting your brand strategy down pat. Can you just tell us, everyone probably wants to know in just a concise way, what actually does a well thought-out brand strategy do to the bottom line? How does it increase your overall ROI? Why is it so important?

Katie Mleziva:[35:37]
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think the easiest way to say it is that there are no guarantees. We’re always testing and learning and optimizing, but if you have an hour to spend or a dollar to spend, and you know who you’re going to talk to and what messages resonate with them because you’ve tested and learned over time, and you know how to engage with them and what messages to tell them. So basically, you’ve worked your way into knowing what works. And so, you might not have known the day one, but you went in with an assumption versus just a guess and throwing things at the wall. You went in with a hypothesis and it’s testing and learning. And so, it makes that dollar and that hour so much more efficient because you are focused and you can optimize from there. So there’s not a specific salary amount or percentage or something that I can give, but it is all about focus and consistency and having everyone on the same page.

Katie Mleziva:[35:35]
So just quickly, I guess, the one other thing that’s hard to quantify is the team morale. Having people know what they’re rallying behind and getting really excited about being a part of something, that’s really hard to quantify, too. But the productivity and sort of advocacy that they’ll provide for the brand too, because they know where they’re going and what role they play, that is something that is… I think it does in impact the bottom line, but it’s really hard to say exactly how.

Karin Samelson:[37:05]
Oh man, that’s such a good one. That’s the last thing I thought you were going to say, but right when you said it was just like, “Oh my gosh, that’s so unbelievably true.”

Katie Mleziva:[37:16]

Karin Samelson:[37:18]
Wow. Yeah. I can remember past lives, a company that did that and we knew what the mission was and we knew what we were doing there, and the passion that you had for it was so palpable. And the exact opposite with a different brand that was kind of just a little lackluster on “What are we doing here?” So team rally, that’s a good note.

Katie Mleziva:[37:39]
That’s good.

Karin Samelson: [37:39]
Well, Katie, thank you so much for joining us. You have dropped a million nuggets of wisdom. If somebody wants to keep learning from you or get in contact with you, how can they reach you?

Katie Mleziva:[37:50]
Yeah. Well, I think you mentioned linking to my website, so is the place where you can connect to me through social media, get podcast episodes, and I’ll just call it that you can get a free Brand Checkup Scorecard there. So there’s 25 questions where people can give themselves an honest assessment of one, two, or three. And nobody needs to see it. You can share it with me if you want to. But it’s really just a way to help you go through some of the subsections of the things we’ve talked about today to say, “How am I doing? And where am I doing great and where can I improve?”

Karin Samelson:[38:23]
Thanks. And we will link to all of your social, your email, your website. And Katie also has a podcast and we can link to that as well.

Katie Mleziva:[38:32]
Yeah. Perfect. Thank you so much.

Karin Samelson:[38:35]
Awesome. Thanks, Katie.

Alison Smith:[38:35]
Thank you, Katie.

Katie Mleziva:[38:36]
Good. Thank you.

UMAI Social Circle is a CPG, agency-driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind-the-scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, Catch you back here soon

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How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Business

Use Instagram to Grow Your Business


It’s about time you learn  how to use Instagram to grow your business!

Why’s Instagram (IG) so important? It’s one of our favorite platforms for countless reasons, but just to name a few –

Brand Awareness 

Good IG feeds lead to better brand awareness which translates to more purchases online and in retail stores. People likely won’t seek out your product unless they already know about it – this way, you make the first move.


Your business should work for you while you sleep (passive growth), but chances are it hasn’t up until this point. As you build your fan base on Instagram, you’ll have others spreading the word about your business for you through IG Stories, IGTV, and main feed posts.

Competitive Edge 

When you show up on Instagram, you connect with different audiences while keeping your existing fans engaged. You immediately have that special edge against other brands in your niche that aren’t nurturing their online presence.

We’ll Break Down How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Business Into Five Small Steps

This step-by-step post is not only easy to follow, but jam-packed with tips we’ve refined over the years. Both seasoned social media gurus and brand-new influencers will have something to gain from this post. Read on for all the juicy Umai growth tips.


You can’t use Instagram to grow your business if you don’t have an account yet! Create an Instagram account on your phone via the Instagram app or a desktop computer – we’ve included instructions for both. Already have an account? Skip ahead to the next step in this section: Choosing a Personal, Business, or Creator Account.

Create an Instagram Account on Your Phone App

  1. Download the Instagram app from the App Store (iPhone) or Google Play Store (Android).
  2. Once it’s installed, tap the app to open it.
  3. Tap Sign Up With Email or Phone Number (Android) or Create New Account (iPhone), then enter your email address or phone number (which will require a confirmation code) and tap Next. You can also tap Log in with Facebook to sign up with your Facebook account.
  4. If you register with your email or phone number, create a username and password, fill out your profile info and then tap Next. If you register with Facebook, you’ll be prompted to log into your Facebook account if you’re currently logged out. 

Create an Instagram Account on Your Computer

  1. Visit
  2. Click Sign up, enter your email address, create a username and password or click Log in with Facebook to sign up with your Facebook account.
  3. If you register with an email, click Sign up. If you register with Facebook, you’ll be prompted to log into your Facebook account if you’re currently logged out.

Now, let’s refine your account preferences and user experience by discovering which is the right Instagram account type for you.

Choosing a Personal, Business, or Creator Account

There are three kinds of Instagram accounts: Personal, Business, and Creator. Instagram began with Personal accounts, and it’s what you’ll have set up by default. It leaves much to be desired, so it wasn’t long before creatives + brands desired analytics and deeper insights to measure their performance.

The Business account option – while sufficient – has served as a catch-all for brands, influencers and every kind of artist under the sun. Now there’s a more specific option you can also try out: the Creator account.


The Creator account was added at the end of 2018. 

It’s a Professional Instagram profile that allows users to access more features to control one’s online presence, understand growth and manage messages. Meaning, you’ll gain access to in-depth performance insights and Direct Messaging organizational tools.

It’s also important to note that we’ve seen no negative impact from Instagram’s algorithm or an account’s reach when switching over to the creator profile –  unlike some who have seen a negative impact from  switching to a business account.

The names for these accounts speak for themselves! Are you using Instagram for personal, business, or creative reasons? Here are some more questions you should ask yourself… 

The Personal account is right for you if you –

– Use Instagram to stay in touch with friends, family, or specific communities.
– Are not going to earn an income from day-to-day activities on IG.
– Get or expect to get some Direct Messages (DMs) but have no need to sort them.

The Business account is right for you if you –

– Operate a more traditional business by selling a product or service.
– Are getting or expecting to get a lot of DMs but mostly just the same FAQs.

The Creator account is right for you if you –

– Use Instagram to run a business or plan to, but you or your specialty craft is your business. In some cases, your face or influence drives profit.
– Are getting or expecting to get a lot of DMs that vary a ton because you offer multiple services or handle a high volume of unique commissions.

At the moment, there are no special requirements you must meet to switch over to the Instagram Creator account. If you’re a creative on the hunt for 1) insights on your IG growth + performance or 2) managing a ton of varied DMs, then this account type is likely for you!

Also, there’s Creator Shopping! 

With this feature, you can create shoppable posts to support the brands you love + those you’re partnering with. Users can directly purchase through a link displayed on your photo. Just another way to measure ROI and convey your value as a content creator!

Finally, you’ll also gain access to the Instagram Creator Studio, “an easy-to-use dashboard management tool that allows you to see all your Facebook and Instagram analytics (that you’d otherwise access in the app) – on your desktop,” (Keyhole).

How to Switch to a Creator Instagram Account

Here’s your step-by-step instructions –

  1. Go to your account and tap the menu icon in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Select Settings by tapping the gear icon.
  3. Select Account.
    – If you currently have a personal account, choose Switch to Professional Account and tap Creator.
    – If you currently have a Business profile, choose Switch to Creator Account.
  4.  Choose a category that best describes what you do – so many options!
  5. Option to connect to your Facebook Page
    – If you have a Facebook Page you would like to link to your account, select it from the list that appears.
    – You’re also able to skip this step.
  6. Review contact information. At least one contact is needed to proceed. You will have the option to display or hide this on your profile.
  7. Choose your profile display options. You can decide whether to hide or display your category and contact details on your profile.

Note: “If your personal account is private, completing these steps will make it public. All pending follow requests will be automatically accepted when you go public,” (Instagram).

How to Switch to a Business Instagram Account

  1. Go to your account and tap the menu icon in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Select Settings by tapping the gear icon.
  3. Select Account.
    – If you currently have a personal account, choose Switch to Professional Account and tap Business.
    – If you currently have a Creator profile, choose Switch to Business Account.
  4. Option to connect to your Facebook Page
    – If you have a Facebook Page you would like to link to your account, select it from the list that appears.
    – You’re also able to skip this step.
  5. Review contact information. At least one contact is needed to proceed. You will have the option to display or hide this on your profile.

Of course, you may change your mind once you make the switch so here’s…

How to Switch Back to a Personal Instagram Account 

  1. Go to your profile and tap the menu icon in the top right-hand corner. 
  2. Select Settings by tapping the gear icon.
  3. Select Account.
  4. Select Switch to Personal Account and tap Switch Back to confirm.

All in all, it’s exciting to have more options on this oftentimes influencer-driven platform! Now, it’s time to discuss the content you’ll be thinking up, creating, and sharing on Instagram to grow your business.


We could go on about branded content creation forever – it’s a beast! So, we’ll keep this short. These are the most important strategies to keep in mind while creating content to use Instagram to grow your business. 

Create Messaging Buckets

Maybe you haven’t heard of messaging buckets before! They’re basically different categories you can sort future content into, ensuring you touch on all aspects of your business or brand.

As a jumping off point, we recommend the following buckets –

From there, you can create subcategories that fit inside each bucket. Here’s what that would look like for a brand like Purely Pecans, a clean label pecan butter company + what kind of visuals they might use –
Product (or Client) Highlights

  • A photo of a jar of their Pecan Butter

Recipes (DIYs + Tutorials)

  • This one’s self explanatory! Take a product and incorporate it into a recipe or DIY
  • Let’s say you’re offering a service – you’re a realtor. In this case, you’d record a video or snap a series of photos related to home financing or shopping


  • Share the why behind your product or service
  • Spotlight an ingredient or your products nutritional benefits


  • An ingredient photo of salt and sugar that asks users to answer the question: “Are you feeling sweet or salty today?”
  • A caption with a call-to-action in the caption: “Drop an emoji in the comments that perfectly summarizes your weekend plans!”
  • A photo from your day volunteering at your local food bank

Fun, Quotes, and Events

  • A shareable meme video that’ll make your audience laugh
  • You may use your caption to tie this content back to your product or service – or, leave it open-ended to let the moment just be

Assign the buckets different colors and use a highlighter tool to mark them on your calendar along with a short description of the content. Example –

Write Varied Captions

Once you’ve got a visual picked out, it’s time to write a caption.

Consider what you’ve seen other brands in your space doing. In most cases, a blend of short and long captions is a win.

Sometimes you need the space to really get in-depth, especially in an educational or recipe post. Other times, you can let the graphic mostly speak for itself – the caption could be as short as a single emoji that plays up the theme.

Captioning a photo is an artform, and you’ll learn what works best for your audience from trial and error. It’s also a medium to speak to your audience on a deeper level, beyond a simple graphic. Your visual drew them in – now, what do you really have to say?

Do note that you can preface a long caption with a couple of words that summarize what you’re about to jump into, enticing users to hit “read more” to see your full caption.

Choose Legit Hashtags

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it! You should be using hashtags.

Why? Some users follow hashtags, so your content will find its way to their feeds automatically and it’s a great way to aggregate your content.

Also, it’s an easy way to be discovered. It connects your content with new or existing communities that people tap into on a daily basis.

Hashtags are also important as a tool for you to use when engaging with others. We’ll touch on this more in Section 3: Daily Strategy.

You can use up to 30 hashtags on Instagram. We’ll use anywhere from 10-25 for our clients. 

This is because quality outranks quantity once again. Find hashtags that an everyday person uses – not a bunch of bots!

Start with a key hashtag. For a brand like NutriSuits (a prebiotic-probiotic supplement), that could be #guthealth. Paste your key hashtag into Instagram’s search bar. The results not only show you posts, but related hashtags as well.

Browse through the recent tab to get a sense of how often people are posting, what they’re posting about, and if it’s a match for your brand (keeping your ideal consumer in mind).

@Milkimchi uses spacing to isolate giveaway instructions, highlighting how simple it is to participate.
Really yummy IG account here: @thedefineddish! It’s your call as to whether or not you use a character or blank space as your line break. Always better to have the choice by learning this Instagram formatting hack.



You may be wondering what the value of engaging on Instagram really looks like. We’ve seen firsthand how it can make waves, so we’re excited to provide you with a breakdown that we personally apply on the daily!

And while it may seem a little crazy to share so much of our strategy, we’ve done just that with our Engaging with Social Content guide which we’ve made COMPLETELY FREE just for you. 🙂 Go ahead – download right this minute!

Engaging with users shows people that you’re a real brand: You care about your customers and want their business. You wouldn’t let a customer service email go unanswered – right?! Same thing here – if someone tags your brand or floats a question via DM, it’s essential that you step in and field those mentions. 

People you’re engaging with will start to perceive your brand as friendly, reliable, and trustworthy.

This translates to an increase in followers, substantial brand loyalty, and lifetime customers.

Plus, it’s a compounding strategy to gain more clients or sales as social channels favor posts that have more likes, comments, saves, and shares – that’s the social media algorithm at work! When you consistently show up, more people end up seeing your brand and how well you interact with others.So, play nice!

Through years of trial and error, we’ve boiled down our tried-and-true strategy to three points that fuel impactful Instagram engagement: Listening, Engaging, and Interacting.


To be a good listener, you have to remain present. This means getting on the choice platforms for your brand Monday through Friday, even popping in over the weekend, to see what your audience is talking about + how they’re engaging with your recent posts. 

You may choose to set up various notifications via Google, Instagram, and Facebook, so you’ll receive an alert relevant to hashtags, other brand accounts, or influencers that are in line with your brand.

We include a short activity to get you thinking more about who you should be listening to here: Engaging with Social Content.

Engaging on Instagram


Take note of positive and negative comments.

If the comment is positive, find a natural way to respond that feels genuine. Record especially good testimonials to utilize in future marketing materials.

As is the way of the internet, negative commenters are inevitable.

You’ll have to decide if the comment is customer service related and needs real attention or just a troll trying to get the best of you – in which case, we’d suggest deleting it or blocking the user if future harassment seems likely.

If it’s a true customer service complaint, take care to reply on the platform the user commented on, letting them know you have DM’d them so you can move the conversation off your public channel into a private channel.


Create a few hashtags related to your brand. If you’ve got a long brand name, consider abbreviating it. You could also employ an adjective related to what the brand’s experience is or the mission behind it.

For example, the brand @hailmerrysnacks created their branded hashtag #sinkyourteeth, because it’s more relatable and more likely to be used by fans.

  • Include branded hashtags in every post, encouraging users to tag their own content with said hashtag.
  • Comment and like those using your hashtags – thank them for being a fan!
  • Interact with other hashtags that relate to what your brand does. For a gluten-free snack brand, this could be #healthyeats or #whole30.

Users that click in to your custom hashtag will view a plethora of posts with your product front and center.

One of the most challenging aspects of engaging is knowing how much time to pour into the different relationships you’re building. We like to focus on these three core relationships:

  • Influencers – an individual who has the power to impact purchase decisions of others because of their established following. This could be at a micro (less than 5k followers) or macro (more than 5k followers) level.
  • Like-Minded Brands – brands with similar qualities to your own, oftentimes prospecting the same audience. Careful not to interact with a direct competitor (example: you both sell matcha-based energy bars).
  • Potential Customers – your ideal demographic in age and interests.

Start to schedule time in your day for engagement, dividing how you engage based on which relationships matter most to your brand. 

Experiment with different ratios, like half an hour for influencer + like-minded brand relationship building versus an hour sifting through relevant hashtags. It can get pretty complicated, so we created this timetable that breaks down how + where to invest your time.

And, remember we’ve got our free Engaging with Social Content guide available here!

Once you’ve got this daily strategy down, there are a couple special monthly events you can use to increase your following + engagement on a grander scale. Namely, giveaways.



Content creation and daily engagement will ensure you use Instagram to grow your business properly. But, we truly can’t recommend this final step enough: host an Instagram giveaway! 

Surely, you’ve seen Instagram giveaways on your feed. Aside from a product or influencer shot, they include a call to action in the caption that ultimately forwards a brand or influencer’s growth –

  • “Follow our page, like this photo, and tag as many friends as you’d like in the comments! One comment = one entry!”
  • “Like this photo and follow the link in our bio to sign up for our newsletter!”

We’ve earned hundreds, even thousands of followers and email subscribers for brands by implementing monthly giveaways.

 So, what kind of Instagram giveaway rules should you set? How do you connect with other brands? Let’s dive right into it with these six easy steps.

1. Pick A Goal

Do you want to grow your follower count, email list, or something else entirely? 

Free advice: If you’re starting at follower count zero, building out your follower pool is the way to go. 

Then, you’ll have a greater network to interact with if you’d like to collect emails in the future (product familiarity alone often sways users to forfeit their email in the hopes of a potential discount).

2. Find Brand Partners
If you spend anytime at all on Instagram, you’ve likely got a handful of potential brands you’d love to partner with. Start there and see what happens. There are SO many ways to build out a list of brands – this is just a jumping off point, but we’ve got a few more suggestions within our guide as well.
3. Make Contact

Start with a simple DM. Show a little love for the brand you’d like to team up with and share important details regarding the kind of giveaway you intend on hosting as well as when you plan to launch it. If you’ve hosted a giveaway before, take care to hint at past areas of success.

4. Take Photo + Create Copy

Whether you buy participating brand’s products on your own, have free product shipped over, or design some sort of graphic that represents those brands, now is the time to snap a photo or pop into Photoshop.

Situate all the subject matter so it fits inside of a square to look good in the feed, use natural lighting, or invest in some photography lighting to ensure products are adequately lit. Use bright color backdrops when you can to make the image shine!

Then, get to typing up a killer caption. The main thing here is that you state instructions for participants in a very clear manner with a call to action while including a gentle disclaimer that protects the brand you represent from legal allegations.

You can borrow our Instagram Giveaway Legal Disclaimer Template:

We’ll randomly pick a winner next week. Open to US residents only. Must be 18+ with a public profile to win. By entering you acknowledge that this giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by Instagram and release Instagram of all responsibility. Good luck!

5. Set Dates + Amplify Reach

Nail down a date. We bet you’re wondering: “How long should I run an Instagram giveaway?”

The optimal length of time may vary, but three to five days is pretty standard. We share more info like this in our guide.

After you launch your giveaway, it’s time to promote it accordingly. Share it via Stories – add it to a highlight. Then, budget for the dollar amount you’d like to put behind boosting your post. Note: boosting often makes a HUGE difference!

Take care to optimize your post by sending people to “Your Profile” and select Target Audience to “Automatic” – we’ve tested this and got the highest amount of new followers this way!

6. Choose a Winner

Contact the winner(s) and obtain their address, ensuring they receive their prize.

Take time to appreciate your newly acquired followers – follow up with a discount code or email to solidify a connection.

Don’t forget to share the giveaway results with the brands you’ve partnered with! They’ll be eager to learn about the results + you may want to work together again in the future.


Instagram influencer programs are a beast to manage. That’s why we’re sharing our cheat sheet with you to simplify the set-up process! This includes our method + completely free messaging templates.

We’ve had great success with these in the past. For example, we established a tiered influencer program that garnered tremendous brand awareness and increased online sales, and also provided excellent UGC to share across social for an all-natural pest control brand.

We were able to increase their monthly reach tenfold with an influencer budget of  only $1K/month. 

This resulted in a team of 25 influencers,  a 900K reach, and an increased social engagement rate from .8% to 4.63% over 4 months. 

Now, those numbers really speak to the power of influencers. And, it also resulted in their highest monthly sales to-date!

Now, let’s make that happen for your brand…

Let’s first define the difference between macro and micro influencer – 
Macro-influencers = more than 10K followers
Micro-influencers = 5K-10K followers
Of course, this is just how our team defines it. Your own interpretation may vary! And, engagement rates play an equally important role in deciding who is or isn’t fit for your influencer program.
Next, you’ll have to decide what goods, services, or money will be exchanged through your influencer program.
If you’re working with macro-influencers, it’s common to exchange free products as well as money for a series of branded posts or Stories.
If you’re working with micro-influencers, you may exchange free product for a series of branded posts or Stories. 
You may offer both of these types of influencers a greater slice of the pie by including them in an affiliate program where they make a cut of each sale whenever users purchase product associated with their affiliate link or a custom discount code.
We don’t recommend finding influencers and outright proposing a collaboration (sliding into the DMs when your lead is as cold as ice). 
We do recommend engaging with influencers for 1-2 weeks through periodic “nudges” – following, liking, commenting, and DMing their account to develop a history with the user.
Remember that you represent one of many brands out there. And, one-off DMs often gather dust as they sit in the requested messages section of a user’s DMs never to be opened (probably ever). 
Set yourself apart from the crowd. Actively listen and learn about your contacts before sending offers.
To get these conversations going, you’re going to need to build out a list of contacts that align with your brand. 
1. Build a List
How big of a list are we talking about?? That’ll depend on your brand. 
Most recently, we worked with a brand that wanted to share their product (for free) with 40 micro-influencers. So, we got to work building a list.
The total number of influencers included on a list that we recently built (goal: build affiliate program) was about 200. 20% of the influencers we connected with said yes to the free product.
Try applying this equation to the brand you’re working with – 
Your Goal / 0.20 = the Number of Influencers on Your List
Or, start with a list of 100 users as a jumping off point.

So, how do you connect with the right people?

2. Three methods for growing your list
  • Software
  • Suggested
  • Instagram re-share accounts
You don’t need software to run an influencer campaign, but it sure does make the process easier! 

Check out these apps – 

You don’t need software to run an influencer campaign, but it sure does make the process easier! 
  • Browse hashtags and the explore page to find your starting place: a user in your demographic with beautiful content that’s well engaged with
  • Go through their “suggested” tab on Instagram
  • Vet accounts. Do they share objectively good content? Are they in your desired demographic? Are they not spammy (collabs with every brand that comes along)? Do they have good engagement rates?
  • Keep track of influencers on a Google spreadsheet – here’s an example of all of the information we keep track of:

Instagram Re-Share Accounts

There are plenty of Instagram accounts out there that build community by re-sharing posts related to a specific topic or place.
Let’s say you just opened a restaurant in Dallas, and you want to up the buzz about it on Instagram. You’ll want to engage with foodies in Central Texas.
You can find those foodies by tapping into an account like @bestfooddallas. Just scroll their page, check who is credited + tagged in photos, and voila! Dallas-specific foodie photographers.
Let’s say you’re a gluten-free flour brand. You may want to connect with healthy foodies – how about the vegan cooking community? 
Drop into @vegangirlglow and do the same – check those tags for a whole pool of talented content creators.
Okay, now it’s time to pull a Katy Perry on ‘em and turn those cold leads hot!
 Warm Up Leads
Let’s talk more about those nudges – liking, commenting, and DMing influencers on a repeat basis.
You don’t want to be sales-y. You want to compliment them over the course of 1-2 weeks! Think: “This workout looks like fun! :)” or “Wow, you’re really pulling off those teal colored shoes!”
Here’s a timeline to follow or share with your team…
 Influencer Nudge Schedule
  • Nudge 1, Week 1 – Monday:
  1. Like 8-10 photos, semi-recently posted and randomly
  2. Comment on 1-2 photos
  3. Send a DM
  • Nudge 2, Week 1 – Wednesday:
  1. Like their most recent photo(s)
  2. Comment on 1 photo
  3. Send a DM
  • Nudge 3, Week 1 – Friday: 
  1. Like their most recent photo(s)
  2. Comment on 1 photo
  3. Send a DM
  • Nudge 4, Week 2 – Monday:
  1. Like their most recent photo(s)
  2. Comment on 1 photo
  3. Send a DM
  • Nudge 5, Week 2 – Wednesday:
  1. Like their most recent photo(s)
  2. Comment on 1 photo
  3. Send a DM
  • Nudge 6, Week 2 – Thursday: 
  1. Like their most recent photo(s)
  2. Comment on 1 photo
  3. Send your juicy offer!!
 Free Product Offer Template
Hi! You’ve probably gathered by now that we love what you’re doing with your feed and just had to reach out for a quick chat.  
We’re looking to share our [PRODUCT OFFER] with as many people as possible. Would you be interested in trying [PRODUCT OFFER]? At no charge, of course. We’ve been getting feedback from folks seeing [PRODUCT BENEFITS].
We’d love to share them with you to get your feedback! What do you think?
 Finish Out The Weekend & Beyond
We’d love to share them with you to get your feedback! What do you think?
Follow-Up, Week 2 – Friday: 
  • Your offer has been sent, so it’s time to check your DMs for any replies!
  • For those that say yes, request and record shipping addresses on your spreadsheet
  • Follow up with any ignored messages (“Hey, just making sure you saw this!!”)
  • Share acquired addresses with your team on a weekly basis to promptly send out product 

That following Monday…

  • Have you met your goal? Whether you’re just trying to send out free products or offering influencers payment, it’s better to keep at this process than just waiting around for a reply!
  • Go back to your list and build it out again accordingly

Repeat nudge process with new contacts until desired number of leads is acquired 

  • For the brand that we referenced working with above, the goal was 10 leads a week = 40 leads over the course of 4 weeks
 Turn Influencers Into Advocates
We’re sharing the messaging templates we’ve used with the goal of exchanging free products for an affiliate deal.
Hot lead: Let’s say one of your influencers receives the product, loves it, and organically shares their thoughts! 
 Hot Lead, Affiliate Offer Message
  • Hi ___! It sounds like you’re enjoying [PRODUCT OFFER], so we’d LOVE to offer you a [DISCOUNT]% off coupon code and affiliate link!! You’ll make [COMMISSION]% commission from whoever uses your code or purchases through your custom link on their first order. Let us know if you’re in, and we’ll send you a link to sign up. 😀
Warm lead: If an influencer that you sent free products to does not mention receiving it or plug the brand on Stories/their feed by the end of that 1-2 week period, that is when you’ll need to be direct and ask for feedback + share an affiliate code!
Warm Lead, Affiliate Offer Message
  • Hi there! Hope you’re enjoying your [PRODUCT OFFER]. Would you be interested in a [DISCOUNT]% discount code and affiliate link to share with your followers? You’ll make [COMMISSION]% commission from whoever uses your code or purchases through your custom link on their first order. Let us know if you’re in, and we’ll send you a link to sign up.
Wrap it Up
Not done yet! Keep a close eye on those DMs to follow-up with sign-up links and custom coupon codes.
We are currently using an app within Shopify called Secomapp to manage our affiliate program and commission organization and payments.
Remember that these programs do take a great deal of time to manage as well as see results from. Nudges may easily be outsourced to a stellar freelancer (we love Fiverr!).


Instagram Reels is a feature that allows you to share entertaining and/or informative short videos! Here’s how Instagram Reels work:

Pick a video (or series of videos + photos)
  • This could be one you already have in your gallery, or you can shoot a new one on the fly. Ideally, we suggest that you keep an album of 5-15 second video clips in an album on your phone to be able to piece together for future Reels!
    • *Pro tip: When snapping pics, also take a short video to build up your video bank!
  • Make it short (15-30 seconds). It’s best to keep your reel short so that when people are scrolling through their feed, they notice yours and want to watch it all the way through—and then maybe follow your account!
  • Edit it down to only highlight the best parts (this will also help make it shorter).
Edit your clip(s)

When editing your Reels, you have two options:

  1. Edit within the Instagram app or
  2. Edit within a third party software (we love Splice)

When editing your Reels within the Instagram app:

  • Upload all of your videos and/or photos that you want to use for the Reel 
  • Add filters if you’d like 
  • Add audio using Instagram’s in-app music selection or add your own sound! (see more below)
  • You can also add captions, stickers, GIFs, text, or draw on your clips.
    • We recommend you add a “hook” to the beginning of your video to catch the viewer’s attention (ex. “The best 5 minute summer appetizer”) as well as a CTA (call to action) at the end of the video to encourage engagement (ex. “Follow for more recipes!”)
  • The “Edit clips” button lets you switch between clips when you’re editing so that you can reorder, add more clips, or trim.
Adding music to your Instagram reel is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
  1. Choose a song that matches your video and/or is trending on Instagram
Adding music to your Instagram reel is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  2. If importing your own song, make sure it is available for use on       Instagram and that you have the rights to use it.

  3. There are a few ways to add music to reels:

    • Search on the “Search music” bar and add any music you like; or you can select “Saved” from your saved folder.
      • Tip: While you’re scrolling Reels for fun – save trending audio as well as music you love so that you have a good bank of audio in your saved folder for future use. 
  • Add your own audio by clicking “Import” or add a “Voiceover”
  • And finally, use Instagram’s suggestions like “For you,” “New releases” and “Original Audio.”
  • Use the trimming tool (possible again!) to cut your clips down to the preferred length based on the beat of the song.
    • Tip: This is where a third party editing app comes in handy – as you can extract the audio to be able to see where the audio “spikes” occur, making it easier to edit the clip to the beat of the song.
Share your Reels
  • Share to your Feed: ​​ Once you are done creating your video, it’s time to click the “Share” button so that you can view it on your home feed.
    • You can add a custom cover by uploading it at this time – or you can choose a still from the video to be your Reel cover.
    • You can also choose “Crop profile image” to better adjust what is featured on the Feed.
  • Optional: Share to your Story
    • Once posted to your feed, tap the paper airplane icon (share button) underneath a post and select “Add Post to Your Story.” Edit the post in your Instagram Story — you can move, rotate, scale, and add text or different stickers. Here’s a breakdown on how to do this: Share an Instagram Post to Your Story

Reels are a fun way to express yourself on Instagram, so feel free to get creative! They can be used to share your passions, hobbies, interests, and everyday life.


Now that you know how to create and post Reels, you can start exploring one of the most innovative new features on Instagram. They are a great way to share what you’re passionate about with both friends and strangers, so don’t feel shy about making your own. And remember: just like TikTok, the possibilities for what you can do with them are endless!



Instagram is a great way to grow your business and connect with customers. Switching to a Business/Professional account is beneficial because it allows you to access insights about the performance of your content, which is something we recommend you check in on often.

If you’re already on Instagram as an individual user and want to switch to a Business/Professional account, you’ll need to go through a few steps first.

Here’s what you need to know about switching from a personal profile to an Instagram Business/Professional profile:

Anyone with an Instagram personal profile can switch to a Business/Professional account.

You’ll need to have a verified email address and a verified phone number. Once you’re set up on your business account, it will appear in the “About” section of your Instagram bio—along with any other business pages that may belong to you (if any).

The Process

  • Go to your profile in the Instagram application.
  • Tap the three dashes in the top right corner of the screen (the menu will appear).
  • Tap “Settings,” go to “Account,” scroll down until you see “Switch to professional account.”

Switching to Professional Account

To switch to a business/professional profile, follow these steps:

  • Tap “Switch to professional account.”
  • Instagram will provide you with a quick summary about switching to an Instagram Business Account and what it entails. Click “Continue.”
  • Choose the category that best describes you (e.g. Artist, Blogger, Digital Creator, etc.).
  • A reminder will pop up that your account will be switching to a professional account and it will be public. Click “OK”

Important notes

  • Link your business account to an existing Facebook Page that you have permission to manage, or create a new one.
  • Link your business account to an existing Instagram Business profile that you have permission to manage.
  • Fill out your contact information and verify that it’s up-to-date.
  • Be sure to also add a profile photo and a cover photo along with a profile bio.

More on Making the Switch!

To create a Professional account, you’ll need to link your Instagram Business profile to an existing Facebook Page or create a new one. This is an important step because Instagram uses the same login process as Facebook to manage profiles – so if there’s any confusion about how to connect them, it will stop working.

You can also switch between personal and business accounts on your phone without having any additional steps added by going through the steps above again (And don’t worry! Switching your profile won’t make you lose any of your content!). 

We hope this guide helped answer all of your questions!

And that’s it – our six-section guide to ensure you use Instagram to grow your business starting today!

Maybe you’re jumping in from the beginning and setting up your first-ever Instagram account. Or, revamping your long-standing strategical process. In both cases and anything in between, these tips will come in handy as you refine your online presence to develop brand loyalty and earn lifelong sales.

Running a giveaway is one of the most effective ways to quickly grow your following.

That’s why we put together this guide, where we dive into the details – little nuggets of giveaway planning gold – AND provide you with our EXACT system and essential resources: checklist, organizational spreadsheet, and messaging templates.

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The Top Inventory Options for CPG

The Top Inventory Options For CPG

Guest post by Kickfurther.


Growing your business takes careful planning. If you’re like many small and medium-sized product businesses, allocating financial resources to cover set expenses, investments and finance growth strategies is where creativity and resourcefulness are needed.

Identifying the right resources to fuel your expansion can ensure you get and stay on a growth trajectory. But how do you do this? Business veterans will tell you that hastily selecting partners can set a business back, while avoiding the decision can cause you to miss out on key opportunities for long-term growth. The key to success is to take steps early to put resources in place to support opportunities when they occur.

What Is inventory financing?

Inventory financing is a form of short-term loan, line of credit or funding that gives you the cash to pay your suppliers to produce inventory and then uses the inventory as collateral against funding. Lenders in this space include traditional banks, specialist inventory financing companies or online lenders.

It leverages the resources of a financing partner to pay for inventory production, which is one of the largest expenses many brands report. Funding can be customized to address your business’s exact manufacturing, shipping, and sales timelines so that you don’t make a payment on goods until the inventory sells. This works well with natural cashflow cycles.

The products produced typically act as the collateral for the financing, meaning that if the business reports an inability to repay the funding, the inventory can be sold to cover the debt.

Inventory financing is especially valuable to any business experiencing a significant delay between paying for inventory and receiving payment from retailers. It is also helpful for businesses that want to receive volume-based discounts by placing larger orders to support all of their sales channels. This works best when done on a quarterly or other regular basis and can help to prevent the stock-out issues that hinder growth.

What are the top options when it comes to inventory financing?

Inventory financing may be one of the most powerful tools for any business that deals in large quantities of product. It can be hard to see your cash reserves depleted as you make large purchases of inventory to meet holiday demand or to be a properly supplied wholesaler that is able to keep all of their retailers fully stocked. However, it may be the nature of how your business operates. That is why inventory financing is so important to fill that cash reserve void as you have all your value tied up into inventory. There are many different types of inventory financing. Some may work better than others when it comes to the structure and specifics of your business. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the inventory financing options that you may want to consider for your next loan.

  • Inventory Loan: An inventory loan is the most basic type of inventory financing. A lender evaluates the value of your inventory and lets you use that value as collateral to secure a loan. You then can simply pay back the loan amount in installments, or you can agree to pay back the loan following the sale of the inventory. If you default on the loan, you then sacrifice the inventory to the lender who will then sell it in an attempt to collect on the debt. Typically, once the loan has been repaid and the inventory has been sold, you may need to take out another loan to pay for another batch of product. Ultimately, the only thing you are out on is the interest that you pay to the lender. That interest can be calculated directly into your profit margins, allowing you to set prices that are competitive, that make your business a profit, and that cover the interest on your inventory financing.
  • Inventory line of credit: An inventory line of credit is a revolving line of credit that you can borrow against at any time. Once you enter into a funding partnership with a lender, the lender will allow you to borrow as much money as you need up to a debt ceiling. You continuously make payments and take loans out from the pool of money that the lender has appropriate to your inventory line of credit.  
  • Working capital loan: Working capital loans are designed to give businesses enough cash on hand to cover everyday expenses during periods of time when revenue may be lower. This is ideal for seasonal businesses that see a bulk of their revenue generated in only a few months of the year. When a business owner takes out a working capital loan, most often they are borrowing against their personal credit.
  • Cash advances: If you operate a retail location and you accept credit cards, you may be able to qualify for a merchant cash advance which borrows against a certain percentage of your future credit card sales. You and your business are given an upfront lump sum of money, and in exchange, the lender gets access to a certain percentage of every credit card sale going forward. Usually paid out bi-weekly or monthly.
  • Kickfurther: Kickfurther is the world’s first online inventory financing platform that enables companies to access funds that they are unable to acquire through traditional sources. We connect brands to a community of eager buyers who help fund the inventory on consignment and give brands the flexibility to pay that back as they receive cash from their sales. This alleviates the cash-flow pinch that lenders can cause without customized repayment schedules, allowing your brand to scale quickly without impeding your ability to maintain inventory or financial flexibility.

How do I qualify for inventory financing?

Inventory financing can be a bit more complicated than other types of business financing. The reason being is that you are essentially using your inventory on hand as collateral to secure a loan from a lender. The lender wants to be sure that you are doing everything you can to accurately report the contents of your inventory, and to protect that inventory. Here are some requirements that a lender may ask of a small business looking for inventory financing.

  • A well-managed inventory: A lender will want to see that you have a trusted inventory management system that allows you to keep constant and up-to-date information on quantities, sales, returns, and basically any piece of information that has to do with the movement of inventory through your business. They may also require that you complete a full-audit before applying for the loan. Often an internal audit may not suffice. You may have to pay upfront for the services of a 3rd party auditing service.
  • Protected inventory: If your inventory has a short shelf life, then getting inventory financing may prove more difficult. However, if your inventory can sit on shelves for a long time without issue, then lenders will be more happy to lend you money using your inventory as collateral as long as they see you have taken steps to protect the inventory from potential damage.
  • Open door policy: If you are acquiring inventory financing you should always be prepared for a lender to show up unannounced for a surprise visit to ensure you are doing your best to protect the inventory.
  • Accurate records: Lenders want to see a business that is doing well and that is selling their product. In order to demonstrate a certain level of sales, a business should have accurate sales records.

How Kickfurther can help

For physical product companies (CPG companies), or those producing shelf-stable consumables, a growth funding option that provides larger amounts than traditional financing and at faster speeds is inventory funding with Kickfurther. 

Kickfurther is an inventory funding option, where the manufacturing costs are sent directly to suppliers, and paid back as the inventory sells. This payment system aligns better with natural revenue cycles than does the immediate repayments many traditional and online loans feature. Funding inventory through Kickfurther prevents growing businesses from having to pinch cash on hand and choose between paying for additional inventory or investing in the marketing, equipment, and staff needed to grow.

What are the benefits of working with Kickfurther?

  • 30% lower cost:
      • When you compare our rates to other forms of funding, you’ll often see you’re saving. Companies returning to fund additional deals often see their rates fall each time.
  • Higher funding opportunities:
      • We have an average funding of $78,000 but can fund up to $2MM to manufacture new inventory or get reimbursed for current stock and reinvest in where your business needs it most.
  • Funded In Minutes:
      • Once approved, our community of backers fund most deals within a day, often within minutes to hours.
  • Custom Payment Terms:
      • Businesses create a custom payment timeline of 1-10 months based on their expected sales cycles, with no payments until you start making sales.This alleviates the cash-flow bottleneck lenders cause without customized repayment schedules.


Kickfurther helps CPG businesses grow faster by funding their inventory and allowing them to pay back later as it sells. Brands have funded over $100M in inventory over the past five years with Kickfurther. Companies selling through any combination of direct-to-consumer, online, wholesale, or retail channels use Kickfurther to fund $20,000-$2,000,000 in inventory they’ll repay on a custom timeline of 1-10 months based on their sales cycles.

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#29 The Good Audit Episode 4: The Cumin Club with The Rind PR

UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#29 The Good Audit Episode 4: The Cumin Club with The Rind PR

Join Alison and Karin as they audit The Cumin Club with Stef Shapira and Lindsey Leroy of The Rind PR! Learn about everything you need, from website click throughs to social copy as they look over this up-and-coming CPG brand.  

Mentions from this episode: 

Contact The Rind –

Mentions –

The Rind PR

The Cumin Club

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#29 The Good Audit Episode 4: The Cumin Club with The Rind PR 

Calling all consumer goods, business owners, and marketing professionals. Does planning content ahead of time stress you out? Do you want to run Instagram and Facebook ads but just aren’t sure where to start? If your answer is yes and yes, then our mini course was made for you. It’s 100% free, and packed with essential tactics that you can implement as soon as today. To join in, visit our website at All right, let’s get on with the pod.

Karin Samelson: [00:45]
Welcome to the Umai social circle where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Karen and Allison, co-founders of Umai Marketing, and we’re being joined by Steph and Lindsay from The Rind PR for our four-part series where we’re auditing young CPG brands on PR and digital marketing. Welcome to episode four, and our final episode for now, where we’re diving into the Cumin Club. Hi guys, how are you?

Lindsey Leroy: [01:14]

Stef Shapira: [01:14]

Lindsey Leroy: [01:15]
Doing great.

Karin Samelson: [01:17]
Doing good. I’m looking at this Cumin Club, and we’ve been looking at it for a little while, and I don’t know why I haven’t signed up for it already.

Lindsey Leroy: [01:24]
I know. This was one example of some research that made me very hungry. And-

Karin Samelson: [01:31]
Yes, for sure.

Lindsey Leroy: [01:32]
And I feel that’s the whole point is to be appetizing and to encourage people to buy your product. So, mission accomplished.

Alison Smith: [01:41]
Yeah. Yep. Yeah, this is one I could definitely see myself using and figuring out how to cook better Indian food through-

Stef Shapira: [01:50]

Alison Smith: [01:51]
… Their prep and understanding it. And I just love Indian food in general. So-

Lindsey Leroy: [01:56]
Yeah. I feel I’m a big fan of meal kits or anything to make meal prep easier as somebody who hates to cook and who is not good at it, but enjoys-

Alison Smith: [02:08]
Plus babies. 

Lindsey Leroy: [02:09]
And you have a baby.

Alison Smith: [02:10]
What baby? 

Lindsey Leroy: [02:11]
I feel like anything to make being in the kitchen easier and quicker but still is delicious, I am here for it. I am your ideal customer. So, I was really excited when I started diving into the website to take a look at how it works and what some of the offerings are. And it is a beautiful site. I think the photography is beautiful, the colors are appeasing, the look of the actual site, I thought, was so great.

Lindsey Leroy: [02:46]
But my biggest question, and I may have just completely overlooked it, is, I don’t understand how many people each meal feeds. Is it just for one person, is it for two? I am totally fine to buy a meal kit that feeds one person, because honestly, most of the time I cook, I make one meal and split it in half between me and my three-year-old, but I would buy way more of it if I knew how many people it feeds. So, did anybody catch how many people each meal feeds?

Stef Shapira: [03:21]
I did not.

Karin Samelson: [03:22]
You did not? That’s a good note. I just assumed, which never assume, that it was one meal kit equals one meal for me.

Stef Shapira: [03:31]
Mm-hmm (affirmative). In my head I always assume it’s for two, like that’s the default.

Lindsey Leroy: [03:35]
I think a default is usually two, but who knows? I think everybody is different. And I think a lot of the HelloFresh’s of the world are doing for two or for four, and it’s usually laid out. And a lot of times people will cook for four if you have a bigger family or just to make leftovers, which is nice. I love doing either or.

Stef Shapira: [04:01]
Yeah, and me. You just want to know … Obviously, if someone’s buying it, they need to know how many it will feed so they can plan their grocery lists for other meals they’re going to have or
… It would just be a bummer to think you’re feeding a family of four but you can only feed two, and then you’re, “Well, now what do I do?” Anyway. It’s as simple as just writing the messaging down.

Lindsey Leroy: [04:27]
Exactly. So, I think going back to easy-to-digest messaging, and I think for the most part I understand what the differentiators are and how it works. But another thing that I noticed that I would definitely call out, because I do think it is a big differentiator, and I thought it was really interesting, when I started thinking about, “Oh, okay, so does each meal come with everything needed to make it,” because it sounds like you can make it in five minutes, which is amazing. But I was wondering, “Oh, do you need to add or have your own meat or something on the side?” Then, I realized, after digging down, that it’s all vegetarian. And it’s high end protein vegetarian dishes, which I feel is something that you would definitely want to call that out instead of having to discover it. And again, I could have just missed that, but I would definitely make that first and foremost in some of your brand messaging on the website. And that’s something that you would definitely want to call to attention when pitching this. There’s a ton of vegetarian forward publications that you can pitch that are more in the industry vertical or in trade vertical.

Lindsey Leroy: [05:44]
But it’s also a great differentiator when pitching stories like “best vegetarian options for weeknight meals”, something that. So, after going through the process of how you would order the meal, I was looking through the website. And another thing that I was thinking about, I love Indian food. I eat it somewhat frequently, but I’m not as familiar with some of the dishes. And as somebody who loves the cuisine, I would definitely want to know a bit more about what some of these dishes are, if they’re traditional or even if they’re not necessarily super traditional-

Stef Shapira: [06:26]

Lindsey Leroy: [06:27]
… But understanding maybe what region it comes from, because you had mentioned “cuisines of India” but not “Indian cuisine”, which I think is really clever and it’s a good way to not pigeonhole yourself. So, I would love to know a bit more about what region it’s from, or even if it’s a recipe that is traditionally made for special occasions or is traditionally made with a certain meat, but this is a vegetarian option. Just a bit more info on the dishes themselves or some of the ingredients that people may not be as familiar with, that they understand, and just after looking on the Instagram account, having an idea of who the target market is.

Lindsey Leroy: [07:12]
And a lot of the influencers who are posting about it are either Indian themselves or have some connection to those cuisines. But I feel you can definitely open yourselves up to a whole new target demo of people who really enjoy eating Indian food but want to know more about the background of it, the flavor profile and things like that.

Alison Smith: [07:44]
I completely agree with that. I love how the ingredients list, what it requires, the calories. I think that’s really nice. But just some beautiful, spicy copy on where it’s from and what it tastes like and-

Stef Shapira: [08:01]

Alison Smith: [08:02]
Yeah. I think that would just help push it a little more.

Stef Shapira: [08:04]
I could see someone seeing that lack of information as a barrier, “Oh, I’m not sure what this really tastes like. They do have the peppers to show how spicy it is,” but I think even for us, I think we’ve all had Indian food before, but a lot of these are dishes I have not had. Or even it’s good to be reminded. If someone feels overwhelmed or they don’t understand something, there’s a barrier to entry in some way, then they’re not going to be as likely to order it. Some people think this is fun, but generally if it’s, “Oh, okay, I’ve gotta go to a separate browser and Google what this is before I decide what I’m going to eat,” it’s just, adding that information just makes it clear. And there’s fewer steps, I think, to converting into an actual sale of someone doing this, especially …

Stef Shapira: [09:00]
It’s not just one thing either. You have to get, I think, at least five. So, unless you’re feeling really adventurous to try something you don’t totally know, or you already know a lot about it, you’re probably not going to just go for it.

Alison Smith: [09:12]
Yeah. That’s such a good point that you do not want someone to jump off this site and start Googling and get into a deep Google hole where, paneer butter masala came from, and then forget that they were halfway through your checkout flow. That’s a really good point.

Stef Shapira: [09:32]
Yeah. It just can be really time consuming to be Googling what all of these things are. Again, you see a picture, you see ingredients, but I think people still want a bit more information before actually purchasing.

Lindsey Leroy: [09:46]
Yeah, totally agree. I think you really, you nailed it there. And sometimes I definitely will do the Google hole if I don’t know an ingredient or something, or I’m not sure. My kid loves different types of flavors and different types of cuisines, and she eats a lot of Asian, she eats a lot of Mediterranean, a lot of Indian, but if something is too spicy, she’s out. And she will remember that she ate that and then she won’t want to eat that food again. So, I try not to order anything that’s terribly spicy, so I’m always Googling certain ingredients. So, if there is, beyond the pepper little icons, if there is anything that indicates, or even maybe if there’s a key or something that you could do with illustrations that represents a certain region or something that people can identify that you can use to adopt on your site and on your packaging moving forward, that could be something fun.

Lindsey Leroy: [10:49]
But I’ll also go to the brand’s Instagram account and see what the dish looks like, just so I have an idea of how substantial it is or if there’s anything else that I need to add to it such as wine, what brand I open. So, the Instagram account for the Cumin Club is awesome. There’s such a great variety. And I know Karen and Alison, you guys will go into this, into way more detail on their IG account, but just in looking at who they’ve worked with in terms of influencers and other partners, I think they’ve done such a great job of engaging that community. And they’ve definitely worked with some really great influencers of varying sizes, which is awesome. I would definitely continue to do influencer outreach, offering exclusive promos or discount codes you can track, which I’ve seen that you guys have done. And the engagement looks like it’s been really great for that. It’s just a great way to track ROI for anybody who’s not doing that.

Lindsey Leroy: [12:02]
And I would just continue to take a look at who your target customer is and who you want it to be, and then really engage with influencers who reach your desired target market, because I think that you can definitely expand beyond what you’re doing now. And I think this is a great service for anybody who’s short on time, moms, but also young professionals who like good food and who like different kinds of food. But I think there’s a lot of opportunities to continue doing what you’re doing tactic wise, and then just reaching a whole different group of people. But I’m curious what you guys would think in terms of influencer outreach and engagement. Any other insight that you’ve seen work well with a service this, or have you guys worked with any meal kits in the past?

Karin Samelson: [13:14]
We actually haven’t worked with a meal kit like this in the past, but honestly the affiliate program, the influencer program, isn’t going to be that far off. I think it’s super exciting that they’re working with such big influencers. I was actually surprised to see that because that generally means a bigger budget, a more established brand, but if you have that good funding and you can do this, I think that’s incredible. They just posted one three hours ago. Today is April 21st. And they did a collab post with a rather big influencer, and it was for a giveaway to encourage follows, but she’s also offering a code for money off. So, something I’d recommend there is to-

Stef Shapira: [14:01]

Karin Samelson: [14:01]
… Keep that separate, if you can get two posts out of that instead, because you’re not going to get both things from people. So, just being a bit more strategic with those influencer partners.

Lindsey Leroy: [14:11]
Totally agree. Yeah. And I feel you can use them in different ways. Some influencers, I think, find their discount code more valuable for their followers. And I think it just depends on who’s following them, what does their core demo look, and are they going to find a giveaway more valuable or a promo code, or is it just the type of content? Are they going to find a recipe and demo video more valuable? Yeah, I agree. I think splitting those up and maximizing your opportunities and maximizing influencers.

Lindsey Leroy: [14:53]
Stef, do you want to talk about media a bit?

Stef Shapira: [14:57]
Yes. So, basically, we always look to see, when we’re doing one of these audits, where a brand has been covered in the media. And it took a bit before we found some media coverage. So, there are a few media outlets, like, called out and linked on the Cumin Club website, but it’s pretty far down, and I honestly did not see it at first. And it says “as featured in”. And it has a few logos and links to stories, which is great, but not really any of these are your bigger national outlets. It’s, “your story”, “delivery”, “rank”, “go solo”. I have not actually heard of any of those. But coverage is still good. But when I did a bit more Google research, I found that there was some more coverage, specifically in Chicago Business Journal. So, it appears that this company’s based in Chicago. So, Chicago Business Journal built in, which is a similar type of website focused on different startup brands. So, I feel adding those to the press link portion of the website and also moving it up would be super helpful.

Stef Shapira: [16:39]
Then, I also noticed that there were one or two press releases that were on PR Newswire and Business Wire. So, for those of you who don’t know, actually, there’s mainly two different ways to share press releases. The ones that it looks they did were going to a wire service, and essentially you upload the press release and some photos and all the information, and then this wire service, like PR Newswire is probably the biggest one, it essentially sends it to a really substantial list of media. And that could be anything from national food writers and publications to newspapers to business outlets. You can actually tailor it. But what’s interesting is that, in theory that sounds like it’s a really great way to reach a lot of people and tell them about your brand. But for us, we normally are doing really tailored, customized emails to these writers and editors rather than blasting it out. And we found that you actually get better results from those personalized emails.

Stef Shapira: [18:04]
And that also said, it’s unclear exactly who the wire service is actually sending it to. You’ll get a list of outlets, but you don’t really know. So-

Lindsey Leroy: [18:20]
And I should say that it’s a paid service.

Stef Shapira: [18:22]
Yes. That too. I know that it’s one of those things where there’s a few different layers to it. And it’s not a cheap service either. It really depends on your budget. I would not say that it’s never a good idea to use a wire service, but I would say if you are choosing, especially if you have a limited budget, to actually even just hire some publicists like us or someone else who does this, to do that customized pitching with even sending the press release and following up and really making sure those are the specific writers you want, that’s going to actually get you more traction, than just blasting it out on the wire.

Stef Shapira: [19:06]
Some brands really love that level of credibility to send it out there. It shows that you’re this legit brand I feel, because it has some clout of some sort behind it to some people. Anyway. So, long story short, they did send something out, but I did not really see much as a result of it in any national food publication or lifestyle publication or business publication. There was some stuff in Chicago where they’re based, but if you’re going to spend that much money, granted I don’t know who they selected, but if you’re going to send out a wire, you’re probably selecting a lot of different people to send it to. So, you’re not really getting that much for paying for that, I would say.

Stef Shapira: [19:59]
And another thing that was interesting is that in that PR Newswire release there is inclusion of the Cumin Bowl, which appears to be a sister brand. And it’s more of a ghost kitchen, from what I can tell. A restaurant that’s on delivery platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash, that’s serving healthy Indian food. So, it’s definitely the same owners, but it’s not clear, even in that press release, is it the same food? Are they literally just taking the freeze dried meal, planned meals and cooking them and then sending them to you, or is it a fresh-made meal or … It’s not clear until you look for a while, “Oh, but they’re connected.”

Stef Shapira: [20:56]
But I did find some interesting stories like on Fast Casual, which is a restaurant trade website and QSR, which is for quick service restaurants. And that’s actually more notable national media coverage, but that was more on the Cumin Bowl, which is the ghost kitchen delivery service element. So, I think, in theory, it’s great if your business model is to be able to do both and you’re making money doing both, but in terms of messaging and media coverage, I think it’s either clearly seeing how they’re connected or clearly separating them and doing a separate push, maybe, for the Cumin Club and really positioning that as a CPG meal kit thing.

Stef Shapira: [21:46]
And it’s one of the things where I honestly can’t decide if it’s better for them to fully separate it or to put it in the same website and social and say who it is. Honestly, to me, this is almost a Hops and Nuts versus Sippin Snacks thing. Again, it’s not B2B versus D2C, but it’s Indian food in two different ways. But either way, honestly, I think there’s still room to maximize both businesses with more focused media outreach. So, it was a fun little Google adventure I took there.

Alison Smith: [22:29]
I know. You went deep on that.

Stef Shapira: [22:32]
I know. I feel I was giving you an investigative, like I was a detective.

Alison Smith: [22:37]
Exactly. That’s exactly what it felt like, and I loved it.

Stef Shapira: [22:42]
I know. As I went into it, I was, “I am really digging deep here. I don’t know if anyone cares.” But I went for it.

Alison Smith: [22:47]
Down the rabbit hole of the Cumin Bowl.

Stef Shapira: [22:50]
Yeah, exactly.

Alison Smith: [22:50]
Yeah. I don’t know either. I think it is interesting how some brands have started the ghost kitchen. I can’t think of the right word of when you’re on Uber Eats and what the like term is, if that comes to anyone’s mind.

Stef Shapira: [23:09]
Yeah. It’s “ghost kitchen” if you’re only available on delivery services, for the most part. It’s not a restaurant that someone goes to.

Alison Smith: [23:17]
Yeah. I thought it was called someone else, but I can’t remember. So, ghost kitchen obviously is the same-

Stef Shapira: [23:24]
Cloud Kitchen?

Alison Smith: [23:26]
God, I wish I could even think of that. I have no idea if … Personally I don’t have enough experience in this to know if they should merge or keep it separate. I think keeping it separate, I’m leaning towards that because that could get really confusing. And currently I like their site on a D2C basis. It’s very easy to know where you need to go. It’s, you click a button and you’re already in the checkout process. If there were more things to look at and click, I think it could be bad.

Stef Shapira: [24:02]
I think I just was as … Or one thought I just had was, I think maybe they are really focused on the business angle and the startup angle of it. So, they’re really trying to show we are successful with these businesses. Essentially we’re selling this much, all of those things. And to put those together in that context might make more sense, but for a lifestyle or a food publication, just for the average consumer think it does not make sense for them because they just want to know, what am I buying and does it taste good and what do I get, that sort of thing.

Alison Smith: [24:41]
So, you’re saying their PR is more about them as business people, is that what you’re saying?

Stef Shapira: [24:46]
I think so. Looking at the press release, and also, if you are going to focus on pitching business outlets and trade outlets, at least to some extent, it does make more sense to include both, because business a publication or business writer is going to care more about what is your business model and how are you making money, and those sorts of connections. Lots of numbers always for business publications, which for a regular food magazine, that means nothing. I would say, just figure out a way to head up more of these … Specifically for Cumin Club, food writers, food publications, lifestyle-type things, and then get some of that kind of currency, which I think really will play well with the influencers that you’re working with too. Because that’s obviously not super business minded and it’s not also bringing in the Cumin Bowl concept.

Lindsey Leroy: [25:52]
Yeah. So, it would be more of a focus on the product itself and how it helps people, whether that’s saving time or money. But I think there’s a lot of opportunity for pitching back-to-school, great ways to incorporate dorm room cooking, or ideas for making a meal in under 10 minutes if you’re a busy mom. So, I think there’s a lot of angles and opportunities to pitch the product itself, and it as a service with more of the lifestyle angle.

Karin Samelson: [26:39]
That time element of the five-minute meals, they’re just killing it. So, if you guys are good with the PR side, let’s jump onto the marketing side and just keep talking about that. So-

Stef Shapira: [26:52]
Yeah, go for it.

Karin Samelson: [26:53]
… One thing that I love is … I’m getting too excited. I’m going out of order of my notes. But that five-minute meal is doing so well on your TikTok. Your TikTok, there’s a couple videos that are … What’s the headline? It’s literally saying … Okay, I’ve got to make it bigger so I can read it. But, “How to make a meal …” or, “Making this authentic Indian food meal in under five minutes”. And those are doing so well. So, making sure that’s in your bio on both TikTok, and you have it already on Instagram, and just making sure that that’s stressed, because that’s the “why” behind the brand.

Karin Samelson: [27:44]
He made it because he didn’t have enough time to cook meals, he didn’t have enough time to make authentic meals, and so that’s where it stemmed from. So, just making sure that’s woven throughout the storytelling with all of your content is so paramount to the actual mission of the brand and to get people to actually purchase it. But all in all, I really do love the variation in the content, the reels, the recipes, the memes, the relatable content, it’s all really good. And to see you guys doing collabs with these bigger influencers is really exciting too, because that is how you’re going to reach those bigger audiences.

Karin Samelson: [28:19]
And for anybody that is listening and doesn’t really know what we’re talking about, go check it out. They’re using the collab post where you can share the same engagement on the same exact post for two different accounts, which just gives a lot of visibility into your brand, especially when you’re working with influencers in that way. Then, for the bio, which I just mentioned for TikTok. On Instagram, some simple tweaks that can be made to really help with searchability is to change the headline. So, right now, just as the Cumin Club, and I can assume that not a lot of people are searching that, but if you change it to something like “Indian Meal Kits” or “Indian Meal Kits and Recipes”, or something that might be a bit more searchable, you could get more eyeballs on the brand.

Karin Samelson: [29:07]
Then, I love that you guys mentioned this earlier, and a lot of Indian people are vegetarians, but for people that don’t know that, to absolutely have that call-out everywhere. It’s so easy for a meat eater to add meat later, but having that vegetarian call-out is such a benefit that is very easily called out.

Karin Samelson: [29:34]
Okay. What else? So, you guys have a link tree that leads to a bunch of links. You guys have already updated it, which is really exciting. But when you click through, something that you can easily do is just have that call out again. I’m really obsessed with that 4,99 per meal call out because it’s really tempting. I’m, “Oh, my gosh, I just spent $20 on my delivery food today.” So, having that 4,99 per meal in your call-to-action button to just really entice people to click through would be helpful. Then, I’m going to continue being picky because I really did like the content. I think you guys are doing a great job. But for Instagram in particular, I would recommend less text on the graphics. Some of these graphics are a bit overwhelming with how much text is on it. It’s going to be hard for me to stop my scroll and read all of the text on it.

Karin Samelson: [30:34]
So, splitting it up with a carousel post or something like that, that would be a lot easier to consume and more fun to engage with while they’re swiping through. For instance, your regional food series, I love that. You guys aren’t only talking about the product itself, but you’re talking about the origin story of it as well. And I would recommend just carousel posts, make it easy for us to look through it. But I think I only have one more call-out for TikTok in particular. Some of your videos have just popped off. You all, I don’t know if you all looked at their TikTok, but there’s one with 330,000 views.

Alison Smith: [31:15]

Lindsey Leroy: [31:15]

Karin Samelson: [31:16]
Yeah. Wow.

Karin Samelson: [31:19]
I know. Right? So, a lot of them, the biggest ones are, “Me living peacefully knowing I can make Indian food in five minutes.” “When your friend tells you you can’t cook Indian food in five minutes.” That “five minute” angle is really capturing people. So, keep doing it. It doesn’t even matter if most of your videos say that. If it’s a recipe video, keep doing it. It’s obviously working and reaching new people. Then, I think it’s so fun, the one that has reached 331,000 people is, “Indian movies to see this weekend,” and they do that as a series, and I think that’s just phenomenal. And that’s what TikTok’s about, having that relatable style content that has nothing to do with your product but everything to do with the demographic, your customer. I think that’s so fun.

Lindsey Leroy: [32:09]
I feel it gives it such a fun personality to the brand. And I think people are definitely way more up to connect with somebody who has personality as opposed to a brand, or just pay attention to and listen to a person as opposed to a brand. So, giving it more personality is so important.

Alison Smith: [32:32]
Yeah. It’s, no human only likes your meal. It’s, only one interest is meal delivery. Once you define your customer avatar, it’s, “Oh, they’re also are interested in Indian movies and music and … What else are they interested in?” I just love that they clicked with them. And it seems it was fruitful.

Karin Samelson: [32:57]
Yeah. And there’s so many other veins to go through. I feel Omsom does a really good job of this in terms of relatable content that their niche understands. So, there’s so many things. Omsom, I was taking a look at their TikTok just to try and think of ideas for the Cumin Club, and there’s just so many things going on. They talk about all sorts of relatable stuff. And once one hits, then you do those series again. And I love that you guys have done that and I want you do more of it.

Alison Smith: [33:32]
Good job, Cumin Club.

Karin Samelson: [33:35]
Good job. Cool. Should we talk about the website a bit more?

Alison Smith: [33:40]
I like the website. I think your brand could be up for a refresh soon, and things could just get a little more designed. But I like the website. It’s pretty easy to know where you need to go. And I really like the subscription form. It’s very clear. I that you’ve laid out at what step of the process the person’s in. The only thing I would think for that form is to add your reviews. So, you have some really good reviews on the homepage. Most people aren’t going to scroll that far and look at those reviews because of where they are lower down on the homepage. So, add one or two or three in a row on each part of the review process just to continue to get people to be, “Oh, wait, I do want this. Oh, it’s X amount of dollars. Wait, I do want this still.” Having those reviews, I think, could help increase conversions.

Alison Smith: [34:50]
Also, adding in FAQs on the subscription form. Obviously, that’s something that you’ll want to test because on most forms we say keep it to the bare minimum so people aren’t getting distracted, but, Lindsey had a lot of questions, so I’m assuming a lot of other people might have some questions. So, any FAQs that you continue to get through email or social, compile those, and maybe make a dropdown and test that on your subscription form to see if that is helpful or if that reduces convergence.

Lindsey Leroy: [35:31]
I love me an FAQ page.

Alison Smith: [35:33]

Lindsey Leroy: [35:34]
It’s always, if I have more than one question about a product or a service or something, if I’m on a website, I’m going immediately to the FAQs and I’m reading everything so that I don’t have to Google or ask anybody and …

Alison Smith: [35:49]
They’re fun, especially when they have a dropdown, you’re, “Ooh, what’s this one? Ooh-

Lindsey Leroy: [35:54]
Yeah. Especially if it has some personality and they’ve got a little sass or snark to some of their responses, I always love that. I’m, “Oh, okay. All right. Maybe I will buy this.”

Alison Smith: [36:04]
Yeah. The personality thing is so important. It feels like you’re interacting with a human instead of your computer, which you are.

Lindsey Leroy: [36:14]
Yeah. Because face it, also, people will ask dumb questions that are probably answered in a very public place that is easy to find, but regardless, people will ask these questions. So, just calling it out as much as possible helps to hopefully eliminate that.

Alison Smith: [36:33]
Yeah. For sure. Yeah. Anything else with the website Karin, that you’re seeing?

Karin Samelson: [36:39]
No. It’s so simple to navigate, which was really pleasing to me, because some of that can get really confusing on my end. I don’t do a lot of this stuff, but clicking into the meal plans, I’m, “Okay, 10-meal plan? Let’s do it.” And having the photos of the actual products is so nice. It is very helpful. I feel I would like to see a bit more tasty imagery. It’s that droolworthy imagery when it comes to the homepage before I even have to click into what the product looks like on those pages, because what if they don’t click through because it doesn’t look good yet? So, investing a bit more. I know, Alison, you just mentioned maybe a rebrand soon on the actual packaging. So, that could definitely be something that you could invest in in the near future.

Alison Smith: [37:41]
But once you get in there and you get to actually see the meals, it’s really nice. The menu is nice. Yeah. And final thing I’ll say on the website is, it does take the user a lot of clicks until you’re at least securing their email address. There’s, I don’t know, probably four clicks, maybe five clicks before you’re getting to that email address. So, I’m guessing you have a lot of drop-offs from traffic to purchase. So, something that I didn’t see was an exit intent pop up. So, when someone is leaving that checkout flow or leaving your homepage, I think there should be an exit intent that says, “Hey, you wanna save 20% off your first order, enter your email,” and then you’re doing the bulk of the retargeting, remarketing through your email instead of paying more money, add dollars for traffic, or just losing that customer in total. So, I didn’t see a popup. Did anyone else?

Karin Samelson: [38:51]
I love that idea, Alison. So, I saw a popup opt-in for 15% off.

Alison Smith: [38:56]
Okay, okay.

Karin Samelson: [38:58]
Yeah. But something they could fix at the bottom of the page, if somebody quickly … People are always, “I hate popups. We get it, we’re still going to do it.” So, if someone closes out of the popup and goes to the bottom of your page for that opt-in and just, say, sign up for the newsletter. So, it can say “For 15% off your first order, you can just make a quick edit to that.” But Alison, were you talking about an exit popup, an additional one?

Alison Smith: [39:26]
Yeah. I would test both. I must not have remembered getting the first popup, but that’s great if you guys have that already set up. But maybe just a pop up that triggers … So, that first popup is for the homepage, or whatever. Your exit intent popup could be just for checkout, and that could be maybe a bit of a sweeter deal. Something like that could be interesting.

Karin Samelson: [39:59]
What have you been seeing on the paid side?

Alison Smith: [40:02]
Yeah, let’s get into some paid. So, you guys are running ads. They are looking good. I am loving what I’m seeing. So, great job there. And I don’t know who your overall marketing team is, but I just think that everyone should have a quick round of applause. You guys are killing it. You’re doing really good, and it’s awesome to see. So, some tips on the paid side is, consider sending … I think most of your ads, if not all of them, are sending directly, again, to your homepage? That is just one extra click for folks. So, if you’re doing retargeting, definitely try sending them to that plans page where they’re already in there, and start building out your plan, and then also test that with prospecting for new people.

Alison Smith: [40:54]
Try sending them directly to that plans page so they can just go ahead and get started without needing to click anything, especially if it’s a good call for you guys to build out that. Choose your plan page with FAQs and reviews. And that’s going to be a really nice landing page for traffic versus the homepage. Then, in terms of ad creative. So, the same note what Karin was saying on organic is, there’s too much text, so it’s hard to read. With ads, they’re just highly designed creatives, which a lot of times are great to test and work, but we are seeing that the more native, natural looking creatives are outperforming anything else, so any of the graphic design creatives. So, would love to see more videos, videos that are clean. And some ideas for you would be having either your influencers or your friends and family film opening their first box and just unboxing the box.

Alison Smith: [42:04]
I think HelloFresh would be a great ads library to look at. I think they have a lot of, it looks like influencer and native shot on your iPhone, unboxing videos that they’ve run for a very long time. I still get them, I think. So, definitely look at some unboxing videos shot on your iPhone, supernatural, native looking.

Karin Samelson: [42:32]
Real quick. For people that don’t know where you can see other people’s ads, where can they see that?

Alison Smith: [42:38]
Yeah. So, go to, and inside of that you can search any brand, and you should be able to see if they’re running ads, you should be able to see all of their ads that they’re currently running. So, that’s a great place to get inspired. It’s somewhere I’m constantly in to-

Stef Shapira: [43:03]
That’s a great resource that I did not know about. So-

Alison Smith: [43:07]
Yeah. I always forget people don’t know about it. I think there actually is one for TikTok too. I just need to get the URL for that. So, stalk some of the big guys, stalk some of the HelloFresh’s of the world and see what they’re up to. Some more ad ideas for the creative is utilizing your Reels and TikToks. Karin was just talking about how great of a job you guys are doing. I wouldn’t say pull in the one about Indian movies, but pull in some that makes sense, that could be an Evergreen ad and make sense and sell your product so you don’t have to recreate ad creatives. You can simply, inside ads manager, go in and pull in the Instagram reel or the Instagram post or the Instagram story right into your ad. It’s going to keep all of the social proof on it, and then you can run conversion campaigns, sending them straight to purchase your meal kit.

Alison Smith: [44:12]
So, definitely utilize that. And that will help you balance out your ad creatives to be more native like we were talking about. Then, the other thing is utilizing branded content. If you’re going to continue with this influencer campaign, it seems you’re doing a great job with it. Consider talking to them beforehand about using their post as an ad. It’s called Branded Content. It does take a bit of backend work, not a lot, to set it up, but basically the creator will need to turn on a setting in her Instagram or his Instagram, and then you’ll be able to pull in that post from their profile and run ads from their profile to your product so it looks this huge influencer is paying to promote your product, which gives you so much clout. So, definitely check out Branded Content.

Alison Smith: [45:13]
The post you’ve done on 4/22 was absolutely gorgeous. Also, the post on 4/11, those could make really great branded content ads. But the moral of the story is, use what you’re already working with. You guys are doing a killer job on social. Simply pull in that content as ads, make everything more native. You’re hitting on some really awesome value propositions in your creatives already. The five-minute meals I love. That’s probably the biggest seller, that, and “a taste of home”. But love already what you’re talking about inside your creative. So, continue with that. Also, bringing in the 4,99 a meal, if you haven’t already, that’s a big one. Then, in terms of targeting, I don’t know who you’re targeting. We can’t see that on our side, but there is an option to target people who have moved to the States from India.

Alison Smith: [46:12]
So, that could be something that’s interesting, to target people who have recently moved here from India, they’re missing their home cooking, or maybe they moved out of their parents’ house and they’re missing their mom or dad’s cooking. So, that could be an interesting one, if you’re not already targeting them.

Karin Samelson: [46:30]
That is specific.

Alison Smith: [46:33]
That is specific, yeah. Very specific.

Karin Samelson: [46:33]
Now, that’s so cool.

Alison Smith: [46:38]
It could be too narrow and not a great thing to target, but it could be interesting as well. Also, I love what you guys were saying about vegetarians. I didn’t even put it together that these are vegetarian meals. And you could obviously target vegetarian Indian-Americans, or wherever you sell your product, but you could go beyond and target any vegetarian who is interested in Indian food or something like that to expand and broaden who you’re targeting. So, that’s a wrap with ads, unless anyone has anything else to add?

Karin Samelson: [47:19]
Nope. I just love this brand. I think it’s such a great idea. And it looks they’re killing it right now. So, keep it up.

Lindsey Leroy: [47:31]
Yeah. This is a fun one that I’m excited. I feel we covered such a variety of types of products-

Stef Shapira: [47:39]
Yeah, that’s true.

Lindsey Leroy: [47:40]
… And I am excited to actually try them all now.

Alison Smith: [47:44]
Yeah. We’re going to have a party and try them all, right?

Stef Shapira: [47:48]
Yeah. I definitely am fighting the urge to not order Indian food tonight and instead make whatever healthy thing I have in my fridge. So, yes, party is needed for sure.

Lindsey Leroy: [48:04]
Quick Q. Where do you get your Indian food here?

Stef Shapira: [48:08]
I still like Asiana, but you guys-

Lindsey Leroy: [48:16]
I love Asiana.

Stef Shapira: [48:18]
… You guys live closer to it than I do, so I don’t –

Karin Samelson: [48:20]
What is that? I need to know.

Lindsey Leroy: [48:23]
Asiana, it is on … It’s William Cannon-

Stef Shapira: [48:26]
And 35, basically.

Lindsey Leroy: [48:27]
It’s basically 35. It’s where that Gold’s Gym and Academy are?

Stef Shapira: [48:32]
Tucci’s Subs is also … [Tanchuchu 00:48:34] is there.

Alison Smith: [48:33]
Tucci’s Subs.

Lindsey Leroy: [48:36]

Stef Shapira: [48:37]
So, it’s on the other side. Yeah. 

Lindsey Leroy: [48:38]
It’s around the corner. It’s Caddy Corner from Tucci’s. It’s my very favorite Indian. Yeah.

Karin Samelson: [48:44]
Oh. Good to know.

Alison Smith: [48:46]
Yeah. We’re going to go tonight.

Stef Shapira: [48:48]
I’m definitely ordering there tonight.

Stef Shapira: [48:49]
Saffron, which is there’s one up on West, off MoPac. So, it’s north, essentially, north central. It’s closer to me. They’re good. There’s also one in Rollingwood. Is that Lakeway? I should know this. Anyway. There’s also a Saffron over there. I don’t know. Nash is also pretty good.

Karin Samelson: [49:11]
You guys know a lot of Indian food places here, and I did not know about any of these.

Stef Shapira: [49:16]
Where do you go?

Lindsey Leroy: [49:17]
I think [Target 00:49:16] is not bad.

Alison Smith: [49:18]
I haven’t had Indian food in so long, I’ll just order from the Clay Pit once a year, because I’m, “I don’t know where …”

Karin Samelson: [49:25]
Clay Pit is good.

Alison Smith:[49:27]
Yeah. I love [inaudible 00:49:31]. Yeah. But there’s more, apparently, that I need to find.

Stef Shapira: [49:36]
Yeah. I spend all my time looking for restaurants. So, that is the one thing I can give recommendations on. Well, besides PR. So, two things.

Karin Samelson: [49:47]
Indian food and PR.

Stef Shapira: [49:51]

Karin Samelson: [49:51]
All food, all food.

Stef Shapira: [49:52]

Karin Samelson: [49:53]
Well, awesome. You all, thank you so much for doing this. Hopefully people thought that it was helpful and they got something out of it, and maybe we can do some more in the future, but in the meantime, how can people find you?

Stef Shapira: [50:04]
Yeah. Our website and Instagram is @therindtx or, obviously. And it was great that we had these brands actually reply to our social media. I don’t even know if we officially said anywhere that’s how we selected these brands, but we put a call out and we asked if anyone wanted a free PR and marketing audit. And there were a few others, but these were the four that made the most sense. But feel free to tag yourself or reach out, DM us. If you’re also interested, we at The Rind do full PR campaigns, of course, but we also will do some consulting and do audits, pretty similar to this one. More tailored options as well. So, just hit us up.

Karin Samelson: [51:02]
Awesome, y’all. Then, for Umai and Marketing, we have a minicourse that is a great place to start for brands looking to just up their digital marketing game. Lots of snippets, lots of juicy nuggets in there as well. And outside of that, we’re on Instagram. We’re doing our best on TikTok. We’re hanging out being weirdos. So, come here and come say hi.

Alison Smith: [51:27]
Being weird on TikTok.

Karin Samelson: [51:29]
“Being weird on TikTok” has to be a tagline. It’s just, that’s what TikTok is.

Stef Shapira: [51:34]
Yeah. If you’re successful in TikTok you’ve got to be weird, right?

Karin Samelson: [51:38]
Got to be weird. Yeah.

Alison Smith: [51:39]

Karin Samelson: [51:40]
All right, y’all-

Alison Smith: [51:40]
Well, thank you guys.

Karin Samelson: [51:41]
Thank you so much.

Lindsey Leroy: [51:41]
All right. Thanks.

My social circle is a CPG agency-driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind the scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram at Umai Marketing, or check out our website, Catch you back here soon.

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#28: The Good Audit Episode 2: Sippin Snax with The Rind PR

UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#28: The Good Audit Episode 3: Sippin Snax with The Rind PR

Join Alison and Karin as they audit Sippin Snax with Stef Shapira and Lindsey Leroy of The Rind PR! Learn about everything you need, from product bundling to social posting as they look over this up-and-coming CPG brand. 

Mentions from this episode: 

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The Rind PR

Sippin Snax

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#28 The Good Audit Episode 2: Sippin Snax with The Rind PR 

Calling all consumer goods business owners and marketing professionals. Does planning content ahead of time stress you out? Do you want to run Instagram and Facebook Ads, but just aren’t sure where to start? If your answer is yes and yes, then our mini course was made for you. It’s 100% free and packed with essential tactics that you can implement as soon as today. To join in, visit our website at course. All right, let’s get on with the pod.

Alison Smith: [00:43]
Welcome to the Umai Social Circle where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Allison and Karin, co-founders of Umai Marketing, and we are being joined today with Stef and Lindsey from The Rind PR. They are back for our four part series where we’re auditing young CPG brands on PR and digital marketing. So, welcome everyone to episode three. We are diving into Sippin SNAX, which offers gourmet snacks that pair perfectly with your craft beer, your wine, your cocktails.

Alison Smith: [01:22]
So. It’s a really interesting brand who… they seem like they partnered with mostly tap rooms and wineries, but due to COVID, when we all had to pivot, they also pivoted and started getting into the D2C genre, D2C presence, what have you. So, really interesting concept, would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this brand and this concept in general.

Stef Shapira: [01:51]
Yeah. I like to drink alcoholic beverages and I like to have snacks, so I don’t get too drunk and also to just have everything taste better. What could be bad about this really? I think it’s a cool idea, and so many bars and tap rooms and whatnot have food trucks or different things, or sometimes there’ll be a bag of chips or something, but this is definitely taking it to another level to make it a little bit more fun, than just, “Oh, I need to eat something because I’m drinking.”

Alison Smith: [02:29]
Salt makes you want to drink more, so this is in the best interest of the B2B wine rooms and tap rooms.

Stef Shapira: [02:41]
Yeah. So hopefully everyone is selling, making a profit off of this.

Alison Smith: [02:45]

Stef Shapira: [02:47]
Cool. I think it’s a super interesting idea. Maybe there are some other similar things though I haven’t really seen any products geared specifically to this. So, obviously, great idea. And then we took a look from a PR standpoint, the first thing we look at is messaging. So, we really liked the tagline on the homepage which says “Snack more sip more,” which is basically, I think what you were just saying, Allison, if you are snacking more, it’s salty, you want to drink more and it’s like a cyclical thing until eventually they make you leave. That’s a great tagline. We also noticed, and I think maybe you all noticed this too. The snacks aren’t really pictured on the homepage, which is slightly confusing. The tagline is great, but you don’t really see what it is.

Stef Shapira: [03:50]
There’s a cool, I don’t really know if this is a video. I guess it’s a Gif of someone pouring wine, but still no snacks. I guess, towards the bottom, you see a couple of options, but it shows a t-shirt first, which is cool, but probably shouldn’t be at the forefront of what it is. I think just overall showing people what the product is at the top of the homepage is going to like… Because maybe people won’t scroll down if they don’t see it, if they are not like, “Oh, this looks delicious.” You want to maximize that reach by putting it at the top.

Alison Smith: [04:29]
I feel like it really, sip more, snack more, that’s a great tagline, especially because I feel like they are geared towards B2B, but regardless, I agree. I think it’s really important to show off what it is front and center before anyone has to scroll.

Lindsey Leroy: [04:49]
And I feel like it’s such a fun brand and such a fun concept, that I would want to see people enjoying the product, especially since it’s a pretty straightforward product and the more lifestyle shots I see, the more I’m going to want to buy it, need it.

Stef Shapira: [05:06]
One thing that I was noticing, obviously we’re in a weird place in terms of pandemic. I don’t think anywhere, at least in the United States, there are places where we’re really stuck at home and not going to the taprooms and the bars anymore. So, it becomes a thing where I see why they changed. I’m assuming changed or created this website for people to… like the D2C thing to happen at home. But, I don’t know. Another thing that was confusing to me too, is that there’s a link to Hops and Nuts. I don’t know if you all saw that too. I saw it on their social media.

Lindsey Leroy: [05:53]
Yes, I saw that on Instagram.

Stef Shapira: [05:56]
And I think if I were to guess, that the Hops and Nuts is, if it’s like a bar or a tap room buying it and then the Sippin SNAX is at home, so maybe…

Lindsey Leroy: [06:09]
 I think the Hops and Nuts may have been the original product, and the Sippin SNAX came out of… That was what I was guessing.

Karin Samelson: [06:19]
Yeah. I was thinking the same thing. Hops and Nuts was when they had B2B, but it says on their homepage that after the pandemic hit, 60% of their accounts wouldn’t make it back to be able to reopen. So, that’s why they brought in Sippin SNAX to be their retail grocery D2C offering. But I do, I completely agree. I think it’s really confusing the way it’s laid out there, And if you’re going to want to go on the D2C, go all in, don’t make it confusing to the consumer.

Stef Shapira: [06:49]
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I feel like it took us all a little bit to get to the point where, “Oh, okay, this makes sense.” And it is-

Karin Samelson: [06:58]
[inaudible 00:06:59] have that much time with the consumer that stumbles upon it.

Stef Shapira: [07:01]

Karin Samelson: [07:02]
No one’s going to look as hard as we did, when we were trying to do this audit.

Stef Shapira: [07:06]
Right, exactly. So, I think of course it’s part of your story and it’s totally fine to mention that somewhere. But I think it’s just picking one with your messaging, not having to fully connect it. It doesn’t really matter. I don’t think too much. It’s interesting because I feel like at the beginning of the pandemic, this would’ve been a great media pitch, like a pandemic pivot. But at this point, that’s not necessarily what people are looking for. I think people are just literally wanting to think like, “Oh, I can enjoy these at home, because I’m going to drink at home and I’m going to snack at home.” So I think, yeah, just honing in on that, not spending too much time telling the back story, at least at this point, it makes sense.

Alison Smith: [08:04]
Are you saying there’s too much language surrounding the pandemic still and it should just be about “enjoy this at home and pair it with your favorite craft beer?”

Stef Shapira: [08:14]
Yeah. That’s what I’m thinking.

Alison Smith: [08:17]
I love… what did you say, pandemic pivot. I love that term. That’s a good one.

Stef Shapira: [08:21]
Yeah. I’m sure it’s a hashtag. So many businesses had to do that. I know the most obvious example I think of is a restaurant that, actually, like, Brian is an example. You all started bottling sauces and rubs and things, whereas before it wasn’t even really necessary to sell these products you would use at home, Just one to make money and two to provide some service to your customers. So many restaurants are like, “Okay, yeah. I’m going to bottle this sauce so I can make some money off of this.”

Lindsey Leroy: [09:05]
I feel it’s almost nearly every business had to pivot in some way, in some capacity. So I feel like it’s almost to me like the farm to table movement, where almost every restaurant is pretty much farm to table, so saying it, everybody’s already doing it, so it’s almost unnecessary. It’s expected, I guess. So, I feel like over telling the story. I think it definitely, it should be a part of the story because it explains why the name change or just the idea of how the product is intended to be used and consumed. So, I feel it’s definitely a part of the story, but I guess our advice would be to just hone in on that messaging, and really just zush it as they say.

Lindsey Leroy: [09:54]
And I think less said, more direct is definitely better, especially on a website where people don’t necessarily want to read paragraphs and paragraphs of a story, no matter how interesting. I think as straightforward as you can possibly be while still calling out the most important pieces of information. Which can be really hard. I think having an outside eye sometimes just helps in distilling that down.

Alison Smith: [10:23]
Yeah. It’s so hard to write your own “about us.” I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most-

Stef Shapira: [10:28]
Yes, for sure. Even for us.

Alison Smith: [10:30]
Yeah. You would think it would be like second nature, but it’s really difficult. But the founder looks really cool and fun and spunky. I don’t know her name. I don’t know their name.

Stef Shapira: [10:45]
That’s true.

Alison Smith: [10:26]
I don’t know why they started this business, Why have they been in the beer industry? There’s probably a really cool story, and I love that they’re showing up with their face and everything, but I would love to know more.

Stef Shapira: [11:04]
Yeah. There was a note that we had as well. It’s also interesting because if you go to, like at the topic of the website it mentions two different accolades in a sense. Like the Khe diverse trend selection, and it’s not totally clear what that award was. It’s like golden ticket winners for diversity. It mentions the quote from them. We believe that women, BIPAK, LGBTQIA plus veterans, et cetera, that’s the diversity. But I think playing up that diversity, not just, “Oh, here’s an award we won that is for that.” But more in that “about” section. Like, this is who I am, this is how I’m diverse. We talked about this, I think, I can’t remember which previous episode now, but women founded.

Stef Shapira: [11:58]
People are looking for people with diverse backgrounds to support for that reason, and at least spread the love. So I think whatever a founder is comfortable sharing about themselves, for the most part, I think it’s only going to help them, at least in the world we live in today by proudly saying those things.

Lindsey Leroy: [12:28]
Yeah. I think those keywords too also help when the media are looking at your website, or your Instagram profile and they’re considering coverage, especially if there are a few products in consideration, having some differentiator and keyword called out. Not necessarily as a spotlight on it, like “Look at this,” but it definitely, I think helps in terms of identifying brands to support like Stef said.

Stef Shapira: [12:59]
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And then, yeah, Going back to what we were saying before, I think maybe just consolidating somehow the Hops and Nuts and the Sippin SNAX on the same website would make it more cohesive, or just picking one name for both, because I think that if this website can talk about places they have been available, or even specific brands they’ve worked with and specific brand pairings, that will add a level of credibility, and why you want to buy it and enjoy it at home. It says on the package pair us with red wine or various things, but I think honestly this goes into probably a next thought about like-minded brands. Like for social and for influencers and whatnot, but it’s basically like if… I’m trying to think of a good example. Like if there’s a brewery and they sell the product or they pair really well, like a very specific, like a stout pairs well with these, then that other brand can share on their accounts and it just raises the awareness overall.

Stef Shapira: [14:18]
But besides that, it adds a level of credibility like if I was a media person and I went to the website and I saw that this brewery and this distillery that I’ve heard of also sell them or pairs well with them, then you’re more likely to want to cover it, than either something that just doesn’t have those call outs, for lack of for credibility to be like, “Okay, this is more legit. Other people like it, so it’s probably good.”

Lindsey Leroy: [14:47]
Yeah, for sure. That’s something I was thinking about too, just while I was on the Instagram account and just thinking about how would I enjoy these opportunities for getting in front of influencers and using, whether you have connections in the industry that were former retailers or former wholesale accounts, leaning on them to promote on their end is such a great value add. Thinking about lifestyle photography, sending out your product to influencers and having them post, you can use that user generated content on your own account. And it’s just great ways to really showcase how the product is used. It’s such a fun brand, and I feel like I want to see more in action or with… alongside drinking. Because I feel like we see a lot of product shots or just drinking shots, but I want to see them coming together and being enjoyed together.

Lindsey Leroy: [15:59]
So, I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to do collaborations or partnerships with, whether that is just like local, like starting small with local breweries or local distilleries. And then maybe it’s engaging with more regional partners statewide and then opening that up even more. But based on where you’re selling and where your customers are. I would love to see more drinking and snacking, sorry, sipping and snacking together.

Stef Shapira: [16:40]
Yeah, and we took a look to see if there was any influencer shares. You don’t really just look at the tagged part on an Instagram account, and there really wasn’t anything there. So, I think it’s just like adding influencers as part of a PR campaign. In a similar sense it could be starting local. Again, thinking about where your brand is available, and then trying to build awareness there that way. Obviously, if it’s a D2C thing, you can get it anywhere, but if you are tying in the tap rooms and other actual places to go, then focusing on those parts of the country or parts of the state makes sense. And maybe people want to go try it at the brewery before they buy a bunch for their house too. And yeah, that’s I think where some of those influencer packages that Lindsey was mentioning, can play in and you could potentially, if there’s a local brewery that your snacks are sold at, then you put together a cool package with your whatever product, whatever snack pairs with a beer from there, and then maybe also, I don’t know, like a pint glass that’s branded either with the… It could be a Sippin SNAX pint glass.

Stef Shapira: [18:21]
It doesn’t even have to be the brewery’s pint glass. or there’s probably some other front things, that’s the obvious one. It could be a wine glass, it could be a cocktail recipe that pairs really well with it. And, there is some amount that you have to spend when you’re giving influencers product for free, exchange for them sharing and then buying some of these additional glasses and merch and stuff. But overall, of course we’re biased, but we have found based on our experience of course, that those are the things that do build the awareness that brands need. Some more people are continuing to know about the product and actually buy it. So, you don’t have to go crazy. You can start locally with a few influencers and then once you’re like, “Oh, okay. I saw how this worked,” then you can expand.

Alison Smith: [19:18]
Yeah. So, a question on that because I do feel the same when you said start locally, that this brand really should put a lot of effort in like North Carolina, California, where they already have relationships that seem to be going well. So, how do they go about finding local influencers to work with?

Lindsey Leroy: [19:43]
I feel like my approach, and I don’t know if Stef, if she does this as well, first of all, I think about who the customer is, who’s actually buying these? Do they love craft beer? Where would they go? What would they do? Then I make a mental list or actual list of other brands and businesses that these target customers would actually go to or would follow, and potentially post about. Because obviously you want people who are posting about these brands. So, then I would go to those accounts and work back and see who has posted there and looking at their tagged photos on Instagram, and work back that way, if you are completely unfamiliar with influencers in that region.

Lindsey Leroy: [20:38]
But I think having an idea of who your competitors or who your like-minded brands are, is one of the biggest assets to how to approach influencers and media too, because with media, you want to know where your competitors are being covered and how they’re being covered and how they’re being talked about. And then other types of brands in that space or other types of businesses in that same space. So then you’re going to a local publication or newspaper, and then seeing the types of stories that these competitors or like-minded brands are being written about in, and seeing who’s writing these stories. So, you’re reverse engineering the story or the opportunity essentially. So, I think that’s probably the most direct yet somewhat tedious way to-

Alison Smith: [21:37]
The free version. Yeah, exactly. And what you said about competitors, that’s something you need to know for every piece of your business.

Stef Shapira: [21:48]
Yeah. That’s exactly what I was going to say.

Alison Smith: [21:51]
Yeah. It’s so important, and not only keeping a tab on what other people are doing and how they’re innovating and what the big brands are doing, so you can get some insights there, but also just staying inspired. We’re big on Inspo, we even have a Facebook group where we pull Inspo from the big brands for email, paid social and organic social, because creating content is hard. It’s a hard job and you really got to stay on top of it in order to create quality content. So, definitely follow your competitors on Instagram or sign up for their newsletter. You can do it from your private account, but definitely follow them around. And just to reiterate what Lindsey was saying, so basically you’re just going into Instagram, going to either influencers or local retailers in your space and then looking at the tags to find, is that how you were saying it works?

Lindsey Leroy: [23:02]
Yeah. Yeah. Looking at the tags and obviously if you’re going to… For Sippin SNAX for example, if there was a local brewery that was a craft brewery that has a good following, that’s pretty on brand, I would go into the tagged photos and take a look through the top. I think if you do it on maybe like a desktop, I don’t know if it does it on your phone, but a lot of times you can see the top photos and then you can sort it by recent. So, I would take a look at what the top photos are, which are going to have higher engagement, or looking at influencer posts that have a similar aesthetic to your brand. So, that’s another thing too, is you could find some really great influencers, but they may not necessarily be a fit aesthetic wise, or exactly like what you’re looking for.

Lindsey Leroy: [24:00]
So, if you found an influencer that has 100,000 followers and posted about craft beer, but is more of a fashion influencer or something, it may not necessarily be as much of a fit as an influencer that is more into food, beverage, hospitality space, but has 20,000 followers. So, I’d also take into consideration, not just the engagement or follower count, but also what type of content they’re posting. I think that’s really important too. So, there’s a lot of factors I think that go into considering an influencer campaign. And I feel like I could talk about this for hours. I think the easiest way to find influencers in your region that may potentially be a fit, and then you can narrow it down from there.

Alison Smith: [24:59]
Yeah. Definitely work with influencers who look like your ideal customer. There’s no need to go beyond that. It’s not going to make sense. I don’t know if you guys heard that groan.

Stef Shapira: [25:13]
I did.

Alison Smith: [25:14]
Man. He just groans every time he lays down, like he’s had the hardest life and the hardest day.

Stef Shapira: [25:21]
I thought he was just disagreeing with everything we were saying. “That’s not right.”

Alison Smith: [25:26]
Awesome. Okay. So anything else on the PR side, before we hop on over to the digital side, digital marketing?

Stef Shapira: [25:39]
I feel that’s it. We probably have some other related things to what you’re about to say, but I think we pretty much hit all our main talking points that we found.

Alison Smith: [25:49]
Yeah, that was awesome.

Karin Samelson: [25:51]
I think we’re going to have a little bit of overlap too, because it’s a lot of the things obviously that we are seeing, so let’s dive into the marketing side, the digital marketing side, and specifically Instagram first. So, going back to what you guys were talking about in not knowing what Sippin SNAX is versus Hops and Nuts, and how they’re both… Sippin SNAX tags Hops and Nuts, but Hops and Nuts doesn’t tag Sippin SNAX. I think the clarity can be done. Obviously there’s a lot to be done on the website, and I think for a brand to invest in new branding and packaging, they understand the importance of investing in their brand. So, I hope that they want to go forward with Sippin SNAX and make it the real deal product that they want it to be. The website needs a lot of updates, but for now, when we’re talking on Instagram, I think a lot of that differentiation can happen in the bio just for clarity’s sake.

Karin Samelson: [26:46]
So, Sippin SNAX, gourmet bar snacks, I like the name. That’s completely fine. You have your snack more sip more headline, tagline. Then it says from tap and tasting room approved Hops and Nuts. But then when I go to Hops and Nuts, it’s not very clear what that is. So, I would make it really, really clear if Hops and Nuts is your brand, that’s B2B and that’s the product that’s in the wineries and tap rooms, be more specific here so it’s less confusing. And I would put that at the end. Unless Hops and Nuts is this really established, reputable source, it doesn’t really need to be there in my opinion, because people don’t know what that is anyways. So just for clarity’s sake, just cleaning that bio up can make that really helpful. But what really excites me is how awesome the branding is.

Karin Samelson: [27:42]
And I love the naming. It’s like logger and lime. Okay. I definitely need to eat these craft peanuts with a logger. It’s so straightforward and fun. I think the content can match it for sure. So, a big rule that we like to stick by, rule, it’s hard and fast with the rules. It’s all gray, but we want people to stick to 80/20. 80% entertaining content, 20% sales focused. And when I look at the feed now, while I’m excited about the fun, the animations, the gifts, the videos, it all says the same thing. So, I’m looking at the top 12 posts, 10 of them say, “Snack more, sit more,” graphically somewhere. Not 10 of them, seven of them, maybe eight, maybe nine. Let’s count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 out of 12. Nine out of 12 say snack more, sip more.

Karin Samelson: [28:48]
I love that you’re trying to get the point across, but it’s so sales heavy, there’s no reason for someone to follow you because they can guess what you’re going to post next. What we want to do is really establish those messaging buckets that we’ve talked about in the past episodes. Think education, recipes, community focused stuff, behind the scenes. I love that the one real is the founder showing face, but there can be so much more of that. And I want you to jump into reels and think of really fun series that you can do. For example, someone doing a drink and a snack pairing, talking about the flavors and just having it be a running series. If it’s a founder, even better, you can also do a cocktail making series where you make cocktails, and it’s just a really beautiful, real recipe style video, and you’re snacking at the same time while you’re making the cocktail.

Karin Samelson: [29:43]
There’s so many fun things that you can do. And if you don’t have somebody on your team doing it, you can find one of these micro influencers that are super interested in the product that want to maybe make affiliate commission for promoting the product and making content for you. So, lots of great opportunity there. And then making the snacks look really delicious. Right now I think that you guys do a really great job of featuring the actual product. I think you can pull back on that a little bit. Because when we talk about 80/20, just a little bit less salesy to give people a reason to follow. Why are they following you? You want to build community, you want to give them something. So give them recipes, give them education, give them something fun to scroll past and really get excited about.

Karin Samelson: [30:28]
And then one other thing that I was thinking, you guys already mentioned it, but the amount of collaborations that can be done with this brand, they’re endless. There’s so many different alcohol companies, alcohol accessory companies. There’s so many different brands that would be so fun to do giveaways and collaborations with, which will help boost your social proof, your followers, your engagement, all of that good stuff, your brand awareness. So, collaborating with as many people as you can. And what we recommend is wherever you guys are creating your content or storing your content calendar, or if you’re not doing that yet, just simply creating a Google sheet and making a long list of people that would be your dream partners. So people that really make sense to collaborate with your brand, and then reach out to them. And we always tell people to shoot their shot, no matter how big a brand is.

Karin Samelson: [31:24]
If they look at yours and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, that branding’s awesome. The product is so amazing. I haven’t seen something like this before and I want to try it myself,” they just might partner with you. So, that is definitely what I think you guys should be doing. And we recommend doing these partnerships like two times a month when you’re in that high growth phase. So, try that out. And then the last note I’m going to say on Instagram, because I’m pumbling you with a lot of stuff, even though I think you’re doing an amazing job with getting content out at the rate that you are, is go beyond that constant call to action to snack more, sip more that I just mentioned, and tell the reader why they should. When I’m reading the caption or when I’m looking at the creative, why should I? There’s so many different reasons to want to do it, tell me why I can’t live without your product. Why I need it in my bar cart at all times. I just went hard y’all. Do you guys have any thoughts about Instagram?

Lindsey Leroy: [32:22]
That’s so true. And I was thinking too, like incorporating photos or reels in I guess different scenarios of how to enjoy. The first thing I was thinking about after having checks mix at a bar, which I love, this is like an actual elevated version of that, was having this at home for a party or game night. That for me, I don’t necessarily like to cook or put together amazing charcuterie boards or anything like that, while I would love to, I would love to have something that’s easy that I know people are going to like, that is a little bit different than just pouring out a container of pretzels or whatever it is. So, showcasing fun scenarios where this could and should be enjoyed, and like you said, why people need it. But yeah, I was thinking, man, if I saw this, if I saw a game night, I’d be like, “Oh, I do need to host a game night and I should buy a couple of these bags and maybe I’m going to get a couple different kinds.” Having that inspo so readily accessible for people to view it, whether that’s on the website or on Instagram, I think is like light bulb moment.

Karin Samelson: [33:49]
Yeah. I completely agree. And I think that there’s a lot of power in UGC style content. We all know this, and a lot of this looks to be stock photography or just more produced images. And it’s like give this to so many micro influencers, see what you can get from it. Find ones that are true advocates of it that are like, “I’m obsessed with this. I have to have this chocolate porter every time I’m having a porter now,” and you’re going to get a lot better content. And I love what you’re saying. It’s like, if you have wine night with your girlfriends once a week and you see these ladies having wine and whatever, vineyard red craft peanuts at the same time, it’s like, “Oh, I need to have that with our wine next time.” I think the opportunity is here because it’s so specific. They have really honed in on who their customer is, it seems like.

Karin Samelson: [34:41]
So, I think that’s a really fun opportunity. There’s so much that can happen. It’s exciting. When I see a brand like this and I’m like, “If our team could just get our hands on it,” that’s always a good thing because I feel like there’s a lot of legs. It’s beautiful branding, lots of colors to work with, lots of different types of products that will lend itself to different types of content. I think it’s a fun brand for sure. So with the website, Alison, what were you seeing?

Alison Smith: [35:16]
Yeah, I just want to reiterate because Stef and Lindsey brought up a lot of good website points. So, about the hero image, just showing off more product, showing off more lifestyle images, And then again with the shop section, in your collection section where all of your products are laid out, always feature the best sellers first. I don’t think that’s your t-shirt, your t-shirt is showing up first. If it is, then my bad. But generally you want your best sellers to be front and center so that it’s easy for people to just click and shop. Again, there’s also a collection on me on the front page too. So, just make sure that the right products are being shown on the homepage. And then they’re in the right order on the collections page. Another thing that we were thinking, if you are going to continue pursuing D2C, it would be a great move to bundle your products.

Alison Smith: [36:27]
So, bundle your two to three best sellers or bundle a salty pack and bundle a sweet pack. And that’s just going to help get your average order of value higher. Right now I think it’s at $7. Obviously people can buy multiples, but you really need product bundles that are at least over $20. That’s just going to help if you ever decide to run ads, it’s just going to help you make a return a lot faster. And you have a lot of that data in your backend. If you’re using Shopify or whatever platform you’re using, you can generally see customer bot always buys this and this. So you can start to understand the patterns there. So, use that knowledge to create those bundles. And then I am not going to lie. I’m still a little confused about Sippin SNAX versus the, what is it? Hops and Nuts. Because there’s wholesale on Sippin SNAX.

Alison Smith: [37:37]
So, if you don’t want to link that wholesale page from Sippin SNAX over to Hops and Nuts, then consider adding the where to buy or where we’re located on that wholesale page. Consider building it out to look like a true wholesale page, and showing off a map and showing people we’re at your bar five miles down the road, because otherwise it’s just confusing, and it just feels like it’s a missed opportunity at this point. But I will say like Karin and everyone else has said, it’s gorgeous branding. And the website is, it’s nice looking. You’ve done a great job. It’s just cleaning some things up and getting a little organized. And earlier I said, I didn’t know your name. I do. It’s Melissa, but I just meant adding that to the about us. It seems like you have a cool story and sharing and relating to your consumers, your customers in the about us section of your website, I think could really go a long way. Any other web thoughts y’all?

Lindsey Leroy: [38:50]
No, I think, yeah, you’ve definitely hit some of the things I was thinking about just in terms of wholesale, how to distinguish. And I think Stef brought this up earlier, but as you’re signing on retailers, having a list of where it’s available to purchase, even though somebody who visits your website may not be able to purchase it from that retailer’s website, gives credibility. So, if writers or influencers or anybody or customers are going to your website and they’re scrolling through and they’re trying to decide if they want to buy, and they see that it’s actually available at a couple of their favorite breweries or distilleries or wineries, it gives it a certain level of credibility, and I think it also opens up the doors for more collaborations. There’s just so many possibilities when you make that information known.

Stef Shapira: [39:56]
Yeah. And I was thinking, I love the idea of the bundles for many reasons, but it’s also a really good way to collaborate. Granted they might end up having to make some new product, so I don’t know obviously how challenging that is, but if it’s a limited edition thing. If there is a brewery and you’re doing a bundle that is co-branded with them, you could have one paired with each of their beers, and then it would be a more equal partnership where everyone’s promoting it, so it’s like a limited edition thing where you could pitch that to media and to influencers. The pattern with customer behavior is that if something is limited edition, you’re going to act to buy it, versus being like, “I can buy this anytime.”

Stef Shapira: [40:53]
Versus the, “Oh, it’s only limited edition. There’s only so many. If I don’t get this now, then I might not get it at all.” And obviously a good way to get in front of the brewery or the wineries audience. So yeah, I think just like the bundles in general are good, but I think we just keep being like, “So many cross promotional opportunities here.”

Alison Smith: [41:21]
Yeah, no, I love that. And, that’s something that I think you should really just keep in your back pocket that if you’re eCommerce brand, instead of always running sales or things like that, there’s other ways to produce scarcity through these limited edition products or collaborations. What is the [inaudible 00:41:44] does an amazing job at doing those types of collaborations and they’re limited. You can only get until they sell out.

Stef Shapira: [41:51]
I love those.

Alison Smith: [41:53]
They do a really good job. Yeah. I think they did one with Disney recently.

Stef Shapira: [41:58]
Yeah. Was it for the turning red movie? I feel like the Fishwife, it’s the canned fish, which doesn’t sound sexy, but it is. They did something with Fly By Jing, which also does a lot of collabs, and yeah, I think that’s already back ordered. There’s a lot of examples out there.

Alison Smith: [42:25]
Yeah. You don’t have to go to Disney. 

Stef Shapira: [42:28]
Yeah, you don’t have to start there.

Alison Smith: [42:30]
You can go local. Just make sure that the input is worth the output. It can be a lot on brands to produce those limited quantity, limited edition things, but always something to test and keep in your back pocket. I think that’s really interesting. So yeah, that’s web. That’s a wrap on web. I think we all touch on it.

Karin Samelson: [42:55]
I have one thing for web.

Alison Smith: [42:57]
Karin’s got one thing for web.

Karin Samelson: [42:59]
Just because when I’m on the homepage, I can’t get over this. And I think that the product is too good to just completely ignore like this. So, when I’m on the homepage, all I see is a big sign that says snack more, sip more, and I have no idea what that means in this moment. And I know that we’re talking about it’s a good tagline and it’s part, that’s great, but what I’m hearing is, “Okay, if I eat more stuff, I can drink more stuff.” That’s the message I get. But when I scroll down, I see another tagline that I think I like more. It’s craft a great pairing with Sippin SNAX. It’s actually telling me that there’s a pairing element, that there’s like a drink this and this.

Karin Samelson: [43:47]
So, in my mind, I’m like craft a great pairing and then have the actual pairing as a visual, would be so strong. I’d be like, “Oh, that’s what this is. That’s what I’m doing.” There’s a lot to be said with crafting a great website, but that homepage, that header image is so important that I would play with testing that, to see if you get more clicks. Do you guys-

Alison Smith: [44:17]
I think we all agree that we need some product or some lifestyle sip and snack as the hero. But what Karin’s saying is, testing the snack more sip more versus what was it Karin? Craft a great pairing

Karin Samelson: [44:33]
Craft a great pairing.

Alison Smith: [44:35]
So that could be something that you just ask your friends and family or run a survey. You can also run a website AB test. It’s really difficult to get results on AB test when you’re a young brand however, so it might be something that you would need to reach out to friends to really solidify that. Unless you’re sold on what it currently is. But I think that’s really interesting that that’s what stood out to you, Karin.

Karin Samelson: [45:06]
Yeah. And, there’s so much space in between that header and the next section, and that home-taining, I don’t know what that means.

Alison Smith: [45:14]
It just clicked for me. What is entertaining?

Stef Shapira: [45:19]
Yeah. That’s one thing that I was calling out earlier. It’s so in your face that this is like only for at home, but then it gets confusing because they’re wholesale. I’m assuming you don’t wholesale to your house, I don’t know. You really want a lot of product.

Alison Smith: [45:39]
And that’s okay. This is the pandemic pivot.

Stef Shapira: [45:45]
Yeah. 100%. It’s clear that’s what it was.

Alison Smith: [45:48]
Yeah. We’re all trying to figure it out and understand what the best avenue is, and maybe that’s what’s happening here. So hopefully there is enough time that’s passed that you can understand which direction you can take, and then just get very literal on your website about that direction. Okay. Any other web thoughts?

Karin Samelson: [46:09]
No. My last thought after being like the website needs a lot of work, which I’m sure you already know, that’s why you’re asking for input on it, is that this is a product. I look at a lot of snacks all day. That’s all I do. I look at snacks, food and bev, and this is a product where I’m like, “Oh, dang, this is a good idea and this looks delicious, and I know that people would want this.” So I just keep that in your mind, as you hear us talking about all the things that can be improved, because we think the product is awesome. It’s a really nice idea. It’s cool, and I think it worked so good B2B and direct to consumer. So, it’s great work. It’s great work.

Alison Smith: [46:52]
Yeah. Great work. And definitely want to get some and try it. The flavors look really fun too, so, okay. So moving on to paid social. So, it’s very difficult to do a paid audit when there’s no Ads running. I don’t know if you’ve ever run Ads. So, just bear with me, my overall first thoughts were B2B, honestly. That’s where I would think that your brand was heading. Now that we’re talking about pandemic pivot, there could be room to run B2B retailer driven ads and D2C ads. For D2C Ads though, you got to get that AOB up. You got to bundle some things because you’re not going to make a return if you’re selling a $7 product. It really needs to be closer to the $40 range. I know I said minimum 20, but really we want it closer to 40.

Alison Smith: [47:50]
You can always do like upsells and cross sells or get them on your email list to continue that selling pattern. But with D2C, just like everyone was saying, we want to see more lifestyle, more UGC, User Generated Content. It doesn’t have to mean that you need to pay influencers to create that content for you. You look like you probably have a lot of friends, so host a party, give your snacks away to your friends and family and just be like, take five iPhone shots for me. And hopefully you can use some of those. Just people using the product and sipping on the correct alcohol with the product is really what we would want here. And that’s what makes great Ads. If you ever do an influencer campaign, getting any of those influencer posts or stories and running those as Ads, pushing them to your website, asking for sales, also recipes could be a thing here.

Alison Smith: [48:58]
A lot of the nut brands that we’ve worked with in the past, we grind up the nuts and add them to a salad and just have all these. There’s a lot of different messaging buckets that you could fall into. So, that’s another thing that could potentially work well for an ad for D2C. But in terms of B2B, where I think that there’s a lot of potential for growth, It looks like you already have a really long list of people that, retailers that you work with, businesses that you work with. So, there’s some things that you could do to increase that reach. Increase the amount of stores that you get into, and then also allow the consumers that live around those stores to be aware that they can find you at X, Y, Z tap room.

Alison Smith: [49:50]
So, we call those geo targeted campaigns. And geo targeting just basically means you’re targeting people who live within a certain radius of a zip code or a specific address. So, for B2B, if you want to expand your B2B presence, you could pull in an address, like say you really want to get into this new winery across town. So you can actually pull that address and target people within five miles of that address, and also target people who own wineries and hopefully get in front of the person that owns that winery. It’s a really interesting way to increase your touch points before you actually call the person on the phone and say, “Hey, I have this product.” They’ve likely seen your ads a couple of times. So, it’s a really interesting way to get those touchpoints in before you actually make contact with someone. And these types of ads are really inexpensive too.

Alison Smith: [50:53]
So, generally for geo targeting campaigns, we spend $5 a day and our objectives are the cheaper objectives like reach. And you can reach a thousand people for two to $3 on Meta or TikTok. So, something interesting you could try, and that’s for getting into new businesses. For targeting consumers, so say you’re in this specific winery and you need to push product. You need people to be asking for Sippin SNAX when they go to this winery. So, you can target people who live within a 10 mile radius of this winery and show off your UGC style AD, show off your product with the wine and just let them know that you’re there so that they know. They’re already familiar with your brand. They know to go there if they want your product, all those things. And like I said, those types of Ads are generally very inexpensive, so that could be a very, very small budget if that’s something you’d want to test out. We got thoughts?

Karin Samelson: [52:07]
That’s a lot less expensive, right? It’s just not even like a little bit less expensive, it’s a lot less expensive to do those to your budget.

Alison Smith: [52:16]
It is so much less expensive, yes. So, we label it as high cost and lower cost in terms of the objectives you can choose on Meta and TikTok and all those platforms. So, the high cost ones, it’s going to cost a lot of money to ask someone to buy from you. That’s going to be probably the highest cost thing that you can ask for. So, that’s like your D2C Ads. After that, it’s most likely going to be asking for an email address or something like that. Like a registration, an add to cart. Anything in the checkout flow is going to be expensive, and that costs per mill for those costs to reach a thousand people for those more expensive events, is around $10. For the cheaper events, like reaching people, having someone engage with an Ad or simple brand awareness, or even traffic campaigns where you could send these people to your store, if you have a store locator on your website, which I think you should do. That costs for [inaudible 00:53:25] cost to reach a thousand people is generally around two to $3. So you can reach a thousand people for two bucks, which is pretty cool. So, we’re recommending the cheaper events for geo targeted campaigns.

Karin Samelson: [53:41]
At this point, when the website still needs a lot of optimizations, it’s like, you’re not ready to send people to go purchase from your page right now, because there’s a lot of things that need to be worked out before you start spending your money in that way.

Alison Smith: [53:56]
Yeah. So, that’s a really good point. You can’t just throw money at a problem. Not that this is at all. There’s a lot of things you have to check off and do before you can be profitable with D2C eCommerce like conversion campaigns. One of them, making sure your website is converting at 4% pre-advertising spend. That’s not a lot of sites convert at that. So you need to make sure you’re converting there. You need to make sure you’ve really nailed down your organic social. Hopefully get some influencer in UGC going for you. You need to make sure that your email funnels are all set up so that people are getting indoctrinated and educated and sold through email too. So, there’s a lot of things that have to happen before you should start spending on eCommerce campaigns.

Lindsey Leroy: [54:53]
In terms of organic content, do you all usually recommend cross platform sharing? Like using the same content on TikTok, Instagram? What do you usually recommend in terms of getting the most engagement, or I guess getting the most bang for your buck when creating content?

Karin Samelson: [55:18]
Yeah. So, with Facebook and Instagram, the platforms are really different, but with Facebook, it’s so hard to get engagement now. It’s because you’re not reaching anybody. It’s not that people don’t like what you’re saying, it’s you can’t reach anybody. You have to pay for it on Facebook. So, that’s why we don’t want anybody to spend very much time at all, crafting an actual strategy for Facebook because of that. So, a lot of the times we’ll take what we’re doing on Instagram and we’ll share it on Facebook too. We’ll take out hashtags, we’ll tag appropriately. We’ll link appropriately because you can link on Facebook and you can’t on Instagram, and all that good stuff. But when it comes to TikTok, it’s a completely different strategy. And when it comes to Pinterest, it’s a completely different strategy. So, you can still use the same messaging bucket and theme of the post, but the creative and the copy, it has to be different.

Karin Samelson: [56:17]
So, let’s take an example, for Pinterest, you want it to be a certain dimension. You want it to be a certain vertical dimension. You want to be able to send people to a link to your site. For Instagram, you have so many dimensions to work with and you are really wanting engagement. You’re wanting people to share it. You’re wanting people to save it. You’re wanting people to like it and comment. And then with TikTok, it’s only video content. Sure you can make slide shows with photos, and that’s all well and good, but it’s such a completely different content strategy because there, you’re not really selling as much. You’re mostly connecting and entertaining. So, very different strategy between Meta and TikTok. So, I wouldn’t recommend. If you’re already creating reels for Instagram, sure. If you want to share it to TikTok and see what happens, that’s completely fine. Why not? But don’t expect for that to be the way you grow.

Alison Smith: [57:17]
Okay. Cool. Any final thoughts about Sippin SNAX?

Karin Samelson: [57:23]
No, but I need that Peppa snacks mix.

Alison Smith: [57:26]
Yeah, for sure. 

Stef Shapira: [57:28]
We should have a party, and do my nails.

Karin Samelson: [57:32]
We can have a party…

Lindsey Leroy: [57:34]
Yes. This is the perfect reminder, perfect excuse. We should get a variety pack, one of everything, test it out.

Alison Smith: [57:42]
Yeah, that reminded me. I wanted to talk about that for, this could work with organic or paid, but this is a great product to match with events. So, anytime there’s a big football game in a local one, like a, I don’t know who plays for what, North Carolina university.

Karin Samelson: [58:03]
That sounds great.

Alison Smith: [58:05]
Run an Ad two weeks before and just be like, “Hey, this is the perfect snack for the North Carolina football team.”

Karin Samelson: [58:14]
I love that idea.

Stef Shapira: [58:17]
Yeah. I think that’s really smart. And also you can use that for influencers because they’re planning their parties and they can stage a cool photo and share it and be like, “I’m getting ready for the game. I bought this. Here’s a discount code or direct link that goes back to,” that’s somehow connected to that influencer, so you can track how many people actually like tapping on their link to buy these snacks. I was going to say also for media opportunities, it might just be like Super Bowl. That’s one that happens. I think people around the country celebrate that. I love how we’re like, “We’re sports people.” I’m not, but anyway, for Super Bowl it could be local. A lot of times it’s like where to get wings for Super Bowl, but it could just be like snacks to buy or ways to make your party platter for the Super Bowl or whatever. Could be for the Oscar party.

Lindsey Leroy: [59:25]
I feel like there’s always entertaining stories on types of products to amp up your home entertaining game. So, always think about like seasonality or events to give a reason for people to care about your product at that moment. Because I think Karin or Alison, one of you guys had said “Why would you care now?” Give people a reason to. So, thinking about events and seasonality, whenever you’re planning your social media posts, your influencer engagement, if you’re doing media outreach obviously with ads, it all ties together. So yeah, definitely look at a calendar and take a few steps back, and plan out your quarter or your year, just like that.

Alison Smith: [1:00:16]
Definitely. Well, thank you The Rind PR team for another great episode and a great audit.

Stef Shapira: [1:00:24]
Thanks for having us back.

Alison Smith: [1:00:27]
Of course. Yeah. We got one more to do, and then you’re done with us for a little bit.

Lindsey Leroy: [1:00:33]
You’re never fully done with us.

Alison Smith: [1:00:34]
No, but anything you want to leave the audience before we sign off?

Stef Shapira: [1:00:40]
Yeah. I think that hopefully this is super helpful for these brands and other brands that some of these things might be able to apply to them as well, or even just for anyone looking at social media and media and understanding a little bit more. But besides that, if you are in the place where you’re interested in thinking about PR in addition to our regular larger scale campaigns, we do offer consulting services and we can do audits. Basically just like this, more tailored. If anyone is interested in that and you can get a peer toolkit and it’s the best practices for those who are really wanting to learn more and apply it to their brand.

Alison Smith: [1:01:30]
Awesome. Definitely do that, and we will link how you can get in touch with [inaudible 01:01:37] in the show notes. And then also Umai offers a free five day mini course. So, if you are a young brand or a marketer, just looking to refresh your skills, definitely sign up for our mini course. It’s lots of actual tips that cover organic social, paid social and email marketing for CPG. All right, guys, that is a wrap. Thank you so much.

Umai social circle is a CPG agency driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind the scene insights, chats with industry leaders and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram at Umai marketing or check out our website Catch you back here soon.

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#27: The Good Audit Episode 2: Lost River Apothecary with The Rind PR

UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#27: The Good Audit Episode 2: Lost River Apothecary with The Rind PR

Join Alison and Karin as they audit Lost River Apothecary with Stef Shapira and Lindsey Leroy of The Rind PR! Learn about everything you need, from sending product to influencers to product linking as they look over this up-and-coming CPG brand. 



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#27: The Good Audit Episode 2: Lost River Apothecary with The Rind PR 

Calling all consumer goods, business owners and marketing professionals. Does planning content ahead of time stress you out? Do you want to run Instagram and Facebook ads, but just aren’t sure where to start? If your answer is yes and yes, then our Mini Course was made for you. It’s 100% free and packed with essential tactics that you can implement as soon as today. To join in, visit our website at All right, let’s get on with the pod.
Karin Samelson: [00:44]
Welcome to the Umai Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Karin and Alison, co-founders of Umai Marketing, and we’re being joined by Stef and Lindsey from the Rind PR for our four part series where we’re auditing young CPG brands on PR and digital marketing. Welcome to episode two, where we’re diving into Lost River Apothecary and herbal remedies brand offering all natural teas and salves. Stef, I want to thank you for joining us again. How are you today?
Stef Shapira: [01:20]
Pretty good. Thanks for having us.
Lindsey Leroy: [01:21]
Yeah, thanks for having us, you all.
Karin Samelson: [01:23]
Yeah, we had such a fun time with Willow Street snacks on our last one, on our last good audit. So it’s fun to go into a beauty brand. And we actually worked on the same beauty brand, a different one, so we’re really excited to talk about something similar.
Lindsey Leroy: [01:40]
Well, it’s fun to have a variety of different types of products too because it helps get your brain going in different ways and also gives me ideas of things that I need to pick up at the store.
Stef Shapira: [01:50]
I know.
Karin Samelson: [01:51]
Any new beauty product, I’m like, “Okay, I’ll try it.” You got me. Awesome. Well, do you guys want to jump in on your PR recommendations?
Stef Shapira: [01:59]
So I think one thing that’s good to start off by saying is that, for PR we have three areas that we specialize in and that we are going to be looking at in the audit. So the first one is messaging. How the story is told online and is there consistency? Are the words… Do they make sense? Is there missing information? That sort of thing. So we took a look at the Lost River Apothecary website for part of this audit, and one thing that was really great is that it clearly says at the top what the product is. It says, “Herbal remedies that restore balance and allow inner creativity to flow.” Granted, that might be a little flowery of language, but I think for the most part, you get what it is and then you can scroll down and see more about the specific products.
Stef Shapira: [03:01]
And also another thing that was great is it calls out their ethos, right on the homepage there, locally sourced, sustainably grown, and ethically foraged. So they understood the assignment of having a mission statement and trying to have it, like, be an overarching thing with what they do. Let’s see. Some things that seem like they might be missing from the website is more about… There isn’t an about page, but it tells more of a background story. And I would say this is also nice, but flowery language, but I get that it is a fit for this sort of brand and the people behind it, but there’s not really much about who is making it.
Stef Shapira: [03:53]
It doesn’t say anywhere who the person behind it is, which I think is an important part of being able to tell a story. Their social media says that they’re woman-owned, but that’s not included on the site. And I think especially, these days in the world we’re living in, people are making decisions based on different values like that. And I mean, the sustainability element is one value that drives people to purchase, so that’s great. But I think adding women-owned to that would help a lot as well.
Alison Smith: [04:32]
And that’s something that we talk about a lot. If you are a younger brand and you’re willing to step up and be the face of your brand, if that’s just through stories or ads or on your email list and also through your website, that really helps the customer just establish that no I can trust for that founder. And it’s scary and you don’t always have to do it forever. Once you hit the big time, then you can fade out a little if you want, but we always see the founder showing up, really help push the mission, the product. I mean, you’re the person that knows the most, you’re the person that created the product. So, totally agree with you on that one.
Stef Shapira: [05:27]
Yeah. And even for basically, I was just going to say, even for PR pitching to try to secure media stories, two things we always look at are business stories, which is like the founder story, how they got there, what their inspiration was for starting the brand and that sort of stuff where you have to be able to talk and talk. Your name is out there, your face is out there, that sort of thing. Or expert type stories, which are the founder talking about foraging or different herbs that are good for acne or for a rash or various things. So if you’re not really wanting to put yourself out there and do that, you’re potentially missing some media opportunities. Granted, we want everyone to be comfortable doing these things and we’re not going to ever set up an interview with a client if they really are resistant. But it’s just you want to make sure you’re doing as much as possible and thinking of those different angles and just proudly saying who you are and why you founded the business, and telling your story is a big part of it.
Lindsey Leroy: [06:37]
I think there could be, also, some opportunities in terms of media and pitching, that writers may see on your bio that inspire an idea. If that’s a trend piece that they’re working on, how to utilize yarrow in different ways. They may be working on something like that and they see that you have a herbalism background or whatever it is, may just inspire an idea. And it’s also great for creating content, whether that’s a personal blog or just working on social media posts that really show the behind the scenes and really give a face to the brand.
Stef Shapira: [07:16]
Yeah. I agree with all of that. Other things that we are looking at, it’s not totally clear to me from the site, if there are other places like retail places that this can be purchased, or even just where you can “find us” page could be helpful. With PR generally it’s good to… Well, one, if you want people to buy your product, you want to tell them where. That’s a basic, in terms of selling product, but besides that, the more places you are… And well, it adds credibility and if a writer or even an influencer is looking at your page and they’re like, “Oh, I know that store,” then it just adds another layer for people to connect with. I mean, this is definitely a smaller brand that honestly might not really be in many retail locations, but especially when a brand is getting into… It’s easy when you think of grocery if they’re getting into a Sprouts or a Whole Foods or something like that.
Stef Shapira: [08:20]
You definitely want to be putting that all over your website, in your social media, because again that adds credibility and it’s the thing that we can pitch to media as news as well. So then the next section that we looked at, was media and influencer tactics. This was definitely an area where there wasn’t a ton that looked like had happened yet with this brand. We didn’t see any media coverage. I think reaching out to media can be a really daunting thing for anyone who hasn’t really done it, for founders and really anyone. But I think that if you’re a little intimidated by it, the easiest place to start is maybe finding someone local, they’re going to be more likely to want to share a local story. So it could be just picking up your local magazine or looking at the website and finding someone’s name and normally their emails are on the website or it’s searchable. Or honestly you can even send it to the general email for the publication and just send a little bit about your story.
Stef Shapira: [9:37]
You’re not always going to get a response, but there’s definitely… It’s a lot less scary. There’s a lower barrier to entry, if that’s the phrase, than if you’re pitching a big national publication like, I don’t know, geez, all the ones that I was going to list are not doing print anymore. I was going to say InStyle. But obviously for any publication for online like Allure for a BD brand or something like that, that’s going to feel a little scarier, but if it’s someone who might be like, “Oh, I’m really interested in this local story,” or, “I want to support a local brand,” you’re likely to get a response.
Lindsey Leroy: [10:18]
And it looks like they have really great photography already on the website which is, I think, maybe half the battle when thinking about media relations and pitching is having really good high quality photos. Editors are way more likely to run coverage of your brand or your product if you have really good photos. So, making sure that you have that in one place, almost like a little, not necessarily a press kit, but a little media or PR package. So you have your labeled high-res photos, a little about the brand and maybe even some ideas on potential stories, whether that’s skincare tips for winter or how to use herbs on sunburn in the summer, things like that, that might help you break through the noise when you’re reaching out to media.
Alison Smith: [11:20]
So you’re saying have that type of content on the site, like blog content on the site?
Lindsey Leroy: [11:26]
Not necessarily on the website, but have it ready to go. And if you’ve already got your messaging really dialed in and you’ve got your photography gathered, it’s really just one more step to put that together on your end.
Stef Shapira: [11:43]
That’s the stuff that, before media’s going to cover, they’re going to need that anyway. That’s what we put in a pitch or what they’ll say, “Can you send us photos?” And then you’re not like, “Oh no, I’m not going to be in the story because I didn’t have my photos in this Dropbox in time,” or whatever. Just a little bit of increasing your chances and saving yourself some time by having that stuff ready.
Alison Smith: [12:07]
Get organized now, that’s y’all’s motto. I like it. For brands who can’t hire you guys, how do you generally advise them to get on those hits? Are they simply reaching out via email or how should they go about that process?
Lindsey Leroy: [12:31]
I think I would first take a look at where your competitors have been covered. Also think about your target market and what types of publications they’re reading, whether that’s print or digital or even newsletters, where they’re getting their information. And then make a list of who your ideal targets are. Let’s use Lost River, for example, their target market may be really focused on wellness, maybe more so than beauty. So a publication like Self or Women’s Health and I’m just talking about in the national sphere. Those publications may be a better target while they’re lofty goals, really honing in and going after those as opposed to making a blanket statement to everybody, I would see what types of stories your competitors are being included in and then work your way backwards. But I think seeing who’s writing the stories and then tracking down their contact info, whether that is… Honestly, a lot of freelance writers include their email address in their Twitter bio these days. You can get so much valuable information from Twitter.
Alison Smith: [14:04]
Twitter. Oh, okay. I like the hot tip. Love it. So find them on the publication and then stalk them on Twitter.
Lindsey Leroy: [14:16]
Stalk them on Twitter, not obsessively. And I would say-
Alison Smith: [14:19]
Just find their email on Twitter.
Stef Shapira: [14:21]
A lot of times their emails are on Instagram too.
Alison Smith: [14:25]
Okay, awesome.
Stef Shapira: [14:27]
I feel it’s easier to find, not everyone’s email, but it’s a lot easier to find people’s emails than you would think.
Alison Smith: [14:35]
Yeah. We actually have a scraping tool that we use. It’s just a free Chrome plugin. I just search scrape or something and-
Stef Shapira: [14:46]
That’s such a weird word.
Karin Samelson: [14:47]
It doesn’t always pull the good.
Alison Smith: [14:51]
Yeah. It only pulls emails that are already on the page, just so you don’t have to search through the whole website. But it is helpful if you’re like, “Who do I need to contact?” And then you just run the scrape tool and then you’re like, “Okay.”
Lindsey Leroy: [15:05]
And I would say in terms of best practices, if you are reaching out, I will say reach out and keep it really succinct. So make sure that you have your… Get your point across in three sentences, if you can, introduce your brand. You don’t need to go over the top. You don’t necessarily need to send an entire press release. But I would make sure that you can get it out in a few sentences and then ask if they would like more information. Offer up pertinent info, like if you’re available on Amazon, if you have an affiliate program. And if you have high quality photos, don’t ever attach photos, but the shorter, the better as an initial interaction is more likely to get a response. And then-
Karin Samelson: [15:50]
Why don’t you want people attaching photos?
Lindsey Leroy: [15:53]
If you attach photos, I guarantee you an editor or writer will delete it almost immediately. They get so many emails with attachments. And I had this problem when I worked at fashion PR in New York that you’d get so many attachments that your inbox will crash. So anytime [crosstalk 00:16:12] Yes.
Stef Shapira: [16:13]
Put it in a Dropbox or Google drive. Basically link it, don’t literally attach the file.
Lindsey Leroy: [16:19]
Link it, don’t provide a photo.
Karin Samelson: [16:20]
Great tips, you all. I had a question really quick before we get too far away from it. But you were saying don’t annoy them, how many times is too many times to reach out pitching to the same writer or editor?
Lindsey Leroy: [16:39]
I think it depends on what you’re following. If you’re just following up to say like, “Hey, did you get my email?” Or just wanted to check in to see if this was of interest, I would say maybe no more than two or three times. If you have something new and if you can, wait a little bit and then gauge interest and also provide maybe something new, whether that is like, “I just wanted to follow up to see if this was of interest. We also just got picked up by Whole Foods. I just wanted to put that on your radar.” Or if there is some timely event or seasonal hook, to include that in your follow up as well. So it’s not just like, “Hey, did you get my email below?”
Stef Shapira: [17:23]
Yeah. I think a lot of it is sometimes, if it’s the wording, over and over again. Imagine if-
Alison Smith: [17:30]
Did you get my email? Hey, did you get my email?
Stef Shapira: [17:33]
Yeah. Every day for like three weeks, that would 100% be annoying to everyone, I think. So it’s, spacing it out and then coming up with a new angle for the follow-up email.
Alison Smith: [17:44]
Yeah. I’m just curious too, is it ever good to be in a follow up like, “Hey, so and so wrote us up and it’s a competitor,” or would that turn them off you think?
Stef Shapira: [17:57]
I feel that one’s tough. It depends on what the story is. I feel maybe don’t do it for the most part. I would say, maybe if you’re going to have some press that you are excited about, just add it to your website or put it on your social media, but I don’t know if that’s a strong pitch point.
Alison Smith: [18:17]
Don’t lead with it, okay.
Lindsey Leroy: [18:19]
And you always want to make sure that you’re providing value to that publication. So you want to make sure that your product is a fit for the readers first of all. And that it’s providing value in some way. So if you are able to offer an exclusive discount to that publication, sometimes that’s really valuable. Or if it’s just something that their readers would find of interest and at that time too. Why is it timely? Why do they need to cover your brand now? Is it new or is there something, again, tied to seasonality or an event. So really make sure you’re considering all of those things. It’s a lot.
Alison Smith: [19:03]
Very cool. You’re seasoned and have a lot of little nuances that are I think really helpful.
Stef Shapira: [19:12]
Yeah, for sure. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a while separately. I don’t even know, I think it’s over 20 or 25 years combined experience. So I feel we definitely even learned things from our early days of doing PR, where they’re like, “Oh, Never doing that again.”
Lindsey Leroy: [19:32]
Still learning, still growing.
Stef Shapira: [19:37]
Things are changing frequently, obviously with more of a digital push, fewer print magazines, affiliates, all kinds of other things. So either way, I think the core of PR pitching to media and just really in general, honestly, even in terms of marketing, it’s all about, how are you telling your story and how are you coming up with creative ways to do that as well. And keeping things fresh. I mean, that’s been the same as long as PR has existed.
Lindsey Leroy: [20:09]
Well, and with the rise of influencers, it also opens the door for a lot more opportunities that are a little bit of a lower barrier to entry. So sending product to influencers in exchange for posts or in exchange for a mention on their social media, is so much easier as there are so many more influencers, so many more types of influencers, a varying degrees of quality I would say, but I think there’s a lot of value in reaching micro influencers. And I think that’s something that Lost River can definitely take advantage of. And taking a look at who’s in the area, who’s in the region, who has posted about… This is also working backwards like you would with media, take a look at like-minded brands or locations, whether that’s a spa that’s really similar to your ethos. Or even if it’s a wellness food product, taking a look at whether or not any influencers have posted about that brand, having the idea that they may like yours as well and make a list of who those potential targets might be.
Lindsey Leroy: [21:35]
But I think working with micro influencers, so like under 10,000 followers, is a great place to start. And I think, in terms of reaching out, I think DMing on Instagram is completely acceptable. Again, most influencers will include their email in their bio or you can click their email and find their contact info. But really think about and consider what the package looks like, that you’re putting together to potentially send these influencers. You’ll see a lot of unboxing videos that the influencers posts on their social channels. So the more interesting or fun or memorable the package actually is, and that’s the physical package, so not just putting a bunch of bubble wrap in there, the more interesting that is, the more likely they’ll post more content. I think that’s the direction that a lot of brands are going.
Lindsey Leroy: [22:38]
So you can send the same thing to everyone. You can switch it up and make it a little bit more custom. I always recommend including a handwritten note and something that’s really personalized. It takes 30 seconds to do, but it makes such a big difference and it really helps establish a more of a partnership feel and relationship between yourself and the influencer. They’re also way more likely to post about you down the road, or want to work with you again.
Alison Smith: [23:10]
The handwritten note, I mean, it is scalable. There are companies, I think we have a friend who has a company, she has many employees who write these beautiful handwritten notes. But it’s just, I mean, getting a handwritten note from a brand that’s just going to establish so much likeness. It’s just so powerful. If you have any numbers on conversion versus, with handwritten notes, without handwritten notes, I would love to hear them, but I know that’s probably a really hard thing to track.
Lindsey Leroy: [23:50]
I have two shout outs for local brands that have done that really well. Siete always includes really great personalized handwritten notes in their mailers. I know that they work with a lot of influencers and I just over the moon adore that brand, but they also do a lot of tastemaker outreach to wellness people, influencers, chefs, bartenders, et cetera. It makes a world of difference. It creates this brand ambassador in a way that’s not a traditional liquor brand ambassador or whatever it is. You become an arbiter of the brand and I’m talking about it now. And I always tell my friends when they ask for recommendations for those types of products. And then Made In also is another great one that includes really awesome handwritten notes. And it gives you all the feels.
Stef Shapira: [24:52]
Yeah. And it’s clear that there are handwritten notes because the influencers or the tastemakers love them so much that they’re sharing them on their social. So I have not received a package from either brand, so I cannot attest to.
Lindsey Leroy: [25:06]
It’s only because my husband’s a chef. I personally do not receive-
Alison Smith: [25:10]
Oh, you get the perks. So do you have-
Stef Shapira: [25:13]
Does anybody want to send me anything?
Alison Smith: [25:15]
Please include a handwritten note as well. So do you guys have any hard numbers or vague numbers even about the conversion when you work with brands, sending influencer packages, handwritten, non-handwritten notes?
Lindsey Leroy: [25:31]
I don’t, but I am going to get that. And on our next podcast, I will have a chart for you.
Alison Smith: [25:37]
Want the data.
Lindsey Leroy: [25:39]
Going to make you a pie chart, get ready.
Alison Smith: [25:42]
Sweet. Love a good pie chart.
Karin Samelson: [25:44]
All right y’all, is there anything else PR related that you saw that Lost River could implement?
Lindsey Leroy: [25:50]
I think the last bucket that we’ll just mention is, the community building or community engagement. That’s something that we love to do because it’s fun and creative, but also really helps reach your target market in a unique and fun way. That’s anything from participating at an event or doing a popup at a spa, something like that. We saw a few examples, but not too many, just looking on Instagram. It looks like they’re available at a hotel spa, which is a great opportunity to engage with the hotel and spa guests on social media. Leveraging your wholesale partners or any other partners to create an opportunity, whether that is a giveaway on social or hosting, offering to host a popup or a sampling opportunity or inclusion in some gift bag if they have an event going on. But really leaning on your existing partners and then looking for potential new partners.
Lindsey Leroy: [27:11]
Again, really digging in and seeing what your competitors are doing in the space or what some of your deal like-minded brands and partners in the area are doing and reaching out and just gauging interest. They may already have an existing event that they may want you to participate in, whether that is an earth day, shopping event or something and they’re looking for a holistic or all natural brand to come in and do some sampling, just for example. But I think there’s a lot of opportunities to engage with potential partners that I haven’t really seen too much just on the Instagram. I think that they’re a really new brand, so there’s definitely an opportunity just to introduce yourself as a brand and say, like, “Hey, we’re new to the community. We’d love to partner up on whatever you have going on.”
Karin Samelson: [28:18]
Cool. All great points. And I think something I’m going to bring up as we dive into the more marketing and digital side is, and I’d love to hear your PR thoughts on this too, especially with partnerships, but let’s just jump into the marketing side, if that’s okay with you all. So first we’re going to go through Instagram right away. So I don’t know exactly when product was available, but they launched on Instagram. Oh, maybe I do know when product’s available. I do know, I should know. It was on January 31st. So February 1st was when they first launched their first batch, but in January they started posting a little bit, on Instagram, about the brand. And so it’s a very new brand. It’s been three and a half months since they started doing that, and only a couple months since they launched the actual product.
Karin Samelson: [29:17]
So there’s so much good stuff here already. I’m assuming the founder’s doing this, because it’s such a new brand, but you can tell that the person’s an artist and that really reflects in the content that’s being shared. I don’t think everybody needs to be an artist to be able to do this. I don’t think it has to be so aesthetically pleasing. It’s just a bonus that this is a talent that this person is right brained, maybe left brained too, I don’t know, but it’s really obviously beautiful content. And in both the creative and the copy, I’m just super impressed with what’s going out. They’re super social savvy and the content is quality, but they’re still keeping up and maintaining the consistency. So I love it. I love the content. I love the variation. I love that they’re talking about a lot of different messaging buckets. There’s great engagement.
Karin Samelson: [30:12]
But something that differentiated it to me with the different products in the same space, is the emphasis throughout the content and in the bio, of it being indigenous, inspired on native land. I believe she says it’s Yakima and Siletz Land and that she’s in Lyle. And it’s just a really beautiful way that she weaves in that storytelling throughout the content too. And I believe 5% of her proceeds go to indigenous communities, organizations and I think that’s a really amazing thing to stress because she is living off the land.
Karin Samelson: [31:01]
And I also really like how she has tagged herself in the bio so that we can go into her personal profile and see how she’s living and what she’s doing. And you can learn so much about, like she just bought this huge acreage property where she’s going to be planting a lot of different things on the property and growing her own herbal remedies. And I think that’s incredible. And I’d love to see more of that too. I know that she’s doing a little bit, but bring some of that stuff that you’re open to sharing on your personal page onto your business one as well, if it reflects on your business. I think that could be a really fun thing to do. And it will also get more of your friends and family over there as well, which is vital in this early stage.
Alison Smith: [31:47]
I did not see that initially, so Jenna, I want your life. First of all, this is so cool. I mean, I also love that you’re willing to connect your business with your personal life and it’s also great that your personal feed is well curated, for lack of a better term. Any way you could show up more on your website, so people who maybe didn’t pop over to your profile, they could learn more about you. You seem to have this great aesthetic and really like beautiful life and imagery. And I love your Husky puppy as well.
Karin Samelson: [32:33]
Real cute Husky. It’s a whole lifestyle and bringing, I can see half of your content that you share on your personal, on your business one too, because what we find is that these brands that are open… I mean, you talked about Siete earlier, what’s more founder and community and brand, the people that are behind the brand focus than that brand. And being open to that, invites a lot of people to come in and be able to connect with you better. And that is all what social media is about. Of course, it’s about entertainment, but it’s also about, mostly about community and connection. I hope, and I hope that continues to be that way. So, a lot of compliments, but I think a lot can be done in terms of, just like Alison said, a little bit more behind the scenes, a little bit more sharing of your every day and not worrying too much about the aesthetic in fear that it might make things look wonky. It won’t.
Karin Samelson: [33:37]
It all looks really great. And I will say it time and time again, I will say it to as many people as I can, your feed doesn’t have to look perfect. That is a very old way of thinking, so you’re doing great there. And another obvious thing, and I think it pertains to a lot of early stage brands, is focusing on your social proof. So focusing on growth strategies to make sure that you look more established, like if I saw this brand and it had a few thousand followers, it would make me feel more comfortable purchasing. That’s what that social proof is all about. It’s saying, seeing, “Oh, that person. All of these people like this brand and follow this brand and trust this brand, maybe I need to figure out what the fuss is about.” So focusing on growth strategies, so things that your brand can do and all other brands can do is partnering or collaborating with like-minded brands.
Karin Samelson: [34:39]
So any other brand that shares a very similar customer persona avatar as yours, partner with them, do giveaways, have fun. And when you do engage in those giveaways, we always recommend boosting a little bit. So we have a course and one of our students did a, Alison, make sure I’m saying this right, but he did a giveaway over the course of two days or three days for $25 and what was his… It was an outrageous follow. And it was just such a small amount of money, but it hit. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t, you always want to test what the prize is, who you’re partnering with, all that kind of stuff. But sometimes when it hits, it really hits. And when you boost, our recommendation, our rule of thumb is we’re trying to get less… equal to, or less than $1 per follow.
Karin Samelson: [35:41]
So if you boosted $25, I want you to get 25 followers that are super engaged, actually interested in your product. You’re going to see a 10% fall off, so actually make that more than 25 followers. But I think he was making, I don’t know, it was like 20 cents per follower, something like that, where it was just like, “Oh. Good, good boost.” So giveaways, boost him a little bit and then more reels content. And I do not doubt that this lady can make beautiful video content because the two reels that she has are so nice. Did you all see that tea reel she had? I was like, “Who is this lady? Who made this? So beautiful.” She’s outside, she’s using natural light. She laid a sheet down and she’s just making tea. She’s making her tea and it’s just this really beautiful aesthetic.
Karin Samelson: [36:41]
And to be quite honest, 841 views, post it again. Put a different song on it, post it again, and see if you can raise your views because it’s always really poopy to spend a lot of time on something, post it and not get a lot of views on it. And that’s not your fault, that’s just Instagram. So post it again, put a different song on it. If that one does better, feel free to archive this one so you don’t have two of the same videos so close to each other, but I would encourage it again. And then this process one where you’re using that funnel, more, more of it, people want to see behind the scenes and that you’re literally just setting up your camera and showing the production line, which people are so fascinated by. It’s like our fascination with pimple popping videos. Is anybody else? Is that just me? No, I know it’s not just me.
Alison Smith: [37:38]
I made my search build into all pimple popping videos.
Lindsey Leroy: [37:36]
Oh my God.
Karin Samelson: [37:48]
Yeah. It was one of our employees. They were like, “Who’s been engaging with pimple popping videos? It’s all in our search.” And Alison was like, “That was definitely me.”
Alison Smith: [37:57]
One thing that you’ve started, you just can’t stop. Same thing with behind the scenes.
Karin Samelson: [38:02]
Same thing.
Stef Shapira: [38:04]
Same thing.
Karin Samelson: [38:05]
Same thing with your process videos. It’s like, there’s something about it that’s just super relaxing. It’s like ASMR.
Alison Smith: [38:11]
I was just going to say, just like the ASMR.
Karin Samelson: [38:13]
Yeah. More of that. I would try and do it as much as possible. I love the variation. You’re doing carousel posts. You’re doing videos. You’re doing static images. Keep it up. But if you can, and you have the time, up that video content on your land. She posted this. Did she post this? I got a little lost in this feed, y’all, because it’s so beautiful. But she posted, I think it was on her personal. See it was on her… Maybe it was, you guys, I don’t remember, but it was her planting different… It was so cool. It was like, “I’m planting this Sequoia, this little Sequoia transplant. And hopefully it’s going to become this big tree later.” And it was just so cool. And it’s just like, I want to see that on your feed too, because it’s that part of the storytelling that people love. So more of that.
Lindsey Leroy: [39:08]
Quick question. For brands, I guess, for smaller brands that don’t have a huge breadth of products, what do you recommend in terms of frequency of posting on Instagram specifically?
Karin Samelson: [39:23]
I love that question. The same amount. The same amount that I would tell anybody. So even if you have one product, think of all of the different benefits of it, think of all of the different ways that you can talk about it and talk about it just as often as anybody else would talk about their products. Alison always says this, but when we are talking to a new brand, there’s always one or two hero products. It’s got to make up like 80% of your sales. So that’s normal anyways, for there to be these hero products that you talk about all the time. So I would say very, very similar if not the same strategy and you’re going to want to post about it as much as you can. You want to track your analytics to see what’s working and then do more of what’s working, do less of what’s not.
Karin Samelson: [40:14]
Let’s move a little over to the website, now that we’ve talked about Instagram. So going to the website, I love that you guys called out the banner, that hero banner on the website, herbal remedies that restore balance and allow inner creativity to flow. I like it. I would like to see probably more of product focus at first because I’m like, “Is this a course? Do I learn about how to make it? What is it? What can I get here?” So I would love that with the call to action. But first and foremost, implementing a popup and a first time order discount is something that we really want brands, especially ones that don’t have a lot of proof yet because they just launched, to do because you want to drive trial, you want to get people to try it. So having that popup, getting as many emails as you can, setting up all your email flows after that, we want to see that done.
Karin Samelson: [41:08]
We’ll always talk about email and we talked about on the last audit. I really recommend to do that. And then the second one on the website, just really quickly, would be to make that free shipping over $100 automatic. Don’t make them use that promo code free ship 100, it’s awesome that you have a free ship option, but just make it automatic so that you can utilize that first order discount and the free shipping just to entice more people to purchase. It just makes it a little bit easier on everyone in the long run.
Alison Smith: [41:42]
And that might be, the offer that you can do at this time, but maybe you are able to get more efficient and things like that, consider testing if dropping that free shipping to like 50 or 75 for a bit, is going to help you convert users better. In terms of that automatic discount, if you’re using Shopify, which, I don’t think I checked if you are or not, that’s something that you can easily set up in the backend to just automatically apply that discount, so there’s just less friction during the entire checkout process.
Karin Samelson: [42:20]
He’s on the Squarespace.
Alison Smith: [42:23]
Oh, Squarespace. Okay. I don’t know too much about Squarespace, but hopefully there’s an automatic app that you could use to help with that. Certainly it’s been years since I’ve used Squarespace.
Lindsey Leroy: [42:42]
They just see an email about, and maybe they already offered this, but linking up your Instagram and Squarespace to make it easier to shop on your Instagram account through your Squarespace site. If it wasn’t already an option, it is now, or it is now easier to do.
Alison Smith: [43:04]
So beyond Instagram shopping, it’s-
Lindsey Leroy: [43:08]
Beyond that. So you would, I guess you would link up on the backend so that it would-
Alison Smith: [43:14]
Like your catalog. Got you. That’s how Shopify interacts with Instagram, is it’s your catalog shows up, you can tag on your Instagram and then you can go shop on your site. So I’m guessing Squarespace implemented something like that. I mean, social shopping is huge, it’s the future. Don’t quote me on that. But we really do think, I mean, it’s less clicking, less people getting off of their endless scrolling on TikTok and Instagram. It keeps them right inside the platform, which Meta’s obviously going to love you to stay on their platform. So, highly recommend setting up IG and Facebook shops. Salves, I just learned it’s salves and not Selves. Salves or general supplement herbal space can get denied for IG shops, unfortunately, so I’m not sure Lost River, if you’ll be able to, but definitely check it out. You’ve got such a beautiful shopping space already on your Instagram, it would be great to allow that.
Lindsey Leroy: [44:32]
I’m [crosstalk 00:44:33]
Karin Samelson: [44:34]
Yeah, they’re lumping salves into that… They’re making that as hard to sell as supplements?
Alison Smith: [44:40]
I would say anything in the herbal space is flagged as supplements. Even if you’re all natural, all those things. They, a lot of times lump them in, and it’s really hard to get out of that category and get into the health and beauty category.
Stef Shapira: [44:56]
Yeah. That’s confusing. Well also because some of her products are tea, obviously you ingest. Then something that’s topical is more like beauty. I could see how with something you’re putting inside your body, that would make more sense to me, but it’s how-
Lindsey Leroy: [45:16]
Opposite in this case.
Alison Smith: [45:18]
Well it looks like her catalog is approved, so she’s all good. It’s just sending over to website so check out IG shopping. See if that is something that could work for you. Beyond that with the website, Karin signed up to see if you have a welcome email, because that’s the kind of person she is and she did not see a welcome email. So that’s one of our first and favorite emails that we’ll ever set up. It goes along with that popup, once you enter your email address, you get that first introduction welcome, here’s a discount. And then that user goes through your full indoctrination flow. So it’s just that first send and it’s really important. So look into that, if you set up a popup. And then again, beautiful content, beautiful packaging, would love to see some more people and people with product, some more lifestyle shots across all assets.
Alison Smith: [46:24]
We talked about this on the last episode. How consumers just want to see themselves in that piece of photography or video. And so those type of shoots can be super helpful. They don’t have to be produced shoots even. Can be like, hey, I’m having a party and I’m going to invite all my friends and I’m just going to happen to be going around with my products and taking as many photos and videos as possible. So there’s different ways to do that, on a budget, if you will. So paid social. I saw some ads creep in and then now they’re gone. So I don’t know if I’m not looking in the right spot again, but I did see some really great ads. So congrats on doing that. If you’re doing it yourself, that’s amazing. Being a business owner and running ads and doing social and PR and everything is really impressive. But I don’t see them anymore, so I’m going to speak on what I remember.
Alison Smith: [47:32]
I remember seeing mostly product photography, just like the photos that are on your website. Just remember, like we just said, native photos are your friends. So when we say native photos, photos and videos that look like the photos and videos on your Instagram feed. So I would say pull in your IG posts. You don’t have to make brand new structured ad creatives and videos. It’s really about utilizing everything you have and not making yourself work more. So you can simply go in, if you’re launching ads and just pull existing posts, pull in a really great reel or even stories you can pull in as ads just to make sure they make sense to run as evergreen ads. And those we see performing better than even our designed creative. So definitely look into that. Work smarter, not harder.
Karin Samelson: [48:38]
And I want to stress that when Alison’s saying pull in, she’s not saying screenshot and copy and paste the copy. She’s talking about there are buttons to press inside ads manager where you can literally be like, “I want to do this Instagram post of mine.”
Alison Smith:[48:56]
And we’re also not saying boost. We’re not talking about boost and boosting is a whole other thing. We’re talking about, create a campaign and ads manager. Once you’re at the ad level, it will say, create an ad or use existing post and you’ll go in and you’ll use an existing post. That’s also where your branded content will show up where the existing posts are. That’s a whole other ballgame. That’s if an influencer posts about you and allows you to run that post as an ad, that’s where that’s going to be. Those are powerful as well. And hit us up if you need help, we’re happy to help. And then the copy. So the one thing I saw with a copy, it was good copy. I think it had some storytelling. It talked about some value props, but we could break it up a bit.
Alison Smith: [49:46]
It was large paragraph text. People scrolling through their feed, especially Instagram ads, you’re seeing maybe a sentence, a sentence and a half. So try a shorter copy as well as long form copy. Both work really well. But I think the main point I wanted to get across here is use emojis. Emojis just help catch the reader’s eye. It helps them get through the blocks of text. You don’t have to use silly, dumb emojis. You can use the sparkle emoji or something cute like that. But try pulling some emojis in if you’re doing longer copy.
Lindsey Leroy: [50:27]
I feel like emojis also help me when I’m scrolling through. It makes me think that it’s like a friend of mine or something. I feel like it gives it more personality and creates more of a… Just creates more of a personality for a brand. You feel a little bit more, I don’t know, comfortable to stop and peruse.
Alison Smith: [50:51]
Absolutely. When you’re writing and I… So I’ve been advertising for 10 years or something. When I first started, I used, what is it? Caps case, everything was like U capitalize, R capitalize, like-
Karin Samelson: [51:06]
Camel case.
Alison Smith: [51:07]
Camel case. Where every single word was capitalized, because I was like, this is an ad. This is a professional ad. I quickly realized that was silly. So the big rule of thumb when you’re writing copy is speak like you’re speaking to a friend. Don’t misspell words. Don’t use slang or things like that. But it should be pretty. What’s the word I’m looking for? Native. Should be pretty like-
Lindsey Leroy: [51:36]
Alison Smith: [51:37]
Just casual. Beyond the emojis, we love emojis. We use Emojipedia if you’re looking for an emoji dictionary. Also in the copy, think about some value propositions to have. A great way to start off a piece of copy is calling out the user. So any way you can call out the user without getting flagged. So you can’t say, “Do you have eczema question mark?” You can’t say that. You can massage that, but use that in a way to call out the user. That’s a great starting line for your copy. But think of more problems that your product’s solving. I saw that you talk about eczema a lot on your salve and that is a huge differentiator between any other products out there. So definitely relate to that. I don’t think you can say that outright, but talk about dry skin, cracked skin, things like that. And what your product can do, that’s a huge differentiator. And then, I’m just rolling guys. So feel free to stop me.
Alison Smith: [52:49]
But video, just like Karin said, so you can pull in those reels, those beautiful reels that you’re making. You can pull those in as ads, but you can also make more video. So anytime you’re out on your property, anytime you’re doing those, making the salves or processing the teas or making yourself a tea, film it. Film it with beautiful light in the morning, film it in the evening. Get 15, 30 and 60 second quick videos that you can smash together or add testimonials on top. Or just a simple video of your property with value propositions on it, could really work as an ad. So just always have this guy on you and always filming. It’s not always going to be the best, but the more you have, definitely the better.
Alison Smith: [53:40]
And then my final ad piece of advice is never ever, ever send an ad to your homepage. So when you launch an ad, send it as far into the checkout process as you can possibly get. So if you’re running an ad for tea, send them to the URL for, let’s see, slash essential teas, so that they have less places to click through. They’re already on the product page and they can purchase straight from there. If you’re selling your duo, send them to slash essential duo. Just that extra click can really drive down conversion, so just remember that if or when you want to run ads.
Lindsey Leroy: [54:32]
So if they were running an ad for something that was a little bit more general, or maybe it was for the holiday season, but wanted to push a bunch of their products, what would you recommend sending them to?
Alison Smith: [54:44]
Yeah. And we are talking about e-commerce so there could be a little if and wins, but if it’s a holiday collection, most likely you’re going to make a collection on Shopify, Squarespace for that. So you would send them to collection slash holiday or whatever that is. So you’re at least getting them past the homepage where they have to find where they need to go. You’re getting them as far into it as possible. If you made a bundle for them, you’re sending them directly to that product bundle page. So generally the list for this place will ever send for e-commerce would be slash collections where they can shop all products.
Karin Samelson: [55:24]
Lots of tips that you can implement ASAP. Really cool. Is there anything else that you guys want to leave Lost River with?
Lindsey Leroy: [55:36]
Keep doing what you’re doing. I feel like they have such a beautiful basis. It has an interesting story. The website makes me feel very calm. So I already feel very good about the product. And I was just looking on the Instagram page and I love the carousel posts that talk about each ingredient. I think that’s so clever. I think it’s just helpful to educate consumers if they don’t necessarily know what a specific ingredient is, but I’d say, keep doing what you’re doing just more of it.
Karin Samelson: [56:12]
Awesome guys. Okay. Well the Rind, is there anything that you want to leave the audience with?
Lindsey Leroy: [56:19]
Well, if you ever have any questions about PR, whether or not you are ready for it, if you need it, what to do, anything like that, feel free to reach out to us or DM us on Instagram. In addition to offering our PR services, we also do consulting, where we’ll do a brand audit like this, but it’ll be a little bit more tailored and you’ll get a PR toolkit which will help, hopefully answer all of your questions. But feel free to reach out anytime. We’re here.
Karin Samelson: [56:55]
Awesome. And on our end, on the marketing end, we have the Umai Mini Course and it’s a great place to start for smaller brands or medium size brands looking to up their digital marketing game. It’s a free five day course and gives a lot of juicy tips and things that you may not be implementing already. Well, all right guys, thanks again for joining us. We’ll be back with episode three very soon.
Stef Shapira: [57:26]
Yeah. Thanks for having us. This was fun.
Umai Social Circle is a CPG agency driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind the scene insights, chats with industry leaders and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram at Umai Marketing or check out our website, Catch you back here soon.
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#26: The Good Audit Episode 1: Willow Street Snacks with The Rind PR

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#26: The Good Audit Episode 1: Willow Street Snacks with The Rind PR

Join Alison and Karin as they audit Willow St. Snacks with Stef Shapira and Lindsey Leroy of The Rind PR! Learn about everything you need, from influencer affiliates to product photography, as they look over this up-and-coming CPG brand. 

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Willow St. Snacks 

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#26: The Good Audit Episode 1: Willow Street Snacks with The Rind PR 

Calling all consumer goods, business owners, and marketing professionals. Does planning content ahead of time stress you out? Do you want to run Instagram and Facebook ads but just aren’t sure where to start? If your answer is yes and yes, then our mini course was made for you. It’s 100% free and packed with essential tactics that you can implement as soon as today. To join in, visit our website at All right, let’s get on with the pod.
Alison Smith: [00:44]
Hey, welcome to the UMAI Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Alison and Karin, co-founders of UMAI Marketing. And we are being joined today, by Stef and Lindsey from The Rind PR for our special four part series, where we’re auditing young CPG brands on PR and digital marketing. So welcome everyone to episode one. We’re diving into Willow St. Snacks, which is a grass fed biltong, I hope I’m saying that right, who offers flavors like cherry habanero, buffalo mushroom, and sweet and sour pear. Really cool and fun flavors. So let’s kick off this audit with The Rind. They’re going to take the lead on their PR suggestions and tips for Willow St. So ladies, take it away.
Stef Shapira: [01:40]
Okay. I guess, I will kind of kick this off then. So yeah, for PR, we want to look at a lot of different things. But really, what we focus on is storytelling and brand awareness. So the first thing we looked at when we were doing this audit, was the website. Looking at the messaging on the site itself and kind of digging into different parts. Obviously, there’s the different products and about those. And then ideally, our brand is going to have a bit about their story and a bit about what sets them apart. So we were looking at that on the Willow St. Snacks page and the product section where they kind of talk about what they do differently is good and clear about how the jerky’s made. And there’s a lot of focus on the quality of the beef and the handmade approach. But one thing that we saw that was clearly missing here, is that it doesn’t really say anywhere on the website that they make biltong.
Stef Shapira: [02:48]
If you look at the product, you see it says biltong on the packaging but it doesn’t really say anywhere that they make biltong, which is different from jerky and how it’s different. So yeah, definitely if you’re doing something different from the norm, it’s a good idea to call it out in your messaging. And the messaging could be on your website, but also it’s one of those things where overall, when we’re, as peer professional sharing a story with the media, we want to be able to easily find those things and call them out. And then when people are going back to the website, it should connect there as well with those kind of key differentiators.
Alison Smith: [03:32]
We made that note as well. Karin and I were lucky enough to work with a biltong, I don’t know why I struggle with that word, brand back in the day. But that was the first time I’ve ever heard of it. And so I’m assuming the average consumer, that’s probably something new, the average consumer who’s very familiar or eating beef jerky, would come here and not fully understand right off the bat. So I think that education on the website and then through all the other marketing materials, would be really crucial for them.
Stef Shapira: [04:13]
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So it’s something that I think we can agree, that is an obvious differentiator that should really be called out across all marketing platforms, really. So, yeah. And then other things that we are looking at, there’s the, our story page on their website and you can tell they wrote it themselves. It’s really casual and fun, but I think adding information about who the founders or the makers are, is always really important as well. It’s a big part of the story and a lot of times, it’s like, “Why did you decide to make it? Are you solving a problem that you saw and you are trying to solve that with your product? Or is there nothing else like what you’re doing on the market or nothing else that is the right quality?” Or things like that. I think that is something that they could call out a bit more and even just like, “What are the qualifications of the founders or the people that are making them?” That can be another part of the story of the brand and why people want to buy it.
Lindsey Leroy: [05:28]
So I think something else that we noticed just on a first initial pass, is understanding really clearly where the product is available beyond the website and beyond direct to consumer. And I think obviously, you want to maximize D2C sales and your website is kind of how you’re going to do it. But also, giving additional points of sale options like and Kroger. Even if they’re not necessarily available at that time, having a “coming soon” on the website, just so you’re consistent from social media to your website. You want to make sure that how you’re telling your story is consistent across all platforms. And Alison, you mentioned that, making sure that you’re telling your story from all of your marketing materials to your website and then to the media and that it’s consistent but also easy to understand.
Lindsey Leroy: [06:30]
And then when we’re looking at how to reach the media, it really starts with how to tell a story and taking a step back in understanding the story. And so really making sure that all of your talking points on the website are pretty easy to understand and I think Stef kind of hit the nail on the head with maybe not everybody knows the difference between jerky and biltong. And really calling that out on the website, I think, would go a long way. Because as publicists, we can explain that to our media contacts, but having somebody have to search through the website, you may lose that customer.
Lindsey Leroy: [07:16]
We also kind of dove into the website and did a kind of a quick Google search to see what media coverage there may have been and found a couple links and I think it’s awesome to be able to leverage that press and it’s great that they’ve gotten that media coverage already, but maybe having a separate section on the website, whether that’s another tab or landing page where people can go to view where it’s been covered and just making sure that all of the links are clickable. Because I think that there were a few links that may have either been dead links or went to, not necessarily the right website.
Alison Smith: [08:02]
Yeah. I didn’t even see any press when I was looking through. So if they have some press hits, let’s see them. That’s such good clout, right?
Lindsey Leroy: [08:13]
Karin Samelson: [08:14]
Right. And yeah, when we’re pitching to media… Before you’re going to buy something, before you’re going to cover something, if you’re a media person, you’re going to do some Googling yourself to see what’s already been covered. And having a little bit of clout is good, or even knowing what’s already been covered and figuring out what is still left, what hasn’t been covered, is also helpful for media. So it’s all kind of part of how you’re presenting yourself to them, just on the internet, essentially.
Alison Smith: [08:50]
Yeah. And you all are talking about the two links on their website, on the homepage at the bottom that are dead links?
Karin Samelson: [08:55]
Alison Smith: [08:56]
It’s such a good reminder to us all, to just audit our website a little bit more often than we’re used to. Because that’s amazing to have those hits and to get picked up like that but if it’s not leading to anything, what’s the use, right?
Stef Shapira: [09:12]
Yeah, exactly.
Alison Smith: [09:13]
Is that something you all see a lot with different news or media sites changing links and then you’ve lost your back link? You’ve lost the link as the customer or the client?
Lindsey Leroy: [09:28]
It sometimes happens and I always recommend making sure that you’re capturing all of your press hits and keeping them either in a press report or even just creating something on Canva is great, because then you can use that as a template to share on social. You can include it in a newsletter like, “Hey, have you seen us in Fox News?” And being able to leverage that ongoing, even if for example, if a website does a total overhaul or God forbid, with media publications kind of closing, you run the risk of having a great press hit on a publication that is no longer in service, that’s kind of defunct now. So you want to make sure that you’re keeping everything in a master press report. Those can also be used for pitching decks for investors or you’re sending it out to potential retailers. Those are great ways to just kind of show how you’re seen in the market and give you kind of that credibility that a lot of people are looking for.
Alison Smith: [10:45]
Yeah. I love that idea of keeping a Canva template. Is that what you meant by a Canva? Yeah, because I mean, that is huge proof for if you ever want to run ads, if your target market, if you want to run geo targeted ads in Boston or retail ads in Boston and in that ad, it’s a quote from the Boston Herald and their logo or what have you, that’s going to be a lot more influential than not having that. So definitely keeping track of that and just remembering to utilize it across all of your channels.
Lindsey Leroy: [11:27]
Yeah, exactly. And another big thing that we do at The Rind in addition to media relations is influencer relation, and I know there’s a lot of crossover in those types of services with the rise of social media and marketing and PR agencies, just because it’s such a great tool. There’s such a low barrier to entry for a lot of brands that may not necessarily have a huge budget for campaigns. So when we were looking through the Instagram account, didn’t really see any influencer campaigns. And a lot of times, just taking a quick look through a tagged post and seeing if there was anything that was UGC reposted on the Instagram account, but didn’t really see much of that. And I think that’s definitely a great area of opportunity to dive in and really gain some visibility.
Lindsey Leroy: [12:31]
And I think there’s a ton of opportunity with CPG brands and influencer campaigns these days, because a lot of influencers, while they are looking for paid opportunities, a lot will still support some of these smaller brands, especially if it’s more of a micro influencer and it’s a niche product. I mean, something like this I think… Biltong is something that’s still kind of unique and I think people would be… Influencers specifically would be really interested in. Especially if there’s kind of a paleo health angle.
Karin Samelson: [13:03]
Something that’s like… I don’t know if we were completely clear on this because it’s not really clear in their marketing, you get what I mean? I know we can see their offerings, but they have vegan options. They have mushroom jerky on top of their grass fed beef jerky or biltong, my bad. And it’s just like, “Wow, this is…” I feel like the opportunities are a little bit a lot more open with being able to partner with micro influencers because you can go for anybody. Anybody can either have vegan mushroom jerky or beef biltong, right?
Stef Shapira: [13:49]
Yeah. I mean, I will admit, I didn’t even notice they had mushroom jerky because there’s a video of a cow on the homepage. They’re really leaning into the beef component of it, which is great. It’s part of the story but it seems like that got lost and is a big part of the story as well. And yeah, there’s definitely vegan vegetarian influencers out there that would make sense to have them share it. And then you can have your keto, CrossFit, et cetera, type people with the beef. That’s just one type of influencers, there’s obviously foodie influencers and things like that that you can kind of tap into. So, yeah.
Alison Smith: [14:40]
I mean, even if it’s beyond just going straight vegan for that product, that there’s such a huge push for just educated, smart consumers to be more plant based. And that could really be more of the value prop behind that product, these products are from cows and are made and really well. But if you’re trying to include more plants into your diet, there’s an awesome… I mean, vegan buffalo mushroom jerky sounds so good. I really want to try it too.
Alison Smith: [15:22]
Yeah, it got lost on me too though. I didn’t notice it.
Karin Samelson: [15:24]
When it comes to those, stuff, when you just said that, it kind of peaked my interest because we have opinions. But when you’re looking at the keto, paleo influencer versus the foodie influencer, is there influencer that you think moves the needle more? Like lifestyle? There’s so many different groups.
Stef Shapira: [15:46]
I mean, I feel like it really depends on the brand. I don’t think really across the board, there’s a certain kind and we can fit people into these, or influencers into these different buckets and verticals of lifestyle or vegan or whatever. But a lot of times, there’s other things in their accounts that aren’t only that as well, and there could be overlap, it could be vegan and lifestyle or there’s just different things that you kind of realize when you’re researching influencers. But I mean, I think it ultimately comes down to what the brand is and what their goal is and then trying to hit as many of the different influencers as possible. Of course, with budget and time that goes into outreach, you can’t always hit up all of them at the same time.
Stef Shapira: [16:40]
But also one thing to think about too, is coming up with custom influencer packages for the different types of influencers, finding like-minded brands, finding other vegan brands, right? And then sending those to the vegan influencers or something that’s like all keto snacks. Or even if it’s a wellness influencer, there’s maybe some other, I don’t know, just some other wellness brand that makes sense. Whether it’s like, I don’t know, water bottle or… I’m blanking on other good ideas right now, but…
Karin Samelson: [17:22]
That’s really interesting. So are you kind of suggesting these PR boxes to influencers, it is a good idea to include an array of products? That’s a new concept to me, at least.
Stef Shapira: [17:35]
Honestly, influencers, the way you approach influencers has really changed. I mean, at the core, it’s still kind of the same, you’re sending them something and asking them to post or share in some way. But the actual packages, if you’re thinking about how many packages any given influencer or for this matter, the same thing actually applies to media samples too. The amount of packages these people get every day is crazy, right? So you really have to get creative and think, “What is going to make my brand’s package stand out?” Whether it’s something that’s just going to look better on social media, or if… I think we found that there the most impactful packages in terms of ROI or ones that have things that are items they could also use during their regular day or if it’s a whole package with all the components of a recipe. So they can actually make it, not just like, “Here’s a shirt and some biltong.”
Karin Samelson: [18:39]
Oh, good idea.
Lindsey Leroy: [18:41]
For something, I think that is attached to a seasonality or an event. So if you’re sending something out in the beginning of summer, maybe it’s like “ultimate road trip pack,” or if it’s in August, it’s like a back to school survival guide, something like that. And so you’re potentially wrangling other like-minded brands but also items that kind of make sense or that really showcase how to use that product. I think those are the ones that kind of make the most impact. And then to kind of tag onto that with influencers, I think the most effective campaigns, and you probably see this in your world a lot with newsletters, is that having some sort of call to action is the best way to really measure the effectiveness of that campaign.
Alison Smith: [19:38]
Yeah. Can you expand on call to action? What that would look like?
Lindsey Leroy: [19:43]
So I think a great call to action for an influencer campaign specifically, can range anywhere from a special discount code that is exclusive to that influencer. So anytime you see somebody post like, “Use my code, GEN20 for 20% off your first purchase,” that’s a great incentive for their followers. You’ll also be able to track that.
Alison Smith: [20:13]
And you can track it, right.
Lindsey Leroy: [20:14]
You want to kind of see what types of… I mean, effectively, you want to have influencers be your partners and you want to be able to work with them again. And so creating this partnership that is beneficial for them and you, is the best use of everybody’s time. And so if they’re seeing a lot of their followers find this really beneficial, they’re going to want to work with you again, or if they’re set up as an affiliate and they’re getting a commission on the back end. We’ve worked with brands that have done that, where the influencers receive a certain percentage commission on any sales that they push to the website. So yeah, I think doing some sort of promo code or special offer, anything that feels exclusive or feels special, whether or not it actually is, you could be working with a couple different influencers if it is like a sneak peek at a flavor that you’re releasing that is special just to them, something that just really kind of feels a little bit unique.
Lindsey Leroy: [21:27]
You can also… If you don’t feel comfortable doing a discount code, if you’re pushing something that is a new product where it’s limited release, that’s another call to action where there’s this kind of finite amount of product and people are going to want to scoop it up immediately, things like that. So there’s a lot of different roads you can kind of take and yeah, I think it’s a great way to be able to track ROI as well.
Alison Smith: [21:58]
Yeah. For us, that’s the most important part, is being able to track it. Awesome. Well, hot tips coming from the PR ladies. What else do we got?
Lindsey Leroy: [22:07]
So in our dive onto Instagram, took a look at what are some of the community engagement or relationships that Willow St. Snacks has, whether that is retail or wholesale partners, or what are some of these giveaways with other brands and also really taking a look at what some of the competitors are doing and doing really well. And I think finding like-minded brands and opportunities to collaborate, whether that is a giveaway. And so that’s kind of like a group giveaway, where you have five products and you have to follow all of the brands in order to win or comment, it’s a great way to build your social media following and to gain visibility on some of these other brands’ platforms. It’s also a great way to potentially create other newsworthy PR moments, if you’re doing some sort of like a collaboration or partnership.
Lindsey Leroy: [23:19]
So a couple of opportunities that I think they did really well with, the CLEAN.FIT box is a great way to leverage other brands and really kind of create those connections on social media and really just kind of showcasing your products alongside the CPG community. And seeing what other like-minded brands are doing on social, and maybe it’s teaming up with another brand to co-host a hike, or including a bag of product in a swag bag at an event that is like a wellness event or something like that.
Stef Shapira: [24:05]
Those are basically like community building and partnership type things, which is in a sense, we have three pillars of what we do, which is media relations, influencers and then community building and partnerships. And those are the three ways that we pretty much suggest a brand is utilizing with PR to create brand awareness in different ways. So if someone sees a media story and then they also notice this brand is sponsoring a hike they’re going on, it’s just building that brand identity a bit more. So yeah, we’re always trying to think of, what are the ways in these three areas that brands can get in front of more people? Or even just build a stronger relationship with the same people.
Alison Smith: [24:56]
So do you guys have a set amount of giveaways or collaborations that you try to produce and run for clients? Is there a number that people should try to be hitting?
Lindsey Leroy: [25:13]
Not necessarily, I think it kind of just goes back to what your goals are and if your goals are to increase your social media following by X amount of follower in six months or something like that, that’s just one of the tactics and just kind of measuring how successful some of those partnerships or giveaways are, and then reassessing as needed. But I think for us, in this community building area, a lot of times, clients are really looking to increase visibility but also create partnerships that give them authenticity in that community and allow them to connect with people in a really different way. I mean, it’s a lifeline to consumers that doesn’t feel like they’re being advertised to. And so we’re always trying to find, as the landscape changes, we’re always trying to find creative ways to reach a target market. And this is just one of those different avenues that we find really effective and can be really fun.
Lindsey Leroy: [26:34]
Any sort of collaborations, whether that is a CBD brand coming up with a custom ice cream, it’s one way to get in front of the community and talk about the brand. And it also creates a newsworthy PR moment that we can then use to pitch to media. Plus, it allows great social media content. We can send it to influencers, which then creates UGC content. It offers up opportunities for marketing in newsletter content. And I think also connecting with like-minded brands, provides opportunities to lend yourself as an expert, whether that is giving tips on types of vegan snacks to bring on a picnic or entrepreneurial stories and tips for other brands, whether they’re using it on a guest blog or a newsletter and then vice versa.
Lindsey Leroy: [27:51]
So I think it just goes back to, long story short, figuring out what your goals are and what you’re hoping to achieve through that, and then kind of creating a strategy. But I think when you’re looking at I guess, Willow St. Snacks specifically, in terms of what some of the other opportunities and areas of opportunities are, we noticed that they are available in a couple retailers and leaning on them to help leverage their availability there, like Foragers in New York for example, opens them up to their network and using them as a resource for tips as well. So kind of using the same tactics with a different type of partner.
Karin Samelson: [28:43]
So many partnership opportunities. I love that. It’s like, why not? We talk about it on digital so much too. If there is an audience overlap, not overlap, but likeness, you got to partner. That’s how to find… I mean, it is one of the best ways to be able to grow your audience. So-
Lindsey Leroy: [29:02]
Yeah, for sure.
Karin Samelson: [29:04]
… great tips. Cool. Is there anything else PR related that you guys saw that you want to go over before we jump into the marketing and digital side?
Stef Shapira: [29:11]
I feel like that pretty much covers it.
Lindsey Leroy: [29:14]
I think there’s a lot of opportunity and I think it seems like a really interesting product. And I think there’s a great base with photography and with the story to kind of build on that, to create a lot of opportunities.
Karin Samelson: [29:29]
I love that. Opportunity. Good. And excuse me for the gentleman across the street revving his motorcycle engine. If you guys hear that, that’s what’s happening. So hopefully, that doesn’t bother you too much. But okay, so we’ve covered PR. Let’s get into a little bit of a marketing dive audit if you will, and we’re going to start with Instagram. So that’s always the first place that I look generally. I know I should go to a website, but I generally do look at the Instagram. Because I’m like, “What are they doing? How are they active? What kind of social proof do they have? What are they posting?”
Karin Samelson: [30:06]
So as I look through it, the main thing that catches my attention right away, is that it’s just product, product, product, product, product. And what we generally like to do, not generally, we always like to do this. We want to establish what we call messaging buckets. People call them content pillars. You can call them whatever you want, but there’s just these themed pieces of content that you can establish and create subtopics beneath it. So that the content that you’re putting out on social is super varied, it’s engaging. People are entertained and they want to keep following you. There’s no reason to follow anybody on social if you’re not being entertained in some way. So establishing those messaging buckets is going to be key. I don’t know if they’ve done it yet. It just seems like super product heavy, so I don’t feel like they have. But if you have, maybe just add a few more things. And one of the things that I think you guys can touch on so much more, is that when I look at your bio, I love your headline, biltong, jerky and vegan snacks. Super searchable, anybody can go in your search and find that, and it might bring you to their page.
Karin Samelson: [31:21]
But the first two words in their bio, outside of their headline says, “Responsible beefing.” I’m like, “Oh yeah, I love that. Yes, let’s talk about sustainability. Let’s talk about regenerative agriculture.” Let’s talk about whatever you guys think of when you want to say, call out responsible beefing. But when I’m looking through the content, I see nothing about responsible beefing. There’s very little to none. Actually, when I look at the past couple months, when it comes to that phrase, responsible beefing, responsible farming. So I would love to see that education messaging bucket super uplifted. And I think that ties into what you guys were talking about on PR and on the website it’s like we’re building a story. When we’re marketing, we’re storytelling, we’re trying to build the brand in that way. And that comes from touching on different aspects of the business, stressing the things that are really important to you and your mission. And that is really helpful in the content that you share. You guys are on the same page about that, right?
Stef Shapira: [32:29]
Yeah. And also, media and influencers like you, like most people, are also going to go to the Instagram page. Even if sometimes we send them the website first, everyone’s still going to look at Instagram to further see, visually see how they can flash out their story or if there’s more there. So yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense, to be using their social media account to really share that story too.
Karin Samelson: [32:56]
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And another happy suggestion would be, if you guys don’t have a Canva account, get Canva. I want every brand to have Canva because it’s so dang easy and you don’t need a graphic designer and there’s so many templates and you guys have fun branding. So get a Canva account, upload your branded guidelines or brand colors and typography and all that good stuff. So that you can create a lot of fun educational content that way too. A lot of imagery, a lot of infographics and things like that generally perform really well in this space, because there’s a lot of information. A lot of education is shared. And I don’t know, some article posted, it’s just like 90 something, it’s a high number percent of consumers. Especially, the younger generation are talking about how they want to only purchase from mission based sustainable brands. So it’s like, “Let’s stress this as much as possible.” I love that you’re putting it in the bio but give it to me elsewhere.
Karin Samelson: [34:00]
Okay, another thing I saw. So link and bio. When we are on Instagram, you can’t add links anywhere else on your post. You have one place to put your link, give it to us, tell us where we need to go to immediately perform an action, a purchase. Giving you my email. Something that you want from me and generally, that’s not just the homepage of your website, unless you have a popup that comes up or something that’s going to get me right when I get to your website. So if there are multiple places that you want to send people, you have a little bit of recipe and blog content stuff. I know that you guys were featuring it lower in the feed. I don’t know if you’re doing it so much anymore. Use a link tree, use something that can insert a lot of different links and just make sure that those top ones are your most important ones.
Karin Samelson: [34:57]
So if you’re offering a percent off or you’re offering free shipping for first time, or a percent off for first time purchasers or free shipping on all orders or whatever it is, have that at the very top to entice people to click through. And then the last thing I want to talk about on Instagram, is variation in actual content. So what I love to see is that this brand is doing a little bit of behind the scenes, trying to talk about some of their employees, giving a little look at them. It’s a good idea to edit those a little bit more, I would say. So whether that’s to just knock off the first few seconds or so of you establishing the set, getting the person comfortable in front of the camera and things like that, you can edit that out. I’m not going to be nitpicky on this though, because I’m just glad you’re doing it. But with reels content, there’s so much opportunity here.
Karin Samelson: [35:53]
So just play with video content, keep playing with different types of content. But I would challenge this brand to keep it short and sweet, making some under 10 seconds. A lot of people are talking about the seven second thing right now, and try using trending audio. So a few ideas could be short farm clips. If you’re talking about responsible beefing, show it to me. Show me the responsible beefing. Pouring jerky into a bowl using slo-mo with some trending audio or the process of making biltong. You guys have the production facility. People love those process videos. Give us some of those, make them quick. And yeah, I think those are just some quick ideas that came to mind.
Lindsey Leroy: [36:35]
Do you guys have recommendations for brands on, I guess, the percentage of video to static posts and how much-
Stef Shapira: [36:46]
I was literally going to ask that same question.
Karin Samelson: [36:48]
Oh, well, both of y’all are asking.
Stef Shapira: [36:51]
So curious. We have to know.
Lindsey Leroy: [36:53]
Video performs really well. And I know that most people enjoy watching videos, but they can be a little bit more time consuming to make. But yeah, what would be your recommendation for that?
Karin Samelson: [37:06]
I would say, and it kind of plays into exactly what you said, establishing your goals, but in the same vein. I want to say whatever you are capable, because we’re talking to people, founders who are doing this themselves still. Whatever you are capable of doing with the time that you have allotted for your marketing, and I need you to allot some time for marketing. So if that means that you can only get one video out a month, then get that video out a month. If it means that you are able to get one a week, make it a goal to get that one out a week. So generally, the more video content, the better. You can always utilize trending things online that you see, as long as you ask permissions to reshare and things like that. But there’s so many little pieces of video content that you don’t need to try really hard on. Like I said, pouring jerky into a bowl and slo-mo. And then when you’re scrolling Instagram, they’re like, “Put this audio onto your last camera video and it’s romantic.” So little things like that, just play into it and try and see what hits because you never know.
Karin Samelson: [38:17]
But I think outside of just video, because that seems a little bit more intimidating for some people, I would stress the importance of varied content, whether it comes to carousel posts and static posts and video posts. And I think later, which is some social media software, just put out something that out of all of these millions of things that they’ve researched or pulled analytics from, carousel posts are some of the highest engaged, above static posts and above video posts, not reals. So it’s just like, “I want to see some carousel posts here too.” And that’s where Canva can come in, to make it really easy to do that. So there’s not a hard and fast answer to how many video posts I want a brand to do, but as much as you can is always a good answer.
Stef Shapira: [39:06]
Yeah. That makes sense. What else did you see in terms of tips, looking at their social?
Karin Samelson: [39:14]
Yeah. Honestly, that was… To not overwhelm, I think that’s the starting point that I want to share with them. Just keeping it varied, leaning into the short form video content, refining your actual content buckets or pillars or messaging buckets. And really talking about the responsible beefing part of it. Because if you’re going to put it up front and center like that, I want to see as much of that as possible. Yeah. And then some of this ties into website stuff. When I come to a website, no matter what website it is, I want you to get me with either a banner at the top or a popup that’s telling me that you’re going to give me something if I make a purchase. I want to feel that way, especially with these smaller brands. So a popup that says, “I need something from you, aka an email address, and I’m going to give you 10% off your first order.”
Karin Samelson: [40:12]
Because email always, always, always, no matter how big or small your brand is, should be one of your biggest marketing lovers because you own that data. It’s not on the whim of any other big social media corporation, you have these emails that they have given you and you can send them, responsibly, what you want to send them. So I want to see a popup for lead gen or I want to see a banner that tells me that you’re going to give me something in exchange for either an email or a purchase. So I want to see that first. And then, I’m glad that y’all said this earlier, when you were talking about PR, but coming to the website and seeing a picture of a cow and it’s just being grass fed beef. It’s like, “Okay, I get it. That’s cool, I like it.”
Karin Samelson: [41:02]
But let’s try and refine what that headline looks like, what that hero image looks like and the call to action. We want a button, we want to be able to click through and purchase. I want you to tell me where I need to go, I don’t want to have to search for it. So even if you want to have a picture of a beautiful… I wish I knew what kind of cow this was. It’s on the tip of my tongue, if anybody knows. But if you want to have that, overlay some of your packaging too. And have a call to action button that’s like, “Shop now,” or something that will get me to your collections page, to your shop page to potentially purchase.
Alison Smith: [41:40]
Yeah, I would love to see product or a product in use, something like that on this hero image. The cow photo is gorgeous though. Definitely you can utilize it in so many ways, but I completely agree with you there. Beyond just that hero image, investing, it’s such a thing. Investing in product photography is just so important for CPG brands. And I think having a shoot, it can be a small shoot with a local photographer, just trying to get some more package photos. And if you have any friends or family, or if you want to hire models to get their hands in the bags or their face in your bag, just getting some lifestyle photography as well as that studio or package photography, I think could really just elevate your entire marketing assets. So I highly recommend doing that.
Alison Smith: [42:46]
I would look at EPIC Provisions. I mean, love them. But their product photo is their packaging. And again, with CPG, packaging is so important. It’s what makes people stop when they’re shopping in retail. People want to see what they’re going to get and they like opening boxes and it’s really fun. So I think replacing your current product photos, which your branding is beautiful, to your actual package and then maybe some additional lifestyle photos, could really help conversions there. We had the same note, we already talked about what is biltong. So we know but not everyone else may know. So just-
Lindsey Leroy: [43:35]
[inaudible 00:43:35] we know. I had to look it up, but now that I know what it is-
Alison Smith: [43:41]
Oh, Lindsay did not know.
Stef Shapira: [43:43]
I have had other brands of biltong before, and it is delicious. So everyone should try it. If you eat-
Karin Samelson: [43:51]
Endorsed by Stef.
Stef Shapira: [43:54]
Even if you don’t eat meat, there is mushroom biltong, apparently.
Karin Samelson: [43:57]
She’s a saleswoman.
Lindsey Leroy: [44:00]
Sorry, when I started just kind of like Googling to do some more research on what biltong actually is. And I came across a couple competitors and seeing how they were explaining it. I think, Stryve is, I think might be how you say it. A really good job on their website and on their social and getting to the point on what biltong is and why you should love it. So that was something that I noticed. And back to what you were talking about, Alison with photography on the website. Having the lifestyle pictures, just how you enjoy the product, how you’re… Whether that’s like the hand in the bag or-
Stef Shapira: [44:41]
A hike.
Lindsey Leroy: [44:44]
… bag in your bag while you’re on the go. Just showing how you would use it, eat it and enjoy it. I think is so useful, not just for the website but also for us, for pitching, to be able to have great high res imagery, is such a value add. And it’s a great way to increase your odds of getting meat coverage.
Alison Smith: [45:08]
Yeah. I like how you put that, how the user is going to use it. Because when you’re buying a product, you’re really kind of thinking about yourself and how it’s going to change your life or improve your life. So I think that would be huge. And then on the educational piece, again, if you need to, I would do your own research and definitely look up Stryve. It’s S-T-R-Y-V-E, I believe. But try to relate it to the beef jerky eaters of the world. Why should they switch from beef jerky that they’ve eaten their whole life into biltong? And how is it different? How’s the taste better? Why is it better? All of those things are super important and they should be highlighted, as soon as you get to your website or really anywhere else.
Alison Smith: [46:03]
And then let’s move to paid social. So there’s no paid ads running but that’s okay. Not everyone needs to start off running ads, but we’d like to talk about some things that you could do, if you decide to run ads in the future. So this is kind of a website note as well, that Karin and I put together. So getting product bundles on your site. So we generally like to see the average order value on your site, at least at the $20 range. So 20 to 40 at least, I would say. So try bundling some of your best sellers and make a best seller pack. Do a three pack of your vegan jerky, do certain combinations based on the data that you’re seeing from customers and create more bundles. Also, I don’t think that you guys are using subscription at this time. This is a product that I think could make an awesome subscription for anyone that wants to come on your site and automatically get these to their door on a bi-monthly basis. So definitely try to get that AOV up just by doing those simple things like bundling and subscription.
Alison Smith: [47:22]
Again, the product photos. I think we need some lifestyle photos and show off the packaging again, that’s going to help with ad conversions as well, if you ever want to run ads. And then back to the educational side. So with ads, we’ve worked with a biltong brand before and there is going to be an initial educational piece to these ads, just because not everyone is aware yet of what it is. So I would really look into targeting the big beef jerky brands or people who love beef jerky as your audience is. And then just like everyone has been saying, layout why biltong is better than beef jerky, why you should make the switch. Targeting keto people, targeting people who are into paleo or other health. Anything that your products value propositions touch on, definitely look into targeting those people. And then of course, you can target the vegans with your mushroom jerky. So those are some audiences that you could look at.
Alison Smith: [48:32]
And then just looking at your actual product value props. So 17 grams of protein, thinly sliced and tender, no nitrates, no preservatives. Those would be awesome pieces of copy on your ads. Those are also things that you can include in your messaging on your organic social, or through your email marketing as well. So those are some really great value props on your product that you can definitely highlight. It’s also a low calorie, it’s a low calorie snack. So there’s so much stuff to talk about here, which is really exciting. And then talking back to those press hits that you’ve received. So again, those can make some really awesome ads because it gives you an extra dose of clout and social proof just starting off. So say you’re trying to expand in the Boston market or say, you even have a retailer in Boston and you’re wanting people to go and shop in store. You can run targeted ads in that area and use those press hits, those local press hits and really hit that audience hard with all that social proof. So definitely use all those assets that you already have if you decide to run ads in the future.
Alison Smith: [49:53]
We also are huge fans of UGC styled ads. So UGC means user generated content. Basically, it’s content that other people have created for you, or you can just DIY it and create it yourself. It looks just like really native looking content that your friend or family would post on their Instagram or on their Facebook. And it’s them taking the product on a hike, making a recipe or just simply eating it. And those types of ads with people in it, that look super native like they were shot on an iPhone, are generally the most highly converting ads that you can run. And the awesome part is, you don’t have to hire a photographer, a videographer to create them. You can send some to your friends and family, ask them to take photos, or if you’re running one of those influencer campaigns, make sure to ask them if you can use these types of content in your ads as well. And then I think someone brought up recipes as well, and I think it’s on your website. So using biltong in different recipes or as like a salad topper.
Alison Smith: [51:07]
Showing people how to actually use the product beyond just snacking, could be really interesting for content. We also love any behind the scenes. Like if you are visiting a farm where your cows are raised, or if you want to talk about your story and your mission and why you came to create this product, those types of ads are also really, really powerful. And then highlight definitely that you have free shipping. So free shipping increases conversions, I would say 90% of the time. So highlighting that you have free shipping on your site for all domestic orders through your ad creatives, is really going to help people go and check out. And if you do decide to use one of those lead generation popups on your site, and offer like 10% off if someone signs up for your email, you can also use that 10% off in your ads to help those first time buyers actually initiate a checkout. It’s going to help them push them over the edge. So I just ran through that y’all. Those are my little paid social ad tips. I also think that this brand could kill it on Amazon. I don’t know if you guys are running Amazon ads. We’re not an Amazon ads agency, but I think this brand really suits itself for Amazon as well.
Stef Shapira: [52:28]
I was going to say it’s just helpful for us. I think we both kind of know what the other company… What are counterparts in this do, but to hear how it all ties together, like for a press hit, we get the press hit and then it can be maximized on a paid ad. Or we work with an influencer and they create user generated content, which then can be used on the actual account or obviously, a paid ad and other things like that. So it’s like really ideally, a brand is doing all of these things, but I know it’s a lot. So even just taking pieces of this and figuring out how to maximize it from the PR into the marketing or vice versa, I guess.
Alison Smith: [53:22]
Definitely, it’s like an ecosystem that you don’t want to work harder. Just really think about how you can use those assets across all of your marketing channels.
Lindsey Leroy: [53:33]
And support each other [inaudible 00:53:35] essentially, for the same goal.
Alison Smith: [53:38]
Yeah. Yeah. We have the same goal, exactly. Make some sales. All right, PR team, The Rind, anything else you want to leave our listeners with?
Lindsey Leroy: [53:52]
I would just say that if you ever have any questions about whether or not you’re ready for PR or how to get started, just contact us. We also, in addition to offering monthly PR services and launch campaigns, we also offer consulting. So we do brand audits just like this one with kind of a tailored toolkit to your brand. So we’ll dive into what you guys are doing and what you can be doing.
Alison Smith: [54:26]
That is awesome. I think that’s super duper valuable. And also UMAI Marketing has a free five day mini course. So if you are a young brand or if you’re a marketer who wants to brush up on your digital marketing, you can sign up for our mini course and The Rind PR’s audits. And we’ll link both of those in the show notes.
UMAI Social Circle is a CPG agency driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind the scene insights, chats with industry leaders and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, Catch you back here soon.