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#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]
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]
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]
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 soomfoods.com. 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]
Karin Samelson: [39:52]
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, umaimarketing.com. Catch you back here soon.
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