Motion Nutrition, a four-year-old organic sports supplements company, began to multiply its revenue ten times with a no-nonsense D2C marketing strategy.
One year into the business, Motion Nutrition CEO Joe Welstead thought they were doing pretty well for a specialist health food store in London. However, it seemed their positioning was too niche. Their target audience—the health-conscious people who have some disposable income—would ignore their products, thinking they’re for elite athletes. In a bid to cast their net wider, the company consulted the people who would know best: their customers.
In this episode, Joe shares how Motion Nutrition’s D2C marketing strategy uncovered one tweak they needed to achieve an annual run rate of $1.5 million in 18 months. He also talks about the role of partnerships in the company’s growth and its unique approach to Facebook advertising.
Do you also want to discover what one small change you can make to finally see results? Tune in to the full episode!
Click here to read transcript
[03:39] Hello, Joe. Welcome to the show.
- Hey, Trent. Thanks for having me. I’m psyched to be here.
[03:44] Yeah, I’m psyched to have you here. So for the folks who don’t yet know who you are, what do you do? Let’s start there. What does your company sell?
- Sure. So I run a company called Motion Nutrition. We essentially help people deal with stress, sleep, and energy levels and we do that with our range of organic protein powders. They’re all sweetener-free, and a range of natural nootropic products that will help with your energy during the day and then sleep to the nights. We’ve been going for about four years now and starting to grow really well now.
[04:14] And you’re based in the UK?
- Based in London, UK. Yeah.
[04:18] Okay. And you’re not selling in North America.
- Not for the moment, although it’s now getting to the point where, at least once a day, somebody is asking us if we’re able to ship to the US. And it’s something that I’d love to be as easy as just flicking a switch on, but it’s a little bit more tedious than that. So we’re taking our time making sure we’ve got a really strong base here before doing anything like that.
[04:41] Yep. And the issues, obviously, because your product is adjustable—you have to deal with FDA compliance. That’s the big red tape.
- That’s one of them. Yeah, but you know, generally selling in Europe online is, I think, quite a bit more straightforward than selling in the US. You know, at least in terms of taxation and these kind of things. It’s pretty straight back. Oh, we’re in the UK. So, you know, things might change in the next few months with Brexit, but up until now, it’s been fantastic being able to trade in the UK in Europe. It’s really straightforward, very easy to manage both logistically and from a business perspective. And there’s a lot to do here.
[05:15] Yeah. So what does your turnover look like? Or orders? Or just give us an idea of the rough volume that you’re doing?
- Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you what’s happened over the last of the 18 months. ‘Cause the first year or so of running our company, if we go back just really briefly, we specialize in organic sports supplements. We really want to make sports supplements that help with your fitness and performance but also your overall health—nothing that would be detrimental to your health. So that’s why we don’t use any sweeteners or anything like that. But we were still a little bit too performance-sy in terms of our style for the types of people we’re trying to sell to. So we worked a lot on that brand identity, and all that work kicked in about 18 months ago, which is what I’m coming to. And over those past 18 months, we’ve grown our online sales about 10x, and we’ve launched on Amazon through that period as well. So now we’re at an annual run rate in dollars of probably come up to one and a half million now.
[06:13] Okay. And so you made some changes, you were too sportsy. You said it was that.
[06:18] An ingredients change or a packaging change?
- Mostly packaging. The types of people that we knew we wanted to sell to would take kind of one quick look at our products and just assume that it was not for them because they don’t consider themselves elite athletes. These people were really eating super well, have demanding jobs, and working out three, four, or five times a week and have a little bit of disposable income. So we knew they were our audience, but they didn’t quite see it with the way we were communicating the brand. So we didn’t do that much change in terms of our formulation or our ingredients—that stayed pretty much the same—but the whole messaging and visual feel of the brand really switched from being sports performance to being really friendly, really approachable as a brand, also very, very simple to understand. So really simple messaging, simple visual, simple words that we use to communicate the benefits of the product as opposed to communicating what the ingredients are.
[07:16] How did you figure out? Well, I guess a couple things here. How did you know that it was your packaging and positioning that was hurting you? And then, once you figured that out, how did you determine how to correct the positioning error?
- Well, the first question is, the first year of us running the business, my co-founder and I, we were doing all the sampling work. So if anybody listening has launched a brand in Whole Foods or something like that in the US, they know how important that in-store sampling can be in terms of not only getting growth and initial traction but also in terms of getting like customer feedback. That sort of high-quality one-to-one, really high-quality feedback that we get from doing that is not something you can get elsewhere very easily. So anybody who joins our company now will do a little bit of this, at least at the start, to get a feel for what, what the customer is saying, like in a raw state about the product. And in that sense, you know, when we spent, like hours and hours and hours in London, talking to people about the products and seeing really what their flesh initial reaction is to what something looks like, you can’t get that online—and that’s really, really high-quality feedback.
You know, once they’re past that, that kind of bullshit politeness of, you know, not wanting to hurt our feelings. They will come to you, so they’ll say, “Oh, yeah. You know, it looks great, but I don’t think it’s for me,” or “I’ll try it, but let me think about it. I’ll walk around the store,” but then never come back. So you have to really get that first initial bit of raw feedback, and that’s, after a year of doing this—we’re doing well, you know, in specialist health food stores in London. We’re doing okay, but we could feel that there was something that just wasn’t quite clicking with the type of person we wanted to sell to. So it was a little bit too niche, I suppose. We needed to widen the net.
[09:08] So you do all these interviews, these in-store interviews, these conversations with customers that are just wandering around the aisles for a year. You’re obviously making a log of a lot of the comments that you’re hearing; you’re probably hearing a lot of the same things over and over again, I’m guessing. So you figure out okay, so we need to make some changes. How did you take that huge chunk of messy data and figure out, well, what should the graphics look like? What should the images look like on our packaging to fix this?
- Well, there were a few other underlying things that we worked on at the same time. So there was two key things that I wanted to make sure we got right with the change. Bearing in mind, we wanted to make sure we were keeping our initial cork of customers; we didn’t want to like list them off or alienate them or in any way. So there were two things we wanted to do. We wanted to, first of all, make sure that there was a positive environmental change. So we wanted to make sure that our packaging was going to be better and less harmful to the planet, more environmentally friendly. And at the same time, a big challenge with that in mind as we wanted to improve the convenience of our products. So we wanted to go towards your single servings that you could just put in your bag and go away for the day, or a little travel pack that we sell as trial packs but actually serve quite often it’s travel packs, this sort of thing, and wanted to combine these two elements. So with the whole idea of making the brand more friendly, we also wanted to make a positive change and improve convenience. So there were a lot of things kind of mixed in together.
So it took a lot of time to get, first of all, the technicalities right of what the packaging was going to be like, what they’re going to be made off, and then get around that work on what the brand would feel like. To do that, in the end of 20—or beginning of 2018—we raised this small-ish friends and family round of £600,000, and that sort of bought us that year 2018 to read work on the feel of the brand, the product next to the identity. We worked with an agency through that year in the UK in Brighton called Library; they did fantastic work, a fantastic job with us. And that really took a whole year to come to fruition.
[11:17] Okay, so that started at the beginning of 2018?
[11:21] Until 2019—or 2018, rather?
- Well, it really kicked into market in terms of full transition, so the end of Q1 2019. So about a year and a half ago now.
[11:31] And how long after that did the hockey stick take to appear because you said you’ve 10x your revenue since then?
- Honestly, pretty quickly. So if we call it April of the sort of official launch date of the new style, right off the bat, the first two, three months without actually changing anything in terms of acquisition or spending, it was probably 4 or 5x within three months in terms of our online sales,
[12:03] That’s a heck of a validation. So your online sales are spread across several channels—Amazon, obviously. I’m looking at amazon.co.uk. You have a product presence there. Are you selling via your own website? And it sounds like you’re selling in brick and mortar as well Is that, right?
- Yeah, so I’ll give you a split. We do approximately 40% of our—40 to 50%—of our total sales through our website, but another 20 through Amazon, and then another 20 through retail stores.
[12:31] So oftentimes, when I interview brands, Amazon is a bigger percentage of their sales than their own direct consumer site. In your case, why do you think it’s the opposite? Have you restricted how much gets through Amazon or you’re not running a lot of ads on Amazon? Or why is that?
- No, we haven’t restricted anything, but most of our marketing goes towards our website. Well, I think, to kind of answer this, but you also got to remember that we only launched on Amazon just over a year ago now. So it’s gone from zero to 20k a month pretty fast without a lot of time. I think to answer this, we kinda need to dive into our marketing and acquisition channels. Does that make sense?
- I can tell you kind of why it happened this way?
[13:19] Yeah, let’s do that.
- So we’ve always positioned ourselves a D-to-C first brand, and that’s website-first. But we’re big believers in convenience in every sense of the word. So if you, as a consumer, as a customer of our products, enjoy buying our products through Amazon—fantastic. Go ahead and do that; you should be able to do that. If you’re the type of person that likes to walk down the street and go to your local store and pick up our product there, that’s great—that works for us too. But we tend to view the retail presence that we have—we’re in about 400 stores in the UK now—we tend to view that mostly as a sort of passive acquisition channel. So when we launched in a bunch of these stores, sort of Q2 of last year, that pretty much brought us on to, from being a London specialist brand, it brought us on to being a national, UK-wide brand. Because suddenly we were not just in, physically in London stores, we’re in stores all across the country, and hundreds of thousands of people are discovering our products every single day just by going into the stores. So that’s one thing.
And then with all that in mind, most of our marketing strategy is geared towards getting people onto our website. And that might be, at first, by doing something like, we have a fantastic sleep score quiz on our website. So it takes a couple minutes. You find out your sleep score out of 100, and based out of that, we can give you customized, personalized tips to improve your sleep over the next week but then also sort of entice you to try our trial pack for a nighttime product that’ll help you sleep. Of course, some of those people are naturally going to gravitate towards buying our product on Amazon, but for the convenience and for the service that we offer, a lot of them do prefer or do just go down the route of buying directly from us on our website.
[15:08] How are you getting the people to come to your website? I mean, obviously being in retail stores people are walking in, they’re seeing the brand name, some of them are going to go do a Google search for it, perhaps some of them are going to just go to Amazon and find it. I’m assuming you’re probably running either some combination of paid organic SEO. What does it look like?
- Yeah, the full wheel as much as we can. We’re quite big on Facebook advertising, and a lot of that will be top of funnel lead acquisition. So that’s where that sleep score quiz comes in. And what’s fantastic about that is that our typical cost per lead is, you maybe won’t believe this, but compared to a lot of other brands that we speak to is about 30 times cheaper. So that allows us to do is be pretty quick creative with brand partnerships, in and around the sort of energy and sleep space, but not in the supplement space. So what that means is we can, you know, create a campaign working with perhaps a mattress company or perhaps some sleep spray company or even a coffee company. And they’re really interested in what we can do around the data because it tends to be a lot cheaper than what they’re already doing. And we get to piggyback off much, much bigger brands that really we have no business dealing with in terms of the stage that we’re at in our growth.
[16:30] So let’s talk about these partnerships. Give me an exact—tell me about the most successful of the bunch so far.
- The most successful one is has probably not launched yet, but it’s about to. And I can tell you a little bit about this if you like, and it comes back to what we were discussing earlier about, you know, creating relationships and building relationships over time and what can happen out of these relationships when you nurture them, casually and build your network over time.
So I’ll tell you a little story. About three years ago, so quite early on in our growth, we did a very small advertising campaign with an online publication called Thrive Magazine, run by a lady called Sue Hay. Sue Hay was very friendly with us. You know, she gave us loads of stuff above and beyond what we actually paid for, and I got along really well with her. Afterwards, I appeared on her podcast, this kind of thing. And eventually, about two years, or a year and a half, after we had done our initial campaign with her—this is not high-value stuff—she noticed on Twitter, somebody that she was following, who’s a tech journalist, future strategist type person called Paul Armstrong, and she noticed that he was looking for a speaker on nootropics for this big event that he was putting up. So she just naturally put me in touch with Paul.
I spoke at the event, which was by far the greatest speaking gig that I’ve had so far. There was over 300 really high-level executives from major companies, like there was Google, Facebook, Uber, big banks, this kind of thing like. And it was a 360-degree stage, so I was pretty terrified, but it went really well. I had 10 minutes to speak, and I met a load of fantastic people there, but there were also a bunch of students—it wasn’t just high-level execs. And I always make a point to create good relationships with whoever it is that I’m speaking, whether it’s a high-level exec or whether it’s a student who’s not in a position of power yet.
And if you fast forward to now, so it’s been almost two years, one of those students that I met at that event, that I guess I was quite friendly with and we got along well, and we stayed in touch very casually for a time, he now works for one of the highest—if not the highest-funded challenger banks from London. London is really big on fintech. There are a lot of big challenger banks here, and thanks for that connection, we’re now going to be an in-app partner with this bank, and they have over like 10 million customers. So this is something that is way out of our league in terms of what we should be able to access, but thanks to just nurturing those relationships over time, we’re able to access these kind of things that we would just not be able to afford any other way.
[19:24] So some might listen to that and think, “Well, you know, there’s a fair amount of luck in that.” But I think if I remember correctly, our pre-interview, you’ve created a number of these partnerships, is that correct? So let’s see. Let’s have another example of one that is less lucky.
- Sure. Yeah. Well, the first thing I’ve said about luck is, you know, people might listen to this and think, especially if they don’t know British accents and think that I’m from London, and I’m from a big London family and have loads of connections here and then existing network here, that’s absolutely not the case. When I co-founded the company with my partner four years ago, I had just moved to London; I didn’t know anyone here apart from him. I was born in Scotland, but I grew up in France, so I had no connections to London, or its workings, it’s a toll. This is all things that happen over time, from going to events, showing up to things, speaking to people, being kind to people—generally just being nice and establishing healthy relationships with people. And then, if you’re helpful to them at the start, maybe something else will come out a bit years later, but I’ll give you another example.
One that comes to mind is really early on in our brand story. Somebody reached out to us called Kemo Marriott, and he’s a personal trainer. But at the time, he had his sort of personal training boutique company, and it was called Holistic Motion, and remember, our company’s called Motion Nutrition. So he thought that was pretty cool and funny, so he just sent us a quirky message saying like, it might have even been the other way around, I might have messaged him first, you know, saying, “We have the same brand name. We should do something together.” We didn’t actually end up doing any work together, but we established quite a nice friendship. And through him, he introduced me to a bunch of people who work at Hearst Media, which is a big media company who own publications, such as Men’s Health and Women’s Health. I got quite friendly with one of the editors there. And when we launched nootropics, Ted, the editor, said to me, “Look, I love this. I want to give you coverage. You just have to trust me that I’ll do something. I don’t know when it’s going to be, but you know, give me time, and I’ll get you something.” That was in 2018 when we just launched our nootropic products.
In 2019, they added a new category to their annual supplements awards. So you know, it’s like, “Best Whey Protein,” “Best Vegan Protein,” “Best Pre-workout” this kind of thing. They added in “Best Nootropic” for the first time ever in 2019 and gave us the award for Power Up, our daytime nootropic. This year 2020, they actually gave us the award for Unplug, our nighttime nootropics. So they’ve had their word for two years, and they’ve given us the award two years in a row. And this is not something that, again, we don’t advertise with them. We’re not a big money spender, you know; this is true, creating like human relations.
[22:23] So obviously, it is a skill of yours. For folks that are listening who might not think that it’s a skill of theirs, what advice would you give them?
- I don’t know that it’s so much a skill in the sense that people might think, “Oh, I’m very extrovert; I’m good at speaking,” or “I’m very introvert; I’m not good at making connections.” I don’t think it’s like that. I think it’s a lot to do with people who tend to be not very good at listening to others. And if you’re able to be in a surrounding, you know, in a new environment where there’s a bunch of people and everybody introducing themselves to each other, and you meet perhaps five people, perhaps 10 people that evening, but you’re actually, you actually give them your full attention and time when it is when you are speaking to them, or when you’re listening to them, I should say, you can very quickly create quite a real rapport with that person just by actually listening to what they’re saying, as opposed to thinking ahead of what you’re going to say next. Just take your time and listen to them.
[23:28] Or checking your phone when they’re talking.
- That’s the worst. You know, don’t chew gum, don’t do anything silly like this that shows you don’t care, you lack respect; just pay attention to the person that you’re speaking to. And whatever it is that they do, whether they’re a super senior person, or a student or an entrepreneur just starting off, I can guarantee that they’ll notice that you’re paying attention to them. It may be as simple as if you’re ordering a coffee one day and you actually just say like, “Hey how you’re doing?” you know, to the barista, like that person will notice it and they’re seeing hundreds and hundreds of people every day, and they don’t remember a single person, but they’ll probably remember you because you’ve just taken a second to pay attention to them.
[24:10] You have a few favorite go-to icebreaker questions or things that you like to do to open up to start a conversation with a stranger?
- Honestly, I don’t think so. But if you’re stuck, there’s always, you know, you can do certain things like if you’re a little bit nervous in the settings, there’s a few things that are quite handy to have up your sleeve. So if you just carry something in your hand at the time, that’s a little bit quirky. You can just use that as a start as a conversation starter, like if you really don’t know where to start, or you know, just comment on something particular that’s going on or something particularly that person is wearing. This might sound silly, but just start a conversation that’s really not threatening to anyone and also not just about the weather because everybody does that. But I think starting a conversation in a non-threatening way is quite important, especially in my experience, this is especially important if you’re a young man speaking to another young man because this tends to be an environment where very quickly it can become competitive and naturally a little bit toxic. So you got to be really careful about that. Just start your conversation with something very easy to get on board with. I think that’s actually quite a nice way to describe our product rebrand is we’ve made it in a way that’s very approachable and non-threatening for first-time buyers of our products.
[25:35] So do you consider the question, “So what do you do for a living?” to be threatening or nonthreatening?
- I do not, but you have to bear in mind that this is a very American question, particularly if you say it in a way that’s like, “So what’s your story?” This is something that’s pretty common. But it’s pretty common in the US, whereas people in Europe or in the UK might find that a little bit offensive. But no, I ask people, you know, “What do you do?” Especially if you’re in a networking event, or in a networking sort of scenario, I think that’s pretty acceptable. And you know, people expect that kind of question if you’re in that environment. So, you know, in that case, you don’t really need to be shy about that sort of thing.
[26:14] Or is this your first time at this conference? Or where did you travel in from? Or have you taken any scenery in value from out of town? There’s so many ways that you can pretty easily break the ice.
[26:28] Alright. So you mentioned earlier, I’m going to climb back out of this rabbit hole and go back to traffic acquisition for your website. So obviously, these partnerships are putting you in a position that gives you exposure in traffic, and that’s great. In the absence of the partnerships, you still need to stand on your own two feet and drive your own traffic. You mentioned earlier on that you’re doing a lot of advertising on Facebook. Let’s go down that rabbit hole a little bit. Tell me what, you know, I think you mentioned your sleep score. Is that the only thing that you’re advertising? What do the campaigns look like? What do the ads look like? Just walk us through that.
- It’s definitely not the only thing. It’s a really helpful top-funnel tool because sleep is such an emotional cue for a lot of the people. This is why we get away with, you know, acquiring leads at a really low cost because it’s such a raw and real topic for so many people.
[27:24] So what does the ad say? I’m scrolling through Facebook, and I’m going to see your ad, and what am I going to see?
- It’ll say, “Hey, Trent, give us 90 seconds and we’ll give you your sleep score of 100.”
[27:33] Is this a video?
- “This is part of the National Sleep Foundation.” No, no. It’s a static niche.
[27:38] Static ad. Okay.
- Yeah. It will say, “Find out your sleep score in 90 seconds.” Pretty much as simple as that.
[27:43] Okay, so then I’m going to click through, I’m on your website, and I’m going to presumably give you answers to some questions or do something, and you’re going to get an email address from me, is it more or less the experience?
- That’s pretty much it, and then off the back of that, you’ll be served a little—this is actually a little satellite site—so you know, when you click on the ad, you’re not immediately in an e-commerce environment. You are in a very friendly, you know, this is clearly a sleep quiz environment. We’re not selling anything.
[28:12] What’s the URL for that site?
- It’s called sleep.motionnutrition.com. So you answer a dozen or so questions. The data behind this is from the National Sleep Foundation, so it’s really solid. You get your sleep score of 100. We’ll compare it with the national average for your age group, so you can tell if you’re doing better or less well than an average. We can also tell you how well you’re doing compared to our data. And then you’ll be shown a little offer to purchase a trial pack for six nights, so you can try Unplug for the next six nights. And over that, over the course of that week, we’ll also give you daily emails based on your answers to improve your sleep hygiene overall. So things like you know, “Are you using your phone in bed at night? Are you watching TV in your bedroom?” this kind of thing of checking all that background stuff on sleep hygiene, so that overall you’re in a good place to get some medicine.
[29:08] Can you give me the URL again? You said sleep.motionnutrition.com?
- Yeah. It’s so.
[29:15] It didn’t work for me. So let me just check that.
- Yep, sleep.motionnutrition.com. You got to give it two N’s though.
[29:25] I did.
[29:30] Okay. Well, we won’t troubleshoot that during the episode here so…
- If that’s not working for you, you can go to motionnutrition.com. It’s actually the banner, the homepage banner, on our website, motionnutrition.com.
[29:41] Let’s try that.
- But while you’re searching that, I’ll tell you a little bit about our overall Facebook advertising.
[29:48] Sleep score for real.
- Because it’s not just that, you know, we have the sleep score. You’re there now?
- We have another sort of unicorn ad for our Unplug nighttime product, which has been really helpful over the past year because for most people, we still been a nobody, like most people who, over the past year and up until recently, anyway, who were discovering our brand had never heard of us before. So it’s been really helpful to have a unicorn ad with lots and lots of validation—social validation from other users. I think there’s maybe something like 15,000 comments on this and well over 1000 shares.
[30:31] Unicorn ad. Tell us, what does that mean?
- So unicorn ad is something that we’ve been using without changing for a really long time. I think that’s been live for well over a year now. And so over that year, it picks up lots and lots of user validation. So there’s one comment at the top of it that’s like, “I was super skeptical about this product,” and this is a real customer rightness. She says, “I was super skeptical about this product, but I saw there were a bunch of good reviews. So I thought I’d try it. Oh, my god. My sleep has been transformed.” Basically, that “Well, life is so much better now,” and that comment has over 300 likes on it. So if you’re scrolling through Facebook and you’re seeing a new product from a new brand that you’ve never just never seen before—you probably don’t even know what nootropics are—you probably are very skeptical of sort of natural sleep aids, but you see that there’s 15,000 comments on the ad and you click on that to feel it more, and the top comments are from clearly real people on Facebook, who are very positive about the products, and then that sort of create another range of comments replying to that person, so this is all stuff that’s really validating for somebody who’s never discovered the brand before.
[31:40] So has your team been hyper-vigilant in responding to comments that are left on that ad? First part of my question.
- Yes, but what’s been happening, which has been awesome, is that if you have one person who has put a comment, who’s very positive about the product, and then other people asking questions like, “Oh, what time of day do you take it?” and that person replies, that’s way more powerful than for us to reply.
[32:09] Okay. Did you find that your CPC or CPM started to decrease as the number of comments on the ad increased?
- Yes, the cost per acquisition definitely went down. So that’s where that social proof, social validation becomes so important, especially if this is that, what we found now that we have a little bit more brand validity and brand presence in the market if they’re showing this ad as the second touch-point, so you know, they’ve already discovered the brand somehow, rather, and then they’re served this ad. So we’re already in this sort of peripheral vision, peripheral frame of mind of, “Oh, I don’t sleep so well. I’ve seen this product. I think it might be helpful.” And then they see a unicorn that has great social validation, or perhaps they see user-generated content from one of our ambassadors, that is, you know, very kind towards our product and telling you how helpful it’s been to them. This kind of thing can be really helpful as a second touch-point.
[33:12] When you created this unicorn ad, was that the intent? To create an ad that had a really high-level of engagement? Or did you luck your way into that one, sort of stumbled into it by accident?
- I mean, of course, I’d love to tell you that that was the intent. In reality, the ad, I don’t think is that great. I think now, I’d like to change it and do things better, but because we have all that social validation, it’s clear that we can’t change it. So no, it’s not something that we’ve necessarily targeted on that specific ad. We did know that because we didn’t have the budgets to do out of home ads, big magazine ads, or big sponsorship deals, or anything like that, we knew that we needed social validation one way or another. So that was part of our plan, but the fact that it lands on this ad is just that’s pretty much luck, and then, you know, you’re almost married to it.
[34:03] Yeah. The content of this ad is what? It’s a static image, I’m gonna guess?
- Uh-huh. Yeah.
[34: 10] And what does it, and this isn’t the “Get your sleep score” ad. This is a different ad.
[34:14] So what’s this one saying?
- This one pretty much says, “When’s the last time you slept well?” And it’s a picture of our product, and it tells you, “Sleep deep every night.” Pretty much like that.
[34:25] That’s it?
- That’s pretty much it. It’s super simple.
[34:28] Wow, that’s nice. A moment or two ago, you mentioned brand ambassador. Tell me a bit about that. How many of those do you have, and how do you get them?
- We don’t have a huge number. And we don’t, well, partly by default and partly by design—I said by default because we don’t, you know, we haven’t so far had huge marketing budgets to get like super high influence ambassadors. So people with millions and millions and millions of followers, that’s been out of our reach. But also by design, by choice, we wanted to work with real life influencers so people that, ideally, you’re seeing online and have a nice presence online, but you’re also probably getting really high-quality time one-to-one. So we found that worked really well with nutritional therapists, and that goes two ways.
The first reason that works well is because we do really high-quality products. So our nootropics are fully natural, made to the best, you know, that’s they’re really groundbreaking formulations designed, formulated by one of the leading world leading neuroscientists. When we launched them, there was nothing like them on the market, so they were very well received from a sort of health professional perspective. And then if you look at our organic protein powders, if a nutritional therapist is looking for something that is not full of sweeteners, not full of artificial flavorings, genuinely healthy but also reduce that nutritional gap that they’re lifting to bridge, then our protein powders work really well. So our products appeal to these people.
But then on the other, on the flip side, having a nutritional therapist recommend our product, whether it’s online, or in the clinic, is probably the biggest, the sort of highest quality recommendation we can get. It’s higher than from a personal trainer, and people listen to their personal trainer as if it’s their god. But a nutritional therapist, you know, you really, if you’re seeing a nutritional therapist, you’re already invested, involved with the process and probably paying them quite a lot of money, so you’re going to make sure to get the most out of them, so they’re going to listen to their advice. That’s been really, really helpful.
[36:40] So we’re going to take a very quick break for a word from our sponsor. When we come back, I’m going to ask Joe to tell me more about his marketing funnel. Once he’s captured leads, how are they nurturing and converting them? And then we’re going to talk a little bit more about process management and how they’re systematizing their business so that they can continue to scale and grow.
So today’s episode is brought to you by Flowster. If you run an e-commerce business and are struggling to effectively delegate all your highly repetitive routine work to your team, be they local or remote or virtual assistants, clusters, workflow management software and premade e-commerce workflow templates will allow you to make hiring, training, and delegating to your team a breeze. Check it out today, flowster.app. Alright, and we’re back with Joe.
Well said, Joe. So let’s talk, earlier we talked about your unicorn ads and how well they’ve been working and your sleep score, and you’re putting all these leads into the top of your funnel, and you did mention to me earlier that you’re sending them an email a day, but let’s unpack that a bit. Tell me a little bit more about what the top of the funnel looks like, and let’s start there. What does the top of the funnel look like?
- Well, the first thing I’d say is for a supplements brand, in terms of the audience sets that we’re reaching out to, it is probably pretty different to what one might assume of a nootropic brand or a health supplement or a protein supplement brand, in general. One of the biggest issues that I have with most of our competitors, particularly in the nootropic space but also in the sport supplement protein space, is that they intend to be mass-market products, but they actually, in everything that they do and say, are very niche. So if you look at nootropic brands, they’ll typically be like very geeky and biohacker type person-led, so they’ll be speaking to people that are reading a lot of blogs, listening to a lot of podcasts on, you know, self-improvement, improving human performance overall, perhaps improving longevity. This is like a very minute percentage of the population. And if you’re looking at sports supplements, protein powders, they tend to be, it’s improving, but they tend to be very metro. They tend to be very sort of either CrossFit or performance, sports led. Again, this is not a mass-market approach as far as I can see.
So what we tend to do is really focus on the benefits of the product in a very simple and calm and easy to understand way. So we’re not going to plaster you with super sciency terms or geeky messaging or anything like that. It’s really going to be about how we want you to feel when you take our product because that’s, as far as we can see, what most people are going to relate to. Most people are too stressed, they live really hectic lives, they probably had a hard time sleeping, they don’t have time to work out, but they also don’t have the energy to work out as much as they like to. So these are the things that we’re trying to help people with. And by addressing those issues from a benefit point-of-view rather than, you know, an ingredient or an asset point-of-view, we can do it in a way that’s a lot more emotionally driven, and I think this is where we can create real long term brand equity.
[40:19] So in the emails that are going out in the, say, the first seven days, are you taking what you just described, and then breaking that down into like a single idea each day? Are you sending them to a video? Like, are you sending them anywhere? Give me some tactics here.
- Sure. So the first thing is this is always like work in progress. We’re far from perfect; there are a lot of things to improve on. But so I mentioned an email a day—that’s really only for the first week or maybe 10 days, where we’re actually giving you added value tips. Based on what you’ve told us, we can help you in certain areas. And once we talk about our product, we’re not going to talk about what’s in, you know, the specificity of the ingredients or not necessarily the research immediately, but what we’ll tell you is we’ll take a sort of long-term approach, and we’ll take that from a communication point-of-view, we’ll take the perspective of, “We’ve been there. We know how you feel today. We also know how you’ll feel in two weeks. We know how you’ll feel in a month, and we know how you’ll feel in six months because we’ve been there, and we’ve also seen it with a bunch of people. So let us tell you how you will feel if you work on these tips that we’ve given you and take this product that we’re giving you, and that might be in two weeks time. It might take about two weeks for you to really feel the benefits because everybody’s different. Some people feel it in the first night, but it might take a little bit longer.” So we’re managing expectations there as well.
“And after two weeks, you are probably going to get better sleep. You’re going to get deeper sleep and you’re gonna get more REM sleep, and your sleep will start to be a little bit more reliable. After a month, you will start to have a lot more reliability in your sleep, so your bad nights should be occurring less and less. And you should be able to sort of think, anytime in the day. “Oh, I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight.” And you fast forward to six months, this now becomes your new normal. So you’ve almost forgotten what it was like before. You don’t really know what it was like to have three or four bad nights a week anymore because now it’s happening maybe once a month when you really went something super stressful zone or you’ve had to work super late, or some emergency has happened. So your new normal is set in.
So this is how we’re going to kind of drive you through the process of what should happen and what you can expect, in a way that’s, again, really non-aggressive—really simple and easy to understand—but equally manages the expectation, “This is not a medicinal product. This is not a sleeping pill. It’s nothing—we don’t knock you out. Our daytime products don’t have any caffeine. These are natural and organic products. So you have to work on it. You have to give it a little bit of time, but this is what’s going to happen.”
[43:02] So in these first, then, in the first week, it sounds like there’s a heavy emphasis on value-added education in a non-threatening way. I’m assuming that each of these emails also does contain an offer to buy a sample or something somewhere along the line, yes?
- Sure. And then maybe just to give you a little bit more context on what those couple of those tips might be. So one of the biggest incorrect assumptions, wrong assumptions around improving sleep, is that if you have a couple of drinks, it’ll knock you out, and you’ll sleep well. Like, we hear this all the time, right? You see, you know, better. Sleep is terrible. It’s gonna mess with your brainwaves. It’s gonna maybe knock you out at first that you’re basically paralyzed.
[43:45] And you’re in a horrible sleep.
- And your body relax. Yeah. So you may fall asleep quicker, which is why people think that it’s, you know, it’s helpful, but your sleep is gonna be super shallow. You’re probably going to be woken up a bunch of times through the night, probably going to wake up early, and you’re going to feel terrible the next day. This brings us to another tip that will give you, is that, if you start the day with a high dose of caffeine and a sort of carb-, sugar-heavy breakfast, this is going to spike your insulin, and it’s going to spike your cortisol, your stress hormone, for the day. So basically, you’re going to be off in a roller coaster of blood sugar and stress for the day. You’re gonna need a snack at 11, you get another coffee, you’re gonna go and have coffee in the afternoon. You’re going up and down, up and down—and that up and down carries on through the night. So you’re really unlikely to get a stable level of good quality sleep through the night because you’re going to hit a cortisol peak, maybe 2 or 3 in the morning. You’re going to wake up, start stressing about something the next day or something that happened in the previous week, and this is just terrible. So those are two examples that will give added value that people may or may not be aware of before they hear of us.
[44:53] Okay. So now, I’d like to transition to one of my favorite topics, and people who’ve been listening to my show know that I’m also the founder of our sponsor Flowster, which is workflow and process management software. So in your organization, roughly, how many people on the team?
- Full-time, there’s seven of us. And then, we have a bunch of freelancers in the agency that we work with.
[45:17] So bunch, how many contractors do you think you have?
- On a regular basis, probably three.
[45:25] Okay, so roughly 10 people.
- Uh-huh. I’ll just tell you, this doesn’t include production, which is separate.
[45:32] Sure. Give me an example of some of your most repetitive processes, things you got to do over and over and over again.
- Certainly, from a fulfillment perspective, you know, there’s loads and loads of orders every day, so we need to make sure that everybody is informed of tracking strategy, you know, shipment details, and tracking details. And one of the biggest issues that we have right now is because we’re selling across borders and quite a variety of formats of products and your size of deliveries, we’ll work with several different courier or delivery services. And that means that as it currently stands, our flow information, if the consumer, if the buyer is not sort of tagged to our core delivery mechanic, it’s a little bit more manual. So providing tracking information to somebody who’s ordered from Czech Republic is probably going to have to be done manually because we will ship that to a courier that is not our typical core provider that’s everything is automatic and sync and really easy.
[46:51] In your organization, have you taken steps to document the processes that are the most repetitive?
- We are getting there. We are getting there, but it’s taken us a while. And this is one piece of advice that I’d give people is, one of the biggest breakthroughs that we had was when we hired the lowest level employee in our company, and that’s because, you know, whether it’s from an automation software or from a human, whatever the task might be and however you can delegate them—delegating menial and repetitive tasks can free up a quality of work that you wouldn’t be able to acquire by hiring someone.
[47:42] And do you have, when you say you’ve started to document your processes, how is that? How is that? Where are you putting that content? Is it in a Google Doc? Are you making little videos? Where are you putting it?
- So we have a couple of platforms that we use depending on whether it’s, so we tend to separate B2B and online activities. So if we’re talking about marketing, it will be on, we use a really simple sort of task management platform online. And if we’re talking about B2B activities, then we use a slightly different, again, really simple like funnel tool. We use capsules for that. Again, it’s a really simple, simple tool just so that we can visualize information that’s shared across the team. I consider these tools that we use currently really a startup level because we’re really early in our growth, but I know at some point we’ll need to improve this.
[48:40] So maybe you’ll have to try Flowster.
- We might do. There you go.
[48:47] With respect to working with contractors, what have been the most significant challenges that you’ve experienced? And have you developed any strategies to deal with those?
- So definitely communication issues, like without a doubt. And one of the biggest issues that I have, this doesn’t tend to happen with freelancers, but if you’re working with an agency, whatever type of agency it might be, one of the biggest issues that I had with it is, if you’re not careful when you set up a deal with with an outsourcing agency, whatever it is, whatever work they’re doing, the deal will be made and sort of sold to you by somebody who’s very senior—it might be the founder of the agency, or it might be a manager or director of some kind—but if you’re not careful, once you’ve signed that, you’re not going to hear from that person again. And suddenly you’re working with a really low level, really entry-level person who may but also may not be very skilled, and you’re suddenly paying a lot for something that is not of the greatest quality. And the communication comes in where this person might not be understanding the challenges that you’re facing because they don’t have the experience to understand what it is that you’re facing. So this is where communication upfront of a deal that also downstream, you know, whoever it is that you’re working with. You need to find ways that the person can relate to, you know, ways of telling them your issues that they can understand and relate to so that they can serve you, you know, quality work.
[50:22] Let’s talk a little bit about your future plans before we wrap up. So biggest priority for you for the second half of 2020.
- It’s not exactly what I would have told you six months ago just because of the way this year has panned out. We’re going really well. We’ve grown successfully, but retail definitely took a hit…
[50:44] Oh, bad.
- Over March, May period of this year. So we’ve grown really well over the period but not to the extent that I had planned to start the year. So now we’re going to carry on with this growth. The initial priority for us is to get to 2 million run rate and raise a significant sort of series day round. So that then we can implement the plans that we have to grow. The product mix, grow the marketing, grow the team, everything. From a product mix perspective, everything we’re going to do is going to be focused on three different areas. You’re going to see, well-being and energy. You’re going to see stress and sleep, and you’re going to see longevity. So all of our customers, if I didn’t really tell you who our customer audience was in the end because it totally is not biohackers, but it tends to be actually more female-focused in the 30s all the way up to 50s. So you start seeing people that are perhaps concerned because one of their parents had a brain disease, notice that, they’re starting to look into things that—how can they feed their brain for long-term health. This is quite a trendy topic now as well. So longevity is another area that we’ve been working on.
[51:55] Alright, folks. The company is Motion Nutrition. We’ve spent the last nearly hour speaking with Joe Welstead. Joe, thank you so much for coming and making some time to be on the show. If anybody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the single easiest way for them to do that?
Joe Welstead’s Bright Ideas
- Get Raw Feedback from Your Customers
- Encourage People to Buy Directly from Your Website
- Be Creative with Brand Partnerships
- Use Unicorn Ads to Generate Social Validation
Get Raw Feedback from Your Customers
Joe emphasizes the importance of doing in-store sampling, especially when you’re just starting out and wanting to grow. You can’t get high-quality feedback anywhere else but from your customers.
Joe and his co-founder spent hours and hours talking to people coming by their store to get a feel of their raw reactions about their products. That was how they discovered their packaging and positioning weren’t clicking with their target audience.
“Once they’re past that, that kind of bullshit politeness of not wanting to hurt our feelings, we’ll come through so they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, it looks great, but I don’t think it’s for me,’ or ‘I’ll try it, but let me think about it. I’ll walk around the store,’ but then never come back. So you have to really get that first initial bit of raw feedback,” Joe says.
Based on the feedback they got, the company made the following changes to its branding:
- Switch in the whole brand identity
- Use of more simple words and visuals
- Focus on the benefits rather than the ingredients of their products
Motion Nutrition also wanted to make sure their initial core customers would stay with them. So they changed their packaging to combine convenience and environment-friendliness.
“We want to go towards single servings that you could just put in your bag and go away for the day or little travel packs that we sell as trial packs but actually serve quite often as travel packs,” Joe said.
It took some time to get the technicalities right and get some funding, but the results came in as quickly as three months. After launching their new style, Motion Nutrition’s online sales grew four to five times.
Encourage People to Buy Directly from Your Website
Joe is a big believer in convenience when it comes to selling their products. If a customer wants to order Motion Nutrition products, an abundance of methods are available for them. These include buying from their website, on Amazon, or from brick-and-mortar stores.
Joe views retail stores as a passive acquisition channel despite hundreds of thousands of people discovering their products through this method. As a D2C company, Motion Nutrition primarily uses their website to entice a customer to make a purchase. Full control of the space where customers order is key to acquiring more leads and sales.
What entices people to buy directly from their website is the sleep score quiz. Answering it only takes a few minutes. You get personalized tips to improve your sleep based on your sleep score, as well as a trial pack offer for their nighttime product.
The sleep score quiz also helps in top-of-funnel lead acquisition on Facebook. With this strategy, Motion Nutrition’s cost per lead is 30 times cheaper than its competition.
Be Creative with Brand Partnerships
Because Motion Nutrition is in the supplement space, one would assume they would strike partnerships within their niche. However, the company goes around the energy and sleep space to look for opportunities to market collaboratively.
Joe says, “They’re really interested in what we can do because it tends to be a lot cheaper than what they’re already doing. And we get to piggyback off much, much bigger brands that really we have no business dealing with in terms of the stage that we’re at in our growth.”
He also emphasizes establishing and maintaining relationships. Some of them may be seemingly insignificant, but they can culminate into something rewarding in the long run.
Two years after an advertising campaign with a small publishing company called Thrive Magazine, Joe was referred by the publication manager to speak at a major event hosted by tech journalist Paul Armstrong. Apart from the high-level executives present in the event, he also connected with students. Little did he know that one of those students would become an employee in the highest-funded challenger bank in London, with 10 million customers. Thanks to that connection, Motion Nutrition will be an app partner of the bank.
Joe also recounts how Motion Nutrition got free exposure on a magazine giant through simple human relations. Overall, he believes it’s not a matter of extraversion or speaking skills but about respect, active listening, and genuine curiosity toward other people.
Use Unicorn Ads to Generate Social Validation
Another often neglected part of Facebook advertising is unicorn ads. When people think of social media advertising, ideas that commonly come to mind would be viral videos, trend-jacking, and other flashy gimmicks. However, having a unicorn ad generates social proof, especially for those who have never heard of your brand before.
Remember: people don’t buy products without recommendations from friends or excellent online reviews. In other words, social validation is a necessity.
What is a unicorn ad in the first place? In a nutshell, unicorn ads are ads you use to pick up engagements for an extended period. For Motion Nutrition, it was a post about their product, Unplug. “It’s a picture of the product, and it tells you, “Sleep deep every night.” That’s pretty much it. It’s super simple,” Joe says.
This one-year-old post has garnered over 15,000 comments and over 1,000 shares already, with even more likes on each organic comment under it.
Joe says, “Most people who, over the past year and up until recently, were discovering our brand had never heard of us before, so it’s been really helpful to have a unicorn ad with lots and lots of social validation from other users.”
Aside from the benefit of having social proof, Motion Nutrition’s cost-per-acquisition went down because of the added brand validity and presence.
If you also want to use unicorn ads, make sure to plan the content carefully because you won’t be able to change it once it gains traction.
What Did We Learn from This Episode?
- Raw reactions from your customers is the highest-quality feedback you can get.
- Enticing people to buy directly from your website gets you more leads and revenue.
- Collaborate with brands outside of your niche.
- Nurture all your relationships, no matter how small.
- Generate social validation to appeal to people who haven’t heard of your product before.
[03:53] — Joe Welstead introduces Motion Nutrition
- Motion Nutrition sells organic protein powders and natural nootropic products.
- The benefits range from managing stress and helping customers sleep to improving their daytime energy.
- It has been four years since Joe started the company.
- They are currently only based in the UK, but they are interested in expanding to other countries.
[05:23] — How did Motion Nutrition 10x its revenue?
- The company first specialized in organic sports supplements, but they were not capturing their target audience.
- Without altering the ingredients of the product, they rebranded their company’s identity by making changes in packaging.
- Instead of emphasizing the technicalities of their ingredients, they employed simple designs and messaging to highlight the benefits of their products.
- Over the past 18 months, their online sales have grown to $1.5 million without launching on Amazon.
[07:33] — Motion Nutrition’s D2C marketing strategy
- Joe used in-store sampling to get raw feedback from customers.
- They made their packaging more environmentally friendly and improved the convenience of their products.
- Their D2C marketing strategy yielded results, to the tune of 4x to 5x online sales, in three months.
[12:49] — Motion Nutrition’s sales channels
- Approximately 40 to 50% of their sales come from their website, 20% from Amazon, and another 20% from other retail stores.
- They launched on Amazon only a year ago.
- Their D2C marketing strategy directs their customers to make purchases on their website.
- Joe views retail stores as passive acquisition channels.
- Their sleep score quiz, coupled with Facebook advertising, entices people to buy from their website.
[16:39] — The role of partnerships in Motion Nutrition’s growth
- Their most profitable partnership is with Thrive Magazine. It landed Joe a speaking gig, where he met a student who would later work at a challenger bank with 10 million customers.
- Establish relationships with people whether they are in a position of power or not. You’ll never know what benefits you will get from it.
- This practice got him connections in big magazines without advertising with them.
[22:35] — Tips to build human relation skills
- Human relations is not about extraversion.
- Give people your full attention and actively listen.
- Start a conversation in a non-threatening way.
[27:07] — Motion Nutrition’s website traffic acquisition
- They have a static ad on Facebook promoting their sleep score quiz. The data comes from the National Sleep Foundation.
- After the quiz, an offer to purchase an Unplug trial pack for six nights will come up.
- They also send daily emails based on your answers.
[29:22] — Using unicorn ads and brand ambassadors
- Their unicorn ad for Unplug has 15,000 comments and over 1,000 shares.
- A unicorn ad is an ad you use without changing it. It picks up engagements over a long period.
- Because of the post’s high organic engagement, more people are discovering Motion Nutrition.
- As the unicorn ad generates more social proof, the company’s cost per click and cost per mile decrease.
- The company also works with real-life influencers, such as nutritional therapists.
[37:59] — Motion Nutrition’s top funnel
- The company’s competitors are mass-market products, but the way they market themselves is too niche.
- To differentiate themselves, Motion Nutrition doesn’t use jargon in their messaging.
- They create long-term brand equity by being benefit-focused and emotionally driven.
[40:39] — Converting leads into customers
- 1 week to 10 days — daily emails with tips based on the quiz answers
- Then, they tell the leads how they will feel in the long term if they buy their products.
- They’re also careful to manage their leads’ expectations.
[45:12] — The Motion Nutrition team & processes
- The company has seven full-time employees and three freelancers.
- Their most repetitive processes concern fulfillment. Their biggest issue at the moment is providing tracking information for customers abroad.
- Joe says delegating repetitive tasks can free up a quality of work that you wouldn’t acquire by hiring someone.
- They use Capsule as their funnel tool.
- Joe advises to be careful in working with an outsourcing agency.
[50:31] — Future of Motion Nutrition
- Their priority is to reach a $2 million run rate and raise significant funding at Series A.
- Their products will focus on energy, stress and sleep, and longevity.
Joe Welstead is a former international swimmer turned performance expert and cofounder of Motion Nutrition. Joe and his team of leading neuroscientists at Motion develop supplements to help users stress less, sleep deeper and live happier lives. Over the past 18 months, Joe has taken his company from being a London-only brand to selling across Europe, growing their DTC sales 10X and expanding into Amazon and hundreds of retail stores.