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How to Enter a Saturated Market with Gillian Snyder - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 200

Prior to Pureboost, Gillian has 15 years of brand and digital marketing experience in consumer products. 

She takes a data-informed approach to all things marketing, even those that aren't traditionally thought of as "performance marketing tactics." 

All while balancing the art of building a meaningful brand.

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:19] What Pureboost has to offer
  • [02:16] The genesis of Pureboost
  • [04:16] Visualizing your competitors
  • [04:53] Why Pureboost needed to be unique
  • [05:27] From ideation to having a sample
  • [06:13] How Pureboost managed to produce a sample fast
  • [07:20] Pureboost’s similarities to The Lean Startup
  • [08:23] Launching an Amazon-first brand
  • [09:21] The biggest pivot that Pureboost had
  • [11:01] Starting on Amazon vs starting on Shopify
  • [12:34] Gillian’s advice transitioning from Amazon to D2C
  • [15:02] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [15:22] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [16:10] Sponsor: Wayflyer wayflyer.com/ecomm/honest
  • [17:23] Sponsor: Rewind rewind.com/honestecommerce
  • [17:53] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [18:41] Pureboost’s marketing stack
  • [20:33] Why not make more product SKUs?
  • [22:55] The challenge in maintaining focus
  • [24:12] How Traction helped Chase to focus
  • [24:47] Most business books have so much fluff
  • [25:10] Where to find Pureboost products

Resources:

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 Transcript:

Chase Clymer  

Before we get started, if you're enjoying this content, you can do us a favor by subscribing to our YouTube channel and ringing the bell.

That will let the algorithm know that you like this content and it will help us produce more.

Gillian Snyder  

There are people that like to shop on Amazon and there are people that like to buy brand directly, and there's not a whole lot you can do to kind of change our mind either way.

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating  real results. 

I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.

Let's get on with the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And today, we're welcoming to the show the VP of Marketing at Pureboost

She is responsible for scaling the Pureboost business year over year since its launch in August 2018 to where it is today. 

Gillian Snyder, welcome to the show.

Gillian Snyder  

Thanks Chase for having me.

Chase Clymer  

I am so stoked that I didn't stumble over any of those words during the intro. That was a long one for me. 

Gillian Snyder  

(laughs)

Chase Clymer  

Alright, so for those that don't know, let's just quickly let them know, what is Pureboost? What [are] the products that you guys are bringing to market so they can have an idea of where this is headed?

Gillian Snyder  

Great. Yeah, so Pureboost is a clean antioxidant energy drink mix. And really what that means is it comes in a little packet, you add it to water, and it gives you clean energy. 

The energy comes from green tea, caffeine, B12, but then it has all these really awesome benefits as well: electrolytes, tons of vitamins, antioxidants... 

And so what it does is it gives you that really nice energy boost that most of us need to help us get through the day, but you don't feel bad afterwards. 

So there's no jitters, there's no crash, and you get all of the really great benefits of vitamins, electrolytes... 

And nothing dirty or bad gets put into your body.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. All right. So take me back in time. You've been with the team quite a while, right? 

Gillian Snyder  

Yep. Yeah, so really day zero. We... 

When I first started, it was actually a brand incubator. And we were looking for opportunities to launch new products in the Amazon marketplace. And so we have launched a few different brands. We... 

My founders, then synced up with our other, now, co-founders who are experts in the supplement space. And as we were looking, one, just in terms of "Okay, there is the energy drink space is actually very, very crowded. But we think there's an opportunity there."

And really where the idea came from is, our founders were in a room and collectively between them, they have 15 kids. 

So everyone is very busy with work. We have professional athletes, their kids are super active. We're all Southern Californians so a healthy lifestyle [is needed]. 

Instead of reaching for a second, third, fourth cup of coffee that some days needed, they said, "Hey, we'd love to take something else. How do we get this energy and still feel really good?" 

And so they looked at what was there and really went out, bought all the products that they could find in stores today, while also looking online, and laying them all out on the table. 

And when they separated them out, they said okay, "Well, here's what we consider dirty energy or energy options that are not very good for you and here's the clean side." And there wasn't a whole lot there. 

So that is really the genesis of Pureboost. So they worked together to create the formula and the product and then I brought it to life on Amazon first. 

And just really quickly, out of the gate, we saw our customers respond there very well. Or really THE consumer because at the time we didn't have customers. 

And yeah, that just took off from there. 

Chase Clymer  

I feel like my trashcan is probably an example of dirty energy this time.

Gillian Snyder  

Uh-oh, we're gonna get you some Pureboost.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, we'll work that out after the show. What I love about that... 

And a lot of times, I hear from people that want to be entrepreneurs, they want to get into the Ecommerce space and the ideation phase is hard. And the people that are actively out there trying to find problems to solve, it's always interesting to me. 

Just going out and looking at what's in the market and laying it all out in front of you and visualizing and seeing it, it's the first time I've heard someone say that. And I think that's an awesome way to... 

If you have a passion and some knowledge in a certain space, maybe look at what everyone else is doing. 

And maybe once you lay them all out there you can see what some opportunity might be.

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah, I think it was really important for us, again, because the energy drink market is pretty saturated. There's a lot out there. And so we knew... 

And we also knew from the other brands that we had launched, it was really important to create something that was different and unique because "me too" products... 

We all know that, especially as digital marketers and the Ecommerce space, it's hard to acquire customers. It's expensive. And so you need to have something that is truly different that consumers are going to respond to.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So you guys found this product. Now, do you know how long it took from that exercise of laying these products out on the table and seeing where the holes were to actually having a sample?

Gillian Snyder  

It was fast. I'm trying to... Man, it's like going back into the vault. I want to say... I think we launched within 8 months or so from getting the product, tasting it, and then developing the packaging, branding, everything. So it was pretty fast. 

Our approach was to get something out to market and test, and then continue to refine and build from there. And that's really what we have launched Pureboost with that in mind, but that's how we've scaled and grown Pureboost today,

Chase Clymer  

And on your founding team, did you have anybody that had experience in this space or had done it before to kind of help you circumvent some of the trial and error of most startups?

Gillian Snyder  

We had... So we have a pretty packed, powerful leadership team. Half of them have been in the branding, Amazon digital marketing space for years and then the other half came directly from the supplement space. And so they combined forces. 

So we really had the best of both worlds to get this product to market. But I think with anything... Obviously, not the product development side. 

But after that was done, it was really test and learn from there because everything's changing all the time. 

So testing our messaging, testing, our package. It's subtle, but our packaging has changed every single round, because we're constantly tweaking and learning from what our customers are responding to and how to get better.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. This is just a product version of The Lean Startup. If anyone out there hasn't read that book, it's fantastic...

Gillian Snyder  

Yes.

Chase Clymer  

It's definitely more about starting a SaaS business, but you can translate over so much of what's in that book to starting an Ecommerce business.

Gillian Snyder  

Absolutely. It's funny. We actually... I showed not the whole book, obviously. But I found this really cool video that summarized the Lean Startup and I read... 

We watched it with my team and to us, this is literally Pureboost, because one MVP, minimum viable product. Minimum viable product, you have to start there because if you wait forever, you're not going to get those learnings quick enough to be successful. 

But I think the most important thing is…

And I've learned it as well is being really adaptable and being ready to pit it because nothing goes exactly as planned. 

So really, everything we did was [to] get it out there, learn. "Do we stay on course or do we have to pivot and do something different thing?"

Chase Clymer  

Now, can you share any examples of some of those learnings or maybe a pivot that you remember from this amazing ride?

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah, let's see. A couple things. One, with Pureboost... This isn't going to be the best example of pivoting. But the biggest challenge that I found with launching Pureboost was being an Amazon first brand. 

Nothing really works in the same way as I was used to coming from a traditional B2C Ecommerce background. And so everything that we would launch and try. 

Some things worked really well, some things didn't, but I constantly had to assess the data that was coming in because I didn't have that full funnel analysis that I was used to. 

And so I was constantly trying to re-evaluate the information that Amazon gave me, and how do I get creative with that data to create insights, then to drive our next phase of growth or marketing. Whatever it is. So that was one challenge. 

And then I think one of the biggest, maybe, pivots we had was, as we grew, we started to understand who our target customer was more, and more, and more. 

And so things that we had been doing previously about our messaging that worked pretty well, like enough to to scale us a little bit. 

But what I found was that our consumer was a little bit different than a typical energy drink consumer. The energy space tends to be male-dominated and a little bit younger in terms of age. Pureboost was resonating with more of that average consumer and actually rendered more female. 

And so once I realized that, we had to take a step back and reevaluate our marketing a little bit because we wanted to make sure that everything we did going forward now in terms of our messaging, any changes that we were doing on the fly just to test and learn, now we can get a little bit more strategic with it. 

And so we knew that we wanted to actually purposefully message that customer, where in the beginning, it was a little bit of trying a lot of things, just to figure out what worked, what stuck, what didn't, and looking at the data. And so that was pretty... 

I think it was a great turning point in our company, because [we] started to [do] a lot less guessing and more strategic and purposeful in how we were going to scale the business from then on.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Now, you dove into the Amazon vs own website question before I could get there. But I do want to ask. 

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

For the listener, could you quickly outline just from your opinion and perspective, what are the pros and cons of starting on Amazon versus starting on, say, a Shopify store?

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah. The biggest pro, the benefit of Amazon is you are capturing "free" traffic pretty quickly. I put free in quotes. Nothing's free. 

But you can really get something launched and start to test it. It doesn't cost a ton of money. You can get actual eyes on your page, without a huge, huge investment. 

If you launch on Shopify first, the number one question is, how do you get people to your site, and advertising is only getting more and more expensive. So that's definitely a benefit of Amazon. 

The big downfall, though, is not having customer data. So it makes it really tough. And it's part of the reason why it took us so long to truly understand who our customers were. 

If we launched on Shopify first, you get that full funnel that I mentioned. So someone clicked on this ad, visited this page, and did or didn't purchase. We didn't have any of that. It was "Okay, someone clicked on an ad." 

And so we had to make a lot of our decisions without that, that full funnel analysis. And then again, you lose all of that customer data so you couldn't email customers... 

We weren't growing an email database right away. So we had to get creative and figure out "How do we do that?" in parallel to our Amazon business.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And now you guys are running both in parallel. How long did it... 

This is something I see with a lot of brands that start Amazon first is when they've made the jump to their own website, they don't get the same result, and they're almost surprised. 

So is there any level setting or expectations that you can put out there because you guys had a very successful Amazon business before you launched your own website. 

Gillian Snyder  

We did.

Chase Clymer  

So any advice you could share around that?

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah, it's tough. This is the pivot I should have hit on earlier. I had that same expectation. "Oh, cool. We've been so successful on Amazon, D2C is going to be easy." And when we launched D2C, it actually was. 

Our first couple of months, it grew pretty quickly. And you should have seen the forecast I built out of how we are just going to be exploding on DTC in 12 months. But I quickly came back to reality a little bit. And yeah, we had to rethink how D2C and Amazon work together. 

And so what I realized is, at the end, I think 2 things. One, there are 2 types of people. And someone said this to me actually earlier and I listened but it became really apparent. 

There are people that like to shop on Amazon and there are people that like to buy brand directly, and there's not a whole lot you can do to change their mind either way. 

And so once I really took that to heart, then instead of trying to think of, "Okay, I'm competing with my own Amazon business. I only want to sell on DTC.", I realized, I don't really care. I want to grow the overall pie, so I'm not going to worry too much about where that order is placed. 

If I can incentivize them to a place on D2C, of course, that's what I'm going to do, because I'd rather have the order over there. 

But I also want people to purchase on Amazon, because there's a lot of reasons and benefits for our business there too. So once I took that approach, things started to go much more smoothly. 

We actually have a shop on Amazon button on our website because it helps us with attribution and better understand what our traffic is doing instead of just dragging a bunch of traffic to our website, not being able to track them, have them leave and go buy on Amazon anyways. 

Now at least I can track it and actually Amazon gives us a kickback for that too. So there's a benefit. So that was very interesting.

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Chase Clymer  

We talked a lot about driving traffic, and so the audience always wants to know what are you guys doing now? 

Where are you focusing your time and energy and even money investment as far as advertising goes?

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah, so we have changed our approach quite a bit for this year compared to last year. So 2020 and 2021 was all about growth, growth, growth, getting perused in front of as many customers as possible.

I don't want to say no matter what the cost, but we were much more aggressive. This year, we really wanted to take a step back and focus on profitability so that we are creating a very scalable business that ultimately, we'll make money. 

So we've pulled back a little bit on the advertising side and really it's been D2C. For us, it's so much more efficient to capture customers on Amazon, that I'm spending most of my budget there. 

But obviously you can't ignore D2C. There's so many important aspects and we have been really successful on D2C with getting Amazon customers over to D2C to sign up for a subscription. So that's a really important part of our business. 

But what we're doing which is super exciting this year is we're actually expanding out to retail. And so we wanted to make sure as we're thinking about profitability and growth, that we're saving budget to also help drive our retail partners because we know long term that we have to win there as well. 

And so we're just trying to be very thoughtful about our budget. So I actually pulled back a lot, especially with iOS changes on Facebook marketing, probably 200% to really focus on our top channels for now. 

And again, the big retail play that is hitting for us in Q3 and Q4.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Now, this is a little bit of a pivot of a question, but I...

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

...believe you're going to answer this. I think I know how you're going to answer this.

Gillian Snyder  

I think the theme of this podcast might be pivoting. (laughs)

Chase Clymer  

Maybe, maybe. So you guys have an amazing Amazon presence. You guys have found ways to win on your own website but you have a very low SKU count. 

Technically, you have 3 products and a water bottle, right? 

Gillian Snyder  

Mm-hmm.

Chase Clymer  

The water bottle, I would argue, isn't actually a product. 

Gillian Snyder  

Right. Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

Why not make more products? Why such a low SKU count?

Gillian Snyder  

Great question. And really, it comes down to cash flow. So it is expensive to launch a new product because you have to meet minimums. And you don't always know how customers are going to respond. 

And we have found that our hero product, Pureboost Original, that original line that we launched, continues to outsell anything else that we launched. So it's not to say that we don't want to innovate, but we're hyper, super focused on what is going to help us scale and meet our company goals. 

So our goal is really our growth in a way that is efficient to help us again with that profitability and then retail overall, because we know that's going to be super important to our business long term. 

And so it really came down to where do we want to spend our cash? And it was on that. So we haven't... Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

No, that's a fantastic answer. And I think that a lot of young entrepreneurs always go immediately to expanding the product line. But I think that...

Gillian Snyder  

Mm-hmm.

Chase Clymer  

...the more mature play... Maybe it's the wrong terminology, but it's like you... 

There's always the shiny object syndrome and the new stuff is always exciting but it's you rarely have actually capitalized on how many customers are out there to acquire or really honing in on your profitability. 

And there's always the one or two products that are the ones you should actually spend all your time and energy on: Building out those funnels and the retargeting, and all that. 

Gillian Snyder  

Exactly. 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Now, is there anything I forgot to ask you about that you think would resonate with our audience today?

Gillian Snyder  

I don't think so. The one thing that I would just expand upon that you actually just mentioned was "shiny object" and focus. That to me... 

As you're growing a business and scaling, that's one of the biggest challenges because there's always new marketing tactics and new tools. You can't say yes to everything. And a lot of times, it's not always the best thing for your business or at that moment. And you cannot be afraid to say no. 

I've had to go back to our founders' event and say that I cannot do that right now because we have limited dollars and limited time, too. I have a really amazing team and in a startup, small company, high growth, there's always more to do than what you have time in the day. 

So I also want to keep my team focused on what matters most, what's going to truly help move the needle on our KPIs, the things that matter more than something else that sounds really fun and exciting that isn't truly going to contribute to growth, retention, or brand development. So staying focused is hard.

Chase Clymer  

It's really hard. And this is... When our business changed over here at the agency was [when] we read the book Traction by Gino Wickman

And it changed how we thought about business and really helped us curb the shiny object syndrome because you basically aren't allowed to make it important. And then it usually falls off and it becomes unimportant if you actually follow the system. 

Gillian Snyder  

Oh, interesting. I'm gonna have to read that book. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, it's not my favorite business book. It's definitely a little more dense than others. I'm definitely... I'm a sucker for allegory-type business books where it's like a story as well.

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah. Well, I had a teacher once tell us that any business book can be read in 15 minutes so you can kind of skip through the fluff or the 20 page outline and scientific background as long as you get the gist and get the major takeaways.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely, a lot of it's reiterating the concepts just to make sure they drive it home. 

Gillian Snyder  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

Gillian, thank you so much for coming on the show today. We talked so much about these awesome products. If I want to go check them out, --obviously, I need to-- where should I go? 

Gillian Snyder  

Well, Amazon, of course. But also pureboost.com. So yeah, I guess if you want to buy it, buy it from pureboost.com. We have great deals there. 

And then what's really exciting is we will be in Walmart in the fall, so I'm super excited about that. 

And some other retailers are coming soon, so keep your eye out for Pureboost on shelves. 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Thank you so much. 

Gillian Snyder  

Awesome. Thanks, Chase. 

Chase Clymer  

Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us. 

We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes. 

Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have. 

Make sure you subscribe, leave a review. And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.