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Is Facebook Marketing Still Viable in 2022? with Nik Hall - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 165

Nik Hall is a follower of Christ, husband to the best wife, and the co-founder of vitafive, an emerging gummy vitamin brand with high quality ingredients and eco-friendly packaging. 

The humble beginnings of vitafive were started in founders Garrett Adair and Nik Hall’s 800 square foot house when they were Juniors at TCU. 

Since the beginning, the goals have been to help consumers find an easier way to be healthy, to be profitable, and to enjoy the life they have been given. 

While the road hasn’t been easy, it has always been worth it. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:05] Nik’s early interest in entrepreneurship
  • [03:41] The interest in money making and CEOs
  • [04:52] Benefits and considerations for co-founders
  • [08:26] “Breaking up” with co-founders
  • [11:09] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [11:29] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [12:13] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [13:39] Sponsor: BeProfit beprofit.co
  • [15:10] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [15:57] vitafive’s inception
  • [17:28] Success was fast but was not immediate
  • [18:55] vitafive’s biggest mistakes
  • [20:46] The wild west of Facebook ads
  • [21:30] Could startups still use Facebook marketing now?
  • [22:41] The effect of IOS 14 and 15 to marketers
  • [24:32] Don’t fully invest on just Facebook ads
  • [25:04] How vitafive deals with the IOS 14 and 15 updates
  • [26:47] Learn constantly or be a pioneer
  • [28:09] Keep it simple and easy for customers
  • [28:40] Where to find vitafive

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.

Nik Hall  

Don't overcomplicate what the business model may be.

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 commerce. I'm your host Chase. Clymer. 

And today we're welcoming to the show, the CEO and co-founder of vitafive, a premium gummy vitamin brand. They are innovating the way in the vitamins industry. Nik Hall, welcome to the show. 

Nik Hall  

Hey, thanks for having me.

Chase Clymer  

I'm excited to chat. So you got your start out of an 800-square foot house, which is... I know exactly how big that is because I used to grow up in a similar sized home. But that's when you guys were juniors back at TCU

So where did you come up with the idea for this brand? Did you always want to be an entrepreneur? Give me some backstory before the brand was incepted.

Nik Hall  

Yeah. I remember, gosh, my entrepreneurial journey started... At least the idea of me wanting to become an entrepreneur [started] at a pretty young age. I was 10 years old. 

I remember looking up a list of billionaires back when I was young, I thought, "Money meant everything." Things have changed since, but... So I looked at a big list of , "Hey, what are the top billionaires?" Now, I looked at lawyers, doctors... "

Who was it that was really able to make a ton of money?" And you go and look at the list and there are a couple doctors, a couple of lawyers, but they own massive firms. They've got tons of investment, they've got all this stuff. 

Fast forward a little bit, I started going to college and really, it was one of those things that I would say is like an ideal, but a far fetched idea of "Oh, I'd love to run my own business out of school." 

Started a business with one of my buddies and it was grocery delivery similar to if you're familiar with Favor really nowadays, DoorDash... All of those. 

We were nowhere near as complex as them, nowhere near as smart as them. And we built up. 

Brought in $152 in revenue. Brought in about --if you take away all costs and we just look at the cost of goods and stuff-- We made $3 in profit with that and then shut the business down. Couldn't figure it out. 

After that, I started a window cleaning business by myself. Built it up to a reasonable business. I think in the summer, I may have made $10,000. 

And then I decided like, "Hey, let me go get a job at a bigger corporation, work an internship and stuff like that." 

And then after that, I worked on a couple of business ideas with my now business partner. And we found that we worked really, really well together. He was really good on the design marketing front. 

And I was substantially better on the finance operations. So he was actually down in Austin, met with someone who had these little packs of vitamins. They were super expensive. 

And he was trying to do an internship and he was like, "Hey, how about we look at just doing something similar since this guy was gonna [say] "Eh, I don't really care about your ideas. Whatever." 

The guy was doing well with business. He didn't need any advice from a 20-year old college student. 

So he came back to me and we're like, "Hey, let's see if we can figure something out with this. And so that was kind of the start and the inception. 

And obviously, the idea has grown and changed since.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. You know what's funny is I think that it's maybe it's a trait of young people that are destined to be entrepreneurs to be almost obsessed with money in a weird way. 

Because I remember when I was younger, I was like a nerd. I wasn't looking to billionaires but I was always calculating "How much money could I make? If I could catch this odd job and work, basically, every hour I wasn't sleeping, could I afford an Xbox?" 

I would always do these weird thoughts on exercises like that. So I think it might be a commonality that  shows a tendency towards entrepreneurism as an adult and [as a child]. 

Nik Hall  

Totally. Yeah. It's funny, because  back in the day, it was like, "Oh, how do I be a billionaire?" I remember messaging the CEO of BestBuy back when I was like, 11. 

And somehow, I don't know... I don't even know if this is a real email. But I just told the story of "I'm 10 years old..."  Whatever. Never got responses from anyone like that or whatever. 

But I just always loved the idea of doing stuff like that. And my mindset has changed a little bit. I'm sure we'll talk a little bit about that later throughout. 

But our mindset has changed a bit differently since then. And then life goes on whatever but yeah.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So you mentioned your co founder, Garrett, I believe is his name. And I always enjoy interviewing entrepreneurs that have co-founders. 

I have a co-founder that I would not be here without him. I truly believe that. 

So for people out there that are listening that are ideating something or they might be trying to get something off the ground and they're struggling with it, what would you say is the benefits of a co-founder? 

And then honestly, if you could give the other side of it, [are there] maybe some things that you need to consider if you're taking on a co-founder?

Nik Hall  

Yeah. definitely. Well I'll speak good first, because most everything has been good with Garrett and myself. We've had a really, really good partnership. But I'll say that it was all built on foundation. 

Similar to building a house. If you have your foundation fully set and ready... I used to explain it and I was single for the longest time in my life, but I was likely... 

I used to always compare it to a marriage. Everyone wants to get married, right? But no one wants to get married to the wrong person. And I think it's the same thing in business. Everyone wants to have a business partner, but you don't want to have the wrong business partner. 

So me and my business partner, obviously are just very, very foundationally similar. And what I mean by that is, religiously, politically, how we view life, or goals with business, or personal goals in life, those things, in and of themselves are what I truly believe to be the most important things. 

Because for us, one of our big visions with the company right now and our big mission is we want the greatest gift of the longest term. 

And really, what that means is, in every single thing that we do, we're not doing this for tomorrow, or 10 years or 20 years, we're doing this assuming that, "Hey, if God takes me today, how am I going to feel if I had done something?" So we're always trying to work, win-win situations. 

We want to make sure that consumers are truly getting the best products that they have, that we're not ever going to work with another whether it's an agency or a retailer or customer, we always just truly want it to be where…

If we were to be sitting at the foot of God right now, how would he react to things? And honestly, that creates a very good basis. Because I'll just let you know, my business partner left the business about 6 to 7 months ago. 

And there's obviously things behind closed doors that we've agreed on all that stuff. But I'll just say it, pull out an honest, he still owns every bit of equity that he had from the beginning. And none of that was... 

But we just have similar values and all that sense. And we're very clear on that. There was never an argument. There was never a thought. He came to me... He's actually doing music now. And he has been doing music for 20 something years and it's something that he's always loved doing. 

But I'll still say to this day, he's an amazing business partner. I can call him at any point. He still is somewhat like an advisor in a sense. But he isn't like an active operator, so... 

And then also on the other side, with a bad business partner. I've had good friends that I wanted to go into business with. And it wasn't that they were bad business partners, we just wanted to be a good fit together, right? 

And I'll relate back to marriage again, where it's like, "Hey, this person can be a great person individually, but maybe they're not meant [to be] together." And I see that the same with business. We were both just super finance operations focused. 

Neither of us, --me and this other business partner-- had no marketing skills. And it's just really, really hard to make that. 

But I definitely have people who are looking for business or I wouldn't go searching for one because they're so hard to find. 

But if you do have a relationship with someone already and you guys come up with a year or over, I think that's always good.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. You're not the first person to bring up the concept that a business partner is just like a marriage in reality. It's a relationship that I think if you talk to any seasoned entrepreneur, they'd be like, "Yeah, I talk to my business partner almost as much as I talk to my significant other." 

It's that important of a relationship and that deep of a connection. Beyond that, with your business partner leaving... This is a concept that a lawyer told me once... And not leaving, but he walked away. [You] explained it better than I am slaughtering right now. 

But going into business with anybody, they mentioned, you should prepare for the "divorce" before you even get started. So did you guys have those harder conversations? Obviously, when there's no money to split, the conversations are a lot easier to have. Did you have those?

Nik Hall  

Yeah. So the way that we set up the business, I'll just tell it straight out, because it makes the most sense. And this will be the most helpful for other entrepreneurs that are getting into this. 

We have a 5-year agreement where the first 5 years of business, starting in 2015... It took us a year to start the business. 

And then right now we're almost 6 years into the business. So 5 years in the business, I think it was something like you get whatever, 10... I'll just do these numbers. 

20% every year for 5 years. And so if I were to leave after 3 years, I can get up to 60% or I can get 60% of my current shares that I had. And so he was over the 5 years. We never... 

And this is just straight honesty. This isn't me trying to make any of that sound better than it is. We never had a conversation about "Pay equity. This... That..." Whatever. 

He was getting a little bit of a seller for a bit and then we just said, "Hey, let's go ahead and change that up a bit or whatever." But yeah, honestly, we were very fortunate. 

We were friends first. I say the example of the billionaire thing in the beginning. Honestly, I live in a 600-square foot apartment. I'm doing plenty fine. I got a 2008 Honda Civic. Money's the last thing I'm worried about. I don't really... 

I don't put my I don't put my faith in the money or the objects of the things. I love running the business. 

And at the end of the day, if I get a $100 million check, that's cool. And if I don't, that's cool, too. Doesn't matter, so...

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think as you grow up, you realize how little money you need to be happy. 

Nik Hall  

Totally. 

Chase Clymer  

That's the cool thing about being an entrepreneur is you can get there a lot faster than you think. 

But the flipside is you probably won't be happy with being complacent. So you're always gonna try to push and push and push to get to that next level. 

Nik Hall  

Yeah, exactly. That's the fun part. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, yeah. It's so much fun. 

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Chase Clymer  

We quickly ran through some key moments of the growth of the brand. So the idea of the brand, it came from your partner with him meeting someone that had a similar brand?

Nik Hall  

Correct. Yeah, yeah. So a quick synopsis of the brand at this point. So we started with custom vitamin packs. So everything was gummy vitamins. 

You put your name on the back, so it would say "Chase's Pack". We could do Omega Vitamin D, Vitamin C, elderberry, melatonin, whatever we want, put in the back for you, sell them out, 4-weeks subscription or it continually recurs... 

We grew that business up to some bigger business, hit into the 7 figures, and then hit a point where cost per acquisition, profit loss, all that looked good, but the cash flow is not ideal. 

So we have one of 2 choices, either going to retail and grow a little bit more organically and a little bit slower maybe. 

Or we go out and raise a ton of money --by a ton of money, I mean tens of millions of dollars-- like our competitors: Care/of, Ritual... All these other companies have done. 

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. We just weren't big fans of raising a ton of money. And so we're like, "Let's go ahead and try to go a more organic route." So in 2019, we launched into retail with a big goal of trying to get to Target

So in 2019, we had 500 stores by the end of the year. By the end of 2020, we had 5000. By the end of 2021. We have 6500. And now that sounds great. It is really good. 

We've been very fortunate with the stores that we've gotten and everything. But now I'm pulling back a little bit and I'm being very, very specific with "Okay, which stores that we want to do? And let's make sure that we're very successful within those."

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Oh man, you're just laying it all out there. I applaud your honesty, the listeners would get mad if I didn't narrow in on this one statement you said. You guys launched and won 7 figures very quickly. There's a lot of story there. 

So let's just go to the first part of the story. How did you get those first set of customers? Like how did you spread the word about this product? And how did you scale from there?

Nik Hall  

Yeah, and I appreciate that. Because I'm actually going to correct myself. We secured the scale fairly quickly, looking back. In the moment, it was not. 

The first 6 months of business, I'll tell you exactly how it went. 

The first day we got 33 orders, it was $1,000 in sales. We didn't look at who it was. So we're like, "Heck yeah! We're 21 years old." Neither of us have the personality of overly arrogant or anything, or at least I don't think. 

And we were like sitting there like "Heck yeah! We'll be freakin millionaires by the time we're 22." And all this stuff. 

Day 2, we get 7 sales. We're like, "That's weird. It's not as many as the first day but whatever. I'm sure we'll continue on." Third day, we had like 1 or 2 sales. 

For the next, no joke, 6 to 9 months, We were getting 1 or 2 sales a week. We couldn't figure anything out. 

At that point, we haven't graduated school. And we're like, "What did we just do? Did we just totally mess everything up?" We're living off $1000 a month, my rent is $550 after car insurance. 

And fortunately, I already paid my car off. I was living on $3 a day for food. So it was definitely not pretty. We couldn't figure anything out. 

I'll tell you the things that we made, like our biggest mistakes: We built a custom-built site. We had a product that was out there. We had a ton of product on-hand. All this stuff. 

We were constantly just counting how many months away we were from failing. And then... I don't want to act like this (success) is overnight. 

But from what I can remember --it was 4 years ago at this point-- but we changed up our site, made our funnel really, really easy. This is back in the day, where really it was Facebook arbitrage.  We'll talk about iOS 14 and 15 soon, I'm sure. 

But we were able to like acquire these customers. It took us $15,000 for us to acquire our first customers though. And I say it cost us $15,000... It was like $10,000 to $15,000 that it costs us but it was a lot of other money that we had spent on customizing the site and all that stuff. 

My biggest thing that I always tell people is like, you've got to use something like a Shopify. I'm not saying Shopify specifically. I do think Shopify is probably one of the best if not the best. 

But yeah, I mean, there's also Bigcommerce, there's others and some people will say "Oh do this, do that" Whatever. If you're in cannabis, you can't do Shopify. So whatever. 

But the idea is don't try to go and custom build it, at least when starting. When you're bigger, better, or whatever, maybe it's different. But that was our biggest mistake. 

And, then from there just make it as simple as possible. We had grandparents using this stuff. And they were like, "Just walk me through it, I can't do this." 

And I'm like, "They can walk through Amazon. They should be able to walk through this." 

And then once we started figuring it out, then we started dumping money into the process and got some good results from it. 

Built it to a certain point, and then we were starting to look at it like, "Hey, what's the cash-on-cash return?" And it was taking us 4 months to get cash back. 

So we were gonna still be able to grow if we were doing it that way. But we wanted to diversify a little bit, which I'm super happy with. Because, obviously with iOS 14, the investments are nowhere near [to] what it was.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So you were... [You] found traction a little over 5 years ago. So we're talking 2016 is when you guys were probably ramping into paid ads on Facebook... 

 

Nik Hall  

2016... We started 2017, really. Being in 2017. It was... Gosh. We launched in March, by probably like March, April, we had started figuring it out. 

And then by like August of '17, we really we're ramping, and then at that point....

Chase Clymer  

So that was... Oddly enough. That's around when our agency started, I think. 

Nik Hall  

Is that right now? Okay, that's crazy. 

Chase Clymer  

The wild west of Facebook ads. I remember you could put up an ad on a blank square and make money sometimes. It was wild. 

Nik Hall  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

It was really cool. Especially if you had a product that had value, that people actually wanted. You could really scale some things to where... I don't think there's anything that's happened since it has been just as crazy. 

Maybe Tiktok and its virality is helping a lot of brands grow right now. But that whole thing of Facebook back then versus Facebook now are 2 completely different things. 

If you were to launch the same business right now, do you think you could do it on Facebook ads?

Nik Hall  

No. I've got a number... I know your background a little bit but I don't... I've got a number of buddies that have been like, "Hey, I want to launch into a direct-to-consumer business. 

And I'm like, "Dude, if you're talking direct-to-consumer in terms of online on your site, I highly suggest against it at this point." 

If you got a behemoth of money, that's a little bit of a different story. Maybe you can test borrowing dough? Gosh, I would just go a totally different route now. It's just... But I guess it depends on... It depends on so many different factors. 

I just know that iOS, as a whole, has just got so many complex issues with it. I don't know a single person online that is like winning like they were.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. Those... If we want to dumb it down for anyone that's been living under a rock. One of the 2 main takeaways of what happened with the 2 releases of Apple, was that Google did the same things on the Pixels as well... 

I don't remember what order it was because I don't care, because it just annoys me. 

So it was like [iOS] 14 comes out and basically sabotages the data and how a cell phone will talk back to major corporate conglomerates, basically Facebook. And so your numbers are mismatched with your return on ad spend in all of your ads managers

And then the next release (iOS 15), basically, sabotaged email open rates. And it was hard for... Now it's harder for marketers to know whether or not their emails have been received and opened by people on iOS devices. 

I don't know if Google actually did something similar on the Pixel devices. But  that was a very, very quick crash course on what happened. Is there anything else that's specifically left out?

Nik Hall  

No, yeah. I think you're dead on there. I think it was a big shock to everyone. We actually cut a lot of our spending right before that because we were seeing CPMs rise. 

And I think it's honestly caused issues globally. We've got a supply chain issue, but I was talking to a number of friends back in August to September last year and told them, "Watch, we'll have some issues in Q1 - Q2 next year first because of supply chain, but second because Facebook." 

A number of businesses were thriving... I'm talking about $30 million businesses. 

If you look at Native Deodorant... I think his name is Moi Ali? Moiz Ali, something like that... Dude's a genius, right? He's awesome. He will still be successful in today's day and age or whatever. 

But he couldn't do what he did. Because it's just a totally different time. He was getting to dollar acquisition costs on Facebook back in the day, and built it into a $20 million business sold for $100 (million).

We can't get $2 clicks nowadays. So it's just a different world.

Chase Clymer  

That's why I asked you such a specific question a few minutes ago. It's because I know the answer, and I want everyone listening to understand that. If your goal to scale your business in 2022, is to dump all of your life savings into Facebook ads, you're going to go bankrupt. 

And I want to stop people from going that route and I want to save them money. You could invest that money in other places and probably build a successful business. 

But if your only goal and your strategy is "I'm gonna buy customers through Facebook and Google." You're not going to do it. 

Nik Hall  

Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

So what... How are you guys dealing with iOS 14/15 these days? Have you found something to help?

Nik Hall  

Gosh. We've pulled out a lot of our marketing dollars there to be completely honest. Our approach right now is we're going to hit --and we're hitting-- Amazon pretty hard. We had some really good success in growth last year. 

[We] built it from a low 6-figure business to 7-figures in 3 months, in terms of run rate. We are continuing to invest there. We're investing in a lot of our retailers. Honestly, my approach right now is more on the safe side. Okay. 

So we come from this side... And I always want to clarify this stuff because it depends on the business that you're in. 

If you're in a business, where you're gonna raise a bunch of money, you have a lot more money to test. I think that there are people right now that are winning on YouTube, that are winning on Tiktok, or that are winning on Snapchat

People that are still winning on Facebook, honestly. There are people that are still figuring it out and doing well. But we don't put the budget towards that right now. 

We're like, "Hey, we're running on a profit basis." But we're also trying to make sure that we're as effective as possible. So our whole approach is we're just taking it as it is. 

Take it on a day-to-day basis, figuring out, "Hey, what is it?" I continually am connecting with a number of people, whether it's agencies or friends in CPG or whatever it may be. 

And as I start to hear that Facebook starts working again, or whatever, I'll start to invest a little bit more. But we pulled out almost all... Actually, all of our budget. 

And in April of last year, we went a little bit into influencers. That's hit or miss. It's a really difficult game. But yeah, it's definitely... It's a marketers game now. It's not a Facebook arbitrage game anymore, so...

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. That's interesting. I'll connect with you more after the podcast about that kind of stuff. Awesome. Yeah. Nik, I can't thank you enough for coming on the show today. Now, is there anything that I forgot to ask you that you think is going to resonate with our audience?

Nik Hall  

I think one thing that would be useful... So we've gone through a number of different business models, I wouldn't say anyone was like an overly successful or overly big failure. 

We are changing our... I wouldn't say changing our model. But we are changing a number of things with our business. 

We have a new product that's actually launching in mid-March on our site. And one thing I'll just tell people out there is that custom packs are a really cool thing. It's very different. 

In college, I was taught "Non-stop, you've got to learn or you got to provide a product that no one has." One of my favorite business models out there is this place. It's called Take 5 Oil Change.

Chase Clymer  

Mm-hmm.

Nik Hall  

It's a 5-to-10 minute oil change, that's all it is. There's nothing different. They don't put any crazy oil in your car, they don't... Whatever. 

They give you a wad of oil when you go in and sit in your car, they do the oil change. You're in and out. And to me, I pay more to go do that. 

But my least favorite thing is waiting in the car for an hour and a half. So my point too, is there's tons of ideas that people probably have out there. And it's really hard to know if an idea is good or bad or whatever it may be. 

One thing I would say is just keep it really simple. And just make it very easy. Go to the grocery store aisles and understand that for us, we've been in bags this entire time. 

And no one else is in bags. Well, there's probably a reason why they're not in bags, and a lot of it is operational. 

So that's probably the only thing that I would really say: "Don't over complicate what the business model may be". 

We're launching a new product. It's very simple, it's very easy to understand, and hopefully, hopefully, it's a decent success.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And for those that are curious about, obviously, the products that you currently have, and this new product that's coming out soon where should they go to check it out?

Nik Hall  

Yeah. vitafive.com. Feel free to connect on LinkedIn as well. Anything there on our site, there's probably gonna be a pop up with the text stuff. if you do sign up to text, we'll let you know as soon as the new product is launching. It should be awesome. 

It's really probably one of the most innovative things to the vitamin industry, most of the vitamin... 

And that's not bragging. That's just that the vitamin industry doesn't innovate. So (laughs)... But it will be awesome. It's gonna be a really, really good thing. [It] launches in March. So...

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yeah, so [for] anyone listening, this podcast is coming out after their launch date. So just go check out the website. Take a look at that. It's vitafive.com. Nik, you've been a fantastic guest. Thank you so much for coming on.

Nik Hall  

Awesome. Thanks. 

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.