Before I founded Think Media, and once again began working within the natural product, health and wellness industry (my passion), I worked for a company that was fortunate enough to have legacy customers that continually purchased from us. They knew our products, trusted our seal of approval and purchased from us repeatedly until one day they didn’t. I don’t mean to make it sound flippant, because we didn’t lose the customers overnight. Rather it was a slow, quiet burn. To be clear, we did many things wrong. We sold our email list to what turned out to be our largest competitor. We inundated our email subscribers with offers based on our sales needs not their purchase wants/needs. We became completely dependent on discounts, sales and other incentives that over time devalued our products and made it impossible for us to retain a premium on even our best, most high-value products.
However, the biggest miss of all was that we refused to innovate. We refused to take even the most modest risks with the products and social media marketing that we created. We didn’t want to upset our core customers with something new or out of the norm. We were also afraid of the investment cost of engaging, cultivating and securing relationships with new customers through video marketing. We missed both opportunities. We thought our customers would remain loyal because they always had been loyal. We ignored the fundamental rule of business – innovate or die.
When we finally started seeing the writing on the wall, namely that our competitor had successfully captured our customers, it was too late.They won our customers by honoring their needs with new, pioneering products and inventive ecommerce advertising strategies. They weren’t scared by the prospect of unending innovation; they were fearful of becoming stale – of becoming like us.
The end result was failure. The projects that I was spearheading got sidelined, the executive leadership departed, and the company continues to falter and pay for the sins of the past to this day. So why is this story relevant to the natural product, health and wellness sector? Because many natural product brands find themselves in similar situations albeit in a different circumstance. They fight for their shelf space in Whole Foods (and now worry about Amazon) but have forgotten that ultimately, it is a direct relationship with the customer that drives their business. These same companies spend countless hours on product formulations, making sure that their products have the best possible natural and organic ingredients (Amen), that their packaging is distinct, that there supply chains are sustainable and scalable. However, they tend to lose their innovative spirit when it comes to digital marketing and ecommerce ideas. Rather than demand the same level of excellence that they pour into everything else that they do, they prefer to play it safe and follow the road most traveled. In truth, this sometimes works for a time because of the impressive growth in the segment and the relative consistency of the natural product shopper demographic. It sometimes works, that is, until one day when customer behavioral changes, the market shifts, or a new competitor enters to disrupt the channel.
Innovation is the life force of companies and even countries. Imagine if John F. Kennedy forfeited the moon race to Russia. If rather than saying “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” he had said “We aren’t going to the moon, because it is too hard.” If he thought “let’s see what they find out there, we can always go second.” The country would have hung its head in embarrassment. Why is it then that some natural products companies willing take second place when it comes to exploring and implementing innovative digital marketing? It is as though they simply wish to follow the crowd, and yet they’re pioneers when it comes to ingredient formulations and new product development. It is nothing short of perplexing. Perhaps, they just need a little encouragement and some new marketing plan ideas. Perhaps, we can help.