I promised that I would be referencing some Douglas Adams in my next blog. After a conversation with the powers that be I have been informed that my blog should be a little bit more product focused. The suggestion being that perhaps my predilection for philosophy isn’t the best marketing mechanism.
So here’s a story about moisturizer.
One of the cool things that we have been able to do here since the very beginning is listen to people. I think most companies must start that way. I think many of them lose it along the way. If we ever do I’ll be disappointed.
For the better part of last year we just had six products. Our scrubs, masque, exfoliant, and shampoo/conditioner. It was a pretty big step up from the year before but it still left some pretty wide gaps. If someone wanted to become a Maine Magic Mud customer exclusively we would not have been able to provide some pretty standard products. To fill the void we began brainstorming. A moisturizer was a pretty clear next step. The problem was we did not know how to make it our own. The rest of the products all had ingredients that made them stand out. Whether it was the mud or the kelp we had something that added value, something no one else had. Figuring it out with the moisturizer was more difficult. Up until that point we had a pretty clear separation. Mud was in the skin products; kelp was in the hair products. We even leaned into that distinction with some of our marketing. This was not going to work with a moisturizer. All our skin products were meant to be cleaned off after the fact (exfoliant, scrubs, masque etc.). This allowed us to incorporate our mud. Moisturizer is different you leave it on. In that scenario the mud would have been a detriment. Imagine applying moisturizer and having it be even slightly gritty. Trashcan.
Luckily we had Chelsea.
Chelsea was an early customer and had noticed our want of moisturizer. She got a hold of us and specifically requested one with Frankincense. She’d been putting Frankincense essential oil in her store bought moisturizer with amazing results but had not found one that came that way. We did some research into the beneficial elements of frankincense (there are many) and after some trial and error our frankincense moisturizer was born. We include a little of our kelp extract to help with rejuvenation (and keep our ocean based flavor) but the frankincense was exclusively customer inspired. Now the moisturizer is one of our most popular products and it all came about because we were able to listen, directly, to the needs and wants of our customers. That can’t change.
Today happens to be my birthday.
My sister called this morning and I joked with her that I would make a lot of sales calls today. I’d slip in the fact that it was my birthday to guilt people into making a purchase. I promise I won’t do that. After all we run an ethical company here at Maine Magic Mud. I refuse to entrap my clientele even if it is just with societal convention. Maybe I’ll send emails…
This morning, just before I got to the office, and last night well after I left it I got a call. The call was from one of earliest, favorite, and most consistent customers, I’m going to call him Max for the purpose of the story. Every time Max runs out, or is close to running out, of shampoo or conditioner he gives us a call directly. Generally most people place personal orders online but we’ve had a great relationship from the beginning of the company and I always love to hear (and he’s happy to share) what he thinks of a new product. Early on he was extremely generous when an order got delayed while we worked out some kinks in distribution and has stuck loyally by our side ever since. It turns out when you start a business it is hard to build a reputation. A lot of people aren’t willing (with good reason) to take a leap and purchase online from a company they are unfamiliar with. A generations worth of scams and underhanded dealings has left the Internet, outside of bastions of familiarity such as Amazon or Google, feeling like a lawless and risky place. Online business success comes when you have built a relationship with the masses. This takes communal trust. To build a community you need pioneers.
Max is one.
The Internet can be a sketchy place but within the maelstrom there are gems and honest people. Out there every day weeding the wheat from the chaff are the leapers. People like Max who see a cool idea and give it the benefit of the doubt. Who have seen the darker side of humanity but still trust in strangers. They know the risks and take them anyway. These are the people who try the new thing on the menu, who trust the street vendor with a broken down cart, and who order things from a company called “Maine Magic Mud.” Without them the world would grind to a halt as the rest of us huddle beneath the umbrella of the known. Max had no idea it was my birthday but his call seemed full of portent. I think we have a tendency to push these leapers to the fringe. Their audacious courage frightens us. Little do we know as we turn our backs that they are leading.
Something I have been working on recently is how to convey the value of our products to our audience, and from a business standpoint, potential customers.
More importantly, if I’m being honest, it’s about trying to bridge the gap between “oh this is a cool idea” and “I have to try that.” The challenge lies in the impetus to make a decision. The process of establishing a customer relationship is a long one. The stats say that generally someone needs to see a brand, even if it is just in passing, fourteen times before they make a purchase decision. Building that relationship takes time. At first glance it might seem like a long gentle slope upward to the final goal. The problem is that that isn’t the case. It’s a little more like taking a long gently upward sloping walk and then at the end there is a cliff. You’ve picked up some tools to get over the cliff along the way but it is still by far the most challenging part of the process. The other thing about this particular cliff is that you don’t climb it just because there is a set of stairs. You have to really want to get to the top. It does not matter how logically appealing the thing at the top of the cliff is if the person on your path doesn’t have an emotional response to it.
Therein lies the rub.
It turns out it is challenging to elicit an emotional response to mud, unless you hit someone in the face with it and if our focus group is anything to go by that particular emotional response isn’t likely to inspire a sale.
I’ll keep you posted, but if anyone has any bright ideas about inspiring a love affair with mud shoot us an email, or reply on here, I’ll do my best to make it worth your while, I would certainly be emotional.
I was talking to my head-marketing guru recently and she brought up a very interesting and salient point. We were going back and forth a little bit about what worked and what didn’t in terms of trying to bolster online sales. I, perhaps rather priggishly, said that someone somewhere makes money off of those horrific iPad ads. You know the ones, they pop up sporadically unbidden insisting with flashing lights and ugly clip art that you’ve won a prize. As we ease toward 2020 I doubt that business model has maintained its efficiency as people become savvier, and wary, of things they spot on the internet. That said I felt that my point, even if somewhat flippant, would hold water. Then I got some valuable perspective.
We aren’t selling an iPad.
What we are selling is far more intimate. We are selling a product that we expect people to put on their bodies. The trust involved in that dynamic is much deeper than the purchase of a piece of electronic equipment. It’s also a trust that needs to be earned.
With that in mind I will share the following. There’s not a product we have that I do not use myself (and my team uses them on their kids). Any product we put out gets tested beforehand (generally by a good natured group of my friends and family), and last but certainly not least if I ever discovered an issue with any of our products my first priority would be to inform the people that made it all possible in the first place, you.
I think it is important to put faces and people behind things. I care about our products and I care about you. Building a relationship is important and I think in our world of institutionalized distance we could all be a little more intimate.
The Do Unto Others Principle
Organization is not one of my strongest suits. In that regard from time to time I make mistakes. Very recently this happened with my Etsy account. We set up Etsy in the very early days of our company thinking we might use it as a platform (and we still might). As time passed we shifted our focus to our site and the Etsy account entirely slipped my mind. Then last week someone placed an order on Etsy. It had been over a year since anyone had logged on and we missed the order completely. The first I realized we had done so was a week later when the customer reached out asking for tracking information. At that point we had a choice to make. We had not filled the order. I think there are companies that might fudge it in these circumstances “oh it is delayed, not sure what happened, lost in the mail” etc. etc. It has been a goal of mine since we started not to participate in that type of dubious practice. I messaged the buyer and was entirely honest. I apologized and confessed to an oversight on my part. I also issued a refund but promised to send the order anyway. Less than an hour later she had placed an order three times the size of the original on the site.
I firmly believe in the fundamental goodness of people. We are not unerring but when we accept responsibility, understand our weaknesses and try to right our mistakes I believe the vast majority of people will offer forgiveness and place value in the upfront acceptance of onus.
Or maybe she just really wanted shampoo.
I have learned so much about so much that I never thought I’d know. The tiny details that would not have crossed my mind in a thousand years have become arenas in which I am well versed. One of those details is the intricacy of labels. From what type of paper to use to what sort of ink and printers are needed the process is specific to the last degree. Printer, ink and paper all look simple however when compared with the absolute art of applying a label by hand. It is not difficult per se but the margin for error is small, and when you are doing something hundreds of times your mind tends to wander. I look forward to the day we automate the process but until then please enjoy our product and forgive the occasional misstep. Generally we stockpile these mishaps and have ended up with quite a pile. If you are feeling great of spirit on your next search for refills use the code “ASKEW” at checkout for 30% off your order of the same great product with a slightly cockeyed label!
When I started this company there were a lot of things I had not anticipated. One of which was the mess. I don’t know if it is because it is something you use to clean that I just never made the connection but gallon upon gallon of shampoo, conditioner, washes, scrubs, it gets everywhere. It is almost as insidious as sand in its desperation to permeate everything. Hours after we’ve cleaned a relatively small spill we will still find a splash lurking ominously on the side of a bottle, waiting to sneak behind a label as it gets put on.