Shauna Lagatol: How to Quickly Develop A Market Ready Product
Have you tried a more in-person consumer product testing over desk research? How is your product development process, do you keep the consumer in mind through the whole process?
In this episode of the Page One Podcast, Luke Peters speaks with Shauna Lagatol, a 17-year CPG, food and beverage veteran, and the CEO at Spencer Trask & Co. She started her career in bioscience and now drives for business success.
Listen in to learn how Shauna creates and drives a team from freelancers that help come up with innovative products. You will also learn how to create a product with the target consumer in mind by allowing them to personally test the product.
- How to be inspired by the consumer when creating a product.
- The importance of building a brand by conducting in-person consumer product testing over desk research.
- Why direct to consumer approach is the now of brands to connect with consumers.
- The process of outsourcing capable team players for your project.
- How to work efficiently by utilizing software when working with freelancers remotely.
- How to market around trends model.
- [3:04] How she led an innovation team to quickly launch multiple products at Nestle Waters.
- [4:42] She explains the strategies of getting one on one with consumers that they used when creating those products.
- [7:08] The product development process that the team follows before the product is released into the market.
- [9:52] She explains the creative ways that both big and small companies can use to get their products tested by in-person target consumers.
- [13:37] How in-person consumer product testing helps startups understand their target customer and build their brand at the same time.
- [16:41] She explains the strategies that both big and startup companies can utilize to get directly to the consumer.
- [20:34] How to balance your strengths and weaknesses by learning what you don’t know and sourcing for help.
- [23:26] She explains how she creates a team out of capable freelancers to help with her projects and where she gets them.
- [27:12] The difference between large companies and startups in managing teams.
- [29:26] She describes her approach to incorporating software to help work efficiently and hold team members accountable.
- [32:04] How to launch a product, what to consider, and the benefit of a small company over a big one in product launching.
- [34:54] Learning to leverage the current events to amplify your social media strategy.
- [37:53] How she has learned to ask deep inquisitive questions to help understand where the other person is coming from.
- [40:26] Why she regrets not having written goals earlier in life.
Announcer: Welcome to the Page 1 Podcast, a twice-weekly podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from channel strategies to tariffs, influencer marketing, best in class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate your e-commerce sales with the big box retailers. What we call rCommerce. Now, here’s your host, Luke Peters.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page 1 Podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters, and this is the podcast where I bring you the best and brightest leaders to share their consumer product sales and marketing strategies that will help you grow your business. I’m the CEO and Founder of Newair Appliances, where I cut my teeth selling products online, and now have started Retail Band, where I hope to help other brands succeed in product launches, influencer marketing, and B2B online sales strategy.
Luke Peters: Right now, I’m offering a free evaluation of our online sales strategy. If you’re interested find me on LinkedIn, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can take a look at, if you need help, maybe doing a product launch, look at influencer marketing, or just your overall digital sales and channel strategy.
Luke Peters: In this episode, we’re going to learn from Shauna Lagatol on how innovating in CPG and food business models is different now compared to five to 10 years ago, and what the landscape of what D2C retail will look like in five years. Shauna is a 17-year CPG food and beverage veteran, and considers herself an alternate route CEO. Her career began in bioscience to provide development to brand marketing, to business, and general management, and now is CEO. She has transitioned from running Nestle Water’s first Innovation Accelerator Business Unit, to the CEO of a dietary supplement, Wellin Inc.
Luke Peters: Shauna, welcome to the Page 1 Podcast.
Shauna Lagatol: Great, thank you. Glad to be here.
Luke Peters: A little bit more on you. Hopefully, I don’t botch up your college names here. You graduated from Loyola in Maryland with a degree in biology, and then received your Master’s from Quinnipiac University in molecular biology.
Shauna Lagatol: Quinnipiac, close.
Luke Peters: I was close. All right, cool. I’m thrilled to have you on the podcast, and I love the fact that you’ve got the science background. Then, you bring a CEO approach with a science background to CPG category. Why don’t we just start with… you have a lot of experience going back many years, and you worked at Nestle, and Unilever. I know your newest company is right in startup mode, so usually I run into total number of employees, or warehouse size. I’m trying to understand the brand. That may not be the best question for your current company, but how about talking about the team that you managed at Nestle? That might give the audience an idea for what you’re involved in.
Shauna Lagatol: Sure. I’ve done a lot of innovation work, and I actually had an ex pat role at Nestle, working on global innovation there, and had the opportunity to rethink how we were doing innovation, and really seeing a lot of having to go faster, having to launch and optimize. A lot it inspired by the tech industry. When I came back from my ex pat assignment, I pitched for us to have an innovation incubator accelerator team, which was really a team that was semi-siloed. I wanted it to be more siloed than it was. About seven to 10 people that were cross-functionally marketers, R&D people, launching, et cetera.
Shauna Lagatol: We purposely were trying to break… I won’t say the Nestle rules, but the Nestle ways of doing things for a very big company. So, how quickly could be get new concepts, how quickly could we develop those concepts and formulate them. Then, with beverage, they quickly test them into market, optimize them. Again, bring them back into market, and have them ready to go for scale once they were fully optimized. Doing that really fast. The old timelines, when I first started in innovation you could launch usually in about two years, if you were launching multiple products. Then, about six months it came with a lot of focus, and also, I would say, separation from the larger organization.
Luke Peters: That’s on-theme, then. What we want to talk about, innovating in CPG. Are you able to break that down a bit more and tell us what changes you had to make to more quickly launch products? It sounds like you went from a two-year time frame, and you’ve cut that thing in a quarter, almost.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah.
Luke Peters: What did it take? What were the major changes that you put in place?
Shauna Lagatol: I think the first is getting closer to the consumer faster. A lot of times we kick off a new project, we always start with doing a lot of guess work. When you work at big companies, one of the things is always, Nestle doesn’t know what Nestle knows. Unilever doesn’t know what Unilever knows, so I would say that’s research. Usually, when you go into, when it comes to our research, along lines of qualitative work to build different concepts with consumers in those old school focus groups with. You’re behind the mirror as a marketer, and you’re looking at the consumers in the focus groups. A lot of the work now is really about co-creation with consumers, working with consumers that are going to be more inspirational, and maybe are exhibiting behaviors on the edge of trends. No more kind of the focus group in the old school mirror type of room.
Shauna Lagatol: Then, usually not doing such a large scale quant testing that you would also do, it would often take six to eight weeks. Nine weeks, even, if you’re really building a very large test. We would do much more one-on-one consumer building, one-on-one in-store retail intercepts. Quickly mocking up products that we call minimal viable prototypes, MVPs, so not worrying about a prototype coming off of the line. Something that maybe even the designer is making in lab with their hands, and you’re trying to get stimulus, and products and the ideas immediately exposed to people as fast as you can. You’re constantly iterating in what we call design sprints. Usually, those sprints are planned out. You’re ready to go through two or three sprints, you’re going to optimize, you’re going to get it on a shelf and see how consumers react in a very controlled environment. Whether it’s a weekend test, or a four-week in-store test, along those lines.
Shauna Lagatol: I would say it’s a much more agile response that’s just not quite as quantitative data.
Luke Peters: Yeah, and a couple questions on this. I have a friend, a CEO who runs his business like that. He’ll do six-week sprints. There can be good and bad from it, because sometimes it’s hard to finish what was originally planned, and they move on to the next sprint. You talked about design sprints. I love it, because I guess this is a period where you have everybody focus on something and you push them through it. Can you talk a bit more about the length, and what type of team would be involved? Just in a way that other brands that are listening can relate this to their business, and consider a change on their product roadmap, or supply chain.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah. I was first introduced to the concept. I was looking not to do a very big project with IDEO, a very well-known design firm. I really learned the methodology, working with them. Usually, it depends on the scope of the project and what you’re innovating. With IDEO we had a 12-week engagement. When we were coming up with my team at Nestle, we were working on a new product line with one of our original spring waters. It was a new sparkling water variant. We probably had four sprints, but they were planned out. We knew that the first sprint, which usually is three to four days… You’re probably with the team five days, which is a lot in corporate America.
Shauna Lagatol: You’re all hunkered down. Usually a marketing person, if you’re hiring and agency team. Somebody creative, somebody that’s writing copy. It’s good if you can have your R&D person there. It’s always better for a science person to hear from the consumers themself. Usually, you essentially have day one of consolidating information, day two of brainstorming. Day three, exposing stuff to consumers. That night, you’re optimizing the work. Day four, you’re back to consumers, usually one-on-one, bringing people in. Then, debriefing. Usually, the sprints can be user idea phase. Sprint two might be, okay, now you’re ready to start exposing packaging, and design. Maybe sprint three is you’re finally at formulation state, and you’re bringing the whole thing together.
Luke Peters: Wow, okay.
Shauna Lagatol: That’s rapidly iterating it. Sometimes, like you asked me and I don’t know how to say it other than, product development five, 10 years ago was very linear. You’d get your insight, you’d get your product idea. Then, you’d go to packaging. Then, you’d go to formulation. You would do each step, and then you would move on. Innovation today very much is about the cycles, and optimizing, and parallel passing and optimizing all those things. Really, working on all those things at one time, and then getting to your final product as you distill all that information.
Luke Peters: I’m just thinking. Quick question. I like the customer engagement part. A lot of brands, we could do some of that. I guarantee you, 95% of us listening will admittedly say we should do more of it. We say we’re doing it, but we’re not doing it enough. It sounds like you guys had a solid process around that, and obviously a larger company. We’re talking about Nestle here. What did that look like? Where are these folks coming from? Is there an agency, or a firm that says, “Hey, we have 20 people that are part of this focus group?” I’m just curious, how many people are you having to test the product through, and where that happens at the company?
Shauna Lagatol: Usually, when you’re engaged with an agency, and I’ve worked with really big agencies like IDEO doing this type of work, to smaller agencies and partners in New York. Usually, IDEO has their own recruiting, so they’re finding the consumers for you. Smaller agencies that I’ve worked with, either they actually have professionals that do the recruiting for you, or I’ve also done it, and this is how a startup could do it, where they’ve posted on Craigslist.
Luke Peters: Oh, yeah. That’s interesting.
Shauna Lagatol: Say, “Hey, do you want to come in to do a…” They’ll call it a focus group, or a one-on-one, or we’re developing a new product. There’s still a screener. It’s not just exposing it to anybody, but for whoever your consumer target is. There’s a variety of ways. There’s also, if you can have a partnership in your local… If you know you’re going to be in retail, and you happen to have a relationship with a retailer and, “Hey, I’m going to come into your store for two hours,” or a store manager, a local shop. We’ve done that before.
Shauna Lagatol: We’ve also done something which was really, really fun and exciting where we built a minimal viable prototype actually with IDEO. I’m not saying anything about this. It’s out there. The water dispenser where you could customize your water. Think about almost like Coke Freestyle for water. It was a minimal viable prototype, really mocked up and sold. It wasn’t working, but it looked that way. Literally, we’re on the street, on Embarcadero in San Francisco, and grabbing people and saying, “Hey, we’re building a product. Could you give us some feedback,” and talking through how it would work. Literally, as they were walking by. We did it in two different types of income neighborhoods.
Shauna Lagatol: There’s a lot of creative ways to do things, and I think one of the things I’ve learned is, just because you’re a big company it doesn’t mean that you need big dollars to necessarily get consumer feedback. You can do it a lot, in very much the same way as a startup. If people are willing to feel comfortable with and end size of 10, 20, 50, not 100, which is a big shift-
Luke Peters: Oh, you were getting-
Shauna Lagatol: … from what innovation was.
Luke Peters: You were getting that much input? Hundreds of people? I’ve heard-
Shauna Lagatol: No, that’s what I’m saying. Usually, quantitative data you’re getting in the hundreds.
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: What we were doing is, in our sprint a week we were getting feedback from 10 to 20 people.
Luke Peters: Yeah, yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: That sometimes is difficult, and it’s not people saying, “I like, this,” or, “I don’t like this.” The art of it is distilling what you’re hearing, what you’re not hearing, where the gaps are, where you hear emotion. I would say excitement, or tension. Then, distilling that for the next step in design development.
Luke Peters: Yeah. It’s really interesting. I want to stay on this for a bit. Do you think companies are missing a lot? Let’s talk about a smaller company. I’m just thinking about the audience. The audience is going to range. Have you ever been to the housewares show? International Housewares, out in Chicago? You ever…
Shauna Lagatol: No.
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: I’m sorry. No.
Luke Peters: There’s such a range in brands. There’s companies that are billion dollars, but a lot of them are five to, say, 200-million. They might be 20 to 150, or something like that. Within those, do you think that brands like that, that are not doing in-person consumer testing like this are missing out? I know you can do some of this online. What I mean is, usually, because it happens to all of us. The marketing department will find the data and say, “Hey, we should call it this. It should look like this. We should talk about this.”
Shauna Lagatol: Right.
Luke Peters: That’s, I think, what is mostly happening. What are you thoughts on that?
Shauna Lagatol: I think they definitely should. I’ll tell you one of my observations. I’ll say, with my company right now, Wellin, we’re pre-seed. There is no money. How we kicked off, we knew we had a dietary supplement that was going to be for 50-plus consumers. We knew it was for arthritis and joint pain. We had no money, so the first thing we did was… We had a little bit, right? I at least scheduled some ethnography with five to seven consumers, 55-plus. I would say, one of the things I’m observing from smaller companies is, there is so much pressure for sales, and the idea, and just talking about what the product does, and the functional benefit. They skip over, very often, getting to the deep insight, and really understanding who their consumer target is deeply. Like, what moves them emotionally? What worries them? What excites them, or drives them?
Shauna Lagatol: We got this really amazing insight with this 50-plus consumer, which we wouldn’t have done just from desk research. That cost was very low. It was the recruiting cost plus paying people about a $100 for two hours. I feel that there is definitely ways to get into the beginning stage of building your brand, which should be the backbone of all your creative development, with not necessarily a large number of people. We had to do that without a big research budget. I feel like I’m, even in the creative, I’m seeing with a lot of D2C brands, a lot of startups. It’s just so product-focused, the missing link in building that brand equity up front in the journey.
Luke Peters: Yeah, guilty here. We’re launching a beer froster, and a lot of us drink beer so we think we know what’s best. You’re right. Hey, we want cold beer, or colder beer, or we want it to look like this, but that’s us talking. I’m glad we went down this rabbit hole, because I think that’s fascinating. You gave a nice tip on, you can just post this on Craigslist. Obviously, agencies can do it. You weren’t using huge sample sizes. I’ve heard the same thing; five to 10, as long as the demographic, and it’s the right person who should be reviewing your product is vetted correctly, that you don’t need a massive sample size and that there’s big takeaways.
Luke Peters: At the same time, you’ve got to have someone who’s a good listener, just like you alluded to as well. They really have to understand what’s said, and what isn’t said. I think that’s fascinating, and sounds like you’re bringing that to your new company, and talking about that.
Luke Peters: What I also wanted to dive into here was, how to win direct-to-consumer. We talked about that in the opening remarks. I know things are changing so quick with channel strategies, and Amazon taking control. Then, direct-to-consumer becoming, in some cases, more of a challenge because a lot of the consumers just start on Amazon. I’d like to hear you thoughts about that. A few thoughts around what your thought of success on direct-to-consumer is, what platforms you think are the best choices, if you have an opinion there. Also, we can get into key positions. I guess I can ask that on the next question.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah. I’m fully admitting, direct-to-consumer is very new for me, leaving traditional marketing, and traditional legacy brands. I have to say, now that I’m into it, if I was to go back to managing a legacy brand I would do it totally differently. I do think that direct-to-consumer is the future of how brands… Well, it is the future. It is the now, actually. It’s not even the future of how brands will connect to consumers.
Shauna Lagatol: When I came into Wellin, which is our dietary supplement, there was already a product with an ingredient. We had to have a channel strategy. Coming from Nestle, Amazon is not for free anymore.
Luke Peters: Exactly.
Shauna Lagatol: It is expensive to advertise. It is important, though. It’s what people use for, essentially, a search vehicle after Google. There is a lot of opportunity with your Amazon pages, and the different Amazon platforms. Doing Prime, and Now, and groceries to really tell a brand’s story. I think that’s an opportunity for people to tell more, a very strong brand than what they stand for in Amazon. For me, direct-to-consumer was definitely the opportunity for, especially a startup, to quantify, to optimize your creative, your message, your conversion, and to use that to quantify your model for funding, and scale.
Shauna Lagatol: That was why I thought the laser focus of D2C, understand and optimizing the search, the paid media, the content, our website. Being able to really know, being able to hone in, even at the zip code level to understand what optimal conversions would be. We really wouldn’t have to spend a ton of money until we knew we got it right. Then, we would be able to build a quantitative model to then take to investors and say, “If we had another $500-thousand in media channels,” whether it’s paid mobile, et cetera, search, email marketing, “then we would expect this return with this percentage, and scale.”
Shauna Lagatol: As a person with a science background, I love them. The fact that you can get so granular is just amazing. If I was at a big company again, in my old role, and we were launching a new product for a very big legacy brand, that would be the data I would use, trying to sell direct-to-consumer, whether it’s Poland Spring, or whether it’s All laundry detergent, or whether it was… Let’s think of the brands I worked on… Dove.
Shauna Lagatol: I would use it as an internal selling tool, the proof of principal, before it actually was sold into the organization for the sales team to go sell. I’m going to be doing innovation quickly. You no longer have those large, the big tasks and a lot of data points to sell into a large organization to mobilize. You could sell some of those innovations even quicker within your innovation accelerator, and use that small scale data where the risk is very minimized exposure. You can use that, and do what you need in these large organization as selling points for even the buyers. Not just internally within the organization.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Shauna, now as CEO of a startup, there’s decisions to be made. Obviously, starting up you have a leaner team. With that being said, thinking about key positions, and key roles from a D2C perspective, what is really, really important to you? What maybe should be leveraged more? What I mean by that is, obviously in an un-D2C you’re going to need someone to manage e-comm, or sometimes companies go more of a branding approach compared to, say, website. Social media can be a strong outlet for some companies, but not for others, or email marketing, or SEL. I’m just curious, what are your thoughts on that, and what is prioritized, or the strategy or direction you’re going to take?
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah. If I take it a level up… I’ve built several teams. I always build a team thinking about them almost like they link together. It’s not hiring one person. It’s thinking about what are my core functional strengths, and leadership strengths? What are my weaknesses? What do I need to balance back? The group of people that I need, how are they going to work together? You need probably someone that thinks really out of the box, you need a neigh sayer. You need somebody that’s a bit traditional, versus another skill set. I would say from a higher level.
Shauna Lagatol: For me, coming into this role, I was looking for someone being weaker in D2C, or their being newer to me. I’m stronger in branding development, and innovation, supply chain and operations. What was important for me was to find a partner in particular that could help me with digital strategy, and… I’m being bold in saying this… literally teaching me to make sure that I was really learning while I was doing extremely hands-on, essentially, the digital ecosystem other than what’s done, I would say, at traditional digital agencies, and with legacy brands. I actually hired someone that is an NYU professor.
Luke Peters: Oh, wow, fun.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah. She teaches a digital marketing program. A Master’s program at NYU. She also has a small agency called Spider Web. She created a freelance network that has… To me, the roles that were super important was someone that really understands the analytics, someone that really understands email marketing, the CRM. I’m learning the difference between the different platforms, and Shopify, et cetera. They know, from all the calls, I’m learning at the same time. For me, it’s not a matter of which one is stronger than another. It’s a matter of what’s balancing you. For instance, I actually felt I could take on being a social media manager for where we are at this beginning stage, right?
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: Analytically I really needed somebody. Email marketing really needed somebody within that freelance network. I built that, essentially, with this person that was leading the overall digital team within our freelancing network. That’s a very long-winded answer.
Luke Peters: No, it’s fascinating that you have this freelance network. I’d love to hear more about that. What does that mean? I know what it means, but it’s hard to put together a reliable team of freelancers. I’m guessing they’re doing work for other companies as well. You hire them, and then you’ve got to manage the time, or the activity, or the process that they’re working on. How does that look overall?
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah. I think the only thing people worry about people’s company experience during startups. The one thing that I was able to leverage is the connections, and the relationships that I’ve had through working with different agencies over the years. No, we can’t work with Ogilvy, or SCV, or big advertising agencies. A lot of those big agencies, frankly, the reality is that most of them just outsource freelancers. You just have to get to the people underneath the big agencies, and you really do that with relationships.
Shauna Lagatol: I work with a strategy ex BBDO freelancer. I’ve done this, actually, for years at Nestle, working with me again. We hired, obviously, the digital freelancers. I actually did continue to work with my graphic design agency that worked with Nestle, so there was a balance for me in building the team of people that I knew, and trusted. Also, people that were new to me, and could push me and teach me. That I felt very comfortable with, that were going to push me, challenge me, push back, balanced with people that I also know, that I’ve worked with, confident with, that can deliver. A lot’s at stake, and there’s not a lot of money. You can’t really afford too many mistakes with a startup.
Luke Peters: Yeah, exactly.
Shauna Lagatol: You literally can’t afford them.
Luke Peters: Wow, so those freelancers, do you think they’re exclusive to you, or are you saying no, they have other roles as well?
Shauna Lagatol: No, they definitely have other jobs. Yeah, they’re definitely working multiple, yeah.
Luke Peters: Okay.
Shauna Lagatol: What I’m discovering, which is new to me is, a lot of the freelancers are even… literally, this would be beyond Google. I was finding a freelance R&D person to do some formulation work. I was looking for different people for packaging help, and design. Actually, the food expo people were quite helpful in providing different networks. You can find them. You can find a lot of them on LinkedIn. Even posting, I had a lot of people respond saying, “Hey, I know this person that does SEO. I know this person that does graphic designing,” so a lot of it is networking just to find the right people.
Luke Peters: Yeah. I was going to ask you that, actually. Where would you recommend that people go look to find freelancers? Obviously, there’s a lot of platforms. We can find people on Fiverr. We’ll do that, and we’ve used freelancers. When you find a good one, they’re gold, but sometimes it’s really hard. It’s a lot of work, right? You go through two or three that may not work out. Any ideas there, or suggestions?
Shauna Lagatol: I hate to say it, but it’s usually somebody that I get from a recommendation from someone who says, “Hey, Shauna…” Sorry, I’m forgetting. I think he just recommended me to a freelancer worker that was really good, but usually it’s through word-of-mouth or recommendations. I will say too, that I found that the dietary supplement industry, I think every industry is a little different. It’s very tight. Much tighter than beverage, although that would be pretty tight, but it’s still big beverage.
Shauna Lagatol: Once I connected with several people on LinkedIn I realized that they were also connected together. You’ll be talking to someone and say, “I was working with so-and-so in packaging.” “Oh, I’ve worked with them before.” You realize the world is a bit smaller than you think it is once you start digging on who’s an expert at what.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Your experience, coming from large companies to a startup, what is something that you think you’re bringing differently? Maybe an advantage from the larger companies that maybe somebody who hasn’t had that experience wouldn’t have when they come to a small startup?
Shauna Lagatol: I would say big companies, there’s a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of politics. There’s always a lot of processes. There is something to process, and structure, and discipline. For instance, when I had my freelancer network starting up and was asking, “Let’s put the timeline together.” This is a very simplified example, but the quality of the timeline, it’s like, well if you put in that… We should put it in Microsoft Project. Little things like managing a meeting, pushing teams to deadlines, making sure deadlines are hit, making sure everyone is clear what the objectives are.
Shauna Lagatol: That comes very natural in a large organization; at least I’ve found. At a startup, I’ve just found that because everyone comes from a different starting point when you’re bringing these groups of people together, sometimes they’re talking and they’re a team, and they’re not face-to-face either. People can be remote. You have to really work very hard to get everybody on the same page, and set the expectations of, this is the bar of work that I’m expecting, this is what we need to be successful. Really up-front, and straightforward. I think I get that from my classical marketing training in business management.
Luke Peters: Yup. For sure. Sometimes that smaller… We’re 50 people or less. It’s fun being the Wild West sometimes, but yeah, you bring the good company approach and it’s a totally different dynamic. We have some folks here that have come from larger companies, and it’s great. It’s also that diversity, like you talked about at the beginning, where you want people that fill in your gaps, right? That’s what you hire around.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah.
Luke Peters: Quick question on that, Shauna. Just because I’m curious. Selfishly, I always ask these questions for myself, but I think it also would be interesting to other CEOs listening. What do you use for holding folks accountable? It sounded like you mentioned Microsoft Project. Is there a software like that, or SmartSheets, or something that you’ve found that’s easy to use, and keeps your notes and deadlines together for your direct reports?
Shauna Lagatol: I was looking to use, and I think we will at some point, a more formal software that was… and, there are a bunch of them out. Of course, those escaping me. Right now we’re using Google Docs, honestly. It’s created formats and deadlines, essentially. Google Docs for tracking, and things like that. Definitely some sort of hub. Microsoft Office, I believe, has something. I’m at a loss. There were a couple of the-
Luke Peters: We’ve used Asana. The Asanas can, I guess this-
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah, exactly. I was going through the different options. The biggest thing, I think, what I was anticipating and we’re not there yet is, when you’re really starting to deal with large pieces of creative. I have a label that’s been designed by the agency that’s in New York. The nutritionist that has to look at the labels in Connecticut. The creative person that is overseeing them in Brooklyn. Having a place where you can have all of those documents, and allow people to comment so you’re not going back and forth with emails and things like that. Really have to figure out how the communication flow is going to be with a remote team, is what my experience is so far. Versus, if you’re at a big company you’re going into the office, you’re all looking at each other. Of course, I’ve also worked on global teams where you’re emailing and things like that. I think the other thing is, all these freelancers are working on five other freelance schemes.
Luke Peters: Yup. Shauna Lagatol: They’re not only working on your business, so you want to make sure that the data stream, the information stream, the communication stream is pretty straightforward for them, and they don’t have to do a lot of work in a way, to be able to respond to you quickly, to be able to give you clear feedback and those things.
Luke Peters: Yup. It’s always a challenge. Sometimes, it can be a lot of work just to use one of these programs like an Asana.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah.
Luke Peters: What happens is, they’re great but then sometimes too many processes are created by the person who’s administrating it.
Shauna Lagatol: That’s exactly what happens. That’s how they got back to Google Docs.
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: That was what was happening.
Luke Peters: It goes, and then it’s like, you have four pages to launch a product, which literally we had, so that’s the problem.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah.
Luke Peters: Speaking of product launches, you guys will be doing them, I’m sure, at Wellin. Then, you, it sounds like, have been involved with those in the past at Nestle. Can you share what your goals are, or what your strategy is going to be maybe in the future, or if it’s easier, what the process looked like at Nestle? Just from a perspective of the brands that are listening, and what they can take into their own companies.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah, I think the one that I would say with Wellin, we’re launching, we have one SKU dietary supplement we’re working on. Maybe to a starter kit that someone would receive, and then a refill that they would receive then. Essentially, a prescription model. Our plan had been… We were a little delayed… is to launch where you can really amplify your message. We were looking at FounderMade as an option. It’s essentially a startup trade show in New York City. I think they also are in L.A. Obviously, Food Expo West.
Shauna Lagatol: I think there is something about almost soft launching so that you can get some feedback a bit from buyers, from people that are walking around on the shows. A soft launch at a big company might be launching only at one retailer six months early type of thing, or a test market. Then, I would say the other thing to think about, different than what I used to do, we used to think about launch after the product was done. I would say now, because things are much more… especially in D2C, focused and targeted, laser streamed. Anything in the retail environment, a lot of retailers, they actually would like exclusive launches at your target, or something specific for them. A specific skew, a specific flavor variant, et cetera.
Shauna Lagatol: You really want to think about how you’re going to launch and execute when you start. What is the price point that you need to hit? What is the channel you really want to design for? Whole Foods is really different than Walmart, and that consumer, and that shopper. I think, thinking about launch in the dynamic of, it doesn’t have to be for everybody. I think more, and more products are much more focused for a different consumer target than necessarily for the masses. I think the benefit of a small company versus a large is that, I think before it used to be like, you got to get a fee, you got to get 80%, 90% ACV right off the bat. It’s really difficult to do that. Really, in any category you see, so where do you really want to do well? Where do you want to win? What is the success with the market share on that channel? What is the turn? Based on that channel strategy, and how you’re going to reach that customer.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that was, I guess, the next question was, getting eyeballs on it, because that can be so expensive now. Especially D2C. You mentioned launching at a trade show, definitely getting buyers’ feedback. Then, how about the next part? Especially on a D2C website, you’re launching it, now you’ve got to drive traffic to that website. A lot of it, I’m sure, at the beginning is going to be paid, but you want as much free, or press traffic as possible, obviously, to counterbalance that. Any thoughts, or strategies on that end?
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah. There’s something I’ve been playing with and thinking about for a while. I actually read a book. It’s Play Bigger or Play Harder by Al Ramadan, I believe it is his last name. There was a premise of, how do you leverage what’s happening on in the moment to amplify your media message, essentially? For instance, one of the things with Wellin, we’re targeting 50-plus, right? There is a huge discourse happening right now around age-ism. You’re seeing a lot of Twitter hashtags, et cetera.
Shauna Lagatol: One of the thought that we were having is, how do you pre-develop creative? Then, when there is a social discourse happening, or a Twitter trend, that’s when you’re actually going to amplify your media so you’re getting more bang for your buck, if you will, because it’s happening at the same time as a larger discourse or discussion. It’s more likely to be clicked on if more people are aware about something that’s going on within that space.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that’s genius.
Shauna Lagatol: It’s a very different creative model too, if you think about traditional creative agencies, or mediafying, almost waiting for that Dunkin Donuts dunk in the dark. Remember the Superbowl a few years ago when the lights went out?
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: Not Dunkin Donuts. I’m sorry, Oreo had that viral post. What a lot of people don’t know if that there was actually a media team. Like all of the big brands do, they have a media team sitting, and waiting, and looking at their posts. When the lights went out, that team ups that media spend. That thing went viral for a reason. Genius, and extremely opportunistic, but the team was ready, and it got more eyes on that ad. It’s a bit of that; waiting. You do have to think about setting up your team, your agency and your model a bit differently to react that way. That was one of the things we are thinking about with Wellin.
Luke Peters: I think it’s great.
Shauna Lagatol: The placement of our media, especially on launch.
Luke Peters: It’s unique. It makes sense, but for whatever reason it’s pretty new to me to be thinking in that way. I think that’s great. We have a political season. Unfortunately, the Corona Virus, and stuff like that. There’s so many things that are just spiking in the media, so this is just market around what’s on trend, or market around what’s spiking. I think that’s great. That’s definitely worth us thinking more about it, all of our companies, and seeing what that means to our marketing teams.
Shauna Lagatol: Absolutely, and I’m sure the digital marketers, the real analytics people would tell you too, that’s the way to do it, by getting into the algorithms, and things like that, and to amplify that.
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: That would be the person on my team that would be specializing and leading in that.
Luke Peters: Yeah. They live in it day in and day out, so they’re already thinking in that way.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah.
Luke Peters: Cool, so Shauna, I was going to ask you… Obviously, you’ve worked with some large companies. You’re now a CEO. You have a really successful career. What is something that’s maybe a habit, or a ritual or a practice that you’ve learned, or done that has made you a better person at work, or at home?
Shauna Lagatol: I was lucky I had a coach. Nestle had gotten a coach who recommended a book that was called, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. It was a super easy read, but I was having trouble. I’m a typical Type A, go really fast. Sometimes, I’m a couple steps ahead of people. One of the things that book really helped me do, which I really try to practice now, whether it’s at work, whether it’s out of the office, whether it’s with my husband, is to really ask deep, inquisitive questions. Especially with, I would say, direct reports and network, to really not give my opinion as much, and to slow myself down to really understand where the person is coming from.
Shauna Lagatol: That can be anything from, often through presenting to an investor, or a really high level leader of a large organization. They say something in a meeting. They want to ask you a question, you don’t necessarily agree with it your gut instinct is to defend it instead of asking them, “Help me understand a bit more exactly where you’re coming from,” or, “I’ve heard you. You’re concerned about X, Y and Z, but is there another way to look at it?” I found that, even making a bit of a game of how many questions can you ask someone. Not in an annoying way, but essentially to get to the root of what it is that they want to discuss, or they have an issue with is a great way to make people feel seen and heard, and more engaged and enabled. It’s not all about you. It’s about the people that you’re engaging with, and talking to. That book was really, really helpful for me at a really important point in my career. Especially as a leader.
Luke Peters: Great advice. I’ve picked up the same thing from various books. Just ask deep questions, but like you said, don’t just jump to give your opinion. It’s hard to do that as a leader, but it’s so important.
Shauna Lagatol: It’s hard.
Luke Peters: It is so hard, huh?
Shauna Lagatol: Most CEOs, we are the way we are for a reason. We’re special for a reason, but sometimes you have to, to really be successful, I really inspire people because no one can do anything by themselves. You’ve got to make people feel seen and heard, and valued.
Luke Peters: Also, so they can feel confident to hopefully tell you… hopefully tell you everything, which can also be a challenge.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that’s great. Why don’t we wrap it up with a tough question here. That would be, what is your biggest mistake? Maybe a big regret, or something that you learned from that maybe the listeners can learn from.
Shauna Lagatol: I’m trying to think of my biggest business mistake. I don’t know. I think I can’t think of too many things. You just pivot when you make mistakes.
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Shauna Lagatol: One of the things I actually would say, in this transition from Nestle to Wellin, in making that choice I had a really amazing sponsor/mentor. One of the things he had me do, which I really regret that I didn’t do sooner, was to write a five-year plan. We spent a lot of time on it. Write what my goals were, what my financial goals were five years, my things goals. Like, do you want a condo in Florida, do you want a golf membership? My community goals, my personal goals, and then my career goals. A lot of times I think you think just about your career goals in a silo.
Shauna Lagatol: When I got crystal clear on what my goals were in each of those things, I thought, “Man, I wish I had done this…” I’m 42, “I wish I had done this ages ago,” because it helped really crystallize the career decisions I was going to make in relation to my personal decision, and my family decisions and the different roads we were going to take. I regret that I didn’t do that sooner. I was just too focused on styling the different aspects of my life. I’m very lucky I had somebody that helped bring me along.
Luke Peters: Yeah, but like you said, we do it in business, how come we don’t do it in personal lives? I think it’s super important.
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah.
Luke Peters: It’s funny. I have similar lessons that I’ll tell people at work. I’m 46. I tell them, “You don’t have to wait until you’re 46 to know these things. Start when you’re 25, because then you’re just going to be so much further ahead of everybody else.” The theme there is, write your goals down. Get them on paper, review them. They’re going to change, but at least that’s going to guide you the right way. It’s going to give you the compass that you need to point yourself in the right direction. That’s a good story. Cool.
Luke Peters: How can listeners find you? Is LinkedIn the best way, or what’s the best place for listeners to contact you?
Shauna Lagatol: Yeah, definitely LinkedIn. Find me on LinkedIn. I’m there. Our Wellin website is not up yet, but I feel LinkedIn is the best way, and I’m on it all the time, so feel free.
Luke Peters: Awesome. Listen, it’s been a pleasure. It’s been a really awesome interview with so many good insights, so thanks for coming on. I appreciate you coming on the Page 1 Podcast. Also, I want to thank all of you listeners for coming on the Page 1 Podcast, or for listening to the Page 1 Podcast. Just remember, we’re offering that free evaluation of your digital strategy. We take a look and see if influencer marketing is right for your product launch, or understand if you’re maximizing your digital sales channels on, say, Home Depot, or Walmart, or Wayfair, or any of those other areas. We’ll take a look. We’ll do it for free, and then we’ll provide you with a quick little roadmap, and see how we can potentially work together and improve your digital sales.
Luke Peters: I just want to thank all of the listeners. I appreciate all of your comments, and your reviews on iTunes. We’ll catch you on the next episode.
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