What you’ll learn
We asked Jamie Libregts to share the tactics that drove online sales to be 60% of revenue, how and why he differentiates SKUs across all retail channels, and what social media advertising channel he’s using to drive sales to B2B sites.
About our guest
Jamie Libregts is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Reliable Corporation. A leader in the Garment Care industry since 1955. He has strong heritage in the B2B market working with organizations like Men’s Warehouse, Indochino, other alteration, dry cleaning and garment care manufacturers. Jamie helps leveraged the company’s experience in boilers to introduce some top-quality steam cleaners in the market. Reliable is a fairly new brand to the Housewares market, but is growing strong with a ecommerce focused strategy.
Key takeaways from this episode
- The Story of the Reliable Company –
- Map strategies for protecting margins on Amazon – 6:45
- Channel differentiation strategies – 8:11
- What you need to know about product information software’s (PIMs) –14:57
- How to integrate PIMs into company roles – 16:02
- Top advice for working with PIMs – 17:05
- Tariff pricing strategies for new and existing products – 18:57
- The process behind a successful product launch – 22:17
- Strategies to drive sales once a product is launched – 21:46
- Strategies to get more reviews for products – 32:17
- Final piece of advice – 34:17
Narrator: Welcome to the Page One podcast, a 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 eCommerce sales with the big box retailers or what we call rCommerce. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page One podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters. This is the podcast where I bring you the best and brightest leaders to share the consumer product insights. And today we have Jamie Libregts from Reliable Corporation. Jamie’s got an interesting background. He’s been working with a lot of cool brands that you guys are going to recognize. Worked with Dimplex Company, which does a lot of heaters, has worked with brands like Crockpot and Oster and Sunbeam, has a degree in computer science and 15 years experience in sales and marketing. Jamie, welcome to the show.
Jamie L.: Pleasure to be here, thanks for having me.
Luke Peters: Awesome. We’re just going to jump right into it. Well, before we get going here, why don’t you tell us quickly what Reliable sells? I’ve got some of the products in front of me, some sewing machines and other cool products. If you want to give us a quick background, what you guys are selling.
Jamie L.: Reliable Corporation’s a family run company. It’s been around since 1955 and it’s really got its roots in the garment care industry. Servicing those back rooms where you get your suit and you get it all done and tailored and when they go into that back room where the people that are servicing them and helping them out on the back side of it. And we’ve developed some great products over the years that have allowed us to expand into different industries. We have some of the best Italian made boilers in the industry. And these same products have allowed us to move into some different areas in steam cleaning and jewelry and dental. And then just with all of our experience on the garment care side, we’ve really moved into the houseware side of the business. Selling anywhere from household irons to steam cleaners and some really nice ironing boards.
Luke Peters: Yeah, and what I find interesting in the product mix is you go from like you said, household and entry-level, but you have some expensive products, some higher end and higher quality products, $2,500 range, $700 range, $500 range. You guys span the customer segmentation there, I guess.
Jamie L.: Yeah. And that’s been very important to us and I think the rise of eCommerce has really helped us as well because we can get out that information to that customer. When you have those premium products, one of the real tricks is to really explain to them what it is and why you’re buying something for $700 versus something that comparable is $50 down the street at your local place. The ability to tell the people our story has really helped us out for the past few years.
Luke Peters: Yep, and we’ll get into that. Before we go down that road of talking about the strategies and tactics, let’s quickly break down the company at Reliable Corp. About how many employees are we talking?
Jamie L.: Oh, we have about 30 to 40 employees.
Luke Peters: Great. Then talking about the customers that you’re selling into, in the consumer products industry it’s a lot of the customers you might guess. The Amazon’s, the Bed Bath, Best Buy, Home Depot and so on. You want to give us your top three or four so we can have an idea of what you guys are focused on?
Jamie L.: Yeah, we do really strongly, obviously Amazon. They are obviously the leaders on that side of the world. So really strong with Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, really starting to grow with Wayfair as they continue to expand. And then really the other half of our business is in that B to B side with direct to the customers.
Luke Peters: Direct to the customer on the B to B or B to C side?
Jamie L.: Both. It’s been really exciting for us. A lot of these being able to drop ship to the customers as your drop ship capabilities have grown, being able to drop ship to a B to B customer so they don’t have to bring it into their warehouse, you could send it right to their customer, has been a really for us.
Luke Peters: Awesome, okay. Then just so I got this straight because it’s interesting. Amazon, Bed Bath, Wayfair they’re going to be larger than say a Home Depot or Lowe’s because these products may not be perfect for the home improvement side of the business. Is that how you’re seeing it?
Jamie L.: Yeah, we’re strong with Home Depot and Lowe’s in our steam cleaners, in that segment. But where you get into the garment care, they’re not as strong in Home Depot and Lowe’s on the garment care side, where somebody like Bed Bath, Amazon is across the board strong everywhere.
Luke Peters: Yep, yep. And then Wayfair makes a lot of sense. And especially with all the initiatives that they have going on. What percentage of the sales are online versus in store?
Jamie L.: Online is probably about 60% of our sales now. We’re really focusing on the online. In store comes with a whole other set of attributes and inventory, inventory ramp ups and stuff like that. Where being able to tell our own story online, especially with all of the enhancements that our retail partners are coming out with, to be able to tell a story and play a video, or do a comparison chart and really be able to sell our products. Versus sending somebody a $200 ironing board and having it sit in their store, hoping somebody can understand that message.
Luke Peters: Totally makes sense. That’s about 60% online, about 40% in store. Then in store it could be a lot of smaller companies or industry specific companies, or also into some of these larger ones we’ve been talking about?
Jamie L.: In some of the larger ones as well. We’re really strong in the independent channel as well. We’ve been able to do leveraging our strength here to be able to get into those independent channels. But as well as traditional like Bed Bath and Beyond and Home Depot and stuff.
Luke Peters: That’s awesome, congratulations on that. Because I know that’s not easy but that’s great business to have. And that’s good, it keeps you guys pretty diversified because you have a good mix online and in store. Then with all of the other channels that you talked about, so you’ve got that part covered, which is a lot. It’s an area that a lot of companies aren’t able to work out. And in this podcast specifically, we want to talk about how companies are growing sales in these online channels that we mentioned right there and even outside of Amazon. The Home Depots, the Wayfairs and the Bed Bath. We’ll dive into that and before we get to that, what would you say is your best growth channel right now?
Jamie L.: It’d be Amazon. It’s growing really steadily. They’re doing well there, so Amazon will be our biggest there. Probably followed by Bed Bath. We’ve had a good success at Bed Bath on the premium side. I know as a company and a corporation they’re going through some changes, but we’ve been pretty steady with them over the last couple years.
Luke Peters: That’s awesome. And then piggyback on that with Amazon, because Amazon incredible company to work with, but always a lot of challenges, especially on margins. Are you guys seeing the same thing or do you guys have any map strategies? Are you able to protect your margins when you’re working with Amazon, and if so, how?
Jamie L.: Yeah, we made a decision a few years ago to go away from being an Amazon seller and on Amazon seller side and moving to an FBA where we manage it all ourselves. I know they’ve forced a few companies lately to do that. But it’s been really helpful for us because we’ve been able to chart our own destiny and do our own thing. It is difficult, price is a battle everywhere. We do enforce a map strategy and we spend a lot of time with unauthorized sellers and all those things that a lot of the other vendors are having problems with and other people out there. Anybody on the street can put anything out there. But we’ve been really forcing our map strategy and working through that.
Jamie L.: Then the trick then is to make sure that you have skus for everybody that you can leverage to drive sales. Because pricing really drives sales and promotions, but ensuring you have that product for everybody that you can use that doesn’t have everybody angry in the same sandbox.
Luke Peters: Yeah, and let’s talk about that. First of all, having and holding a map strategy in today’s day and age is a major accomplishment. It’s good for the brand because obviously you’re ensuring that your partners are making margin as well, so that’s awesome. But you made the comment about making sure that you have the right product for everybody. That might lead into our channel segmentation or channel strategy. Does that mean that you guys have separate skus that you’re able to then offer to different groups of retailers or is it the same skus being offered across the board to everybody?
Jamie L.: A couple of years ago we looked at our assortment and we had the same products everywhere and everything was going across all of our channels. We weren’t promoting, we weren’t getting out there, we weren’t leveraging the promotional opportunities that these retailers were giving us. Especially online because once one person goes off price, then you have a whole price war. I like to call it the staring contest between Walmart and Amazon, where one matches the other and then it takes six weeks to get one of them to blink to change the price back, so the other one will change the price back.
Jamie L.: But what we have done and created is some exclusive bundles, maybe a color variation, maybe a product variation or even specific skus just for online for customers that we can drive, we can leverage their abilities to promote and advertise it. And then you get into that flywheel, you get into that opportunity where you move up in their search range and you get more reviews and it starts to become a really strong sku online that is self-sustaining. Versus fighting over that same model at both places. So we have our core skus that really drive our business, but then we create channel specific skus, skus that’ll work for them.
Luke Peters: Great, and just so I can better understand. What you’re saying is before the pricing conflict, it was having a conflict with your in store skus and therefore to overcome that, you have skus that you might just sell online and skus that you might just sell in store. Or do you even go further and online have even different variants for the different… If we’re just talking about your online business, which is 60% and Amazon is mapped already because they’re a seller central account. Then you have a bunch of other solid accounts, do you even there go deeper and have specific skus online just for the different accounts?
Jamie L.: I guess a good example is that Amazon, one of our top skus is a steam mop that we’ve been selling for years. One of our other top skus was the accessory pads that went with it. We took the two and we created a bundle exclusively for Amazon. And three months later it’s now our top sku there. And it’s only there, it’s not anywhere else. It’s the value is still $10 more. You can buy them separately for the same price, but we took those two skus and put it together and you get a a bundle pack with a couple of extra pads and it’s a sku listing there. So people when they see our base listing that everyone in the world has, you can go into retail, you can go find it anywhere. On Amazon you see this unique exclusive sku that is a great $10 added value, $10 more at map and it’s something that when we do promote, it’s only at Amazon. So it doesn’t create those conflicts that you see in the market.
Luke Peters: Super smart. And how many total skus are you guys managing across the business?
Jamie L.: Somewhere in the 200 skus or so.
Luke Peters: Okay. I mean that’s a lot. I mean it’s not 2,000, but these are high end products. So that can be a challenge to manage that and inventory it and to do all the FBA and then your in store. Demand planning must definitely be strong on that end.
Jamie L.: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, we have a great team here with that and we’ve really invested over the years in a lot of great software. I think when you’re a smaller organization, in that 30 to 40 range, you can’t just put a body on it. Where I think when I was working in some of the larger corporations, we’d always just, okay, get that person to do this or get that person do this. Because you had enough people and you would assign them. We don’t have enough people to do it so we had to really invest in different softwares and different technology to help us do these things. Whether it’s a product information management system that has all of our data in it, that automatically uploads to our vendors, to a really good CRM software so we could track all our vendors and everything. To a really good ERP backend system that we use today.
Luke Peters: And speaking of PIMs, just because I interviewed Paul Casora the other day. Offline we were talking about a PIM that he’s looking for. Are you able to share what product information management software you guys are working with?
Jamie L.: We’ve actually moved forward with Plytix, which is one of the smaller ones, but they had a nice price strategy. They were a good cost, affordable for us, and they offered us a lot of great opportunities. I think they were growing and we were looking for something, so it was a really good partnership at the time. It’s a very good system, it holds all of our data. I think they’re growing and developing. It doesn’t have some of the tools that some of the larger ones have, but as a base place that we want to hold our data and create a database of all of our product and our images and everything, it works really well for us that way.
Jamie L.: We can extract from that the basic files that we need to upload to our vendors, whether it’s a CSV file or whatever. And we can also use some other software that other people offer like Venzi to do automatic uploads so we don’t have to do anything. It just fills out the form for us in the back end. We don’t have to look at a form and it uploads directly into a Bed Bath and Beyond. When we do skus for Bed Bath and Beyond now we don’t have to actually fill out the form. It’s done in seconds, which saves us a lot of time and money.
Luke Peters: No, this is a great topic to dive a little bit deeper into. So it’s called Plytix?
Jamie L.: Yeah.
Luke Peters: And then Venzi was the-
Jamie L.: P-L-Y-T-I-X, yeah.
Luke Peters: Yeah. P-L-Y-C-I-X, okay. And Venzi was the bolt-on that allows for the connectivity and automated uploads?
Jamie L.: Yep, Venzi, they offer great ability to do that with Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond and a few other companies, a lot of them.
Luke Peters: Who out of the group of these retailers is the most difficult to automate or are you guys not able to automate with? Are you able to do these same uploads to say Lowe’s right now?
Jamie L.: Yeah. Yeah, we’re able to do with most corporations. There is a process to it. You do have to do an initial setup and you have to do mapping to all your fields. I know that we all know all the retailers have a lot of their own custom fields and different things. So it can be very difficult if you have a product category with only one or two or three items. But when you have a larger category like irons where we have a full selection, it makes a lot of sense for us because we can upload everything and map it. And it’s worth that extra time where then you know something where you may have only one or two items, it is just easier to fill out the form.
Luke Peters: It sounds like it’s like EDI where you have to map. Everybody’s got different forms or different EDI vendors that they’re using as well. How long did it take you guys start to finish to get a PIM actually in place, and then all the testing, and then all the information to the point now where you guys sounds like mostly are able to seamlessly update pricing and content on your products?
Jamie L.: The initial PIM creation was actually fairly quick. It only took maybe about a month to get all our data uploaded in there. But what we found is it took another six to eight months to get all the vendors online because every vendor form had a different field. And when you start mapping it, you just start to see your PIM database really start to grow. And you thought, “Oh, we only need these 90 fields or so.” All of a sudden now you have 200, 300 fields because every vendor has a specific need and you have to have that information in your PIM. So it really starts to grow and then when you do new products you have to fill in that PIM. So really creating those base forms and being able to automate and upload anything through all these softwares, very key because it can get very tedious having to type stuff in all the time.
Luke Peters: And did that end up being a sales function or did you guys have other parts of operations or elsewhere in the company help with that integration?
Jamie L.: It was an all hands on deck kind of thing. Whether our marketing team was working on marketing copy, because one of the things that I think is most important using a PIM is to ensure is that you have that common data. When you’re filling out different forms all the time, you can really start to see who filled out the forms and how they write things differently. Then you don’t have that consistent message across all of your channels and all of your information. So we really took our time to update all that information from our marketing team, sharing our sales team. Went through all of the other customer forms and had all the fields and information that we had there. And then obviously whether it’s our technicians or our operations team, helping to find some of that missing information. One thing wants a cord length, the other one wants the cord and something else length. You need to go find that information.
Luke Peters: One hundred percent. And now looking back at it, and thanks for walking us all the way through this. But looking back at it, is there anything you would change or do differently as far as how you guys set up the PIM or planning with the PIM vendors that you’ve worked with? Just your thoughts after going through this process.
Jamie L.: I think we would have been better prepared for the amount of changes and variations. We really wrote the PIM very basic right out of the gate. And I think we could have done a better job of planning. We didn’t take into account right off the bat that we had to do all these other fields for all these other vendors and I think it created a lot more work down the road. Where if we would have done a little bit more pre-planning and created a database that was a little bit more robust and flexible right out of the gate, I think we would have been stronger in the end run.
Luke Peters: That’s great feedback. I know a lot of companies are looking at a PIM to use. Some don’t even know what a PIM is. Just finishing up, maybe we should’ve started with this, but quickly do you want to just explain the overall reason you went to a PIM so the audience understands what exactly this software handles for the company?
Jamie L.: I think there’s a lot of companies out there that when you’re filling out a form for a customer, you’re going to that Excel spreadsheet that has all the columns and all the cord lengths and all the information and all your marketing copy. But what we really found was that we were starting to get different messaging and different information across the board. Then when you make a change at one, how do you know you’ve made the change everywhere? Being able to say, “Okay, we’ve changed this cord length, we’ve increased it from nine feet to 12 feet. How do we ensure we get that information out there to everybody?” Having a PIM and having that ability to do updates really made sure that okay, now the information is correct and everywhere versus a lot of legwork and groundwork by people having to follow up directly with anywhere you had to update.
Luke Peters: That’s great. Let’s move on to pricing strategies and how you’re leveraging pricing. Of course we have the tariff challenges and it’s always interesting to hear different guests and how they’re overcoming those challenges. Why don’t we start off and let me pose the question this way. Just start to finish, if you’re launching a product now is case one, and then case two would be for an existing product. How are you handling pricing launching as far as when you’re looking at margins and then you’re looking at having to cover tariff. Then for existing products when you’re having to go back and get a price increase, would like to hear, walk us through how you guys handle that?
Jamie L.: I think what you’re starting to see is there are a lot of the retailers are understanding the tariffs better and they’re being better prepared. I think the tariff conversations, they’re getting a little easier. Telling people that you’re changing a price or increasing and it’s why you’d give them the tariff information and completely understand. There’s always that bit of a push back and they don’t want any end up push off the entire tariff. But we’ve been okay successful with that. We haven’t been hit with the larger round of tariffs. We were a little worried September 1st when that was supposed to happen. A lot of our items have moved to December 1st so we’re getting a little concerned.
Jamie L.: But when we’re looking at our product assortment, we’re launching a lot of products right now. So we’ve put in some different pricing on them already just to be able to prepare for that. It’s always easier to go down, so some of the new product that we’re launching, we’ve taken that duty into account so we’re ready for it. Where down the road we’re going to be potentially facing some challenges with our current products.
Luke Peters: And how many products are you launching over the next 12 months? You mentioned your catalog’s about 200 or so. How many skus are you launching now?
Jamie L.: We’ve got about 15 to 20 new products launching in the next two to three months.
Luke Peters: That’s a lot.
Jamie L.: We’ve ensured our pricing is protected. Yeah, exactly. And we’ve also had very good success going back to our partners or vendors for our products that do come from China. Working together to offset a bit of that. So if it’s a 10% increase, we offer to split it with them, they get the 5% decrease and we absorb the other 5%, or we pass on the 5%, or absorb. Work together to try to figure out how we do that. We’ve also been a little bit insulated because a large selection of our product is either made in Canada or made in Europe. Actually a lot of our product comes from Italy. We got a little bit safe that side on the the tariff side, but never know when a tariff from Italy could come up the next day or two.
Luke Peters: You just got to wait for the next tweet. You never know what’s going to happen these days.
Jamie L.: I stopped following him because I didn’t want to see that.
Luke Peters: Yeah, it could be in the next round. What percentage of your products are from China?
Jamie L.: About 55%.
Luke Peters: Got it. Wow, you are very, very diversified. I mean who you sell into and who you’re sourcing from. That puts you guys in a nice position.
Jamie L.: Yeah, we’re not really big anywhere, but we’re really insulated everywhere. So when one industry takes a little bit of a hit, we’re still okay, which is nice.
Luke Peters: Let’s walk through, I wanted to get into product launches and from start to finish. Because I know you guys have a lot of strengths in your content and assets that you’re creating and premium products that you’re creating. Then obviously you’re growing your online channel. And I know these are all things that the company’s working on. But they can be all encompassed in this one question, which is you guys are launching 15 to 20 products in the next couple months. Start to finish, just pick any product and walk us through the product launch. Meaning the product is landed in your warehouse, and then talk about how you guys think about assets, how you guys think about product reviews. Is that product going out to all of your retailers or it sounds like you’re segmenting it to certain retailers. Then also even the SEO side of things if you guys are doing anything about that, I’d love to hear about it. So start to finish, that’d be an interesting one.
Jamie L.: Yeah, not a problem. I think it goes right back to the planning and when you’re developing that product is really ensure that the channel it’s going to go into and how you’re going to manage those channels. Give you a good example. We’re launching three brand new irons into the market, but I developed four. So there’s an extra little iron that’s sitting there for me that it’s not going to be in the core of the assortment. The core assortment goes out, it’s filling all our channel needs. But hiding that one little iron in my back pocket that when you’re talking to that specific retail, or something’s going on that way, I have something that I can offer them that would get them intrigued. Versus, okay, is this going to be everywhere? Why would I get excited by that? I like to call it my back pocket iron that I have the ability to go out and sell.
Luke Peters: Let me interject. What does that mean as far as inventory goes? If you have that in your back pocket and these are all coming from Europe and China, are you actually bringing that in and sitting on a small portion of inventory?
Jamie L.: No, I’m just paying a little bit of money, extra money up front to develop it so I have the product ready to go. The packaging, everything’s ready to go. All I need to do is place that order with the vendor. When I’m ready to go we place an order, 60 days later we get stock into our warehouse.
Luke Peters: Okay. Then Jamie, that’s great. That’s helpful to understand that part and then the product lands and then walk us through the next steps.
Jamie L.: What we like to do is really in the planning stage, understand what kind of product we’re launching and have a checklist ready to go. Whether it’s a full blown product launch where we’re doing a larger marketing campaign, doing maybe a Facebook ad campaign, videos, all those things. Or it’s more of a simple product launch where we just need to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row, all of our marketing materials ready to go right when the product lands.
Luke Peters: Okay, you have all the content assets and you’ve done some advertising. How quickly when you have everything done and then you push your button in the PIM to get it uploaded to your retailers, how fast until they actually have it on their site and it’s ready for sale?
Jamie L.: Every retailer is different. Some are like Amazon, I can have it the same day. Or Bed Bath and Beyond, it takes a little bit longer. Everybody’s systems are different. Once you understand those systems, where Bed Bath, we’re probably going to start pushing the button in the next week or so for stuff that’s going to launch four or five weeks from now so it’s ready to go. We just won’t activate it on the inventory side so it won’t show up on their site till we have inventory in the building. But every retailer is different.
Jamie L.: I think one of the key things is asking a lot of questions, understanding. A lot of them have a lot of great training materials and videos to watch. Just sitting down and understanding those and just sometimes it’s trial and error because all those things, those little hiccups that come up are things you can’t always expect. But making sure you have the data and the information available to you so when something does happen, you can turn around and really activate quickly is really what retailers like.
Luke Peters: Great. Now the product is on the retailer site. How are you driving sales then at this point? Are you doing any influencer marketing or any other promotional or sales strategies?
Jamie L.: I think every product launch is different. If you’re developing something and you’re putting it on and it’s an Amazon sku, you need to go through your Amazon and handbook and see, okay what are the things on Amazon that’s going to drive it? Making sure you get reviews on that product. Reviews really drive your search and your rating. So getting reviews and getting strong reviews, ensuring that you do have a video. Then you got to look at the Facebook and the marketing side of it. We’ve had really strong success with Facebook marketing ads. Really targeted ads that go out to people that are interested in those subjects and as well as tying those ads back in directly to the retailers. When you go on Facebook and you see a little ad or you watch a video, it has that click that takes you directly to Amazon for instance. Or it takes you directly to Bed Bath.
Jamie L.: It’s allowed us to create a strategy that we can actually see sales results. Because I think a lot of the time when you do a lot of marketing, it’s very difficult to see that ROI and understand that oh great, we get all these impressions, but what do they really turn into in sales? Doing a lot of this targeted advertising has been really strong for us because we’ve been able to turn it into ROI that we can measure very easily.
Luke Peters: This is very unique actually. You’re using a Facebook channel to drive sales on your retailers, not in your direct to consumer website. And it sounds like you guys are getting good results. I mean, would it did even compare to the ROI that you’re getting from say AMS or is it not comparable but it’s still worthwhile and it’s different? And also it’s probably hard to measure it, right? You can’t measure this because you’re sending a customer off to Home Depot, or Bed Bath, or Wayfair, or Amazon and you don’t have a pixel on their websites. You’re not able to measure the ROI, right?
Jamie L.: Yeah. Depending on the retailer, you do lose the chain a little bit. I will tell you that little Amazon logo on an ad where people can click on has been very strong. People love the ability to get it right away from Amazon. So when they see that ad in the corner and it shows Amazon and they just click it and it goes. When they see the ad on your website, people will buy from our direct to consumer sites very strong. But I really think having that logo recognition from whatever retailer site you go on has been very strong for us and just really created that attachment to the customer. They see it and they go, “Oh look, this is a great advertising for an iron and this is really cool. This is what it does.” They click Bed Bath, they go right to that part at Bed Bath because they recognize Bed Bath and they want to buy it from Bed Bath.
Jamie L.: We know through data that this consumer is a Bed Bath consumer and this consumer also likes irons. That’s where all that data really comes in. And it may not be that specific of data, but really understanding who the customer is and what their interests are. The sites they go to, what they’re searching on, all that data that’s on people and that data’s out there. It’s a little scary when you think about it sometimes, but using that data you can target audiences and then if you know they’re a Bed Bath shopper and you have a Bed Bath ad, that’s really strong.
Luke Peters: It’s an amazing strategy and really interesting to hear how you guys have it working. Are you using an outside Facebook partner to help you with the advertising? Are you guys able to do all that targeting and set up in house?
Jamie L.: Currently we’re doing it all in house. I won’t lie, it’s a lot of work. We really do smaller specific campaigns. We do have a lot of good software to help us create that data and find that data and that information. Facebook’s actually very good at that as well. But the one thing with Facebook is it changes weekly and daily, their rules and everything. We are in the process right now of searching for a strong partner to manage all that for us. And with that, what I think you’re seeing out there is content is king. Anyone can do advertising with bad content. But I think we’re really trying to find a partner that will also create content for us.
Jamie L.: When you look at optimizing your social budget, not just that they’re managing your account and doing these posts, they’re also helping you create content that you can reuse and have and leverage across all kinds of different channels. Whether it’s on your own website or things you developed for retailers on the side. So the ability to generate content as well as manage that Facebook side or the advertising side is something we’re down the road right now. Got a couple of partners we’ve been talking to and we’re really close to making that decision.
Luke Peters: And Jamie, how big is the team that you manage? You’re managing all of sales and marketing?
Jamie L.: Yeah, it’s about 10 people total.
Luke Peters: You’re getting the most out of that team it sounds like. Because you’re doing a lot of very technical strategies here. And most companies aren’t able to manage this many things in house. Thanks for sharing that strategy with Facebook. I know we’ve looked into that and we’ve actually done some of that, but not as far as you guys have gone. Part of it is just because it’s hard to measure that ROI. But on the flip side, I’m sure it helps with the product launch because when your product first launches and you have no sales velocity, it’s not going to rank good. So I’m assuming you guys can now drive Facebook ads and sales to that product. You’re going to get some sales velocity, it’s going to move up in the rankings on your retailer partner sites. Is that along the lines of the same thinking you guys are using?
Jamie L.: Yeah, exactly. We understand that when you launch a product those first few months, we’re not making money. We’re really using the money it’s generating to advertise more of it because you need to get that sales velocity. You need to get the sales, the reviews, all that stuff up to really move up with all these retailers. And the only way that you’re going to do it is to advertise. Amazon does have a great advertising platform, but everybody’s there, everybody’s fighting for that space. We haven’t seen great return on those ad spends. So finding a different avenue that has been successful for us has been really exciting.
Jamie L.: We really started with a test method. What I like to call the weekend test where we just picked current items and we tried to weekend test and we tried some different things to see what works. Well, I’ll tell you that the adage that bad creative doesn’t work is true. If it’s not engaging creative, it’s very difficult to get customers excited about it. We’ve done some new videos that are really a little bit more exciting and get people behind it. Versus the typical hey, this is what the product is video. But getting that engagement is key for whatever you do.
Luke Peters: Then finishing up on the product launch, let’s talk about product reviews. Are you guys doing anything interesting that you can share with the audience here to get more reviews on these products? Especially with your price points, I’m assuming reviews are going to be really, really important.
Jamie L.: Again, going back to the software side, we’ve invested with Bazaarvoice, who’s a great partner to do the reviews on our own website. And one of the exciting things they do, and I’m sure you’ve talked about, is they syndicate out to other websites. So any reviews that are on our website is going out to Bed Bath and all these other sites. They’re able to syndicate all of these reviews to all these retailers except Amazon of course. Because they have their own platform. So if I get 10 reviews on my own site, those 10 reviews are going to show up on everybody’s site. So I don’t have to try to generate reviews at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Bed Bath Beyond, Walmart. That can be very difficult and can also just get to be very expensive when you start to get down that road.
Jamie L.: Being able to focus on just our own website, getting customers on our own website, whether you incentivize them to buy the product and give them 100% off coupon to buy the product. You can’t incentivize them to say, “I’ll give you for a five star review.” But I want honest reviews. Bad reviews are good too because bad reviews tell you what you need to do better on the product and how you can market it better. Or how even your customer service can get better. As a brand, one of the things we really see on reviews is a lot of it just comes back to your customer service. It’s a great product, the product worked great, but how that customer interacted with your company and how that customer service side didn’t meet their expectations really affects the reviews. Being able to clean up your customer service and that channel is really what reviews help you drive. So not all reviews are good, but the bad reviews are the ones that can really help your company the best.
Luke Peters: We’re using Bazaarvoice as well and I have a lot of experience with it. It sounds like on a product launch you’re going to be driving sales on your direct to consumer channel as well. Because that’s obviously the added benefit, is getting reviews that are going to syndicate out. Yep, makes a lot of sense.
Jamie L.: Yeah, yeah. Local community.
Luke Peters: Yep, exactly. What is something actionable that the audience can take away from you in the sense that over the past year, maybe share the biggest win or the biggest strategy or some nugget that you think is really going to be helpful for our audience here.
Jamie L.: I think Facebook’s of top of mind for everybody. What we did was create a product offering at Amazon that was just for Amazon. I’m sure there’s a lot of people doing that, but then created a marketing approach to generate reviews and everything right around that product. Whether it was from a software that sends out emails to our customers asking them for reviews, to doing campaigns on Facebook on that product, sending them to Amazon, to even just how you manage that product and do your backend. We’ve invested in some other software. Helium 10’s a great company everyone should look up. The information that they have at their fingerprints on your different products, being able to optimize your search for optimization for Amazon, and being able to see where your product ranks. Being able to see what products are in the top ranks and how you can target those products. There’s some really great information out there. I think the key for everybody is just to look for that product information, find out those product software suppliers out there. There’s so many of them and try to leverage them the best can.
Luke Peters: Thanks for that Jamie. And yeah, we’ve used Helium 10 as well, so great suggestion. But we haven’t gone to the extent you guys have on Facebook and trust me, we’re going to be testing that and I hope the audience gives that a shot as well. Part of it is Facebook has pulled back, or at least their platform has become a lot more competitive over the years. But it sounds like you guys are running small super targeted campaigns. It makes 100% sense to me what you’re doing here and you’re targeting people who in their profile, like you said, might be Bed Bath and Beyond customers or whatever the case may be. So you’re still able to get to them and it sounded like you were alluding to the fact that it even has a higher ROI than even AMS, Amazon’s own system. So super interesting. I’ll make sure I put some of the software that you’ve listed here in our show notes for the audience and yeah, thanks. That was really, really helpful.
Luke Peters: Jamie, just want to thank you again for joining us today and walking us through everything from product launches, to Facebook advertising, and the different channels that you manage there for Reliable Corporation, and talking about your products. It’s been a lot of fun.
Jamie L.: Awesome, thanks for having me.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page One podcast sponsored by Retail Band where we help companies like yours launch products faster on Home Depot, Walmart, Wayfair, and even Amazon. If you’re launching products and not getting reviews and sales fast enough, we can help you. We can help you with influencer marketing, videos, Instagram, YouTube videos, getting your product out there and helping with the SEO of the product. If you’re interested to learn more, you can take a look at retailband.com
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