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Building Your Brand with Ashley Alden and Sarah Sitz (February 2024)

Learn how you can identify your market opportunity, unearth your brand's unique story, and drive new commercial success for your local food business.

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Episode transcript

[00:00:08] Will Schreiber: Glad I've already had a couple of coffees. Ashley, Sarah, as promised, we usually kick these off with what your coffee ritual is. So I'll go first.

I'm drinking drip coffee at Industrious. In Union Square right now in New York where are y'all, what's what's your coffee situation?

[00:00:26] Ashley Alden: Go ahead, Ash.

I Am just drinking a drip coffee as well. I just had a baby two months ago, so we're in a Keurig moment right now. It's all about convenience, but definitely get a cup of coffee in as soon as I can every morning.

And I'm in Chicago or I'm in the suburbs of

[00:00:44] Will Schreiber: Chicago. Nice.

[00:00:46] Sarah Sitz: I, or I'm doing, I'm on my second cup of coffee actually today, but I uh, yeah, I already have a cold brew with some almond milk. It's usually my go to or if I'm drinking warm, like an almond milk cappuccino. I want to get fancy. I'm in Chicago. I am in Lincoln park and currently at a publishing space

[00:01:06] Will Schreiber: Nice.

I used to live in Chicago. I think that's now come up a few times on these coffee chats. So it's really cool to talk to you all. I feel like any physical references of places you make will warm my heart. It will take me back. But let's get into it. So Ashley and Sarah have launched a marketing firm that really helps people build an awesome brand.

And previously they were early at Foxtrot, which a lot of people on the call may have heard of and help them build what has become really an awesome brand and a really interesting business model and the convenience and kind of delivery space. So we love in y'all's words, just what is Foxtrot as a starting point, and then from there we can get into y'all's background and what got you to Foxtrot.

[00:01:57] Ashley Alden: Yeah, so, Foxtrot is a modern convenience store that has retail locations as well as on demand delivery. So I think under an hour was usually the promise that we made and there are now 25 to 30 locations across multiple cities. When I started at Foxtrot in 2018. We had four locations in Chicago and the business model was split about 50, 50 between retail and delivery.

And then by the time I left, we were at 25 across three cities, which was a really fun ride to, to try to build, but you know, the brand itself was really all about discovery. Or is really all about discovery. So think new brands, local brands. We always considered ourselves as a launch pad for emerging.

Brands to, to get their story out there, get their products into a customer's hands. And we spent a lot of time telling the stories of those brands across the Foxtrot channels.

[00:02:59] Will Schreiber: Cool. And how did y'all end up there? What's the quick bio.

[00:03:03] Ashley Alden: Yeah, so for me, I lived in Lakeview near Southport in Belmont for UL.

And I was walking down the street one day and there was a Foxtrot that was under construction. I had never heard of it before. And I looked it up and It seemed like a really interesting concept, like something that I had previously been a buyer in apparel, so I was looking for an interesting role.

I never considered grocery, but because it was really trend focus. It was interesting to me. I met with the. Co founder Mike, and he sold me on the concept. I sold him on the fact that if I could buy men's jeans, then I could buy food too. And the rest for me is history. I was employee number nine.

So it was super early days. Prior to me joining, Mike had been choosing the products. On his own, just by having amazing taste and I really, put a strategy behind what we were choosing and yeah, the rest is history for me

[00:03:58] Sarah Sitz: So for me, I came on as employee 15, I think is what we say. I had historically been at midsize companies, but always rooted in technology. So Grubhub and Seamless, when they had merged before the days of DoorDash and Uber Eats.

I went to cars. com and then Foxtrot. I just walked in one day. And I was like, this place gets me and I wanted to be a part of something that, I could see myself in as a consumer. So it was exciting to feel like not only was I passionate about what we were selling, but that I was the end consumer as well. So, Ashley and I both spent around 4 years there and it was a super exciting time building the brand from series A investment to series C.

From I think one or two stores to 23 by the time we left in four different markets. So, we learned a lot along the way.

[00:04:54] Will Schreiber: And for someone who has not come across the brand, I encourage you to just Google Foxtrot and pull it up. I think you'll immediately see that there's something special going on there.

So to get into it, I'm curious what the ethos behind the brand was and how you guys thought about branding when you were helping Foxtrot build theirs.

[00:05:15] Sarah Sitz: So the, really the ethos of Croftra was this whole idea of curation and discovery. So that it was a place or a destination, not only as a modern convenience market, but this place that you could really find what was New and fresh within the food and beverage market.

And we're super passionate about food, changing the way that people ate and drink and being on the precipitous of what was new and next from a cultural standpoint. And so what was really fun, especially as an X brand or as a brand marketer, is that Foxtrot really believed in investing in brand capital B.

So. Really putting the energy and attention into not only what we stood for which was reflective, but within every product that we picked, how we talked about ourselves, where, retail, perspective, but also, in the partners that we chose, where, what we stood for our brand DNA, and we were just super thoughtful and.

And protective right of our look and feel and making sure that as we grew that we didn't get diluted for what we stood for. And that it was just essentially a bigger version of discovering curation and a connection with community and food. So, as we started to build our own brands, hundreds of private label brands with an umbrella, we use that same principle, whether that was an own brand, a partner brand.

Or one that, it didn't even have the Foxtrot brand we would always built start with strategy first, make sure that we were super aligned to. What our path was and then our project would fall beneath that. So I think a lot of brands that are growing tend to fall into two buckets, right?

Really brand led businesses and growth led businesses. And one is not better than the other necessarily. And in our case, we were a brand led business that focused more on how we organically grew than growth hacking. idea. So it was a fun to be a part of

[00:07:15] Ashley Alden: for sure.

[00:07:16] Will Schreiber: That's all really cool. And I'm curious at any point, did what Where some of the kind of learnings along the way of where the brand needed to change or shift from the early days. Because I remember, I feel like I remember when Foxtrot first launched, I was living in Chicago.

And the focus was very much around as I remember it, like convenience and speed. And it felt like to me, the brand became more of the curation, which you're talking about. I'm curious if there were ways you guys could identify where you needed to take the brand and. How you settled on what it ended up becoming.

[00:07:50] Ashley Alden: And I think the space in the delivery space became very crowded very quickly, especially with COVID. Right. So it was really the differentiator for us. We had all of these products that other delivery services either couldn't offer because of logistics standpoint or hadn't found yet. And that's why we really leaned into curation and discovery versus speed.

And I think that's something that. Any brand can really start to think about and use what are their differentiators. We've seen, there's always going to be somebody with more money than you, with faster technology than you, what are the differentiators that no one else can do? And in the case of Foxtrot, what no one else could do was.

Discover these amazing brands and products and then tell the stories in a way that made customers want to come to a convenience store as a

[00:08:44] Will Schreiber: destination

So i'd love to i'd love to dig into that because it feels so okay you identify like here's our unique angle. Here's what we're doing that's different than everyone else. How then do you think about or what frameworks? Would you use an executing like, okay, what is the brand then and how do we build it?

if we know that this is our differentiator, how do we express that?

[00:09:08] Sarah Sitz: So I think it's, there's an art and a science to the way that we were in our business today and Foxtrot, right? So I think some of it just gut. We were like, this feels like us. This is a worthwhile investment. There's a lot of trips are along the way.

That was a really bad call and was not opportunistic for a business and like using customer data. Right. So what was, it's a blend, right? So where from my social engagement and how people are talking about us, but also what were people buying, purchasing and gravitating towards and knowing where to double down.

You can talk a little bit more about the merchandising strategy specifically, but from, honoring your DNA, I think it's just how you kind of, we were always like, we're building our own lane, right? There was a million other people in the market doing something on the same scene, but different, but we always felt like we're building our own and tried to put blinders on.

And, when people ask, who's your competitive set, we're like, everyone and no one, right? It was. Every single coffee shop at every single corner and every single delivery service. And if we got caught up what they were doing, then we never would have been building our own path. So I think it's like staying true to the heart of what you've built on and what feels right for you.

And you start to know, right? Like when you get the ick on something and it's just not right for your business. And then the things that innately everyone's excited to work on and it feels right, that usually translates to customers too. So when it felt forced, you know, we were like, this isn't going to move the needle, and no one's going to be excited about it.

And, you just put pencils down. Like a good example is we piloted a program called up and comers that celebrated the next generation of, business owners on shelf and it celebrated. Uniqueness, everything from packaging to your, what your unique story angle was, and really just celebrated the heart of what Foxtrot was and started to build more credibility for us of something that we were always doing, but then defined it through like a marketing and branding perspective.

So, and then that now has been gone on for, I think, four or five years, to become a brand defined product that people look out for. So it's a lot of trial and error. And just trusting as your business and your customer. Ash, I don't know if you want to talk a little bit more on like the revenue or data side, because that was more of your.

[00:11:13] Ashley Alden: Yeah. So,

What we would do on my team, the merchandising team at Foxtrot, we would dig into sales data on a weekly basis. And what we were finding is that regardless of the category, new emerging brands were popping to the top of our category rankings. So it was very clear that customers were coming.

And buying these products that were new to the market, even if they were more expensive. So, we carried late Doritos. We carried several brands that you'd heard of, but what was popping was the latest chip on the market or the most interesting flavor of ice cream from a Jenny's versus.

Just even we carry Ben and Jerry's ice cream that was selling just not to the same level. So as we started to see that trend in the data, I worked really closely with Sarah as team, the brand marketing team to start to really elevate those stories of new brands that were coming to the market.

And then we just saw those sales increase even further. So we took data. We already had found what was working. And in the case of a Foxtrot, it was. unique new items. New items were driving 10 percent of the total volume of the brand. and just told those

[00:12:27] Sarah Sitz: stories. And only with that's all those stories that we could.

[00:12:31] Will Schreiber: That's really interesting. I mean, I would have assumed I was outside looking at like people get their staples and it's the same thing over and over. It's fascinating that you even saw in the data early that people were actually buying the unique stuff and not the I know I like this. I'm going to get this.

That's a pretty cool insight.

[00:12:52] Sarah Sitz: One thing I would add is I think we love to my team press really hard for exclusivity too. Right, when the team was negotiating on shelf because the only to only get an off track or this is the only destination for this really this thing, in the culture of like.

LTOs and people wanting that exclusivity piece, we would really market the hell out of that to be like, even if our own, compete was a month, it was like, we had a month for that runway and we were excited to say start here, go anywhere if Whole Foods was secretly shopping at Foxtrot, we're like, that's great.

Like we would love for you to start here. And then five years from now you're at a target because it's like, we are your foreground. You We could give you 10, 20, 30 brands that started on Foxtrot shelves that are now in mass retailers. So I think this idea of being able to be this place that new brands like start to find their footing.

And that helps to build that organic relationship with those brands, because there was like a gratefulness on both sides of this feels right for both of us. And so then our customers would see that, too, and how

we talk to them.

[00:13:50] Will Schreiber: Yeah, that's really cool. And I think that highlights what we were talking about before the call, which is getting on the shelf as a topic, which I would love to touch on a bit later after we, there's kind of two things I think actionable for.

For meal delivery businesses here, one is your brand building. And then second getting on a shelf somewhere. So just putting a flag in that for everyone listening stick around. If you want to hear a few tips at the end from experts who filled Foxtrot shelves. So back to identifying what's unique about you and really building a brand around it.

I'm curious if you were to come to, if Andy and I were running South Fork, which was Andy's meal delivery business in Atlanta, and we were left wondering. What really helps us stand out and how do we build a brand around it? What would be the steps you took to help us identify that and figure it out what we really needed to lean into as a meal delivery business

[00:14:44] Ashley Alden: So usually what we do when we work with brands is we look at the category that they're in the competitive set Who else is out there that's doing something similar to you? and what are they saying their differentiators are so Just go down the list Speed in this case, right?

type of product, price, promises that you're making, gluten free, non GMO. We like to see, where you're standing out from them in that set. We also set up what we call like a T chart and just on the vertical axis is usually price and on the horizontal is like level of innovation and plot you versus everyone else and see where is the white space that can really help when you're starting to think about positioning yourself against the competitive set.

And then I usually do that work up front as well as dig into your data. What's working, what's not and what you already have. And then I pass the torch to Sarah who can talk through what her process looks like in positioning your

[00:15:43] Sarah Sitz: brand. Yeah, so I think Ashley, our process, like Ashley's plan is what's the business and market opportunity, right?

So that's a blend of. The category itself, your audience opportunity market conditions, like their inflation right now, like what are people willing to spend on a donut, today? And really thoughtfully, even if you're in market, we think this is important exercise to optimize your brand to make sure like that opportunity or that we call it.

White space circle is big enough for you to own fully. Right. And once you're like, yes, I've landed. I'm sitting here and here on the access. Then you start to think about, like, how do I talk about myself or what makes me unique? And how do I start to position myself? And that's where we do a lot of work on finding like why what makes?

What's your unique selling point? You've probably heard a million different brand people say like mission vision values. Everyone has a different name for it, right? But really unearthing your reason for being and what you're uniquely bringing to the table. We line it up to say what guides you internally?

What brings you to work every day? And then how does that. Make you in the market slightly differentiated, right? What's the thing that you're going to say that makes somebody feel like I'm going to choose your bagel over the guy next door. And then, once you really landed that positioning, then you can start to build, either an editor optimized brand identity, right? That goes back into the white space to lining yourself up against everybody else to make sure it doesn't don't look and sound the same. And then to that point earlier, as I started to trust your gut, right? Like in most of the cases, I assume with the people on this call, like you are your brand, in some ways you are, your brand is a reflection of you.

And so just living that through your tone of voice, the content every day, and what you bring to the table, how you interact with your customers, essentially. A marketing tactic and tool. So I think it's for us. We spend a lot of time, we talk to so many clients and they're like, can you just figure out or go to market?

And we're like, sure. But do you fundamentally know what your brand is? Do you know where you're sitting? Right. Because immediately you always end up doing that work anyways. We're like, nope, you got to go back to the driver because a lot of people can't tell you in three sentences or less what they stand for, and so I think pressing and we work a lot of people because you're so close to your brand too.

And for us, we just provide a little bit of that unique point of view to say, step back for a second, and really think about what you're building. And then the marketing starts to trickle from there because it's easier to talk about your brand when you know who you are. And that could change too over time.

Right? Like to the Foxtrot example, they were an alcohol delivery service first and now they're an omni channel marketplace in four different markets. So it's okay for that to evolve and change based on what you're seeing, from your responses to, and your customers sorry that was longwinded.

[00:18:23] Will Schreiber: No, I, it leads to my follow.

But because we were talking about too, like you guys were. Just joking with Andy and I about like you can really only do so many things right as a small business something all of us, the two of y'all us a Bottle everyone on the call knows like you just can't do it all. And y'all made a comment like you should really focus on two channels.

And I'd imagine that the brand kind of direction and mission vision values you pick will influence the channels that you choose as well so I'm curious if y'all like what's your kind of reasoning or mindset behind that comment that was like, lean into what's working and focus on two.

And how do you even know that those are the right channels for what it is that your brand stands for?

[00:19:13] Sarah Sitz: Do you want me to take this, Ash? Yeah. I think for us, right, even for our business that we're building, right, we started six months ago candidly, we were like, Instagram. We're not, we're never been the people that are, like, that active on social media. We don't feel comfortable. And then as we started to Get to know our audience.

Right. And no we're a service based business. People want to hear from us. They want to know how we think they want to know who we are and why we're credible. Immediately we couldn't avoid it anymore. We were like, we got to be on Instagram because that's where our clients are. Our potential opportunities.

We need to be a part of this. And as much as, for us, our 2 channels are LinkedIn and Instagram, right? It plays. Like when we give more attention to what but really that's where we invest our time and attention because that's where we know our audiences and we've seen the best responses and bounce from for other people, and in Canada, they were like, we'd love to get into email.

Right. But we just cannot take that on right now because we know we won't do it well. And so I think you just have to find a blend of where have you seen in roads? If if you've done that work on the upfront and your market opportunity, where is your customer? Right. And then really thoughtfully thinking about how you can make those two channels work harder for you.

Like we are Google doc gals. Like we have content calendar now, even for our business, it's, we only, there's two of us, but it just helps you hold you accountable too, because we would always say Oh, we're going to post today. And something innately we see from our clients all the time, like operationally is always going to take.

The front seat over your marketing and I think when you have a plan and you stick to that plan, then you start to feel like, oh, I'm nurturing this thing and then you become good at it. And you're like, okay, this is where I'm supposed to be. Or you'll be like. Hey, I'm not really seeing the feedback loop I'm wanting to hear.

Maybe I need to shift my attention to another channel or another opportunity that might be better for me and my business today, where I, where my customers tend to be. So it's like a little bit of tinkering, to see what works and what doesn't, but also that commitment. To focusing and just not, I, we always say like progress over perfection, just do the thing.

And it's okay if it's not tied in a bow, I, our examples, like I posted a real and I watched it a thousand people have watched it and I'm like, Oh God, I would have done it so differently now, but I'll use that, in the future, to guide the next piece of content I create.

Like it's behind us now. And it's it's a, it's more of a positive Oh, we can reach a thousand people. Let's take that as a win. And

[00:21:26] Will Schreiber: Yeah, I also know that as an extension of that definitely the algorithms reward consistency. And if you're consistently posting you have a better shot, statistically it's proven out of Instagram boosting you, LinkedIn boosting you.

So there's real truth to that, like sticking with your calendar. As well, were there any oh, and by the way, everyone listening in, feel free to throw in Q and a we will ask questions as they come up as well. So if you have any questions for Ashley and Sarah, as they come up, please put them in Q and a, and we'll get to those throughout the call.

Were there any interesting. Things about marketing back at Foxtrot that kind of surprised you in terms of what worked and what didn't,

[00:22:11] Ashley Alden: What, where we work for us were partnerships and one partnership that was super surprising for us was we did a pop up shop in partnership with Wilco, which is a band out of Chicago. We were they were launching a new album and we were just big fans and reached out to them and.

Did a partnership for no cost. They didn't ask for anything from us. And what we did is we took over one store with Specific products to them, a non alcoholic beer, a merch line of t shirts, hats, etc. And a cereal because they were huge fans of cereal for some reason. And we saw a huge response, sold out of all the products online within a few days.

Both to a national audience as well as local and hit a net new customer like dad's right. It was a very surprising partnership in that such a big name didn't need us to pay them, right? It was very organic and it just came alive in a really authentic way. We had a line out the door of our store before it opened.

I think we opened at three o'clock and there was like a line down the block. All really fun and exciting things. And something like that was much more successful for us than paid marketing spend. We could never crack that. Not at Foxtrot. But anything that was really organic and exciting, like Sarah said, if we as folks inside the brand, were really excited to talk about it and create it, then our customers gravitated towards that.

[00:23:42] Sarah Sitz: And I would add to that example, like we got hits in Rolling Stone and AdAge. And for us that was a huge inflection point of us being a local brand that can outkick our coverage nationally, right? So you can only shop us in foreign markets where you're getting the attentions of national publications.

So there's value still, right? And if you hit it well, and you're still going to get that reach that you're looking for without having to be everywhere, right? So for a lot of the folks in this room you could be just in Philly, right? But you're doing something cool enough that everybody else in the world wants to know about it too.

I think to Ashley's point, it's we always, we kept trying paid me just you always say and other companies I've worked for, we always had that one kind of ugly ad that hit like for cars was this minivan and it's so ugly, but for some reason it converts. Right. And we, every brand I've worked for always found that secret we just honestly, we went through different agencies.

And people in the growth owning growth, but like pages never converted for us. And that was just not, or, and the CPAs were so high that we just couldn't validate the investment there. So we just kept shifting our attention to what we call now like a community focused approach to organic marketing that felt more true to our brand.

And that we saw that translation that was both high engagement and high revenue driving, which is like the perfect. Marketing moment when you get both and that could be, experiential that could be thought leadership moments like the one that we're participating in now that could be a pop up somewhere, right?

It doesn't, it could just be making sure the product is in highly influential hands, but ones that are just are neatly organic to you and your business. So, it depends on who you are and what you're like, how you define your own community. But there are ways to drive that organic growth in a highly effective way that we believe in over like obsessing about search and social

all day.

[00:25:27] Will Schreiber: I have always heard that on ad creative that it's like the throwaway ugly ad that converts and you spend all this time and money making something awesome and the last ditch effort did something amazing. Yeah.

[00:25:40] Ashley Alden: It's interesting.

[00:25:41] Sarah Sitz: It's I'm just not, I'm gonna turn the other way, I'm gonna pretend it's not in the

[00:25:47] Will Schreiber: universe.

Exactly. I know this is a theme y'all really touched on is this idea of organic growth and building community. And you obviously just threw out a. Bunch of ideas, but I'm curious if you all were to distill like what that really means organic growth, how you might measure it. And what are the objectives in terms of building a community or how y'all think about it when you build a brand?

[00:26:12] Sarah Sitz: I think it's dependent on the brand. I think it's like brand metrics are tend to be soft, right? It's like brand awareness tracking, which you can hack different ways of you can use that through. Social engagement, I would say social reach is like of the past, like I don't care if 10,000 people are following you, I'd rather have 500 highly engaged people love you.

No, I think it's you just start to see a pickup of, you can actually look at search from like more of an organic standpoint, right? Like from something you're doing, did you see an increase to website traffic from an activation, right? So there's a way, or like email capture is an easy way to start to build a harder KPI against a softer brand initiative.

So I think you can make them channel specific and then more broadly if you own a store, like your retail traffic, inbound inquiries, things like that, you can still make them measurable. . You know, Cause you just start to see the translation and like in the amount of more inbounds that you're getting in the new customer sunset, right?

If you're, maybe you max out on moms, right. And you're like, I. Want more like young Gen Z, like you just start to see that shift of the type of people that are talking to you too. So it's not a great answer. It's I think there's a blend of both soft, just understood the feeling and then direct attributable goals.

So the activations that you're running, I don't know, Ash, if you have any,

[00:27:32] Ashley Alden: I've always been a fan of just looking at your total revenue, right? How is that growing and attributing your marketing to that? Like we can look at email conversion. Number of followers all day. But at the end of the day, we're all here to grow our revenue.

That's the first thing that I would look at as,

as a business owner.

. I love that answer. Just see it. You got to look at revenue. A hundred percent. so if paid ads were never a success at Foxtrot, at least when y'all were there, what was the cause I do think the main similarity and Foxtrot as an example, and a lot of businesses listening at is this idea that it's hyperlocal.

[00:28:07] Will Schreiber: There's a connection to the community and trying to build relationships with people around you. So I'm curious, like how did Foxtrot think about engaging the community or drawing people into the brand? If it paid didn't work,

[00:28:21] Ashley Alden: a lot of it was in the products that we carried, right? So we were huge advocates of supporting local brands or local chefs and businesses in whatever market we were in.

So before we would launch a new market, myself and my team would go out to the city and find whatever we could local bakeries, we would talk to restaurants in the space. To see if they had an idea for a sauce or some sort of product to get it out to the market and then use those community ties found restaurants, brands, et cetera, that people already loved in whatever city it was, and then put them on our shelves so that people would organically want to come and shop and discover other products there as well.

And. We would work closely with Sarah's team to accentuate and tell those stories in a bigger way. That was really our differentiator from speed of delivery or number of products on the shelves. It was items that you couldn't find anywhere else that were very much tied to the community that you were in.

[00:29:27] Sarah Sitz: We spent a lot of time drumming up anticipation and demand, especially when we entered the market. We were like, who else can we get in bed with? Who's we had like weeks of events for store openings. It was like. Local artists that were doing live installations or customizing like the back of a denim jacket in Austin, right?

Like really thoughtfully about who we brought into the store for the weeks that we got there So we felt like we didn't just show up especially in markets that we weren't organic to like We were already innately embedded in the community because we were with your people that you knew and loved Because like we did our work, the work, and we did a lot of, especially with like product launches within our shelves, we spent a lot of time building up that anticipation and demand.

Like something is coming, like, why are you interested? Get you, but drop the thing, and then make a limited run of them that felt like highly valuable. I think we always, our fun fact we like to say is once we got you in, it's like we had so much data on you too to be like, okay, we got you in as a wine shopper, like you were extreme, way higher value to us than if we got you in as like your prepared foods program, because you were higher, much more likely to spend more within our shelves and spend more often.

And so if we cooked you first, then we'd be like, okay, why don't you buy a gift? Now you've got the bottle of wine, right? And we started to think. Really thoughtfully through our customer journey and how we hit you when, whether that was date partying or who we featured was like, we had a, such a loyal, we knew like those that loved us were obsessed with us so that when we could launch products, they would follow us because they trusted us.

And we built that relationship where they're like, well, Foxtrot says it's good that I know that it's going to, I'm going to buy this thing. I don't have to like, I'm not going to be worried that it's going to be the first time I'm trying something and it's not going to be good. So I think like that trust with your community that then they can follow you for where you want to take

[00:31:10] Will Schreiber: them.

Yeah. Yeah. And I think hearing that too, a big takeaway for me is how much there was in person acquisition. I mean, doing these pop ups. These collabs and then getting those people into your sphere, right? I know Foxtrot had a big online program and push. I think obviously businesses listening in here. The goal is to get people on a recurring plan of some kind.

And that definitely strikes me as for a very local business. Like it is very tactical and in person, or at least hearing you all talk about it. It comes across that way.

[00:31:42] Sarah Sitz: Yeah, because it just was easier than like playing against everybody else in the delivery space to say, download our app, right?

Because it was more like, we got you the mini walk-in store, let's get you to download the app, right? So that you get a first time promotion and then we have you to start to talk to you more often. So I think it's like using your store to connect to digital, like we were an omnichannel brand and we needed to balance the business from a revenue standpoint.

So how do you use retail to drive to digital was something we always were thinking about, like from the minute you got there.

[00:32:14] Will Schreiber: Yeah really smart, I think. And cool. Okay. A couple of questions while we're talking about kind of marketing channels and stuff Ariel wanted to know how long do you lean into something in terms of a new channel before you decide it's time to move on?

[00:32:30] Sarah Sitz: Yeah. Ashe you want to take that one?

[00:32:31] Ashley Alden:

I think it really depends on your customer and. How often you are expecting them to find you and whatever channel that you're in, right? So it goes again back to data at Foxtrot. We knew that customers would come into our power users would come into our store twice a month.

That's how often they would shop with us. So. To talk about something for only a day or even a week was not enough time to ensure that customers, even our power users were actually seeing it. So, we found that you have to repeat yourself and you have to spend more time talking about. The same thing than you really want to.

You are very close to your own brand and what you're saying, but not all of your customers are seeing every single point of communications or on every channel like you are. So it's just something to think about as you're building these plans and working through channels. Give yourself more time than you think and base it off of how often your customers are coming to your channels.

[00:33:32] Will Schreiber: Yeah, I think that, and that's really interesting and insightful. And I think the, like the fact that power users were coming twice a month, I think it is really interesting because too often in the meal delivery world, I think we, and everyone in this world beats themselves up about if someone's not ordering every week, right.

And it's almost an unrealistic expectation that your customers want or can order that often. And really figuring out how you can engage with someone over the long term in a way that feels good for everybody. It's a real challenge for meal delivery companies. Yeah, another, and I

[00:34:10] Ashley Alden: think you have to think about the macro environment right now, too, right?

People are finally starting to travel again, and Leave their houses and want to eat out. So that's just something we always go back to as well. It's not only what's happening within your own business, what's happening globally to set your expectations.

[00:34:27] Sarah Sitz: And I think

like we were talking to a client the other day and they were like, it's a coffee brand and they were talking about their specials and they were like, well, we're doing this month this month, that, this, I mean, we're like, let it, just let it breathe a little. Cause we're like, are you a Valentine's day destination?

Do you sell items that really people are searching for you for Valentine's day? Right. If you are like, go for it. Right. And that's your initiative for the month. You're,

you like feeling the need to connect with everyone and everything. Like just with the St. Patrick's day, it doesn't mean your brand has a place there. So I think that goes back to the origin of like really knowing your brand because then you know I don't care that it's March Madness right now because my customer doesn't care.

It doesn't matter to my business. And that helps you start to prioritize where you spend your time. And you do say your customer really cares about new year, new you, like you're going hard come January one because everybody, you sell on a. And everybody wants it, right? So I think it's just right. Using what you know about yourself and somewhere to be like, okay, this is, I'm going to give this legs.

And when we say breathe, like a month to three months, even I think it's the speed of the feed was a lot, but doesn't mean that people are like, Oh, they're still talking about why, like it's actually this point you're just, everyone's not watching you as close as you think they are, at least in that way.

Yeah. Because we see a lot of people with national, like I need to offer a special promo. We're like, ah, enough.

[00:35:51] Ashley Alden: Right.

[00:35:52] Will Schreiber: Yeah. I mean, on that though, of like you being in the business, you always forget everyone else isn't thinking about you all the time. So it's easy to think, oh, they're sick of hearing about it.

It's no, you're just sick of it because it's your business. But people aren't aware, like they aren't thinking about you all the time. So that's a good. The timelines y'all have thrown out are definitely longer than I would have guessed. I think it's a good reminder to stick with things.

Here's another question. If not doing email or paid ads, where are you telling stories?

[00:36:22] Ashley Alden: I think you can use email. I think what we're saying is choose two channels that are most authentic to you and your brand. So it could be email and social. Or it could be email, and you can pop up events if you're trying to really build a sense of community.

And social would be just your own owned channel, so your own Instagram, rather than throwing paid ads out. Feel free to layer on, Sarah.

[00:36:49] Sarah Sitz: No, I feel the same. I mean, you're, you can use your website to storytell. Website's a little tough, because it's like a channel, but also a platform. So it's really just like Just make sure you're nurturing your website and don't forget about it, essentially, but I wouldn't, it can be considered both.

So maybe you're just like, I haven't spent any time on my website, so it's my channel right now. But obviously you have to get people there too. So I think, I echo Ashley, I think you can storytell live, you can storytell within social. Social is broad, right? Like maybe you're a TikTok brand versus, or maybe you're a YouTube brand.

Like. There are a lot of social platforms and dependent on you, your business and your customer, maybe you're just shifting there. Maybe you have a video over, just photography or you're like customer loves food porn. So you're just like spending a lot of time in your imagery to storytell. So you can run the gamut.

[00:37:39] Will Schreiber: Yeah.

Makes sense. So with the last few minutes, I would love to chat about the shelf space as well. I think a lot of our businesses. I'll start with a quick story. I was at a gym in Lincoln Park over Thanksgiving, and I noticed that they had prepared meals from a local vendor for sale there.

And I know that's a business motion that a lot of meal delivery businesses want. They want distribution beyond Just home delivery or whatnot. And as people who both help brands get on shelves and as buyers, what are things that help brands get the attention of businesses like Foxtrot or that would help the get the attention of a gym like Equinox?

And increase distribution across shelves at partners.

[00:38:28] Ashley Alden: Yeah, so, a lot of it will start with what your product looks like just visually to grab the attention of a buyer or customer. So, I would encourage everyone to spend some time with the look and feel of your product. But beyond that quality.

Taste differentiators. So what makes the product that you want on the shelf different from everything else that a buyer has seen that could be the types of ingredients that you're using. It could be the price or the size. I mean, that's really on you and goes back to the position that we discussed.

So you want to make sure that's very clear in your pitch. Your ability to distribute will be important as well. And data is going to be really helpful. So one thing that I always pushed brands on who wanted to be on Foxtrot shelves were, how do I know this is going to work? How do I know this is actually going to drive revenue at the end of the day?

That's really, I always talk about revenue, but that's really what . What retailers, gyms, et cetera, are going to care about. If something is sitting and taking up space in their environment, they're going to want it to drive sales. So you can use. Stats from your own DTC site. You can use stats from, another retailer or an e-commerce site.

If you don't have stats, then you can use customer reviews. You could use some social proof to showcase why you think your product will work. And last but not least, you want to provide support to make sure something will work. So you can, when you're talking to a potential retailer, potential.

Client, you can talk through, I'm going to come in and sample X number of times a week and you can tell me when you have the highest amount of traffic in your location and I will be there or I will provide a promotion for the first two weeks. Sometimes we, as buyers, we would ask for a free fill, which is you provide free product the very first time you drop it off so that like we're not at risk and you are taking that risk.

Now, if you truly believe in your brand. Then you would be willing to throw that out there. And prove that you can make drive revenue for the buyer that's looking at your product. So there's several different variables, but at the end of the day, it's look, what's different about the product.

And proof that it's going to drive revenue, I think would be the top three items to consider. And you want to tell all of those things to a buyer very succinctly and clearly. I was pitched thousands of times, and when someone would tell me their entire life story love it for you. But we're hearing all these pitches all the time.

So get to the point quickly and really have your elevator pitch down. So that you can tell your story quickly, grab the attention of a buyer and then tell your origin story and everything else

[00:41:14] Will Schreiber: That makes total sense. And how long I know for a bit, like if you were getting into Whole Foods, it's a long drawn out process, but Are there like tactics or tips for even figuring out who to get in touch with, like who's typically doing the buying and if you're getting so many inbound emails, like what are some unique ways you've seen people try to stand out or is it just write a great email is really what it comes down to.

[00:41:40] Ashley Alden: That's a great question. It really is going to depend on the retailer, right? So Whole Foods has a full process that you have to apply, etc. And even Foxtrot has gotten to that point because the inbounds were so high, you can go into a mom and pop store around the corner, and you can just talk to the owner who's probably also at the cash register.

It really runs the gamut, right? I would utilize LinkedIn to, to find who is the buyer that you're trying to talk to, I would show up at events, whether that's trade shows or community events. And I mean, I, in my time at Foxtrot, I had someone sell me a cookie out of a Ziploc bag. It was delicious.

Like we made it happen, but they found me. Live. So you just have to really get yourself out there. Also, Sarah mentioned this earlier, a lot of buyers are competitive shopping, right? So if you can get on the shelves of an Equinox or a gym, right? Or a mom and pop market and look really interesting on the shelf, that buyer may find you.

So don't be afraid to go after small independence as a way to build up your brand visibility. Because that's the best way that you can get on a shelf is if a buyer finds you.

[00:42:51] Will Schreiber: A little Russian doll of buying. Start at the small one. Try to work your way up. Yeah, 100%.

[00:42:58] Ashley Alden: And, like we've been talking about, amplify your brand in your own channel.

So whether that's social or email or your website, you want to just be as visible as possible across a number of channels.

[00:43:10] Will Schreiber: Makes sense. All right. Two, two more questions before y'all go. If there's a I see the question back on organic and ads, but first. What are the margins like on, like if Foxtrot, what would Foxtrot buy or want to buy a meal for if the price was normally 11 bucks sold at retail?

[00:43:31] Ashley Alden: So our target margins were 40%. That's pretty high for the grocery world. I think typically 30 to 40 percent is closer to where folks would want to be. But I would just target that in your mind. And one thing that we've told a lot of brands. As they're building is when you're thinking about the price that you want your customer to pay, you want to actually think about what they would be willing to pay.

You don't want to start with what your cost is and then build the margin on top of that for the retailer. In most cases, you're going to be priced, you're going to price yourself out of the market and you're going to be too expensive. You won't ever gain the momentum that you need. So you really want to think through back to looking at your competitors.

What are the prices that are competitively out there? What do you think your customer would be willing to pay if you're higher than them? Why should they pay more? What's the reasoning? Are you clearly communicating that on your packaging? And then once you've set that, you can always go back as you scale and reduce your costs.

As you get larger, your packaging can be less, even your ingredients cost will be less. But we always tell brands like it will be 30 to 40 percent margin that your retailers are going after. But don't just base your price off of that, of your costs. It's never a good recipe. And customers always are so much smarter than you think.

They'll know.

[00:44:58] Will Schreiber: Yeah. Interesting. All right. And then final question. Just asking, did Foxtrot or how much did Foxtrot really experiment with ads versus it being organic and sharing a story of like articles floating around that Olipop grew organically, but also had tens of millions and So questions like how realistic is it like organic works because there's paid spin behind it

[00:45:21] Sarah Sitz: I mean, here's the thing.

We just, it's how you're defining success for you too. Right? Like I think they organic and pay go hand in hand. Right. So you start to see what's resonating and organic. You use it as a testing ground, right? Maybe your first. A real or piece of conduct gets your highest level engagement. Try boosting it, right?

See if that gets you like incremental conversion first. And then if that ad that's working, then turn it into an ad. I think it's just like they play together, right? Use your organic feeds as a testing ground to then funnel things into papers, just throwing dollars at everything. Also, you can build test models against yourself and paid and see which one you're getting, better returns on.

I'm not like, we're not the anti. Paid, like I think there's a place for it also. I think it's just dependent on your category too. And for us, to try to play in a paid space against delivery was just like, we're never gonna win that game. So it's like op, right. And it's like a blend of the me, the right messaging, the right creative.

The right category, the right time, the right customer, and then that winning speed of as you run. So it's not that it doesn't work or there isn't a place for it. It just didn't for us. Like we could never fully crack it enough to say let's double down and allocate incremental budgets.

Like we would always pull, we would be playing the game of pull out, come back in again, because we didn't like our strategy never fully landed and we didn't have that winning yet, but it didn't mean like at other companies that work for that isn't a place that we don't have partners.

That we work with on a paid perspective, like definitely a great channel to get more eyeballs like on you as you grow.

[00:46:53] Will Schreiber: Yeah, and I think to translate, I think this talk a bit, I think it's easy to look as an even smaller meal delivery business. In one market versus a Foxtrot that feels like it's really big.

But to Foxtrot, the door dash of the world or whatnot is huge, right? And like far outweighs. And so I, there's an interesting perspective that actually everyone's in the same boat of Ultimately, you're competing against the national hundreds of millions of dollars backed like major players and I think that's where the similarities are really interesting of what y'all are saying about really thinking about the brand and community building is going to be how you acquire efficiently versus trying to compete with a door dash ad spin.

[00:47:38] Ashley Alden: Yeah, totally. I mean, regardless of the category, there's always going to be someone who is national and has more dollars to spend on paid than you do. So it's really about figuring out what makes you different and unique, building a community around that to

[00:47:53] Will Schreiber: grow. Yeah. Well, thank you all both so much for the time.

I'm glad we got the video rolling. I'll be at late, but this was really interesting. If anyone would like to get in touch with Sarah and Ashley, reach out, we will put you directly in touch, but they can also be found online. We'll include a link to their marketing firm. When we post this, when we post this online any, anything else in your closing thoughts?

Okay. Yeah.

[00:48:25] Ashley Alden: So you can also, we're working to grow our Instagram, so I'm going to put it into the chat. Perfect. For everyone to see.

I don't know. Does the chat work for everyone? Oh, this is just.

[00:48:36] Will Schreiber: Perfect. I believe so. And we will be sure to include both the link to your website and your Instagram and the follow up email that we send with a link to this. Yeah. Thanks everyone for joining. Hope you enjoyed or got a coffee this morning.

And this was really fun. Thanks, Ashley.

[00:48:54] Ashley Alden: Thanks everybody.

[00:48:55] Will Schreiber: Have a good one. Yeah. See ya.