The Unofficial Shopify Podcast

How Kettle & Fire Scaled Affiliate Relationships to 7-figures

Episode Summary

with Jack Meredith, employee #1 & VP of Marketing at kettleandfire.com

Episode Notes

In this episode, you'll hear How Kettle & Fire scaled their affiliate and partnerships programs to 7-figures in revenue. We'll talk through best practices + actionable tactics.

Our guest today is Jack Meredith, VP of Marketing at Kettle & Fire, one of the fastest growing brands in the health & wellness consumer goods space. He was employee #1 and played an instrumental role in taking the brand from zero to 8 figures in revenue. Aside from his day job, Jack also consults for DTC brands on all things marketing and growth.

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Episode Transcription

Kurt Elster: One recurring question I hear a lot is, “Hey, Kurt. What’s the in and outs of affiliate marketing? Should I do an affiliate marketing program? How do I make it successful?” And the answer is I really don’t know. Affiliate marketing is such a black box for me. I know it can work. I know I’ve been an affiliate. I’ve been on the receiving end of affiliate payments and it’s been successful. But certainly not all affiliate programs take off, and so, I wanted to talk to someone today who has a successful affiliate program, who also had to figure it out on his own, as he went, and was able to work through it and build this successful program.

So, joining me today is Jack Meredith, from a brand you may have heard of: Kettle & Fire. Oh my gosh. Kettle & Fire. This is a big deal. They’ve been around on Shopify a while. They have been unavoidable. And if you walk through Whole Foods, you’ll see them on the shelf. But I think a DTC brand at heart. Mr. Jack Meredith, you are the VP of Marketing at Kettle & Fire, right?

Jack Meredith: That is correct.

Kurt Elster: And please, define for me what in the heck is Kettle & Fire, what do you sell?

Jack Meredith: Yeah, so we make bone broth and bone broth-based soups, so we definitely play in the health and wellness space, and the reason why we started the company is because with big food, there’s just a lot of crap out there, and it’s really hard to eat healthy and do it in a convenient and easy way. And so, with our products, we set out to accomplish that. You can maintain your diet, reach your health goals, but also enjoy it, just so you’re not eating the same boring foods over, and over, and over again.

Kurt Elster: Oh my gosh. I have here that you were employee number one and that Kettle & Fire’s an eight-figure brand now. When did you start?

Jack Meredith: That would have been 2014, officially, but I don’t think… I mean, we weren’t really like an actual DTC brand I’d say until like 2015, 2016, because that first year we were just trying to figure out all the production stuff and actually have a product that we could sell. But yeah, it’s been a pretty wild ride from going to zero to where we are today.

Kurt Elster: I’ll say. So, you’ve been at this five, six years. Did you have a ton of eCommerce experience when you jumped into this, building this eight-figure DTC brand?

Jack Meredith: I had zero experience whatsoever.

Kurt Elster: What?!

Jack Meredith: Yeah.

Kurt Elster: So, this has just been like total trial by fire.

Jack Meredith: Oh, the first two years, definitely trial by fire, because no one on our team had any eCommerce experience. Yeah. We were just doing it as we went.

Kurt Elster: Do you think that helped or hurt? Because like going into it, you have no preconceived ideas. And I think… So, like you don’t have those biases, so I think maybe there’s some benefit to going in eyes open.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. When I look back and reflect on where we were at the time, I’m actually aligned with how you’re thinking about it, like I do feel like because we didn’t have conventional wisdom guiding us in a certain direction, we were kind of just molding what we wanted to do from scratch, and I think that allowed us to maybe seek opportunities or do things in different ways than if we were given like a playbook on how to grow a DTC brand. So, I do think it helped.

But the downside is that we had to learn all this stuff on the fly and that was a little painful.

Kurt Elster: What do you think was one of those… Before we jump into the affiliate marketing, I just find… This is so fascinating because Kettle & Fire, like on the outside looking in, you see this big, eight figure brand, and this amazing trajectory, and you’re on store shelves in national retail chains, and from the outside looking in, it’s easy to say like, “Wow, that’s good for them. They’re way smarter than me and I could never do that.” And then you hear, “Oh, employee number one just was like well, we’ll figure this out as we go.” And that’s very… It’s liberating and freeing to hear that.

But what was some of the stuff early on that you struggled with trying to figure out?

Jack Meredith: Oh, man. So, when we initially launched, we actually weren’t on Shopify. We were on a company called Symphony Commerce. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them. I don’t know if they’re still around.

Kurt Elster: It was like an open-source platform, right?

Jack Meredith: Yeah. They’re kind of… Their value prop was like, “We’re gonna be this turnkey solution that’s gonna handle not only your eCommerce, but your fulfillment and everything else.” And so, it sounded really good on paper, but yeah, they were just early, and they were trying to take on a lot at once, so that was a very rough experience for us, just because we just didn’t have the functionality that Shopify and some of these other eCommerce platforms had, so it just forced us to really spend way too much time figuring all that stuff out on the tech side. So, that was really frustrating, and I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Go Shopify. Just choose Shopify. That’s what I tell people when they ask me.

Sound Board: Cash register ringing.

Jack Meredith: Boom.

Kurt Elster: What was the straw that broke the camel’s back, where you went like, “Look, we gotta get off this thing and go elsewhere, and we hear Shopify’s good.”

Jack Meredith: Oh, man. So, like we were… Because of this platform’s limitations, we were like… We built like this Frankenstein landing page funnel to where we would track orders, push them into a spreadsheet, and then we had a virtual assistant plug them into our platform, and it was like this big-

Kurt Elster: Oh, geez.

Jack Meredith: … like convoluted way to get sales going, and it was such a mess. And I can’t… I mean, it was like this was so far back, I can’t remember the specifics, but I just remember having PTSD, knowing like okay, we’re basically in the stone age trying to run an eCom business. It was just like messy. Very messy.

Kurt Elster: You know, yeah, early on, you do… You Band-Aid together whatever you need to make work to validate the idea and drive the business. But then at the same time, you also know full well like, “Well, this is a giant liability that has to get fixed.” And so, you lay awake… And then as you get more successful with your total kluge, hacky setup, you’re like, “Wow.” Instead of being thrilled that you’re successful, you’re freaking out because you’re like, “Oh man, the bigger this thing gets, the more likely the wheels are gonna come off.”

And so, I could see where having that, that creates urgency very quickly where like, “Look, we need to get to something reliable that we’re not gonna be up all night worrying about.”

Jack Meredith: Yeah. I feel like in each phase of our growth it’s created a new set of challenges. And so, now there’s… We still have our problems that we’re working through, but I think we’ve always been resilient and haven’t let it affect our emotions to where it really affects our decision making and how we operate. So, yeah, it’s just been kind of just pushing against… pushing up that snowball up the hill to keep gaining that momentum.

Kurt Elster: Right. It sounds like you take a very pragmatic approach to it. When does affiliate marketing come into play here over our… what, five, our six-year journey?

Jack Meredith: Yeah. So, that was actually the first big acquisition channel for us, which seems to be-

Kurt Elster: Oh, really?

Jack Meredith: … pretty unique. Because I think most DTC brands now, it’s they start with Facebook ads or SEM. But yeah, I mean like when we got going on eCom, we were trying to understand where can we put most of our effort and see if we can start scaling and driving new customer acquisition, and at the time we had raised a seed round, but we didn’t ball in with a bunch of money in the bank to blow on a budget, so we had to be thoughtful about where we were spending our cash and time, and affiliate was particularly interesting for us because we were in this health and wellness space and what we kind of realized, that there was a lot of these thought leaders in that space to where they had these massive audiences and they were very believable in terms of what they were saying, and what products that they were using. And so, that kind of gave us hope that we could maybe tackle this channel and see how it would work.

And yeah, pretty early on we had a… We would start getting pretty strong signals, and that’s kind of what led us down this path to where we were doubling down and really scaling the program to what it is today.

Kurt Elster: Yeah. I don’t know that I’ve necessarily… I don’t think we hear from a ton of brands who say, “Hey, our big, first acquisition channel was affiliate marketing.” Though, we may be going back to that, because cost of customer acquisition keeps going up, and that’s starting to become the big struggle for new brand launches. And so, something like Facebook ads, or even Google AdWords is getting less attractive, and these alternatives like affiliate marketing are coming back into vogue and looking more attractive again.

So, early on, you were looking at the space and saying, “All right, we’ve got… There are authorities here, there are influencers, they seem authentic.” But how do you… There are also many, so how do you identify those folks and then qualify them? How do you know, who are the right people to try and work with?

Jack Meredith: Yeah. And I think this is a… We’ve definitely evolved in our thinking on this over the years as we’ve learned more about this space. But what I try to do is really prequalify people, so we’re only talking to folks that we feel really, really strongly about working with. So, there’s I think some quantitative parameters and qualitative parameters. So, on like the quant side, based on where this partner’s following is, whether it’s on like an email list, or social, we have our own internal metrics to evaluate them based on their follower count, or their engagement rate, what does their audience look like. If they’re a bunch of young kids, they’re probably not gonna be a good fit for our brand, gender, all that stuff.

And then on the qualitative side, what we really try to dissect is like can we see this person promoting and recommending our product in a believable way, because if you work with a partner that’s just trying to do like a cash grab and shoving random products down consumers’ throats, then it’s probably not gonna work that well. So, we wanted to make sure that they were bought into what we were doing and that they actually loved the products, because I think the other important thing with affiliate marketing is that you really want that partner to talk from their experience, because that’s how their audience is typically interacting with them. That’s why they’re following them, right, is because they have this unique experience and they’re talking about things that they know a lot about. So, we’ll always give them guidelines to help with creative, but we really want them to speak from what they did with the product, and how they consumed it, and what they enjoyed about it.

So, yeah, there’s a lot of different factors that we look at and ultimately what that allows us to do is really zero in our focus on the few partners that we think can really drive the needle versus trying to just like blast out outreach to a thousand people, right? Because we’ve done that, and it just gets really taxing to even keep on top of all those types of conversations.

Kurt Elster: Okay, so it sounds like number one lesson here is quality over quantity, and you’ve got a red velvet rope policy, where it’s like, “Okay. We only want to work with the really engaged influencers who believe and genuinely are interested in what we’re doing.” Are there any tools, like social media tools, analysis tools, that you use to identify the stuff? Or is it just like let’s look at some people and plug stuff into a spreadsheet?

Jack Meredith: Yeah. It’s a mix of both. A couple tools that I really like, there’s this one tool called Dovetale.

Kurt Elster: Dovetale. Okay.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. It’s D-O-V-E-T-A-L-E, I think. But what I like about that platform is that they’re able to scrape all these Instagram influencers, YouTube, all these different channels, and provide those metrics that we were just talking about, like their engagement rate and follower size, so I think that’s a good one. And it really takes out a lot of the manual work of trying to look up these folks on the internet and data entry all that, so that’s a good tool.

I also like SparkToro, which Rand Fishkin, if you’re familiar with him, he launched that a couple years ago.

Kurt Elster: He was an early guest on this podcast, and he was an absolute gentleman and totally put up with me being a fangirl.

Jack Meredith: That’s awesome. But yeah, so they launched that like two years ago, and there’s a lot of similarities to Dovetale, but I think the neat thing about that is you basically can plug in like… Okay, let’s say you’re a keto brand, and so you’ll say, “I want to find people that talk about keto.” And what it spits out is like a bunch of different types of partners or influencers that are talking about that topic across all these different channels, like podcasts, YouTube, Instagram. So, yeah, those are two that we like.

There’s another one called Magellan that’s more for podcasts, so it uses AI to basically scrape all these ad reads for like every single podcast.

Kurt Elster: Whoa.

Jack Meredith: Yeah.

Kurt Elster: That’s cool.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. And so, the neat thing about that, and how we would use it in the past, is not only to find what are the podcasts and the different verticals that we want to look at partnering with, but we can also, since it’s scraping all the ad reads, we can say like, “Okay, we have this competitor in our space that’s doing a lot of podcast ads. Let’s figure out who they’re doing their ad reads with and then reach out to them.” So, there’s a lot of cool stuff that you can do there, too.

Kurt Elster: That’s pretty clever. What was the Rand Fishkin one called?

Jack Meredith: SparkToro.

Kurt Elster: SparkToro. Okay. Okay, so once you’ve got, you’ve identified your list, and you’ve narrowed it down, how do you approach these people? How do you reach out? What’s the pitch look like?

Jack Meredith: Yeah. That’s-

Kurt Elster: Because I’ve been on the receiving end of mostly awful pitches, so I want to hear what a good one sounds like.

Jack Meredith: So, I mean, the cheat code that we always try first is like how can we get a warm intro to this person, right? And luckily with partnerships, once you start building these relationships in these different niches, you find that everyone knows everyone, so it’s easier to kind of navigate that. But yeah, from a pitch standpoint, man, it’s tricky, because I feel like you have to be very, very assertive and not be let down if someone doesn’t reply after your first or second email. So, we try to just… I mean, our objective with the pitches is to tell folks about who we are, why we think they’re awesome, how we think we could potentially work together, but not to just sell them on the whole enchilada right in that email.

We just want to get them on the phone, and talk to them, and see how we could maybe work together, and it’s not… We’re not trying to sell them anything, which I think helps with these types of conversations. It’s more of like how can we jointly come together and crush it? Make you some money, make us some money, have you get to enjoy a bunch of free products from Kettle & Fire, so we try to make it kind of like a mutual opportunity. And yeah, test from there.

And we do a lot of crazy stuff, too. We won’t just do cold email sequences. We’ll DM them. There’s been times where we were looking at an influencer that we really wanted to work with, and we saw that she really liked Converse shoes, so we bought her a custom pair of Converse shoes and sent them to her. You have to kind of like do all that stuff-

Kurt Elster: You’re definitely moving outside the box with stuff like that.

Jack Meredith: Yeah, because you have to get their attention and stand out, because especially now, all these brands are working with influencers and saying the same things, so how can you really cut through all that noise?

Kurt Elster: Yeah, because most pitch emails that people send out, it’s like clearly this is a template email. It’s like, “I liked podcast title where you talked about podcast title.” Like, what the heck?

Jack Meredith: Yeah.

Kurt Elster: Delete.

Jack Meredith: Yeah, like think about… I try always to think about like okay, if I can put myself in their shoes, what’s gonna get them excited or interested, right? And like maybe they just launched a cookbook. Could I go and buy 50 copies of that cookbook and send them a note saying like, “Hey, by the way, bought 50 copies. We love what you’re doing.” Doing stuff like that I think can really help start that conversation.

Kurt Elster: You know, those two examples I think where you said hey, we sent this influencer custom shoes because we knew she liked Converse. Hey, we bought 50 copies of this influencer’s book because we liked it. And what you’re doing there is for the influencer, you’re putting your money where your mouth is. You are saying to them, “Hey, we’re paying attention genuinely and we’re serious.” And I think that’s the magic there. And stuff like that, yeah, it doesn’t scale, it also doesn’t have to. You just don’t… When you’re going for this quality over quantity approach, you just don’t need that many, so it works. And sometimes it’s important to do things that don’t scale, anyway.

Jack Meredith: Completely. Yeah. I feel like that’s… You know, you have to get those initial insights and learnings. You can get to that point where you’re talking to dozens and dozens of people at a time and yeah, you’re right on the money, too. At the end of the day, what we’ve found is that we don’t need to have an army of 100,000 influencers promoting our brand. That’s just daunting and it’s impossible to manage. We only need like a good stable of folks that we can really rely on and work with on a long-term basis to push the needle.

Kurt Elster: So, what would be… What range would you recommend to someone, like okay, obviously get the first one, but beyond this number, it really is not practical and here’s kind of the sweet spot you would look for.

Jack Meredith: Yeah, so it’s definitely dependent on channel, right? But if I was to do a broad strokes range, so like for us, we’ll typically not work with any partner like on Instagram that has under like 100,000 followers. There’s some exceptions, for sure, but we know just based on historical metrics that under that amount, we’re probably not gonna see material revenue from a performance standpoint. So, that doesn’t mean-

Kurt Elster: So, no micro influencers for Kettle & Fire.

Jack Meredith: Not for the affiliate side of the business. So, for like ambassadors and all that good stuff, we’ll totally work with them on that.

Kurt Elster: So, an important distinction there. You’re right.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. Yeah. Because I think that’s something that early on, we’d always get tied up with, is what is affiliate and performance partnerships versus what is like an ambassador program, and I think they’re two very different things.

Kurt Elster: Well, you brought up an important distinction. Run me through it quickly.

Jack Meredith: Yeah, so when I think about like an ambassador, or like a seeding program, which is another term for it, I look at it as more of kind of like an awareness type channel, to where you’re working with a bunch of smaller micro influencers that have fairly small followings, and you’re sending them free product, but you’re not… Typically, you’re not paying a lot of out of pocket because of their audience size, and you’re just trying to drive that awareness so that you can essentially be everywhere to someone that’s on the internet or on Instagram, right? Because they’re gonna see all these different influencers promoting your stuff.

Whereas with affiliate marketing, or we like to call it internally like performance partnerships, we’re in the business of working with partners that are going to drive material revenue. And to do that, we have to work with folks that have very sizable audiences that are super engaged, and that they really know how to recommend and sell products, and tell a story, so that’s how we kind of delineate between the two.

Kurt Elster: I love it. So, we’ve got both programs running. Okay. We know how we identify our influencers. We know what kind of person we’re looking for. We know how to get in touch with them. And you’re right, warm intro is the way to go. If not, you gotta do something outside the box to get their attention, because you… It’s signal versus noise. There’s so many… Guaranteed, that person is buried in stupid requests, so you gotta rise above that.

What does sane compensation look like? You said like, “Hey, I don’t want… I’m not gonna waste my time with an influencer on Instagram under 100,000.” You know, and we’re doing these big things to get their attention, but what’s that… What would be a typical and proper compensation to offer someone where they’re not gonna laugh at me, but I’m also not gonna get fleeced?

Jack Meredith: Yeah. That’s always a delicate situation. So, what we try to do is explain what we want to do with them, so we’ll lay out like hey, let’s say we’re working with an Instagram influencer, it’s like, “Hey, we want to do a couple IG stories and maybe a post. For something like this, how do you typically think about pricing and charge for it?” Because we want to hear from them first how they’re valuing their skills or whatever you want to call it. And that kind of gives us a starting point to where we’ll work with them and it can go down a couple paths, like if we feel that rate matches with our expectations, then it’s like, “Okay, let’s give this a shot.” If we feel like it’s too high based on our internal funnel calculators that we have, then we’ll come back with them to see if we can kind of meet more in the middle.

And the thing that we do a lot now is we do these hybrid deals to where it’s a mix of like commissions and an upfront fee, because what we’ve noticed over time is that a lot of partners and influencers, especially in the health and wellness space, like in the early days, they’d be willing to work off of just straight commissions all the time. And it was great because it really helped with managing your budget and forecasting what you’re gonna be paying every month. But as the space has really blown up, they can command flat sponsorship fees, and typically an influencer wants to do that because it ensures that they’re getting paid, whereas with commissions, they’re only getting paid when they make us money.

So, we understand the reasoning for them not wanting to do straight commissions, but what we try to do is say, “Hey, we’ll pay you a portion of your upfront fee that you want, but then we’ll also pay you like 20% commission on each sale.” And it’s kind of a nice way to meet in the middle to where they’re still getting paid for just promoting, so there’s not as much risk there, and there’s also not as much risk on our side because we’re not paying as much on the flat fee part and we got that commission structure on the back end.

Kurt Elster: So, you start with the deliverables. Like once you’ve got the relationship going and it’s like, “All right, now brass tacks, let’s talk about what we’re doing here.” You approach them with, “Hey, these are the deliverables and that might look something like we need three stories, consecutive, showing how the product works, face to camera, and we need two posts. What would we expect to pay for something like that?” So, that’s how you go to them, and then they come back with, “Well, here’s our rates. This is… You’re gonna pay me cash plus product and I’ll do those posts for you.”

And it’s probably a little different for everybody, but because you’ve been doing this a while, and you know what costs of goods sold is, and your profitability, you go back to them and say, “Okay. To make it equitable for both sides, to defang it, to take the risk out of it on both sides,” you say, “Look, we understand you want the money up front, so we’ll give you partial payment.” Maybe that’s 20%, 40%, I don’t know. “And then we’ll pay you a commission, a percentage on your sales.” What would be a standard range for that commission? And obviously it depends on the product, like drop shippers it’s gonna be a lot smaller than someone doing their own manufacturing, which is private label. But give me a range.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. So, I think like you look at other brands right now, typically ballpark like 10 to 20, 25%. But I think where it gets really interesting is when you get more aggressive with that. Like if you really know your funnel metrics cold and you’re willing to maybe just break even on each sale, the higher commission that you can give, that’s only gonna get people more interested and excited about what you’re doing. Because once you get a partner to start promoting and they’re making good money on the commission side, what we’ve seen is they’ll start promoting just on their own. It’s not like… They’ll come to us every time and be like, “Okay, let’s do another couple posts. Sign this contract.” Because they know like, “Oh, shit. I can just promote this product tomorrow to my Instagram fans and make an extra whatever dollar amount.”

And so, that’s kind of how I think about it is like what can we do to get that person excited about the commission piece, because if your AOV’s like 30 bucks and you’re offering like a 10% commission, it’s gonna be really hard for them to make material revenue.

Kurt Elster: Right. They’re like, “Oh, 3 bucks per sale for me to promote this stuff. All right, that’ll work out to 30 bucks per post.” Like yeah, I could see where it’s so dependent on what the product is.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. Yeah. It is. But I mean like anything… We also do stuff to get excited about the commission part, like we’ll say, “If you promote us this week, we’re gonna pay you out within 24 hours.” Which is like typically unheard of for affiliate marketing, just because you usually want to wait to make sure that customers aren’t cancelling their orders, right? So, you’re not paying commissions-

Kurt Elster: Right. Yeah, you could pay out on orders that then don’t materialize potentially.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. Exactly. But we calculate the risk and we’re like, “Well, we know that people want to get paid.” That’s obviously something that’s getting people excited, so we’ll take the hit on whatever cancellations if it means we can ensure that this big partner’s gonna promote us this week.

Kurt Elster: And being a manufacturer, controlling the production, it’s probably… It’s easier for you, because you know like yeah, we’re gonna have this product, and we’re confident in our return or refund rate is fairly low, or low enough where we don’t have to worry about it. So, it certainly helps.

You want to remove all points of friction, so how… Because you’re experienced with this. How do you make it as easy as possible for that influencer to promote? Obviously, those early payouts help, for sure. That hybrid model I think helps. Is there anything else?

Kurt Elster: Yeah. Yeah. So, like when we were tackling this channel, and this goes back to what we were talking about earlier in the conversation about not knowing shit about eCommerce at the time. I was just kind of trying to wrap my head around affiliate marketing, and so, we were looking at all these brands that had an affiliate program, and like the one thing that I consistently noticed was that all these brands would just have a really long application form and you would fill it out, and then they would say, “Okay, here’s a couple banner images. Have at it.” And that was it. And I was like, “Wow. How is any type of partner gonna be successful on that affiliate program if there’s no playbook to do it,” right?

So, what we did really early on is like let’s try to create this VIP experience to where every person that we get on our program, they know exactly what to promote, where to find the information, and that way we can make it as easy for them to apply, to promote, to make commissions. And so, one thing that I always harp on is building out a really solid partner toolkit on a G Drive folder, to where you have like email swipes, landing page examples, examples from past partners to give them inspiration on how they can promote. It’s almost like this little toolkit to where they can go in and find anything that they need to ensure that they can successfully promote and make commissions.

Kurt Elster: This is the thing that people need to pay attention to, like this is the magic moment. You just gave us the money, and it’s build out a kit of resources, a swipe file of past successes, of stuff you know works from your own marketing to give to the ambassadors. If you give them resources and starting points, it’s like, “Here, copy and paste this, go from here.” It makes it so much more likely that they’ll take a chance on it. Then when they see, “Oh my gosh, it works, and my audience responded to it, and I made a little bit of essentially passive income from it,” they’re gonna want to do it again, and again, and so having that, those resources, I think that is just the magic money moment here.

Jack Meredith: Oh yeah. Yeah. We’ll even go a step further, like if we really want to work with a partner and they’ve been kind of dragging their feet, we’ll get our creative team to literally just build out an email swipe that we think that they would talk to their audience about, and like cobrand a landing page, to where when we package it all together, send it to them, and then from their perspective it’s like, “Damn, these guys did all the work for me. I literally just have to copy and paste and click send. How can I say no to that?”

So, that’s always what we’re trying to think about, is like how can we make it as easy as possible for them to promote?

Kurt Elster: No, absolutely. So, we talked… I heard Instagram mentioned a lot as our keyword channel here. You mentioned podcasts. What are the channels that you’re looking at, that you’re excited about? What channels should we be trying to find influencers on?

Jack Meredith: Yeah. So, for us, I think like our top three are email newsletters, Instagram influencers, and YouTube influencers. Those are probably like our top three. Email newsletters are great just because you can get like 100% shared voice. Like if they send a dedicated email that’s talking about just your brand and why they love it, that’s so money. It’s a little bit harder to do dedicated emails than it was back in the day.

And with Instagram influencers, I think you just really have to have all your internal prequalifying metrics down pat, because you can get burned. Like, you hear all those horror stories-

Kurt Elster: For sure.

Jack Meredith: Someone overpaying, and it didn’t work out. But I still think that it can definitely be leveraged from a performance standpoint. And then YouTube’s great, just because you have this long tail, right, where you don’t have it as much with these other channels, to where you could work with a big time person in the health and wellness space and have them put together this great educational video about your product, and do all the on-video SEO stuff to ensure that it starts ranking for that keyword, and that’s great because it’s just evergreen and you can just keep earning revenue over time. They can keep earning commissions if you have an affiliate relationship with them. So, that’s one I really like, as well.

Kurt Elster: And you do some consulting, don’t you?

Jack Meredith: Yeah, a bit on the side. Yeah.

Kurt Elster: Because I’m looking at DTCPlaybooks.com.

Jack Meredith: Oh, yeah.

Kurt Elster: And I see your face on it. And I see some other familiar faces on here from DTC Twitter. What… This looks very interesting. What is DTC Playbooks?

Jack Meredith: Yeah, so myself and my former coworker, Wilson, we’ve always been obsessed with learning, and picking up new tactics, and trying to understand the mechanics of different channels and how things work, and over time we’ve learned a ton, but it was also like trial by fire, right? Because we’re figuring stuff out on our own. So, we thought like, “What if we could kind of compact all the information that we’ve gained, and all the mistakes that we’ve made in the past, and share that in a digestible format with folks that are trying to get into eCommerce or DTC?”

And so, from that, we’re starting to build out these little mini courses or templates that we’ve used in the past for Kettle & Fire, or with other brands that we’ve worked with, to basically give that playbook to someone and they don’t have to go through all the trial and error that we had to. Because I wish back four years ago that like while it was good that I wasn’t… had conventional wisdom right in the back of my head, it still would have been nice to have a manual on how to navigate some of these channels. So, that’s what we’re trying to provide.

Kurt Elster: Just hearing the phrase, “Hey, here’s SOPs, here’s standard operating procedures used by eCommerce DTC brands you know and love,” immediately gets me excited. And I see there is one in here, Performance Partnerships Playbook, that looks very interesting. Using VAs, validating new product ideas, inventory forecasting. I have no idea and people ask me that one a lot. Yeah. No, I did not look through this thing until just now, and I’m thrilled. I’m into it.

Jack Meredith: Cool.

Kurt Elster: Okay. I want to ask you some lightning round questions. Okay, in your everyday, what is some of the stuff you’re doing that you wish you could automate? Just get it off your plate.

Jack Meredith: Meetings. Phone calls. Number one.

Kurt Elster: Oh, I know. Have you read Work Without Email by Cal Newport?

Jack Meredith: I have not read that one. I read Deep Work by Cal Newport, which I thought was great.

Kurt Elster: Deep Work is great. This is a similar concept, but yeah, it’s very… The premise is Work Without Email, but it’s similar to Deep Work in like let’s rethink how we’re approaching meetings. So, like one of their suggestions is no email, no meetings till noon. Just in the morning, that’s when you’re freshest, you just work on your stuff.

Jack Meredith: Totally. That makes a lot of sense.

Kurt Elster: All right. What’s one thing that you see DTC brands doing online that they clearly… They think this is a good move, makes them look cool, but when you see it, you roll your eyes. You think it’s ridiculous. What’s the trend you wish would go away?

Jack Meredith: I don’t think social media is worth as much time as folks think it is.

Kurt Elster: I agree with you.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. I mean, like we under invested like crazy at Kettle & Fire with social media. We didn’t do… We just hired a full-time social media manager and started investing more in the brand marketing side, but in those early stages, where growth is kind of like number one, right? You’re trying to just continue to scale and scale, I looked at all the things that we had to do, and I was like, “Okay, we can’t do everything and so what areas do we need to cut or not pay as much attention to?” And I think at that point in time, social media was definitely up there.

Kurt Elster: You said that so casually, and yet that is a really… A big stumbling block for a lot of brands, especially early on, or entrepreneurs, where they try to do everything. And then of course, they end up spinning their wheels, and getting nowhere, and being burned out. And you being able to recognize, well, these are the ROI-generating activities. Here’s where we can get our results. Here’s where we’re gonna see revenue. And that, I think, is probably a superpower, and maybe a skill you weren’t aware you had, but it’s tremendously powerful to be able to do that.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. Thanks. Yeah. I mean, I think it’s hard to make those decisions too, because you always have what you’re supposed to be doing, like it sounds crazy to not even have like a dedicated Instagram page, or like a Twitter account or whatever, but I think people kind of overestimate how much people don’t give a shit about stuff like that. They don’t really care about your brand and if it’s on Instagram, or if it’s on Twitter, or whatever. They care about what the product’s gonna do for them. And that’s kind of what we tried to laser focus on in the early stages.

Kurt Elster: Yeah. I think people want… They see Wendy’s and their sassy tweets, and they want to be like that and have that brand voice. But what they’re failing to realize is Wendy’s has a drive-thru in every city in America, so their sole goal is just to remind you that they exist and stay top of mind. That’s it. And so, they’re just gonna be sassy on Twitter and hope it gets screenshotted somewhere. And that’s why they’re doing it.

If you’re just like some brand, it’s not gonna play out the same way for you.

Jack Meredith: Yeah. There’s a time and place for everything, I think. I think it’s based on where you are as a company.

Kurt Elster: Yeah. Yeah, it’s not the same for everybody, for sure. All right, final one. In eCommerce, what is something you hate but wish you loved?

Jack Meredith: I wish I loved budgeting and media planning stuff.

Kurt Elster: Yeah?

Jack Meredith: Yeah, like it’s… I’m not the expert at numbers and spreadsheets and everything, and it’s… I think at the phase that we’re in, especially, it’s such a critical piece to the business, but I like… What gets me excited is doing all the creative and understanding where the new opportunities are, and just getting new exposure to different types of things. But the budget piece is incredibly important. I just wish I loved it more, for sure.

Kurt Elster: And final question, where can people learn more about Jack Meredith of Kettle & Fire?

Jack Meredith: Yeah, so I have a little website, it’s J-A-C-K-M-E-R dot com. I don’t really post that much on there, but I’m also on Twitter. I think it’s @jvmeredith, and yeah, if you have any questions, thoughts, I’m always happy to help, so feel free to DM me or contact me.

Kurt Elster: Wonderful. And I see you’ve got… On DTC Playbooks, you’ve got an offer for us. Use code KURT20 to get 20% off your order.

Jack Meredith: That’s correct.

Kurt Elster: All right. Excellent. Jack, this has been fabulous, and enlightening, and I thank you for joining us.

Jack Meredith: Thanks. Appreciate it.