Marketing is at its best when it can get a "hey, that's me!" out of your target audience.
But what if your products address a problem that your customers would rather not openly discuss?
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from an entrepreneur who had to get creative with his marketing and messaging in order to advertise products that solve bathroom-related problems.
Meet Bobby Edwards, the founder of Squatty Potty: the original toilet stool designed and made in the USA to give you the perfect posture for optimal elimination.
Tune in to learn
- How to market a product that addresses a taboo topic.
- The results of spending $25,000 to boost a viral Facebook video.
- How much of your advertising budget should be devoted to testing.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
Download this episode on Google Play, iTunes or here!
We have to be careful about our online marketing. We had a lot of banner ads turned down because of the content. We had to really craft our marketing so that it was palatable.
Felix: Today I’m joined by Bobby Edwards from Squatty Potty. Squatty Potty is the original toilet stool designed and made in the USA to give you the perfect posture for optimal elimination. It was started in 2011 and based out of St. George, Utah. Welcome Bobby.
Bobby: Hi Felix.
Felix: Hey, so in my opinion, the most memorable Shark Tank appearance is the Squatty Potty. I’m really excited to have you on the podcast today. Talk to us a little bit more about how this idea came about, where did the idea behind the original toilet stool come from?
Bobby: Sure. First of all, I’m really excited to be here too. I know early on, this was built just with my family and myself, trying to figure things out. I know resources out there, it can be difficult to find, but I think hearing people’s experiences and making things happen is what really helped us grow and solve our problems, so thanks for having us. Anyway, I wanted to say, they say necessity is the mother of all invention and my mother was constipated, chronically constipated. She came across a solution, which was fixing her posture.
At first, she started using a stool, just a regular stool to put in front of her toilet, to help her poop. That worked, it was great, but it wasn’t perfect. She enlisted in me, I was doing some design classes and some cadwork. She goes, design me a stool that does this and this and this. She just wanted to improve upon the posture and technique of her poop stool, so we thought about it. We went to the bathroom and measured around the toilet, took some measurements and put some phone books and some paint cans and different things in front of the toilet to try and get the right height and the right width and make it the least intrusive as possible, by allowing it to tuck away and hide under the toilet when you’re not using it.
Those were the things that she wanted to do. It was a few different prototypes, we finally came upon the one that she liked, worked best, and we had it made in a woodshop next door. A friend of mine had a CNC machine and he zipped it out, cut it out, and we screwed it together and voila. We had the first Squatty Potty.
Felix: Nice, so now you had the first one. What made you connect the dots and realize that other people might want this and might want it enough to pay for it?
Bobby: That’s a good question. We weren’t the first ones to talk about the toilet posture, there’d been a lot of talk about it online, but there was nothing out there to help you achieve that, so we saw the opportunity but we weren’t certain about it, right? It still seemed [inaudible 00:03:42] and kind of crazy, but people would be searching for this thing. With just a little bit of effort, we did some research. First of all, I guess what really made the light go on in my head is my mom insisted that she make a couple dozen more to give away to friends and family.
Again, this really had changed her life. She was suffering and this was the only thing out there that really helped her eliminate. She got the crazy idea to give away Squatty Potties as Christmas gifts in 2010. We made half a dozen, painted them all up for her. She was happy and she gave them away. Feedback started coming in and it was all of course very positive. People that had issues really liked it, they shared their stories with my mom. From that, word of mouth spread that Judy had this poop stool and it was word of mouth.
Some days we’d get seven calls. One day we got seven phone calls. I go, mom, this is something that we really need to look into. Let’s take the plunge and make it happen. We were inspired by the direct to consumer boutique brands that were popping up around that time. They were nothing really big. There was one brand that we were following, it was called Orabrush and it was a tongue brush. They did some unique videos and they had done some unique online marketing and they had a website built. It was just for one product, it was a brush for your tongue that had some unique features to it. I emulated them. I thought, this is a great …
They have some good content that’s funny and educational, so that’s where we based Squatty Potty upon, just emulating other brands, right? With a little help from them, which I think a lot of people do, you find something you like and if you can successfully copy it. That’s what we did, but none of us really had a lot of knowledge. One of my first jobs was I was a copywriter at Fox Television, then I moved into producing websites for television shows. I had some online experience and knew the value of creating a powerful website, with keywords and in content that people were searching for.
We were the first website out there, the first in this category, and people were looking for it. We put a simple website together, of course with ecommerce capabilities and it grew. Within the first few months, we started getting 10, 15 orders a day. That was pretty exciting, without doing any publicity or anything, without putting any money to advertising. It was just from people searching for us. Then early on what we did as well is we sent out Squatty Potties to influencers, we reached out to the paleo, mommy bloggers, alternative health writers, anyone in our category, yoga. It was kind of low-hanging fruit of alternative health world. We sent Squatty Potties to the influential people in the marketplace, just with a simple notice. Here’s the Squatty Potty, this is what it did for my mother, this is what it does.
Anatomically we’re designed to squat and we’re sitting. This thing will help you eliminate that, by correcting your posture. They started writing about it. I sent it to anyone with an audience. I didn’t discriminate. If they had 150 people listening to them, that’s a chance to sell a Squatty Potty. I just sent it to everyone because I could tell early on that it was something people liked to talk about, because it’s nature … Poop has had a renaissance recently, as being an interesting topic. Sure enough, people started writing about the Squatty Potty and it grew from there. A couple months later we got a call from Dr. Oz and then we started getting larger hits from major health sites, WebMD and NPR. It grew from that grassroots outreach of reaching out to influencers.
Felix: Yeah, so you said a bunch of interesting things there I definitely want to unpack. One of the ones I want to start with was about the word of mouth and the willingness and excitement for people to talk about this product because seemingly, if you look at it from the offside, if someone’s never been in this industry, doesn’t have a product like this, it seems like a difficult industry to break into because it could be seen as taboo. Like you were saying, it’s a renaissance, people are much more willing to talk about it these days, but it still has the potential to be an embarrassing topic that might halt word of mouth or make it harder for you to market. You didn’t experience any of that at all? It seemed like it was more of a benefit than a negative.
Bobby: It’s both, it’s a double-edged sword. We have to be careful with our content online marketing. We had a lot of banner ads turned down because of the content, so we really had to craft our marketing so that it was palatable. It’s tricky, but it can be done. You notice I’m using the word elimination or posture, toilet posture. You use words that are more palatable. We had to refine that in the very early days to make it so that we were able to reach out to people in a way they could stomach. Then once you start to get some credibility, then you can start to be a little more open. In the early days, we did. It was difficult. It was taboo and it still is for many people, but the conversation is changing around elimination and how important it is for your overall health.
Squatty Potty’s been part of that conversation for so many people, so we’ve been lucky in that regard that we’ve been able to change the way people feel about it and make it so that it’s something … From something that was very embarrassing for many people, but we’ve been able to change a lot of people’s minds about that and make it something that’s cool and fun and important. We’ve been able to change that, but it was difficult early on, especially with a lot of the banner advertising that we were attempting to put out there. We’ve been able to dance around that and now change people’s minds and we’ve got a lot of credibility, so they’re allowing us to put more and more … I wouldn’t say it’s edgy, it’s just realistic and colloquial stuff that people are talking about when they talk about poop.
Felix: Yeah. This is definitely an issue that I would think a lot of listeners have, which is when they have a product that is … Yours is definitely of course legal, but people are sometimes producing products that are maybe … Not necessarily barely legal, but that are … I think the vaping industry is going through something like this, where it’s just harder to advertise online. For you, it was just a matter of changing the words, changing the terms that made a difference between them accepting versus rejecting an ad.
Bobby: Yeah. Then it was getting other people to talk about it for us. We didn’t have to say the things that we wanted to say, right? We would get our influencers to say what we wanted them … We didn’t really get them. It just happened. You find out that you can … For instance, we have to be careful also, and this can be a common problem out there when referencing disease, right? We might get in trouble with the FDA or FPC. Luckily, in the whole process, we’ve gotten other people to say those things for us, not that we … I guess I shouldn’t say we got them, they just do. They’re just so evangelical about their experience with Squatty Potty, they just talk about it. A lot of that credibility has come from the influencer marketing that we’ve done.
Felix: Yeah, influencer marketing. It sounds like you guys got a much earlier headstart on it than, I guess, the popular term, influencer marketing probably came around you guys who were already doing this.
Bobby: Influencer marketing, until after three years of being in Squatty Potty and I just figured out that that’s what we were doing.
Felix: Yeah. How did you go about doing this, because like you were saying, no matter how small of an audience they had … They had 150 readers, you were willing to shell out a free product to them. I think a lot of times in our influencer marketing these days, there’s so many numbers attached to where you want to measure, what’s the ROI of doing this, of sending a product to this influencer? Look at their engagement, let’s look at their number of followers before we can decide if it’s worth working with them or not. You didn’t take that approach at all. You were sending it to anybody and everybody. Would you do that the same way this time around? If you went back and did it all over again, would you still take that same approach?
Bobby: Yes, because you can’t just look at the single … It’s kind of a lifetime value of reaching out to that influencer because that influencer, even though you may use money on that first touch, their second or third touch is where you get the money and you gain your money back, right? It’s something that people do talk about and share, we knew that. We could tell that early on because the way it grew grassroots, with us working out of our garage and shipping to family and friends and then their friends of friends and friends of friends of friends.
I can see this is something that people would talk about, so if you reach one person and it works for them, they’re going to tell because it’s just such a unique product, right? The Squatty Potty was. We created this category, so I think that helped us a lot in being somebody that was so unique that people wanted to talk about something that was new. It’s important, you can’t just look at that single touch, with that single influencer as being your ROI. You’ve got to realize that it snowballs and it creates income that’s longer lasting than the single purchase.
Felix: Yeah, I think you hit on something very important, which is that if you have a product, if you have a messaging or a brand, that is unique and shareable, in a way where people like and enjoy talking about it, then that will stretch out your marketing dollars way more than the initial investment of sending out a product to an influencer because they’re probably going to keep on talking about it, or the community will probably keep on talking about it beyond that first time that they write about it or first time they post it on Instagram or whatever they’re doing it. Speaking of those avenues, which methods worked best for you? Was it going through the blogging route, which medium was most effective for a product like this?
Bobby: Yeah, so initially what was most effective was getting the bloggers to write the content for us that we could share on social media, right? Instead of going straight to social media with our own message, we went to social media with the message of others. That was important.
Felix: Why is that? Why did you decide to get others to speak for you rather than coming from you directly?
Bobby: It seems that people convert better with third party content, meaning instead of coming direct from the company, it comes from a mommy blogger or a paleo professional or somebody they might recognize from their niche or their world. It seems to be more influential and it converts better.
Felix: That makes sense. How do you work with these bloggers? Is it just like hey, we have a product that we think you’d like, you send it to them, and then cross your fingers and hope that they write something positive?
Bobby: Yeah. Pretty much.
Felix: Was there any follow up needed usually?
Bobby: So many of them are now wanting to get paid, but you can negotiate with all of them as well. If they really like your product, you’re in a space where you can really negotiate because they’re wanting to provide something that’s unique for their readers as well. Again, we were lucky because our product was so unique and so it was a secret, it was something that wasn’t well-known. If you’re in that industry where you have a solution that’s not mainstream or that’s not super well-known, promote it. People will be your biggest promoters. Rather than going out and trying to explain to them yourself, which does work, you can create content that converts but it seemed like early on when we would post something on Facebook or … Which is what we’ve used mostly, is Facebook. It would convert better when it came from a third party source. Then you target that kind of niche, you target that ad to that follower’s demographic.
Felix: You had some influencer write about your product, you share their product then you’re boosting it or something, targeting at the demographic that that influencer represents. Oh, that’s a great idea.
Bobby: A lot of those bloggers will work as an affiliate, so if you want to set them up as an affiliate … They can get somewhere between five and 10% of the sales from that, so we’ve done that. Sometimes we just paid for a post outright, we do everything.
Felix: Yeah, it seems like it. Taking us back to one of the things you said earlier, which was about how you didn’t really know how to do this but you emulated other brands. I think that that’s a great approach because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you can not necessarily take shortcuts, but you can certainly boost your learning curve by just taking what already works and running with it. I think that the follow up question to that, for a lot of people that decide to go this route, is how do I know which brands to emulate? How do I know which ones are actually not necessarily just doing it right, but doing it right and that will also work for me? How did you think through this process.
Bobby: It was just personally what my personal tastes liked. I used my inner instinct and inner knowing to go, I like this brand, I’m interested in what they’re producing. It’s not necessarily copying, we never copied word for word what they’re doing. It’s just going, this style I like. Look at how they’ve arranged this post and their messaging, let’s see what we can do and craft that to match our brand. I just used what I personally liked.
Felix: Yeah, makes sense. You mentioned that at first, it was all organic traffic that was coming to the site. Were you creating content or something? How were people discovering the site through just searching for it? Not necessarily what were they searching for, but how did they go from searching to landing on your site that was selling a product?
Bobby: They would either have encountered us initially through … We actually did do some banner ads early on, they used to convert a lot better in the early days. They’re not converting so well now, so we’ve held back on those. People generally found us through a blog post, a news post, and later on it became major media hits, like NPR and Huffington Post and Men’s Health.
Felix: What about the content that you were putting together on your site? [inaudible 00:19:32] a lot of times when people are trying to go the content marketing route, trying to build up their SEO for their site, they run into this issue where they’re like, I don’t know what to create but … I think you’re already a great example for this because how much can you really write, how much content can you really create around a topic like this? Talk to us about your creative process to create content for your brand.
Bobby: Yeah. We’re going through kind of a renaissance now, where we’ve grown to a space where we’re actually creating a studio in our headquarters, where we’re going to create content directly from our headquarters. That’s where we are. In two months we have a full on audio-video suite, hired a full time videographer, copywriter, and we’re going to create our own content and promote it through social media and through YouTube and other … Like Chive, other sites. We do paid content on a lot of sites, but mostly Facebook. Facebook is about 70% of our budget right now. Facebook is changing. Early on it was really just reaching out, just promoting through other sites. I would buy banner ads on other sites that reached our demographic as well.
Felix: Nowadays especially since you are investing so heavily in the content side with creating the studio, how will you think about what kind of content to create these days? What kind of research do you do, what kind of thought or thinking do you go through to determine, let’s create this piece or let’s create that piece?
Bobby: There’s lots of different options here. We’re releasing new products, so of course we’ll do interesting videos about the features and benefits of the new products. It’s not just about Squatty Potty, it’s also about pooping, it’s also about yoga. It’s about outdoor recreation, lifestyle, right? Reaching the people, showing that Squatty Potty is a lifestyle brand because it’s not just about a stool around your toilet, it’s about feeling better, being active, making choices in your life that make you healthier and happier. I’m about total gut health, so we’re going to have nutritionists on, we’re going to have yoga instructors, we’re going to have all these different guest spots with different influencers that might be of interest to our customers.
Felix: Got you. Speaking of content creating, especially on YouTube, I want to talk to you about your magical pooping unicorn video. This video, whenever I see a post anywhere, I always see in the comment where someone says, dang it, they got me to watch this entire commercial. It’s funny that it’s such a commercial, but it doesn’t seem like one right off the bat. It’s a two and a half minute video, with a magical pooping unicorn, that’s the only way I can describe it. Has 30 million views, so of course lots of virality. Now how did you come up with an idea for this video?
Bobby: Yeah, actually combined views on Facebook and YouTube, it has 140 million views, so it’s been seen quite a few times. By the way, Facebook is where most people are watching video now, it’s much more shareable than YouTube. Yeah, so it was pitched to us. We had been searching … We had attempted to make some content that would have some virality to it in-house and it didn’t ever really work. A lot of that content never made it out of the editing room floor because if it wasn’t good or good enough for our brand, I didn’t want to release it. We went to this production company and they had done some other viral videos that we thought were funny. I said, we’re Squatty Potty and they’re like, oh, we love your stuff, we think you’re great, let’s see what we can do. I said, good, I’m glad you know who we are. A few weeks later, they came to us with several ideas. They had four or five different ideas and one of them was the pooping unicorn.
Felix: What made you choose that one?
Bobby: It was the most interesting, I was more curious about that one than any other one. Of course, the rest of the investors they weren’t really excited about the unicorn, but we did it anyway. It was just curiosity more than anything, I thought it was funny. I thought that it was a great way of talking about poop without showing poop, right? We used the euphemism of ice cream. It was kind of funny, unicorns were pretty popular. They still are, but extremely popular two years ago. I think that’s why we went with the unicorn.
Then rainbow-colored ice cream and the prince, it just all … Using the ice cream was something that was pitched originally and then it became rainbow ice cream from a unicorn, then it grew from there. It was actually something that was pitched to me and again, it was one of those things where you go, personally I’m curious about this and you … It’s all a gamble though, it’s not something that you can always go, oh, I’m going to go create a viral video today. You look at the last week’s viral video, which was that guy that was giving a BBC interview and his kids came into the room.
Bobby: It’s such a simple video, now it’s got a billion views or something like that. You just kind of have to follow your instinct, your inner knowing. You know what’s best for your brand and if it feels right, do it. It was a hard decision because at the time, it was expensive, but it was definitely a gamble and we’re glad we took it.
Felix: You said something interesting there about how you know deep inside what’s the right thing to do, what matches up with your brand, what would resonate with your brand. I think that’s very true and I think a lot of times, especially when you don’t have the success yet, you don’t have a track record yet, it’s very easy to doubt yourself and second guess yourself. Did you ever have a time in your life where you knew deep down inside what the right thing was to do, but you second guessed yourself and then decided to go a different way anyway?
Bobby: Yeah, so it was the unicorn video. Initially they pitched it to us, we were doing a follow up to Shark Tank and they wanted to film us creating a video. We couldn’t come to a consensus on the video content for the spot, and so we decided not to do the unicorn video. We did another video and I felt … It was not my decision alone, I’m not going to say it was … We should’ve done the unicorn video first, but we didn’t. We did something else and it wasn’t that great. I’m like, we need to do the unicorn video. One day, my dad came in my office and he goes, how do you feel about doing the unicorn video? I said, yes, we need to do the unicorn video. We should’ve done it in the first place because we would’ve gotten all this additional publicity with Shark Tank. Anyway, it all worked out to be fine in the end but it was something that initially I went against my inner knowing and it … The video we ended up doing ended up just being a total disaster.
Felix: Did you have to do anything early on to get traction, to get that unicorn video to go viral? Did you have to do anything to help get it going along?
Bobby: We worked with some YouTubers, some YouTube influencers, to help talk about it. For what it did, we started about with about $25000 to boost the spot, right? With that, it went viral, to get 30 million views for $25000 is pretty cheap actually.
Felix: Yeah, it definitely is, but you probably didn’t know that at that time, right? Did it seem like a pretty big investment just to pour into promoting one video?
Bobby: Yeah, the company that we worked to help promote it, though, they’re like, we need to spend $150000 or at least have it budgeted to make it happen. We didn’t spend that all right away. You do need to promote it, you need to pay to promote. It’s the way it is, you promote it on Facebook, you promote it on YouTube, you promote it with influencers, and that helps boost your virality.
Felix: Yeah, I don’t know how to pronounce it either. Did you have to spend all 25000 or was there a certain point, where this is taken off on its own, let’s just pull back on the budget?
Bobby: We spent that, in the first few months, then we held off on the spend. Now we’re still promoting that video through a [inaudible 00:29:29] campaign. Two years later though, it still converts incredibly well. It’s worth it.
Felix: Right, makes sense. Earlier you were talking about how Facebook is the go-to place now, where people watch videos and of course where advertisers and brands should also go. You say, what was it, 140 million views total? 110 million of those has been on Facebook and 30 million on YouTube. Do you approach Facebook video than you approach YouTube video? Do you see a difference there between the audience and the kind of content that resonates with them?
Bobby: We still test, you still try and find people that haven’t seen it, right? It’s a continual test. It’s something that we review and monitor every week, if not more than that. It’s not like we just throw it out there and don’t adjust or don’t review, it’s something that you have to constantly tweak. We do tweak a lot and review and tweak and look. The data is always there, and then we test … It’s kind of an 80, 20, right? You use 20% of your budget to continually test.
Felix: Now for a campaign this large, most people that are listening don’t ever plan to spend $25000 overall on their online advertising, especially when it comes to, let’s say, Facebook ads. You’re spending all this cash on essentially a couple of posts, a couple of videos. You don’t have to give us exact details, but how do you get in to target and set up all of, I’m assuming, multiple campaigns and all this testing, how do you manage all of this large advertising budget?
Bobby: We’ve hired an ecommerce specialist to analyze the data and put it all together. They work internally for Squatty Potty. Otherwise, there are people out there that will help manage and attribute your spend for you. Initially they’ll charge anywhere from about 10% of the spend to do that, so there’s several people out there that will help you with that.
Felix: I want to talk about Shark Tank. Like I was saying at the very beginning of the podcast, one of the more memorable contestants on the show. Talk to us about your experience, what did you come into the show looking for and what did you end up leaving with?
Bobby: Sure. Yeah, Shark Tank was definitely an amazing platform for us to talk about our product, to share with … My mother and I went on, we got to share the story of her constipation and how this was the solution. Luckily we had a good experience on that show. It was definitely extremely scary, right, it’s one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done, if not the single most frightening thing I’ve ever done, because you don’t know how they’re going to respond. It was still early on. You have this thing that is very valuable to you and you want to protect it, you don’t like people talking negatively about it. We had done quite well online before Shark Tank. I’d travel the country, from Target to Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, trying to get this product in stores and was unsuccessful. We couldn’t get it anywhere. Even with six million dollars in sales, nobody was putting it on their shelves. Really, I could see that we needed something big like Shark Tank to help us get through that and it did. Shark Tank opened up [inaudible 00:33:35] retail stores for us.
Felix: Was this because they saw you on there, was it through the connections that you made, what was it?
Bobby: The publicity and the reach that you get from Shark Tank is huge, it’s incredibly valuable. Anyone would be a fool not to do that, because it’s so valuable. It’s worth millions of dollars in the long run, what you get from going on Shark Tank.
Felix: How did you guys get on? What was your, I guess, application process like?
Bobby: Yeah, we went online. We went to SharkTank.com and they had, want to be on the show? I clicked on it and filled it out, then I got contacted.
Felix: What was the timeline between when you first applied and when you went to record the show?
Bobby: You know Felix, actually what was funny is the first year, we got turned down. We actually went through the entire process, they called us, we made the video, we got further along, and got called back. Then we thought we were going to get on the show and last minute, one of the executives said, I don’t want this ridiculous product on our show. We’re ABC, we’re a family network and this is a pooping product, that makes no sense and we’re not going to put it on. We got almost all the way through and then got turned down. Then the next year …
Felix: This is the third time that you’re applying?
Bobby: This was the second time. The first year we got turned down. The second year one of the producers that we were working with the year before called me and said, I think we can get you on, let’s try it again because that individual has left the show.
Bobby: We did. She held our hand all the way through and got us on. We applied from going on the website.
Felix: Talk to us about the steps. You apply, just do some application, you fill out some information online, then they move you onto the next round, that’s when you create a video?
Bobby: Yes. You apply online. Then they go, okay, we want to learn more about you and see you on television. Make a video. We made a video.
Felix: Did they give you any guidance on what that video should be about?
Bobby: They don’t. There are samples of videos that have been. It’s basically maybe kind of like a small Kickstarter video about your product or about you, that features you so they can see how you [inaudible 00:36:02] television. After that process, then they may send you this 500-page packet of application papers that are everything about you. It’s pretty arduous, the process of getting on. Then they either say yes or no, and you never know if you’re actually going to be on until the last minute. They finally called us with a filming date in Los Angeles. We went to LA and then … All this time, the sharks don’t know about you. They’ve never seen you or they haven’t … They don’t know who they’re going to see that day. You show up on set with your stuff and this is the first time you’ve seen the sharks or they’ve even seen you. You just walk out and there you are. I even had our product under wraps because I wanted it to just be a complete surprise. I unveiled the Squatty Potty with a blanket.
Felix: The details of this deal that you came in looking for, you came in asking for, I believe, $350000 for 5% of the company. What was it like there, how did you calculate the evaluation for this deal?
Bobby: There’s so many ways that you can do that. I figured we would at least be worth what our revenue was going to be that year, which we figured to be about $7 million. I just put a $7 million evaluation on it.
Felix: Then you ended up, at least on the show, closing a deal with Lori for $350000 for 10%. Again, as many details as you want here, did that deal end up going through or what was the situation?
Bobby: It did, yeah. Yeah, so it’s a handshake deal on the Shark Tank show, right? You either take or decline their offers, or they don’t give you any offers. We got an offer, we ended up doing 10% for … Yeah, it was 10% for 350000. Let’s see here, that’s what we shook on, yeah. 10% for 350, then after that they have a due diligence period. You have a period to decide if that’s what you really want to do. Most of the deals fall apart during that period. We actually ended up … Our books were clean and she liked us and she was interested. We ended up going through with the deal.
Felix: Nice. Now when you were preparing to come on the show, what did you do to prepare to actually pitch to these combined worth of billions of dollars of investors?
Bobby: You have one minute that’s a prepared speech, right, that’s scripted essentially. That’s always that one-minute pitch, where they walk out with their product and share their product with the sharks. Then after that, nothing is scripted. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on debate or debated, it’s essentially you just do mock practice runs with your friends and family to try and … You watch Shark Tank. I prepared myself for just doing mock debates or mock pitches with my family and friends.
Felix: Did anything surprise you? Any questions surprise you on the show?
Bobby: There was no surprises. Everything they asked, we had already practiced, so we were pretty prepared. There was one thing that kind of took me aback and that’s when Barbara Corcoran asked me to pull a tarot card. I did. It didn’t go very well because I said, I’m confused why you’re making a business decision on a tarot card. She goes, oh, I don’t trust you. That made me look a little bad.
Felix: I bet this is just an intimidating process too, but you went in there not just … You got offered very close to what you were asking for, compared to definitely what I’ve seen on the show. You actually did negotiations, where you actually negotiated with the sharks. I think you negotiated with Kevin, you negotiated … That experience you had with Barbara definitely seems like a stand-off. Of course negotiation with Lori. What was it like, what was it like and saying essentially no to these sharks and trying to get a better deal for yourself?
Bobby: Like I said, it was the scariest thing you’ve ever done in your life. We knew that we didn’t want Kevin. In hindsight, Kevin’s not so mean at all. In fact, people who do deals with him say he’s extremely nice and he’s a teddy bear. I think that’s a persona of his on the show.
Felix: Yeah, it seems like that.
Bobby: Lori, we liked her because she had the consumer product experience. She seemed like the obvious choice for us, when she was willing to get to where we wanted and she was the obvious choice for us.
Felix: Now that you worked with her, do you have any favorite or most useful general business advice that Lori has given you?
Bobby: It’s interesting when you finally get to work with them. I think there was some things that … Squatty Potty first of all was not a traditional product, and to sell it and pitch it in a traditional way didn’t really work. Lori had some contacts and she had some opportunities with trade shows and stuff that were really valuable, but it’s been mostly hands-off. Most of the stuff she’s pitched us, it wasn’t right for our company. Other than the contacts in the regional world, we haven’t used her much.
Felix: Speaking to the retail world, you said that you had trouble getting into a lot of these big box retailers until getting on Shark Tank, until that voucher from being on national television. Bed Bath and Beyond has been a big one for you guys. What was the process like, to get into a store like that?
Bobby: You hear all these stories of, retail relations being nightmares, right? There is a lot that goes on in getting into a store. Fulfillment and EDI and all these connections that you have to make. It’s expensive. That stuff is all true. Once you get in, if you had a product that goes well, your relationship … They become extremely valuable for us. You really need to foster and keep those relationships healthy with your retailers. There is some truth to that, in the nightmare of working with them, but if it’s something that … It’s something that, for Squatty Potty at least, has really paid off. I’m grateful that we were tenacious in getting in there.
Felix: Now did you have to get introduced into a buyer there? What were the first steps that you had to take before getting into a store like that?
Bobby: Sure. You need to find a buyer. We have taken the approach of going direct to the buyer, meaning without a buyer’s rep, where possible. You’ll generally get a better deal and it’s easier to work directly with the buyer, for us. There have been a few instances where we’ve used buyer’s reps, but just do your homework. You can find these buyers on LinkedIn, you can find them … Go to trade shows. We got introduced to a lot of buyers at the houseware show in Chicago or the Natural Products Expo. If you have a product, they’ll find you as well. They’re looking for new products. You have to go where the buyers are. Those would be the hardware shows, the houseware shows, the gift shows, depending on what your product is. Natural product shows, they have those twice a year, one in Anaheim and one in Baltimore. The hardware show in Las Vegas, the houseware show in Chicago. You can search those and those are where the buyers are, so we went to find the buyers.
Felix: Makes sense. How do you make yourself attractive to a buyer for them to even take a meeting with you, to show your product to them?
Bobby: Yeah, so you show the packaging, you show who you are. Then, for us, we had the secret weapon of online sell. We had done millions in sales on Amazon, so we shared that with them, saying, this is how popular it is. That really helped. Then our first store that it did really well in, Bed Bath and Beyond, we used those numbers to get other stores. We would share with other buyers how it’s doing in every store to help get them to bite.
Felix: Right. It gives them a lot less risk by showing that there’s already success, there’s already demand for a product like this, so they don’t have to worry about that themselves. When I first introduced you, I said, of course, that you’re the first or the original toilet stool. Nowadays, I’m sure that there’s competition in the market place, right, coming after you guys. Was that something that cropped up pretty quickly after your success? When or how do you deal with … I guess, what’s the landscape of the competition like today?
Bobby: Sure. It’s definitely gotten more aggressive. It’s a game of whack-a-mole, trying to find people that are violating your patents and your trademarks. We’ve been handling it, one by one. Every day, we’re on the major websites looking for them. They’re actually brought to us by a lot of people. It’s a struggle, but it’s something that … It’s valuable so we take it seriously. We’re out there policing all the sites where we’re act. Actually I even order product from different sites to make sure that it’s a legit Squatty Potty.
Felix: Yeah, that seems to be cropping up more and more often now with your product, but just in general people selling fake products online, on repeatable sites too.
Bobby: Wish is one of them, that’s notorious for selling knock-off stuff directly from China. You go to Wish.com, you see a product that looks like yours, you order it, and then find out that it takes about 10 days to get there but it’s shipped directly from the counterfeit factory in China.
Felix: That’s crazy. Now that you have a patented product, is it a pretty seamless process to get it taken down? Do you just contact that website, show them that you have the claim to it, then they take it down pretty quickly? What’s the process?
Bobby: It is. There’s actually some services out there that help monitor your IP. One that we’ve just started using is called IP Shark. They have automatic algorithms that monitor and find anything that’s fake, like that’s on Ali Baba or Wish or Amazon or Yahoo or eBay. That seems to be working really well actually. It’s fairly inexpensive, it’s cheaper than having your attorney write cease-and-desist letters, right?
Felix: For sure.
Bobby: The one we’ve been using is IP Shark. I just started using them though, last week. They came recommended from another Shark Tank product called Scrub Daddy.
Felix: Yes, I know that one too. Another memorable contestant. Is that community pretty tight-knit? Do you have a lot of connections with other past contestants?
Bobby: Yeah, especially with other products that have done business with Lori. We have a familiar relationship with them. There’s some private Facebook groups of Shark Tank products and Shark Tank entrepreneurs on Facebook that I’m active in. Yeah, you kind of get in the Shark Tank bubble and it’s the same thing, everyone’s just trying to help you and share their experiences. It’s everything, it’s from fulfillment to marketing to IP stuff, it’s everything.
Felix: Speaking of fulfillment, what’s your supply chain process like today? I’m assuming, of course, you’re not making these yourself anymore. How do you have all of your products set up?
Bobby: Sure. We manufacture in Utah. It’s an injection molding process, so we do it … It’s just about as cheap as it is in China and much easier for a supply chain to manufacture domestically. If you have a simple product that you can competitively get manufactured in the United States, do it because it makes life so much easier, especially in the ups and downs of the retail world. We would get a hit like Shark Tank and if we didn’t manufacture domestically, we would’ve lost out in millions of dollars because we weren’t prepared for our response that we got from Shark Tank or the unicorn video. The unicorn video went crazy. We sold out within three days. We would’ve been in deep trouble had we not been a domestic manufacturer. It works for Squatty Potty. I realize not everyone can do that, but for our product, domestic manufacturing has worked.
They’re all made in Utah, they’re shipped to Salt Lake City where we have a warehouse, a third party fulfillment center who fulfills everyone. They fulfill our mom and pop stores, they fulfill Wal-mart, Target, Bed Bad and Beyond, but they also fulfill Amazon. We have a vendor relationship with Amazon, where Amazon writes the purchase orders once a week. Then they also fulfill our website orders, so those will be shipped directly from our fulfillment center in Salt Lake City. It’s all done through EDI and AP, there’s all these acronyms. It’s all done automatically essentially. Very little effort on our part, except for when there’s problems and then we’ve got a customer service … We’ve got four customer service reps that work full-time at Squatty Potty to help with customers. We’ve got an 800 number on our site, because I think it’s always valuable so people always have a touch point and be able to contact you. That’s how we work, that’s how Squatty Potty works.
Felix: Cool, so SquattyPotty.com of course is the website. Where do you want to take the business next?
Bobby: Sure, so it’s all about creating a better bathroom experience, creating products to help people do that. We’ve got an auxiliary product now, unicorn gold, which is starting to take up more and more of our business. It’s a pretty popular product. It’s a spray that you spray the water before you go, it takes away the smell. Uses essential oils but it also uses real nanoparticles of gold, which mitigate and kill sulfur, which is what makes your poop stink. It’s an interesting product, it works really well, but it’s also about everything. We’re developing other products that once seemed taboo. The bidet world is growing, but we have a unique bidet that I think is very interesting, that I think is going to do really well. Then also some other auxiliary products, the Squatty Potty pharmacy is coming. These aren’t so glamorous, but they’re hemorrhoid creams and other barrier creams to help people be more comfortable down there.
Felix: Awesome, going to be interested in seeing how you can speak about all that in advertiser-friendly terms.
Bobby: Yeah, it’s using our way of marketing, to take something that’s not so glamorous or that’s taboo. A lot of people don’t know what a hemorrhoid is and they don’t know if they have it or not, and they’re embarrassed to go to the doctor to figure out. We’re creating marketing that will help people just address that, and then promoting products to help them feel better.
Felix: Yeah, I loved that you are unashamedly going ahead and coming out and saying, hey, we’ll teach you everything. We’ll educate you, we’ll talk about the things that people aren’t comfortable talking about. People are curious, people do want to learn this information. If no one else is talking about it, that’s a great opportunity for you to come in and do all the talking. It seems like that’s exactly what you’ve done and exactly where you want to market the business. Very excited to see what’s next for you guys. Again, SquattyPotty.com is the website. Thank you so much for your time Bobby.
Bobby: Okay Felix, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store for the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker 3: Google is the best psychic in the world, and it understands our behaviors.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit Shopify.com/Masters to claim your extended 30-day free trial.