Brands are undervaluing one of the best organic channels out there: community. A community can act as the nucleus of your brand because it holds the instructions for your growth. It gives you a direct line of communication to your customers so that you can find out exactly what type of products they want to see from you. Ashvin Melwani, CMO and co-founder of Obvi, has leveraged the company’s community to create sold-out product launches and consistently grow the business over the last few years. In this episode, he discusses his tips for setting up an engaged community and turning super fans into influencers.
Ashvin Melwani is Co-Founder & CMO of Obvi, one of the world’s fastest growing health & nutrition brands. Since launching in 2019, Obvi has become a pioneering brand in the collagen space, shattering 8 figures in sales with distribution all over the globe. Before Obvi, Ash co-founded Ghost3Media, a digital advertising & growth agency managing over $15M of adspend.
09:55 - Form a supportive community
After they had a solid customer base, Obvi invited customers to be a part of a Facebook group. With some strategic conversation starters, the group snowballed into a tight community.
“Right at that small stage of where that community is just beginning, it's like people are shy. They don't know what to expect from this group. How do you start the conversation? So she would invite people to talk. So it's like you post in the group, ask a couple of questions like, Hey, what recipes are you guys trying today? And people would start to get a little bit more friendly. They start to explain their lifestyle and what's going on with them. And then you start to see this snowball effect of not just employees from our end or admins or mods on our end talking to the customers. Customers are talking with each other. It's like, oh, Hey guys, what do you think about this recipe? And then you'll have 10 other people like, oh, I loved it. But also you should try this or do this. And it just snowballs into this supportive community where it's not even about the product anymore. It's just about how to live a better lifestyle. How do you improve your health? How do you lose weight? How do you find the energy to do things in the morning? What do you do with the kids during the pandemic? Those conversations are happening within our community. And the one thing that just, I guess, connects everyone is the fact that they're an Obvi customer, but when you're in there, it's like you're one big family because everybody's super supportive.”
11:33 - Make community the nucleus of your brand
Building a community gives you a direct line to what your customer wants. Listen and then give it to them. It’s a huge organic channel that many brands aren’t using.
“I think that's something that's very undervalued with brands right now because it's all sell, sell, sell, sell, but after a certain point, it's like, you need to build a relationship with your consumers. These are the people that are like going to be the ones that are going to give you the feedback of what new products should you come out with. What flavors are they looking for? If you ignore the obvious conversations that are happening in front of you, then I don't think brands will make it. You as a founder have to put aside your, maybe not ego, but there are certain things that maybe you want to do. Maybe certain products that you want to launch or flavors that you might want to launch. Is that going to resonate with your customer? If yes, great. Then you're both aligned. If not, why do it? You have a direct path to communication with your consumers, utilize it, ask them what they want. Hey, you want chocolate-covered strawberry flavor? We'll do it. And I think that's one of the biggest things that we've leveraged over the last few years. And I think we'll continue to keep that growing because I think it's the nucleus of our brand right now.”
16:36 - Get immediate feedback
The negative feedback you get from a community is what guides you to grow. When Obvi launched a 35 superfoods blend, they learned quickly that the taste wasn’t right and were able to fix it.
“What happened was that we launched it. Everybody was excited for it. Everybody got it. And we got the feedback in the group saying, when I drink it, my throat burns. And we're like, what is happening? Why? We didn't get that feeling. What's going on? Did the manufacturer mess up, what's going on? Basically, in the formula there's cayenne pepper. Now certain people may not be used to that spice level. As a South Asian individual, I like spicy food. So I was maybe immune to it. Other people may not have been. And that's where it's like, okay, did we just mess up our launch? So we sold through and we're like, all right, here's the feedback that you got from the community. Go and adjust the formula. All we did was ask them to turn down the cayenne, maybe add a little bit more flavoring and it fixed it. It is now one of our top selling products. It's our top-selling SKU. That would not have happened unless we had those conversations. We would have maybe figured it out later where it's like, okay, interesting. Everybody bought this in January, but nobody bought it again. What's the reason? Then you send out a survey, nobody wants to fill out a survey, then you find out. I'm talking about, you're getting feedback as soon as that customer gets the product in the mail, not two or three months later when you try to realize, oh, why is this not moving anymore?”
23:07 - Gamify product launches
Community is like a cheat code for successful product launches. When Obvi wanted to launch a coffee flavor, they let their community pick the specific flavor through games.
“We did this whole thing called coffee wars. Everybody has their favorite flavor. It's up to interpretation for everybody. So we literally did a whole poll across two to three weeks. And we had a bracket literally, March madness type of bracket where it's like, all right, well, caramel macchiato is going up against French vanilla, everybody vote. And you can just create this whole gamified process of how we're going to come up with this flavor. So at the end of it, it got down to the top four flavors and we did one final vote where we went live on Facebook within the group. And there's a couple apps out there that if you comment something, it will place a vote. So now going back and watching this video, there's tens of thousands of comments because people are like, I want this flavor, I want this flavor. And we literally let the community vote their way to our next flavor. And we launched that and that sold out four times over the course of last year, because we couldn't keep it in stock. Now if that's not a cheat code then I don't know what it is.”
26:58 - Build something deeper than a transaction
Obvi tries to be available to the community regularly by hosting conversations about topics other than the product itself, and featuring members who can inspire others.
“Just forget about the product, forget about buying something on the website. Let's have a conversation. We want to invite maybe some of the community members on with us to just talk about their stories. Some of these women have gone through an insane transformation with the product. I'm talking women who were on prescription medications just to function every day, have been able to get off of that because of some of the products that they've been taking from us. So being able to share those stories, it's invaluable. Because you have the rest of the community that's motivated to reach their goals and seeing other people actually reach their goals. It's that positive reinforcement that they need to just keep going. So build that mentality. And then obviously when they need to re-up on whatever they need to re-up on, who are they going to think about? They’re going to think about your brand. Not the one that’s at the top because they don't have those conversations. They're just another brand. I think that's what we try to do is we're trying to offer value outside of just product offering. And you’ve just got to build that relationship.”
33:08 - Wait until you have a customer base and have topics ready
You want to have enough people where you can have active participation. As soon as you open the community ask questions on topics that get conversations going.
“I would wait until you have around 500-1,000 customers before you actually start making that effort to push people in. When you do, let's just say you're at a thousand customers and you're going to start the community. You should have somebody that is going to at least moderate the group on a daily basis. Make sure that no question is left unanswered, people are actually having positive conversations. If things go negative, how do you turn that around? So have an allocated person to manage the community. Step three, I would say, have a few posts ready from the brand. What are some of your favorite recipes? What is your morning routine look like? Some other fun ones, get to know the community, like where are you logging in from? What do you like? What is your daily routine? Where are you logging in from? I remember we literally started the community in the middle of the pandemic. So some of the conversations were like, what do you do with the kids at home? Just questions like that and topics like that. Have some ready to go so that you can start the conversations instead of having the members start the conversations themselves.”
34:31 - Offer incentives to join
Drive more customers to your group with incentives and by having as many access points as possible.
“Have some incentive to join the group. What I would do is maybe do a giveaway. Say, Hey, we're giving away X, whatever it is, product cash, this and that blah, blah, blah. Join this Facebook community to enter for a chance to win. Just get them in there by any means necessary as much as you can. Then you unleash all the content that you've kind of prepped. You have that community manager on standby, ready for answering questions, this and that. And just continue that. Set up your flows. Post-purchase flows, after somebody buys, text message enter the group. Have some type of landing page on the website where they can join the group, have as many access points to the group as possible. And that's what we did. Email, text, website. We actually run some ads to have that funnel in place as well. So that now ongoing as you're growing, the community is growing alongside with it and just have all those pieces in place. And then you'll start to see it snowball and posts will be nonstop.”
35:37 - Find moderators within the community
As the amount of posts grows, you’ll need to have more moderators managing the group. Find loyal customers in the community who’ll contribute in this way.
“There was a point where we had like 200 posts a day and we had to hire more moderators. And people are like, oh, where'd you get the moderators from? Our moderators are our community members that were just super active in the group. And we're like, Hey, do you want to be more involved? And they're like, hell yeah, I do. And that's that. All they wanted was some free product, a little bit here and there. You don't really have to pay somebody to moderate the group. It could just be your top customers and you offer them some free product. Some of our admins and moderators, at the end of the year, we recognize that they've been super involved. Offer holiday bonuses, this and that, to keep them incentivized and be a part of your brand. But I mean, the fact that they are your top customer means that they love you regardless and should make them feel even more a part of it by offering them some type of position with the community.”
42:31 - Don’t rely on celebrity influencers
Obvi used celebrity influencers at first, but consumers can see through paid endorsements. They then used Instagram influencers, which worked a little better.
“Consumers are smart. They're not going to like, oh, this is a paid endorsement, that celebrity’s not actually using the product. So it's like, all right, forget that. Our consumers are way too smart. Let's can that approach. Then we went for the actual influencer route of the, not micro, but not celebrity status either. I'm talking big names on Instagram that may not be Hollywood celebrities, but that have a good following on Facebook and Instagram. That is where I think we saw some success as well. Again, I would say out of 10 people that we worked with, three actually moved the needle for the company. So what we ended up doing is we worked with those three. We basically built relationships with them to the point where we're making them a part of some of the business decisions. What flavors do you guys want to see? What flavors would you be excited to talk about because you're the one that is using the product.”
44:32 - Turn community members into influencers
What has worked best for Obvi are influencers from their community. They’ve set up 40 women with Facebook pages they’re running ads through and it feels more organic.
“What we found in the community is somebody would post, Hey, here's a recipe for this flavor that I really, really enjoyed. I hope you guys like it. Then you see a bunch of comments like, oh, I haven't tried that flavor, yet, but that looks really good. Let me try that. So it's like, hmm. Let's try and mimic that on the top of the funnel somehow. And so what we ended up doing is within the community itself, we saw some of these people who were like, and there was an overlap between the moderators too, is who is a super fan of the brand? Who is putting out content in the community, like recipes, videos, this and that. And we basically took these individuals, created Facebook and Instagram profiles for them and started running ads through their page. And all we did was we asked them, give us a testimonial. Here's the product. Talk about it, make a recipe. You're already posting the stuff in the community. Let's just take that content, run ads through it under their pages and then If somebody who hasn't heard of the brand before sees it on their feed, it literally looks like somebody who's just talking about a recipe they tried. And it's like, oh, that looks good. Where do you get that? And it's like you're not being sold to anymore.”
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