OTS 150 | What Customers Want


One of the greatest mysteries in business that has constantly been covered and uncovered is understanding what customers exactly want in a product. When people shop, all of them are potential customers. But how can you actually turn them into actual consumers? Getting into the topic in this thirteenth Flash Topic together with host Timothy Bush are Joe Tarnowski, Jamie Robinson, and Shannon Curtin. As they go deeper into understanding what makes people want to buy, they give insights from different perspectives backed with a number of data. Learn what they have to say about the consumer’s mindset, social media’s relationship with brands, throwaway products, and loyal customers.

Listen to the podcast here:

Flashtopic13: What Do Customers Want In A Product with Joe Tarnowski, Jamie Robinson, and Shannon Curtin

I’m excited because it’s Flash Topic time and we’re on number thirteen. I know that you like these because they’re constantly on the top ten list of my podcast. I know that you are out there reading these and I know that you appreciate the different perspective that all of the panel members give you. I’m not going to tell you what the topic is because as you know, Flash Topic is going to be discussed as we start. It’s a great topic and back this time is Joe Tarnowski. Joe has never missed a Flash Topic. Jamie Robinson is back and Shannon Curtin is back. We’re missing this time the Hazzards, both Tom and Tracy, and we’re missing Salah Khalaf. Let’s go around but hopefully, all of them will be back for Flash Topic fourteen and we’ll look forward to that.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about a trip I took to Walmart. I was in front of some Walmart buyers and one of the Walmart buyers talked to me about data. We were trying to give him a little bit of a rundown on the company. We were trying to get through some basic information first and he just wanted to know data trends, numbers, where we’re doing in the market. How much of the market do we hold no matter how small that is? What’s trending? What is coming up next? What should he expect?

I know this is going to sound weird, but he wanted us to do his job for him and I get that. That’s our job. Long gone are the days when the buyer that you speak to is going to be the most versed in that category. These people get moved around. They get shuffled from this category to this category. There’s no way that they can be the experts. They’re going to look to you for you to be that. They’re going to look to you to be the expert. In order for you to be the expert, you have to be versed on your numbers. At the very least, the numbers of your own product and where you stand and where you’re selling and how much of the market you hold. You’re going to need to know those.

Like I was saying in my Facebook group, this is not something that you can flip through some pages, “I got those here somewhere.” These are your numbers, Big Boxers. You have to know what they are. They have to roll off your tongue as you talk about them every day because you should talk about them every day. They should be on your mind constantly. Occasionally, like this time he’s going to ask you about the category. They may ask you about the category and they may not even be a he maybe a she. She may ask you about the category, “What’s new? What’s exciting? What’s happening? What’s coming? Where’s the trend going?” This is information that you should also have.

This is information that you need to know because if you don’t know this information, how were you making concrete decisions about your product, about research and development, about what’s coming down the pipe for you if you don’t know where the category is even going? Before you sit down in front of any buyer, before you sit down and talk about your product, you need to be ready to talk about your numbers, about the data, about the trends and about the category. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Do you want to role-play a meeting that you have coming up with a buyer? Reach out. Let’s do it. There’s no better way to get ready for a buyer meeting than to role play with somebody and I’m here for you. We have a great Flash Topic program and I can’t wait for you to read the discussion.

I can’t believe that we’ve done thirteen Flash Topics. As I was saying, the Flash Topic podcast continues to be on the top ten. The Big Box readers out there are definitely liking the panel and probably the topics I would think and the fact that they get a couple of different viewpoints on every topic that we have. Interestingly enough, the book one is still out of the Flash Topics that are on the top ten. It is still the highest-ranking Flash Topic that we’ve ever had. Hopefully, the Big Boxers out there are going out and getting those books and putting their reading list together for the year. We have a little bit of a truncated panel. Jamie Robinson is here. Shannon Curtin is here. Joe would call in from underground just so he can always say that he never missed a Flash Topic.

It seems like it’s a little while since we had a Flash Topic. I wanted to check in with everybody and see what’s going on. What’s new and maybe something different that is going on in your life and you wanted to share. I want to send some positive thoughts to Salah and his family. His son is in a hospital for the third time with tongue cancer and struggling mightily. Big Boxers, if you can send some positive thoughts his way. I know that we’re all praying for him and hoping that his son has a speedy recovery. Jamie, we’ll start with you. What’s going on in your life? What’s new? What’s happening since the last time we talked?

Jamie: I have two grown men as sons now, which I am told about every day, I no longer have kids, I have grown men.

That happened in the last few months since we last talked.

Jamie: The youngest grown man has graduated from high school, so now he’s grown and he has a job. I don’t even know if he even needs me anymore. I’m going into having two college students and I will be an empty nester. That should be interesting. I go back and forth about how I feel about that. Business-wise, everything is amazing. I’m astonished at how well networking works, at least for the business that I do. It’s always a good time to be able to talk to different types of business owners and find out about different industries. That has remained consistent and exciting. My oldest adult son just came back from Paris, France. It’s been a lot going on.

What was he doing in Paris? With the band?

Jamie: He’s in the Marching Chiefs with the Florida State University. He has a leadership role, which is another fun thing to look forward to. They traveled to Paris to represent our country, the United States during the 75th anniversary or I like to say the commemoration of D-Day. He is right up his alley. He loves the band first of all, but he’s also very historical, that type of thing. He has a lot of interest in the government and everything else. My other son is pretty much, “Donald who?” He’s not as interested in politics and such. It was definitely a good trip for my oldest son and he loved it.

The one thing I think that will probably be the biggest shock is when they’re both gone for a while and then they come home for a holiday and your refrigerator is instantly empty. I can just see that. You’re like, “Two seconds ago, I had food in there.”

Jamie: I’m like, “What are you doing here?”

Shannon, I know that you redid your business. What’s that all about? What’s going on with you?

Shannon: I’ve been super busy too. My two children, who are six and four, eat like two grown men. I know what it’s like to have an empty refrigerator all the time and they’re great and happy and we are too. In the business front, I just repositioned the name to get back focus solely in beauty and have that focused because that’s my expertise. When I named initially, I can do big box work too. I can do small box cross-functional enterprise-wide solutions. I can do all sorts of stuff, but all my revenue was coming from the beauty industry. I said, “Let’s accept the fact that I’m a beauty expert and we’ll play in this space and rename ourselves.” Because of that, a lot of other things have transpired, which I’m excited about sharing in the future.

The business has also afforded me more opportunity to work closer with brands, capital groups, lenders and learning that whole model and helping create value from an acquisition perspective and working in that space quite a bit. I love it. I do have a book to put out there on the list because I went to a seminar from Insigniam, which is a group that works on breakthrough transformation in business, especially businesses that have been a long time existing. Joe and I talked about this before. Some businesses get stuck, and how you get them to breakthrough and break out their experts in that space. I got to hear from Amy Webb. I don’t know if you know her, but she’s a futurist. She has a book called The Signals Are Talking and The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machine Could Warp Humanity. It’s heavy stuff but fun.

She obviously studies what’s happening in the present and takes signals across the entire world and picks up on that to say what could happen in the future. She helps the government with strategic positioning and strategic plans. As well as big companies like Google or Microsoft or Apple. She can sit beside the CEOs and the C-Suites there and talk about what’s happening in the world. This book called The Big Nine is super fascinating. I’m not all the way through it, I wanted to throw it out there that it’s good to stretch your mind in new ways and what the impact is going to be on us for the rest of our lives as well as the future generations. I think that’s a fascinating one that I want to put out there for folks to read. Business is good, life is good and book reading is good. All good here.

Education becomes more available to make better decisions. Click To Tweet

Joe: Are we going to do another video soon?

Shannon: Joe and I had a video, a live one that is available on LinkedIn.

Joe had a video on LinkedIn?

Shannon: He made it to Hoboken, if you can believe it. All eight minutes it takes to get over here and I finally got him to come over.

Joe: It was a much easier trip than I thought it would be. We ended up shooting the video in a lounge in the hotel. We had luncheon at the W Hotel right in Hoboken, three or four blocks from the PATH train so it was easy to get to. We plunked a tripod on the table. What was funny is when we were done shooting the video and I turned around, there were 30 people in the lounge hanging up behind us. I didn’t see all of them there before.

Shannon: We had an audience. It’s great.

That’s Joe Tarnowski with you there.

Joe: It was a lot of fun to do. It’s so easy to go out there, so we’ll do it on a regular basis.

I like it when you say stuff like, “I have some stuff but I’m not going to talk about it right now.” It sounds very cloak and dagger and it has us all hanging on the edge of our seat. The book sounds interesting. It also sounds a little painful. We’ll have to check that out, especially if you’re not done with it yet. It sounds like it’s a little in depth.

OTS 150 | What Customers Want
The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity

Shannon: It’s heavy but good. She’s funny. She’s incredibly bright and gifted as far as keeping things light, but she’s as deep and smart like out there in another stratosphere. She is incredibly personable and been able to make some predictions across her lifetime and she’s young that have come to fruition. It’s fascinating work that she does and how she’s able to quantify that with data. She’s driven by data and reading what the data is available in order to help the world know where we’re going before we get there.

We’ll definitely check that out, Big Boxers. It’s always good to add it to the list. I definitely appreciate that. Joe, not that people don’t know what’s going on with you. I even saw a kettlebell workout video that you do. I’m like, “Joe’s going to be putting spandex on pretty soon.”

Joe: No, that’s not going to be happening any time soon. One of the things that I’ve said to people in my videos that it’s good to make part of your routine working out because it’s good physically, but it’s good mentally. I wanted to put it up there to let them see that I’m doing it too. I’m not just talking about it. I had to film me using the 80-pounder. It’s been interesting because I did not travel at all, which is very unusual. It was good because it gave me a lot more time to try different types of content. I did have a lot of content from the March and April sessions. Doing different types of videos and showing different tactics and seeing how it works and that was a lot of fun.

We had our beauty week sessions and I was happy about that. I ended up getting video interviews with the beauty category managers and buyers from Rite Aid, Meijer, Wakefern, 99 Cents Only and The Vitamin Shoppe all within one day. They were on a panel discussion on the introspection of beauty and wellness. I interviewed each of the panelists afterwards. The travel is kicking into gear. After that, I was home for a day, then an American HVC, August and September it’s going to be two or three weeks each month that I’m going to be traveling.

On the Chain Drug Review, I have a column in there on all about Bartell Drugs and what they’re doing in the CDB space, which is pretty cool because they were with the pioneers. They were the first chain that gets into CBD. They’re doing it for pet, for beauty, for healthcare and for food. If anybody’s looking to get into that space, that’s a retailer to watch because they’re doing it very well. There are lots of cool stuff happening on that front. We launched two sessions around the CBD up at CBD Sessions and a food and beverage CBD session. They’re both going to be in November. We’ve been trying to stay ahead of the curve with that. We brought in a senior vice president of general merchandise to, so maybe I’ll get him to join us on one of these Flash Topics.

With me, all is well. My daughter’s graduating high school. She’s graduating a year early and then she also has her first year of college already done. It’s a little bit overwhelming thinking that at sixteen she’s graduating and already has her first year under her belt of school. She’ll still do online school and she’s going to skate still. She’ll pick her whatever school she wants to go to for more of her major and whatnot. Travel-wise, I’m with Joe. There’s been a lot of travel. In September, I’ll be in Brazil for about eight days. I was in El Salvador since we last spoke. I did a seminar down in El Salvador with about 36 suppliers. Everybody told me, “Don’t go to El Salvador.” If you even look on the US website, it doesn’t say warning. It doesn’t say you shouldn’t go. It just says, “Don’t go.” First of all, El Salvador is amazingly beautiful. The people are super nice.

Just like any big city like San Salvador, there are places that you shouldn’t go, especially in places that you shouldn’t go at night. Every city has places that you shouldn’t go. San Salvador and parts of El Salvador were no exception. I thought it was interesting. I talked to some suppliers. It literally builds extortion into their business models. Into their pricing, extortion is in there because there are some parts of the country that are owned basically by certain gangs. If you have to deliver into those areas or if you have to go through those areas to deliver somewhere else, you’re going to have to pay. They just build that into their business model. They have a little line item that says “extortion” but otherwise everything is good. We’re planning a graduation party for Georgia. I’m pretty excited about that. Like every summer, if you live in Florida, the family just seems to show up on your doorstep. We got to notice that we have family showing up for two and a half weeks and that came through.

Joe: Tim, speaking of Latin American countries, I don’t know if you saw it, but Victoria did our first Spanish language video interview.

I did see that.

Consumers want a product to solve their problem. Click To Tweet

Joe: With one retailer from Mexico and one from Chile.

I think I’m only three states away from hitting at some point all US states. For some reason, these three are going to be consistently out of reach for me unless I want to go to Mount Rushmore at some point. The Dakota and Montana seem to be pretty elusive. There are no flights that I need to go through to go there. I haven’t ventured that much outside the US but every time I do, no matter where I go, it’s amazing. People are friendly and it’s great to see different areas and hear different cultures. That drive from the airport in El Salvador to San Salvador was over an hour.

Basically, you have to go into the mountains and up over and then down. My driver spoke not a lick of English. I was pulling back into the high school Spanish days trying to pull that and then I whipped out my Google translate and we got along just fine. I got slapped on too long ago for the whole Google translate thing because I thought I was going to be smart. I was doing a class for a bunch of Korean suppliers. I wrote my PowerPoint and then I went to Google translate and I translated it all into Korean. It didn’t go over well because the context was nowhere near where it was supposed to be. Simply copying and pasting the presentation and then translate it in Google translate didn’t end up working out so well.

Shannon: That’s a key highlight of the segment so far is to ensure that you have cultural-appropriate readers as well before you pass it on a business meeting. All those sensitivities, that’s a great life lesson that you’ve shared for sure.

You can be good in a pinch. I certainly have used it at a trade show before with a Japanese customer. I just typed in and it at least gave us enough context. You just have to use it with a grain of salt and understand it’s not a perfect translation, especially in context.

Shannon: Context and intent sometimes get lost and you’d want a friend who spoke that language to say, “If you write that like that, that means this.” You actually want to say that. That’s always good to have an extra pair of eyes on it as someone who’s familiar with the language.

Let’s get into the topic. It’s a good topic because I think everybody’s trying to figure this thing out. I was hoping that maybe we could throw it around a little bit and maybe we can figure it out. The topic is what does today’s consumer want in a product? We’re not talking about the specific product, but when anybody goes shopping and they pick a product that they want to buy, what is it that they want from that product, from that company? What is it that they want? Shannon, kick us off. What do you think today’s consumer wants in a product?

Shannon: I’ve been posed with that question before and I go out to ask them specifically. With access to social media platforms and word clouds, you can put in your brand for example. Some of the brands that are reading, you can see what sentiment is up there. This is very important as it relates to the emotional connection that a brand has with its consumers. They are understanding what people are saying or what they feel when they use it or getting information. I’m talking about this from a brand perspective. What they want from a brand or a product, what’s inside that brand? Sometimes they’ll be able to articulate that to you when you read the information coming through. What I’ve noticed as far as spell out is concerned across syndicated data is that consumers are purchasing, I don’t know if they want this, but they want it enough to buy it.

The brands that are coming up consistently and growing, are brands that have that emotional connection or reason to believe that’s understood, that’s good for people, good for the planet, good for pets. Better brands as far as transparency is a concern. That is what’s going to the register more frequently than traditional brands that still stand behind the curtain and not showing exactly what they’re doing in full transparency. Some big companies are doing a great job of showing how transparent they’re trying to become. It’s allowing consumers to come back in and start repurchasing and having a reappraisal of those brands because they’re more open with it. That’s what I see from a data perspective is what you can listen to online and what you can see is sold out. That’s what I can pull to answer that question.

OTS 150 | What Customers Want
What Customers Want: Some big brands or big companies are doing a great job of showing how transparent they’re trying to become.


Joe: Can I add something to that from a data perspective?

Shannon: Yes, please keep adding more data because that’s where it is.

Joe: I was at the IRI Growth Summit. They did a study with the NYU Stern School of Business. It was there in a sustainability group. What they did was they took thirteen years of IRI transaction data and analyzed it. To your point about the transparency, the most growth they found was in those products that made some sustainability claim. Whether that would be good ingredients, they lumped in organic with that, but good or clean ingredients or good business processes behind the product or sustainable practices. Anything like that, they had 30% more growth than products that did not make any of those claims. I thought that it was interesting and very consistent with what you were saying.

Shannon, do you think the customers are literally going out looking for that? They’re looking at products side by side and they see a product that says it’s good for the people, the planet, pet and has some transparency behind it and that will get them to pull the trigger on that more than the product next to it that doesn’t call that out.

Shannon: I’m going to speak from another data perspective and another source because I am that consumer too. I’m trying to take my personal bias out of this because it’s easy for me to say, “Yes, of course, that’s what we do.” From actual time studies done in stores, some of the small indie brands that I work with have very tiny little budgets. When they get some distribution, they want to study what happens in the natural good for you set or general markets set with items on there that could say, “These types are free from some ingredients. Here are some items that have been around since the beginning of time.” You’ll see consumers actually stand in the aisle and read, especially as it relates to skincare products and baby care products and stuff that you eat.

There is an enormous amount of information available to consumers on how they can provide self-care and self-help by picking products that are what they need wherever they particularly are in their life’s journey. That happens a lot, especially when you have young children in the home. If you’ve got a chance to have a wafer or cookie and you want to give your child a treat, you’re going to pick the better of the two to give a treat to your child. You see this great rise of, “Non-additive pure ingredients, know this, know that. We’ve added these good things. We’re not free. We’re this, that or the other,” to ensure that they’ve put the ultimate best ingredients that they can to make this item for someone to purchase.

If the mother or the father or the caretaker has the means to purchase the other item, even if it’s 20% more, 10% more or equal price, it will land with the one that’s a better option for you. Food, skin care, hair care, all the like, it lands that way. The only time that we see the break is when this consumer is emotionally attached to whatever that brand or item or that treat is. They love it and they know in good conscious that there’s a better choice, that it’s for their own self-indulgence. They’re not going to give it to their child, they’re going to give it to themselves and still pick the better choice for their child. That’s where you’ll see some breaking points. If they have within the means, the choice that we see based off the data, they’re migrating and moving to better options, especially if prices are somewhat equal.

I get to see, “I’m going to get my kid this good snack that I’m having my Twinkie and I don’t care what anybody says about it.”

Shannon: That happens for real. That’s why Twinkie came back. My mom used to give me Twinkies all the time and didn’t even think anything about it. I do think about it before I give something to Amelia and Samuel to make sure what they put in their body. I’m at least exposing them to a better option from the beginning because if I can help their taste profile from the beginning, then that’s a good thing. I need to battle the fact that you see Twinkies and I look at them and think, “That’s a fun memory from my childhood.” You’re going to have that happen, Deep Fried Twinkies and all sorts of things. Growing up in the south, I had everything fried. I don’t even try to give that option to my children, so I try to bake everything. I try to do something that’s a little bit different and you’re seeing this evolution of the humans evolving into better, good for you options inside and out. That is a fact and that’s what consumers continue to look for as information and education become more available to make better decisions.

Since the internet and social media, consumers have had an opportunity to have more intimate relationships with brands. Click To Tweet

That’s my favorite storyline in the movie, Zombieland, when Woody Harrelson is on the search for a Twinkie, but all he can find is the little Hostess ones with the pink snowballs.

Shannon: I haven’t seen that movie, but I know all these foods. You see what was in my house when I’m growing up. My kids don’t even know what those are, but I know every line of Hostess item probably known to mankind. We would pass them on to our kids if there was a different choice. If there are the different choice for a treat, what would you lend yourself to do? That’s the consumer’s mindset right now.

Jamie, what do you think customers are looking for in a product?

Jamie: The first thing that popped into my mind was consumers want a product to solve their problem, whatever their problem is. If they have three options and they’re looking and they’re measuring and all things equal as far as the ability to solve whatever the problem is, that’s when the extra options come into consideration for the consumer. Since the internet and social media, I think that consumers have had an opportunity to have more intimate relationships with brands. Finding a brand that they like that they can support because it also goes in line with leaving a smaller footprint or supporting breast cancer or whatever the issue is that touches that consumer. If a brand can get their foot in the door by participating in that action, then that allows the consumer to participate themselves if that makes any sense.

That first part of it is, “I need to buy my kid a snack or I need to get the dirt off the wall.” That’s what they want. They want their problem solved. The opportunity the brands will have after that is offering additional actions that will get the consumer to say, “I can get behind that and I don’t mind giving you my $5 to help that effort.” Another brand that would come in and say, “We just offer widgets. If you don’t like our widget, move on.” They’re going to be less successful than the widget producer that sends a check to the Breast Cancer Association every year. Consumers want to participate. They want to have an opportunity for their money to represent how they feel. They could give their own $10 to an organization or they can lift up this company who will end up giving $1 million. It’s like they help the action more by participating in a group effort.

Shannon: I agree with that and I would add a point on that community part because that’s very true. They may not have $1 million to give, but their $5 will help go towards that. It’s a community of cause. There was an article that was published from the PNG and Paul Pitchford, the CMO of PNG was talking about the importance of being authentic. That one company that you were talking about, “Here’s my widget and move on.” They go, “Maybe that guy said this brand’s doing something.” That brand means it. They’re authentic to it. They live it. They are at the seat with the breast cancer survivor, but they try to model and emulate that. If it’s not core authentic to the DNA of that company and that brand, it will fall flat on its face. That’s why it’s got to be something meaningful to the people that work on the brand because they have to keep that alive. They have to keep that community engaged in their activity stream and not just doing it to be more competitive on the shelf.

Jamie: They’ve got a represent. I’ve had companies work in both ways. I’ve seen companies who refuse to participate in outside activities or support different organizations because they just don’t want to and they would rather keep all of their profits. I’ve seen companies who manipulate the system. If they want to move into a new city or a new area, they always join the chamber. They find out where the schools are, they find out where they can throw their money so that they can have a bigger footprint in that area. It’s not necessarily as authentic as it could be, but it’s still effective. I agree, authenticity is very important.

Joe, hop in there.

Joe: I’m going to try both of the comments. What I’m seeing and hearing from suppliers and retailers across all of the categories that we service is obviously what you guys been saying, wellness is just permeating everything. Clean labels, it’s why CBD is so big because that’s a component of wellness. I think what also is driving this is consumers consuming all of this media out there that are talking about these different things. For example, you listen to podcasts like Aubrey Marcus, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, Peter Attia and the guests that they have. They’re bringing on doctors and scientists and they’re talking about all these nutrition and health and healthy living and all of the products and things associated with that. I think a lot of consumers are going in looking for these products a lot more informed, than the people who are selling these products realize. It’s important that you get into your point of authenticity. If you’re going to be selling products to these consumers, you need to start speaking their language.

OTS 150 | What Customers Want
What Customers Want: If you’re going to be selling products to consumers, you need to start speaking their language that goes beyond knowing the benefits of the products.


It goes beyond just knowing the benefits of the products, but having a better and deeper understanding of the lifestyles of those consumers or buying the products. For example, I’ll buy in The Vitamin Shoppe or GMC and I’m looking for supplements for a specific diet. If you’re a salesperson in the store is talking to me and they’re referring to some of these things, it looks like they’re in the lifestyle too. Rather than they’re looking at the label and saying, “This is that this stuff.” They can actually talk well. Joe Rogan had Peter Attia on and he was talking about these diets or these types of foods are great if you’re on an intermittent fast. I think it’s important for both brands and for retailers to get behind those things that are influencing these customer’s decision to buy these slides. Wellness is definitely I think some point in that is happening.

Shannon: We talked a couple of episodes ago on a podcast about the rise of specialty retailers and what makes them special. The credibility of the people inside their stores actually using the product, knowing the product that is much different than walking up to perhaps the Big Box retailer that you don’t have someone who knows that department inside and out or all the items that are on there, which has been helping. I can speak to beauty obviously. Companies that can also grow so much just because everyone on the floor is trained on all the products and they’re able to answer questions and provide custom solutions to those needs that the consumers are coming in for, just what Jamie was talking about. I have a particular need for my skin or my hair or whatever they may be. They can find a custom portfolio of options depending on what they’re able to spend and what they’re looking for within their store. That only adds to the credibility and that credibility helps create the growth that some specialty retailers are continuing to enjoy.

Joe: You have to understand the category. One of the discussions on our beauty week panel was if you’re a Wakefern. They are a grocery store and they have beauty. Their dieticians and beauty advisors are talking about how food impacts the skin as well as eat different products, drinking water and staying hydrated. Making sure that you look at it holistically and provide solutions in that way. When you’re talking about Twinkie is that brand. There were some ways that you think you can bypass it by having such a strong relationship of your brand with the consumer that no matter what, they’re going to want that brand, “I know the Twinkie is bad for me, but I want to indulge right now,” and building that loyalty. I was listening to a podcast. Not only did I get this person’s book immediately after, but I actually reached out to her. We’re having a pool because I want to work on some content with her. The book is called Monster Loyalty. It’s written by a woman named Jackie Huba.

What she did is she analyzed what makes Lady Gaga’s fans raving fans. No matter what, they will support her. What was interesting is what she talks about. A deep focus on the 1% of your customers are those raving fans. You go deep on them and you take care of them and they’re going to be your brand ambassadors. That’s what will build back engagement that will eclipse any trends that are going on. They’re going to stick with you through thick and thin. That’s when you know they’re loyal customers. If they’re sticking by you when things are going well, but do they stick with you when days are not going as well?

Jamie: It always amazes me how business owners underestimate the effectiveness of those loyal customers because I’m like, “That is a gold mine.” I would take that over $1,000 sale any day. Give me a loyal customer that’s happy and uses the product, I will take that 400 times before I’d take a sale if you did minor sale because that will go so much further over a longer time and less effort in investment on the company’s part.

Joe: You look at Colgate in Latin America. It’s got 90%, 95% market share. I asked a friend from there. I was like, “Why?” It’s like, “That’s all we have grown up. That’s all we use growing up. That’s what my mom told me. That’s what my grandmother told me.” It’s that loyalty made that brand so big in Latin America and even when they come here, that’s the brand that they’re getting.

I think that when people come to the US or they migrate here, a little bit of home always makes them feel good. Brands can make you feel that way. Brands can make you feel like you’re at home. I remember before Trader Joe’s was expanding outside of the West Coast. I remember we had lived in Louisiana for three years and we were moving back to California. We had bought some franchise stores, so we’re studying those up. We drove by a Trader Joe’s and we stopped in there just to buy the frozen black bean taquitos. We knew that we didn’t have any way to heat them up but we just put them in the refrigerator. We wanted to have them in there because we had missed them so much for three years.

Joe: It is a safety blanket.

It felt like that and just knowing that we had bought some of those. Whether do you guys believe it or not, with our platform where we’re not picking stuff out of a hat. I try not to think about the topic because I don’t want to give myself days to think about it so that I don’t have some super advantage in it. It’s interesting where you guys have gone. We’ve had good for people, planet, pet, transparency, sustainability, claims, good business practices that are behind the products and products that solve a problem. Consumers feel better when they buy a product that means something or has something behind it.

Consumers feel better when they buy a product that means something. Click To Tweet

When I used to work at Barnes & Noble in Newport Beach, California, we used to have people that came in and bought all the books on the bestseller list. Not because they’re going to read them all, just because they want to feel good about having the best books in their house. I think people do feel good if they’re buying a product that by some small part, they can be part of that product’s or company’s or brand’s cause. I certainly agree with that. From my perspective, with Amazon, we’re in this sea of throwaway products. Consumers are getting used to buying products and being disappointed and then they toss them. They don’t even return them anymore.

I personally and people that I’ve talked to, know that when people are looking to buy something, they want a product that works. Jamie mentioned solving a problem. They’re solving a problem and then there’s a product that actually works and does what it says it’s going to do. If I was a manufacturer and I was looking to build a product, one of the things that I would make sure is that whatever claim I’m talking about, whatever I say it’s going to do, my number one priority would be that it does it. I think that one of the fastest ways to build brand loyalty is through experience, which is my second thing.

Customers want to have a good experience when they’re buying a product. They think that they are so used to it. They get this thing on Facebook, “Buy this thing. It’s only $9 or $5 or $2.” They click and they buy it and they get it and it’s ten times smaller than they thought it was going to be or it’s not what they thought. It’s more hassle than it’s worth to return it, so they just toss it. Mentally, there’s a little bit of normality there. People are craving a good experience with a product that works. You talked about this, but I think if they can feel good about the product, that’s something. I think it was Jamie that said consumers are feeling better about buying products that have a cause.

They want to feel good. They want the suppliers to know who they are. If they’re buying a product, they want to know that those people are making that product know what type of consumer they are and what they’re wanting. What they need, that they’ve done their research, that it makes sense to them. Not that they’re buying a product that solves 30 problems, but solves the problem that they’re having. I’m not sure that all the suppliers out there are as focused on creating a great experience and making sure that they’re producing products that do what they say they’re going to do.

Jamie: You and I had this conversation a million times about people will develop products or supply products or invent products that they don’t know if people want. They will get mad when people don’t buy it. I buy a product from a particular brand and when that company does the work or the research to solve another one of my related problems without me telling them or making the suggestion, that goes a long way. Companies aren’t interested in doing the work. In Shannon’s area, I find a great mascara and then I’m like, “I like this.” Then they come out with perfect lipstick. I’m plugged in now. I’m loyal across their products.

It’s not that I necessarily said, “Maybe you should develop a nice lipstick.” No, but they continue to try to get ahead and to find out what another need of mine would be. I’d like being served. That goes to make me loyal and then I’ll tell my friends, “You will never believe what I found.” Those are customers that this company didn’t need to target, but I got those customers for them through the work that they did for me. I wish the suppliers would do more work like that, mostly because I’m heavy on making the consumer feel good. That’s important to me. If you’re just trying to get another sale, that doesn’t mean anything.

Joe: I think you’re right. That loyalty where you said they know what you need, but once that loyalty builds up, you’re going to support them even if you don’t necessarily need. I don’t need five Jocko t-shirts. I got them. I like supporting their whole group. The guys from Origin Labs that make the supplements, those I’d buy because I want to use them, but I’d like to know that I’m supporting them. You’ll get a kick out of this. I bought my first pair of K-Swiss Gary Vee 004 sneaker.

Shannon: That made you feel good.

Joe: That plus the Sasha Group is going to be sneaking out weight management and sports nutrition session. The group under VaynerX help small businesses drive explosive growth. That’s the whole ecosystem that I’m participating in. I want to support that. There’s also a little bit of solidarity. It’s like, “We’re going to be doing stuff with these guys.”

OTS 150 | What Customers Want
What Customers Want: Selling a product online doesn’t necessarily mean you have a brand.


Shannon: It’s part of the community. We like him because he is who he is. We’re big fans because he’s unapologetic about who he is and we like people who have a point of view. That’s why we like all our podcast friends too. You’re buying into that community, you’re supporting and it makes you feel good and they’re going to work. The product starts and ends with, “Is it actually going to work?” Like what Jamie said, for sure. Sometimes you buy things because they make you feel good. You’re part of the community. You wear it as a badge of honor because it stands and it means something. It has a deeper meaning as well as functionality that is getting you from point A to point B.

Joe: In this case, the meaning is literally printed on the sneakers. They have, “Positivity and optimism,” printed all over this sneaker, which is part of your personal brand. He’s always talking about that, so I identify with that. I’ve got ten pairs of Dr. Martens. I didn’t need another pair of sneakers, but I wanted them and I want to wear them when I introduced Mark Evans when he speaks. Also I was like, “I’m part of this thing.” It turns out they’re comfortable too.

Shannon: They function, they make you feel good and you’re part of that group and that community. That’s what the guys who are reading in as you’re making those products, know that there are a lot of people like us, we’re all consumers. It drives us to purchase. There are many similarities of what we’ve said across each of the product pipelines. We’re giving you more evidence to support more new product development based and rooted in consumer sentiment and information. Take cues from what they say and make products that people are proud to use and wear and talk about. You’ll grow your business organically that way and your new business that comes along will have a lower acquisition cost as we talked about because the community is pulling new people in. That’s what makes a beautiful P&L is ratings, reviews, words of mouth, creating that community, a place that can be trusted and that you deliver with consistency and excellence.

Joe: What’s interesting is when Jocko’s team, the supplement guys, one of the reasons why, and I found this was very interesting because they do very well in direct to consumer. They don’t need to go as a brick and mortar retail. One of the reasons why they want to go into brick and mortar retail is to expand their ecosystem. To get consumers that don’t know about the Jocko Podcast about the Hands and Daylight Podcast. There are other groups to bring them into that ecosystem from the store. They like the idea of growing their sales, but also they’re expanding their reach to these consumers that may not be listeners of the podcast via the stores.

As always, you guys crushed it with a shopping list for Big Boxers out there of which we have a ton that is in the process of working on their product, thinking about their product, have a product idea and getting a product manufactured. I think that we have a good shopping list for things that you need to include in your thought process about your brand. Remember, something that we talked about on a previous podcast with David Lemley, which it’s just because you’re selling a product online doesn’t mean you have a brand. It doesn’t mean you stand for something. When you’re building your brand, when you’re building your product, you incorporate the things that you learned here.

Here’s something that came to me as you guys were all discussing. Here’s a bonus for you, Big Boxers, because at some point you’re going to build this product, you’re going to have this product or you’re going to be selling this product. You’re going to be in front of a buyer or a retailer. All the things that you put in, this laundry list of things that we have are also key talking points when you’re selling your product to a buyer to talk to them about how your product is good for people, planet and pet. Talking to the buyer about your transparency or how you’re sustainable. Taking to the buyer about your good business practices for your brand and for your company. How your product solves a problem, how the consumers feel better when they buy it. How you know based on selling it online and reviews and customers talking about how you know that it works and it does what it says it’s going to do. How your customers would feel good, what their experience is like. How do you package it and how do they take it home?

All the things that you’re putting into your product are also great points to bring up when you’re talking to a buyer. I think too often these days, we’re stuck on price or we’re stuck on my product has these features. Remember one thing, if you guys have not learned this from my podcasts yet, you need to take it to heart. Getting your products into retail, it’s about more than just a better product and a better price. Retailers can get any product they want, anywhere they want. They have people searching all over the world, but what they can’t get is your company. They can’t get your influencers, they can’t get your followers. They can’t get the people that are brand ambassadors for your product. Those are the things that they want. They want to partner with people that have that. The product is one portion of the different things on their list that they’re looking to gain when partnering with you. It’s not just about your product anymore. It’s about more than that.

Jamie: I would say it’s less about the product and more about the community that you’re bringing with you if you’re trying to get on these shelves. They can get the product anywhere, but how loyal is your consumer base?

I hear retailers saying it more and more. Of course, there are always fires that don’t make any sense. People are still out there, but I think if you use some of these points and you talk about these along with the features of your product, you’re going to be so much farther ahead than people that are just coming in and telling the buyers what they hear all day. This is a great way for you to stand out. Final thoughts, Joe?

Getting your products into retail is more than just having a better product and a better price. Click To Tweet

Joe: I think you just did a great summary of the whole conversation. I like that idea of community. Focus on building your community brand. That whole group, all of those people that are going to be supporting you, focus on developing that. Don’t think of selling to consumers, think of welcoming them into your community. I think that will go a long way. All those things we talked about tie into that neatly. It’s welcoming them and bringing them to your ecosystem and into your community and make them feel like they’re a part of it. That’s going to go a long way to keeping them in the long-term, no matter what the trends are.

Shannon, any final thoughts?

Shannon: It’s a brilliant recap, I totally agree. That’s perfect customer and trade marketing materials, a list to get in there. For the readers, it’s time to take action. Maybe, Tim, you can make that punch list for the group so it’s easy to access for them. That’s a perfect flow for a deck and they can put their content and have good flow, good conversation. Make it tight and succinct. What’s the one word that captures the essence of your product or your brand or the community? What do they say? Put that and wear it with pride and know the emotional connection of the brand. Let that punch list guide you through the conversation and good luck selling. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen out of this.


Jamie: I would say as a developer, inventor, supplier that has been inspired to develop a product to send out to the masses or to get in big box retail. If you were that inspired, put the energy into developing that community because ultimately you’re counting on them. You’re counting on them to make you look better to the buyers. You’re counting on them to continually come back, buy more stuff, buy your product over and over again and to share the information about your product with their networks. Definitely put in the time and effort of delighting your consumers. It will make your company grow leaps and bounds.

One of the interesting things and we’ve all touched on it in a certain way. Big Boxers, you’re out there in this period of time when for the first time you can build your own community. It used to be that we would rely on retailers actually to build the community for us. We would put products into a retailer and it would sit on the shelf and maybe did well, maybe it didn’t do well. Maybe you pay lots of money for it to be in a circular or if you were a much bigger company, maybe you advertised on TV or in the newspaper. Even back then, those were very expensive strategies. You have the opportunity to take that yourself and begin building your own community and around your brand.

For the very first time, you could start from the ground up using social media and all the different platforms that are available to you, which have never been more available than they are. You guys are in a great time to be launching something. My final thought is to look at your product and ask yourself this honest question, “Does it work? Does it do what you say it does?” If it doesn’t work as good, take a look at your reviews. I told somebody who was a buyer was asking me, “What are the key attributes of your product?” They were stuck, other than just the stuff that was already in their deck. I said, “Go back and read the last 100 reviews that you’ve had. Your customers will tell you what the key attributes in your product are.”

Go back and read the reviews on your product. That’s going to tell you if it works or not. If it doesn’t work, go to work, making it better. I’m going to leave you with that. Shannon and Jamie, thank you so much. Joe, as always, you guys continue to astound me with just throwing out a topic that you’ve not heard before. These are things that you guys are talking about and the stuff that we’re putting down in these Flash Topic podcasts are actionable. These are things that people can actually take and make their business better. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for being here and giving us your time. Big Boxers, I hope that you enjoyed it and we’ll see you next time on the next Flash Topic.

Big Boxers, I hope you enjoyed Flash Topic thirteen. There is some great discussion there. I was surprised at how awesome the list we put together for what customers are expecting in a product. I hope that you wrote some of those down. It makes a great buyer presentation to know all of those things and be able to talk to your buyers about those. It’s not the normal stuff that you would be talking to buyers about or maybe that you’ve talked to buyers about in the past. This is up-to-date information from people who know. Thank you, Joe. Thank you, Shannon. Thank you, Jamie. I appreciate all of you and taking the time to be here for the Big Boxers and to download some of your epic knowledge.

I appreciate you taking the time reading. I want to hear from you. Remember we had that 30-day challenge and to tell you now, we did not do so well. I need you to get over to OnTheShelfNow.com and I need you to start commenting on some of the podcasts, some of your favorites. Talk about what you like, what you got out of it, what was the key parts of those podcasts. I know that sometimes you send these things to me. I know that you reach out and occasionally we’ll get a chance to talk and I hear all kinds of great things and all kinds of items from the different podcasts that have helped you out. I want you to go out and write these into the comments section of these podcasts so that we can start creating some discussion.

I know that you read the podcast and you get a lot out of it because that’s what you tell me. I need you to support the podcast by letting me know what you think, letting us know what you think. Going to our different areas and talking to us. You can do that on our Facebook page, On The Shelf Now. You can go to our closed Facebook group and join that. That’s also called On The Shelf “Now”. You could go to our website OnTheShelfNow.com and you can reach us on Twitter, @OnTheShelfNow. There are many different ways that you can reach out and communicate, partner with and have a discussion. I’m waiting to hear from you. Big Boxers, thank you so much. I look forward to the next time. Until then, I look forward to seeing your products on the shelf.

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About Jamie Robinson

OTS 150 | What Customers WantCreating opportunities for businesses to succeed while taking a “common-sense” approach to marketing and creative services. Specializing in developing and implementing strategies that clearly define your brand’s marketing message, persuading your potential customer to react and respond. Creating brand awareness, equity, and measurable growth.



About Joe Tarnowski

OTS 150 | What Customers WantDynamic and innovative content development expert with a proven ability to find information needs within any industry and engineer a solution to meet those needs via the most relevant media – whether it’s print, online, or face-to-face. Skilled and experienced in both editorial and sales in the B2B publishing arena, with excellent presentation skills – whether one on one, a small group, or addressing a large audience at an industry event.

About Shannon Curtin

OTS 150 | What Customers Want

Along with being a wife, mother, beauty industry expert, art curator, real estate developer, traveler, foodie, wellness seeker and clean water activist, Shannon Curtin is also the founder of TPG “The Possibility Group”. After spending the last 18 years of her career leading beauty teams within big and small-box retailers across the United States, as well as transforming some of beauty’s most iconic brands as a manufacturer, Shannon created an unwavering positive mindset to any business challenge.

The TPG method starts with a positive approach to your business challenges. We listen, we focus on your unique strengths, your purpose, and “why” you exist. From there, we customize modern business solutions and action plans that are designed to move your business forward. TPG cares about you, the legacy you are creating, and the impact you are making on the world.

Transformation is really hard, yet remarkably rewarding. We will help you move through the hard part quickly, so that you have more time to enjoy the impact you have created. The group of experts assembled at TPG have deep expertise in their subject matter and they can help you overcome the obstacles standing in the way of your growth. TPG members will assist you in achieving what’s possible.

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