Are tradeshows, PR tactics, and securing shelf space in brick and motors worth the effort in a digital marketing era? Today we talk with Colton Knittig, Founder of Grillight.com, who shares how he leveraged all these tactics to make his product successful. With recommendations like “stick to what you know” and the value of word-of-mouth marketing, it's easy to see these tried-and-true methods could be the right avenue for you too!
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
How to get your product into thousands of retailers.
Scoring PR hits such as Oprah Magazine, Good Morning America, and more!
How to network more effectively to meet people that can help your business grow.
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, click to watch the full video interview here!
Visit Grillight.com to learn more and use the discount code “harvest20” to receive 20% off at checkout!
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon: How do you get a product into Oprah's Magazine, Good Morning America, the Food Network, and now into over 4,500 brick-and-mortar retail stores? Today's guest shares his journey and gives great advice on how to grow your product business quickly.
Announcer: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know how to harvest the growth potential of your product or service, as we share stories and strategies, that'll make your competitors nervous. Now, here's the host of the Harvest Growth podcast Jon LaClare.
Jon: Today we're speaking with Colton Knittig. He's the founder of Grillight, or you can find him at grillight.com. There are only two Ls in that, so grillight.com. We'll have the URL in the show notes. If you're driving, please check that out afterwards once you know more about the product and this great business. Colton, I'm so excited to have you on the show today. Thanks so much for joining us.
Colton: Thanks. Great to be here.
Jon: Can you tell for our audience's sake that hasn't heard of the Grillight, can you tell us what the product is?
Colton: Grillight it's a line of grill tools. It's all high-grade stainless steel grill tools and hence the name. There's a built-in light in all the tools. Spatulas, tongs, forks, brushes, and everything has a 200-lumen flashlight actually built directly into the handle of the tool, perfect for camping and [unintelligible 00:01:24] that kind of thing.
Jon: It's one of those you look at, and there's a lot of great ideas out there, Like, "Man, why didn't I think of that? It's so obvious. I can't believe that that doesn't exist." I guess, what was your first step in realizing, hey, there's a need for this and you're going to spend the time-- It's not easy to develop a brand new product. How'd you make that decision that it's not only is it something that I need, but it's a big need for a lot of other people and worthwhile to spend time on?
Colton: Sure. I've been a lifelong thriller myself and it's always been a problem. I didn't ever think that I could create a solution to that problem. We developed a prototype, took it to an event, a barbecue competition, and just by the response we got there, we thought maybe we have something here. It just took off from that point.
Jon: Since then, you've had a lot of success beyond small venues, et cetera. You've been on Oprah, Good Morning America and major retailers, on the Food Network. You've really grown this business. What would you consider your first big success obviously, we have little ones along the way, but what was the first big success that really started to make this brand take off for you?
Colton: Really it happened right away which was really surprising. We took it to a trade show in New York. I met the people from Oprah there and we got into Oprah Magazine in our first year in business, which really took off from that point. They're always out there looking for new innovative products and we filled that niche really well.
Then that year, I don't know if anyone remembers SkyMall, but we were the number one item in SkyMall in their final year of business. Amongst all categories, that was interesting. We were on the cover of the final publication of that magazine back in the day.
Jon: That's awesome. That's a cool story to share. Those of us have been around the block a couple times definitely remember that, and frankly miss SkyMall. It's not as fun to fly as it used to be without perusing through that catalog. I'm just out of curiosity, do you keep a cover of that frame somewhere in your office?
Colton: I've got it somewhere around here. I need to get that out back out, but that was really cool to see.
Jon: It was the last issue or the last iteration, I guess, of SkyMall?
Colton: Yes, the last one.
Jon: That's cool. That's something you hang your hat on for sure. I think it's good advice getting out and getting your name out in small, relatively small ways can lead to bigger things. Being in a trade show, you never know who's going to come across you. For you is lucky enough to be Oprah. That's great to get in her publication really from that.
Then beyond that, you've grown from a PR perspective, so Good Morning America, which is huge, to get on that show, Food Network and others as well. How did you take it from having that initial now PR success in Oprah Magazine into these others as well?
Colton: I wish there was some secret formula to it. It's really just grinding. You just keep pushing and every time you get a new contact or someone that might be able to introduce you, you just reach out and over time that list grows. You might reach out in January and it's not a good time, so you might not hear anything. Reach out to that same person again in August or September, and then they're looking at Christmas stuff.
That's the biggest thing is just don't get discouraged and you just keep pushing. There's a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. You just have to be persistent, and eventually those wins start rolling it.
Jon: That's the right word I think to use for it is grinding. If you think about the visualization of what that really means, like you're grinding a bore off of a steel thing whatever, it's not one quick pass of sandpaper or the grinder that's going to take that off. It's a process. That's why we call it grinding. It's the same thing when we reach out to these opportunities. It's not going to be the first time; don't give up. That's the key is keep at it. Just respectfully and professionally, as you said, you've got to be sure professional with the way you reach out.
It is continual. It's a process of continuing to reach out. I'm sure you reach out to many other shows, networks, et cetera, and those were the ones that popped up, others probably never have. That's the nature of it but they come once they see success in one channel as well. Now how about nowadays, what's currently working really well from a marketing perspective for your business?
Colton: The biggest stuff for us is we use all the social media sites, that's big, but just word of mouth. We still do trade shows and just growing organically that way. A lot of paid promotion it's really expensive. If you have a great product and you're in the right places at the right time, then that organic growth just comes. That's really the best advice that I can give.
Jon: Very true. The first step is having a great product, making sure it's not just a good idea, but top quality so people get it. You're not going to get word of mouth if they love the idea, they get it, they don't use it, at the end of the day. Is there anything you guys do to seed that word of mouth to make sure steam rolls or continues on?
Colton: We really stand behind our product. I think that that's huge to-- We have a lifetime warranty on all of our stuff which is really unmatched in the grilling world. Having an innovative unique product helps to build that word of mouth marketing on its own.
It's not another what we call a me-too product, or an off-the-shelf type product that we just buy it from some factory and put our name on it like a lot of people do. It's truly unique. It's patented. That in and of itself really leads to a lot of good word of mouth marketing that spreads around.
Jon: I think grilling can be such a social activity as well. When we grilled our backyards often it's with friends or family members that are at our house, and it's obviously a very visual product to use this once at night, everyone's going to notice. It might be people at your house or even neighbors that see it so inherently, it can drive to more word of mouth, but it does come back to that quality being paramount; the usage experience is so important. Again, it's not just about the concept but it's about delivery. Making sure that you match your promises that you're making.
I find something interesting. I'd love to go down this path a little bit to share with our audience, you use some direct to consumer marketing, or call it just advertising I guess, in a different way than is the norm, but it's super powerful, and I want to talk about that. For example, your Facebook campaign, so if anyone comes across an ad from Grillight or their Facebook campaign, you'll notice that at least some of them are directing you to buy at Lowe's, to buy in-store, to save money, save costs there, et cetera.
First of all, I got to ask you, so that's not, again the direction of marketing, everyone wants to sell just from their website and get away from retail. You guys have found such great success in retail. How does that work for you? Talk about the process of why did you choose to do that as opposed to [unintelligible 00:09:08] it over to your website instead paying money to now drive people to in-store, to look for in Lowe's?
Colton: That direct consumer marketing or direct consumer sales through our website is great. That's something that a lot of companies have a lot of success with. I think it's really important to stick with what you're good at. We have those direct consumer sales on our website that's great, but what we've grown the business on and what I've really built my skillset on is building these relationships with retailers.
We're available in over 4,500 retail stores in the US. That's great because we almost have a partner in that retailer. We sell them the product and then they sell it on to the consumer, and obviously there's less margin there, but it's much higher volume. It's out there. That also spreads the word of mouth marketing because it just adds presence in all these different locations. We support our retailers. Lowe's is by far the biggest customer we've ever worked with. If we do well there then we'll get invited back and we’ll get to you continue to grow our success with them and other retailers that way.
When we made the decision to really focus on the wholesale side of the business, if we sell something to a retail store but then all of our effort is driving customers to buy directly from us, then we're not a good partner to that retailer. We work with them to drive traffic to their stores.
Jon: For our audience’s sake, think about this, it seems so different but this is the form of advertising that’s been around for 100 years and in different forms. Newspapers way back in the day and traditional TV ads, which of course, still work today, where you get a big advertiser like maybe P&G or Craft or whatever it might be spending millions of dollars on TV. You're not buying their products their foods from your website, their cleaning products, et cetera but rather driving into retail stores. A lot of people don't think about that benefit of digital marketing.
A lot of people listening may have a split; some retail some online, or like you guys have a real focus on the wholesale business. If that's the case, including thinking about digital in that, "old-fashioned way," it still works really well. It can be so much less expensive. This could be a crazy expensive TV campaign for you to run but now you can target very specifically. Another benefit too is when you run digital ads to support retail, you can. Now with 4,500 retailers, they're spread across the US, I'm sure. For others, it might be in 100 retail outlets, you can target those by zip code, support that test campaign.
We have a client right now that's just getting into Walmart, and they've got a test approach so we've got to make sure they sell really well off-the-shelf. It's that same goal, you can use digital means to do that pretty inexpensively. Have you been running that campaign for a while? How was it been working?
Colton: It's been going really well. We've been running that for probably three or four months now. It's been great. We've been in there in Lowe since May, and we just keep pushing traffic in that direction.
Jon: Fantastic. Fantastic. It definitely makes sense. Well, Colton, I got to ask you, are there any resources that you found really helpful in your business that have been able to help you get over the hump or learn as you grow?
Colton: Yes. I think the biggest thing is, like I said, we go to a lot of trade shows, and I meet a lot of people at these shows and you never know who's going to be able to help you down the road. At these events, obviously, there's a lot of selling and meeting with customers, but you meet with other people that are doing the same thing I'm doing. This is a community of other entrepreneurs, other people selling products and that's been a huge resource. Everyone’s willing to help out and you never know who could help you out down the road.
I've learned that you never really write somebody off because you don't see how you could work together right away. That's been huge. There’s various community organizations. There's one here locally that they support entrepreneurs in small businesses, and those are always great too, but that community of other people in sales has been huge.
Jon: That's a good answer, I think. It's good to think about talking to or networking with as many people as you can, so often we try to think of I want to meet the perfect person or the perfect company that's going to be this great partner for us. It may or may not happen and frankly, even with the relationship, it may not be what you thought it would be, so often our best connections are surprises.
By casting a wide net, networking at trade shows, local events, et cetera, we're going to have that network and we'll be surprised. Some of my best networking friends and colleagues I've gained over the years I wouldn't have expected. It wasn't obvious the connection you're going to get out of it. Being open to that and constantly on the lookout, that's good advice.
Colton: Yes, for sure.
Jon: Colton, is there anything I didn't ask in this interview that you think could be helpful for our audience?
Colton: I think we mentioned that on the marketing side just the grinding and keep pushing and just stick with it. That's true on just the sales and running a business side just as much. Inherently in this kind of thing, there's always ups and downs. I've always found that it's not necessarily the best product or the best entrepreneur or the smartest person that has a successful business it's just you just push through the hard times. That's not really a question, but I just wanted to cover that point that that's huge. You just keep pushing and then the success grows over time, snowballs.
Jon: That's great advice, appreciate that. I do encourage audience please check out Colton’s website, grillight.com. Again, two L’s not three. grillight.com to find out more about the Grillight product. He's been kind enough to share a promo code, so if you use harvest20, you'll get a 20% discount off your purchase. Please check out the website at a minimum to see the product. It's got some great visualizations on there as well.
Then I also encourage you to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode, you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and be sure to leave us a review.
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