After months of investing in Facebook and Google advertising, Alicia Long decided her company needed a low-cost alternative that could grow her business rapidly. She and her team searched for a while and discovered the power behind TikTok. "Facebook and Google are largely pay-to-play," she tells us, "but TikTok is all organic."
And once she started creating content on TikTok, the results were immediate - sales for her company NUTR grew to $11 million in just 20 months as paid marketing costs fell. Today, Long has become an expert at TikTok marketing and joins us on the podcast to help you excel at TikTok.
Whether you're a novice at social media or have failed at TikTok marketing before, this episode will help you thrive at organic TikTok marketing in 2023 and beyond.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
The right way to market your business organically on TikTok for the best results.
Succeeding at TikTok even if you're uncomfortable with creating online videos.
Serious errors to avoid when setting up a new TikTok profile for organic marketing.
How the TikTok algorithm encourages non-paying content creators and businesses.
Benefits of staying current with new trends and innovation in marketing.
The power of influencer marketing.
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!
Want more actionable insights on TikTok marketing? Then go to newecommera.com/checklist and get your free comprehensive guide and checklist on the key steps you must follow to succeed. Today's guest, Alicia Long, developed this to help other product marketers and entrepreneurs find success through her experience.
Visit NUTR to learn more about Alicia Long's widely loved alternative milk machine.
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 LaCare: Today's guest grew her business from $0 to over $11 million in revenue in just 20 months, and their growth continues to accelerate. Part of their success is due to organic TikTok marketing, and she gives actionable advice on how anyone can use that platform to increase their revenues. Whether you're experienced with TikTok marketing or you're a total newbie, you'll learn a few proven techniques that you may not hear anywhere else.
Voiceover: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know. 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: Welcome back to the show. Today, I'm really excited to have with me our good friend and guest Alicia Long, who is the co-founder and CEO of NUTR, N-U-T-R. You can find out more about the product at thenutr.com. I'll give her the chance to describe the product, what it is, how they've had an amazing trajectory of success. At the end, we'll actually talk about ways that you can learn to do things similar in your own business as well. First, let's dive into the story a little bit and, of course, introduce Alicia and get to know her. Alicia, welcome to the show.
Alicia Long: Thank you so much for having me, Jon.
Jon: So, for the benefit of our audience, what is The Nutr?
Alicia: Nutr is actually a consumer tech company. We provide personalized plant-based milk solutions. We've been on Shark Tank, Forbes Magazine, Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. We're very excited to launch. This is a device similar to Nespresso, but it makes plant-based milk, like almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, rice milk, you name it. This machine can handle it. We've been on it's actually the most recent Shark Tank Season 14. If you're wondering if we got a deal, let's just say we got a really, really good opportunity, but at the same time, we decided to walk away from Daniel Lubetzky's spot offer because we think that the company worth a lot more than what they offered.
In short, I think Nutr presents itself as a solution to a lot of people who have the same problems. Because as a mother, when I was pregnant with my son, actually, I turned plant-based about three years ago. I lost 20 pounds, and I was healthiest of all time. I was drinking a lot of plant-based milk, like probably a lot of your audience do. I was drinking store-bought plant-based milk, like almond milk, oat milk, when I realized on the store-bought box, the milk box, has a lot of preservatives, gums, emulsifiers, rapeseed oil, and those create inflammation. If you are into health and wellness, you'll start studying what goes in your body.
That was during 2020, peak of pandemic. I thought if I have this problem with what goes in my milk, I wonder if other people are wondering about the same thing. There was one day, actually, my mother gave me a glass of walnut milk. I go, "Wow, this tastes delicious. How did you make it?" My mom said, "Oh, it was actually walnut milk with black sesame and just some dates, nothing else." I was like, "Wow, that tastes delicious. I think everyone deserves that. Every mother deserves that. Everybody who drinks plant-based milk should be able to enjoy this quality of plant-based milk.
I wonder why we're not able to provide that for our kids, for our family. Well, that turned out, the process of making plant-based milk is pretty long and lengthy, and you have to soak the nuts the night before, and you have to heat it up, and you have to blend it, and you strain it through cheesecloth. I was like, "I don't have time for that." For my own sake, and actually, I went to turn to my husband, who is a mechanical engineer, for 16 years, and I go, "Is there anything like Nespresso can make plant-based milk?" He's like, "I don't think so. You can look it up." But it was not.
We just got to work. We found a problem, we're trying to find a solution. Then fast forward a year later, we have our first prototype, and then we found a manufacturer that was willing to work with us. Fast forward 20 months after, we just crossed $11 million in overall sales. Now we are negotiating with the biggest brand I've ever imagined, Costco, Starbucks. We are actually on Target.com, Williams-Sonoma, Surla Top, Macy's. We're just getting started. Very excited to continue the journey.
Jon: That's a phenomenal track record I think there's two parts to. One is having a great product. The other is having great marketing to really drive the story forward. The product, first of all, I love the concept, the idea behind this. It really is solving a huge problem. We've tried to create or make our own plant-based milks in the past. That process you described, we've done exactly that with the Vitamix blender and all the stuff you have to do before and after. It's just not worth it. It's so much effort and you've made it so much easier.
Now you can make that healthy choice, but without the difficulty. You've taken away the time and a lot of the effort that goes into it, which is obviously a big part of your success and great design that's gone into it. Let's talk about the marketing as well. That's a phenomenal rapid growth, really, driving $11 million in sales in 20 months, really, since launch. That's phenomenal. If you could boil it down to a couple of things, how did you do that so quickly?
Alicia: Yes, definitely. I think it was a lot of trial and error. I went to a [unintelligible 00:06:21] and I studied marketing and I know having a product is just really half of the battle. The most important thing is figuring how to market it, push it to the mass market. At the beginning, of course, my mind just went to, okay, how do we, in a short period of time, get the most amount of traction? At the beginning, actually, we tried influencer marketing. Influencer marketing was actually what got us started. We teamed up with nutritionists, dietitians, basically promote our products and they promote to their students or their clients.
Because they genuinely like the product and they would genuinely push it, promote it to their clients and their followers. That worked in a short period of time at the beginning. But then later on, we wanted to fast track the growth. Then we started to do Facebook. We started to do Google. However, in the CPG or DTC world, as you know, the more players that there are in a Facebook or Google space, the more expensive it gets. Then before you know it, you're spending tons of money, large percentage of marketing of your total revenue, and that makes it not worth it because it eats up all of your margin and your contribution margins are slim.
That's when we really sat down as a team and really looked at the overall marketing strategy and thinking, we're putting most of our effort in performance marketing. However, it's getting more and more expensive. What can we do in order to drive up the marketing efficiency? We look at a couple of different ways. Organic channel. Organic is something that is really hard to handle because sometimes, first of all, you have to make sure that you dedicate enough effort to push out organic content. Two, is that you have to make sure that your engagement is up, and then to be able to push out. Then what I stumbled upon, I took a trip to China just beginning of this year.
What's really interesting is TikTok. I don't know if you are familiar with the history of TikTok, because TikTok is so big in the US now and then a lot of companies or businesses are not fully utilizing it just yet. A lot of them are still in the Facebook and are still in the Google and trying to pay your way to play. But then again, for TikTok, it's all organic. I took a trip to China and then TikTok's headquarter, ByteDance, is there. Being in tech for 10 years, I used to work for Google and Amazon, that side of the world, and I had a lot of friends that are in tech. I actually got a hold of them and I said, "Hey, can you tell me a little bit what's going on with TikTok? Because it seems like it just blew up in the US, and how do we as brands monetize on the platform?"
Then his answer was actually pretty shocking. He said, "Well, we have not publicly announced. We secretly in a stealth mode, rolled out TikTok shop." I was like, "TikTok shop? I mean, I've heard IG shop, Instagram shop, Facebook shop, but how is that a thing?" Turns out they have done this pilot across eight different countries including the UK, for the last year or two. It just absolutely blew up in whatever countries that they rolled out. Now they're actually making the US the next one because the US is the biggest market.
Basically, how you utilize the TikTok shop is that you can start leveraging traffic on TikTok Live, unlike Instagram Live because you can only see Instagram Live content when you are a follower of that influencer. With TikTok, you don't have to. You don't have to be a follower. What that does is organically drive all the traffic to your TikTok shop when you're doing a Live. If you're on the TikTok platform at all, you see this live and people starting to sell stuff, like clothing company or, cosmetics. They starting to try out different products, different SKUs. In China and the UK they're doing amazing sales. The record of TikTok shop was actually $14 million US within three hours of selling. That blew my mind.
I was like, wait, "You are talking about US dollars?" He is like, "Yes, it's real data." I was like, "Wow. That's what you're looking to roll out in the take in the US?" He said, "Yes, that's what entire team is working on." I was like, "We got to go after it. I stick with the team, and I was like, you know what? We're opening a marketing studio in LA and we're going to recruit a lot of content creators." That's all we do. We're putting a lot of effort in organic and boom, before you know it starting just within three TikTok lives, maybe it was like three hours, then we start generating sales.
I'm not saying that it's the sales that you can magically just show up on your account. It takes tactic, it takes engagement before you just hit, going live, you have to learn all the ins and out about TikTok marketing. How do you nurture your account? How do you understand the TikTok algorithm and understand the organic algorithm. You can hire somebody to do that full-time as long as how to do it. All of this traffic is free, so you don't have to compete with hundreds and hundreds or thousands of companies to compete in a Facebook space.
Jon: That's a lot to unpack. That's fantastic. What an opportunity. How new is the TikTok shop here in the us, when did that launch?
Alicia: It was unofficially launched in November of last year. They've gone through their beta program, so we were lucky enough to get into their pilot program and then really started training our team and then really starting to nurture the TikTok account. We've now grew our followers to 16,000, still growing but at the same time, I think there's a lot to do before you start going live and then start setting up your TikTok shop.
Even if you don't have a TikTok shop, you can still link your TikTok account to Shopify. There's a way that you can link your account to your Shopify existing stores or Link Tree in your TikTok account to link it to your Amazon. Again, Amazon takes a percentage of fee and right now TikTok is not taking any percentage of fee. I'm not talking about advertising either. All of the traffic is essentially free.
Jon: Fantastic. As you mentioned, there's a lot to learn. Every marketing platform is so different. If you're an expert in one, it's really hard to transfer those learnings to another. Going from Facebook to TikTok, et cetera. You've put a course together that describes that process and helps other product marketers and entrepreneurs to really capture the effectiveness of TikTok. Can you talk a little bit about your course and how you teach?
Alicia: I wanted to document this entire process when we were learning TikTok, and then we got on the call with TikTok headquarter, their marketing team in LA was very supportive. Basically, documented the whole thing. I translate that into easy-to-understand language. Initially it was for our internal use because we had 30 interns. We had an internship program, but our 30 interns, we wanted to explain how TikTok algorithm works for our interns, but everyone's like, oh, you should share it with a lot of CPG brands, or just brands in general. I was like, you know what, that's a good idea.
Through the encouragement from our team and I came up with this course, it's called New E-Commerce Era. The reason why I call it New E-com Era is because I see Amazon and Facebook and Google the traditional advertising as old E-commerce Era. It has been going on for years. It has been obviously how marketers market in watching the [unintelligible 00:15:43] the [unintelligible 00:15:45] the L TV and all that stuff. Then for DTC brands but how do you grow efficiently? How do you grow profitably all comes down to marketing because you don't want your marketing to be 50% of your total revenue.
I call it TikTok marketing, and just everything that I teach, in my course, that New E-comm Era. In the course that I not only teach about TikTok marketing, just how do you become a creating content on TikTok. That's for content creators. I'm teaching solely just for business owners, for entrepreneurs. How do you monetize on TikTok as a platform, as a company, as a business? I think a lot of my students and a lot of people that I coach, brands that I coach, they also struggle with how do you market, how do you get your word out with the minimum amount of money? A lot of business owners, they don't start with tons of money. They don't start with angel investors. They don't start with venture capital.
There's not a lot of money to burn. You have to really watch every single dime that you have coming into your account. For the cash flow and with a very limited amount of cash flow, you wanted to capture that much of organic traffic as much as possible. In my course, I do teach about the basics. Some of the audience might be like, I don't even have TikTok. I don't even like want to be in front of a camera. You don't have to, I don't but I do have 30 interns, 30 content creators that is doing TikTok live every single day. It didn't start that way. First, you have to understand the TikTok algorithm.
I'm going to share something. It's very meaty. I'm not going to gatekeep. You have to understand as just a business owner and whoever's on the TikTok page is that TikTok algorithm is basically like a target map. If you think about the target, you have the outside round circle. Then you have the inside circle, you have the bullseye. The traffic is like when you first started creating a new account and then you have basically TikTok would just label you as a new account. As you start TikTok machine learning is basically learning, tagging you labelling, this user behavior, and see who is this person.
Let's say if you have a clothing store or a clothing company, and then so you want your audience who's interested in fashion and who's interested in clothing. If you are also a user of TikTok, and you oftentimes and watch cat videos, guess what TikTok's algorithm is going to tag you? TikTok algorithm is going to get confused. They're like, "Wait, so are you a fashion brand or are you just interested in cat video? If you're interested in cat video, I'm just going to push all the cat videos to you. Then when you create your content, none of the people's going to buy your products because why? They're cat lovers, they're not fashion lovers.
This is very important as a new account you have to train your account into something that not you personally interested in, but you think your audience might be interested in. Then once you get into that steady stage which is a steady account stage, and then that's basically TikTok has really labeled you as a fashion brand. Then they're going to push it to people who are interested in fashion. Maybe it's women, maybe it's men, it's demographics, geographics, and they all have that data and then they're going to push it out to those people. However, this is when most business owners make the mistake, which is start putting money behind on advertising. They're like, "Oh, my video are getting a lot of views. I'm going to get more views. I'm going to put like $10 here, $100 there."
Before you know it, TikTok is marking you as advertising account and advertising account want you to stay there for as long as they could. This is when you cannot go into the bullseye, which is a celebrity/influencer account, which is what you see is million millions of followers. That is the basics of TikTok algorithm and I teach that in my course. Of course, there's a lot to unpack, but at the same time, it's important to understand how TikTok algorithm work before you start doing TikTok live and TikTok videos.
Jon: Thank you for sharing that. That's extremely valuable and as you mentioned, there's only so much we can discuss in a short interview like this, but I do want to encourage our audience to please go check out. We'll put the full length in our show notes as well with a discount code associated with it, so watch for that in our show notes. If you're driving, go back to harvestgrowthpodcast.com and look up this show. You'll be able to find that link and get your discount. Also, you can check out just to see it what it is, what the platform is, or what this course is newecommera.com. You can also learn more about Alicia's product at the nutr.com.
What I love about your story is you've done this. You've created a massive success behind this. When you share advice and learnings, it's from real-world experience that you're running in your day-to-day business as well, what's working for you today. With TikTok or any other marketing channel, things change every single day so it's important to stay on top of that as you are running a business that's so helpful. Again, I encourage our audience go learn more from her course itself and more about the product at thenutr.com as well.
If you want to follow Alicia, you can go to Official Alicia Long is her handle across several different social media channels to follow and learn more about her journey and all that she's done and is continuing to teach. Alicia, I really appreciate the time you've spent today. I just want to ask you, is there anything else we didn't discuss that you think could be helpful for our audience?
Alicia: No. I think definitely stay on top of the trend. TikTok obviously have been around for however many years, but in the next five years, I think it's time for business owners to really trying to understand how TikTok marketing works and really trying to stay on top of it because this is the next five years you'll never get back. Think about when Facebook first started, and I wish I started five years before everything blew up. Then that's when everything is so cheap and you can market at a very, very little dollar. If you want your business to be successful, this is something new that you can learn and you can also delegate to content creators to do so. Definitely reach out if you need anything. I'm always here. Looking forward to hearing from your audience.
Jon: Thanks again, Alicia.
Alicia: Thank you so much, Jon. Really appreciate it.
Jon: Be sure to check out thenutr.com or newecommera.com. Details are in the show notes along with a link where you can save if you're interested in trying out her TikTok course. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you'd like to take a shortcut and learn the process we've used to profitably launch hundreds of products since 2007, download our secret sauce product marketing campaign cheat sheet at harvestgrowthsecretsauce.com. Or you can set up an appointment right from our website, harvestgrowth.com to speak directly with a member of the Harvest Growth Team in a free one-on-one consultation.
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