Updated: Jul 6
How can you utilize crowdfunding for your unique product? What are the steps you have to take for a marketing strategy to be effective and profitable? In this interview, Mike Rizkalla, the founder of Snorble, talks about what made his crowdfunding IndieGoGo launch successful. He shares a powerful 3-step go-to marketing strategy and so much more valuable information for those looking to launch a brand new product. If you’re a marketer, creative, inventor, or entrepreneur, you’re going to love this interview!
Snorble is an engaging sleeping buddy for kids that reimagines their bedtime experience. Keep it by your kid’s bedside table, and the robotic, animated character helps your child fall asleep, wake up, and remain engaged throughout the day. The Snorble can slowly wake your child up in the morning, engage with them throughout the day with educational activities, fun games, and even mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
How to utilize crowdfunding like IndieGoGo to launch your product to success by choosing the right audience, activating the best lists, and more
The founder’s 3-step go-to marketing strategy
How to creatively communicate with your target audience to build a community
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop, or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Watch the full video interview below.
Prefer reading instead of listening? Continue reading for the full podcast transcript.
Jon LaClare: In this interview, the founder of Snorble talks about what made his crowdfunding Indiegogo launch successful, but he also shares a powerful three-step go-to-market strategy and so much more. You're going to love this interview. Welcome to another episode of The Harvest Growth podcast, focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their product businesses.
Today, we're speaking with Mike Rizkalla, the founder of Snorble.com. S-N-O-R-B-L-E.com. You can check out the spelling again in the show notes as well. After this interview, I'm sure you're going to learn and go visit the website and learn more about this. It's a really cool product. Mike, I'd like for you to tell a story. First of all, welcome to the show, and thanks so much for joining us today.
Mike Rizkalla: No, thank you for having me.
Jon: Can you tell us about Snorble? Describe the product and what it does.
Mike: What Snorble does is Snorble helps kids establish healthy habits that will last their whole lives. We focused in at the very beginning on sleep because sleep habits are so important, and like most of us, I didn't have great sleeping habits when I was growing up. What I wanted to do after doing a fair amount of research was really hone in on something that would have real impact for children.
Sleep is definitely an area that we're focused on. What's Snorble does is Snorble helps kids get to bed on time without drama. It helps them stay in their beds instead of wandering into ours, and helps them wake up feeling refreshed, so we can all wake up feeling refreshed in the mornings.
Jon: I'm a father of four kids myself. In a word, finally exiting that stage- [crosstalk]
Mike: You're a brave man.
Jon: -where it's difficult. I wish I would've known about this. Our youngest is now 12 years old. We get the occasional visit in our bedroom in the middle of the night, but it's much less frequent than it once was when the kids were a lot younger. I've been through this. It's one of the reasons I'm really excited about this interview is, I think, for-- I've seen you guys have done a really cool job with your marketing, which I want to talk about, but also the product is just cool.
You're helping solve a problem. It's so many parents having-- Basically, every parent in the world has an issue with getting their kids to sleep better and learn these habits while young. Help us understand how does it work. Describe the technology for those who haven't yet been to your website and haven't seen the product, the functionality.
Mike: For sure. What we did was we brought an animated character to life to inspire the minds of our children. That's actually at the core of what we do. We put play at the center of everything we do. When the kids are inspired and they're playful and they love Snorble, it's much easier for them to play a game that's related to the betterment of their lives, like brushing their teeth or doing these other activities.
What we do in an essence is we take them through all the developmental milestones where we celebrate them at every moment. For every single stage that they go through in order to do things, like brushing their teeth or putting on their pajamas, or any of these other activities, we basically take them through that, so the point where they become a champion at those activities.
Those are things that are meant to be done with the parents. The parents are part of the experience. It's not a handoff. It's more like this collaborative, rich experience which gets our kids off of their phones and into things that will actually help them.
Jon: What's your background? I want to ask that to understand did you develop the science behind this or just the concept and brought a team in to develop it? How did you get from this idea stage into something that's now truly functional?
Mike: It's a bit of a long story, but I'll take you through the-- I'll try to keep it condense so it's not boring to everybody out there that's listening. I started off as a computer electrical engineer, but most of my career has been in motion graphics and UX design for digital products and television. I was part of a team early on that helped remove paper from the animation process in 1999.
I was surrounded by all these wonderful creative talents that would-- It was basically like a playground of brilliance all around me, which was awesome. My job became more about experimental media and those types of things. Then jump ahead to 14 years ago, I started up my own product house, and we'd done products for everyone you can imagine all over.
What had happened was about seven years ago, I started to see something in the market. I started to see a merger of all these technologies and all the labs and early products that were being released that showcased what might be. I started my mission at that point to define what the human interaction experience for robotics would be, the human-machine interface essentially. Snorble is the offshoots of those activities.
That was seven years ago. We started working on all these just super fun, crazy concepts, leveraging immersive technologies and physical robots and gamification and multiplayer experiences and all this stuff put together to make that new. That's Snorble's essentially the first product from all those activities.
Jon: I love how over the past couple of years, you're much more obviously into this space than I am in terms of the depth of your understanding and involvement. Gamification, that word has been tossed around so much over the last few years. I'll tell you, I finally have a personal understanding of it from something completely different for what you do, but there's a software called Zwift, if you've ever heard of it, it's for cycling.
It's like basically, in a nutshell, it's road biking on a spin bike in your basement, but in a gamification way. It puts you in this alternate world and you bike with other people from around the world. For me, it's completely changed the way that I train and enjoy biking indoors throughout the season. I love how you've now taken, okay, let's take this gamification idea, turning something into an approach for the user.
In your case, kids and parents as well are involved, turning going to bed into this activity, making it playful, making it fun. I'd love to hear the story. How is this now fun for kids? How do you make this fun going to bed?
Mike: Yes. I'll give you the first step. Have you ever chased your child to the bedroom, for example?
Jon: Too often.
Mike: [laughs] That's right. You had four kids. I imagine that was a loaded question. I knew that answer [crosstalk] . For example, what happens is we built up this whole backstory around Snorble, where comes from the land of Lullaboo, where kids' dreams live. Every time a child is born, a Snorble is born. A Snorble is essentially the keeper of that child's dreams. That's the concept.
Now, when it's bedtime, when you're about to begin the process of brushing their teeth and doing all those things, where they're going to get ready to actually go to bed, instead of chasing them through the room, Snorble becomes an active participant. Snorble wakes up and says, "Hey, I need to get back to Lullaboo. Take me back to Lullaboo. We have to begin, I got to get back there now. I need you to get me back there." What happens is the kids are basically prompted to take Snorble up to the base, where there's like walk-on music. [laughs]
It's a full event. Then when they bring Snorble back to the base, there's a reward. The base lights up. There's music. Snorble is so excited. That moment, what we've done is we removed all of the stress of just trying to get them to their bedroom because it's fun. Many of us, myself included, I had moments that I wish I had done differently, I should've put my kids to bed, and I'm the dad. I'm goofy. I make jokes.
I have puppets, I do all kinds of weird things to my kids. I love my kids. When it's at the end of the day, especially during this horrible time that we all exist in, you're burnt out. Part of this is it's about setting a routine that's consistent and solid. That's part of the science, but the fun is at the core of it. It puts that back in and make sure that that's at the center. That's how we do everything.
Jon: I love that comparison. I think, as a dad as well, I think we probably have the reputation for putting our kids to bed in a fun way, because it's fun for us, but it's like I always get in trouble because it wakes them up more than anything else. I love how you've taken that, the fun aspect of it. You can still have that fun with your kids, but in a purposeful way that helps them accomplish what we all want, which is they need to get sleep, they need to get to bed, but they can do it in a fun way.
Mike: The impact of that in their lives is so important. We have big plans like everybody- every single company has big plans. We have big plans. The reason for sleeping, the initial launch target is because it's neglected by so many parents, so many parents struggle with sleep, so many kids don't get enough sleep. The impact of that is worse. It gets worse and worse over time.
I won't go into some of the bad statistics because no one wants to hear that, but let's just say that with respect to the development of [unintelligible 00:09:31] they're intrinsically tied to sleep. It's not the only thing obviously, but it has a huge impact.
Jon: Very true. I'd love to jump into- let's talk about- the product I think is phenomenal. I encourage everyone who's listening to check it out. Again, snorble.com, and the URL is in the show notes as well. I want to jump into marketing a little bit. You guys have done a good job of-- This is really just- it's a nascent business. It's getting off the ground. It's been very successful in crowdfunding so far with the successful Indiegogo campaign fairly recently. Help us understand, how do you guys accomplish that? You've got a great concept, a product that you've developed, and now you need to raise some money through investors, et cetera, through crowdfunding. What worked, what was successful for you?
Mike: Jon, I always go back to this. I'm a punk rock kid. I grew up playing in bands all my life. We were very successful in terms of an indie band. We got to tour all over the world, opening up for all kinds of major artists. The one thing that's true I think for products, for marketing, for anything else is you can't fake it. They will know. You have to come at it from the right standpoint.
With Snorble, we are looking at it from a very authentic standpoint. We want to help kids and their families. That is our mission, right? Our mission is to do that. That basically is expressed in all the collateral. Even to the point where internally we have that same family focus, right from the idea of, for example, every single member of our team has equity in the company. That's not on purpose.
If I win, and if the company wins, everybody should win. That same ideology and that same approach is outward. It was outward. We want to bring everyone along for the ride. We want them to be part of the journey, part of the story. For our campaign, we had two people on opposite sides of the world with 24-hour response to anyone that spoke to us. We had 136,000 points of interaction, 5,000 comments, and every single one was basically we spoke to.
Whether they liked it or not, because the purpose is is that we're building a community. When you have that kind of aspect of how the company presents itself outward, it creates a very powerful movement around what you're doing.
Jon: Yes, I love that. It's like communicating with your audience really creates the community that you want to build. There is that you need those touchpoints now more than ever. I think it's always been important in some shape or form. Now, it's easier because, like you said, you can communicate with people literally on the other side of the world and instantaneously in fun and creative ways as well, making that connection.
Now all of a sudden you turn all of your audience, buyers or potential buyers into stalwarts for your brand- [crosstalk]
Jon: -pioneers for your brand. They're going to get that message out and really help you.
Mike: Yes, absolutely. That's really important. It's important to do that especially for a product like ours because, truthfully, we are dealing with young kids. That is our primary. Everything is about making sure that we give them the best experience, that we're doing the best things for them, and that everything that touches them is just good. If we can broadcast that outwards, and if the families begin to trust us, then that's really the opportunity.
That's the way we look at our marketing strategy. Now, we have great assets. We have brilliant creative people that are working around us, which is great too, and that doesn't hurt. Truthfully, it's about an authentic message and being honest and caring for our customers the same way that those parents care for their kids.
Jon: I think you used the word trust, being authentic to create trust with your audience, that makes such a difference. Going back to what you said at the very beginning of this part of the conversation, you can't fake it. At the end of the day, you've got to be open and upfront with what your product is, what it does, not over-promising, sharing your story, and what that's going to do is it--
The more specific and authentic you are, it shrinks down maybe the potential number of people that are interested, but those that are interested are so much more aware, involved, and going to be, again, stalwarts for your brand, really pushing behind it to really help it grow. That's where the success comes from is you're finding your authentic voice, I'd say, and message and getting it out there in a real way. That's great advice.
Mike: Yes, sorry about that. [chuckles] My little one set an alarm on my phone. I don't know why. They keep grabbing my phones from me. My apologies.
Jon: That's being authentic by bringing your kids [crosstalk] .
Mike: That is being authentic, right? Yes. That's funny. No, I would say too, I don't think it's a small opportunity, either a niche. I look at so many great brands that have built a following based off of doing things in a different way and really broadcasting that and making people understand that the value in terms of what they're giving is different.
There's quite a few companies like that. Like [unintelligible 00:14:49] is one that always pops to mind. I think they've done a great job on being an authentic company in how they built out their business. There's so many more.
Jon: Did you run into any watch-outs or hurdles in the crowdfunding process, things you maybe would have done differently now that you've been through this?
Jon: A loaded question. I figured as much.
Mike: Oh my God, yes. There was definitely some things, like one being-- We had a wonderful partner that we worked with, with tons of experience in marketing e-com around D to C customers, but they didn't have a lot of crowdfunding experience. I would have recommended bringing on a partner early on that had that as well, or a partner that just did that specifically. Mainly to take advantage of the fact that they have access to look at audiences around previous campaigns, which is a big thing.
The debate on the platform is huge. It's a really challenging debate, right? Between Indiegogo and Kickstarter, that's something that if I had my time back, we may have tried a different approach there. We might have- in that way. I'm trying to think of what else would be really advantageous for people that are listening. Oh yes. We had a great lead list that we didn't take advantage of.
We had almost 40,000 people sign up prior to launch, and we didn't activate on that as much as well I would have liked, and that was a missed opportunity. I think that I would have put more emphasis on that as far as making sure that we had the best outreach. That being said, with all that, one or the other-- Well, actually, I'll give you one more. This is a good one.
Our market is not a Kickstarter or Indiegogo. We have mainly moms or parents with young kids. The products that are typically on those platforms don't really speak to those audiences in that way. They're more targeted towards 25 to 35-year-old males that are buying gadgets, essentially. For us, understanding that upfront when we did, we knew it, but we didn't understand what the impact would be for that, and so we actually did the campaign and now knowing that's a very powerful bit of background to help us navigate even better.
In terms of how to get people there, because now you're setting a cold audience that doesn't shop on that platform to buy. Now with that, we still did a thousand units in 20 days, which shows the power of the product and how strong the offering was to those users.
Jon: Yes, I think those are all good points. Something we learned early on as you and I were talking before, our agency Harvest Growth, we focus on e-commerce, direct to consumer. In the early days, as we're building a business, you never say no to any potential client. Crowdfunding, sure, we can do that, and we learned quickly that it's a very different direction.
Just everything is-- You use the same tools. It seemed easy. Yes, we're great at Facebook marketing and Instagram marketing, et cetera. That's what you use primarily for Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaigns, but it's so different on how you use it. That's where we've found success. I think in any business, if you can, whether it's choosing partners or choosing your own direction for marketing channels, et cetera, find what fits you best.
For us, we focus on marketing products specifically on a couple of digital channels as well as TV. When we stray from that, we're less effective. Within that space, we can become better and better. I think the same goes for product marketers. Finding out your perfect audience, where is that perfect audience, the easiest place to communicate with them.
Again, that might be Indiegogo versus Kickstarter or crowdfunding versus another avenue, but that audience piece is so crucial because it's how you reach them, and then also the way you talk to them as well.
Mike: A 100%. It makes such a big difference in that way. The other thing that we were hoping for too was, we had understood too that the platforms themselves have a lot of PR agencies watching. They're different depending on the platform. One might be better in that way than the other one.
It really is about analyzing past campaigns that are similar to yours in order to get the best understanding of what your expectations are and where you're going to level off. The standard metrics, the customer acquisition costs, and all that stuff, they don't totally apply to this platform. It's a completely different animal. You have to really look at it. It's good to talk to other founders that have done it, ask them real questions, get them to look at your plan, all those types of things. Yes, that's what I would say.
Jon: As of today, can you share how much money you've raised on Indiegogo for the audience that hasn't been to your site yet?
Mike: Yes. We did over $200,000 in 20 days. We basically shut down the campaign after that point-- Well, shut it down. We let it run out. Basically, we knew that we had proven our metrics. One of the things that we wanted to do with Indiegogo was to give a solid indication that we had product market fit, and with all the tests and the marketing language and everything else, we had done that I think in states.
At that point, we were like, let's make sure now that we can focus on getting that product to those thousand people first, [laughs] make sure it actually comes out and put our heads down, and that's what we've been doing.
Jon: I think it's impressive for our audience to pay attention, to quickly do that math. You have a thousand roughly buyers for $200,000 in raised funds, average price point around $200, as opposed to selling a thousand of something for a dollar each, pretty easy. You get in a $200 space. To cross that hurdle, that's not the end game.
Of course, you want to grow much beyond that, but it gives you an indication, as you said, a proof of concept that, okay, this is working, now we're ready to go to the next level. As you and I talked about right before we started this interview, we don't do a lot of interviews with crowdfunding type companies or products. In part because it's not really our world.
That's not where we operate, and so many of them that are really successful, kudos to them, that is like the end game. A lot of people and companies have generated multiple campaigns, raising hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars over multiple campaigns, and really just in crowdfunding, and that's great.
Again, that's not our world. We love to work with or talk to companies that really have a vision beyond that. It's a great starting point. That's what I could just tell by looking at your site, frankly, that you guys have the next step in mind of where to go from here. I'd love to hear that. Can you share some of your plans now that you've done this proof of concept, you've raised some initial funds, improve any interest, what's next for the business?
Mike: We have like a three-stage go-to-market strategy. We're using best in class standards in terms of how to do it. First things first is that we have to release a product to a group of people and listen to them. Where we basically adapt and improve and tweak and do anything else that we need to do in order to turn them into our ambassadors. That's step one.
Step two is once we've listened, and if there's anything that we need to adjust or tweak, we do that, and then we go after a much more broader spectrum release, which will be a big box retail or whatever partners are buying, larger orders. Then the third step is marketplace. A big thing about Snorble is you can take Snorble to the park. You can take Snorble in your car. You don't have to have Snorble hooked up to the WiFi the whole time.
There is that opportunity to get exclusive content and new routines, new games, all these other things, even accessory products. I don't know if you saw the little outfits that you can put on Snorble or personal in technology. There's all these different things that are part of the offering. Our goal at that point then is to really drive that forward.
Jon: That's great, and just for our audience's sake, I want to almost repeat those three steps because I think what you just summarize the last 60 seconds or so is extremely valuable for anybody really at any stage to- because we're all looking to grow businesses. Even if we've got one that's very successful, how do you get it to the next level? I think that's a great summary of a three-step process to release and listen. That listen part is what is so often missed.
It's so tempting to get it out there and start making some sales, awesome, let's grow. Listening so you can grow even faster, more successfully, tweaking and improving and getting a big box as a second step. For you, it's marketplace, for other-- Depending on what the business is, you might call it something different, but it's expanding the offerings. It's additional skews, offerings, et cetera. I think that's great advice in a very simple way for people to have as a take-home learning from this.
Mike: Oh, thank you, Jon. We've done this a few times before. I'm lucky to be surrounded by the best in the world as far as our team goes. I'll put them up against anybody. It's actually so much fun to go to work every day. The truth is that the expertise and the knowledge is there. When we're looking to do things, I know where I can lean, versus, oh my God, please help