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Precision Marketing: Unlocking Business Potential through Customer Segmentation

Identifying and interacting with the right customer segment can help you achieve marketing goals faster and with less effort. But most startups skip this preliminary step and end up with failed campaigns and low sales. In today's episode, we speak with an entrepreneur who got it right - and has built a thriving business as a result.


Kent Yoshimura is a Co-founder and the CEO of Neuro, maker of functional gum and mint products that have received excellent reviews on The New Yorker, Fast Company, Daily Beast, The Joe Rogan podcast and Shark Tank - and sells through more than 10,000 brick and mortar stores today. Although his company has found remarkable success in the mainstream, Neuro owes its first successful launch to something simpler - a Reddit forum.


Before becoming an entrepreneur, Kent loved participating in the Reddit forum, r/Nootropics, with people who are passionate about improving their energy and cognitive functions. The knowledge he acquired from those interactions helped him and his co-founder, Ryan Chen, create the first Neuro gum and mint. Also, members of the subreddit became their first customers and advocates, helping them meet the sales goal in less than three days.


Join us as Kent reveals why they targeted this niche audience in their first product launch, how to scale from serving a niche audience and early adopters to the mass market, and the reason for their company's continued success in a fast-paced digital environment.



Neuro-gum-episode-cover-on-Harvest-Growth

 

In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:


  • Why you should focus on early adopters when launching a new product.

  • How to grow your customer base from early adopters to the mass market.

  • How interacting with customers in all stages of the sales journey increases conversion rate and reduces cart abandonment.

  • Why entrepreneurs should authentically interact with their target market and partners.

  • The importance of personalization in highly competitive, multi-channel marketing in today's retail industry.

  • 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!


 

Neuro's gums and mints are formulated with clinically studied ingredients to help you get energized, calm or focused. Visit www.neurogum.com to learn more.


To be a guest on our next Harvest Growth Podcast, contact us today!


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 LaClare [00:00:00]:



Today's guest has done all the right moves over the past eight years, from focused test marketing in the very beginning to growing Amazon and website sales to now selling in over 10,000 brick and mortar retail stores. And he's a great storyteller that I'm sure you're really going to enjoy.


Announcer [00:00:16]:



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 LaClare [00:00:37]:



Welcome back to the show. I'm really excited to be speaking with Kent Yoshimura today. He's the co founder and CEO of a company called Neuro, Neuro Gum and Mint. So we'll talk about exactly what their product and product line does, but it's really a cool technology, great product, and they've had a great run of success over the past several years as well. So we're going to dive deep on what's worked, what learnings they've had along the way. This is going to be a great interview you're going to want to pay attention to. But before we dive too deep in, Kent, I want to introduce you. Thanks for joining the show today.



Kent Yoshimura [00:01:08]:



Yeah, likewise. I'm stoked to be here.



Jon LaClare [00:01:11]:



So let's first talk about the product. So what is we could say gum or mints or both, but what is NeuroGum and Mints line? What do they do?



Kent Yoshimura [00:01:20]:



So we are one of the only companies that innovated on just your standard breast freshening gum and mints to add functional benefits to them, so that when people are out and about, we always say we're trying to find that intersection of health and wellness and portability. So instead of taking supplements in pill form and having to swallow those down first thing in the morning or drinking coffee or energy drinks that are filled with sugar, why not put better for you ingredients in a format that you're already taking to freshen your breath and enhance your well being?



Jon LaClare [00:02:00]:



And how much are you able to deliver? So for us, on the listeners like myself or hearing your story, how much quantity of a functional ingredient can you put into a piece of gum, let's say?



Kent Yoshimura [00:02:12]:



Yeah, so if you dive into our backstory a little bit, we're on iteration 28 of or rather, it took us like 28 iterations of our flagship product, primarily because flavor has to match up with the amount of effective ingredient dosages that you're delivering. And for us, that's why we're very specific in the type of products we create. We don't try to expand into, I don't know, like fish oils or something, for example, right where the flavor is not going to make sense, but rather into the energy and focus space where there's only a specific amount of caffeine that you necessarily need to use alongside the adaptogens that we put into it. Or common clarity, where low doses of vitamin D can enhance your mood without necessarily being destructive on the enjoyment profile.



Jon LaClare [00:03:05]:



Yeah, and certainly some of those supplements can add negative flavors. Right. So caffeine always has a bitterness you have to mask. Like you're saying there's levels of flavor you can put in so much to be able to mask it and make it a palatable and delicious product as well. Can you talk a little bit about how you originally came up with the idea?



Kent Yoshimura [00:03:22]:



Yeah, and I would say that's, like, the hardest part. And I think that's why a lot of people don't do it, because the amount of flavor iterations that you have to do is pretty. So Ryan and I are former athletes, and actually a lot of people within our company are athletes. But when I was training with the Judo Olympic team out in Japan, the Imperial Guards out in Japan, and Judo and then fighting in Thailand, a lot of the products that were available to me and this is like a decade ago, but supplements were not regulated. People were taking Red Bull and Monster and rockstar as their main source of energy or Adderall, being in the college scene. And I felt that all these available supplements were not necessarily the things that me trying to perform at my highest level would want to put in my body. And through that process, I was studying neuroscience in college, but using the clinical aspects that I was learning in neuroscience and diving into the field of nootropics, I was mixing these supplements in my room and taking them in pill form. And Ryan, who's my best friend and co founder, he was captain of his cross country and track team.



Kent Yoshimura [00:04:41]:



But when he was 19, he got injured in a really bad snowboarding accident that left him paralyzed for the waist down. So I started providing him with these supplements to get him going. And between the two of us, we were on a scuba diving trip. And it's pretty cool because now we're doing a partnership with Patty, but that's launching in a few months. But on a scuba diving trip, we had these pills in a little baggie and we were like, oh, my God, this is such a bad look. How do we make this more like us, where we're traveling all the time? We want to share in this experience of health and wellness. And it became obvious to us that gum and mints was really this category that no one was really diving into. And although it was going to take a little bit of work, we had the opportunity to change and educate people on the Bucol benefits of gummy and the way that it absorbs faster the ability, the portable elements, the cold compressed elements, all the things that make it so much better than supplements in a standard horse toe format.


Kent Yoshimura [00:05:50]:



And then we launch and a lot of things happen.



Jon LaClare [00:05:53]:



Sure. And we'll get into that story for sure. Is part of your audience too? Obviously what you've described is your core audience. But I know there's a big group out there, one of my daughters included, that really can't swallow pills, whether they're horse pills or not. And frankly, myself, I always like, I can't understand why can't you just do it seems like it's one of those muscular things people can't do, but man, some of those big ones, I think nobody can get down. So is this part of your audience as well? Do you find people that buy this just because it's either they like it better than swelling pills or maybe they have trouble swallowing pills as well?



Kent Yoshimura [00:06:22]:



Yeah, it's interesting because speaking of consumer insights, people who take supplements, definitely the highest relevance to them is function and benefit. So after function and benefit, it really goes down this totem pole and the format really doesn't matter to them. But what we're discovering is that people who take gum or people who already chew gum wouldn't want to take our product. So I do think there's a saying in marketing that you probably know where meet the consumer where they're at. We're meeting the consumer who are already gum chewers and mint chewers where they're at by providing them with a better experience, more so than the person that's already a supplement taker that's taking all these different things and being like, hey, what if you could chew this instead? So I know that doesn't directly answer your question, but it is interesting to see the breakout between consumer behavior and who's diving into our products.



Jon LaClare [00:07:18]:



Yeah, it's really interesting, I think, to think about the journey of trying to convince people to buy from us. Right. The easier we can make that journey, if we play on similarities with products they're already using, consuming, et cetera, it makes it an easier journey to come over to our side. So that's a great way of describing that. How did you originally launch So? I think it was eight or so years ago. What was your first thing that you did now to get this actually into market?



Kent Yoshimura [00:07:46]:



Yeah, what's crazy is so I didn't know anything about business. I did children's branding with the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, so illustrated children's book and released their decaffeina line and then ended up working in music. And Ryan was working at Hulu at the time. But when we finally, after like a year of doing R D, getting a product that we were happy with, we launched on Indiegogo, which is basically it's like Indiegogo and Kickstarter were like the two big crowdfunding platforms. And since I was so active on Reddit at the time, especially our Nootropics, I posted about it on our Nootropics to a group of biohackers and that entire it was crazy. It became the number one post on that subreddit and we reached our goal in less than three days. Raised like 20,000 plus dollars in less than three days. And that was how we got our start.



Kent Yoshimura [00:08:41]:



And then after the Indiegogo campaign ended and we got this initial cohort of biohackers, dr. Oz's team reached out to us, and that just took us completely national, which is pretty wild.



Jon LaClare [00:08:59]:



Let's get to Dr. Oz in a second, but I want to jump back a little bit, talk about that subreddit that you did. I think there's so many different ways to do that. It doesn't have to be through that platform necessarily, but it's finding that very specific niche or focused audience for any new product launch. Like, this is going to be your pioneers, right? They're going to love it, they're going to buy it, and they're going to talk about it right, and spread the word. And if you can get that starting point, kind of like light the fire from that point, now you can spread to wider audiences and wider varieties from there, and that's kind of what you did. So then the next step is Dr. Oz.



Jon LaClare [00:09:30]:



So let's talk about that. How did that change the trajectory of your business?


Kent Yoshimura [00:09:35]:



Yeah, I mean, to go back to your first statement, there's a book called Crossing the Chasm that is absolutely fantastic. It's one of my favorite marketing books. But it does talk exactly about that, right, where it's like, before you cross the chasm, you have to find the people that are going to be the evangelists and the early adopters, and then you have to jump into the mainstream and everything changes. And I'm sure you know this, but within the brand pyramid, you have your emotional attributes all the way down to your product attributes. And while these people are attracted to the product attributes, when you jump into the phase of the Dr. Oz or the Shark Tank or the, you know, where we've been featured on, you have to get into the emotional attributes of the product, and people believe in it in a much deeper way than just being like, oh, it's another energy and focus product, but it's in gum or mint format. So what happened when we launched on Dr. Oz is entering the national framework of all one.



Kent Yoshimura [00:10:34]:



It was the craziest day of my phone number, was the customer service line, the number of phone calls I was getting because we sold out our product and people were just demanding. It was absolutely insane. But also realizing that the group of people that wanted to chew our product expanded out into the biohackers and realizing that it's not necessarily the nootropic factors that people are interested in, but this energy and focus factor. So how do we continue to refine our product to provide that not necessarily the product attribute, but like, that benefit attribute as much as possible? And it changed the trajectory of the company in the sense that we started thinking about supplements as a whole. And how do you look at the medicine cabinet and everything that sits there that you're taking for your mental clarity to get you through your day. And how can we make that more approachable, more portable, more shareable, so that when people go on these platforms like Dr. Oz or discover us on Joe Rogan or wherever it happens to be, it becomes more of a lifestyle product than just any other supplement mean. The biggest learning we took from it was it's probably because Dr.



Kent Yoshimura [00:11:51]:



Oz has an older audience. There was a lot of people that reached out to us saying that the gump stuck to their dentures. And although we were making products for college kids just because that's what I developed it, we realized that our demographic actually skewed a little bit older and into this field where it's not kids that want 200 milligrams of caffeine blasted into their face, but people who want nice, sustained energy and not putting something called monster into their body. Right. Like something that sounds like five hour energy. You're trapped in this jittery energy cycle for 5 hours. So approaching it from a more scientific and slightly more sophisticated angle.



Jon LaClare [00:12:37]:



How about today? Fast forward a little bit. So you've had those great successes in the very early days. What marketing is working right now? Strategies and tactics are really effective for you.



Kent Yoshimura [00:12:45]:



Yeah, it's interesting because D to C still remains our biggest channel, although we're in about 15,000 points of retail, like 10,000 retail stores ranging from like CVS, meyer, Whole Foods, Arowan, Walmart and many others. But sprouts fresh time. But retail is a totally different game because you have to convince the consumer on like while they're going and discovering products versus on D to C. It's a search and destroy if you're on a place like Amazon or being able to educate them in a much longer form format. And one thing we're realizing that is working is breaking. It's going to be a slightly convoluted answer, but looking at it's not like the Wild West that was like five years ago, where in D to C you could just launch a lookalike campaign on Facebook and because of how their data was managed, you could find the best targeting. Now it's become like this broad based game where you have to look at as TikTok KPIs, as more along impressions. What is the CPM format? How much traffic are you actually driving? And how are you driving people into an educational funnel? How are you looking at DTC and building credibility through Instagram and those platforms? How are you leveraging retail to build credibility? And it's really interesting, I feel like the consumer is just a lot smarter because they're bombarded by so many things nowadays and you have to be able to capture them.



Kent Yoshimura [00:14:29]:



And like I said earlier, you meet them where their needs are. And at the end of the day, marketing is all about relevance. So how do you build relevance in the best way possible.



Jon LaClare [00:14:41]:



Well said. And I think the credibility side, I would add too, I think is one big difference today versus 510 or more years ago. For sure, people they don't trust a lot, so they want to verify, right? So they get excited by a marketing message they might see online, but they got to be able to verify and see some credibility. And that's where testimonials can come in and user generated content, really sharing your story, for sure.



Kent Yoshimura [00:15:04]:



When you see things like Kimu and know all these or even like these marketplaces from China that are selling incredibly cheap, low quality products and they're saturating the entire marketplace, how do you stand out as a quote, unquote, and we're a little difficult because we're a premium product, but we're still government, so we're kind of cheap. We're not like a supplement that's charging like $150, which is also BS in my opinion. But how do you convince people that you are a premium level product that delivers on all these things that you're saying, but you're not necessarily this cheap, crappy little product that was put together in someone's garage.



Jon LaClare [00:15:47]:



Yeah, it's a fine line to watch, right? Make it get a connection with your audience through feeling organic and natural and real, but premium enough that you've got that credibility, that you've got a company behind it, that this isn't coming from overseas, from some company that's not going to exist next month or whatever that backs up. Especially ingestibles. Right when you're putting something in your body. Oh, yeah, that added level of trust is necessary. So one thing, as I visit your website, one of the first things I noticed is right away I got an email, which is awesome, and we've used this process with some of our clients over the years, but I'd love to chat about it. I don't think we've ever talked about this on the show, but it's one marketing technique just to pay attention to, at least at a high level for our audience. So, for example, when you get a visitor to your website that doesn't enter their email address, they don't start an order, sometimes you're actually able to still send an email to that person. So most of our listeners have probably had this happen once or twice and maybe recognize, did I leave my email address? How'd they do this? It doesn't happen a lot.



Jon LaClare [00:16:48]:



It's infrequent enough. I think that it's still a viable resource that tends to work generally pretty well. It's not over inundating or filling up their inbox, but also it's that recency. So the beauty of yours, sometimes we'll get these like two days later, I visit a website or whatever. Yours, at least for me, in my experience, was almost immediate. So very quick. So now it's top of mind. I visit the website, I'm interested in the product, boom.



Jon LaClare [00:17:12]:



I get an email with an offer or information or whatever it might be. It's going to be different, I'm sure, with every interaction. But can you talk about that a little bit? How is this approach? There's a lot of different vendors you can use that you connect to your website and they can track this data and provide the website information or the email information for you. But how has that been beneficial? How has that helped your marketing?



Kent Yoshimura [00:17:34]:



If you think about abandoned cart on checkout and how effective that is, the service that we use is called retention.com. But taking that mentality and psychology of the abandoned cart where someone is already interested in your product, it is relevant to them, but it requires that extra push to get them to the edge, to be able to purchase or even try it is a constant tug of war, right? And through this platform retention.com or all these other services that do exist, the beauty of that is like in this integrated network that is the web, they're able to utilize consumer data when they land on your site and be able to still associate them as a user on another site to be able to send them an email. So from the data side, it's definitely interesting and it's something that probably only exists in America, but it plays upon that psychology of the banyan card and really pushing that consumer over the edge, over the fold on at. Least getting to understand your product a little bit more, which is most of the time, what it takes, and it's.



Jon LaClare [00:18:55]:



Similar to most of our audience is probably familiar with retargeting, right? So you visit a website and you can retarget through Google, through Facebook and other platforms. You might see an ad popping up on a website or on Facebook or whatever down the road, very similar, except this is now a direct connection. And the nice thing is now a big difference is you own that email address. So with Retargeting, if let's say we use Facebook for Retargeting, they own the contact, right? So we have no idea who they're reaching out to unless they buy from us or unless they give us a contact. This is a source that's very different, operates on similar principles. But now you own that name, that customer, as long as they stay on your email list. So it can be very powerful. So I do encourage our audience, if you're not doing that already, it's something to check out for sure for your business.



Jon LaClare [00:19:36]:



If you already have existing sales, existing traffic on your website, and want to boost your conversion rates, you can reach out to us and talk more, of course, with any questions. So what's next, Kent, in your growth plan?


Kent Yoshimura [00:19:47]:



So retail is pretty crazy, and if you could unlock the velocities at retail, it can change your business overnight. And so right now we're looking for a head of commercial that's ideally able to build that intersection between, or will live within that intersection between marketing and sales. And that person also has to exist within that intersection of marketing and ecommerce. Right? So now it's really just finding that alignment across all of our departments and through these cross departmental functions build velocity in the most effective way possible. Also, speaking of retargeting people, I think an interesting thing that we've been testing out is looking at consumer insights in a much more novel way. So Amazon makes up a pretty big portion of our business, maybe like 50%, and we sell thousands and thousands of units on there every single month. But one thing that we have been able to do in the black boxes of social media, like Meta ads, Google or the black boxes of Amazon is figure out means of cross indexing addresses and customers in novel ways. And also with retail, like taking Spins data or IRI data or Nielsen data and cross referencing all these regional touch points to be able to get a better understanding of our consumer so that ad efficiency becomes a lot more fine tuned in the best way possible.



Kent Yoshimura [00:21:27]:



And at the end of the day, we're not bugging people where our product isn't relevant. So really just playing around with all these things, getting an understanding of the customer, what they want and then meeting them where they are.



Jon LaClare [00:21:40]:



I think it's funny that Facebook a couple of years ago made significant changes to try to remove some privacy or give privacy, I guess, right? Remove access to their data. At the end of the day, it makes it a worse experience for the customer as you kind of alluded to be. We're going to get marketed to no matter what, right? So I'd rather get marketed to stuff that is of interest to me, that fits who I am and what my interests are, than kind of a scatter shot where I'm getting random things or whatever. And luckily a lot of that's still available. There's still ways around it to find that targeted consumer. But it's interesting, these platforms are trying to, as much as they can get rid of that their customer.



Kent Yoshimura [00:22:20]:



I get it. I don't want my data just floating around everywhere and then people. But it is interesting from a consumer level where if I am surfing the internet or online, I want a personalized experience like anything else in my life, to a certain degree at least.



Jon LaClare [00:22:41]:



Yeah, absolutely. We enjoy marketing. If you market or sell to me something that I want, it's a positive process, right? The only time we have bad tastes or mouth from selling or the marketing process is if it's something that's not a fit for us. So it's finding that intersection.



Kent Yoshimura [00:22:56]:



You have to do it well. And that's where marketing is so beautiful. Like well done. Marketing is everyone enjoys it. It is a beautiful thing. And it's unfortunate because back in the day, marketing can also be used. Marketing and propaganda are basically exactly the same thing. So it can be used in ways that are absolutely disruptive.



Kent Yoshimura [00:23:16]:



And as long as you could find again, I keep using this word, but relevancy points and create a product that actually benefits people and find them where they're looking for their needs, then I think it's all positive.



Jon LaClare [00:23:34]:



Absolutely. Well, Ken, this has been a great interview. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think could be helpful for our audience?



Kent Yoshimura [00:23:41]:



Yeah, I think there's a lot of people that are starting up and they're trying to invest and look into D to C and Ads. And I think what we're figuring out and what really worked early on is in this day and age where you're inundated with so much junk across the board and you're on the doom scroll, how are you capturing people's attentions in the best way possible and going back to the element of credibility? I do think layers of showing yourself, your personality, and for Neuro, it's like we're very founder forward. So Ryan and I are at the front lines of everything and we make sure that people understand who we are, where the product comes from. I think those things are super important and I think if you or your listeners look into anything we do, they'll find that a little bit of us is embedded into every content of Neuro that's out there. I think that's the beautiful part of the evolving marketplace of D to C. Couldn't agree more.



Jon LaClare [00:24:51]:



And I do encourage our audience. You can see some of the content that Kent and his team has put together at NeuroGum, neuroGum.com. You can see their whole line of products, but also see a lot of the content and just see it's fantastic and test the process out. See if you get an email coming through automatically afterwards. It's not a perfect science. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but when it does, it can be very powerful. But more importantly, definitely check out the product. I'm amazed with what you've done in relatively short period of time.



Jon LaClare [00:25:18]:



This has been a fantastic interview. Great story you've shared. So thanks so much for your time.



Kent Yoshimura [00:25:23]:



Thanks, man. Yeah, likewise.



Jon LaClare [00:25:25]:



Did you know you can meet with a member of my team? Absolutely free for a 30 minutes strategy consultation. We've launched and grown hundreds of products since 2007 and learned some of our strategies while growing OxiClean back in the Billy Mays days. We're here to help, so please go to Harvestgrowth.com and set up a call if you'd like to discuss further.

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