What makes a great brand? What businesses are most likely to grow quickly? Why not ask the leader of the brand with the highest Growth Quotient score we’ve ever seen?
In this episode, Taylor and Richard chat with Heart & Soil CEO Dean Brennan about the brand strategy that’s led to massive first-order profitability, dirt-cheap CAC, and 200%+ 1-year LTV growth.
- The Ecommerce Playbook mailbag is open — email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask us any questions you might have about the world of ecomm
- If you’re a 130+ GQ brand between $10-$100M, we’re so confident that we can win for you that we’re willing to give you a free month. Let us know in the contact form that you want to be evaluated, and we'll be in touch.
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[00:00:00] Richard Gaffin: Hey everyone. Before we get into the episode, I wanted to make a quick announcement. If your brand is doing 10 to a hundred million in annual e-commerce revenue, CTC wants to work with you. And here's the kicker. If we evaluate your brand and its GQ score is 130 or more, we're so confident that we can win for you that your first month with us, we'll be absolutely free.
So just head over to commonthreadco.com, click the hire us button to get started, and then just let us know in the contact form that you wanna be evaluated and we'll be in touch. All right onto the show.
[00:00:31] Richard Gaffin: Hey folks. Welcome to the E-Commerce Playbook Podcast. I'm your host, Richard Gaffin, Director of Digital Product Strategy here at CTC, and I'm joined as I always am by Mr. Taylor Holiday, CEO here at Common Thread Collective. Taylor, how you doing?
[00:00:43] Taylor Holiday: Doing awesome. Excited for this one.
[00:00:45] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, as am I, because not only am I joined by Taylor as I always am. We're also joined by Dean Brennan, who's the CEO of Heart and Soil. Dean, how are you doing?
[00:00:55] Dean Brennan: Doing great. Thanks so much for having me.
[00:00:58] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, we're, we're excited to have you. And so part of the reason that we're having Dean on, or I would say the main reason, is that Dean's brand, Heart and Soil, which Dean, you can maybe explain a little bit more about what the brand is exactly, but sort of broad strokes Heart and Soil creates or creates, produces supplements.
Right? And you can get into the specifics of what those supplements are. But Heart and soil also has the highest growth quotient score that we have ever seen. So much so that we had to actually tone down how much, how many points are given to you by the one year LTV to nCAC metric just because theirs was so high.
So Heart and Soil's growth quotient score to, to give you a little bit of context, of course we've talked about it before. The elite level is 130. If you're at 130 with a growth growth quotient score or over, we consider you to be a brand that has a lot of growth potential and that we would want to work with. Heart and Soil's growth quotient score is 460, which is almost three times the elite level. And so what we wanna get into today is essentially the secrets of a 460 GQ brand. What are the elements that go into, or what is the DNA that goes into a brand that can grow this quickly and operate this well?
So actually maybe we'll kick it off, Taylor with you telling us a little bit about giving some background on our relationship with Heart and Soil and yours with Dean.
[00:02:12] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, I'm really excited to do this because I think with gq, One of the things I think it's easy to underestimate is like how many different inputs we've analyzed in trying to understand the bounds of these op, what's possible. And so I think it's really cool to see the upper bound to go, okay, what does the 99th percentile outcome in this world that we live in look like?
What are the attributes of it? What makes it work? And that's what we get to do today. And Dean is incredibly gracious in the way he shares information. And Dean and I have known each other, what, a few years now, Dean? A couple, a little over two years. And as a CEO you will be hard pressed. To find a human being that cares more about what he's doing, the mission that he's after what the brand exists to, how it exists to impact people's lives, his desire to impact his employees in a similar way.
So he is an amazing human who's running an amazing brand, and we're gonna learn a lot today. So, Dean, thanks for joining, man. But give us the background. What the heck is heart and soil, and how did you how did you get to this space? Because I think your journey as a C E O too is, is a fascinating one.
[00:03:14] Dean Brennan: Yeah, it's, it's been a heck of a ride. So I think the origin point to all this, for me at least, starts way back when I was in college and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Which, you know, if anybody listening to this probably thinks about it, they probably know somebody in their lives or they themselves have, has struggled from an autoimmune condition.
Psoriasis colitis, you can name, you know, hundred of them through. Well, it was grim. Cause I was like, am I gonna be in a colostomy bag? You know, I have to take this medication for the rest of my life. and I always looked at myself like a healthy person, you know? You know, I, I felt healthy other than that. I kinda went on this journey to figure out how the heck do I fix this outside of the medication? And I went for Whole Food Alternatives because I was raised out in the country. of the city anyway. And my parents didn't have a whole lot of money growing up, so we ate real food. So my first thought was, you know, in college I'm drinking a lot of beer and eating a lot of processed food and maybe if I cut that out, you know, maybe things will get better. I started eating real food and got real obsessed with kind of health and nutrition. figured out a way to put my ulcerative colitis into a recessive state. So now, you know, if I go to the doctor and get a colonoscopy, they say, sign of it. It's gone. So I went from being pretty sick to being pretty healthy just by making different lifestyle choices. So, Kind of figuring that out. I thought, wait a, wait a second. I gotta tell more people about this. You know, like this, I know people in my life cousins, friends, family also struggle with the similar the when I get into something, I'll tell a thousand about it cause I just get super excited. that was going on. And then I was also pursuing a career as a content creator. And also moved up to a leadership role, managing a studio. On the creative end of of things, I always thought something was missing. I was like, you know, my spirit to truly thrive, I, I need to, I can't look at work and life like two different things.
I have to marry him. So something was always missing and I knew that for me to truly thrive, I didn't wanna look at work and life as two different things. I wanted to look at. Work within my life. And I wanted to align things that I feel very strongly about and passionately about. Whether that's storytelling, business, health, wellness, nutrition, leadership.
And I wanted to combine that into you know, one role. And I didn't know what that looked like. But in 2020 20 during the pandemic, I ran into an md, Dr. Paul Saladino. I was into kind of the carnivore, animal based type of approach. Cause again, I was always geeking out about nutrition. He was starting this business and the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
Most bioavailable foods with that nutrient makeup, which are organs, you know, it's liver, it's heart, it's pancreas, spleen. And I was using organ supplements myself. To, to better help my health and was a huge fan of him. So I was 100% from day one, like, let's do this. So left my corporate job in FinTech, was very comf, very comfortable, very comfortable situation.
There I was, I was doing well in my career and I went to this company that pretty much didn't exist and tough decision with the wife trying to get agreement there. But eventually she's like, you. I pictured myself 80 years old do this exercise sometimes. And you look, you look
you're like, what? What would I regret? And I was like, this is one of those moments where I would regret not taking this leap. So go do it. I'm gonna put a hundred percent of my effort and my energy, experience in e-commerce, but I'm gonna figure it out. And so that's what I did. I took the leap and we started the business.
And probably a lot to say about the journey of.
[00:07:12] Taylor Holiday: So what I love, can I just say something? So I have, when I first met Dean and his partners, we went to dinner. Or which you'd go eat with these guys. It's a hell of an experience cuz they're just gonna, they're just gonna order any meat item on the menu. The appetizers, the appetizers are like a nice filet, you know, it's, I was like, okay, this is the real deal.
But here's what I noticed, and this is, this is one of the signals to me always when I know that there's something happening, is when you ask someone to tell their business story, and it sounds like a conversion story. Okay, so if you grew up, if you grew up in the, if you grew up in the church at all, you know, like the, given your testimony of how you came to believe, what you believe is sort of like the baseline way that people sort of introduce or talk to each other.
And that is the way that every single one of them talk about heart and soil. They don't talk about why the job was da, da da da da or how it was a good opportunity. They tell a story just like Dean told I was sick and now I'm well. And when that happens, The level of connection and commitment to the idea and product is just exponentially different.
And it literally shows up in data. It shows up in word of mouth because what did you hear Dean say he had to do? He had to tell other people. He had to evangelize. The experience was so impactful for him. He had to go spread the message, right? And then he was gonna be committed to the ideology in a way that was gonna be show up in.
Organic reach and ltv, right? Like this is, this is literally in the story. You can hear the data begin to be formed, and that's when I knew like, okay, this is the thing that makes heart and soil magic, is that this data output, and Andrew Ferris likes to say that data reveals truth. And that's what I think LTV and organic reach do.
They reveal the reality of the commitment to your product and how viral or sable, Seth Godin would say it is, and Indian story. I just want you all to notice that, is that that's the conversion story that creates the commitment that leads to the data we're gonna talk about.
[00:09:03] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. And so actually real quick, before we jump into that, I kinda wanna dive a little bit deeper into that point, which is to say maybe Dean, you can talk a little bit about why. Why are people such believers in this product in a way, like maybe other supplement brands aren't? So, I was gonna say, generally speaking, supplement brands aren't necessarily the best performing brands or the highest, or have the most growth potential.
So why is yours that, why, why are people so sort of evangelical to about it?
[00:09:30] Dean Brennan: That's a good question, I think to put simply because our product works and there's a lot of supplements out there that don't work.
[00:09:37] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:38] Dean Brennan: I, I think that's really the, the root of all of this is that eating nutrient dense animal foods, specifically organs, really help your health. I mean, most people are in a state of nutrient inadequacies, which means they're not getting the micronutrients.
And with synthetic vitamins and with other forms, it, it's sometimes difficult to get there. So I think the product's great. I think it works. I think it starts there. Secondarily, this is something that's you don't hear a lot, right? Like it's counter. Counter culture ish. I, I guess,
[00:10:15] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:16] Dean Brennan: I heard this thing one time, but I think it was Mark Manson guy that wrote a, a book about not giving an F he said something about like, how, how do you become, you know, the top 1% of, of the 99%? And he like, you have to be a contrarian. have to be right about that idea and you have to execute like hell to, to get that idea out and to spread it. And I think in the case of, you know, just. foods and animal based nutrition. I, I think that's the case. It's not mainstream, it's different, catches people's attention. If you go to a friend's house and you've never seen organ supplements before and you see somebody taking a supplement, they tell you, Hey, I'm, I just ate some testicle. you're gonna asking some questions about that. And I think it
lends itself to being.
[00:11:08] Richard Gaffin: Yeah.
[00:11:09] Taylor Holiday: There's so much there that, yeah, I, I, those are all great points, and I think oftentimes marketing messaging can sit in this way that sort of appeals generally to everybody, and specifically to nobody . And that is the worst kind of message, right? In reality, what you want is a polarized opinion with really strong advocates and really strong adversaries because in both cases your message is being discussed.
It's the bland middle that disappears into, you know, the feed in a way that elicits very little response. And so I think there's something about diet usually is this way and, and nutrition and health are religious in a lot of ways in terms of people's feeling and emotion about them. And then once someone's had a real life-changing experience to their health, it is very hard.
To undo that experience in any way. Like you can't counter that point with logic. It doesn't matter. I was this way and now I'm not, is an irrefutable fact for my reality. That's really hard to undo. And so when you create that for people, you create immense loyalty. And so I think there's, there's a lot there just in the messaging and category that I think so often we're afraid of this idea that we might alienate some portion of our audience and in doing so, we actually endear ourselves to nowhere,
And I think it's much better to find your tribe.
[00:12:27] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, and there's definitely an element too that, that I've seen anyway of, of driving Both. The believer obviously will continue to purchase the product, but also driving the skeptic because he doesn't believe in your claim to actually go try the product to see if it's true, because he just wants to see for himself or wants to confirm that it's BS and then finds out that it's not essentially,
[00:12:47] Dean Brennan: we've had a lot, we have a lot of reviews of that same person who was a skeptic or they followed a different type of, you know, eating protocol before and they gave it a shot cuz were, open to something new and. Get a positive, positive experience out of it, you know, positive review. the thing I was gonna say about that is too our, you know, our, our brand principles, you know, we're based in, in science and evidence-based nutrition.
Our founders MD and I think that that's helped us a lot because with, generally with alternative, What I'll call alternative diets and stuff. It only so far if you don't have someone who's credible that actually understands like the science and can make sense of for people. so I think that that really helped the beginning.
[00:13:35] Richard Gaffin: Right. So I wanna go back to the thing you mentioned. There's, there's three things that you have to have, right? Which is to be contrarian, to be right. And then the third point you made was to execute relentlessly. So I wanna talk about that third point, then the, the execution piece of it. And I think use that to segue into our our discussion of the data specifically, right?
So, we'll quickly, I'm, I'm sharing my screen here.
For those of you who are watching on YouTube, for those of you who are listening, what is before me is heart and Soil's Diagnostic Report. And one thing that you'll notice if you're looking at it is that there are only two metrics, well, there are three metrics really that are below benchmark or rather that are missing benchmark, but in each case so cost of delivery, right, which is sort of variable cost is 39% against a benchmark of 30%.
That's not that far off. Then. Cash conversion cycle is 30 days, which is not that far off. That's a really good cash conversion cycle on average or compared to the average rather. And then finally, number of revenue peaks. So last year your brand had one revenue peak, which is one month. That was more than 25% over the mean.
But the reason is that every single month, your growth curve is like this. It's, it's up and to the right the entire time. So in other words, heart and soils. Entire year was one big revenue peak, so I could, you could sort of throw that out as a problem. So what we're left with is essentially a perfect scorecard.
And so I want to go through a few of these different metrics. We've talked a lot about sort of the creating the evangelists and the believers, and that explains to some extent the L T V, but maybe explain a little bit about the executional aspect of getting such a incredible 60 day incremental revenue growth percentage, let's say.
So, for those who are listening, their score is 79.65% incremental growth over 60 days against the benchmark of 30, and then over one year. Revenue grows 222%. Their one year LTV is 222% higher than their first order revenue. So Dean, let's talk a little bit about the tactics that go into executing or pulling that off.
[00:15:34] Dean Brennan: Yeah. I think one tactic is, is to the product at the product level. You know, supplement, subscription, 30 day supply,
[00:15:42] Richard Gaffin: I.
[00:15:42] Dean Brennan: that's one piece of it, right? It, it lends itself probably to better retention compared to different types of different products. However I think there's a lot tact tac with tactics that you can do to, to, to drive that up and, and to keep it up.
And one of them is just to offer incredible experience on the front lines your support team, with your success teams at heart and soil. You know, our mission is to provide this and to inspire and guide people to radical health. And for it wasn't enough to say, oh, let's just answer all the customer support tickets and, and call it good. We see that as an opportunity to, to connect customers, to remove barriers in their life. So we have a team of health guides are very well educated on these matters, on the lifestyle matters. We have long form, sometimes months conversations with customers and we're, we're them, you know, we're helping them remove barriers, helping them with, they might want some suggestions on, you know, their macros or their diet or even mental barriers.
So we the extra mile to meet them where they're at and to help them. And we, I think just through that channel alone, we've created just so many raving fans that, you know, once you help somebody in that way, it's meaningful. gonna go talk about that with, with their loved ones or their friends. that's been a, a pretty intentional tactic from day one that I think has served us really well. Some of the things that we do is, you know, we, we try to say relevant and in their world, right? We produce a podcast we give practical tips and applications. We actually take calls from customers live on air and. We talk to them and our, our host is an incredible health coach, does a really good job with people. So we just offer multiple points throughout that journey when they're into our product, for them to stay engaged and to get value out of the content and to make them think about things they might not have thought about before.
[00:17:53] Taylor Holiday: The other thing I'll say is that most companies I interact with have a natural disposition towards acquisition as the primary driver. Of their growth. I think that Dean and team have a natural disposition towards retention. And what do I mean? So practically, Dean, talk a little bit about the goal for the year and what you sort of set as what you call this special group of customers who are committed to engaging, not just with your product, but with a broader lifestyle and the way that you've sort of led the company around an orientation around creating.
Loyalists more than you are about acquiring new customers, and I think that disposition is part of what reinforces this flywheel. So can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:18:33] Dean Brennan: Yeah, absolutely. And by the way, Taylor, thank you because your mentorship, I wouldn't have to go after. yeah. So we're thinking like, what could be one North Star metric that. Everyone can rally behind around the entire company and where every kind of meaningful area of the business plays a role. And we came up with what we call a radical health seeker goal. So a radical health seeker is someone who's ordered two times or more once within the last six months. And they also have a combined NPS score of over nine. So we've been tracking that and our, our kind of big hairy goal for the long term over three years is to have 200,000 radical health seekers. you can see if you don't have your acquisition on point, if you're not retaining customers, if your on boxing experience. Is not good. All those touch points really matter. So everybody here at the the teams kinda play a role in making that happen. It also gives us somewhere to troubleshoot, right? We, if we're, if we're low, we can figure out, hey, retention fallen off new customer acquisition, did that not where we needed it to hit? So I, I love that North Star metric and it's really easy for everybody at the company to understand and stay with.
[00:19:56] Taylor Holiday: I love it because, so we have another customer who's has a goal. Around filling the Michigan big house with new customers this year. And that's an awesome goal too. But both of them, yeah, they create different organizational dispositions, right. And towards what is the primary thing we're trying to do.
And I, I know I feel this a lot, even as a service provider, that for so long you have this sort of evolutionary skill that the way you survive is going out and hunting. You get sales, right? Like you gotta go get a new customer to survive. But there's something about the way that you guys entered into this that I think allows you to have this immense focus on the experience of your customers and inviting them into a deeper connection and lifestyle.
That is what shows up in that 222% increase in value in a year. Right? Because the only way you do that is someone is committed to the continual consumption of your supplements, and that has to be a lifestyle decision. Like if, if any of us think about what's a diet you've followed for a year, right? Well, there aren't many unless you are radically committed.
To that being a benefit in your life. And that is a sort of an entire system of belief that surrounds that and connection value at price. Like there's so much that goes into that and I think that your guys' organizational disposition is what shows up in that l t D. Now I'm gonna have a hard time justifying why then the CAC is so good on the, in, in a second too.
But we'll get to that as well.
[00:21:15] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Well, I was,
[00:21:16] Dean Brennan: point that
aligned with this whole thing? One thing that I learned from you, Taylor I kind of was aware of it, but you took it to a whole nother level with me is, is everything at your organization around what you're trying to do in your value set. And so we've been pretty uncompromising in terms of we bring onto the team. I think this goes into this retention because if you hire people that don't really care, but they want a job, not gonna get the best output from this person. They're not gonna be totally bought in and fully committed to taking care of your customers. us, you know, our passion is to live this lifestyle and to spread the message to others. we, we don't hire folks who, who aren't into this, who don't live it themselves. So, leading by example is a huge thing that we, that we follow here. When we make our hiring decisions based on it, we make our, you know, promotion, firing decisions based on that and our values. A good lens to look at things through and to build your entire foundation on.
[00:22:17] Taylor Holiday: And I'll, I'll give you a story of how real this is. Dean. I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna tell this story when I started, so Dean and I have been doing some work together around building some organizational structure and system and goals for his, his company. And when I started, I was like, all right, Dean, I want you to have all of your employees send me a video about who they are.
What they do. And if you go to the office where like they, when he says they live it, it's like they're barbecuing steaks, they're doing cold plunge, they're working out like they're getting out in the sun. And so I get these videos back and I'm like going through and there's, you know, men and women telling me about their job and all of a sudden, like a dude shows up and he is just shirtless.
And he's just like recording a video for me, shirtless. And I was like, the fact that in a professional setting, you would think that there's no big deal sending a shirtless video to a stranger about what you do for your job is so exemplary of like there's a people that live a common lifestyle inside of the organization in a way that.
Like permeates into every bit of the interaction. So you invite people in, you attract people into a lifestyle that's a deeper connection, creates more continuity with the product. And then again, more advocates and evangelists that si cycle from there. So it's very real.
[00:23:28] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, I was gonna say,
[00:23:30] Dean Brennan: Oh, sorry.
[00:23:31] Richard Gaffin: go ahead. Go ahead. No, no, go ahead.
[00:23:32] Dean Brennan: We had a a job last week and. spent a lot of the with him and I went home and I got out my truck and I looked down at it and I was, you know, barefoot and I was like, oh my gosh, I can't believe that. a I'll give, if I that back when I I would've been like, you're nuts, you're
[00:23:51] Taylor Holiday: Yeah. Yeah, I know. Didn't even think about it. Didn't even cross your mind to think it's weird. I have.
[00:23:55] Dean Brennan: even cross my mind.
[00:23:57] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, I was gonna say, I, I think like the, the dedication, both of like your staff and then also of the customer as reflected in this L T V, both of those things. Like a, a important thing to point out is that this is fundamentally a testament to the product. Like if you think about how great a product, it is, a supplement that actually visibly obviously works.
That's a tough thing to come by. And so like one other element of this business that sort of just struck me is that the lifetime value of the customer could conceivably be their actual lifetime as well. Because if you are providing, if you're providing a product that actually does what it says it's going to do, and that would be most beneficial to the customer if they take it all the time for the rest of their lives.
Then in that sense, like there, there's an upper limit to this LTV that few other businesses I could even think of could touch. So I, I wanna jump in then to the next the next Taylor alluded it to it, and oftentimes brands we see with incredible retention scores don't have great F O V to nac.
They're acquiring close to break even and then making up the money on the back end, so to speak. That is not the case with Heart and Soil. So your current NAC is $13 to acquire a new customer against an A O V of around $113. So you're acquiring customers really, really cheaply somehow. Can you explain how you made this happen?
[00:25:17] Dean Brennan: I mean, it's through organic traffic that I alluded to earlier and. I think we have some really good, great things like top of funnel that are organic. For example, our, our founder does a brilliant job on his Instagram and his podcast with this message and making sense of things. Our social team here at Hard Soil head by Melanie, has done an incredible job we've grown the. Know. We we're over 250 K right now. Really high engagement. But at the end of the day, I think there's a, there's a principle in here that matters when it comes to the organic content. It's a way we positioned ourself as a brand. a book by Donald Miller called StoryBrand, I read that a long time ago before heart and soil even existed.
And I was like, you know what? This makes complete sense to me. don't like being told what to do. Somebody else. I don't like. When people talk down to me, and when you think about diet and stuff, a lot of times you, you get that where people are like, I'm right. need to do Y, and Z, right? we position ourselves as a guide in the story and our customers, our, the heroes.
So if you look whether it's the films we do films documentaries. Our Instagram account does very well. We, we approach it from angle. We're the guide and we're, we're trying to educate. We're trying to inspire, and we're trying to guide that,
principle holds true in all of our organic channels, which I think really helps.
[00:26:47] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. And, and also your, your organic percentage of revenue, of course is 80% against the benchmark 50, so that, that also tells that same story. I was be curious if you could sort of walk us through like how, maybe, maybe the specifics of that organic. Or the tactics you used to drive that organic traffic, especially at the beginning, cuz you mentioned like when you joined Heart and Soil.
Heart and Soil was barely a company. And so walk me through the process of where did you find these people to come in organically, for instance, you know,
[00:27:15] Dean Brennan: so some people would look at hard and soil, like day one, I think it was July 26th, 2020, right? That's when
[00:27:23] Richard Gaffin: Hmm.
[00:27:24] Dean Brennan: But what's not talked about a whole lot is our founder, Dr. Paul, an Instagram presence in a podcast for four years. he put in a lot of sweat equity, a lot of work on building a very highly engaged audience.
And it, it came at a time where at least in the health world, people started becoming aware of this thing called a carnivore diet.
[00:27:47] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:27:47] Dean Brennan: all meat based diet our founder. You know, he, he was the only physician in the space really talking about it and making it sense for people so, Through his content.
I think he gave some folks confidence to do something different with their life, with their lifestyle. And I, that was the main thing in the beginning for us to get some traction, was that he had built, you know, an incredible network, incredible audience that, and there was extremely high level of trust there.
So we launch the product, We had the opposite that some businesses have. Some businesses have, okay, now how do we get this in front of people? Right? They spend a lot of time on their logo, on this and that, and then it's like, okay, I gotta find customers. Now, we had the opposite problem where we had world's worst site. terrible. The experience of the website was terrible. There were very little systems built, we had, you know, thousands of people rushed into the store and wanted to buy this product. So that was the hard thing for us, is figuring out, okay, how do we tame this chaos? How do we build a solid foundation? do we take care of these people in the most meaningful way? And then after he went on, Which is funny cuz our store went outta stock with almost everything, even before bump. we didn't really take, advantage of that like we could. I hope that answers your question. I, I think that was the driver of like, in the beginning, most of the organic then we faced this you know, do we keep the brand you know, the main influencer as
heart the brand, as the person front and center. we thought, you know what? We need this brand to stand on its own, so let's, let's create an identity here and let's the two can exist
[00:29:38] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:29:39] Dean Brennan: on their own and help each other out. So that's what we did. We started really trying to brand, and I think over time has really grown and is contributing to a lot of this organic traffic that we're seeing coming to our
[00:29:53] Taylor Holiday: But when you look at those daily, so I love that you said that there are four years of audience development and trust earning in order to create these things. I think sometimes we're all hoping that the answer is like, oh, we did a post on Reddit and all of a sudden, here we are. But the reality is, is like what we're talking about here is genuine connection between.
People and product and ideology in a way that takes a long time to foster and you don't earn trust and authority such like, Paul has, without that sort of level of continual outpouring where you're giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and answering questions and interacting. Prior to that, and then you guys have picked that up as a brand now, and you carry that same attribute with the podcast, the customer service, there's the same ethos of like, this is built on a conversation between two people for the sake of their benefit, and it's rooted then in everything that you do, such that now the answer to where does a great traffic come from?
It's like, yeah, TikTok is part of it, but also there's this organic flywheel of, now we have a lot of customers that tell other people because we turn them into evangelists, so there's like an organic flywheel of referral and evangelism that happens. And then the third thing is that there's this like underlying social trend, I think around carnivore as a cultural zeitgeist item that like one of the things that you and I and your team that was doing that I thought was really cool was that you guys think about altering the conditions in which your business exists.
So what does that mean? You had a goal around comparing the search volume. For carnivore dieting in comparison to keto, as an example, as an underlying macro trend that if you could affect that, you would reap the benefit of, and I think as marketers sometimes we miss this opportunity to say, rather than just thinking about affecting my product.
What is the context in which it exists and how does the, what is the broader cultural disposition to that idea? So maybe talk a little bit about how you guys fit within a broader theme of carnivore and how you see your role in that overall trend.
[00:31:55] Dean Brennan: Yeah. Interesting. It's actually animal based now in the very, like, day one.
[00:32:00] Richard Gaffin: Hmm.
[00:32:00] Taylor Holiday: There you go. There you go.
[00:32:02] Dean Brennan: this is actually a cool thing I think about the brand and about Paul even is, you know, we're not so stuck on being right that we're unwilling to change our minds and be flexible and, you know, Paul kind reevaluated the role of carbohydrates, the diet specific sources like fruit. You know, change his tune on it. And, and we kind of changed the, the way that we message about this which has been interesting. But yeah, we, we look at it, we almost coined the term animal-based diet actually at hardened soil. I, it, it just wasn't out there at all previously. I remember sitting actually in the room, Dylan based, Let's call this the animal-based diet. You know, it's opposite of the plant-based and it gets the point across. But yeah, I can't remember what your question was, Taylor. Exactly,
[00:32:55] Taylor Holiday: Well, just thinking about.
[00:32:56] Dean Brennan: we're looking
[00:32:57] Taylor Holiday: We, yeah. So, so you guys, when you think about your podcast or these other things, you're not just out advocating for your product, right? Like when you talk about it, the, I you guys advocate for this overall sort of approach to holistic eating, right? And, and a lifestyle almost where maybe your product is a part of that, but it's certainly not all of it.
And you would advocate very much actually for specific foods and even your response to certain oils and different things. And so, In a way, you guys are advocating for something bigger than just the product, and I think sometimes the trend related to that then becomes a wave that you get to ride and get connected to.
But you're not just saying, buy my specific supplement. There's a broader thing that you're advocating for that I think as the zeitgeist picks that up, you naturally ride this progressive wave to more organic demand as well because you're connected to the idea.
[00:33:49] Dean Brennan: said it better myself. Go ahead, Richard.
[00:33:53] Richard Gaffin: Oh, sorry. I was, I was gonna say, it reminds me a little bit of you know, the brand go ruck, like a sort of the rucking movement. I feel like that's kind of, sort of a parallel to, to your industry as well. But I think one thing that I find fascinating about their content, for instance, is rucking. So rucking for those who don't know, is you carry a bunch of weight in a backpack and walk around.
And the idea is that our ancestors, that's essentially was all of the exercise that they did. We are built as human beings to walk around and carry things. Better, heavy. And one thing that I find fascinating about go Rucking, it sounds like this is something similar to what Heart and Soil does, is that their content is all about getting you to go rucking without them selling you a product.
Really, they're saying, let us explain to you how you can do it yourself without actually buying our product. And of course, at the end of the day, once you do that enough, you'll sort of come to understand that you need something a little bit more optimized to rucking, and then you go ahead and you get the ruck, their actual backpack.
[00:34:43] Dean Brennan: benefits, right? You know, our, our mission achieve radical health. And, I would be lying if I were to be sitting here and telling people, like, all you need to do is take this supplement. You know, like it's a piece of the But at the end of the day, You know what we believe strongly, part of ethos is that way that we're designed as people we're not meant to sit around all day. We're not meant to isolation. We need community. We're not like growth only occurs on the fringes of comfort, right? Anything in nature grows through resistance. So there's all of these things with this lifestyle. Get people closer what we call radical health. And really what that means is that people are, are and they're living to their potential. And
what we believe. And we offer the supplements to make them convenient, safe, and an effective form of nutrition. But there's a bigger story here that we're trying to tell.
[00:35:46] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, I think that idea of enablement of an aspirational identity is a really powerful place for brands to sit is that you wanna sell the aspirational identity and. Your product is part of the enablement that brings it to life, and you're always pointing back to that thing. It's less self-serving, it's less self-promotional.
It's easier for people to advocate for the lifestyle than it is to advocate for a specific product. Like there's all these ways in which that makes a ton of sense. So I think when I think about your guys' organic traffic, You know, again, we so often because we want to replicate and take it and learn something from it, we wanna boil it down to like a specific set of marketing things to do.
But there really is a d n a element of the underlying approach to the whole thing that enables the organic flywheel, that enables the community development and all, all all sorts of things like that. So, creating advocates that are, you know, again, to borrow the Seth Godin's from Sneezers, people that are out there spreading the idea is, is really, really important.
[00:36:41] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. You mentioned one.
[00:36:42] Dean Brennan: too. We always talk about wanna, we want the type of customer, if we serve them well enough and do what we need to do, that's gonna drive 50 miles to cheaper across the street.
[00:36:54] Richard Gaffin: I was gonna me mention Dean. So you, you mentioned at the beginning of this sort of like, line of questioning that you guys decided to start with building, building the brand in the sense of building the organic traffic, getting the product to people before you thought about the website and the logo and all that kind of thing.
I think one, one way that you guys have sort of gotten to a point of having your cake and eating it too is that the actual branding of the website here let me. Quickly share this tab here is actually is beautiful. So you've gotten to the point where your branding is actually awesome and the construction of the website is great, and obviously I think that goes a long way to to creating a certain amount of brand trust.
One thing I wanted to talk about a little bit with, with this F o vda NCA thing is just how good. Or, or, or specifically the first order revenue or the aov, which is $113. And so on average, I would say each one of these supplements cost about 50 bucks a pop. And so the way that you guys have constructed a system to get people to add a number of things to the cart is also really, really, really impressive and not something that I've seen before.
So you have this bar that kind of like, Builds you up towards free shipping. If I were to like, say, add the beef organs to the cart it immediately gives you sort of the whole package, the frequently bought together piece. Like the actual construction of this is pretty compelling I think. And so maybe talk
[00:38:10] Dean Brennan: you, you without any e-commerce experience. Think experience. Cause
[00:38:16] Richard Gaffin: Yeah.
[00:38:17] Dean Brennan: worked on this a lot, and again, I had experience this. Talking with the developers and stuff like wouldn't be and worked it out, suggest something that might, you know, compliment the supplement.
[00:38:31] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it makes sense. Like it's easy I think for those of us who are deep in the e-commerce world to get kind of hung up on what quote unquote best practices are, like what we see other people doing without being able to think outside of the box and say like, well, what if we just did this thing that would make the shopping experience easier?
But anyway, yeah, I, I just wanted to call that out because that's another element of that incredible F o V to and CAC is that $113 in a V just doesn't come to you. I mean, the way that this is constructed kind of brings you to that number,
[00:39:00] Taylor Holiday: I also think it's really interesting call out that, like of all the CEOs I know in e-commerce, very few of them begin from a creative background.
[00:39:06] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:07] Taylor Holiday: And that's actually Dean's background, right? So he's a creative first. Like a lot of the branding is all him. Like a lot of the design is all him. I know a bunch of people have added to it in since then, but he sees things that way.
Part of this too, like, and we're gonna probably talk a little bit here briefly about. Paid media, right? Which is like, this is what CTC normally talks about, but I want everyone right now to recognize the reason when I'm saying things on Twitter or wherever that like creative, iterative, creative and all that hook rate, da, da, da, doesn't matter.
What I'm really getting at is that. You are trying to create the brand and connection and product such that most ads crush because the deeper underlying attributes of the thing are actually what matters so much more than the thumb stop rate. Like we don't think about that in heart and soil world because it's not the problem that we're trying to solve in most cases.
Now, there are times where it still is that piece of the conversation. I'm not totally dismissive of it, but the reality is most of their ads work. Most of the ads crushed most of the, and so it's a lot more around like, hey, right, what's the right offer? Design? Where are the most valuable customers? How do we extract more of that?
How do we create an even better experience on the backend? And so when you're in that space, that's actually when you found a brand that's really going to work. But if you're in this place where you're desperately trying to find something to say to convince people to buy it, and most are dismissive of it and most people don't come back like you're just in the wrong problem space.
And I think this is like where, where I see these experiences and what informs that opinion so much.
[00:40:35] Richard Gaffin: So, okay, so you mentioned then paid media Tailor. So is there anything, like, what do you wanna tease out on that? Because obviously that that's gotta play a role in, in this sort of mini school and CAC that they have, but maybe talk through that a little bit.
[00:40:47] Taylor Holiday: Well, it's funny, Dean, I bet this is the highest NCA you guys have ever had because you're now starting to dabble into paid media at all. And I.
[00:40:55] Dean Brennan: It is, it's on a slightly downward trend .
[00:40:57] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, exactly. I think so much of it has been like how do you create the supply chain that enables the next level of acquisition to even be possible for you guys, has been the bigger challenge. But maybe tell me, how do you think about that? Cuz I bet there's people listening like I can imagine, you know, somebody on the other end of this going like, what a waste, you should be spending way more money.
Why aren't you, why is your cat too good? Like, you should be more aggressive. Like, what would you say? Has been the constraint and why are you constrained in how much you're spending? And therefore, like, cuz at the ltv you could push the Forge store to break even. Like, what, what, how do you think about how you, how paid media plays a role in a system that has this much organic demand?
[00:41:35] Dean Brennan: Yeah, I think there's a few things here. One of the most obvious one is the one you mentioned with the supply chain. mean, I, had to do so much work on the supply chain from day one. It, it's very complex. Starts in New Zealand, you know, on farms and there's a number materials that we're, you know, harvesting there. We're trying The The that we have today compared to two years ago for glandulars is, is massively So we've had to build very strong relationships on the supplier side with the manufacturers, and a partnership in, in trying to build the right systems so they can scale with us.
So that's been the one of the main things reasons why, you know, you're not seeing us make those types of moves. The other two, and I don't know, maybe, me it's smart, but I, we've had a very concern. You can also notice that our opex, our efficient, our efficiency is very good. You know, we're running at like, I think 10.5% of total revenue. the opex side side, I'm, I'm a slow burn type in a lot of cases. From day one. You know, I've, in the, in my previous roles, I've hired people, I've built teams, those kinds things, and, and I know it, it doesn't take too much to throw things off kilter. in the beginning when you're reacting to just trying to get, know, your supply chain intact, you're trying to figure out how, like your philosophies with like, interacting with customers. In my opinion, you know, we didn't have good process and foundations with like our hiring process with performance evaluations, with all of these different types of things. Forecasting, forecasting roles and, and thinking a year years, three years out. So I've, I've very conservative with how quickly do this thing want wheel to get center start wobbling and the whole crash. Figure out what that balance is of like, let's push things forward and let's, at a healthy pace, let's slow.
[00:43:45] Taylor Holiday: Again, wise words that I, I just, I would encourage everybody listening to take this to heart and, and this is amidst of very fast growing company, like one of the fastest I've ever seen. But, but there are, Yet still there's constraints and you're holding it back actually in some ways to build the underlying infrastructure that can sustain it.
And I think the supply chain is such a good example where I see brands that so often, I think Covid is a great example of this. I heard Mike Beckham talking about this on the Operators podcast, is that during Covid, what happened was that. When the demand came at a level, businesses didn't have the underlying infrastructure on the supply chain, on the actual demand side to actually satiate it in a way that they could realize the profit.
And so a lot of brands are dying right now of indigestion. They tried to rapidly scale into demand that was volatile, that changed up and down. They didn't have the underlying systems for it, so they tried to ramp up opex too fast or bought too much inventory cuz they couldn't actually forecast it cause the demand wasn't predictable.
And all of that leads to really bad decision making. And so the more, the more variable the outcome is based on the data, the harder it is to be sure about the decisions you're making. And as a leader, it's really hard to make good decisions in that kind of environment. So indeed, I think I, I have a lot of respect for your willingness and I'm sure even to some pressure of the partners and founders that Okay, perfect.
That want to keep going that you're push pressing up again. So I think it's a really important thing for people to learn from.
[00:45:06] Dean Brennan: Yeah, I appreciate that. The other thing I was gonna say there with like growing too fast is that, you know, your strategy lags a bit. you know, we were serving a certain type of customer a year ago and if we were really were to press on the gas pedal, I don't we would've had the right strategies in place to be able to take care of those people the way that they needed to be taken care of, you know? For example, we think about who's heard about I think just trying to get them to replace their multivitamin is a good first step versus our old audience. You know, you them in with. Content and around cold plunging or whatever, but this person doesn't about that, right?
So we just have to focus on one problem here with that particular person. So pressing that gas pedal fast, we wouldn't have been in a place really cater to that, to that audience, to that really help them the best way.
[00:45:57] Richard Gaffin: All right. We're we're running up on time here, so I, I think we'll, we'll get outta here, but before we do maybe Dean and, and, and maybe Taylor as well, give us like a one sentence summary of what, what the lesson is here from heart and Soil. If you could give everybody one piece of advice, what would it be?
Maybe we'll start with you, Dean.
[00:46:12] Dean Brennan: With me one piece of advice.
[00:46:16] Taylor Holiday: Sounds good. Yeah, and we're essentially,
[00:46:19] Dean Brennan: find something that you care about doing and put your all into it and back.
[00:46:25] Richard Gaffin: Yep.
[00:46:26] Dean Brennan: my advice. Previous to my career, I've held back and heck,
[00:46:31] Richard Gaffin: Wise words, Taylor.
[00:46:33] Taylor Holiday: I, I've tweeted before, build a Religion, don't build a brand. And I, I think when you see here is when you, when you overlap, like the genetic attributes, this is sort of like, how do you get, yeah. You know you saying bolt. Well, you overlap the underlying genetic attributes with the immense environmental conditions to commitment and excellence.
And when those things happen, like you get the best in the world and, and this is really cool to be able to see that both of those things are present here. Obsession commitment. Ruthless, like this is real. For the people that are con participating in it and building it, it means something to them. The mission, purpose, values are all there.
And then you have all the tactical attributes of great margin, awesome ltv, good customer acquisition, great branding, cool website, ux, like those things come together. And this is why like e-comm, you know, there's sort of this idea that e-comm is either dead, it's either binary, good or bad. And the reality is that no, it's just like every other industry, which is awesome.
Businesses produce awesome results and mediocre businesses produce mediocre results. And heart and soil is a testament to that. So, enjoy that and I think use it as a benchmark for your own GQ score. And go learn from Dean too, cuz he's trying to get out there on the socials. Where, where are you out on Twitter these days, Dean?
[00:47:41] Dean Brennan: Dean c Brennan, you follow on Twitter? I've been a little more active on there lately. It's been fun.
[00:47:48] Richard Gaffin: Awesome.
[00:47:49] Dean Brennan: is, kind.
[00:47:51] Richard Gaffin: It's a good group. Well, DTC loves you now that they've heard you, Dean, so we appreciate you jumping on. Thanks for joining us and thanks everybody for listening, and we will see you next week.