Barrier Island Organics and Mother Earth’s Organic Root Cider

In this episode, I talk with Mark Welch, Barton Murray and Jana Murray from Barrier Island Organics about their product, Mother Earth’s Root Cider. We talk about an educational, systems-based method to marketing, connecting with an audience in ways that build trust and credibility and about how to tell a story (a real story!) that completely separates you from your competition.

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Barrier Island Organics

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Jason: So yeah. Go around and introduce yourselves…

Barton: Go ahead Mark.

Mark: Hey, Mark Welch, owner of Barrier Island Organics. Glad to be here.

Barton: I’m Barton Murray, online marketing, in charge of online sales for Barrier Island Organics.

Jana: This is Jana, and I do the website maintenance and working on marketing his juice as well.

Jason: All right. Well, why don’t we start with you guys just telling your story a little bit, talking about where you’d like to go, and then what are some of the things you’re working through to get there?

Barton: Yeah, sure. My wife and I have been doing online marketing of various kinds for the last 15 years, and as I mentioned in the earlier, we joined up with Mark about a year and a half ago to promote his wonderful product, his product Mother Earth’s Organic Root Cider, which is under the label Barrier Island Organics, which is the company he founded with the product. We’ve been developing and building, trying to build sales and get the word out… We got a wonderful amount of repeat customers. It’s a small amount, but they’re just all in with it. They’ve had tremendous experiences doing their daily dose of the tonic, everything from inflammation control, management of pain, especially keeping colds and virus and flu away.

Barton: It’s based after… and Mark can tell you more about it… based on a particular protocol from… is it Marian Gladstone? Is that correct, Mark?

Mark: Rosemary Gladstone.

Barton: Rosemary Gladstone. There’s another company called Fire Cider that got into some legal problems because they tried to copyright the term fire cider, and fire cider is a known tonic that’s been created by many people over the years, and they tried to take the name, and I think recently they were decided against, against to have the name copyrighted, the term fire cider. It’s free for everyone to use, but nobody can… and Mark can tell you more about this, but for the last year and a half, we’ve been focused on organic traffic results, driving traffic. At one point we were ranking number one on page one for all things apple cider vinegar-based, because the tonic is in a solution of apple cider vinegar, along with a bunch of other roots and fruits. And Mark can probably tell you more about all that.

Barton: We at one point were getting hundreds of thousands of visits every month, but the sales has been in a 3-5000 volume range. 5000 is a good month. It fluctuates between the two. We’re not really sure exactly why… we see the volume of traffic. We’re not sure if we’re being penalized by Google, because Google was really doing a lot of the algorithm changes. It may show up, but we may not be getting those exact traffic stats for what we show up for. There’s been a lot of push towards… let’s just say alternative health solutions, especially natural solutions. It’s been relegated to second, third, fourth page. They’re trying to direct the narrative as far as a person’s choices to better health, obviously.

Barton: We’re fighting that component, but we’ve been ranking for a lot of great terms, and through blogging, through SEO. Recently we started doing some paid advertising and we do email blasts for deals for our customers, our existing customers. Most of the email list is not responsive, and so our plans for this upcoming year is to maybe try to change the approach to communicate with our customer base by education versus just the deal of the week or the deal of the month, but we haven’t gotten there yet. I don’t know… these are some of the things we’re working on right now.

Jason: Can you educate me, is this product under the generic umbrella of fire cider? It’s a similar thing? Or is it something totally different?

Mark: Yeah, let me jump in and tell you that. All right. Fire cider is a term… it’s just kind of a recipe with various ingredients that are mostly used by New Englanders in the winter to help fend off cold and flu. The base is a raw and filtered apple cider vinegar, and in my recipe we have turmeric root, ginger root, habanero and serrano peppers, garlic, horseradish root, lemons, white onions, beets… and I think said serrano and habanero peppers. Although some people like the taste, it’s very potent. That was my take on the recipe. Some people don’t use all the ingredients I use. A lot of people don’t use beets, but beets have a lot of wonderful properties.

Mark: And if I can back up, the whole reason I started this is I’m 58 years old and I’ve been in chronic atrial fibrillation for 30 years now. I’ve very active, play beach volleyball, so I really don’t have any limitations but for some reason, if someone coughs five aisles over in a store, I would get a cold a week later. I eat well, exercise. I’m in good shape, and with my a. fib I can’t go buy Dayquil or Nyquil. I knew a nurse, and I was on way too many antibiotics. I was on five or six antibiotics a year for 24, 25 years. It came to a head about six years ago when I had a little respiratory infection, wouldn’t go away, and they took x-ray. X-ray turned into a scan, that turned into a misdiagnosis of lung cancer. It was just a little pneumonia.

Mark: Right then I just said, “You know what? I’ve got to change. I eat well, I’m in good shape.” I started making this concoction out of my house. My wife wasn’t too happy about it, but she was a special ed teacher for 38 years, special ed teacher for two, three and four-year-old handicapped children, so she had chronic back pain, and within a few days that was gone. Then after she took it for a year and then now she’s been off her cholesterol medicine for five years. When I was making it out of my house, it was curing people with walking pneumonia, gout, and here I am six years later, I’ve only been on two antibiotics, instead of 30 or 36, which I would have usually been on. Now I have grandchildren that come over sick, I don’t get sick any more, so it’s really been a godsend.

Mark: A lot of people get off their cholesterol medicine, but it’s a very potent product, and so it’s a niche market. Getting someone to taste something that doesn’t taste great or is very potent. I do a lot of shows. Sometimes people go, “Oh, I just couldn’t take this every day,” but they can take their cholesterol medicine every day, which is giving them joint pain.

Mark: That’s a little history about that.

Jason: Got it. That clears it up. Bart, where is the traffic right now, roughly? And what ballpark is the email list in?

Barton: I can tell you the email list… we have about 500 buyers of the product, and we have about 3000 subscribers of our apple cider vinegar benefits downloadable PDF, so that’s kind of the mix. Jana, if she’s listening, she would have the traffic stats right now, but we’ve been doing the Google dance. Are you there, Jana? Can’t hear you.

Jana: I’m here. Can you hear me?

Jason: Good.

Mark: No.

Barton: Nope.

Jason: We did.

Barton: Yeah.

Jason: The place that we can start talking around is, when someone buys this… searcher intent is a pretty big deal, you know what I mean? There are people that sit down at Google and type in “fire cider” and that other company is benefiting by… I wouldn’t call it squatting, but just opportunistically using their brand name over the generic term, right? Somebody sees that and they’re going to click on that. Are the buyers that you know that are buying online, were they looking for fire cider? Did they have a pain in their back? Why did they sit down at a computer and what were they searching for? And how far or near was it to, “I want to buy a bottle of something today”?

Barton: We’re getting closer to figuring that out. We’ve been doing organic search results, so we don’t really have a pulse on exactly why, but Mark and I have had the discussion a lot, and that is really what we need to figure out, is why did they make that purchase? And then speak to that in some shape or manner.

Jason: Well, and I think that your idea to go in the educational direction can possibly cure… I mean, you can aim and guess, and it’s way harder with organic because those insights take a while to materialize before you know if there was anything to them or not, right? Versus paid advertising. However if, when I come to your site, if the opt-in is a priority, and then the story that is told there, it seems like there is a great focus on what’s in the product which is, of course, important, right?

Barton: Right.

Jason: But depending where I’m at, the person who’s going to buy it, in my understanding of what I’m actually looking for, it may not mean a whole lot to me. If it’s too early. If I’m coming because I have X, Y and Z issue that I’m looking to resolve, and my friend said, “You should try fire cider,” and I don’t know anything about it and I sit down, that’s where I’m at, right? The other site that you mentioned, I went there and looked through it and still focus 100% on the product, right? There’s not a lot being done to generate the feeling between you and me that, “Oh my goodness, here’s finally somebody that I can trust, somebody who’s going to expand my awareness of what this is about and show me how to get rid of the problem that I actually have.”

Jason: Instead, it’s like save 10% or save 15% which, while it moves sales in the short term, I think it alongside that, just automatically further commodifies what’s being sold. Mark, the story that you just told me, I watched that video where you were featured by some health show or something in your area. That’s a powerful story. When I get your email list at the moment with that PDF, do I hear that story? Do I know how this all got started and what makes it unique? Is that communicated or do I just get a single resource to digest?

Barton: Yeah, we’re not communicating that story in that PDF. It’s more about benefits of apple cider vinegar, which is I think marginal at best, because that’s just what it’s based in. We’re not even talking too much about the other herbs. We’re basically saying, “Hey, apple cider vinegar is great,” and then at the end of the report we talk about the other medicinal benefits of the other additional roots and fruits with a call to action. That’s pretty much the report.

Barton: What you’re saying is definitely lead with the story and the reason why it’s got [crosstalk 00:14:29]

Jason: Well, I think the story can shorten the sales cycle tremendously, because if I hear Mark’s story and I’m dealing with anything remotely similar, I can say, “I’m going to try it.”

Mark: It kind of personalizes it.

Jason: Yeah, and then I can go looking for all the facts that back up my decision that this is a smart thing to do, but to begin the other way around… When I saw your Google ad that you guys were running that is comparing yourself to the competitor, right?

Barton: Yeah, we got a small comparison ad campaign going, yep.

Jason: Okay. A different way to go, if I had put somebody else’s name on top of that ad, I could have easily done that. It still would have worked, you know what I mean? One way to take a searcher, in my opinion, is to very quickly question some premise that they thought was true. And then that opens the door for you to educate them in a way that builds trust and credibility, so if I’m searching for fire cider, if I see an ad… these aren’t the right words, but just the general gist… it says, make sure you understand these five myths about fire cider before you use it.

Jason: Now all of a sudden you’ve interrupted me in a way where I’m curious because I don’t want to make a mistake. I’m trying to solve my problem, and I was about to go down this rabbit hole, and now here’s this thing that’s implying a promise that they can open my eyes a little bit. I go and I land there, and I don’t see an ad for 15% off, because we just met. I see get the five myths, very simple. And then from there, you guys… people come back and order over and over again, right?

Mark: Well, I’m going to answer a question that you asked a little while ago. I do quite a few shows, and I think once people either go to a grocery store that I’m in or I do a show, then they’re more likely to reorder on the site. I had another business, and I just spent a year remodeling the house. I have definitely handcuffed Bart with monetary funds to do advertising, which we’re changing this year. Now I’m 100% focused, I’m finished remodeling the house and don’t have my other business any more. I don’t want this to be the next Amazon, but I want to get this great product in more people’s hands and make a… I mean, I’m in my third chapter of life. My wife’s retired, I’m kind of retired, so it’s not a startup business. It doesn’t have to be number one, but it’s amazing what it does for people, and I just didn’t know if you could capture someone’s attention for that long if you had a video. I do think it makes it more personal.

Mark: And I am a firm believer in that you’ve got to put value in your product and maybe, I know we put it on sale to try to get people to try it, but maybe we’re going at it the wrong way, I don’t know.

Jason: You could go from some sort of paid ad, something that implies that we’re about to educate you in a way you care about. They come and get that thing, and once they opt in you deliver what you promised, and then we start dripping videos of Mark telling the story. Just what you told me, fire cider is this thing, people in New England know it. Here’s how it entered my life. Here’s what it did.

Jason: I was surprised that you guys have testimonials on your site. I’ve dealt with health supplements and stuff like that, so I know that we’re navigating through waters where there can be land mines here and there. However, people telling their stories about their life before and their life after is not making a claim, right? If I start getting those, video, audio, Mark reaching out to interview people about what their experience was like, we’re building this automated asset, this autoresponder series, very simple, that educates people and slowly communicates a story to them where now we’re shifting the idea from, “Well, am I going to get the fire cider guys? Or Mother Earth?” There’s really nobody like Mother Earth. It’s kind of its unique thing.

Jason: That’s a different way to sell something that is not discount-fueled, and it takes us away from commodity in a different direction. When you guys send out emails, what’s in them?

Barton: It’s usually pretty much an image and some text underneath with a coupon code or special announcement, so it’s not… And when somebody does sign up, they get a welcome email. We’re not exploiting… we’re not using the autoresponders as a followup series. It’s been something I’ve wanted to build. We do have an active campaign account and probably need to start just, like you said, start building the story up.

Jason: Mark, is it easy for you to sell this in person? Or do you get resistance?

Mark: You know what? Well, it’s funny. I do some health shows, holistic shows, and I’ve done a lot of demos at grocery stores that I’m in. It’s easy. I don’t have a problem doing it. Some people, when you get a lot of… it’s very spicy. We’re trying to tone that down a little bit, but the fact that it’s fresh ingredients, some batches are a little bit hotter than others. I’ve had very few people say, “Oh my god, this is awful. I can’t take it. I can’t believe you’ve even sold a bottle.” That’s what a couple of people have told me. Then I’ve had people who have loved it, then I have some people who just say, “You know what? I can’t take it every day.”

Mark: And I’m going to give you a great example. I have 10 brothers and sisters, and I’ve got a 60-year-old brother. He will go… he still serves. He goes to Mexico, Costa Rica. To train, he will swim this time of year in the Y for three hours a day to get ready, but he’s on cholesterol medicine and high blood pressure medicine, and he won’t take my cider. This was for five years. He finally started taking it, and now he’s off his cholesterol medicine. He couldn’t get past the taste. He’ll do three hours worth of work, but he can’t do five seconds of discomfort, drinking a little shot of something. But now he takes it every day.

Jason: But see, that’s an email right there.

Mark: Right.

Jason: You’re turning what you told me in a way that… you couched it a little bit as though it was something to work on, this taste, and I would say, “Why not flip that upside down?” “You may not like the taste and it may completely transform your life. Here’s what happened to my brother. He hates it.”

Mark: Right. And I am going to use him… I’ve used this story so many hundreds of time while I’m doing demos and I say, “Hey, he can’t… ” But it can eliminate thing. And I can’t make a claim that it will. A lot of people, it definitely got off their medications, but once you feel that you’re connecting with someone, maybe personal, that, “Hey, I’ve got these issues, too,” then I can see how you might try it.

Jason: Bart, have you heard all these stories before?

Barton: No, no. That’s the first time I ever heard that story.

Jason: To me,

Barton: So, get on the phone together, me and Mark, and I need to get his stories so I can write them down.

Jason: All you’re doing here is packaging him up in electrons. You’re cutting it up into pieces, you’re talking to his wife, to anybody who’s willing to tell a story about this. I mean, these stories aren’t… I really think the habanero and the serrano, that’s a great… nobody cares about that at this level. This is a much bigger, more emotionally rich level of things, and then the question is, “Well, how do these people get this change going? Well, it’s in that little bottle.”

Mark: And Jason, there’s other companies out there, and we have such an advantage. It’s taken a little while to get it perfected, but if you can imagine all these ingredients… like I said, horseradish root, ginger root, turmeric root, white onions, beets, garlic, lemon, habanero and serrano peppers… most people like, for instance, Fire Cider, they cut the fruit and vegetables up, and it just marinates in the vinegar, and then they just strain it off, right? Their product is very thin. It’s more like an infused vinegar, where we actually use the whole ingredient. This is the story we were trying to get out to be different, where you’re actually consuming over 95% of that whole ginger root, lemon skin peel, zest, where all the vitamins are. Our tonic is thick. It’s like a smoothie consistency. [crosstalk 00:24:51]

Jason: But Mark, when did you learn about that? When did you learn that these other guys weren’t doing it, and that you wanted to have that 95%? How did that happen?

Mark: It was a mistake. It was a mistake by my producer. When I made it at home, of course, I would put the stuff in, not a blender, but a food processor, and I would still strain it, so if you can imagine a bottle or cup, once my product was finished, there’d be about 10% sediment in the bottom. Well, one time my producer was making a batch, and I guess they didn’t add enough vinegar. I told him, “Let’s make it thicker.” And it got to me so thick I had to send the whole shipment back. And then all we did was add more vinegar to it. Then I said, “Wow, this stuff is so good.” You don’t have any more waste. You have less than 5% waste. We’re consuming everything. No one else out there has it. It’s a very labor-intensive process, but it’s just so much more nutritionally packed that it’s unbelievable, and it’s got to be so much more potent and more beneficial.

Jason: Okay. You put that, along with a picture if you have it, of you back in the day when it was in your kitchen. There’s another email. The point is that we’re wrapping the communication of the features and the formulation in a story that’s way more interesting and means more to people, right? And all you have to do is, Bart, record him and write it down, and/or just get him on audio and let him just say it. “Today I want to tell you about what it was like starting out. We didn’t start in this warehouse. I was in my kitchen.”

Jason: When you tell stories like that, that builds an affinity with people that you can’t get. You can’t build it with a discount, you can’t build it with an ingredient list, you can’t build it with anything else. Because what he’s really communicating is, “I’m just like you” without saying it directly, because no one would believe it then, but he’s kind of showing it. They get the opt-in. They get one of these emails from Mark. It could be even around a series, like… Mark, what do you do now with your time, now that you’re kind of retired?

Mark: Now it’s time to get back on the cider business. It goes back [crosstalk 00:27:27]

Jason: What do you do for fun?

Mark: I play beach volleyball about four nights a week during the months when it’s nice, but right now it’s a little chilly today.

Jason: Okay. One direction that this could go is, “Mark is an active guy. He has an interesting life,” so he could be reporting on these events of his life, talking about his cider. There are a lot of ways that you could spin it, right? When I go to the Fire Cider site, there’s not a lot of humanity there. There’s no one I can say, “I really like that guy.” Not that Mark has to be the face of it, but you’re the founder, so you’re kind of the face of it, and it’s just a lot easier to build a relationship with somebody when you’re willing to speak that way.

Jason: One of these-

Mark: Makes perfect sense.

Jason: You could write 50 emails, Bart, with videos, and just put it together over time. That’s a whole year of followup. Then you’ve got your periodic emails when you do want to run a promotion, so that’s extra email in between. The thing I wanted to ask you about is, what happens in Google if you bid on keyword if you bid on a keyword like sore throat ahead of cold season and show your ad? Have they squashed that? So, symptom-based ways to get your product in front of an eyeball.

Barton: I’m not sure. We just started this paid ad stuff, so-

Jason: I looked up flu shot, and it was just the big chain pharmacies advertising to come and get your flu shot.

Barton: Right.

Jason: But I heard on his video, “Hey, maybe you should drink this instead.”

Barton: Yeah.

Jason: That’s where I’m thinking there are a lot of way ways that we can… and then we know exactly what they were looking for, right? And then you can build the right landing page, but all the landing page does is, it doesn’t try to sell the stuff. All it does is, it goes from what I was searching for, expands the idea, which is “You want to be healthier. Well, this crazy guy made this thing. We don’t know if it’s right for you, but we put together this little thing you can download. Give us your email.” It just gives the breadcrumbs from exactly what they were thinking they were looking for, to now coming over to what you have.

Jason: Are people searching, in your knowledge, to sit down and buy a jug of fire cider?

Barton: No, very little traffic there. Mostly either exploring apple cider vinegar benefits, things that they’ve heard about. Initially I think a lot of our traffic was at the beginning of the funnel or the search. They may have never even tried apple cider vinegar, and they might just being going off and buying it at the store, so the idea was to grab that huge amount of traffic and persuade them into trying us out, since it is apple cider vinegar.

Jason: And what was the name of the PDF you mentioned?

Barton: It’s The Incredible Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar.

Jason: Okay. Do you know the 4 U principle from the Agora people? AWAI Copywriting School? Four U’s. They use it when they’re making headlines? Headlines that satisfy these four U’s in their experience tend to perform better. I’m probably going to hack them apart, but the general gist is, ultra-useful, has to imply something ultra-useful. Ultra-urgent, meaning timely. Ultra-specific over general, and I’m going to blank here on the last one. You can look it up. If we take your headline there, The Incredible Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar. Useful, not urgent, not specific. How to Transform Your Life and Health in 30 Days With a Unique Way to Use Apple Cider Vinegar. Now we’re moving in a different direction. Right?

Jason: Then, rather than trying to do all of that traveling like you just explained to me in one document, I would have the little apple cider mini-course, where you’re sticking with what they thought they came for, and then you’re saying, “Of course, if you want apple cider on steroids, wait for tomorrow’s video. You’re going to like the guy I’m about to introduce you to.” And that would lead into your main autoresponder.

Barton: Awesome. Yep. That fits right in there.

Jason: Was it easy to do the wholesale accounts, Mark? How hard is that?

Mark: I’ll tell you what. I was a little na├»ve. It’s hard getting into grocery stores. I’ve sent a lot of samples and I never got returns, and I’m in quite a few mom-and-pop shops. It’s hard, it’s really hard, and it’s hard to get on a shelf in a grocery story. I have people tell me, “Dude, you don’t realize how luck you are to be on those shelves,” that there’s so many other products. But it was hard and it was selling my story in person to them that got them to try it. It’s still growing, where we finally got over the first few years. There were some inconsistencies in the product, but I think that’s been maybe why I don’t have as many repeat people as I like, would like to. We’ve had some issues with some batches being so hot you could hardly drink them, just because the fruit was so hot when it was picked.

Mark: We’ve mainly dialed down the ingredients and got it really almost perfected now, but to answer your question, it’s tough.

Jason: I don’t know anything about labeling laws, but is there something on the label that feeds people back for the wholesale sales into your email list? Can there be?

Barton: Hmm. I don’t-

Jason: Can there be, “Download your first 30 days with Mother Earth” name of the product, “How to supercharge your health,” something like that, that leads them back to the website to give you their email, so that you can close the loop for those renewals?

Barton: The only thing I’m thinking of, I think the website is on the label.

Jason: Okay. Yeah, I mean, like I said-

Mark: The website is on the label.

Jason: I don’t know the rules, but giving them something to come for seems like it would be a great way to multiply the profitability of those maybe single purchasers.

Barton: I know Bragg’s apple cider vinegar has a recipe book that you can email and get returned to you, but it’s an actual book. Pay for the book and the shipping and everything.

Jason: Because if you position that as an instruction manual for Mother Earth Root Cider, now we know exactly how to talk to these people, because you’re going to educate them, Mark, on how to use it. Some people think it’s too hot. Tell the story of your brother again. You can take them all in different places. You’re staying in their life, you’re reminding them to use the product, which is going to help them feel change, which is going to help you when you say, “Do you want more?” It seems like a valuable thing to figure out. How do we get those people back in our life?

Jason: Talk to me about Amazon selling. I saw you were on there, but is that new?

Mark: Well, let me tell you about Amazon. When I first started I was going to do fulfillment by Amazon, and I sent them $10,000 worth of my product. This was in the infancy. And then they said they sold some of it, but then they told me they destroyed it all because the bottles were too big, and I fought them for months and months and months, to no avail, and then I had one of my online stores in Michigan email me and say, “Hey, we love your product, but how can we compete with this?” And they had sold that whole shipment I sent them to this place called Shop on a Dime, who buys distressed container loads of stuff. I vowed never to sell on Amazon.

Mark: Now there is this company out of Virginia Beach, Barbell, Neptune Barbell or something, they just starting carrying my product, and they sell on Amazon, so that’s where I am with Amazon.

Jason: Because the only thing I was going to ask about is, you had zero reviews, which I was curious about, because clearly that doesn’t match with the story that all the other people who take are telling.

Mark: Well, yeah. Amazon was a nightmare and trying to deal with… like I said, I spent months dealing with them to no avail, so that was a learning lesson there.

Jason: Yeah, okay. Another idea that popped into my head for the Google ad would be something about if people are searching about fire cider, they don’t know much about fire cider, right? Let’s assume that they’re new to it, so if you come in with another… See, we don’t know what they know or not, which is why going in the five myths direction… everyone doesn’t want to fall for a myth. You could try a more positive direction, which is like Your First 30 Days With Fire Cider or with apple cider vinegar, or something where you’re taking an umbrella position that we’re going to guide and direct you on your little journey. That’s where you begin with somebody.

Mark: Okay. Let me give you a little story about Fire Cider. This might help. First of all, they started seven years ago. They’re probably in thousands and thousands… I mean, GNC, Vitacost, Wegmans, everywhere. They are everywhere, because they were the only show in town for a few years, so they have a very, very strong foothold. Now there’s starting to be a lot of resistance to their brand because of the negative light that they cast when they were suing little people, sending a cease and desist orders… you know, you can’t use the fire cider. And there are some stores that will not carry their products.

Mark: But just recently, once that lawsuit… once, they lost, they have now… Their product used to be $25.99 for a 16-ounce bottle. Now they sell it for $20, so they have dropped the price by over 20%. I think to A) crush the competition, and B) just because of some of the negative light that was cast. That’s one thing, we’ve got to make sure that… there’s really no comparison once you taste them, but that’s something we are

Jason: Well, I mean, I think one way to go with that is to stop comparing yourself to them and figure out how to earn a position in the minds of the world that only you guys can occupy. Otherwise it’s kind of like this race to the bottom, and I don’t know that… I saw that comparison chart that you had up on the ad… if I didn’t know about them and I was just searching for fire cider because my granny used to use it… and I’m thinking the generic fire cider, well, now you’ve introduced another player that I wasn’t even thinking about. It’s like, if we can get your story clear in a way that is compelling to people and just focus on that, then the affinity that you build, there’s not room for another one.

Jason: Like, “Yeah, if you want to save a few bucks, there are plenty of choices, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re about the story that Mark tells.”

Mark: I like that route. I did something similar in my pool business years ago when the economy was tanking, and a friend of mine said, “You just got to build high and [inaudible 00:41:27] with it.” I can’t even bid a job now where we’re making 1500 bucks off of a pool. He goes, “Trust me.” And then we started building $150,000 pools, so I understand that taking that difference… We’ve just got to build value and education into the product.

Jason: Yeah, and my guess is the other players out there just aren’t willing to take the time to do this. They need to move the bottles and… this is treating humans like they want to be treated.

Mark: I like it.

Barton: I wanted to mention the bulk of our traffic comes to a single page on our website, and I don’t know if you want to look at that and critique that site, or what you might think that we should add to it to personalize and bring some more humanity to it, but if you go to the website and you go to News, and under News, which is the blog area, then it’s the apple cider vinegar, 10 Incredible Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar. It’s right at the top. You click on that, and that goes to our page and, like I said, at one time we were ranking… it was like a hockey stick, and then Google spanked us a couple months back and our traffic has gotten a lot smaller, but this was producing a lot of traffic.

Barton: I don’t know if you’re on that page or not, but we had a… we got his video there with his story. We put that in there to personalize it a little bit. And then I believe… well, I don’t see the report there any more. Jana’s been playing around with it a little bit.

Jason: One way that I might turn the corner here is, keep all the great content, the 10 benefits. Take out the video and right where that would have been, you put in a little interstitial kind of banner with a picture of Mark that says, “Hear Mark tell his story of what happened when he started reaping the benefits of daily apple cider vinegar use.” You can say that to Mother Earth, right? It’s in there.

Barton: Yeah.

Jason: Opt in and get it, and then Mark tells his story.

Barton: And then you deliver that story.

Jason: Yeah. Delivery that story and start the autoresponder. And now we’re just pulling them over. Apple cider vinegar. “Well, I take it every day. Let me tell you what it did for me. I don’t just take any apple cider vinegar. I take it with a bunch of other things. In fact, it created such a difference in my life that this is my company now.”

Barton: Hmm. Okay.

Jason: I would take the picture of the Mother Earth thing off there. We’re not selling here. We just want their name.

Barton: Okay.

Jason: And anywhere else like that, I mean, what’s the next best page? I would figure out how to do that with contextually-relevant ways to opt in. And maybe they get one or two things, but eventually they end up on your main autoresponder. Which means everybody’s hearing the whole story from Mark, probably in his own words, even on video. They’re getting his gruff but friendly… just the way he is. It’s human, it’s unique.

Barton: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jason: Didn’t mean to call you gruff. I meant-

Mark: Yeah. [inaudible 00:45:34] you’ve known me for 30 minutes, and you nailed it perfectly. How in the hell did you do that?

Mark: I’ve got a question for you, Jason. When you have customers… we’re trying to make this so affordable… how important is the free shipping aspect of it? Because it kills me that, just the cost of it kills me… and I know maybe we start out with… but how important, in your view, is that?

Jason: My guess is… I don’t think there’s any one answer for everybody, right? But my guess is the closer your product moves to commodity, the more important that is. No one asks for free shipping on delivery of a Rolls Royce. Not that you’re taking premium pricing… that’s not your position… but your position is a story that has way more depth, almost to the point where they would feel bad asking you for that. Would you feel bad asking someone you really cared about to eat the cost of shipping if they were sending you something that you wanted, that you had asked for? I just try to think about it that way. How do we create such an affinity for what you’re doing… I mean, you’re on a mission, right?

Mark: Right.

Jason: And you’re on a mission that has you in the face of constant resistance, people telling you they can’t drink it, people telling you, “I’d rather poison myself with medicine than take this.” All manner of craziness that you have to deal with, and you just still keep going. That’s a character… it’s real, but it’s a character in a story that people can get behind, as long as you tell them. I think that’s the key. The story has to get out there. Otherwise, you’re, “Look at these guys. Well, we’re better than that.” That is not a compelling story.

Mark: Got you. And you know what? That was not Bart’s idea. That was my idea on the Fire Cider thing, which you’re pooh-poohing, which I can understand now, when we were comparing, them. Because I just thought maybe if people… if there was some Fire Cider imbibers who saw that… maybe they’d go, “Oh, well what’s this stuff?” But I understand why even bring another name into the fray if some people didn’t even know either company existed?

Barton: Yeah, we started doing this when the lawsuit was happening, thinking that we could take advantage of the opportunity, basically. That was the idea.

Jason: I think the approach is, Mark, if someone who was in pain came into your home for dinner and they didn’t know anything, and you really set out to try and help them with this, how would that conversation go? And that’s the type of thing we’re going to put into a package.

Mark: Right. And you know, I do that a lot. I do that at every show, and I think that’s why we do well at shows. You’re not a doctor, but I do believe we give people enough advice and say hey, yes, if someone came into my house, I asked them what was going on, and I’d probably give them a shot of cider. I can guarantee you that.

Jason: Yeah. The other thing I want to talk about quick here, before we wrap up, is what you guys do to help the people who are taking this and benefiting from it tell the story? Is there any systematic approach to go make a video, send us a text, go do this, spread it here? What have you thought about there?

Barton: Well I know [crosstalk 00:49:42]. Go ahead, Mark.

Mark: Go ahead. I said, we have done that before, where we were giving out some product for testimonials. Didn’t we do that a little bit? I think we did that once or twice.

Barton: Yeah, we were trying at one point to set up a video feed of people trying it for the first time and their reaction, and I wanted to make a montage of people taking it for the first time. You can actually see the visceral feeling they’re having when they take the shot. I thought that might have been a good thing, but Jana set up on the website… I think that every customer that orders is followed up with a request for a review, so we’ve assimilated a lot of testimonials. We have a lot of those. I’m wondering if there’s… what you think about maybe reaching out to our best of the best customers for a quick little interview? Or are you suggesting actually to ask them to do a quick video testimonial or something?

Jason: I think it could go a couple ways. I think getting video testimonials out of people is often harder than just pulling their teeth out.

Barton: Yeah, exactly.

Jason: I don’t know why, but they seem to hate that. One possibility would be to reach out to people you know love you and say, “Hey, we’re putting together a showcase of some of our customers for an upcoming newsletter issue. We’d love to feature you. Can we tell your story?” Get them on the phone, have them talk to Mark. Either get it transcribed or summarize it, whatever. And then send that out, and then put that in your autoresponder sequence.

Mark: Not video, but text?

Jason: Whatever you can do. I’m just saying, some people are allergic to… I have people who love what I do, and you just can’t get them to send in a video testimonial. Maybe if it’s easier for you, I would totally do that. Say, “Send us your videos,” but rather than just put them in a montage on the website, put them in the sequence, so they will get used over and over again. Everyone will see them that comes in that’s new to your world. I mean, you could do audio interviews with Mark on the phone with them. 10 minutes. “Tell me about what it’s been like. Did you hate it when you had your first sip?” And then you can use all that stuff.

Barton: What we could do is… Jana could help me with this… we could identify our top customers or repeat customers, and just do a reach out and ask if they’d be open… like you said, feature their story. And then figure out Mark’s schedule and their schedule and set that up, and have some way to record the call and the interview, so to speak. It might only be five or 10 minutes or whatever. Something just real quick, just to hear their story and feature that in our e-zine or newsletter.

Mark: I know a lot of my good customers who would do that. Whether I could get them to send a video or not, maybe some of them, but I could surely get it in text. I do understand a lot of people… We just had a great… Bart, did you see that testimonial from that lady yesterday?

Barton: Yeah, yeah. Said it saved her life.

Mark: Yeah. Jason, let me just… Jason, when we finish up, I would, if you want, I’d be glad to send you some of my product to try and tell me what you think about it.

Jason: Sure, yeah. That would be awesome. Maybe I’ll take a video of my first sip.

Mark: There you go. I’m going to share something I got this morning. It says, “I think you saved my life yesterday. I was really very, very sick with bad respiratory symptoms, and went to my nearest Mom’s.” Mom’s is an organic market that carries my product. “They gave me a sample of your tonic and I bought a bottle. I also had a hydrogen peroxide drip with vitamins. When I got home I made an appointment at an urgent care clinic for today because I thought I was going to die. This morning I canceled my appointment. Your tonic is awesome.”

Jason: That’s amazing. Yeah. To me that belongs doing way more work than just sticking it on a web page, right? Because when it goes into the sequence, then everybody sees it. Everybody sees it. All right. Any other question or stuff that we didn’t touch on that-

Mark: No, just type me your address and I’ll get you some product.

Jason: Okay, sure. I’ll definitely do that, and yeah. It’s been awesome talking with you guys. Why don’t you give your website, just for everybody on the call, so they can go get themselves some tonic if they can use it?

Mark: Yeah. Shop on over to

Jason: Awesome.