Interview with Michael Wieder – The People of Digital Marketing Ep. 55

Michael Wieder is the Co-Founder, President, and CMO of Lalo.

In this episode we covered:

  • The unique challenges involved when marketing to parents. How are the decision cycle and customer journey different?
  • How has Lalo achieved product-market fit?
  • How Lalo provides the emotional benefit their customers are looking for?
  • The first year of Lalo’s growth and how they went about testing acquisition channels.
  • The importance of creating a council of power users/power customers.
  • And more!

 

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto  0:00  

Hello there and welcome to another episode of “The People of Digital Marketing” with your host Kenny Soto. Today’s guest is Michael Wieder. Michael is the co-founder, president, and Chief Marketing Officer at Lalo. And most importantly, he’s also that 18-month-old Jemma. 

Utilizing his diverse experience helping build world-class brands. Michael oversees all of Lalo’s marketing and consumer engagement efforts. Prior to founding Lalo, Michael had various leadership positions, including head of brand marketing and partnerships that weigh up. He also gained valuable entrepreneurial experience having founded a fitness tech brand, and a music management and event production firm. 

Michael graduated from the University of Michigan and currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, daughter, and his dog. Today’s episode is a really, really, really good one. And I hope you enjoy listening just as much as I enjoyed producing it. Now, let’s tune in. Hi, Michael.

Michael Wieder  1:03  

Hey, Kenny, how’s it going?

Kenny Soto  1:05  

I’m doing very, very good. And as always, I like to start off these interviews by asking a very straightforward question to all my guests, just so that the audience can get more context about who you are as a professional and more information about your career. So my first question for you is what exactly got you into digital marketing?

Michael Wieder  1:25  

Oh, that’s a good question. Really, it was my entrepreneurial spirit. I started my digital marketing in my days of managing up-and-coming musicians. So the idea of it was right at the time where social media was really helping propel up-and-coming musicians. So understanding digital marketing was the key to helping these up-and-coming musicians find audiences, and fans to listen to their music.

Kenny Soto  1:51  

And how would you describe what you currently do?

Michael Wieder  1:56  

Right now, I mean, as a founder of a business, it really breaks down to two things. Number one, growth, how do we grow this business as strategically as possible? And number two is managing people? How do we make sure our team is put in positions to win and help the business grow? And how do we make sure that their careers grow alongside that?

Kenny Soto  2:20  

And just to give more context to the audience, can you describe what your business does? 

Michael Wieder  2:25  

Yeah, absolutely. So we’re a baby goods business, we make beautiful functional and safe products for parents and their little ones, really focused on beautiful products in the home.

Kenny Soto  2:36  

Now, I’m assuming there are unique challenges when it comes to marketing to parents, specifically, what, what are those unique challenges one and two, do you have a different approach when it comes to marketing fathers versus mothers?

Michael Wieder  2:55  

So at Lalo, I mean, we really, we really think about how our customer is different. And one of the opportunities in starting this business is that the market hasn’t really moved in the way that other industries have moved, yet the shoppers, that consumer is still the same person. So we see a tremendous opportunity there. But we have to think about the decision cycle the customer journey a lot differently. Because if you think about anything else you buy on the internet, you can wake up tomorrow and decide it’s time to buy it, whether that’s a toothbrush, mattress, a suitcase, you name it, right? If you need to buy a highchair. 

Either, you’re expecting a kid or you have a kid that’s about to start solids, or you’re buying it as a gift and you know somebody that’s entering that stage. So it’s really, really specific in terms of the audience and food is 3.6 million babies are born every year in the United States. So if we start there with our market, we got to focus in on who our customer is and where they are in their stage, and the possibility of their of them buying our products. 

And when we think about our audience, we don’t so much break out the idea of mothers and fathers were extremely inclusive at Lalo. And the way we think about family constructs and understand that the families are made up of all different types of people, or, you know, different ways a family can be constructed. 

So that’s really important to our business. But what we do think about is, where is this person in their journey of parenthood? are they expecting the child? Did they just have a child? Are they a grandparent who might be a potential gifter? Or are they experience a parent who’s had a couple of products and has some experience on their belt and know what they like and what they don’t like? And maybe they want to make a switch? So that’s kind of how we segment our different user personas more than specifically thinking about their role within a family.

Kenny Soto  4:46  

Would you say that you have achieved product-market fit?

Michael Wieder  4:53  

Yeah, I mean, product-market fit is obviously is a little bit different in a market like ours, but I think when we think about product-market fit, we think about is what are we delivering? Technically what they need is the function of the product. And then is the brand delivering the emotional benefit that they’re hoping to achieve? And we think we’ve nailed all of that. And that’s really been able to propel our growth. 

So yeah, I would say there’s product-market fit. But I think markets evolve too. And if you think about your product market as a stagnant thing, there’s going to be someone else that comes in and beats you on something you’re trying to do. So you always have to understand where the market is moving and move there first and be a first mover. That’s a big thing we think about as well.

Kenny Soto  5:39  

This is a great segue into talking about the first year of growing the company, as you were trying to achieve product-market fit. How did you go about doing market research, figuring out what are the best acquisition channels to start testing? And how did you set up your experimentation?

Michael Wieder  6:01  

Yeah, so before anything, before we even started designing products, finding factories, etc, we did a survey of over 1000 parents to understand who are the brands that are resonating? Why what do they feel is missing in the market? And what were the main pain points? So that was where we started the entire thing that was almost four years ago, so a year and a half before we launched the business. And that gave us a really, really good understanding of different market dynamics. 

From there. I mean, it’s really important every day that we’re listening to our customers. And, you know, it’s not just about holding focus groups and surveys and things like that. But it’s about the everyday customer that comes in and interacts with your customer experience. See, how intently are you listening to them? What questions are you asking, so you can help inform your marketing or product development, you’re creative, everything? So that’s really important to us. 

And our customer experience team is our eyes and ears to the business. But we’ve also formed what we call the wall of fam Council. And that was an application process that we put out to all of our customers, we got over 1000 applications in under 24 hours to and we chose 15 people to be our little Advisory Council, you know, a group of parents that we can turn to ask questions, run surveys with run focus groups with and we have a really, really intimate relationship with. 

And that just, you know, happen now, but in the first year is just, you know, we were front and center, we were showing up at people’s homes when they had a problem, we’d go and visit them in person to hear, hear what the issue was, or call them up. And we continue to do those things that don’t scale to that.

Kenny Soto  7:36  

For the marketer, who is day one at their startup, and they’ve been tasked with achieving product-market fit, what would you say is something that they should consider that commonly isn’t considered?

Michael Wieder  7:52  

I would say focus on Creative over audience if you can, especially now, with the iOS changes in data privacy, creativity is your major unlock. So I think a lot of a lot of growth marketers performance marketers are really digital marketers who are really focused on the numbers and the analytics. But if you can also understand that creative, you’re, you’re a unicorn to any organization.

Kenny Soto  8:18  

The next question I have has to do with an age-old problem of aligning business objectives with marketing strategies, how do you go about doing

Michael Wieder  8:27  

that? So I think a lot of companies will grow at all costs, or, you know, either, you know, focus on you were really, you know, really low CAC, and like, you know, low CAC isn’t necessarily a good thing, right? If you have a low CAC or a high ROAS, as is it too low, is it too high? Are you too efficient, because if you’re too efficient, you’re potentially hindering your growth. 

So I think what we try to do is we try to limit the metrics that we’re going against or focusing on, and we try to align those across the entire organization, not just the marketing team. So I think if you can get by and across all the organizations, and I think, you know, early-stage company, you know, it’s called the first two years of a business. 

Everybody’s goal is growth. Everybody’s goal is revenue. So and everybody impacts it, even if it doesn’t seem that way. You know, what the product development team does impacts the marketing team with the marketing team does impacts the operations team, and what they can do. So understanding the common threads across the organization is important to finding a common goal or objective across the org.

Kenny Soto  9:39  

And speaking of the organization, I’m assuming that as you continue to grow and get more rounds of funding, you will scale out your marketing team. So my next question is, as you scale out your marketing team, what do you look for in marketing talent? And what should marketers who are applying to startups in general, think about that will actually impress a marketing leader?

Michael Wieder  10:10  

Yeah, I think there’s really three things tenacity, grit, and productivity. So if you have those three things you become invaluable to any organization if you know, attack each day, understanding that you can do better with that tenacity. Or if you really bear down in your, in the way you test, and the way you rigorously approach your job with that grit. Or if you want to get out there and try something first, as we say, right, playbooks don’t follow them. 

That idea of proactivity is really important, especially to early career marketers, but a marketer at any stage,

Kenny Soto  10:50  

including Lalo, but also all of your past positions. What was one of your most valuable failures? And I asked this in the frame of reference of an experience that led you to a lesson that you use to this day.

Michael Wieder  11:08  

My biggest failure? A tough question on the spot. I think for within Lalo. I don’t know if this is the biggest failure from a marketing perspective, but it’s definitely learning was to really think about how and why are spending money. I think early on if I was doing it, again, I’d probably pull back a little bit on our paid media and focus on the organic growth that we had early on, I think we got a little swept up in making sure we were spending the right amount on in, in the different advertising channels, whether it be Facebook, or Instagram, or Google, just because we felt like we needed to be there. But we had such a groundswell early from organic, that was really moving the needle. 

And I think if you focus on harnessing that, that’s really important. I think there are also opportunities, I think a lot of companies get swept up in user acquisition or customer acquisition, and they forget that they’re the cheapest customer to acquire is the one they already have. So the importance of retention. And retention doesn’t just refer to a subscription business, I think every business has a way of retaining customers. And that could be things you purchases they make again, or that could be through referral and loyalty.

Kenny Soto  12:27  

What are some hard or soft skills that you’ve leveraged throughout your entire career?

Michael Wieder  12:33  

I think Time management is probably one of the most important ones. And you know, people talk about context switching and help context switching isn’t great for productivity. But if you manage your time really effectively, that’s really important. I’m also inbox zero. So like, I am really, really a productivity nut. So I want to make sure that I’m managing my inbox so I can do my other work, I don’t let things pile up. 

I get things out the door and ship them as quickly as I can. And then I think you along that that tenacity piece is having tenacity around learning. So for me, picking up hard skills is really important. So I’ve taught myself every design platform that there is, I’ve taught myself at times little bits of code, or at least how to read code, even if I’m not writing the code. So I could be more powerful on the tech side, or I’ve taught myself except, you know, to be really strong at Excel. 

So I can, you know, be be be a weapon with data. But really, really making sure you’re investing in teaching yourself or educating yourself through courses. And other means whether it could just be watching a YouTube video, I do a lot of that, you know, I don’t know something I teach myself through YouTube, and I worked on perfecting it.

Kenny Soto  13:58  

I would definitely not that curiosity is a core skill to have as a marketer. So, yeah, my last question, Michael is hypothetical, of course, because time machines don’t exist, hopefully they will in the future. But if you can go back 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you accelerate the speed of your career?

Michael Wieder  14:20  

Probably what I would have done was not trace chase my dream job, which my dream job was to be a sports agent and I did that I achieve that. But what I learned about myself was that above any job I wanted my entrepreneurial spirit. And drive an entrepreneurial side was more was greater than any single job I wanted or any industry I want it to be a part of. 

So I would have chased that a little bit harder. Earlier on and it was always present throughout that period of time, but it definitely detoured the drive to own and operate my own thing.

Kenny Soto  15:02  

Amazing. And if anyone wanted to find you online and say hi Where can they connect?

Michael Wieder  15:08  

Probably best is Twitter just at mwieder (https://twitter.com/mwieder) or check us out online at our website, https://MeetLalo.com. Those are the best places.

Kenny Soto  15:23  

Awesome. Thank you so much for your time today Michael, and thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of “The People of Digital Marketing.” And I’m your host Kenny Soto. I hope you have a great week.

Michael Wieder  15:35  

Bye

 

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