What's Working in Marketing™: Why Your Marketing Needs Lightning Strikes with Matt Bertulli, CEO of Pela

Brand & Positioning Strategy
Cross-Channel
August 16, 2022
Marketing & Advertising

What's Working in Marketing™ is a podcast where we uncover what’s working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world’s best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. Join us if you're ready to learn what's working when it comes to your marketing efforts.

On this episode, we spoke with Matthew Bertulli, CEO of Pela, an eCommerce brand that’s on a mission to unf*ck the earth. Matt’s keen eye for product R&D and growth opportunities have already resulted in an exit for his award-winning company Demac Media. Although his career first began as a software developer who hated marketing, Matt eventually decided it was so important to learn more since marketing is what drives consumer demand. Years later, he still looks at marketing a little differently than your typical brand marketer with a college degree. We talk about the cause for that, why lightning strikes should be a part of your marketing strategy, how they work, and what makes Matt hate the term positioning. He even gives some contextual examples of well-executed lightning strikes by brands out there, and explains how this extreme focus, 2-3x per year, ties in with the other ‘peanut butter style marketing’.

You can listen to What's Working in Marketing™ – A Podcast by RightMetric wherever you get your podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Tune In, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts.

Here’s a full transcript of our conversation with Matt:

Charlie Grinnell: Welcome to What's Working in Marketing, a podcast for marketers that uncovers what's working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world's best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. I'm your host, Charlie Grinnell. On this episode I'm joined by Matt Bertulli, CEO at Pela. Matt, thank you very much for joining me today.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah, absolutely, man. It's going to be fun.

Charlie Grinnell: So, a couple things. This is a bit of a fanboy moment. I'm a Pela customer, my girlfriend got me into Lomi and we happen to connect on Twitter and run into each other in person at a conference actually. And you gave a talk there, which is going to kind of be the basis of our conversation today. Because as soon as I heard that, I was like, "Oh man, there is so much gold in here." Usually, how I start these episodes is I like to go back to the beginning. Can you just give our listeners an idea of what has been your career journey to date? I know a little bit about your background, but what is the two-minute synopsis of your career journey and how you started to where you're at now running Pela?

Matt Bertulli: For sure, man. I started out actually as a self-taught software developer. I think I got my first computer when I was 11. I was just lucky. I'm 41 now. So, super lucky in that my dad was an electrical engineer and where he worked, they had a lot of this stuff. It was kind of a good luck. I started in that world really, really young. Worked as a practicing software developer. I look at it like a craft, that's what it is. I worked at that until I was maybe 30, a bunch of different jobs, but I effectively went from actively coding to then being a sales engineer at NetSuite when I was 25. Worked there for a couple years pre-IPO. Once we went public, I broke it on my own. I started actually a development shop, I just started building eCommerce websites for retailers in Canada. That company, I bootstrapped that business to 120 people, eight figures in revenue. It took a decade, but did it.

Charlie Grinnell: Casual decade.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. It's 10 year overnight success. Sold to private equity in 2018. Along the way of building that company, I met the founder of Pela. This is pre-revenue Pela, so pre-everything. I don't know, something about what he was working on just really resonated. I liked the mission and this sort of, "Let's go after waste." At that time, it was just plastic waste, but like, "Let's go after waste." Over time, I've become a reluctant marketer. Because when you're in the eCommerce DTC world, effectively that's what you're doing, it's like you're building brands and learned what works, what doesn't, still learning what works and what doesn't. Obviously, I think half the time I'm full of shit, because I don't know. I know it's working now and it may not work in six months, because marketers ruin everything. Yeah, that's it, I went from developer to entrepreneur to marketer.

Charlie Grinnell: I want to dig into a couple things there. One, starting as a developer, I'm just going to go out here and say this, you're a marketing late bloomer, it sounds like. You obviously built your own business, but you're not a traditional, "Hey, I went to school, I got my bachelor of commerce, or I got MBA, I'm a marketer."

Matt Bertulli: No, god, no. I used to think marketing was stupid. I was a marketing, turn my nose up at everything marketing thinking it was the dumbest thing. You know?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: It was funny. When my wife and I got together at 24 and she was working at an actual marketing agency in Alberta and I'm like, "This is all hocus-pocus bullshit. This isn't actual work, you don't make anything." And even when I was building my own company, we weren't good at marketing ourselves. I was a good salesman and I was a pretty good product guy. Then over time, working with enough brands, and enough retailers, I just wound up really liking the craft that is marketing. Really, I tend to lean more towards copywriting and language positioning than I do anything else. Yeah. It's a evolution. It was like, "Okay, this is where consumer demand comes from, so I guess I got to get good at this."

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, interesting. What would you say would be the easiest things that you felt like you picked up naturally? And then on the flip side, what have been the hard things?

Matt Bertulli: I mean, the hard part of marketing is honestly, it's ideas. I hear this from everybody. It's like, how do I come up with fresh ideas frequently to try and test and see if they work? And bar none, man, that is definitely the hardest part of the job is staying fresh. Learning to write good copy is a forever craft. I still feel like I'm terrible and I have friends that are world class copywriters and every time I throw something at them that I think is good, they'll come back and be like, "Eh, here's how it could be better." I'm like, "Freaking hell." And I'm not bad.

Charlie Grinnell: I was going to say, "You aren't bad and I'm an awful copywriter and I feel like copy is very, very difficult to nail."

Matt Bertulli: It is. The nice thing with copy is the art of good copy has not changed in 100 years and you can go back over decades and what Ogilvy taught to Halbert, to all of the greats, to now watch Craig Clemens with Golden Hippo. There's just so many great copywriters in history that you can learn from. The lessons are the , they are age old, small things change like certain words and certain things get kind of burnt out. You don't do that anymore. But channels change and mediums change, how you write copy for a TikTok video script versus a YouTube versus a landing page. It's all small variations, but it really is, that's the bulk of marketing, man, is just putting an awesome message, a very compelling set of words in front of somebody that drives them to action that you . That's it.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely. I need to get better at copywriting, that's something where I'm like, "Oh," when I see good copy, I'm like, "Bookmark and I need to get better at this."

Matt Bertulli: Yeah, there's lots of tricks to being great at copy. It's one of those, again, because it is a well-studied, long time field and it doesn't take much. What it is, is the challenge with writing good copy is you have to do it every day. It's like anything else, right?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Practice.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. Honestly, you got to wake up, you got to write. I write every day, even if I'm not writing sales copy or marketing copy, I write every day. I actually think that that's pretty much the main output of my job as founder and CEO of Pela. I pretty much communicate. That's what I do.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. And if writing is a clear way of thinking, that kind of goes hand in hand.

Matt Bertulli: It's the best, man. Whether that's you need to communicate to your team internally or shareholders, board, investors, customers, partners. It largely comes down to words. So, the better you get at them, whether that's written or verbal, it doesn't matter. I think it's the ultimate business superpower.

Charlie Grinnell: Yep. Communication. Okay. We could do a whole episode around copy. I want to pivot gears here. When I first watched your presentation at this conference, you were very polarizing in the way that you talked about marketing, approach marketing, and you've kind of said that the best businesses create new categories, they don't really position themselves into existing ones. One of the things that I actually wrote down in my notes in reviewing, preparing for this episode was, I wrote, "Matt hates positioning." So, can you break down that thought process and what does that mean for marketers who probably buy into that positioning concept?

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. I think I mentioned this in that presentation, too, but for me it's been like this journey over the last five to seven years of really, when I started, it's really dig into marketing and positioning is what people talk about. And there's very famous books on this from very famous people that are better at this than I am. But at the same time, I've always just thought, I don't love the... A book that resonated with me was Blue Ocean Strategy. I don't love the idea of positioning within an existing market. I much prefer the idea of creating something net new that nobody's ever seen before, even if it's our first product was a compostable phone case. But nobody had ever thought that you could take a really new age material, make a regular product out of it and completely create a new category. We change the conversation around mobile accessories and there's like a hundred copycats of that business now, because we just blew a new category open. 

A lot of the language and my thinking has really been helped by, there's this sub stack called category pirates, Chris Lochhead and Nic Cole and Eddie Yoon, they're on our board of advisors. Those three guys really helped what structure and words around our approach to how are we building this company?And a lot of what they teach, I'm like, "Shit, that's what we do." Then there's things that I learned from them, "Man, we don't do that at all. That's a great thing that we should try." Yeah, my view is the best companies create categories. If you look at the very best companies in history, they all created categories. They didn't just show up into an existing bloody market and carve out their little niche. They didn't go in there saying, "Oh, the riches are in the niches." It's like, no, man. They went in, they found a toehold and their vision was very big.

Now, this is just my school of my view. I absolutely think there is a world where, and it's a very successful world, you can build companies purely on positioning, purely on saying, "I know that every day in Target they sell a bajillion protein bars, I'm going to make a different protein bar and I'm just going to position differently. I'm going to make one for paleo or keto." You can do that. But my own preference is I would rather go in and not make a protein bar. I'd rather make a protein shake if that hadn't existed yet. Something completely different that still solves for a problem that a customer has. Then the really great companies, they solve problems that customers don't even think of it, that they don't even know that they have yet. That's the Henry Ford example of the world.

Charlie Grinnell: Yep. Or the Steve Jobs with iPhone.

Matt Bertulli: Totally. Nobody even thought they wanted those things. They're hard companies to build though. This is not the easy path to building a business. Every example of a category-creating business took a long-ass time to build that category. These weren't done in two years, three years flip. These are decades-long journeys. I would even argue that Tesla is the category king of electric cars, even though they weren't the first. They built that category.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's interesting you say that, because there's a book behind me on the shelf and I've referenced it in other episodes. I got an old, shitty, used copy on Amazon and it's called Will and Vision: How Latecomers Come to Dominate Markets. It's kind of based on going down that train of thought. And I think not to get listeners confused here is don't just innovate for the sake of innovating. With you, what you've done with the compostable phone case thing and now with Lomi, it was more so based on a huge existing category, but taking a different spin on it and being... It's almost more strategic innovation as opposed to innovating for the sake of innovating.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. I'm not an inventor, I can tell you that. We look at things as we're product development and R&D people. The things that I focus on, I like looking at household habits and daily, regular, in-the-home problems or even movement problems. What I liked about the Pela case business and still do is everybody's got a smartphone and 80% of the people with a smartphone put a freaking phone case on it. I'm not going to capture all of those people, but I am going to be able to get a good amount with a completely new category of product. Some people argue, they're like, "Well, actually, Pela case was just good positioning within phone cases." I'm like, "I had to invent a material, that's not exactly positioning." Right?

Charlie Grinnell: That's a product.

Matt Bertulli: We actually, we literally had to invent a new kind of plastic.

Charlie Grinnell: That's not a landing page.

Matt Bertulli: No, there wasn't some shtick. I didn't just show up and say, "Hey, I'm donating money to charity." That's not category creation. It was like, okay, there's all this existing consumer demand for a product or a solution for a problem. I showed up and said like, "Well, I'm going to kind of take some of that demand in a different way. I'm still going to solve the problem, but I'm going to give you words and messaging that you've never seen before." We showed up in that industry and that industry, all they talk about is phone protection. It was like, you remember the megapixel wars of cameras?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: It was like who could release the most megapixels.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, "12 megapixels," and, "Ours is 13.2," and you're like, "Does it matter?"

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. Stupid ass. So, the phone protection industry was like, "This phone case can be dropped from a helicopter." "Well, this one can fall out of a plane." It was so far past stupid, "Okay, this is not creative." We showed up and our lead message was, "Did you know that a billion plastic phone cases is thrown away every year?" That stopped people in their tracks. They're like, "Holy shit, that's a lot." I'm like, "If you thought straws was bad, let me introduce you to phone cases." I love that kind of marketing, which is like, you're asking questions and you're actually getting their customer, whoever your customer is, B2B or B2C, you're getting them to ask the question. To me, that's how you do it, man.

Charlie Grinnell: Well, I want to dig into the phrase lightning strikes, because that's something that's in the title of this, that was kind of in the title of the presentation that I saw you give at the conference. So, what the fuck is a lightning strike? Why are you so bullish about ?

Matt Bertulli: This is a Chris Lochhead, Eddie, and Cole term that I love. When I first read this from them, before the term lightning strike, I used to call these tent pole events.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Whatever you wanted to call.

Matt Bertulli: Whatever the marketing  tons of terms for it. I'm like, "No, lightning strike makes so much more sense." It's like this super concentrated amount of energy in one point in time, in one place. In marketing speak, the way I look at this is a strike is something like, I'll give you an example, like the Lomi launch of the product was a lightning strike. We chose to do it in a crowdfund platform. We did it on a very specific day, Earth Day. We lined up a shitload of PR, I was on TV all day long. We just did everything that most companies think that they have to spread out. We concentrated all the work on a single day and then we watched it build momentum afterwards. Again, if you look at the great companies right now, they do this. Apple has two major events a year and you're hard pressed to find a lot of marketing from Apple the rest of the year.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, they don't.

Matt Bertulli: People will argue, and be like, "Oh yeah, but Apple's so big they don't have to anymore." I'm like, "Yeah, but they always did this, guys. Whenever they did something it was like it was a strike. And then they kind of went away." These are big momentum building events. It's a certain message, a certain plate in time for a certain customer with a wicked category-creating kind of message, a wicked transformation that when that person sees it, it's like, "Holy shit, I didn't think of that." That's what strikes are. The controversial part about them is a lot of companies do the other thing, which is even-keeled, peanut butter-style marketing. It's like, "I want 10 leads a day at this price so I can close this many." We've really turned marketing into this strange exercise of math and funnels and close ratios. All that's important, but I've proved multiple times now, even just personally, that when you do a strike properly, you can catapult the business from zero to tens of millions with a good strike, instead of trying to step it up every day, every week for months and months and years and years. Because companies don't grow that way. Companies don't do straight up to the right type growth. It's always steps. Actually, often, it's this up and down motion. They grow, they shrink, they grow up even bigger, then they shrink again. They grow up even bigger. The strikes actually help you build those S-curves and connect them together. That's why they're awesome.

Charlie Grinnell: Those are those step changes. And then digging into that a little further, it's like that peanut butter that you have already on-

Matt Bertulli: Yeah.

Charlie Grinnell: Can then continue to amplify those strikes because you're able-

Matt Bertulli: That's just going to get better.

Charlie Grinnell: …reference back to those things.

Matt Bertulli: Totally. That just gets better. There's so many different ways to do these kinds of strikes. Big companies like to use events and conferences, DTC product launches can be good strikes. They can be very big or they can be much smaller. They don't need to be gigantic all the time. It could be a key partnership or a key endorsement that you just want to put a concentrated amount of energy behind, that's actually worthy of attention.

Charlie Grinnell: One of the things that you said last time I heard you speak about this was this concept of manufacturing strikes. And I want to touch on that, because I feel like at least, I'll do a share here. I've been in rooms with tons of different marketers when I sat up on the brand side and now with us consulting with brands, where it's like, "Okay, how can we lean into different days?" I think when a lot of people think, "Okay, manufacturing day, international yoga pant day, or national hotdog day," or whatever. I feel like some marketers hearing that would roll their eyes, because they'd be like, "Oh great, here we have to do another post around hot dog day." Whatever the thing is. But I think where a lot of... What I'm hearing from you is if you're going to actually do a strike, invest in it and fucking double down and do it and not, "Oh yeah. Hey, our support for international hotdog days is we put up a carousel of hotdog photos."

Matt Bertulli: Right. Yeah. No, it's actually, this is where it gets nerve-racking is you actually have to put quite a bit of resources towards a  strike. It's 60%-70% of your effort is going to go into a strike. What you're trying to do as a company is string one to three of these together a year, varying sizes. A lot of companies, this shows up at specific times a years. So, if you sell physical things, we're about to enter back to school, a lot of brands will use that and we will too-

Charlie Grinnell: Yep. Holiday, all that.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, that's genuinely just a repeating strike.

Charlie Grinnell: Prime Day.

Matt Bertulli: It's a concentrated effort on five days  three months, whatever it is now. I think that's the thinking is you really have to look at a calendar year or however long and then pick your points and say, "We're going to build momentum at these points." Because it is, time is a variable in this.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. What advice would you have out there for marketers if they think about manufacturing those lightning strikes? Do you have, I don't know if it's a checklist or here's how to think about it. What have you done in the past, maybe? You talked about how you aligned Lomi with Earth Day like, duh, that makes a lot of sense.

Matt Bertulli: I mean, for me, I always like to try not to make it as hard as possible. If there's an existing day where there's a bunch of people paying attention to a problem or a cause or something, it's aligned with what you're doing, it's usually good to try to hijack that day. Whereas, if there isn't, then you have to create your own. The big brands create their own, like these product launch events.

The key thing to all this too is you can't do this for everybody. You really have to think a strike is only for a very small subset of your customers that actually care about your brand or your company. Most of your customers, they don't actually don't care. Nobody's hearing that. But 89% of your customers don't give a shit about you, you sell a product, they buy it, period, full stop.

But 10% of your customers are super bought in. A good example of this, if you ever really want to see what a company that leans into that's not Apple, because I hate using Apple as an example. If you want to see a company that lean into this core super consumer, to use Eddie's term, DJI drones, drone nerds are drone nerds and they are extra into drones.

So, when DGI does stuff, they do it for the core. They don't really care about Bob Sweater from where I live, who's going to go to Best Buy and buy a 200 drone? They don't give a shit about Bob. Bob's buying it because he wants to play or whatever. It's a gift for his kid. Whereas there are extra nerdy drone people where they've got multiple drones and they like all of drone things and they sit there on the forums and talk with other drone nerds. If you're DGI, you cater to them. Apple does that. When Apple launches products, the only people who really care, really, the problem in our world is we know a lot of techies. It's a big deal in our world. But, man, talk to your parents. They couldn't even tell you when the launch event is.

Charlie Grinnell: Let alone what model iPhone is currently at.

Matt Bertulli: They don't give a shit. 90% of the population's like, "What just happened?" But the press eats it up. It's like, "Oh, look at the people sleeping outside the Apple Store." I'm like, "Yeah, because those are Apple nerds and they have a lot of them and it's great." They build those events for those people because then those people take it and tell all their friends and they generate noise. That's what makes for a great strike is it lights up a core. Another good example of how to tell if a strike is great, it's also going to piss another side off. Lomi has mega haters.

Charlie Grinnell: Really?

Matt Bertulli: They're like, "I can't believe you're using power when you could just get chickens or a backyard compost." I'm like, "Man, for buck's sakes." If that was the case, we should all have a bin in our backyard and do it the old way, but we don't.

Charlie Grinnell: That goes back to the Ford example. If everyone wanted more, I should get more horses.

Matt Bertulli: People get pissed off because the thing uses electricity and it's like... Or we'll get the hardcore composters will be like, "Well, you're not really making compost." I'm like, "I know, it's called composting. It's an act, it's a process. I'm not claiming to finish six months of compost. Come on, guys, I'm taking care of a problem for a customer and you can use what comes out of a Lomi for the same shit, the same way that you can traditional compost or ." But this is a good thing to me. It's like, no, no, I created something that is genuinely polarizing. So, I have hardcore fans and on the other side of that coin, I have people who are opposing it. As a marketer, I'm like, "That's freaking great. I'll take it all day."

Charlie Grinnell: I want to click into that just around that as a brand and being polarizing and being bold. Do you feel, I don't know, I'll give my take. I feel the original gangster of polarization that I think a lot of people remember is Wendy's on Twitter, when it was the sassy kind of thing. That would be the recent example I feel like. Then all of a sudden you start to see these different things happening. Most recently, this RadioShack stuff and what all this kind of stuff has happened and then with a lot of cancel culture. I think you've probably seen that pendulum go to really sassy and then back to, "Oh shit, that person got canceled and run out of town." So, I think a lot of that pendulum is going back to safety, how do you-

Matt Bertulli: I think It's actually going to come back very fast to say what you want, people are... I think it's a demographic/psychographic thing. I really think your audience matters. I think having a strong opinion, that's nothing wrong with that. The world would be a lot better place if we all realized that not all of us can care about every single thing the same that you do about your thing. We're all so varied in what we care about. I spend my time and energy on environmental things and I don't even do all of them. I don't give a shit about energy. I really don't. Elon however cares a lot about it. And other people care a lot about energy. I don't care.

I'm like, "Look, there's enough people working on that. I'm looking at waste." And I'm like, "Not too many people are working on waste, except for the mafia." They've been doing it the same way for 100 years because they got a good gig. It's 2.5 trillion a year. It's a great gig. So I think cancel culture, the thing that it has done is it's caused a lot of great voices to just stop talking, because a lot of people are afraid of angering people. I don't care. I think that doesn't matter what you say, you're going to piss someone off.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. No one's ever going to be happy at everything.

Matt Bertulli: Dude, even clowns can't get everybody happy. Some people are scared shitless of clowns and their job is to make you happy. I think we'd all be better off just realizing, number one, I mean, don't go out and be an asshole for the sake of it.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Being an asshole and being polarizing are two very different things.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. It's okay to say, "Look, I believe this, you may not, and that's fine. We don't need to agree on everything." I think that's okay. I think the internet has allowed the broad nitpicking of shit. I call it picking the fly shit out of the pepper. It's like, "Why are we arguing about this?" I think last week I was on Twitter, a week before, I'm like, the Twitter algorithm rewards super polarizing statements of absolutes. It's like, "The six best ways to put your underwear on in the morning," and blows up. But inevitably what happens is that's what the algorithm wants. Then you got people that show up and say like, "Well, my cousin's dog's brother's uncle does it this way. And he says that you're wrong." That's the internet. It's like, if you don't like that, I would say you probably don't want to be in marketing. You definitely don't want to be talking publicly. Because that's the internet.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well, I think also just to add to that, the fact that there's almost a running log of capturing everything. Think about the like, oh people like, "I have the receipts." Oh well, you said this six years ago. And you're like, "Kay."

Matt Bertulli: I know, I know. My view and everything, honestly, I tell people all the time, "Look, I have strong beliefs that they're loosely held and-"

Charlie Grinnell: Love that phrase.

Matt Bertulli: "I change my mind all the damn time and I reserve the right to change my mind." Something I said five years ago that I think is really true five years ago, if you want to pull that up and say, "Dude, look what you said five years," go for it. All you're showing me is just how shallow and stupid you are. Call it what it is. Get a fucking hobby.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well, and if the information changes, I've had things before where I've said something and I'm like, "Yeah, it's this." Then people are like, "Oh well, that's not what you said then." I'm like, "Well, the data changed or the behavior changed or the things changed."

Matt Bertulli: We learn. We learn and we change and we grow. And I think that's actually the beautiful part of society. As a marketer, I look at that, I lean into it and it's like, look, I'm looking for problems that people care about and I spend my time on those problems, because I'm a capitalist who wants to do some good in the world. I want to use capitalism to do good in the world. So, I need to find the intersection points between this is a problem we're solving and that people are willing to pay for it. A lot of the times when you take this view, you are going to polarize folks.

Anytime you're trying to solve a social or an environmental issue, you are going to anger people. Because this is a thing. Most people don't know this, but I can't even remember the exact number, but the vast majority, vast, like 82 plus percent, I think it's 80... Some stupid high number percentage of Americans believe climate change is real. People would say, "No, no, no, the entire Republican Party doesn't." That's not true. That's actually not true. What people disagree on is how to go about addressing it.

So, instead of it becoming a really great debate, it's turned into this hotly polarized political piece of crap. It should be good debate. Don't get me wrong, there are so many great people that have great conversation and debate, even though they disagree on how, they agree that there's a problem and it's worth solving.

Charlie Grinnell: They agree on what they might disagree on the how.

Matt Bertulli: Totally. And they agree on the why. I've just come to be super okay that I believe in my why, I believe in what needs to be solved. People may disagree with my way of doing it, that's cool. I'm okay with that. I would rather engage in a conversation with people also doing the work. The only people I don't engage with are just the people that sit in the sidelines and throw shit. It's like why?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: We've had some weird-ass YouTubers come after us with Lomi that are like, they're just like, they make crap up. They've never even seen or used the product and they just make shit up. I'm like, "I can't talk to you like that. You're a waste of oxygen, thanks."

Charlie Grinnell: Fair enough. I think the polarizing thing from a brand positioning is that it's obviously a hot topic and I think it's going to continue, no matter, whether it's TikTok or Facebook or whatever, that thing is going to transcend platforms and marketing channels. But that's such an important topic is how to deal with that and should you be more opinionated or should you be-

Matt Bertulli: I think that's the important thing though. Look, if you are going to do great marketing, great work, and we should all be angling to do great work, always, you have to accept that the output of great work is going to be polarizing. It's not something that you deal with and it's not something that you navigate. It's something you just accept. If you can't accept it, don't fucking do it. Go get a job doing something else.

Charlie Grinnell: Well, on that note, I want to switch gears a little bit here. As you've studied marketing, you've done it with a really wide lens and you've said in the past that you've learned from mail and enhancement stuff to applying it to SaaS – How should marketers be thinking about researching and taking inspiration from best practices outside their industry?

Matt Bertulli: I mean, we get so stuck on our own industries. We were at a SaaS event, right?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: For our friend Dan. I sell consumer goods, multi-channel consumer goods. I like to look way outside of my own box. I find that's where I learn all my best shit. So the phrase I use is, "I go wide in my learning, but I go narrow in my practice." I think that any person, whether it's a marketer or not, the more you look a field, the better you're going to get at your job. I do that, when it comes to marketing, I study anybody and everybody. Lately, I've been just eating up Alex Hormozi's work, because he's everywhere right now. I just feel like that guy's freaking everywhere. But he is bloody brilliant when it comes to sales. I don't do that kind of selling, but we're always all selling.

Charlie Grinnell: Of course.

Matt Bertulli: I find that a lot of what I've heard from him, I'm like, "Shit, I could translate that into this piece of copy or this landing page or the way that we support a customer post purchase." I'm like, "That's a brilliant idea." He's talking about selling gym services, gym sales services. I'm like, "I sell a kitchen appliance. He sells gym services. I'm listening to him." And I'm like, "Man, this is genius. I could use this." And I used to advise everybody, "You should do that always, go wide."

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's funny, we've used this phrase internally at our company and why we exist is there's a CMO, her name's Marisa Thalberg, I believe she was most recently CMO at Lowe's. But she has this phrase that when I first heard this, it just smacked me. It was, "Look within your industry for information and outside your industry for inspiration."

Matt Bertulli: 100%.

Charlie Grinnell: You need both. It's so interesting. There have been times where when I was sitting on the brand side, or even some of the research that our team delivers to our clients is, "Okay, you might sell consumer package product X, but there are so many things that you can learn from best in class." One of the ones that I always go to is the streaming giants, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu. They are gangster retention marketers, absolute gangsters. I'm like, if you're an eCommerce brand working retention, hack that funnel and see what they do. See their level of personalization. See all those things. Because are you selling a Netflix subscription? Absolutely not. But you can see strategically and tactically what they're doing and if it's effective or not, and are they doing it over and over again? Things like that. So yeah, that's-

Matt Bertulli: It's the words and the images. You got to look at when they deliver the message, how they deliver it and what are they saying? This the funny thing, the best marketing out there by a mile is simple. It's so simple. It's the least amount of words, it's the most obvious injury. It isn't a lot of stuff. It's very, very narrow. I think that when you look at great brands, look at how lululemon is, Lululemon is scalpel effective, accurate with the photos and the people in those photos and they do the work.

Charlie Grinnell: They know their customers. They know that tribe.

Matt Bertulli: Who they know, they know their customers and they know them on a geographic basis. It's like, how they position lululemon in the Southern United States or New York is different from how they do it in Vancouver.

Charlie Grinnell: Yep. And different in Asia and et cetera, et cetera.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. I think that that's how you have to look at it. You have to look at it with this, get your inspiration from all over the place and in your own industry that the message doesn't need to be overly complicated. It really doesn't.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I want to talk a little bit more about retention. You're a guy who sold a lot of shit online and I feel like a lot of marketing, I don't know, maybe just the industry or that the overarching narrative is growth, growth, growth, growth, growth.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah.

Charlie Grinnell: I think a lot people think new customers, acquisition, but retention is also a huge part of fueling growth.

Matt Bertulli: It is.

Charlie Grinnell: What are some things that you've learned about retention marketing, the importance, that sort of thing? I feel like it's often overlooked.

Matt Bertulli: It's the thing that I care about the most when it comes to retention marketing is just straight up customer experience and service, straight up. I think if you don't have a world class customer experience for who you're serving, do not start with any of the other shit. Seriously. Now you're talking, you're moving the deck chairs on the Titanic, why? The better email tool or a better whatever tool isn't going to do as much for retention as if you just looked at your customer and said, "How do I over service this? How do I service this person in a way that they're like, 'I have never been treated like this by any other company like this.'" Do the things that they're just not going to expect and that's 95% of retention.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's funny you say that. I have an experience that I'll share with you and I'd love to get your take on this. So I'm a bit of a sleep nerd. I wear an Oura Ring and I ended up buying one of those Eight Sleep mattress toppers. I don't know, I bought it maybe, I think I got it almost a year ago. When I ordered, they're not cheap, they're about three grand and-

Matt Bertulli: Is this the thing that goes on top of the mattress?

Charlie Grinnell: It's like the thing that goes on top of the mattress and it pumps water through this grid that feels your body temperature, cools you, heats you, whatever. They're blowing up on Twitter. Me being a sleep nerd, I was like, "I'm down, I'll try this. I'm a hot sleeper." I bought one and I had to wait two months for it to show up and it shows up and I have a king size bed and they sent me a double or a queen or something. So right out of the gates, I'm like, "Fuck these guys." I was so pissed. Immediately, what do I do? I message them, but then I also get on Twitter to be like, "The fuck." What was crazy was the head of distribution and logistics was like, "Hey, that's our bad," publicly and was like, "Our Canada warehouse is a shit show. We're in the US, I'm going to overnight you on tomorrow." They did that. And I was like, "Okay, that's pretty amazing customer response." But then here's where it gets better. About a month goes by, I wake up one morning and the mattress topper has popped. I'm in a pool of water. I'm in a pool of water. Again, I go on Twitter, I'm like, "The fuck. Here we are again." Again, they're like, "We're not going to send you a new piece. We're sending you an entire new unit." They sent me an entire new unit and again, not a cheap unit. Then about three months later it happened again.

Matt Bertulli: Come on.

Charlie Grinnell: So, what did they do? They overnighted me another one. Now, they've sent me, I'm on my third one of these things. What I'll say, anybody of Eight Sleep is out there listening to this, the product is legit. The product is great. The product is amazing. I should actually hate this company based on the experience. But every time they've stumbled, boom, they've responded like that.

Matt Bertulli: This is the thing, man. I think that there are brands that do this really, really well. I don't think we're great at it yet. I think we're getting better. I think what's interesting, too, this is the trick with retention, the tactics from company to company, actually, they need to vary, right?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: I'll give you the example of Lomi. We've recently really been learning more about our customers with Lomi. Something that surprised us is they're quite a bit older than we thought. We assumed that the ideal Lomi customer was late 20s, early 30s, liberal, progressive, all the things. Turns out they're actually in their 40s on average.

Charlie Grinnell: Interesting.

Matt Bertulli: We're a third boomers, a third millennial, and a third gen X, and 4% Gen Z. Think about that now. Now that you know that, we were servicing our customers primarily through email, number one complaint we got was like, "Don't you guys have a phone number I could just talk to someone?" We couldn't figure it out. We're like, "Who the fuck wants to talk to someone?" Well, grandparents, people over 40 like to pick up the phone. It's a piece of technology. Probably want some help. That little insight, we're like, "Shit, okay." The way that we design the experience for this product now it's evolving every week. We're like, "Okay, maybe we offer a concierge setup service where you can get on FaceTime with us and we'll help you with the initial setup." Stuff like that.

I would never do that in my Pela case business ever. There's no point. It's super easy. Open it, put it on your phone. And the customer in my Pela case business is 22 year old female. It's like 85%. It's 22 year old females. Way different experience that I need to think about in design. But the premise is the same. It's like, how are we showing up to them from a service perspective? I think that's the bulk of retention.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well, it makes so much sense when you say that because yeah, I mean, okay, I'm 32, liberal guy, into tech, but then when I think about Lomi, it's a higher end appliance. I then immediately was like, "What else do I have on my house?" I have a Dyson fan, a Dyson vacuum. I'm like, "Yeah, that makes sense that a 23 year old or 25 year old probably doesn't give a shit about those things."

Matt Bertulli: No, of course not. Nor can they afford any of those things.

Charlie Grinnell: Exactly. Yeah. Share of wallet.

Matt Bertulli: It's people who are 35 and up who buy this stuff and that's it. So, when hear me say this, people are like, "Well, duh." And I'm like, "Yeah, but it's hard to know that upfront."

Charlie Grinnell: It's not as easy when you're in it, too.

Matt Bertulli: No.

Charlie Grinnell: Even you just saying that I'm like, "Yeah, I fit that. But you're right. I thought that a 25 year old would be all over this." But I'm like, "No, because the price point, all those different things."

Matt Bertulli: Right. Think of how that changes our marketing and our service. Am I really going to lean into organic TikTok? No. Maybe I'll do some paid acquisition there, very specific, 40 plus and a certain kind of ad and content. But I'm probably not. But shockingly, we do really well on YouTube? No shit. Will we do really well on TV? Probably. That's it. It's knowing your customer very intimately, how they think and speak about you and how they want service. That is all just so... This is the funny thing with the field of marketing. All of the advice is very obvious that nobody does it.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: I was talking to my CMO this week and I'm like, "Man, our landing page sucks and we're good. We're good copywriters and we're good everything." And I'm like, "Our LP sucks. Why does it suck so much?" It's like, "Well, we just haven't spent any time there." I'm like, "Let's fix that this week." It's a major lever in the business, but we know that that's what you're supposed to do. I'm pretty good at this shit. And yet, I wasn't doing it. It's just like it's the ultimate challenge with the field. That applies to acquisition, it applies to retention. All of it.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: All of it.

Charlie Grinnell: Well, it's funny you say that, everyone knows that you should exercise, eat healthy, whatever. Knowing and doing are two very different things.

Matt Bertulli: Yep. It's like, man, I have the amount... I've actually, when I moved out to BC, I committed to my coach. He's like, "What are your goals for this year?" I'm like, "None. I'm going after I don't want to do anything. I'm working on my business. I just sold my last company. I want to hang out with my wife and kid and I have no plans and no goals and I'm going to try this for 12 months."

Because prior to that, I'm a high drive, everything's quarterly. This is what I want to accomplish. Here's where I'm going to work on these things on myself. And I've abandoned all of that and I've abandoned all the 25 daily habits you need to be fucking happy and healthy and whatever the hell else all the experts tell you. And it's like, no, I write every day. I sweat every day. That's it. There's not a whole lot else that's fancy. I'm like, "It's less stressful. It's so much less stressful." I'm getting in better shape than I ever did before without any crazy-ass goals and targets or weird daily things.

Charlie Grinnell: Just do.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. Bias towards action, it's shockingly good advice. So, I've become over time, I went from an obsessive consumer of information and how do I get better and grow to a lot more passive like, I will probably reread the same books 90% of the time than go try to find new ones.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Interesting.

Matt Bertulli: Especially marketing stuff. It's always the old books.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Interesting. Speaking about that, one of the questions I always ask is, we're starting to wind down the episode here is, how do you stay up to date with business marketing? You've mentioned Twitter, you mentioned old books. I dropped out of university after a month, I never went back. I'm a big book article nerd and learning by doing. Who are you reading? Who are you following? I mean, yeah, you have a huge bookshelf behind you, which is perfect.

Matt Bertulli: Well, I'm actually reading this right now.

Charlie Grinnell: Big Black Book. Agora's Big Black Book.

Matt Bertulli: Agora is an incredible organization. You want to direct response marketing. This thing is like, look at this thing.

Charlie Grinnell: I know, I'm taking it out of this, I'm buying this on Amazon.

Matt Bertulli: Then, I'm currently rereading Pre-Suasion. That's Robert Cialdini's follow-up book. I'm rereading that right now. I have to look on my Kindle. I've always got a whole bunch that I'm in the process of rereading. Most of it is like, I'll go back and reread things, that Crossing the Chasm, just for a smack in the face to find the things that I'm screwing up. I really like Lencioni stuff around leadership. I just finished reading The Motive. It was great. Five Dysfunctions of a Team and all that stuff. I run 100 person plus company. So it does take leadership. I can't just do marketing.

It's stuff like that. But if you were to look in my Kindle, you're going see things like High Output Management from Andy Grove. You're going to see, I'm just looking right now, Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. There's things from Adam Grant and I don't have a ton of books.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, interesting.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. If I get a new book, usually, I actually think I got this from Dan, but I tend to read the first three pages of a chapter and if it's not teaching me anything new, I skip the chapter. I will literally, I'll get a new book and I'll be done it in 25 minutes, because the first three pages of a chapter just didn't do anything for me, so I skipped it, which is good or bad.

Charlie Grinnell: I like that. I'm like, be shameless about not spending time on shit that isn't interesting.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. There's not a lot of new ideas in business are very hard to come by, so I tend to only read things that people really recommend. I had a friend of mine recommend book Alchemy by Rory Sutherland. That book is fucking incredible, about creative thinking and side-door thinking. It's stuff like that. I don't buy all the latest stuff.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Interesting. One that came to mind in thinking back to everything that we talked about, it's one of my favorite books, it's called Hit Makers by a guy named Derek Thompson. It's basically the science behind popularity. So, he goes back looking over the last 100 years of why things went big and really, really fascinating book. He's a good follow on Twitter as well. Yeah, I've read that book over and over again, because it's the same-

Matt Bertulli: That's Derek Thompson?

Charlie Grinnell: Derek Thompson. Hit Makers.

Matt Bertulli: See, I will go give that a read. I've never heard of it before. But you're recommending it so I'll get, I'll do the same thing. I'll read the first three pages of a chapter and I'll be like, "Oh shit, this is pretty interesting. I'll probably keep going." It's just there's so many books that get published now, because it's so easy. Really most of us have still not put into practice the lessons from all of the greats. Right?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Matt Bertulli: So, we're always looking for the new thing instead of just saying, "Maybe we should reread How to Win Friends and Influence People."

Charlie Grinnell: I'm literally reading that right now, that's what's on my Kindle.

Matt Bertulli: Yeah. Those are timeless, excellent books, that I would say read those before... Or you know the one I recommend the most is The E-Myth.

Charlie Grinnell: Yep. So good. So so good.

Matt Bertulli: Because I know so many business owners and most of them are small business owners. I'm like, "Guys," and most of their problems like, "Just go read The E-Myth, please just go read The E-Myth." They all like... It will open your eyes to a whole new world.

Charlie Grinnell: Totally.

Matt Bertulli: Then come and talk to me.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That's one my co-founder read and as soon as he read it, he was like, "You need to read this now." And I dropped everything and read it. Yeah, there's so many things that you could point back to.

Matt Bertulli: Yep.

Charlie Grinnell: Okay, last question for you. I know you're always focused on building businesses and maybe not on too many podcasts. Where's the best place for people to get a hold of you?

Matt Bertulli: Twitter.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. You're a good follow, by the way, for the record. I love your threads.

Matt Bertulli: I'm starting to write and publish more. I'm going to actually get my own website stood out at some point here in this century.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's a little busy.

Matt Bertulli: One of those things that's like, I just don't make it a priority. I started to, as my company gets bigger and I get more time, I've started to actually like working with other entrepreneurs and helping them, particularly on categories, like leadership. The question I've been asking a lot lately is how do you go from small business owner to entrepreneur to CEO? That's quite the journey, and not everybody needs to take that journey. So, I've started writing a lot more on this subject and I'm going to start consulting more on it and do all that. But right now, Twitter.

Charlie Grinnell: Cool. Cool. Well, Matt, I really want to thank you very much for the time. I really enjoyed chatting with you and I'm sure everybody listening also got some nuggets out of, from lightning strikes to book recommendations, you name it. Yeah, appreciate you taking the time and can't wait to have you back on again soon for another episode.

Matt Bertulli: For sure, man. It's been fun. Appreciate it.

Charlie Grinnell: For show notes, other episodes and more content, check out rightmetric.co. If you enjoyed the show, please subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thanks for listening.

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