Every brand hopes to sell hundreds of thousands of products in their first 18 months of business. 

This brand has.

Say hello to SURI, a sustainable name disrupting the electric toothbrush market. Niche, but they come with a powerful marketing story that can’t be ignored.

The brand amassed 5k+ pre-orders for their first round of toothbrushes through ads, traditional press, and social media alone. At $95 each, our math establishes that was $475k raised before a customer ever had the product in their hands.

Now, we welcome Mark Rushmore (Co-Founder @ SURI) to the mic for this episode of Building Brand Advocacy. In conversation with Paul, Mark shares strategic insights into the brand’s fast evolution and exactly what makes SURI special.

(Spoiler alert: it’s the basics, and they’ve got them nailed.)

Tune in to hear more on…

  • Sustainable Innovation: Discover how SURI pioneers eco-friendly oral care, in the shadow of the industry’s long-standing (and planet-unfriendly) players. Through innovative use of plant-based production, including plans for a new product that uses materials yet to come to market, Mark shares the brand’s formula for prioritizing environmental responsibility without compromising on product excellence.

  • Underdog Wins: Explore the challenges and triumphs of ascending in this market, as Mark unveils SURI’s strategic maneuvers to carve out its niche, ignite Brand Advocacy (even before the first product was in a customer’s hands), and forge authentic connections with their customers.

  • The Power of Advocacy: Uncover the integral role of customer feedback and word-of-mouth in SURI’s growth trajectory, as Paul & Mark dive into the importance of listening to customer stories, fostering genuine relationships with store staff and consumers alike, and showcasing the transformative power of Brand Advocates in building a loyal customer base and driving sustainable growth.

To gain exclusive insights into SURI’s story, and apply their growth lesson to your own brand, listen on.

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Building Brand Advocacy 059: 


Rooted in Advocacy: How SURI's Superfans Revolutionize a Stale Market ft. Mark Rushmore

Paul: Right, welcome to Building Brand Advocacy and my name is Paul Archer and I'm incredibly excited to be joined by Mark Rushmore from SURI Now, we met kind of back a year ago, a little bit less than a year ago and SURI was already exploding then and it's only gone from strength to strength so I'm super excited to have you on the pod and learn about the story and actually some of the techniques and tactics you've used to build such an incredibly fast growth brand. So let's just start with the basics. What is SURI and how did you come to start it? Sure. 

Mark: Well, firstly, thanks so much for having me here, Paul. I'm really excited to share this story with you. I really appreciate it. And yeah, so what is SURI and how did it come to be? So SURI is short for sustainable rituals and we make the world's most sustainable and most highly rated on-trust pilot electric toothbrush. How did we come to this sort of realisation or how do we come to sort of think about this product? Well, I started my career at Procter & Gamble, working in a variety of sales and strategy roles. And then after I left, I went to set up the UK office of a German experiential marketing agency as a partner. And I scaled that from my kitchen through to exit five years later. But during that time, I won Oral -B as a client across Europe. So my company helped manage the dental trade shows and I really got a flavour and an understanding of the scale of the dental industry and electric toothbrushes. And then I was just happened to be at an industry event in the south of France, the Cannes Lions. I guess you guys probably go to that, do you? I've been there, yeah. It's a big kind of agency love fest where people drink rose and talk about themselves a lot. It's kind of like freshers' week on steroids is kind of how I experienced it. It's like free drinks and D-list celebrities. But anyway, I was really, really lucky because I had invested a small amount of money in a company that was selected by Unilever to be part of their Unilever Foundry. And I met the Unilever CMO who invited me to this party. And it's there that I met my co-founder, Giv. And we hadn't met before, but it turns out he'd also worked at P &G, but in Geneva working ultimately managed the Gillette business and in finance and marketing roles. And he had also sat beside the Oral -B team during that time. And so he was very familiar with the business. And in our first meeting, believe it or not, this is a totally true story. He said, look, one day I really want to set up my own business. And I think that FMCG has a few things that could be improved. So we sell millions, billions of products, but they're really not very sustainable. Secondly, we think that user experience could be really dialled up in the same way that for our generation, Apple totally changed the game in what it meant to unbox something or how it's presented aesthetically. And then lastly, you know, e-commerce was like a, you know, fast-growing industry, which we felt that maybe some of the larger players weren't sort of, you know, as competent in, as they might be in retail. And so I ended up leaving, well, XCMED company, GEEF worked in some e-commerce businesses and we decided at the start of lockdown to come together and it's, you know, we did some research and we found out that every year over 4 billion toothbrushes are thrown away and end up in landfill and ocean. What's more, Paul, probably every brush you've ever used since you were a child almost certainly still exists and will do for a long time. And that's the case for everyone. So we thought, gosh, that's actually got a huge, huge impact. And I wonder if it has to be like that. So then we did surveys with thousands of people using SurveyMonkey. So you can do it for 200 pounds a time. There's all sorts of little tactics and things that we did with dental professionals to inquire, well, do you love your toothbrush? And what we found was lots of people told us, I actually hate the fact that the battery dies really quickly. You know, we said, oh, do you use the Bluetooth which is really prominent now in a lot of? toothbrushes like You know, of course not I maybe use it once but I don't use it So we thought is that necessary and have you ever had that gunk that forms on the bottom of an electric brush when you leave it on charge? Yeah, who knows right like they're like there are probably scientific studies into what that is. Maybe it's great enigmas Yeah, exactly, but not an enigma anyone particularly enjoys cleaning. So we thought well, does it have to be like that? And so given I sat down and we thought what if we can make a brush that's both more sustainable and more enjoyable to use? And so we created Suri, which is short for sustainable rituals, to address some of those problems. And so our brush, we use plant-based materials in the head, so cornstarch, and castor oil in the bristles. We offer a free recycling program in the UK and the US with prepaid compostable mailer bags. So all the heads come back to us and we're actually working on this really cool innovation project, Vera Grant from Innovate UK right now to turn those heads into new products. I can't go into much more detail right now, but that's an exclusive. And then our brush is also repairable. So we've got a tiny screw in the bottom, which makes us the only brush in the world where we can strip the parts to reuse them or to repair it. And then we also have totally plastic-free packaging in a smaller case. The brush is also half the size, so it uses less material. So it's demonstrably more sustainable and achieve B Corp status because of our commitment to continually improve on that. But then, you don't want to brush just to be sustainable. It also has to go with great performance. And so we designed it with the former scientific advisor to the British Dental Association, Professor Damian Walmsley. You might know him from his world-leading academic research into the efficacy of electric toothbrushes if ever you've gone down that avenue. 

Paul: I've actually read his paper a few times actually. Yeah, exactly. One of my top films. I framed it actually. 

Mark: Great night time reading. And so, you know, there's not much that this guy does not know about electric toothbrushes. He'd been there from, you know, the very beginning and, you know, worked with leading sort of people, but he helped us create a brush that is super effective. So it's clinically proven in the same research centre, which all the sort of major players use. And it has proven to be way more effective, actually up to five times more effective versus manual brush. And then we focus on design as well. So it's slim, the handle's made from aluminium, so it's got a really premium feel. It's got a magnetic mirror mount, and it's got a very slim travel case, which is USB-C charge and has a UV LED light. So that's just a little taster of about SURI and where it comes from. I mean, yeah, we've got some - On sale now. Good feel there, like any other. 

Paul: We'll link to it, and maybe we'll get commission. We can probably use Duel for that. You know, yeah. So I mean, I was struggling that I'm not sure I can name another electric toothbrush brand. They must have just a massive dominance on this market. And yeah, you're right. Like, I have one at home. I don't really think about it. I don't think there's any other options. Right. So Suri has grown hugely over the past couple of years presumably you'll just start tapping into that zeitgeist, that sort of desire for something that's better, something that cares. How do you kind of go to market with that value-led approach that is A, in a market that's massively dominated by one player and B, where it's actually very much a disposable market? 

Mark: So many interesting things in what you just said. So firstly, we've actually only been going 18 months. It's wild. It feels like longer, but like we only started shipping 18 months ago. And so it's been this like rapid journey. 

Paul: How many toothbrushes have you sold in 18 months? 

Mark: Hundreds of thousands. 

Paul: Hundreds of thousands in it? Wow, okay. 

Mark: Yeah, so it's definitely sort of made for an interesting operational challenge. But then in terms of players, there are actually two core players. So you have Oral B and Philip Sonic. And between the two of them, they have about a 75 % market share in every major sort of developed market of electric toothbrushes. So there are very few categories, I think, of this size with this level of penetration where you have less competition, shall we say. So consumers have been used to choosing one or the other for a long time. But that doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't room for something else, something innovative. And I think it's a category that's maybe been ignored to an extent because you have such big players, so very well established. And they're great. I've not got a bad word to say in terms of they've performed a great function. They help people with oral health. Electric brushes are better than manual. And I think there's a lot of good to be learned from them. However, we also felt that there was things that could be improved. And so the sustainable angles are battery as a 40-day battery because we don't include Bluetooth. You know, it's lighter, slimmer, better for travel. And so, you know, I think there's room for different players who have different angles. 

Paul: And so how did you launch the brand and how do you get people to talk about it? 

Mark: Great question. It was with difficulty. So we thought, you know, we'll be ready by November. And then manufacturing is difficult and we constantly wanted to iterate and improve it before it launched. So we ended up actually shipping our first product in May. So there was a period of time between the two and with constant negotiations and trying to improve things at the factory in between. So we started with a pre-sale and so we put money into paid advertising. We did a shoot which, you know,a great company who helped us with that. I believe it was called Noosa. They're doing a lot with other firms right now. And we did a shoot and then we edited that into three adverts, which we ran. And from the beginning, we were very lucky on a pre-sale to see sales coming through in a way that gave us a positive ROAS so that we could reinvest more money. And we got a group of early adopters. We were really fortunate as well because we sent an early sample to a key journalist. And that journalist, you know, really gave a really positive review. And so I think we had credibility from one of the leading journalists in the UK who recommended our brush. And so I think the combination of that plus the positive paid social ads, you know, offering a very unique proposition enabled us to build, I think it was up to about 5 ,000 pre -orders. But that also presented challenges because we went through the 3PL who, you know, hadn't shipped a single product to then having to ship 5 ,000 in one go. 

Paul: Okay, what was the creative that worked? Which ads resonate the most with people? Is it about sustainability? Is it just the fact that it's different? What are the things that are making people go, yeah, I wanna try that? 

Mark: So our ads have evolved so much from that initial early one. I think we used the same creative for the first nine months, and now we're creating dozens of bits of new creative each month. And so we've really gone on a long journey. Initially, I think it is the proposition, you know, people identified. Yes, I feel bad about throwing all this plastic away. Yes, my battery dies on a regular basis. And so it kind of, I always think it kind of comes back to business 101, you know, identify a problem, you know, say, do you also have this problem? You know, and here is our solution, which sounds so basic, but it then comes down to, is it really a problem for someone? And is this really a good solution. Now, fortunately for us, quite quickly, the people who tried our brush absolutely loved it, you know, getting rave reviews, people saying, you know, I'm actually looking forward to brushing my teeth. I'm brushing my teeth more than I ever have. My mouth has never felt so clean. And our trust pilot, you know, we have over four and a half thousand reviews now at a 4.8 rating, which is unheard of and far ahead of anyone else. But what's really interesting is, it's just the level of detail. People saying I've never written a review on any product ever, but I feel compelled to write this one. And so I think we're really lucky in that the product people really enjoy using it and then they'll tell their friends, they'll write a review and actually that in a way we've also integrated that into our ads. So the way our consumers describe it in their own words, the reviews, et cetera. And I think it's trying as a challenger brand as well, like showing your credibility. So I've never heard of you, but wait a second, 4,000 people say it's good. So maybe there's something to it. 

Paul: And with all of this sort of feedback you're getting from TrustPilot, from those conversations, has the product evolved at all? I mean, I make software, right? So we can tweak things and it takes like a day or two. And I'm used to the constant iterations, but with a hard product that uses batteries and moving parts and stuff, surely that's quite hard to adjust. Are you able to lay in the feedback? 

Mark: We make almost all adjustments on every batch we create. And so, you know, the first product might look quite similar, but there are like tweaks to every sort of single bit. So, you know, if we might notice a tolerance could be improved or maybe there's a better version of ceiling or the button, how much pressure you put when you put it on can change. And so we're constantly iterating in our own version. It's much slower, obviously, than software. But it is something that we're constantly looking at. Actually on TrustPilot, probably one of my favorite APIs of all time is we have an API between TrustPilot and Slack. So in real time, we see what consumers are saying. Now, fortunately, like on the whole, it's relatively positive or very positive. But then, you know, it's also important if someone's missed a delivery or their brush isn't working because, you know, sometimes it will be dropped or there'll be something that's wrong with it so that we can address it really, really quickly. But also because our product team are on the same chat, because, you know, our manufacturers are on the same chat you know, we can really like have a real-time understanding of what people like and what people want to improve. 

Paul: Wow, that's cool. So like, what's next for you guys? I mean, you've been growing super fast. It's a British company, right? 

Mark: Yes. British company. 

Paul: Are you selling internationally yet? 

Mark: Sure. Yeah. So about 30% of our sales are in the US we're getting some really great traction there. We were one of the top-selling gifts on Goop over Christmas. So that was great.

We just launched in the LA stores called Erawon with a beautiful display and we're seeing a lot of resonance with people in California and yeah there are some really exciting discussions happening on that side of the Atlantic. In fact we were just on national TV yesterday, CBS, which was this really surreal moment. We were all gathered around in our office like watching it live and then sort of seeing the sales coming through.

Paul: What were they doing? Were they talking about the product? Were you on it yourselves? 

Mark: No, no, no one wants to see us in real life, although actually, you know, here we are on camera. No, fortunately, a much more qualified presenter, you know, was like saying, you know, she uses a brush and she wanted to share it with people. So she was explaining, you know, what it did, you know, great features, et cetera. And, you know, we saw, you know, in a very short period of time, tens of thousands of dollars of sales kind of flying through. So it was just this, you know, we're doing this. We've only been going 18 months and each month something new happens and we're sort of adapting and growing to sort of meet that demand. But your question, I think, sorry, taking on a bit of a meander is, you know, what's next for SURI? And we really genuinely care about our mission to make, you know, oral care more sustainable whilst giving people a great performance and making them enjoy brushing their teeth because it leads to better habits and loads more people brush their teeth than have a SURI brush. In fact, yeah, there's a lot of people that use an electric brush. And so, you know, we have this opportunity, we really feel, to make a bigger impact by sharing it with more people and making sure that the product remains innovative, but without going down like a gimmicky route. So, you know, if there's some way that we can improve our brush, improve it for our consumers, actually, we're doing a bit of work right now to improve the sustainability of our packaging, which is already, you know, leading in the industry, but we think that we can take it even further. And so it's just maintaining that so that ultimately if we can keep customers really happy saying that, you know, their teeth had never felt so clean, that they're doing something positive, then hopefully we can make a positive impact both on our business and for people. 

Paul: And is there an opportunity to sort of tap into that wider market of teeth brushing? You've got toothpaste, you've got dental floss all of which are super plasticky and almost more disposable than the brush itself. How do you sort of see that changing? 

Mark: You know, it's a great question and it's a great business challenge because I think. Honestly, I find it quite difficult just making toothbrushes and like, and growing that and lots more people have electric brushes and you know, it's for us, it's trying to work out how do we, how do we remain really focused, you know, because it's, there's a big opportunity to sell more brushes, but then also you can go after other things. I don't know. How do you find in your business? Because I bet you, I don't know. My illusion is that clients will be like, Oh, can we add this feature? Can we add that feature? And I'm sure you could, but then it's like, I think we have two resources, time and money. And actually your time is, I think sometimes undervalued or sometimes, you know, I try and do this shiny thing and that shiny thing. But yeah, we're trying to get the balance of remaining really focused versus doing more stuff, but there is a balance to be met. So we will be launching more products.And actually, we have some genuinely world-class innovation, which if it works, I think will just be incredible. And I would love to share it now, I can't, but it involves materials which are coming fresh to market like some aren't even actually on the market and using much more innovative, sustainable materials which could transform industries. Or at least that's how I feel about it. Let's see if it comes true.

Paul: Love that. Well, I mean, like in our world constantly there's this input and then the prioritization of it is super hard and is what we build, but also the story that you tell.

Mark: How do you manage it? How have you managed it? Because you guys are enormous, you know, I've been growing really well, I've got these amazing world-class clients. Like, I'm always intrigued to know, like, how other people remain focused and don't try and do lots. 

Paul: Well, I mean, it's always the problem, right? I think every time we've got double down on focus, things go well. And every time we lose that focus, things start to meander. It's like, I think for us, it's always had the same core first principles of advocacy and then building the playbook around that in terms of how do brands grow through their people. And then actually, the software powers that. And actually, it doesn't really matter what the software does. It will always evolve with whatever's coming on. Like, we joke that when we launched it, we used to have a joke that, oh yeah, one day we might even integrate with TikTok and everyone would laugh. And then we went live on TikTok and hit 10 million people in a month. And it's like, whoa, okay, cool. And now that's like 50% of content and posts that go through the platform. So the idea of focusing and finding that one thing and having that roadmap, there's this kind of gauge of, I think kind of understanding exactly who you do it for and having a very clear image of who that, in software, we call them ideal customer profiles. They have a narrow, they look like this, they smell like this, they're this industry, they're this kind of size, they have this sort of operational things. And then just building for those guys is one of the most effective ones. With, I mean, toothbrushes, that is everyone in the world, I mean, apart from some, and really we don't want to hang out those who don't brush their teeth, right? So like, Like, do you narrow down? Do you have like this kind of customer profile that you guys have in the room when you talk about, is it this millennial, like affluent, blah blah blah. Do you have those profiles or are you just like anyone who can work with it? 

Mark: We broadly do. Can I just say though, like you really like, I love the way you talked about that and actually, actually really all the things that you're doing are towards brand advocacy. And so sometimes I think focus should be like our product is a toothbrush, but actually really like our success has come from advocacy. Like there's no doubt, you know, our strongest part, in my opinion of Suri is just how much the consumers enjoy using the product, like love using the product. The fact that they're talking about it in love terms, because it means that they do share it with other people and authentically, and you know, they're excited to gift it to their friends and to their family because they know they can use it again and again, and that, you know, they'll have the same positive feelings. And so I think I just love the way you phrase that, like, you know, the focus isn't on this product, it's actually on advocacy. And I think to a certain extent, that's really what we try and do. Everything that we're building towards is to make sure that the customer is really happy and a brand advocate. So yeah, I've even forgotten your question. 

Paul: Well, this is interesting. I mean, how do you double down on that? Because I think the idea of word of mouth, which is a synonym basically with advocacy, but like,the story is all about someone else telling your story, isn't it? And it's about how do you enable them to tell that story, empower them, incentivize them to do it. And actually, what is that story? And the story piece is something which always fascinated me, which is the trend that we looked at when we looked at the best brands that had this viral growth, this word of mouth moments they all had a really singular story. There was one thing. Yours is probably a good reason for it. Like if I were going to break it down, it's like, it's a sustainable electric toothbrush. Okay, right, I get that. That's a single point, because I get sustainability and I have to brush my teeth. And I know why I need to brush my teeth, but you're suddenly a sustainable one. That's interesting. And then it's shareable, because actually it's got this moment that you can then talk about it in the cafe, in the pub, online or social media, create content on it. And that ability to then get people to share it is that next sort of stage, which is we look at about it. Like you've obviously achieved that from the call of the brand itself and saying hundreds of thousands of these toothbrushes, but like how do you as a business lean into it to turn what would have been, you know, a hundred thousand fans into a hundred thousand advocates?


Mark: This is just really, this is such the call. I love this conversation and it's brilliant because you're clearly such an expert on advocacy. 

Paul: Read nerd. 

Mark: No, no, no. But like it's like I'm exactly the same. And so it's funny because it's just so true. Like that storytelling, we are so passionate about what we do. We genuinely, like I've never had an easier job in my life in a way because I just wholeheartedly with every fiber of my being believe that what we're doing is, you know, right for the consumer, right for the planet, right for the business. And we really care about every single little detail as much as possible because every single little detail factors and ladders into how it makes someone feel and how much they enjoy it and the level of care we put into it. Even customer service actually has been a really big point of differentiation for us. We try and respond as quickly as possible. There's several, if you look on our reviews, there'll be people who say, this toothbrush isn't actually for me you know, I'm gonna go back to my manual brush or I'm gonna go back to another brand. But the way your customer service team have handled this is just so impressive, you know, I'm sure this brush will be great for lots of other people and they'll love it, five stars. And for us, that's as important because, you know, it just shows that level of care and the fact that someone can still be a brand advocate without even using your product is a testament to the way you think about things and it ladders back up to what you said about the focus on brand advocacy. Now in terms of, we don't have a singular story and this is something that we've wrestled with from the start. Is it the design? Is it the performance? Is it the sustainability? And the truth is, it's all three and one doesn't work without the other. So you want a toothbrush first and foremost to give you a really great clean. That has to be the primary function. You cannot compromise on that. But we also don't want to compromise on design. It needs to look beautiful. It needs to have a long lasting battery. Convenient for travel, light, quiet. You know, it's only 54 decibels. It's one of the quietest brushes on the market. My co-founder, I don't know, do you brush your teeth in the shower? Have you ever done that? No, I've not done that either, but it's a thing. There are a group of people, including my co-founder, Giv, shout out Giv, who brushes his teeth in the shower. That's founder efficiency for you. He's probably also writing an email. And so we had to make sure it was IPX7 rated so that it's waterproof. And yeah, so design's important, but then sustainability, we're not looking to compromise on that at all. So we kind of think of it as a, I don't know what the right word is, but like a tripod. If you take away one leg, it doesn't really matter on the other two. And to then, what does that mean from an audience perspective? Well, it varies. We have different audiences. For some people, sustainability is really important.

But I'll tell you what, even for the sustainability crew, they still want a really good quality clean. Right? And so, and you know, there's some people who say, you know what, Mark, I'm not actually really fussed about sustainability at all, but my goodness, that is the best looking, nicest feeling, quietest, strongest brush I've ever had and it gives me a great clean. And so I always think about it. My mum used to mix vegetables into the mashed potato as a way of getting vitamins into my brother and I who didn't necessarily want carrots or peas. And so we kind of have like, sort of, this wasn't thought out, I'm just using it as an analogy, obviously. But if someone chooses this because they like the look of it and it just so happens that it's more sustainable and it means it doesn't end up in a landfill and someone has a brush that they can repair so it's more economical, great. We've had a positive impact on the planet without that person having to choose it for that reason. And we just generally believe that sustainability and the way companies operate shouldn't have to come with a compromise in terms of quality. So yeah, that's how we approach it. 

Paul: I'm always fascinated about what stories people tell about a brand, not the story that you tell, but the story your customers tell. Have you ever had those conversations called up customers to say, right, okay, we know you're like Suri. Have you told anyone, why did you tell them? What was the reason you told them? Have you had those conversations?

Mark: Absolutely. I mean, I'm always going out meeting people and what was so nice is, you know, now occasionally I'll bump into someone and, you know, in a, in a vent or a conference and so on. And I'll say, Oh, you know, I make toothbrushes and someone say, it's not necessary. I've got one. And I'm like, wow. You know, it's, it's just, it's so nice to meet people in the wild and they'll tell me their story of like, Oh my goodness, I'm now brushing my teeth more than I ever have. And, but as well as, as well as contacting people and, and we send out surveys each year. We're meeting with customers. We're meeting with dental professionals. Seeing the written feedback as well is really interesting. Seeing that people are excited to go to their dentist, to their dental hygienist, and come back with a glowing review. And they say, what have you changed? Because your teeth are so much cleaner. And then they're being advocates for dental professionals. And traditionally, it's the other way around dental professionals are recommending it to patients. So it's this nice reverse advocacy that's happening. But yeah, I love your thoughts on how we can improve our advocacy from our customers to see if there's a way that we can actually get more customers to tell their dental professionals and vice versa and create this virtuous loop. 

Paul: Well, it's an interesting one about getting that story because we're sort of touching on that singular nature of it. What I would want to understand if I were in your shoes was to what are people, what do they really care about? Is it the sustainability? Is it the product? Is it the looks? Or the functionality of the product? Is it the looks of it? And so getting that data point, that is that one thing I would focus all energies on. And in fact, we had Matt Lerner on the pod recently, who's just this absolute pro at asking questions. I like to get down to the real reason, because most people give you a reason, but actually the real reason why they bought a thing or what they did. And I think that the real thing you need to find out is who have you told and what do you tell them or why did you tell them? And then often they'll be like, oh, I don't know, I just said it was quite cool. And one of Matt's techniques is, oh, what was the weather like? Where were you? Bring them back into that moment. And then you ask them Yeah, okay, cool. And what was it you told them about it? What was the first thing you said? Oh, I said it was cool. So really, what was it? Was it the functionality? It looks cool. Was it sustainability? I said, it's a sustainable toothbrush. Boom, that's it. And if you hear that seven times, you try and have 10 of those conversations. If you hear it seven times, that's your thing. If you're lucky, that's your thing. You might have 10 conversations that have three about sustainability, three about the looks and three about the functionality. 

Mark: That's what we've found so far. That's what we found so far. And like different people really weight those three things pretty evenly. And then what we found in our conversations and in the feedback is the reason that people choose it, you know, there's three kind of core reasons, but then once they've tried it, what they love most about it is maybe different from why they chose it initially, which is really interesting because does that mean that what they like about it afterwards is what you should sort of advocate from the beginning, or actually do you bring people in with one message and then win their hearts with a different one? 

Paul: Yeah, it's interesting that. I don't know how you test that. So I wonder like... It's like surprise and delight, you know? Well, yeah, because you're deciding between one product and another product. So if you've got a, you know, I already have a toothbrush. Does it do the job? Yes, it works. Until it stops working, I'm not in the market. So probably functionality may not be the thing that's gonna win if I already have an electric toothbrush. Now, if I don't use an electric, in fact, do you know whether the majority of your customers already use an electric toothbrush or the Suri is their first electric? 

Mark: So we do, we know by like brand and by type, whether it's manual or electric. I mean, I say we know, we survey a lot of people and then a fraction of them respond. So we know of the people that respond what they say. 

Paul: Have you ever tried calling them up?

Mark: We haven't called them out of the blue like we haven't. 

Paul: Have you personally picked up the phone and called one of your customers and asked them about it? 

Mark: Yeah loads loads. Oh, totally Generally, I only call the customers who have had an issue. Yeah, and so, you know, I want to get understand, you know, what's happened Really understand it get into it whether it's like a failed delivery or customer service haven't you know, given them an adequate response And so I would say on the whole I contact customers with issues, as opposed to actually contacting customers who just say nice things. Although I do, occasionally someone on LinkedIn who I've never met just will put up this really wonderful post being like, I recently bought this and it's so great for these reasons and I absolutely love it. And we'll get tagged in it. And so that's quite an easy way for me to just respond immediately and say, I'd love to have a conversation with you. But more on more often than not, it's if someone's had a negative experience that I get in touch. 

Paul: I'm always sort of banging this drum, everyone's kind of bored of it, but I think founders should have picked up the phone, call any customer, just randomly, Friday afternoon, time to sort of relax, whatever, you've just got an hour, you start calling like 10 random customers, because they put their number up, they're probably not allowed to do a GDPR, but they're probably okay with it, and then just like, hey, I'm the founder. Tell me about it, why did you buy it? Who told you? That's a really good one, actually, to find out the inverse of the advocacy, as I was like, who told you about it? And what did they tell you that made you want to buy it? They often have a more vivid idea of what someone told. Actually, now I think about it. And then when you have those conversations, the great thing is not only do you get this data, which is just invaluable, particularly if you push and ask why, why, why, and bring them to those moments and ask them about it and how they use it, just set them into that moment of brushing their teeth or the purchase, the moment they bought the purchase. But also you get an advocate for life, like that, because then you've kind of created your story with their story. So they then go to the pub or whatever and they talk about, oh, I've got this toothbrush and you'll never guess what the founder called me up and he really cared and it's amazing toothbrush, blah, blah, blah. And suddenly they're like, the reason why people tell people about things is really about ego. Right. They're really just talking about themselves. They're making conversation. And so if you can allow their personal narrative to be in your narrative, you're just going to get them to do it. So they're going to tell your story to 10 times more people because it's not your story. It's their story. And that's the most important part of it. 

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. This is, this is like genuinely invaluable. One of my other favourite bits of software is fairing. So we have a post-checkout survey and we ask, you know, where did you first hear about this? And it gives us, you know, on the daily 38% of customers respond. And so we have like an attribution tool essentially. One of the questions is other, and it's just amazing. Like I check it almost every day and someone will be like, oh, my wife told me about this and then I saw this or I heard the founder speak on a podcast or something. And it's so interesting to see. But from this meeting, I'm gonna add a second question, which will be, where did you first hear about this and what was it that? You know, made you interested perhaps to what you said, you know, it's like, I heard about it from my friend, you know, what was it then that compelled you and then, you know, not everyone will answer that question, I'm sure we'll have a bit of a drop-off rate, but it would be really interesting. We're also gonna segment between returning customers and new customers so that returning customers get a slightly different question, you know, what made you come back, why are you buying the same brush? So, like, thank you, I will definitely bring that back and to your point around the advocacy, it just rings so true. So in Erewhon, they have 10 stores, but these are 10 of the best retail stores in the world. You have to see it to believe it. 

Paul: Erewhon, What are they? So you told me about this earlier, but I don't know this.  This is like an LA phenomenon, is it? 

Mark: So it's like a, it's a US cultural phenomenon. These stores are like very high-end, very high-end stores, which are the most beautiful merchandise store. If someone takes you know, an apple off the perfect Apple display. There is an Erawan staff member who will restock it within probably 30 seconds to a minute. Every single aisle is fully stocked. You know, everything's facing the right way. It's well lit, it's well ventilated. The staff are so passionate about, you know, all the products. They're real experts in everything. And so it just makes for the most wonderful retail environment. They're famous as well for having, I think, like $20 smoothies from Haley Bieber.

Paul: Does she make it for you? 

Mark: Well, for $20. Yeah, you'd want that actually. But no, the fine people of LA love it and as do I. And so what's really great is when we launch in these stores, we know it's not, you know, it's one thing putting your product on the shelf, but it's another thing if you can, you know, share that story with the store staff. And, you know, whether it's Marissa at Pacific Palisades, whether it's Kevin, Pasadena, we went and met all of them, tough job being in LA during January. I must admit, someone had to do it. 

Paul: Oh, gonna put the sun cream on again, oh no. 

Mark: My wife wasn't such an advocate, but actually she was very supportive, I shouldn't say that. But being the sunshine, great, but what was really great is sharing the story with the store staff who, just as you said, it's exactly as you described, it becomes their story we gave them a product to try, so they're using it at home. We asked them for their honest feedback, you know, and any ideas for suggestions on how they merchandise it. And now they're taking ownership of how it's sold and how it's displayed. And then, fortunately, we have friends and family who are going through our life and we say, like, could you just go into store and, you know, see what it looks like, ask questions, and unanimously, you know, they refer to, oh my goodness, the team really came over, we're so passionate, and give us the tools, we send them videos with updates and we thank them and there's competitions running and we really, really care about their experience because then when they describe it, it's totally different. It's like, yeah, it's that sustainable toothbrush versus like, I've never had such clean teeth. This is, I absolutely love it. I use the Miramount. It's such a great product. We have lots of people coming in and this is my favorite thing in the store the outcome of those two conversations very, very different and we're seeing that reflected in the sales. 

Paul: I just, I mean, that authenticity of it, if they tell an authentic narrative, like, yeah, I love this product, I use it every day, you're just like, yeah, okay, great, I trust you. And so much of what we do is built around getting people to talk about you, but who aren't actual fans who don't talk about it in that authentic manner. And it means that, yeah, they trust. That lack of trust means that you don't trust the story that you've been told, which means you just don't go make a purchase. And then this thing is such an easy opportunity to just like, okay, well, how do I get product in people's hands? How do I get them using it? How do I turn them into fans first before focusing on trying to get them to be an advocate? Mostly people are like, oh, do you want to advocate for me? It's like, who are you? That's kind of the way that a lot of people are asking. That crucial, crucial step of turning you from a Joe Bloggs in the street to a fan because they can't truly advocate authentically unless they are a fan.

Mark: And I just love talking to you about this. It's like you're articulating in words what I've experienced through my career. So one of my first jobs at P &G was a sales rep going into different small wholesalers and stores. But it's such a sort of management cliche. The CEO of Tesco speaks to the person stacking the shelf. But it's a cliche for a reason, because actually, spending time speaking to people, listening to them, genuinely just caring about what they're gonna tell you because they are closest to understanding what's going on, why people are making decisions. I'm really fortunate at an early stage of my career to have just spent that time meeting and listening to people and caring about what they have to say. Because like you say, you go in and you just do the hard sell, advocate for this brand, do this, do that for the brand you're not really making a connection at all or maybe possibly even like valuing the other person, you're wanting an outcome from them for yourself. Whereas for us, we genuinely believe in this product, we really hope other people will too, we want to share this is what we're doing, this is why we're doing it, we hope you enjoy it, and if you do, that's great, thank you so much. And if you don't that's also fine, you know, it's like, we're not gonna be the right product for absolutely everyone. And we're okay with that, but you know, here's your money back, have a great day. 

Paul: Yeah. I love that. Do you treat your budget towards getting product in people's hands as a customer acquisition budget? Is this one of the ways you create these advocates? In terms of what, sorry. So like, so. How do you get product into people's hands so that they talk about it? Do you have like a gifting strategy? Do you have a certain amount of budget or products that you allocate to getting into people's hands who might talk about it and tell your story? 

Mark: So what's really, where we're really lucky is, you know, a lot of our customers like do a lot of the job for us. Like they receive the box and they're excited to share it. They take some photos and then they, you know, will share on social media and then we'll republish that content or they'll tell their friends. And then we see in our post checkout survey like, oh, I was referred by my friend. And so, you know, our referral keeps going up and up. Then we try other things. So we do some seeding of giving out free product to certain influencers and creators. And then we also, we have partnerships. So we do a partnership with Wired Magazine where, you know, we've given them brushes, which go to the speakers at their events. We did some others and it just creates a nice symbiotic, you know, like it benefits them, it benefits us. And so yeah, there's all sorts of different tools, but if only there was like some software that would help us scale it further, that would be great. 

Paul: Well, you can give us a call at some point.

Mark: I like that, thank you. 

Paul: Mark, this has been really, really fun. I wish you all the luck. Me too, me Such a brand and such a success story to be kind of growing out of the UK and taking the world by storm. So good luck with it and thanks for your time. Thank you very much.