Don’t watch your competition. Be original and serve your niche.
When we started Groove there were two other large brands in the space. Now there are over 100 brands selling silicone rings and even more selling watch bands and belts. A huge temptation is to watch your competition. The problem with that is that you will most certainly start following their lead and playing cat and mouse. Your designs will look like theirs and you will be going after the same audience. Unfollow your competitors, serve your niche and innovate for them ONLY. After this foundation is set, you can build out from there and tackle new territory. I had someone ask me once if I was worried about one specific competitor. I replied, “Absolutely not, there are 70 billion fingers in the world and I only need my rings on a few million.”
Competition is a wonderful gift that drives us to serve our customers better.
As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Groove Life founder, Peter Goodwin. He wanted to wear a ring that showed his commitment to his family while meeting the demands of his work as an Alaskan guide and wilderness lodge owner. His creation not only offers durability and functionality, but rugged good looks, as well. The company has since moved its headquarters to Tennessee, has more than 125 employees and offers other products including the first truly breathable watch band and the Groove Belt.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was a bit of a late bloomer. Before I founded Groove Life, I was an adventure tour and fly fishing guide in Alaska for 17 years. I did not have a grand vision to make Groove what it is today. I was just trying to make an extra 50k dollars a year to pay for retirement and my children’s future college education.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Have you ever heard of noodling? I never imagined that starting this company would land me in Oklahoma, elbow deep in a catfish’s mouth. In the name of “inspiring adventure” we started a YouTube channel in 2019 with the idea of showing adventures, giving detailed information about how the average person could get out there and try new exciting things. The adventure channel wasn’t hugely successful but we had a lot of weird, fun adventures while it lasted.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
For me it was my Uncle John. Imagine a shorter John Wayne, that was my uncle. He was rough and tough and you never argued with him. I lived with him in Alaska during my high school summers and he instilled a very strong work ethic in me. He had a 4 acre field that I had to cut BY HAND with a scythe several times each summer. I asked him why he didn’t just buy a tractor and cut it. His response was that he wanted me to realize how hard physical labor was so I would go to college.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t sell what you think is cool, sell what people are buying and make a cool version.”
My entire life I sold services that I thought were cool or I was interested in. Turned out it was a very small group of people and could not scale. When I started Groove I began with a product that was already in demand and I made it better, and sold it to a niche that wasn’t being served.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Groove Life was built on the breathable silicone ring. Silicone rings have become popular recently with the rise of athlesia wear, crossfit and the awareness of ring avulsion injuries caused by metal rings. Since launching rings in 2016 we now sell athletic watch bands and belts. With all of our products we strive to make them functionally better, more comfortable and fashionable.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Two of our brand pillars are fun and relatability. Early on when we didn’t have much of a budget for video advertising, we shot this really goofy video introducing our rings to everyone. That video now has over 40 million views on YouTube. We believe in a world of highly polished, unattainable influencers, people are starving for a brand that is relatable to their, not so perfect, lives. What better way to do that than to make fun of yourself in an underproduced video for millions to see.
When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?
To be successful you definitely need a huge WHY! Mine was strictly to provide better for my family, period.
What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?
With success comes a reevaluation of the why. Now that my family is comfortable my motivation has switched to building a long term, sustainable brand that serves people, inspires adventure and reflects God.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We just launched our new Groove belt. Its crazy success really surprised us. We had failed a couple of times on products outside of silicone wearables so it was a nail biter when we launched. With its success came a new energy in the company to fill the niche and be the best outdoor/active lifestyle accessory brand in the world. I can’t tell you our newest products coming soon, but they are awesome!!
The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?
A Lot of success depends on the product you are selling and if people are already problem aware. There are pioneer brands who create new products and spend all their money showing people their need for it. That is expensive and as we all know, pioneers usually die. Settlers on the other hand are brands that sell a product to a group of people who are already problem aware. These settler brands don’t reinvent the wheel, they make it shiny, add great customer service, and fast delivery. They follow the pioneers and create long term businesses that thrive. This is Apple’s playbook and the one we adopted as well. The first million is the easiest, in my opinion, because you are riding the coattails of pioneers who have spent all of their time and money creating the category.
Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?
Digital advertising has been great for us. The costs are rising but being genuine and different in your ads will make you stand out.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
On veterans day 2017, I sent an email to 300,000 people wishing them a killer holiday. Groove was small and I was still doing all of the marketing and copy writing. It was a last minute email and obviously not well thought out or planned. It was completely unintentional and wow did we get some heat on that one. I wrote an apology within an hour and people calmed down a bit. Looking back it was a huge palm to face moment and pretty funny but at the time I thought, “dear God I have pissed off 300,000 people and I am going to lose my company.”
Here is what we learned. I should not be writing emails to anyone other than my immediate family. I need to have someone proofread everything that anyone writes going forward. Lastly, a sincere apology goes a long way with people and helped form my thinking on being vulnerable and relatable, two things that make up a huge part of who Groove is as a brand.
Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
Groove started out as a direct to consumer (DTC) brand but now is multi channel with wholesale making up a large part of our sales. Wholesale sales (where the sales team lives) operates almost as an independent unit within the company. We set it up this way originally not knowing the unintended consequences it would produce. Those consequences are intense competition between the wholesale team and DTC. It’s all fun and games but our sales people are always trying to outgrow DTC and it just works. Giving people generous sales commissions and adding internal, healthy, competition is our secret sauce.
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Sell what is already selling.
Most people sell things they like or think are cool or useful. Sell things that are already being sold with velocity, improve and sell to an unserved niche.
2. Hire the smartest people you can, or can’t afford.
My first real hire was a COO and wow was he expensive. He was going to make 3 times what I would be making as the founder. It was a hard pill to swallow but the absolute best decision I made for the company.
3. Use personality profiling before you hire.
Before we hire anyone at Groove we know what we are looking for. We use the DISC program and it works wonderfully. You don’t want a highly energized sales type in accounting and vice versa. These types of tests really help get the right people in the right seats on the bus.
4. Innovate, Innovate, Innovate
Innovation is our key to success. Rapid innovation is essential to keep up with your competition and off the onslaught of newcomers. Innovation doesn’t mean a brand new product from scratch, it
Includes : design changes/updates, licensing, influencer partnerships, and small adjustments to the product, to fit a new demographic.
5. Don’t watch your competition. Be original and serve your niche.
When we started Groove there were two other large brands in the space. Now there are over 100 brands selling silicone rings and even more selling watch bands and belts. A huge temptation is to watch your competition. The problem with that is that you will most certainly start following their lead and playing cat and mouse. Your designs will look like theirs and you will be going after the same audience. Unfollow your competitors, serve your niche and innovate for them ONLY. After this foundation is set, you can build out from there and tackle new territory.
I had someone ask me once if I was worried about one specific competitor. I replied, “Absolutely not, there are 70 billion fingers in the world and I only need my rings on a few million.”
Competition is a wonderful gift that drives us to serve our customers better.
What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
You have to be constantly innovating and ready to fail often but fail small! Innovation has been a bumpy road for us but overall it’s been what has helped us continue to grow past mid 8 figures in revenue. We limit our failures to 50k dollars at a time. If there is a new idea, ad platform, influencer or whatever we limit the risk to that number.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
Groove Life has had a lot of success with licensing. Basically the thought is this, who has your target customer and how can you partner with them to not only have access to them but piggyback off of their brand equity? This was a huge win with Mossy Oak camouflage licensing early on in our journey. Certain people wear camo like others would wear Nike. Camo was an identity for them and wearing a camo ring was a great way to display their identity all of the time.
Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Customer service is probably my most passionate area of focus. Here’s the deal: Amazon has commoditized everything. Yes, your product is different for this or that reason but anyone can buy your product or similar on amazon for less than you sell directly. Connecting with the customer IS THE ONLY REAL differentiator we have as brands. One of the best ways to connect with customers and form long term relationships is in having crazy, over the top customer service. Zappos was the original evangelist for this approach but it’s amazing how many brands still overlook its importance. Here at Groove we have an unlimited lifetime warranty on all of our products. This coupled with our in house reps who connect with customers through email, chat, fb messenger, snap chat, IG messenger, live chat and phone calls makes it the one, two punch. 40% of our customers come back and shop again and we believe this is solely due to how we treat them when they have a question or concern.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
Our customer service policies and focusing on owned media like email and SMS is a huge reason for our prolonged customer loyalty.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As an entrepreneur, I am always looking for problems to solve, so this one is easy. I would love to develop a movement to get kids back outdoors with their families. I truly believe the family unit is suffering from our world of constant distraction and solving that problem would be amazing. We tried a YouTube channel focused on inspiring adventure in 2019, it lost 350k dollars before we killed it. We broke our “only lose 50K dollars” rule but it was a passion project to help people seek adventure easier. It failed but it didn’t diminish our desire to see people and families experiencing the wonders of nature together.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
For me it would be Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia. I really respect his ideals of growing a long term brand, retaining full ownership and fulfilling his personal mission through his company.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!