Let People Fail — But Don’t Expect People To Fail. Is it frustrating to watch failure? Yes. It is essential to learning? Absolutely. We give our employees a lot of autonomy. We trust our employees to do their jobs and to do it for the right reasons. When they fail, we look at why they failed and what can be learned from it both from a mentoring and corporate standpoint. But failure isn’t expected, it’s the exception — and we hire people who expect success which allows us to give them the room to flourish and occasionally fail without fear.
I had the pleasure to interview Chris Husong. Chris is a marketing and branding expert with over 15 years experience launching brands. Since 2014, Husong has been in the highly competitive, dynamic world of CBD marketing and branding with Elixinol. Elixinol is global CBD brand. Every year since Chris joined Elixinol, revenues have increased over 100% or more. Chris’ expertise has contributed to Elixinol Global’s maiden profit being a sector exclusive on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX: EXL).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve worked in a number of regulated industries, but helping people become their best selves through education and empathy is the best part of marketing. Helping people achieve their best is a core inspiration for me. There’s nothing like getting up every morning and knowing I’m actually helping people improve their lives.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As marketers, we’re constantly having to remind ourselves that our personal worldview isn’t the driver of product and messaging, it’s the CUSTOMER’S world view that’s important to understand.
When I first started with Elixinol, I was so enthusiastic about CBD I assumed all my contacts would be as excited as I was and happy to share their experiences using CBD. Boy, was I surprised at their lack of enthusiasm to talk about CBD openly with their friends. They were scared, because they didn’t want people to think they were using a product that made them high — even though hemp-derived CBD is not a compound that can produce a high. They reminded me of where the average consumer’s CBD perceptions lay and that we needed to focus on education and information.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
“You helped save my life,” he said and I almost broke down.
I was in a restaurant wearing an Elixinol shirt. A man approached me and asked if I worked there. After talking he shared with me his serious diagnoses and said after he started using Elixinol, his health situation turned around.
He personally thanked me, but of course, the credit belongs to our brilliant formulators.
Nonetheless, the moment is one I think of often when I’m having a rough day. In all my jobs, I’ve never had such profound and inspirational feedback. It’s an honor to work for a company whose value systems are so in line with mine.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Elixinol’s customers constantly teach us about what they need. What we know is we need to deliver products that fit into the life that someone is either currently living or wants to live.
It’s Elixinol’s job to offer products that make it easy on people to improve their lives and live they way they want — and that’s what we’re doing every day.
The last 2 years, we’ve really emphasized natural products for people who are on the go, Moms, travelers, people who care about what goes in their bodies or on their skin. We want people to feel good about how they’re treating themselves whether in diet and exercise regimen or daily self-care.
For example, our latest new skincare line, SATIVA, is 100% plant-based, cruelty-free and carbon neutral. All the ingredients are sustainably sourced. We know people want an accessible way to incorporate appealing products into their daily lives.
Our newest product is CBD LIFE product is a powder/CBD product designed to be used throughout the day, to invigorate, stimulate and then help wind down. We built this product knowing people have energy peaks and valleys throughout the day. As importantly, if you’re someone who travels alot or you’re out of the house a lot this product is easy to throw in your travel bag or a purse.
A vital piece of self-care for many people is their pets. Our CBD pet products, PetReleaf and designed for a pet’s entire lifespan. Every package is made in small batches from human-grade products right here in the U.S.
Elixinol gets hundreds of pieces of feedback daily. We view every single piece of feedback with empathy and respect. We’re grateful for feedback because they inform our development.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
Our team is growing very rapidly. Last year, we hired a key support person for our marketing team. We spent a lot of time and energy trying to make working together a spectacular experience but in the end, it just didn’t work out — probably for the best, since it wasn’t really a great fit. Yet, our entire team was disappointed.
Whenever we have turnover on our team, I look within and ask myself if there was more I could have done to bring out the best in that person.
Sometimes, I learn something new about myself or my leadership style, that helps me improve. Sometimes they remind me how important time and human capital really are to a business and that being selective about new staff is important not just to the business, but the entire team.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Remember to take care of yourself. Carve out space for what’s important in your life.
About a year ago, I started taking my own health seriously. Once I started a plant-based diet and exercising more seriously, I learned I could better focus and be more productive. It came at a great time since our parent company went public and the number of people I manage tripled shortly after I started taking better care of myself.
I’ve always been focused on helping others, but I started to realize that I can not be of help to anyone if I don’t take care of myself.
Filling my own bucket, actually gave me more energy, more focus to do more in my job to help others.
How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?
Marketing’s job is to attract attention and ease buying decisions. Branding’s job is to create loyalty. The sales job is to facilitate the exchange of money.
For Elixinol, data is important for informing decisions, but the crucial victories in marketing and branding always come from empathy. I’ve noticed that when our Elixinol team members have a true relationship with their customers, and they do the deep work needed to really understand our customers’ pain points in their lives — and the desires they have for the future — then we’ve reached the pinnacle of marketing.
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?
Probably the most impactful people in my career has been Elixinol’s co-founders, Paul Benhaim & Gabriel Ettenson.
Paul is perhaps the most empathetic executive I’ve ever come across, he’s genuinely concerned about the people, the product and the results. Paul’s leadership really shows you can have a successful triple-bottom-line company. Every single choice Elixinol has made, right from the beginning considers the customer, the community and the environment.
Elixinol’s President Gabe Ettenson is one of the company’s key culture drivers. For him, it’s important that the company stay close to the company culture that has created so many fantastic leaders. Gabe really believes in rewarding those who have helped get us where we are and as a result, we have people who have grown into key positions as Elixinol has grown.
In both Paul and Gabe, I admire their moral clarity and the commitment to doing the right things for the right reasons, while still having a very profitable business.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?
What are your “5 Non Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”?
1. Let People Fail — But Don’t Expect People To Fail
Is it frustrating to watch failure? Yes. It is essential to learning? Absolutely. At Elixinol, we give our employees a lot of autonomy. We trust our employees to do their jobs and to do it for the right reasons. When they fail, we look at why they failed and what can be learned from it both from a mentoring and corporate standpoint. But failure isn’t expected, it’s the exception — and we hire people who expect success which allows us to give them the room to flourish and occasionally fail without fear.
2. Act On Customer Feedback at the Executive Level
Elixinol needs to stay in touch with customers. It’s easy to just launch a survey or similar. But instead, I encourage marketers to be open to customer feedback on social media, and on their website. And on a quarterly basis, put that in a word cloud and compare it to the word cloud from the year before and the quarter before. Use that information to look for customer trends, areas for improvement.
Elixinol executives have an enterprising day-to-day work life with multiple priorities ranging from real estate to agriculture to human resources. But I’ve found that when we put them back in touch with customer feedback, they feel reinvigorated and have a better understanding of why they do what they do.
3. Don’t Make the Mistake of Getting Caught Up with The Latest Trend
As marketers, we love shiny new technology or trends. But for most small businesses, it’s better to let 90% of marketing trends pass. For one, you’ll be competing on the trend with companies with far larger budgets. For another, jumping on every new trend means taking time and energy off another priority you’ve already established. Let big companies take the risks on “new and innovative,” watch and see how it works for them and if it’s worth integrating into your plan.
4. Reinforce Your Company’s Core Values By Treating Employees Consistent With Core Values
So many small businesses and start-ups miss this. They think it’s fluff. But core
Values establish WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Elixinol established it’s 7-pillars of success very early on, and as we’re learning as we grow quickly, it’s important to incorporate those pillars into training for our new staff and executives so the company stays on a consistent path from the top down.
The way you treat employees sends a message to them about how important your company’s key values are. If you’re celebrating successes, be sure to acknowledge value-based successes too. And if you have to make a tough HR decision, be sure to do so in way that illustrates the company’s core values.
If you don’t do this early on, as you grow and scale, new employees have a hard time understanding where the priorities lay.
5. Outsource, Outsource, Outsource
Valuable people from outside the company add value too. Sure, it’s great to have employees, but there are so many roles that are important, but non-essential to day-to-day business. People outside the company also often see things internal people miss.
We have a number of partners who contribute vitally to the success of the company, but we don’t need them full-time — but we do need their expertise. Elixinol selects our partners like we select our employees, we expect success and look for people or companies who expect it as well.
You are a person of great 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. :-)
I’m fortunate to already be part of something that’s changing lives everyday — the CBD movement.
If I could do anything for the movement, it would be to educate more health care professionals about cannabinoid therapies. The medical community just doesn’t receive enough on-going research and education in this area and it makes it difficult for patients and consumers. Elixinol is working with a fabulous M.D. who consults with Elixinol’s customers one-on-one about their specific circumstances, but I wish every doctor, physical therapist, nurse, chiropractor knew what he knows.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Fall down three times, get up four.
We all have to be resilient. We’re going to have times that are incredibly hard, but the key is to keep getting up and attacking each day with purpose and passion.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.