Episode #34

Candace Cui from ZBiotics

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In this episode of Beyond the Inbox, Candace Cui, a growth marketer at Biotics, provides insights into the development and launch of their innovative product, Z Biotics. Candace emphasizes the importance of customer education and transparency in the health and beauty industry. She explains how Biotics aims to fill gaps in existing products by challenging common assumptions and providing solutions that enhance consumers' quality of life.

One of the key aspects of Biotics' approach is their commitment to customer-centricity. Candace describes how the company listens to customer feedback and conducts extensive testing to ensure their product meets the needs and desires of their target audience. By understanding their customers' lifestyles and preferences, Biotics is able to create a product that integrates seamlessly into their daily routines.

Candace also discusses the challenges of being a pioneer in the industry. As the first of its kind, Z Biotics requires a high level of transparency and education to build trust with consumers. Biotics takes a deliberate and informative approach to their brand storytelling, providing customers with clear and accurate information about the product's benefits and usage. By establishing themselves as a reliable and trustworthy source, Biotics aims to differentiate themselves from other brands in the health and beauty industry.

The conversation touches on Biotics' omnichannel approach to branding, which involves consistent messaging and language across various channels. Candace highlights the importance of being deliberate and consistent in their communication, avoiding overpromising and setting realistic expectations. By providing easily digestible and memorable information, Biotics ensures that their brand association remains strong and immediate in the minds of their customers.

Furthermore, Candace shares insights into Biotics' customer lifecycle and their approach to customer retention. The company focuses on delivering value and maintaining engagement through personalized email flows. By addressing customer questions and needs at different stages of the customer journey, Biotics strives to keep customers informed and satisfied.

Looking ahead, Candace discusses the future of the industry and Biotics' plans for growth. She expresses excitement about the potential of genetically engineered microbes and their ability to revolutionize human health and wellness. Biotics aims to be at the forefront of this emerging category by continuously innovating and introducing new products that address the evolving needs of consumers.

In summary, Candace Cui provides valuable insights into the development and marketing strategies behind Z Biotics. By prioritizing customer education, transparency, and brand consistency, Biotics aims to build trust, differentiate themselves in the market, and continue to deliver innovative solutions to improve the lives of their customers.

Read the transcript:

Sam (00:01): Candice, welcome to Beyond the Inbox. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us.

Candace (00:06): Thank you. I'm excited to talk.

Sam (00:10): Z Biotics is the world's first genetically engineered probiotic. Can you explain what that means and how it sets your product apart from the other probiotics on the market?

Candace (00:22): Of course. So Z Biotics hit the market in 2019 and our C E O, Zach Abbott basically created the world's first technology using genetic engineering, that essentially what our probiotic drink does is it breaks down a byproduct of alcohol that's called acetaldehyde. When you ingest it, it's the element of alcohol that's primarily responsible for those mornings after drinking when you're not feeling your best and our product is the only one of its kind in the world that can actually metabolize that byproduct so that essentially you are eliminating the byproduct from your system.

Sam (01:12): I have so many so follow up questions, but I think I'll save those for when we get into the recording a little bit later on. I'm curious about your background and how you got started with the brand.

Candace (01:23): Of course. So I actually met with the company in the middle of the pandemic. I had left my previous position in car insurance in May of 2020, and so I had a bit of time where I really wanted to be very intentional about the company I would join next, being very passionate about their mission, feeling really great about the environment and the impact that I would have in my next role. And so I actually moved from Chicago to New York that May and talked to a lot of people, really wrote down the goals that I had in mind, and after I met with Steven, our c o o and Zach, our c e o and Katt, who is now our C M O I felt super strongly about joining the culture, being one of the first employees at the company because the product had only launched the year before and I was incredibly fascinated by the science behind what they were doing and it's been a really incredible two and a half years since and we've seen a ton of growth, so it's a very exciting future for us.

Sam (02:47): Can you walk us through the process of developing and launching a new product like Z Biotics?

Candace (02:54): Sure. So I think what's really interesting about this is that our team is small but does a lot, and where we sort of begin is by saying, okay, we have this technology. We know that there are gaps in essentially the kinds of products that people sort of almost take for granted that certain things just happen to be true in life, that when you drink sometimes you're going to wake up and feel terrible and that that's just the way it has to be. But I think our scientists take a really great approach, which is to say, what if it wasn't? There wasn't a sense of punishment for just being a responsible adult, going out, trying to socialize, and there's no need to essentially ruin your next day just for some enjoyment and bringing that product to market. Unfortunately, I wasn't there for that particular product, but there is a lot of consideration that has to go into the customer's needs and wants, which as a very new product can be sort of difficult to parse.

(04:22): And also the educational aspect of being the first of its kind in the world, it means that we have to be incredibly transparent. We have to provide enough information that people can feel satisfied with the answer while also not overwhelming people with an amount of detail that sort of gets lost in the mix. So I think that the brand storytelling that has emerged over the last few years of having the product and really listening to customer insights, doing a ton of testing to make sure that we really understand what's making a huge impact, it's a really incredible process to see exactly what resonates with our customers.

Sam (05:07): I can imagine it was quite a leap going from working in car insurance to going into a role where you're responsible for growth for this new company. What are some of the early initiatives that you run to help get the brand off the ground?

Candace (05:24): One of the first really major initiatives that I started with was actually our subscription program. So prior to joining Biotics, we were selling products purely and it was something that the team really wanted to get started with and obviously has a huge amount of implications for the business and for our customers, but what we found was that our customer base is first of all incredibly loyal. They are people who understand that biotics isn't just for big nights, big events, big celebrations, which of course it's great for, but it can also be for just those moments when you're trying to relax after work. Someone offers you a glass of wine and you just think this one glass of wine. I mean, I'm getting older, we're all getting older. These things have a different effect on us as we age and it can be unpredictable. And so it is actually interesting that we sometimes refer to biotics as a kind of insurance to ensure that you have a better next day and it made so much sense to create a subscription product so that our customer could always depend on us in a very, very, I guess I hate to say it's not thoughtless, but just that they don't have to think so hard about always being stalked, having to come back to the website every time, and it means that they can possibly have extra bottles to share with their friends because you are usually drinking socially if you're going to be using biotics.

(07:11): And I think the sort of uptake of the subscription program was really tremendous. It's been a huge driver for retention and for customer satisfaction and anytime you can supply your customers with something that essentially makes them feel more connected with your brand and integrating it into their lifestyle, because that is ultimately what we are. We are a lifestyle product. It's always a good move.

Sam (07:50): I have so many follow-up questions about the subscription part of the business, but I think I'll touch on that when I come back to email. I want to ask you about something that came up when you and I were speaking during the pre-interview, which was you taking an omnichannel approach to the brand, and I wanted to ask you, what is it that you think sets Z biotics apart from other brands in the health and beauty industry?

Candace (08:13): I think that there are a number of interesting things about our specific vertical that can make it difficult to win consumer trust. And when you are selling a product that is new and requires people to be more educated, to understand how to use the product, how impactful it can be, and the fact that many of the other products on the market that say they do the same thing are considered, it's like a snake oil category is how people refer to it. To differentiate really means having to be incredibly consistent. So making sure that our brand story, our brand identity is as dependable as possible across any channel that people are coming into contact with us in being very, very deliberate with our language. We never over promise, we always set expectations. We don't tell people this means you can drink more. It's absolutely not the case, right?

(09:29): Biotics is not meant to, I guess soften intoxication in any way. And so I think it's really important for brands, especially a brand where we're asking you to drink something, we're asking you to put it inside of your body to be as deliberate as possible about not just promoting the benefits and values of your product, but by supplying information in a way that's easily ingestible, easily marked for memory so that your brand association with the biotics is always immediate clear. It's very important I think when you are trying to win consumer trust to remember that that is actually the goal that consumer trust is not the tool that you use to implement a brand. It's really the other way around.

Sam (10:28): I have a follow-up question, and this will probably be a double barreled question. Can you tell me who your ideal buyer is and have you found that there's less resistance with the ideal buyer?

Candace (10:43): I don't know that. I think that there's less resistance with them. We have a saying at Biotics that biotics is for anybody, but not everybody. And I think that plays a big role in identifying personas, but definitely our customers tend to be people who are business professionals of some kind, people who have an active lifestyle that they like to maintain. We tend to see a lot of travelers, people who really like to weigh having an active social life with a busy schedule, and those people tend to be in larger cities, they to have full-time jobs or just some set schedule that they don't want to deviate from. And so I think a lot of our customers, we tell people all the time that biotics isn't really for the college age drinker, right? It's really not something that's going to resonate as a need as much with younger audiences. And so more for people in my own age range really.

Sam (12:11): I guess that's good as well in terms of lifetime value of a customer and churn prevention and things like that as well.

Candace (12:20): Exactly, yeah. It's definitely something where we're trying to address a need. We're not trying to sell to people who don't see the need.

Sam (12:28): What are some of the ways that you are addressing these objections? Is this something that you're doing in your ads if you're running ads or is it something that happens during the buying cycle when a customer is going through say an email flow or something like that?

Candace (12:44): It's definitely a multi-pronged approach. We are pretty good at identifying with parts of, say, a marketing funnel. People tend to resonate most with certain kinds of messaging. So for example, when someone is new to our brand, we tend to supply as much information that feels very educational as possible. We talk about things like, Hey, alcohol and dehydration seems like something that automatically goes together, but actually it's not and here's why and what does it mean to be engineered probiotic? And so we found that that messaging works really well for people coming into the flow and say someone is more mid-funnel, they've become accustomed to some of the brand. Then we talk about use cases. We try to show more U G C, we try to answer FAQs in our emails. Anything that we can do to be as high touch as possible and answer the many questions that we know we'll have is really the best avenue for us to stay engaged with people.

Sam (14:06): Can you talk about a typical customer lifecycle? How do people land on the website and what is the first action you want them to take when they land on the website?

Candace (14:18): We have many, many channels, and so people tend to come in from a great many places. I think that one of our essentially word of mouth in various forms is one of our biggest drivers, whether it's a, they've heard about us on a podcast, whether someone has just given them a bottle at a party, whether they've heard about us through one of our affiliates or our refer friend program. The more that people can talk about us, the easier it seems to be to get people interested in the brand. And when they hit the website, we generally try to again, just supply them with information right off the bat. It's not as important to us to be like, bye bye bye. It's not something that I think would be a good tactic for us. It's really more, again, setting expectations because biotics is something that you drink before you drink alcohol.

(15:28): We want to set people up for success so that if they give us a try that we are supplying them the best experience possible. And so our product page, for example, one of the first things you'll see on it is an explanation of how you drink biotics. If you hit the homepage, you'll see mentions about us in the press, an explanation of how the product was developed, who our lead scientists are. I think that when people hit the website, it shows that they're there for information because our time on page is usually around a two or three minute mark, which is pretty notable for an e-commerce site.

Sam (16:12): Is that something you are continuously doing during a welcome flow or a customer flow where you are sending emails, talking about how to use the product, the benefits of the products and everything in between?

Candace (16:27): Yes. So when we send things like our welcome flows, we try to, well, I have a big philosophy, which I know that isn't uncommon, but we're an anti newsletter kind of company. I think it's really important that we don't overload our customers with information that they simply don't want or need. And so our welcome flows try to be as compact as possible. We share the sort of product values right away. We direct people to our social sites where we have really great engagement. We have an F A Q email that we send out with the sort of most asked questions of our FAQs. And so when we send out those flows, we're really trying to capture the kinds of information we think people will need in a very timely but moderated schedule.

Sam (17:31): I wanted to ask you about, I entered the website into Aras before our call, and it's really interesting to see the keywords the website is ranking for. There's keywords like what to do after drinking on an empty stomach, how to curb hunger when drinking alcohol. Can you talk about the role of content marketing and whether it has an additional goal besides everything you mentioned about educating the customer?

Candace (17:56): For sure. The content marketing is really important to us because our customers are smart, they're informed, they're curious. They know that drinking alcohol isn't just done for the sake of doing it. It is about socialization, it's about relaxation. It's about finding ways to a integrate enjoyment into a healthy lifestyle. And you're going to have a lot of questions when you're trying to develop your own social calendar and social norms around how we think about alcohol, how we think about socializing. And so we try to address as many questions as possible because we do think that as a very, very science backed company, people will look to us for authoritative information on how different ways of different ways of doing things will impact your health, will impact your lifestyle, what the truth is behind a lot of things that we've sort of always taken for granted. We do a lot of myth busting kind of content because it is important, I think, for people to be very aware of their environment and the things that they're putting inside their body. And it's really important to us to show that we're really about encouraging a healthy lifestyle that isn't always going to be super focused on deprivation.

Sam (19:50): Sure. You mentioned a few different channels and I'm curious, what channel are you doubling down on in 2023?

Candace (20:01): That's a great question. I think it's probably two-pronged when it comes to acquisition. I would say that we are very focused on things like our endorser channels, so those are YouTube ads, podcasts reads, our affiliate marketing. We're living in a time where people trust other people to give them recommendations, and it's really crucial that for products like Biotics, that the people who are endorsing our brand actually use the product and actually do feel good about telling people about biotics. And so we've seen a lot of really wonderful content from people who actually feel definitely about integrating into their lifestyles. So I would say that's a really big one in terms of, again, encouraging that word of mouth. But email is a huge driver for us on the retention front as well because biotics is something that people use in many different ways, whether it's for big events or having it consistently in their home so that they can just enjoy a drink on a random night of the week. It's good to sort of remind people, Hey, there's a big holiday coming up, so you're going to have a long weekend and you probably have plans, and are you sure you have enough symbiotics for those plans? And you don't want to get caught having only one bottle left, but two different barbecues, that kind of thing. And so we see a lot of email engagement, really, really high open rates and click rates. I think it's a benefit that we try be pretty, we try to be a little less aggressive with our email sending.

Sam (22:17): I love that you mentioned so many times throughout this interview the importance of word of mouth marketing. I think it's such an underutilized channel for anyone listening to this now. What are some of the things that e-commerce business owners can do to drive more referrals for their business?

Candace (22:34): I think really leaning into customer feedback is crucial, which means that you have to be in somewhat of a feedback loop, that it's not just always getting reviews from your customers, it's about responding to them. It's about identifying who your most loyal customers are and not being afraid to reach out and provide them extra value for being the kind of customer that will talk about you to their friends when you are spending so much money on your digital presence through ad buys or sponsorships, things like that. It really comes down to a kind of efficiency cost with taking the time to actually talk to customers who most represent your brand, and that there is a kind of value that you can't even assign to those kinds of interactions because they ultimately do so much work for you down the line. And once you identify that customer base and you really lean into them, that customer base just gets bigger and bigger and it has a kind of halo effect that ends up affecting every one of your other channels.

Sam (23:57): It's so interesting and it is a theme that comes up again and again in different interviews, different founders, different CMOs talking about how important it's to be hands-on with customers. And sometimes I've spoken to founders that are still doing customer support because they want that face time with their customers, and it sounds like that's something that you've really benefited from as well.

Candace (24:19): Our C E O does actually still manage a lot of our customer support. We have an incredible customer support team in general, and the members of that team are, they're fielding questions day in and day out that are very involved that require a lot of detail. They are super responsive, really, really great at gleaning insights from our customers, and they're doing the biggest lift in terms of our customer sentiment. And so I think that that is pretty crucial that essentially the farther away a founder a marketing team gets from their customer support, the harder it will be to continue a good customer engagement rate. You're just not going to know what your customers are actually dealing with, and so how can you possibly be supplying them with something that they need?

Sam (25:21): I couldn't agree more. We're soon coming to the end of the interview, and I have a few more questions. One question I did want to ask you was how do you see the industry evolving in the next few years, and how is the biotics positioned to respond to those changes?

Candace (25:37): I think one thing we're really excited about is the emergence of genetically engineered microbes as a huge potential for unlocking things we just never thought bodies could do. Essentially, we are not going to be a one product company forever. It's something we are really, really excited about to unroll other products that will benefit a human microbiome, that will benefit the lay people can enjoy their lives. All of these things that the health and wellness industry can feel a little overloaded sometimes with the amount of products out there, but I think it's just a very good reflection of how intentionally people are trying to live their lives, how much of a concern it is for us to not only lengthen our lifespan, but to improve that quality of life as we do it. And consumers get smarter and smarter every day about what will really benefit them in the longterm. And I think that's a tremendous opportunity for companies like Biotics to say, okay, we want to be ready for when you feel like this is the moment you want to try something new. So I'm very excited for the future of probiotics and to see what else comes to the market because we don't anticipate being the only genetically engineered probiotic forever. I think that that's really great to be able to say, Hey, this will be a big category someday, and we want to be at the forefront of that category.

Sam (27:38): Well, I've really enjoyed this conversation. Can this, I feel like I've learned so much and we've not even scratched the surface of how deep this topic goes. Where can our listeners go to learn more about biotics?

Candace (27:51): It's very simple. You can go to biotics.com. We have beautifully designed with lots of information, and I really enjoyed our conversation as well. Sam, this has been great.

Sam (28:05): Thank you so much, Candice. Well, I appreciate you sitting with me here today talking about the brand, and I want to say all the best in luck with the Bards in the future.

Candace (28:14): Thank you so much.