Designing Modern Digital Customer Experiences

Building Brands Ep 29 - John Dupra - Designing Modern Digital Customer Experiences

John Dupra, Co-Founder of Revel Woods talks about Revel’s journey to developing a more modern approach to the digital sales experience of researching and sourcing hardwood floors online. Through creative thinking, research, and even a little failure along the way, Revel was able to create a guided digital experience for their target audience that fully supports their design processes.

Episode Links
Find John on LinkedIn
Visit Revel Woods Online

Episode Transcript
Tim
Welcome Building Brands listeners. For this 29th episode, I’m joined by John Dupra, Co-Founder of Revel Woods. Revel Woods believes there’s a right way to do hardwood floors, and they’re committed to doing it right for their customers, the environment, the economy, and the workforce. In this episode, John talks about rebels journey to developing a more modern approach to the digital sales experience of researching and sourcing hardwood floors online. through creative thinking, research and even a little failure along the way, Rebel was able to create a guided digital experience for their target audience that fully supports their design processes. Enjoy the episode.

Tim
If you’re an owner or marketer in the building materials, manufacturing, distribution, or contracting spaces, looking to set up your brand for success now and in the future, this is the podcast for you. on this show, we talk about brand and market strategies used in the real world that grow companies and truly connect with consumer audiences. So sit back, listen in, and let’s get to it. Okay, welcome. JOHN Duprey, co founder of rebel woods. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

John
Hey, Tim, thank you. This is fun. I’ve been looking forward to it.

Tim
Cool. So the way that I like to start with the guests in a good way to get you talking is why don’t you tell us a little bit about your professional background, how you entered into the world of building and design products, and how you got involved with revel woods.

John
Yeah, so one of my favorite topics, why I’m special. It just kidding. I’m not special. But it really goes back almost another generation. So my father when my my parents got married right at a college and they got pregnant with someone who eventually became me. My dad was he was gonna do something else had a business degree and needed some money. So in the short term, started working with a flooring contractor locally here in Rochester, who was just learned how to like sanded finish floors, like a weekend kind of gig or just a, like a bridge gig before what he was going to do. Well, when my mom got pregnant with me, even in the 80s, kids were really expensive. So he really needed to make some serious money. And so he decided, you know, he was going to go off and start his own business and really leave the guy who was working with and start his own four contracting company. So he became a full time San unfinished and install flooring contractor. And so I kind of was born into the flooring industry, which I know everyone gets, like really jealous about. But some people just, you know, they’re born with it. And people try to break in all the time. And I say you can’t, you know, you got to be born into the flooring industry. So I kind of grew up around it on the contracting side, the labor side, that was like my summer job growing up, which felt perfectly normal to me, but everyone that worked at the mall was like you do What? So I did that. And then I went to college, deciding I was not going to go into the flooring industry, because it really is, I don’t know, the sarcasm came through on that. But it was not that much fun, at least to a 1718 year old kid. So I thought I was going to do something media public relations related. That’s what I went to school for. got out of school in 2006. And that was right when the economy tanked. And so the only job I get into finding was in the flooring industry. So I went to a large materials manufacturing company out of Paris, called Saint gobain. Or as the French say, its song will bond depending on whether or not you’re in the know.

Tim
John goes International.

John
That’s right. I never left. I went to Canada. They never sent me to Paris. But what they made was, that’s an old company like they they make they were a glass company. They still are, but they built their first project was the Hall of Mirrors for the Palace of Versailles. So they bought they bought this company that made sandpaper so that’s what I did. I was on the sandpaper side of things and in the flooring industry, selling to contractors of sell them the sandpaper that they would use the same the floors, which is as sexy as it sounds. So I did that for years and a combination of sales and engineering, traveled around learning the flooring industry from the manufacturer side and then worked with a lot of distributors. My father during that time left contracting and started a wholesale distribution company for wood flooring in Rochester and then eventually kind of recruited me into it was like look, you know, you’re in the industry we’ve been we would do shows together and stuff. I’d see him all the time, because he was buying from my company even though I wasn’t as direct Rep. And he was like wanting you to stop working to make someone else rich and come work to make family rich, which was a pretty good pitch, even though family businesses right, like what could go wrong. So I was like, Yeah, sure. Sounds good. So moved home and started there. And then it was in that company that I kind of looked around at that point. I’m, I don’t know 3031 something like that. And and I said look, you know, he caught the e commerce revolution. This was 24 two hainish was just exploding everywhere. And it was like every industry, the millennial generation, my generation touched went online, but Home Goods largely didn’t. And a lot of that, I think was because of our Arrested Development as a generation, when we were entering what would have normally been the time, we would have bought our first home, that’s when the housing crisis of 2008 happened. So we all just sort of stayed in our apartments and, you know, sheltered in place in our respective jobs. So that was over. So I knew that our generation was starting to get into this market now. So it was flooring as an industry has always been very old school as far as its distribution and supply chain. And I can get into a little more detail on that if you want. But effectively, I looked at my dad, and I said, Look, this is a great business. And it has, it’s always been profitable. But I thought this is going to be great when you retire. But it’s probably going to be really different when I retire, you know, at 40. So it’s not really I’m not gonna hope well, that’d be great, but probably not gonna happen.

Tim
That’s it for both of us.

John
Yeah. Right. It’s, it’s closer every hour. So the so I said, Look, something’s gonna change this industry, it’s gonna get disrupted as we’re gonna see some sort of e commerce revolution, whatever it is, what does that look like? And we need to be prepared for it. So we’re not one of these companies you read about that just gets left behind. And so we started looking at what that could look like. And in that process, we ultimately decided, Well, what about instead of preparing for it, if we just did it? You know, what if we were the ones that did it, which sounds so much easier before you do it? But at the time, we thought, let’s let’s do it. So we built revel Woods kind of out of originally out of that desire to say, Okay, well, what is the digitized future version of this product category look like at the consumer level?

Tim
So when you’re talking about that, did you draw from your observations of what was happening with your ideal client types? Are you mostly consumer facing? Or where were you in your stage of figuring out who you were trying to bring that new version of the company to? I guess, a little bit more about revenue, just in general? Like what types of product products it looks sounds like, across the board flooring? products, especially wood flooring products? And who are you typically working with? And maybe we can get to the journey in a little bit about how you found that out, too.

John
Yeah, so it’s a great question. And they kind of tie together so at first, and, you know, ultimately, I’ll jump ahead or spoiler alert, I guess. We got it kind of wrong. But at the time, our thought process was everything was going direct to consumer, right, everybody wanted to party like it was 2009. And they wanted to be the Warby Parker, Warby Parker, you, you couldn’t get into a pitch for anything. And here, not here, Warby Parker. And so it was like, Oh, we want to be the Warby Parker of office furniture. And we want to be the Warby Parker of you know, pay. It’s like paper clips, but you can get them online. You know, and at that time, he had a lot of the you had like Dollar Shave Club was kind of coming into prominence and this sort of like subscription model, and that sold for like a cool billion. So everybody thought, you got to get online and you got to do e commerce. So we were thinking, e commerce direct to consumer. But the problem with that is, you know, how do you do that? So flooring, wood flooring is kind of a low tech product, but it’s a high tech sale. And because it’s a plant based building material. You can’t just sell it everywhere. So one species or structure that works great for a cabin in Montana may not work for a ranch in Arizona. And so with that understanding what a lot of companies had been doing was, here’s everything we sell, and it’s up to you, the consumer to know what goes where. And if you get it wrong. It’s like a $30,000 screw up. So good luck, Chief. Don’t call me. So we thought okay, well, that’s kind of sloppy, like we didn’t really want to do it that way. So we thought how do we take this complex sales process? Where are you what’s, what’s this sub floor? What’s all these questions we would ask people when we walk them through it in person? And how do you digitize that? And so at the time, my one of my co founders had been with one of our vendors, and had been meeting with one of the founders of another ecommerce foreign company, and he told my partner kind of what they were selling and hardwood a year, and his head exploded, just that there was like this sort of goldmine out there with online sales. So you just got to get into e commerce and it’s, you’re gonna be rich. Well, there was a lot later, we learned that there wasn’t that it was inaccurate. It was just incomplete as far as what emerged from that. And we learned all this kind of the hard way as we said about this, but the original thought process was how do we take this complex process and boil it down so it was super easy for getting Zoomers and not just what a lot of the box stores or whatever we’re doing where you just had like these thumbnails, and then you would get this little chiclet in the mail. And then hopefully you would then give me $10,000. There’s probably some steps in the middle there. But we didn’t know about that. So that was the original kind of thinking and the original target.

Tim
And you know, what’s crazy is even that box store or basic website, grid product display, that’s still a step in the direction that a lot of other companies haven’t even taken yet. So there’s like three levels to this like modernization path where it’s a super old industry, you talked about that, even when you’re introducing the company to us a couple minutes ago. And they haven’t even really brought their products into the digital format. They’re still working off of print documents, or old sales materials or their sales networks. And they’re not putting things out there for DIY consumption. So you already had a little bit of that with rebel, but you were taking it to the next step and sort of bringing it into that guided shopping experience. But when it comes to flooring, any commerce, is there a benefit to bring it into an automated experience that you were trying to recreate from those how we would walk people through the floor or whatever? Is there something from an automation standpoint or a process standpoint that you can benefit from that?

John
Well, that was the original idea was I wanted, it’s always been selling flooring is a really technical, really manual process. And so it’s tough to scale that. So my original thinking was, if you can build a robot that could do it for you, that would, then we could all go out for stakes. So you know, we really realized, like we wanted to digitize our product offering but we didn’t want to just put it on a Shopify template and call it a day. Because it’s really hard to stand out at that point. Now you’re just competing with everyone else, same kind of products, like we realized that we were small, we didn’t have the resources, we needed to stand out in a different way. So the question really became How do you? How do you do that? Like, how do you even from a, from an automation standpoint, or from trying to get somebody into some kind of funnel? How do you take this technical manual process and put it online and make it you know, in what is naturally kind of an impersonal funnel or whatever. So, you know, initially, we went back and forth, like how to do this, how to do this. And one day, I actually got it, the inspiration came from another industry. And I was at work not doing work, don’t tell anyone. And I was messing around with one of these fashion websites, clothing websites, it was a really interesting approach and very novel in 2015. When you know, I’m looking at it and you’re used to, you know, clothing shopping, right, you go onto a website. And you see here’s you can filter it by shirts and looking for this kind of shirt, and then you buy this shirt you want, but trunk club or Stitch Fix or whatever, when I was looking at, they really didn’t do it from a product based perspective. It was almost from the year before they showed you any clothing, they would ask you about you, they would ask it was very personal. They would ask you some questions before they did anything for you. They would say, okay, what’s your body type? What kind of style? Are you overall looking for? You know, they asked you some really basic questions. And then they curated this group of clothing that was professionally designed to sort of go together and it took a lot of the guesswork out, right, like, does this shirt work with these pants, you already knew all of that. And they sent you like a tropical clothing you tried on what you wanted. And then you sent back what you didn’t like, but up to the point where they send you a trunk of clothing. I was going through this kind of like they’re not showing me product. They’re asking me about me. And the light bulb kind of went on. And I went into my who eventually became a co founder into his office and I was like go to this website. And he’s looking at it going like, what am I doing here? And I said this, this is how we do it. We don’t just put product up there. We basically started doing product based sourcing, we came up with this concept of project based sourcing. So we will show you the products that work for your situation. So you don’t fall in love with something only to find out, oh, it doesn’t work over radiant heat, or you can’t Glue it to concrete or it doesn’t work in Florida. You know, whatever that was. And so that kind of set off this whole technical process of how do we do all that? Right? So we built this whole thing around this idea of a quiz that you would create a project and then we would only show you a product that worked for that project. So you weren’t searching by structure necessarily you were searching by your climate. And you didn’t have to know your climate, we would we cross references, zip codes in everywhere in North America with the Copenhagen climate rating. So we had a whole bunch of tech going on in the background that made that look like magic. But it was effectively just a different way to do search filters. No, but if you’d had to do the filters first.

Tim
Yeah, and even after doing that there was a way to start paring down the filter and then opening up other products. If someone really wants to get to more of a full experience. So it’s not like it’s completely limiting, but you can you can filter around in it.

John
Right? Well, then we had to design that actually, it’s a great question, because that was one of the things that came up earlier was how do you do that? Right? So there were some things that were, like immutable, hard questions. And then other ones that we didn’t really care what you pick, right? So structurally speaking, like radiant heat in floor heating is a great example. So if you have radiant heat on your job, you’re we’re only going to show you results for things that work over radiant. You have to pick something that works with radiant, or else we’re selling you something we won’t stand behind, which right now, no bueno. But if you said, Well, I wanted something that was going to be a little lighter. But now you know what, maybe I want something a little darker. Well, I don’t care what color it is, right? Like that doesn’t matter it as long as you’re happy with it. So we made it so that after you got through the quiz, you could still change certain aesthetic things about your results in real time. So you’d have to like take the quiz every time. Well, now I want to see light options. Well, now I want to see everything well. Now I want to see, you don’t have to keep doing that you could have the same space. But it wouldn’t let you change for that space. It wouldn’t let you change like the climate or the sub floor or radiant heating, you know, those sort of hard aspects of it. So that you at least whatever you bought, was going to work for your situation, even though, you know, you could whatever color I don’t know that doesn’t matter. As far as performance goes.

Tim
Yeah, it’s a it’s a hard filter on the function and a soft filter on the form basically.

John
That’s a way better way to put it. You should it went first. Yeah.

Tim
So let’s see what you tease this. And I don’t think we went far enough down the rabbit hole. But you talked about failing going after consumers first, can you expand on how you arrived at consumers first, but then how you learned that you had to make a pivot and where you sort of gathered that info from and what you did to shift from there?

John
Yeah, so that’s kind of the crux of the whole thing, right? So we had this really cool, novel way to sell flooring, nobody in flooring was doing anything remotely close to this when we launched, still, you know, people sort of copied it, copied pieces of it. But nobody’s really copied the whole thing yet. But we had this really cool thing. And right out of the gate, we figured there was something the hook was good, the process was good, the tech was good. But the business wasn’t good. And this was something that you know, whenever you do something that nobody’s done before, you’re probably going to get half of it wrong. The problem is knowing which half so you know, everybody always says you’re going to fail, fail quickly and pivot. And so we took that advice to heart. But one of the things we noticed was there was a fundamental flaw in our business model. And so the issue with who we were targeting in this case, which was the consumers, they, there were to two or three problems with that. So the first one was flooring, we compare it a little bit to like wedding dresses, and that even if you do it, right, it’s something you only buy three times in your life. So

Tim
it’s a large purchase, you already mentioned 10,000 plus, usually for a typical project.

John
Right. And so you don’t that kind of disqualifies you from two things. So number one, it’s a really difficult kind of an annoying thing to buy. And anyone who had purchased a floor recently saw what we were doing and said, That’s brilliant. I wish I had that when I was buying a floor. Anyone who hadn’t bought a floor yet, who was who we were targeting, because people had bought a floor weren’t gonna buy another one. anytime soon, the people who hadn’t bought a floor didn’t understand why it was so tough. So they didn’t fully appreciate what we had done. They were like, well just show me things. Why is this? I don’t know, why is this, this doesn’t have to be this hard. And and then when they got into it, they realize it is that hard. And so at first I thought, Okay, well, maybe this is just like a messaging thing. You know, before we before we pivoted, we wanted to make sure we needed to pivot because you don’t just pivot because something might not work, you might just need to tweak it right. So there is a difference, obviously between I don’t know, maybe there’s a proper term for this, but like a hard pivot and just a tweak. So we want to look at the tweaks first because those are cheaper. So we looked at that, if I will maybe it was just messaging. And so a friend of mine, started a company called Wolf and shepherd and it’s a shoe company. And he he was a decathlete in Notre Dame, his name’s Justin Schneider. If you want to check out Wolf and Shepherd there I’m not affiliated with him in any way other than Justin’s a buddy and he’s a good guy. No, I get paid for that. But they’re good shoes, but he basically wanted to make dress shoes that performed like sneakers. So he wanted to make a comfortable dress shoe and I was envious of him at the time because his messaging was super simple. It was just comfortable dress shoes, or dress shoes like sneakers, but he had the advantage of knowing everybody knows dress shoes are uncomfortable. You know like I he didn’t have to then explain. dress shoes are uncomfortable. Therefore you need these shoes. Because it was already just done. And I thought, How do I package that flooring is a difficult thing to buy into a pithy kind of slogan, and I couldn’t, I couldn’t figure it out. So it’s, we realized maybe maybe the audience was wrong. And one of the things that we kind of noticed too, the second issue was from a business perspective, when you run the numbers, and a lot of entrepreneurs don’t do this, because it’s annoying, and it’s hard and nobody wants to do it. But a lot of entrepreneurs don’t really run the numbers. And so when you look at things like acquisition costs, you have to you have to understand your acquisition cost as best you can. And then you have to figure out how you’re going to amortize that. So one of the ways that a lot of companies amortize an acquisition cost is through repeat sales. So something like get your first month free, you know, Dollar Shave Club, I don’t know if that was a real promotion, but they don’t care if they give you the first month free, because you’re going to subscribe, and they’ll they’ll amortize that cost over however many months of subscription, right. Or if you’re a clothing company, it’s like, get 10% off your first order. Because if you like these, this shirt, or you like these shoes, you’re going to buy more stuff from them. And so if you can amortize that through multiple sales, we didn’t have that option in flooring. So we had to amortize that cost in one sale, which doesn’t allow you to get as aggressive on margin, which was what all of the I mean, you remember the whole online mattress craze, right, which I know you don’t hear as much about now, at least I don’t. But it was like at one point, I think you had Casper mattress, you had a couple of these other ones, right that were cutting out the middleman. So they were able to amortize through margin that way, by cutting out a step in the distribution process. But I think last time I checked, there was 128, online mattress companies. At some point that gets more difficult. We didn’t really have that room either. So we had to we couldn’t be Oh, factory direct to you, we couldn’t say we cut out the middleman. Because our pricing was going to be right in line with everything else. And we couldn’t get it through multiple sales. So we quickly realized we were targeting the wrong audience, you know, we were just targeting the wrong audience. So that kind of was painful. But we got very lucky in that what we noticed is that the interior designers did, not only did they understand that flooring was a difficult thing to buy, they appreciated the tool we had immediately and wanted to use it for their clients. So we hadn’t built the workflow for the interior designer, it was still very much kind of direct to consumer. But we thought, Man, this is worth looking into. So we quickly did a lot of research on this pain points, you know how to designers work, what does that look like. And we rebuilt the entire website from the ground up literally rebuilt the entire thing with this idea that this actually should be a distribution platform for the interior designer. And so it has like a nice kind of consumer facing front. Because that’s the designers needed that. So it’s not just like a wholesale website, because they weren’t going to train themselves all the way up to sell flooring, they needed those those resources of consumer consumer facing resources.

Tim
There’s two things that you talked about there that are worth just emphasizing one more time. One is you actually looked at the pain points of the target audience, not just their demographics, so that you could build what eventually becomes a useful tool for them to make their lives easier and prefer your brand and your product offerings over others, because you’ve brought them into your world. I think, just saying those again, is worth people taking notes. That’s a noteworthy thing for this episode so far.

John
Yeah. Well, and honestly, we did it for both target audiences, we analyze the pain points of the consumers too, and realized we weren’t hitting them. Yes, no. And I didn’t, we didn’t think we could hit them. Or nor did we realize that we wanted to the other issue with and this was just for us. And maybe this isn’t true for every company. So if you say you have a direct to consumer company that you’re working for own or whatever out there, that’s like, a it’s a bad business model bale on it. That’s not what I’m saying. But the issue for us with that, too, was every time you know, it’s a huge purchase, you have to educate, there’s a ton of education that goes into it a ton of hand holding that goes into it. And every time you sold a product, you effectively had to start over every sale was a brand new sale. And so you know what one of those early business school rules right that repeat customers are worth more than first time new customers. Now remember what the exact ratio is, but I’m sure you can Google it, and it’s high enough that it’s worth looking into. But we realized that there was no way to ever build any momentum with that target audience either because you’re just always starting over you don’t have a base. So with the interior designers that allowed us if we pivoted That service towards them. That actually allowed us sort of a built in audience and a built in base that we could expand upon and grow. So designer, their first project with us is always a little shaky, because it’s new. And there’s a lot to learn. But they get better at it every single time. And so for our standpoint, we don’t have to spend the exact same amount of time on every sale. Every time we bring somebody in, they get better and better and better. They’re, they’re happier to it because they were, they’re happier for it, I should say, because they don’t need to spend all day on the phone with us, too. They can work faster. So that was something we realized if we could do this, that could be pretty revolutionary for our industry, because I know with flooring, one of the things from an industry standpoint is they’ve always been really, really into the interior designer, like they want to figure out how do we reach these designers, because designers have not just in our industry, but in all industries, they work in an enormous amount of buying power. They’re almost influencing the entire sale for their projects. That’s what they’re hired to do.

Tim
And they have an enormous amount of products that they can go out and research. I mean, it’s endless, depending on what you’re picking countertops, floors, cabinets, hardware, whatever it might be, there are hundreds, if not 1000s of options for each of those.

John
Exactly. And so it’s kind of their job to be able to sift through all of that for their clients. And in some cases, there are a lot of like the furniture industry, the majority of it is sold through trade only only through the designers. So in flooring, we thought well, how do we, the industry is said how do we get their influence? But the truth is there was that was from a place of not understanding their pain points, because designers had never been fully incentivized to care about flooring. So they would say, Hey, you know, they would try to do it through product, they would say, Hey, isn’t this pretty? If we could create a wood floor? That is pretty enough, they will try to not not buy it, but they will tell their clients to buy it and then tell them, right? And then we can tell them which of these you know, dealers in town is carrying it, they can go through this process. So as a designer, though, think about that from their perspective. So it’s like, okay, yeah, it’s pretty, but honestly, beyond that, what’s in it for me? Right? Like, why would I learn about this? Why would I expect this other than it’s pretty, which is not really enough to get them to do a whole lot. So if it’s not part of their business, if they’re not making money out of it, if it’s not adding to their control over their products or their process? Why would they do it? And surprise, they wouldn’t. So it was always an issue from the flooring industry to say, Okay, well, how do we do that, but the flooring industry’s supply chain doesn’t run through the designer, the designer is tangential to it at the retail level. So unless you are going to forego the retail level distribution couldn’t isn’t set up to sell traditional wholesale distribution and flooring isn’t set up to sell designers. They’re set up to sell retailers. And in some cases, contractors, it’s a different process, you know, distribution wants to sell somebody who has a flooring showroom, that can put these big waterfall racks up with a lot of these samples. You know, in a designer, a lot of them in the residential space commercial, totally different based. But in the residential space, a lot of them are working out of room in their house that was their kids bedroom that just went off to college. So they’re not going to put a waterfall rack of all these different flooring products in there. They don’t have space for that with everything else that they’re doing. So it was initially it was a huge issue of just understanding. Okay, well, I remember one of my mentors asked me, so who is your actual customer? Is it the consumer? Or is it the designer who is actually making this purchase? And in the end, it’s the consumers making the purchase, but not always, the designer a lot of times buys directly from us. But I said realistically, I think it’s the designer. And he’s like, right, but you have to prove that, you know, so we set out that point, really trying to say okay, well, if they’re going to be the ones if they’re basically replacing the retailer in that supply chain, for their projects, not in totality, of course, but if a designer has a project, they’re sourcing the flooring at wholesale, and selling it to their clients effectively. We needed to build the platform that allowed them to do that. And if they were able to do that, and we met their needs for controlling their project, their photography, they’re creating that experience and allowing them to make money. Then we thought we really had something that was basically going to be an entirely new sales channel for the flooring industry.

Tim
The other thing that you did too, was you looked at not only sorry to go back to the consumer thing, there was one more.

John
Yeah, sorry, I jumped off of that. Yeah,

Tim
no, it’s good that you did the pain points, you realize they didn’t understand why that process was valuable to them. And part of that was also because you usually when you’re doing advanced personas for people, you’re also looking at scenario based situations. So you talk about how it’s only a purchase they make once or twice or three times in their life. So most, there’s a good percentage of them that are first time buyers that are uneducated on the process. And that’s just part of good persona building. So just wanted to get that point out of the way. But you’re really on the other side proving another point of this too, you can’t just have good brand and marketing, you also have to have a good business connection and product offering for the people you’re bringing this to. And by building that ecosystem for the designers, where you’re kind of allowing them to become sort of a mini retail outlet to their customers, you’ve aligned good product with good business practices, and provided them a resource tool to bring all that stuff together.

John
Yes, yeah. And that, and that’s, you know, it’s easier said than done, right. But we were very fortunate. One of the things that they like working with us on is we are experts in this field. So I know my father, I mentioned it, like he was a contractor and then started the distribution company. But he he did more than that. He’s worked his way through the National wood flooring Association, and he’s currently chairman of the National wood flooring Association, like nationally. So he’s for the next years and one more year left on his term. But, you know, he’s basically the highest ranking person in the hardwood flooring industry. So is that necessary, though, to do this successfully? No. But man did it help. Because that allowed us connections to I mean, flooring is weird. It’s a small industry, especially wood flooring, and a lot of the quality stuff comes from this fourth generation mill in the mountains of Tennessee or Pennsylvania that doesn’t have a website, like you’re not gonna find them, you know, you just on your own that the level of research you would need to do. And then even beyond that, just the vetting aspect of it, you know, can you tell the difference between something that’s been milled and dried, and everything really well, and something that’s garbage, that they’re dumping out the door? I would argue most people can’t, and probably shouldn’t be able to, like, that’s just isn’t something you’re going to spend time doing. And the association A few years ago, was really under assault by the rise in vinyl flooring. And he was there were just all these sort of crisis meetings within the NW FA membership. That was like, what are we doing? We’re getting killed here. And they wanted to do this sort of consumer awareness campaign. Because ultimately, in their mind, it always just comes back to the consumer. And I get that thinking, you know, I fell into that too. But they were just trying to think like, maybe they do something similar to the Got Milk campaign, you know, that the Dairy Council did back in the 90s. And everybody remembers Got Milk, right? I don’t know that you drank any more milk because of it. But you remember the cafe, so that’s good. But they wanted something kinda like that. But the problem, again, with wood flooring goes back to what you had said, which was, you’re not thinking about it all the time. If I’m not in the market for a new floor, like I’m not even ad comes on about why you should use real wood like, I’m not, I’m not, that doesn’t even I’m not even listening to it. You know, like, I’m easily I’m skipping it, because it just doesn’t apply to me, we want to make sure we were keeping it really focused on how we’re going to actually move that needle. And understanding you know, where your your bases and what they’re listening to, and you know how receptive they’re going to be to that message is also really important.

Tim
After having explained all this, you started to go down the road of talking about how designers have gotten more involved with you. And I guess, to kind of put a button on this portion of the topic, what type of impact Have you seen since implementing that tool and some of the shifts you’ve made in the business and who you’re targeting?

John
Well, number one, I mean, it, it’s worked. So we were still relatively new. I mean, the company soft launched in 2016. And then we relaunched again in 2017. So we’re only a few years into it. But we have past the point now, where we’ve passed through our breakeven, we’ve proven our concept, we’re starting to really grow. And we’re starting to get some real national traction. So I don’t want to sit here and say that, like we’re at the same point after a company that’s been in business for 1520 years, but it’s been, you know, double, triple digit growth every year. Now granted, the first year, like, it’s easy to grow triple digits when you sell a dollars worth of stuff. But we did better than that. But you know what I mean, it’s I don’t want to make you always see this with entrepreneurs, too. Sometimes, like you get this idea where they’re gonna tell you Oh, yeah, no, we’ve crushed it. And we change the world. And they, you know, we’ve carved our company logo on the face of the moon and all this and then you catch them at the bar later. And they’re like, man, I don’t even know if I’m gonna be around in September, where we’re definitely closer to the moon than we are to not be around in September. But I also don’t want to make it seem like our first year we did 10 gajillion dollars in a $7 billion industry. But we’re starting to see this message. The thing for us is we’re starting to see this message amongst the design world really resonate, because when we started, we had another problem with that audience. And that was they were so used to Not being directly involved with flooring, that the idea that they could be was like weird to them at first. So now I had a new a new problem, where it was like, Hey, this is something that’s for you. And a lot of them were like, Nah, my contractor does that or No, I just sent him to Dave’s carpets off the highway or whatever. Right? So that became a whole different challenge from a marketing perspective is how do we create this awareness that for amongst the design community, that flooring is very much a part of your business the same way furniture is and area rugs and other stuff that they’re all very used to. So that was a separate issue, but being able to at least focus in on who it was, we were trying to sell to what it was, we were trying to be helped a lot because you could spin off in a million different directions. And that’s the other issue too is you start to have a little bit of success. And it’s like, oh, we can go do this or Oh, we can let’s you know, you get into like what they call tactic chasing. Right? Like whatever the sexy tactic is that day. Oh, let’s do affiliate marketing. Oh, let’s do Facebook ads. Oh, let’s do you know, and then it’s like, what, what are you and what are you actually trying to do? And that can kill you, especially if you’re small. I mean, I’ve seen it kill big companies too. But if you’re small, it’s really difficult. So for us kind of understanding like, Alright, well, some of these trying to resell and some of these bigger platforms, you know, like house or wayfarer or whatever, that that’s not us. That’s not what we’re trying to do. So let’s not waste any time there, you know, and really kind of focusing in allowed us to get to that next step of Okay, great. How do we create a trend and into an interior design industry, we’ve previously had no visibility, and

Tim
you have to relate, you have to build the right assets. And you have to have the right message, exactly you mentioned to was you were talking about the scattershot approach to tactics. And that’s something that usually happens when you don’t take the time upfront. To know which direction to go into a lot of people. There, there is a need to do some activities right away. And you can take a certain amount of time to do scattershot for a little while while you’re developing what your real plan is, and then replace it after that. But if you never do the real plan, and you never replace it, you are just trial and error testing things through money, time wasted efforts, and it can get kind of out of hand from there.

John
Yeah, it is. It’s crazy how I mean, it’s almost like maybe I don’t know if this is the best analogy. Like it’s true, but I don’t know how relatable it is. It’s almost like investing, right? Like, if you’re going to be a good most people will tell you, if you’re not like a professional trader, then you really the biggest thing, the best thing you could invest in is an employer matched 401k. Right, like, that’s where your money should go first. If, you know, if you’ve got like a day trading account, you want to buy GameStop stock or whatever, it’s, that’s cool. But that shouldn’t be your primary trading, right? Like you should have, this is where your money goes when you have the money. And then if you have any leftover, you can play around over here. Like that’s just like fun money. And

Tim
you’re about preparation and working with the right people to know which direction to go into.

John
Exactly. And this is kind of the same way like you have your core competency. And if you’re doing what you need to do there and you want to experiment with something that’s outside of that or experiment with a different kind of tactic or, okay, we’re gonna run I don’t know if it’s, let’s say social media ads, whether your platform of choice. Okay, well, that’s not our primary strategy. But let’s test it with a small amount of money while we’re doing this, right. And then you can see whether or not it works. It’s it’s play money at that point. It’s not. You’re not just like, I don’t know what we’re doing. I’m over here now. Oh, now I’m doing these, oh, I listened to this other podcast where this guy was talking about how he had this weird affiliate, whatever. And I’m doing that now. And now. You know, it’s, you’ll never get anywhere, right? Because you’re just you’re literally chasing your tail.

Tim
But if you do have a really good primary strategy, you can have that play tactic on the side that experiment for divorce free to do that. So yeah, I suppose to get to industry in general, we’ve already talked about even see seeing changes over the last 10 years. What do you think the next 10 years might bring to the building products industry?

John
Oh, man, if you asked me a year and a half ago, I’d have given you a totally different answer. So obviously 2020 changed a few things for a few of us. I don’t know. I don’t know if you noticed. It’s so the building industry. It’s a it’s a wild west now suddenly. So, in America, most Americans spend their money predominantly on two things. Three, if they’re smart, the third one should be the most important but it ends up being the least important but usually they spend their money on travel on their homes. And then on retirement if they think of it and then usually way, way, way too late. But with COVID that not travel out for Everybody, so we all got stuck at home. And we had nowhere to go. And we had some many of us not I mean, a lot of people were hit very hard financially. And that was horrible. But a lot of not everybody, right? It didn’t hit everybody equally. So there was still a lot of money. And people were still stuck at home, even if they had money. And so suddenly, I have nothing else to spend this on. And I hate all these things about my house. So that’s where this is going. And so we saw, especially the remodeling industry, has just completely exploded. And so I could have answered that question kind of saying, well, that could be like a short term trend, and it’s eventually going to go back to normal. And yes, you know, people are going to start traveling again, I don’t know if cruise ships are going to be super popular again. But people will probably travel again, at least I hope so I miss it. But I don’t know that I think people will still continue to invest in their homes, I think you’re still gonna see a lot of people, a lot of brands, for example, that are not in the home goods industry start to jump onto it, we’re almost seeing like a second gold rush in that way. Because I think the pandemic has rewired our brains a little bit. And I the closest thing I can compare it to, is I don’t know if you know, your grandfather, or anyone in your family had lived through the depression, the Great Depression, and my grandfather did, even when he lived through better economic times, he still would save his soap slivers, right. And that was just like they would, they would take the little bit of shampoo left, and they dump it into the next shampoo bottle and like nothing went to waste. Some people even you know, in their 80s, were still burying money in the backyard. It’s It was one of those events that just rewired those people in a way that like even when they had lots of great economic times after the Great Depression, but it never left them. And I wonder in the building’s industry, if we won’t see something similar, if people won’t view their house as a glorified crash pad anymore, you know, that I’m only going to be here like three hours a day when I sleep, and then, you know, whatever, I think people are gonna really it’s going to be a bigger investment point than it was. And I think as a result of that, I mean, it’s it’s almost anybody’s guess as to what happens, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see almost like I said, the second Gold Rush like brands that weren’t traditionally Home Goods brands, we’re seeing it, we’re getting approached by brands all the time that want to do a collaborative flooring line with us, because they want to get into this. brands that are not home goods, brands, let’s put it that way. Clothing brands, other you know, just all kinds of different things have approached us. So I know if they’re approaching us, they’re approaching other people as well. So I do think the technology is going to get better. And then one of the things that we’re what we’re hoping for, we believe, is that the revolution in home goods isn’t necessarily going to come from product, but from process. So I think, you know, the I’m biased, of course, but I think the interior design industry is going to see a bigger surge, I think people are going to want to see that guided professional touch to creating a space that it’ll always be in the back of their mind, right? What if I get locked in here for a year? You know, but I never would have said that. If you asked me that a year and a half ago. So who knows, maybe a year and a half from now I’m going to listen to this and go Yeah, well, I was wrong about that

Tim
one. Now, I would tend to agree with that. I think that’s where it’s gonna go as well. Before we wrap up, where can people find more about you and more about revel woods.

John
So anybody who wants to learn more about rebel woods, just head to our website, which is revelwoods dot com r e v e l w o o d s dot com. And anyone who wants to learn more about me find it to their or if they want to? I don’t know I’m available through your typical ways to find people. But yeah, you can contact us through the website. I’m happy to talk to anybody if they’ve got any questions on anything.

Tim
Awesome. Thanks for coming on. This was a great conversation.

John
Thank you, Tim. I appreciate it.

Tim
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