From a £6,000 loan to £18m turnover: How we’ve created one of Europe’s leading supplement brands

Adam Rossiter is the co-founder and Managing Director of BULK POWDERS, one of the largest supplement companies in the UK. 10 years ago Adam and his co-founder Elliot Dawes used a £6,000 loan to create the supplements brand. This year the company’s annual turnover will hit £18m, has grown 100% year-on-year over the past 3 years, and operates in 12 different countries.

We met with Adam to learn about their:

– Challenges with growth
– Most successful marketing channels
– International expansion
– Advice for new brands entering the market

 

The Fitness Network:

What are some of the key lessons you’ve learnt over the last 10 years?

Adam:

It’s a fast-moving industry, so you have to be at the forefront in every area of the business, from bringing the best products to market to having the most up to date ecommerce and payment systems as well as using the latest web trends, given we’re a direct online brand. You have to keep moving with the consumer mentality and stay ahead of your competition. We believe we’re at the forefront of the industry, and that’s where we want to remain.

Recruit good people because you can’t do everything yourself. Our greatest error was trying to do everything ourselves in the first 5 years, from sweeping the warehouse floor to marketing, packing boxes and customer service. On the positive side we have experienced every single role and understand and appreciate them. The first 5 years was a learning period; we don’t regret them but they certainly came at the cost of growth.

It’s about building a key team of people around you. Since recruiting a senior management team we’ve grown 100% every year and are expecting towards the same again this year. It’s the classic entrepreneur problem of trying to find people who have as much passion and attention to detail as you, but growing your team is the only way to achieve significant growth.

We never stop learning, and are always looking back at decisions thinking how they could have been better.

“Our greatest error was trying to do everything ourselves… Since recruiting a senior management team we’ve grown 100% every year.”

 

The Fitness Network:

What are your most important marketing channels?

Adam:

Digital is by far the most important channel, and clearly the market leader in digital advertising is Google. We’ve tried lots of things, including social marketing, Groupon, affiliates plus a whole host of others. They’ve had varying levels of success and value. If you don’t receive the customer data through a marketing channel, then you need to make money on that purchase, otherwise the lifetime value is more relevant. Every single day we look at key numbers such as revenue, conversion and margin across all territories.

Being a direct to consumer brand, our customers are also a great marketing tool themselves. The more positive our customers are about the brand, the more they help to persuade others to give our products a try. We’re a price leader in the market, and some perceive that as meaning lower quality, which is entirely false with us – we simply cut out the “middle man” in other retailers. It has been tough through the years convincing consumers that we’re just as good, if not better (and more transparent) than other brands, but our customers are advocates for that. Direct to consumer brands are now the fastest growing and marketing leading brands in Europe, so the false perception of lower price always meaning lower quality has definitely reduced dramatically.

“Every single day we look at key numbers such as revenue, conversion and margin across all territories.”

 

The Fitness Network:

How powerful has the TrustPilot review system been for you?

Adam:

There are two big benefits of using tools like TrustPilot. One is that it gives new customers the confidence to place an order, and it’s also a great source of real customer feedback. We genuinely look at the feedback and consider what our customers are saying. Our customers know best and base their opinions on whether they like or use the product/service in question. Often the most valuable feedback comes from new customers, and we look at all feedback from all channels. There’s feedback that goes through various levels of management, right up to Elliot and myself.

The Fitness Network:

What methods do you use to retain clients and keep them loyal to BULK POWDERS?

Adam:

It’s about engagement. One method is to keep hitting your customers with lots of huge discounts. We don’t like to rely on that as it can devalue a brand. We create engagement through emails and social media by having the right content in front of the right customer. Passion and trust in the brand leads to loyalty – we like to make customers feel that they are part of the brand. Email isn’t becoming less effective, it’s just that people don’t tend to open the emails they don’t want to receive, but do open ones from brands they’re happy to engage with.

You have different customers in the market. Some are not very brand loyal and just buy on price, whereas others are a lot more loyal and engage with the brand. You can’t just rely on your customers’ education – don’t just tell them this product is the best, explain why it’s the best in a manner they can relate to and want to understand. We invest lots of money into making our products very good, which ultimately helps us to gain consumer confidence and sell more products.

“We create engagement through emails and social media by having the right content in front of the right customer.”

 

The Fitness Network:

What’s been your experience of selling internationally?

Adam:

Since day one we’ve sold across Europe and wider. Buying through a UK site is often not a good experience for non-UK customers. To grow significantly as a European brand, we had to create localised sites. Imagine a UK customer trying to shop on a German site. We wanted to do it right, so no Google translation here, instead we have technically correct text, and customer service handled by people who speak the local language and understand the market.

Engagement on social and email is all bespoke to each country. It costs more and takes longer, but we think that we do a pretty good job. When expanding into other markets, it’s important to not just replicate what happens in the UK, but instead to look at the buying habits of consumers in that country, and give them what they expect so it’s not alien to them.

The Fitness Network:

What’s the biggest threat to the industry over the next five years?

Adam:

One threat is the quality of product and brands underdosing or not meeting label claims, which could make consumers less trusting of all brands. BULK POWDERS is part of the Informed Sport program, with products drug tested and also regularly lab tested to ensure they meet label claims. We have created a trustworthy brand with products that perform because we use very high quality ingredients sourced from the most credible suppliers, and manufacture our products in our own state-of-the-art facility.

Another issue is with stringent regulations on ingredient claims – something the Government is not exactly helping in the industry. It’s getting tough to tell consumers anything about a product! We’re moving towards an impossible situation because the EU regulations are so strict, which makes it harder for brands to develop new innovative products. Of course there have to be rules and compliance regulations, but they can be beyond the point of being positive and it’s in danger of reaching that stage.

The Fitness Network:

How could a new brand take market share in the supplements market?

Adam:

The market is very different to 10 years ago; it’s far more crowded and it’s much harder to compete on price. There is evidence of new brands coming to the market that have experience and investment, but you have to carve out an identity.

You need a good understanding of the industry, and passion and drive. Even with all of those things it will be pretty tough to make a real impact as a new brand trying to become relevant. There are various areas that you can focus on. We cater to every area, but for someone building something from the ground up, it would be very tough to be successful because of the sheer volume of brands now.

It is, however, very simple to create a new brand with a range of products, for little investment and small knowledge of the industry. These “brands” pop up regularly but are usually unsuccessful medium-long term. Their focus is rarely on quality of products and I wouldn’t say they are a positive for the industry.

“The market is very different to 10 years ago… It’s far harder to compete on price… You have to carve out an identity.”

 

Posted in Most Popular Interviews, Nutrition & Supplements, The Fitness Network.
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