May 19, 2020
12. When Today’s World Creates a High Demand for a Product You’ve Been Selling For Years
by Liz Pope
A passion for jumping proves useful in today’s world of hurdles.
Dave Hunt, CEO and Founder of Crossrope, gives us the low down on how he built the most efficient fitness experience on the market. With a circumstantial rise in demand for at-home fitness, the phrase “sometimes better lucky than good” has taken on new meaning for Dave and his team.
In addition to how Crossrope has adapted to record-level sales, we’ll touch on:
- Creating a buildable & sustainable business model by always “striving for continuous improvement”
- Balancing eCommerce strategies while maintaining brand integrity
- Leveraging thought leadership and content marketing as its own revenue stream
- The value of building a high-aptitude team over a high-skilled team
Transcript of Episode
Dave: [00:00:02] We’ve been talking about jumping rope as a portable and at home fitness tool for eight years. It’s been strange in the past six to eight weeks to feel all of a sudden like you have a huge megaphone, whereas before you’re just kind of trying to shout out because now everybody’s looking for fitness.
Intro: [00:00:24] You’re listening to the Marketing Behind the Curtain podcast, where we pull back the curtain on the people, processes and technologies leading marketers are using to fuel growth within their organizations. Let’s get the show.
Devin: [00:00:41] Welcome to Marketing Behind the Curtain, where we take a look at all the hard work that happens by marketers to put a shiny outward face on organizations of all different types. I’m your host, Devin Kelly, with Method Savvy a consultancy that helps ambitious leaders find better ways to grow their business. Excited to be joined today by Dave Hunt, the founder of Crossrope and CEO there. Dave, welcome. And give us a little bit of background on on Crossrope.
Dave: [00:01:06] Hi, Devin. Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate the opportunity. And Crossrope, definitely an entrepreneurial venture of passion. So I’ve had a little bit of an obsession with jumping as far back as I can remember, played all jumping sports when I was a kid that led me to a volleyball and track and field in high school. And from there I did high jump and long jump during my time at Navy graduated. I was a pilot in the Navy for 12 years and all the while still had almost a strange obsession with jumping in during my time in. Is actually when I started collecting jump ropes, using that as my primary form of fitness. And it was something that plugged in pretty nicely when I was deployed overseas or traveling. It was a good portable fitness tool. I found that even though I was no longer competing, I could kind of compete with myself and find new and interesting challenges to have with the jump rope. And that obsession ultimately led to the interest in sort of, I guess, creating a better proverbial mousetrap. I had a bunch of different jump ropes of all different types and weights and sizes didn’t feel that my ideal products that I would customize to my personal needs was out there on the market. And so in 2011, I went out on my own to piece together a Crossrope prototype. A crossroads in my mind was a cross training jump rope where you could use multiple weights of ropes that would interchange with a pair of handles just to get a more challenging and dynamic way to jump rope experience. And since the launch in 2012, it’s been a wild and fun experience.
Devin: [00:03:06] Awesome man.
Devin: [00:03:07] It sounds like, you know, the passion turned into business play is is very much true for you, but it also sounds like, you know, in kind of creating this product that is really a consumer product and very much in the e-commerce space. That experience may be kind of unique and relevant today as we talk in kind of early May of this this pandemic in quarantine here. And one of the unique things that you mentioned about jump rope in that process was, you know, you can do it with limited space and limited stuff. And I think that’s something we’re all struggling with a little bit on on, you know, almost everyone’s front these days.
Dave: [00:03:49] Yeah, that’s a good point.
Dave: [00:03:50] Whenever I don’t remember who originally made the quote, but one of my favorites is better lucky than good. And I feel that that defines a lot of my entrepreneurial journey. And, you know, when I look back in the course of the past couple years and the fact that this just really did start as a kind of a business of passion, there have been a lot of facets to the business along the way that have been really positive opportunities to turn this into a very good and meaningful business beyond kind of just like the hot, you know, the hobby or the or the side job. And I think most recently, in terms of what you were talking about, we’ve been talking about jumping rope as a portable and at home fitness tool for eight years. It’s been strange in the past six to eight weeks to feel all of a sudden like you have a huge megaphone, whereas before you you’re just kind of trying to shout out that everybody is looking for your health fitness stuff. And so that’s where it ties back to the the better lucky than good. And to be clear. Look, I mean, I myself and my team would kind of trade normalcy in a heartbeat for everything that’s gone on. I mean, there’s not a single element or essence that we’re trying to utilize or take advantage of things that are going on. It’s literally just we’re saying the same things we were saying a year ago. And a lot more people all the sudden are looking for that and listening. So we’ve tried to do the best we can to maintain that brand voice and integrity around the, you know, the home and portable fitness experience we like to deliver.
Devin: [00:05:33] Yeah. I think, you know, no one’s looking to take advantage of this in any way.
Devin: [00:05:39] But you do find the world change around you. And that happens in kind of a number of ways. And I know one of the ways that we first started talking was around kind of the e commerce front, which, you know, maybe it’s another example of kind of lucky versus good. But, you know, that’s always been a core element of you guys business and, you know, having a tool that works well while we’re all confined where we are. And, you know, being kind of well suited to deliver a product from an e-commerce perspective gives us a little bit of a window into, you know, just how technology is enabled you guys business and even sitting in a CEO seat, that means, you know, marketing and the e-commerce playbook is kind of core to what you guys do.
Dave: [00:06:19] Yeah, you’re absolutely right about that. I think, again, even tracing back to the origins of the organization, I think it’s a testament to the appeal of e-commerce in the first place. So my perspective was, all right. You know, I’ve got this concept or an interchangeable way to jump rope system. Well, it might be novel and unique. There certainly was not this extensive due diligence around the prospective product market fit because there wasn’t a market for that sort of thing. So, you know, my my sense on it was that building a presence online gave this concept in this idea the best opportunity to get enough awareness to make it a sustainable business. And in doing that, I think it enabled some other decisions for the brand that would have been much more challenging where we primarily off line or we use other channels. So, for example, we’ve been really heavy on the content marketing side from the outset with this idea that if we’re providing free chopper workouts, challenges and ultimately an app, it’s just so much easier to get it out. You know, from an e-commerce strategy perspective than it is through traditional channels. And again, if you look forward even to the past couple weeks, that’s been something where we’ve been able to get useful and interesting and engaging valuable content out to anybody that’s looking for it. And it just sort of builds on itself.
Devin: [00:07:55] Yeah, I think, you know, in in seeing the business grow and change a little bit over time.
Devin: [00:08:00] One of the challenges that I think, you know, particularly sometimes passion projects end up running into is you look at the math on kind of the back end of an e-commerce business and the idea of, you know, cost of customer acquisition and how do you grow over time? You know, you can have a really strong brand up front. You can have a really strong product offering. But if that’s only ever as deep as kind of a single transaction, you know, you have a hard time building community, have a hard time, you know, stretching that lifetime value out in a way that, you know, allows you to continue to add value to customers. And I think, you know, there’s been a whole bunch of different models, particularly in the, you know, health and fitness space that have kind of come about recently with, you know, apps and products there. But how have you thought about that change over time and just, you know, diversifying the way that you guys add value to the customers?
Dave: [00:08:54] Yeah, that’s a great question. And oftentimes I wish that I could go back and say that everything that the brand has turned into now was preplanned. And part of my master strategy. But one of our one of our core values is striving for continuous improvement. So this idea of constant iteration has been invaluable to the directions that we’ve been able to take. So what does that mean specifically? Well, when I launched the company, it was pretty much a hodgepodge range of jump rope systems that were not set up and conducive to additional or add on products that customers might be interested in. Then you’re right, at some point, just kind of come across the fact that customer acquisition starts to grow up as you expand. And if there is no back end game plan, especially when you’re putting such time, effort, energy into building a brand and a community that is interested in what you have to offer, there’s nothing there. It’s a lot of wasted time, energy, and it doesn’t enhance the ultimate value that you’re able to deliver to customers and value that’s created for the brand. So what the first step that we made was looking at our product assortment was how can we have the available products presented in such a way so that if somebody buys an entry level product, it’s a clear and easy decision to add to that with other products that we come out with. So in our current lineup, for example, we have the get lean set and to get strong set as a part of our get fit bundle.
Dave: [00:10:32] So the get lean set is two lighter ropes and a pair of handles gets strong, said it’s too heavier ropes and a pair of panels, and the bundle offers a discount for getting the entire set at the outset. In the past, we wouldn’t have had those corresponding sets. So if you bought the lighter set, you couldn’t buy the heavier stuff because it also had the lighter ropes in it. So we had difficulty in managing what that customer experience was going to be post purchase. With this change. It’s helped because it’s very easy for people to enter and experience cross through at the level that they’re comfortable. And then if at any point in time they want to expand that they can add on. So that was one of the big changes. The second one was coming up with additional products that we launch as limited edition type products that are line extensions with a differentiated experience. So some people think jump rope is a jump rope, jump rope until you use cross rope and then you realize that each of the different ropes handles provide a different experience for individuals that have various types of fitness goals. And so by us offering accessories, an additional jump rope lines, that helps to provide that additional value and also make sure that the community is sustained with new and interesting things that are going to captivate.
Dave: [00:11:49] And then the final piece of it is the app part of it. So whereas, you know, there’s a lot of discussion and interesting, compelling brands popping up on the connected fitness side of it, that was not a part of our original strategy. We actually started on our content marketing strategy where we gave challenges and workouts through PDX and it was fairly apparent circa 2016 that PDX is probably not the future of workout concepts. And we developed an app basically to deliver these challenges that we were already doing. And as we invested more and more in the app. We looked at the ad adding a premium version of the app so that we can subsidize the investment in continuing to enhance the experience for those that are interested. So right now, we still have a free version of the app. That is what we intend to do in perpetuity. So we’re not forcing users of the road to have to purchase the app to get the content. But we’re going to be offering more and more and more on the premium side. And as you alluded to, it’s just one other piece where it enables us to deliver more value. It enables us to really be all in on expanding and get out there to as many people as possible and being able to acquire customers, say, at a higher cost, because we know that we’ll be able to offer that value in the.
Devin: [00:13:15] That’s a it’s an interesting idea, looking at the evolution of content marketing as it’s own, like subscription revenue generating product. Right. Like that the idea of thought leadership and being able to provide content that’s valuable enough to, you know, be paid for on its own is, I think, a way that we don’t often think of content marketing translating on on our front. We always kind of balance the idea of people, processes and technology. So how do you think about, like, the people side of things? And what was once maybe a content marketer is now a, you know, a product person or or, you know, whatever titles may have changed? There is, as I think most people would think of that function within a business, changing pretty significantly.
Dave: [00:14:04] That’s a great question.
Dave: [00:14:05] And it’s definitely one of the biggest challenges I had an experience last year where I went to a course presented by a guy named Bob Glazer, and he works for a couple. I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but call that he founded the acceleration partners. And his presentation was on the culture that he had built within the organization because they had won multiple, multiple best places to work awards. So he had all these great frameworks and structures. And I think the one that resonated with me the most that has applied is that when you’re a lot of times as a founder and entrepreneur, you hear this narrative of the people that bring you from, you know, zero to a million may not be the same. People that bring you from one to 10 may not be the same people that bring you from 10 to a half. And so I don’t know if you’ve heard that before, but it’s one of these companies where it’s different people. And that is a tough thing as a founder to digest, because there’s there definitely can be a level of truth to it. But by that same token, when you have a great team that is spurring that great growth and you have a strong culture where everyone cares personally and is working hard and is talented, you want to try to continue to grow and develop those individuals.
Dave: [00:15:20] And so what what Bob presented was this idea of trying to build, curate and coach a team of high aptitude individuals versus high skill individuals, because in a high trajectory and fast growth organization, if you have a high aptitude individual that is seeking the mentorship, is open to coaching, is good at learning, they’re able to make that jump at the growth and rate that the business is growing versus bringing somebody that has a commensurate level of experience. And so you bring them in. They’re super experienced and it seems like they have everything under control the first year and then the second year feels like they’re just right. And then the third year, all of a sudden they can’t keep up anymore. And why is that? Well, you brought in a skill in the talent that they weren’t a hire to burn off the staff. So how is that informs some of our decisions? I think it’s been a couple of different perspectives that I’ve brought with. The first one is trying to evaluate who on the team is high aptitude and looking at some objective measurements for the performance that we’re expecting as we grow within various jobs to see if if they’re meeting. So we’ve had a good majority of individuals that are high aptitude and can kind of make the jump at the next level.
Dave: [00:16:35] And so that’s been rewarding for those who are not as high aptitude, looking to see if there are roles that we can scope out that if they get it and they want it and they have the capacity to do a different role within the organization in their good culture, if it were there and then discussing transitions for those, that might not be the right fit. There’s a better opportunity that extends, however, to partners that we work with. So I think a lot of times you talk about the internal team. We have quite a number of agency partners and strategic partners, affiliate partners. And so we often have to have the same conversation. And because they’re not, you know, specifically in our culture and in our organization, there are times with those where we find oftentimes will you know, they were the right at the right time. But then we’ll have to start the search to look for another organization or partner that meets us where we’re at in terms of the skill sets and the value they can bring to the table. So that’s how I’ve a lot to unpack, but that’s all I’ve internalized it over the years. I feel we’ve done a good job managing really, really rapid growth.
Devin: [00:17:40] Yeah, I feel like we could have a whole other breakout around, you know, riding, keyword driven SVO targeted content into like, you know, a self perpetuating, you know, app content development stream and who does that best and how you get there and what changes are required. But I will say that for a whole whole separate breakout. But on the on the technology side, you mentioned a couple of times just the value of the brand and trying to be very cognizant of the messaging that you have now.
Devin: [00:18:14] And I feel like one of the constant challenges from an e-commerce perspective is, you know, the road discounting plays, you know, the classic like every day on Thursday, you’re going to get an email and the email is going to have a code on it, like, how do you balance that? So, you know, having talked about brand a fair amount and having, you know, been so focused on e-commerce itself, how do you think about the balance of kind of the brand messaging that you guys have and, you know, the ROI e-commerce is played and that you have direct customer access and there’s nothing preventing you from saying, hey, let’s just go get a little bump in revenue today by doing some discounting or a special offer or, you know, a new product out there and you playing the long game.
Dave: [00:18:54] Yes.
Dave: [00:18:54] So on the discounting side, it’s interesting because I feel every founder also tries to settle into what kind of brand they are and what kind of brand they should be. And there’s a period of discovery on them. So I think sharing a little bit on mine at the outset, you know, look, when when Crossroad was launched, I’m not sure that there was another jump rope on the market, more than 50 dollars. So it was scary enough to come out with the jump rope that our first set had multiple sets of panels and multiple rope. So it felt like an apples and oranges comparison. But even so, having a price point above one hundred dollars was very daunting. And so the initial thought process for me was, well, hey, if we’re gonna be at this high price point, were we better be a luxury premium brands. And so during the early years, we were I was fairly, fairly stringent and didn’t offer a lot of coupons because it felt like coupons were not kind of a signal that a luxury premium brand should be should be putting out so early on. You know, you do the occasional holiday driven promotions and things of that nature because it’s what people expect. As we’ve grown, I don’t view Crossroads as a luxury or a premium brand of us as an accessible brand where, yes, our products are high quality in their high end. But there’s not a there’s not a luxury jump rope market, if you know what I mean.
Dave: [00:20:27] Like, it’s finished. And that’s not taking away from the quality and the premium element of it. It’s just like we’re not competing in the luxury space like you would with jewelry and handbags and automobiles and things of that nature. So I think once we internalize, internalize that as a brand and took the framework of, hey, we’re not inexpensive jump rope, we’re a jump rope business experience that is actually very cost effective compared to a lot of other fitness experiences. And because we want to have accessibility to a very large market of individuals like consider it, we all know there’s just a certain percentage of the population that is value in discount driven. So if we can if we can bake that in a way that works to make sure that we are incentivizing opportunities for the bundle purchase, for example, versus some of the smaller sets, then that’s something that we have incorporated into our marketing in a way that we feel doesn’t undermine the value of what we’re selling or discount the brand as part of a business strategy. Now, the discounting is not a it’s not like a discount brand strategy. We always knew percentages and promotions and higher level discounts here and there. It’s fairly consistent just in terms of saying, hey, we do have offers and there on these certain things. And hopefully that’s compelling way to get you over the hump to experience what we’re all about.
Devin: [00:21:50] Yeah, I think that the important distinction there was like there is no luxury jump rope market, but there is a fitness experience market. And let’s be clear about the the market in which we’re playing. Right. And that, you know, if all we ever are is a jump rope, well, then we’re playing in the sphere of jump ropes versus, you know, other things that allow us to grow and expand. You know, whether you look at it as an app experience or whatever else you may move in to down the road.
Dave: [00:22:18] Yeah, yeah, you’re exactly right about that. And that took a little while to get there. You know, at the beginning, it’s just a jump rope. You just to jump rope. You’re just an expensive jump rope. Even part of the discussions around you get what you pay. Right. You know, even when we were just an expensive jump rope, customers would buy the product and say, I get it. It’s totally worth it. You know, five star review. And then they would then they’d go tell their friends and their family, hey, I bought a really expensive jumper. And their friends and family would be like, oh, I don’t need a really expensive jumper. But then we start saying, hey, this is something that is fundamentally fun and new and different. We even say in our packaging, be different. No job, you know, and not knocking anybody that exercises or leads a fitness lifestyle. The fact is, is that they’re, you know, running and cycling and biking and some of these other ones are, you know, stair climbing. They’re super prevalent. Everybody does it. And some people like it and some people don’t. And so we’d like to be there as just a differentiated option. It’s not like we invented jump. I mean, it’s been around for thousands of years that our spin on it. Unintended feedback on it is is just different than there has been. Because this is about the jump rope fitness category is fitness is a different fitness experience and not just about a quality piece of equipment. And I think that that’s what has really helped spur a lot of the growth recently. 60 percent of our customers right now don’t have a jump in our new jumping. So we’re not going out to find the professional jumper that wants a high quality piece of equipment. We’re, you know, attracting people that want something new and different and say, hey, this is convenient. I can get a good workout 30 minutes at all. That sounds interesting. Let me give it a shot.
Devin: [00:24:08] Yeah, that’s that’s awesome.
Devin: [00:24:11] So as we we wrap up here, one of the one of the questions we like to ask and, you know, having some experience, you know, as a founder here for a number of years, I’m interested if you have kind of a unique story here. But when you you look at how the sausage is made kind of behind the curtain here, whether it’s a, you know, a marketing campaign that you guys have done that maybe didn’t work out the way you wanted it to or, you know, maybe it was a a product launch that, I don’t know, didn’t have all the right pieces to it. But what’s a peek behind the curtain of something that maybe didn’t go as planned as you guys have grown and changed over time?
Dave: [00:24:49] That’s a good one because there have been plenty of things that haven’t gone as planned. And I think that’s part of the learning experience for sure. I’m trying to see if there’s anything that overtly stands out.
Dave: [00:25:01] And, you know, I think.
Dave: [00:25:05] The main thing would be back in 2015 and 2016, when we didn’t understand how to run a campaign and we were just taking a stab at throwing a coupon into any given holiday or promotion. And I’ll give a very laughable example. I’m embarrassed to share this, but there I think it was back in twenty sixteen. Probably around February. And we wanted to do just kind of get a coupon code out there for the Super Bowl. And the narrative was that, hey, you can’t use the mention of the Super Bowl on any of your advertising without a licensing agreement. And even though we were so small, nobody would’ve cared and the F.L. wouldn’t call that out. So we I believe that our our subject line was Buber sole promotion. So we switched to the B and the S around. And then we had people picking which team they thought were going to win was the paralyzed Acanthus or the member Draco’s. And this is just the most like awkward tachy off brand, like silly, stupid, embarrassing, you know, promotion. But I think it’s representative of us trying to figure out, you know, how do we be out there in front of our audience and how do we meet people with where they’re at in terms of what’s going on with holidays and social and promotion in in a way that resonates and is relevance is inch and interesting. And so all of our campaigns this year were just kind of like just weird and dumb and quirky and awkward, and they didn’t work very well. And so that was definitely behind the curtain learning. And now we’re in a spot where we we really try to be empathetic in terms of thinking realistically about what anybody on our list or what anybody comes to. Our Web site is really going to be thinking about taking the ACL events, the promotions and holidays and what the messaging that we’re hearing from customers in past years and campaigns and what they’re talking and really injecting that sort of trying to just make something something silly up to get clicks.
Devin: [00:27:20] That’s a that’s an awesome one and, you know, just the fact you were running a Super Bowl promotion at all as a jump rope company. I feel like you got to, but you’ve got to get to draw some parallels there. But now I like that one. Well, Dave, tell us tell us a little bit about where we can find you online, obviously. We’ve talked about Croshere Open having an e-commerce home. But if anybody wanted to see a little bit more about what you were doing, where where should you point them?
Dave: [00:27:46] Oh, yeah, for sure.
Dave: [00:27:47] Yes. If you are interested in jumping and 98 percent of people say, oh, I can’t jump around, not coordinated. And that’s where we come in. So if you’re interested, you can go to crosswalk dot com. We on there. We also have a blog with and frankly, you can just type in, you know, jump rope or jump rope business rope weight loss and you’ll find our blog articles on there. So lots of good free information if you’re interested in determining if this is something that’s right for you. We have a free online general fitness community on Facebook, a private group that has a eighty five thousand people. So even if you don’t have our products and you just want to kind of meet with other people digitally that are jumping and get ideas for workouts and tips, you can look up the Crossroads Pro Fitness community and then we have an app. So if you are to have a jump rope, we just want access to some interval workouts. You can download the Crossroads app from the Apple or the play store and anyone is welcome there. So few people that jump that our mission is first and foremost is getting more people jumping. And then if they feel that we have an interesting experience that they want to try out, we’re we’re therefore say go for the few that do be different.
Devin: [00:28:54] Right. That’s right. Be different. Go. Jump. They go. Awesome. Dave, thanks for joining us. Appreciate the time. And see and somebody make some some positive gains, even though this is kind of a tough situation. We’re all in here with, you know, limited time and space at our disposal. But glad to see that, you know, some folks are being a little different and finding ways to jump over the hurdles, jump through the hurdles. I don’t know if we can we could find a good pun to close on there.
Dave: [00:29:22] There you go. Not like it. I appreciate you having me on. And you’re right. I mean, people are looking for something new and interesting and different and positive. And we’re seeing that, you know, we’re we’re seeing that in our sales right now. And, you know, it’s it’s one of these things. Again, you control what you can, which you control and just do the best you can with this scenario. And so I wish all other founders and CEOs and business owners the very best, whether they’re looking for a pivot or whether or not they’re growing like crazy, trying to hold on as well. And I do feel that the real community is very much. Hey, at for we’re all in this together. And so if anybody wants to connect, they can always reach out to me directly as well. I respond to every every email, a message on LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever, always happening to share ideas.
Dave: [00:30:07] But thanks again for having me on that. You’ve been listening to marketing behind the curtain to ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.