Introduction to Parker Olson & Forij
Parker Olson is the founder of Forij, a brand of award-winning granola infused with functional mushrooms. Parker is adept at shamelessly promoting Forij to people in person, and pretty much any place in public: his self-named gorilla tactics.
At the beginning of the company, Parker got rid of his bed and lived in a tent for about a year and a half. From there, he moved into a camper van and he traveled the country. Why? Forij products started appearing on store shelves. Just because a new product hits a shelf, doesn’t mean people will start buying it.
So the Forij Team traveled in the van from state to state and met with store employees and customers in person. They were able to explain the product’s benefits and allow people to sample the granola in the store. They essentially lived in the van for a year as they introduced their granola to the people of the United States.
What Impact Did All of this Have on Forij?
They filmed their time on the road and in the stores and have been using that footage as digital content, repurposing it in various areas online. They are able to use, and reuse, the customers’ own words and reactions. It helped cut through the noise of more traditional online advertising tactics.
What’s the Difference Between Traditional Advertising and Being Face-to-Face with Your Customers?
Parker finds it more effective to go out and “make a fool of myself in front of people” instead of hiding behind a screen on the various platforms. Making one-on-one contact with customers is so valuable because he’s creating relationships and life-long customers. They think it’s really cool to have met the founder of the product they’re buying.
Because he really likes his own product and is passionate about it, he is seen as authentic. Granola made with functional mushrooms takes some explaining. People need to be made aware of its benefits to their health and realize that it also tastes good. This requires more time spent one-on-one with the customer. This is more challenging than producing a blurb of online advertising.
What Insights Come From This Type of Marketing?
In Parker’s experience, there are a few. First, he gets more ideas about how to explain the product when the customer states their understanding in their own words. They give him new words and phrases to use when talking to others. Another thing is that when talking face-to-face, he can tell when something he’s said makes sense to them as he watches their face or eyes light up with understanding. These insights can be learned and adapted for future conversations as well as online advertising.
Non-Techy A/B Testing
While out meeting his customers, Parker experiments with different messages on whiteboards. He keeps track of the number of people who stop to read each message to tell what’s working or resonating with them. He also sets up the board in a different part of the store and watches from a distance. He’s looking for the messaging that’s intriguing to the potential customer. He can then take that messaging and put it online and into ads.
Challenges Involved with Explaining an Innovative Product
He doesn’t want to sound salesy or try to sell the product. So he has to figure out what it is about the product that they want to buy. People don’t want to be sold to, but they do want to buy something. Another challenge is meeting people where they are and explaining why they need this product. For Forij, it’s a challenge to overcome preconceived notions about mushrooms. For some people, they think of drugs, others think they’re gross, and some don’t get why you’d put savory mushrooms with sweet granola. How does a conversation even start around these potential fears? The mushrooms used in Forij granola have multiple health benefits: age-related health concerns, developmental health concerns, brain development, bone density, and inflammation reduction. The challenge is to get these benefits into our everyday foods.
Another challenge is getting people to understand that there’s a spectrum of mushroom varieties. On one end there’s the kind that can kill you. Further along the spectrum are the kind that are psychedelic and mess with your brain. But even further along are the kind Forij uses that are functional mushrooms that actually help your brain and your body.
Nurturing Customer Relationships
Parker personally writes weekly emails to nurture his relationships with customers on his email list. He even texts his closest followers and has been known to give out his personal information. He purposely makes them personal and authentic so the reader feels he is invested and that he cares about them.
He is also trying a new form of AI which allows him to record one video and then record himself saying the names of his customers and the AI stitches them together to make a personalized video. He is actively seeking ways to offer a personal white-glove service to his customers. He wants them to feel comfortable and that it’s an authentic relationship. He doesn’t want them to feel like this is just another corporation; he actually does have their best interests in mind.
Parker uses the same email address with his customers that he does with outside conversations. He also gives them his personal cell number and answers the phone himself. People are shocked when they realize they’re talking to the founder of the company directly. Some have even called with a complaint and he takes the time to listen, respond, and make things right for that customer. He has found that this approach turns people around and they become some of his biggest brand advocates. Just go the extra mile.
People just want to be seen, heard, and cared about. If you can do that, many times they become your biggest ambassadors. Bad things happen. No company is perfect, but you have to make it right.
Being vulnerable and honest builds instant trust and credibility.