Have you heard of Josh Snow?
No, not John Snow… JOSH Snow.
While he may not be the Game of Thrones star, I think you’ll find his story just as compelling (and it has a better ending).
So, here’s what I learned from a 17-year-old Josh Snow, who — much like other young whizzes — found a way to crack the branding code EARLY.
But plot twist! This founder of celebrity whitening brand, SNOW Teeth Whitening, and the so-called “Elon Musk of white teeth”, is no longer 17… but he DID make his first million at that age.
But first, let’s lay the groundwork and remind the kids that dropping out of college isn’t what makes you successful – BUT having a darn good idea and an ability to execute IS.
Now, let’s dive in! Here are 4 tips that I learned from the experiences of a 17-year-old kid that I’m really excited to share with you.
#1 – GO FOR THE BLUE OCEAN
Josh was a highschooler when he learned how to target digital ads with AdSense, which at the time was fresh on the scene. After he mastered the new tool, he thought “Why not go 1 level higher – instead of selling others’ products, I’ll sell my own.”
And while Josh has created a myriad of businesses since, his true passion project and standout is Snow Whitening.
So, I asked him, “How did you learn to compete in the seemingly saturated space of whitening?”
He said that branding your unique space in the ocean is vital. At the time of his business ideation, there were only 2 major competitors in the space – one with a red tube, the other in a blue tube. (Both just so happened to be the colors of our analogy.)
You want to move your products to and create businesses in your BLUE OCEAN.
If you’re unfamiliar with “blue ocean” theory, let me explain.
A blue ocean is unoccupied waters, a red ocean has already been chummed for the sharks to arrive. You can enter a highly saturated market; you can fight the copious amounts of competition, OR you can chum the waters where no-one is fighting to feed mouths. If only your chum is in the water, guess what the sharks will be eating… and where you WON’T be swimming?
Josh found his blue ocean while recovering from jaw surgery. He was using a multitude of oral care products for dry mouth, pain, cleaning, etc. and noticed that none of these products felt luxurious.
Boom! His first gap in the market – PREMIUM PRODUCTS.
Second, as he walked down the toothpaste aisle, he saw that the two brands dominating the market had different packaging, but the same ingredients. So, whatever issues customers found with the formula, there weren’t any other formulas to combat it.
Bam! His second gap – NEW FORMULAS.
He wanted something recession-resistant, because no matter the state of the stock market, people will always take care of their mouths. And last time we counted, 7 billion people in the world have teeth…
As Josh said, “But even if you have one tooth, we’ll whiten it, shine it up, we’ll make it look good!”
And with that, Josh zeroed in on WHITENING. And his success speaks for itself – turns out, it was the perfect space to disrupt.
#2 – LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
THEY BECOME YOUR COPYWRITERS AND SALESPEOPLE
…AND YOU GET THEM FOR A BARGAIN
Josh started with POTENTIAL customers feedback to develop a formula that differentiated itself. First, he observed what existed in the industry – whitening strips and professional in-office whitening.
Strips were convenient and cheap. Dental offices were expensive and quick. But there wasn’t anything in the middle. And above all else, customers of each whitening vein found tooth sensitivity to be their TOP issue.
He knew then and there that Snow needed a product that didn’t cause sensitivity, was safe to use on dental work, and had the same effective results as an in-office treatment for a fraction of the cost. THAT is what would disrupt the space because that’s what customers were so desperately wanting.
The key is to never assume what your customers need, ASK WHAT THEY NEED!
Feedback became an integral part of the process. After developing a formula, they tested it out on patients to see what worked and received feedback to improve it from there. In-office treatments used a formula that reacted to UV light, but Snow wanted their product to react with a spectrum of light that wasn’t cancerous.
Why? Because this accomplished 2 things –
- It grabbed branding attention, making it look and feel luxurious.
- It enhanced the formula safely in an untapped market.
After having customers try the final product, Snow would call and interview them and ask to use their “copy” in his marketing – because the ads wrote themselves!
“I thought it was going to be a scam BUT…”
“I thought it would be low quality BUT…”
“I thought I’d have sensitivity BUT…”
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Your customers deliver copy gold via word of mouth and experience. “If you listen to your customers, they’ll help you build a big business!”
#3 – SNAG INFLUENCERS
I remember asking Josh, “How did you launch the product and how did you get famous influencers to market your brand?”
Initially, he had dentists and doctors sell it in their offices. But to stand out on those office shelves, he also created a flashy, luxurious, and unforgettable unboxing experience (which the brand is now famous for).
Next, he used the tool AdEspresso, took a few pictures, and made the campaigns live. That next week he cranked the ads up, which made his sales jump from $2k/day to $10k/day.
This market validation had him asking customers – Why did you buy? What did you like? What did you not like?
FIND OUT WHO LOVES YOUR PRODUCT
I asked Snow, “If you had to repeat the process, would you go the famous influencer route and how in the world did you get famous people like Conor McGregor?”
Being a software wiz, he used a Shopify app called UserGems to his advantage.
This tool allows you to sort customers by how many followers they have. (Unfortunately, this feature is no longer available.)
Snow used this to set notifications to unveil who was buying his product.
But something happened! By being the most expensive product on the market with a high-end unboxing experience, the product naturally geared itself towards a celebrity styled customer.
And by nature of the beast, he saw a large order come in! Out of curiosity, he exported the order list and hoped on Zillow to search the price value of the home where it was being sent.
It was a $14 MILLION DOLLAR HOME IN CALIFORNIA. That’s not just anybody.
And when he looked at the Gmail – low and behold, it was Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara!
BUILD A PREMIUM BRAND THAT CUTS THROUGH THE NOISE
Ultimately, they fulfilled Sofia’s package normally – made it a great experience like they do everyone else. Only this time, Josh made sure to check in!
He noticed that more and more celebs were buying the product. This is partially due to teeth whitening and beauty being a very celebrity-centered type of industry. But again, this all comes back to paying attention to your customers. When you listen, you make a good product and when big names appreciate your product, they naturally become your advocates.
I continued by asking, “How are you finding them? What can folks do to build out their brands and find endorsements?”
Ultimately, 2-3% of their sales covered celebrity. So, they ran with an “under the iceberg” strategy. By leveraging the celebrities that loved his product, Josh was able to break through the noise (aka, the iceberg BENEATH the ocean water) to ultimately “BUY COMMODITY, SELL BRANDS”.
Yes, he was in a commodified business, but the question was – how do we build a brand around it?
All celebrity did was allow Snow Whitening to borrow brand equity while building their name – but there’s no denying that getting that endorsement was huge. It works by taking the brand of their legacy and repurposing it in conjunction to yours!
Snow used this celebrity buzz to help track the value of his enterprise and cut through the noise when talking to retailers. He knew that retailers wanted Snow Whitening because they wanted the hottest thing since sliced bread. That level of negotiating power lies in your hands when you don’t need them and they don’t need you; instead, you WANT each other. So, the conversation looked a bit like this:
“I want end caps and window fronts or no deal.”
When they want the newest influencer buzz on display, too… it’s as simple as that!
Essentially, snagging influencers and building a celebrity brand comes down to being a brand that people like. To become that brand, you have to talk to them to find out what they want, deliver on the promise of the product, and then keep it coming!
Great things will come when you combine endorsements with premium products, optimized ads, and omnichannel marketing. So when the celebrity fish bites, you can reel it in and build relationships that will grow your brand exponentially!
#4 – BET ON EXECUTIVE RISK OVER MARKET RISK
Most of you are wanting to launch or buy brands, so I asked Josh what signals he reads to help him decide his brand direction.
Innovation and invention are expen$ive. Period. For that reason, Snow recommends betting on executive risk rather than market risk.
What does that mean?
Well, examples of market risk would be things like 3D printing, AR, AI… essentially, new stuff. I don’t want to go up against the 18-year-old kids (aka the Snows, Zuckerbergs, etc.) who will be outpacing me in their dorm rooms with tech that has emerged in their lifetime. Kids, like Snow, just might beat me out!
Granted, there is nothing wrong with market risks; they’re enticing, big bets! But unless you’re heavily capitalized, it’s very dangerous – especially for a start-up. For Snow, executive risk is a safer bet because it’s based more on personal ability and a team’s ability to execute.
Neither are wrong. Just ask yourself, “who thrives on market risk?” Often, it’s youngsters in the space of their generation who play their hand.
Snow was that 17 year old learning the up-and-coming technology of SEO and AdSense. But now, he places bets where he knows he can win. He doesn’t like buying that lottery ticket; he would rather gamble in the game he KNOWS how to play.
COMMON PITFALLS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
The last thing I asked NOT Game of Thrones star Josh Snow was, “What’s been tough about growing and what have you learned?”
In that, we laid out some common pitfalls that many start-ups fall into… look out for them!
SCALING TOO HARD AND TOO FAST
People always think they should go from 8 to 9 figures as soon as possible, but immediate growth comes with contingencies. When I see companies fail or go through mass layoffs it’s because they tried to grow too fast, too soon.
First, you must have deep pockets, THEN decide to go hard or go slow. And know that some companies are more effective in smaller units rather than massive corporations. Maybe you’d have more quality control; maybe you want to pay more to less people, or less to more people. Either way, scale accordingly with a calculated plan. Just because the future looks bright doesn’t mean you should be blinded by it!
KICKING YOUR FEET UP INSTEAD OF ROLLING YOUR SLEEVES UP!
No one cares or knows more about the origins of your company than you. That’s not to say that you should be some overbearing know-it-all. BUT it is to say that people pay a premium for best-in-market and market-share, so you better know why you hold that value and how to showcase it.
And… Roll. Your. Sleeves. Up.
Know how your company works. Know what works by learning it and doing the dirty work. That’s it! End of tweet.
THINKING FAILURE IS FINAL
I get it. Building a business is high stakes; it’s high risk, high reward, and it’s your baby. Failing can feel catastrophic!
But you have to go all in. Cash it all in and don’t be afraid of risk. Sometimes businesses fail because they developed a weak stomach… because they stopped taking risks and became afraid to misstep. But know that if you’re completely wrong, you will have learned and inspired others. And next time you’re not starting from zero, you’re starting from experience.
If you miss that mark this time, FIND THE VALUE so there can be a NEXT TIME!
If you follow these key tips and heed these pitfalls, you just might find that – YOU KNOW
NOTHING EVERYTHING, JOSH SNOW!
In the meantime, I’d be happy to help you succeed off the back of my failures and those of the other entrepreneurs who advised me. We arrived here by starting in the same place as you and we won’t pretend otherwise. So, if you need a little guidance or marketing help, you know where to find us!