High-Volume Seller Found Opportunity in B2B

 

 Another Friday Feedback is in the books, read along to get up to speed!

On May 4th, 2018 our own Andrew Maff sat down with Joe Freeman, CEO of Medzone to talk about how sports medicine products, skin products is a pretty sizable business on Amazon and how fast the business is growing. 

 

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FOLLOW ALONG WITH JOE FREEMAN TO SEE HOW MEDZONE HAS GROWN ON AMAZON

Andrew Maff: How are you doing, Joe?

Joe Freeman: How are you? I'm good, how are you?

Andrew Maff: Doing good? Doing good. So you got on, you pulled it off.

Joe Freeman: I did.

Andrew Maff: Well done.

Joe Freeman: I did realize you have to put your phone horizontal, so I'm learning something new every day.

Andrew Maff: It's, you know, baby steps.

Joe Freeman: Baby steps.

Andrew Maff: But you got it.

Joe Freeman: We'll take them, hey. I left my holder at home, so it's a little goofy here.

Andrew Maff: Ah, no worries. I love the jacket

Joe Freeman: Oh, hey thanks.

Andrew Maff: All right, so I ... why don't you introduce yourself, so for everyone who is listening to this now and in the future knows who you are.

Joe Freeman: You bet. My name's Joe Freeman. I'm the CEO of MedZone. We're a brand of sports medicine products, skin products. We have a pretty sizable business on Amazon. We're growing our business in chiropractors, athletic trainers, youth athletes, etc. Based out of Kansas. The company started in 2001. We do a lot of work with professional and collegiate teams for our products. We have products for chafe prevention, blister prevention, pain relief, minor wound care, tattoo and piercing aftercare, lot of different things. I'm just happy to be here today. Good talking to you and thanks for having us on.

Andrew Maff: Yeah, no problem. So how'd you get into this? How did MedZone start, like where'd the idea come from?

Joe Freeman: It started back in 2001. The company was founded by a former head athletic trainer of some professional sports teams. Great guy, very smart, very technically sound. I acquired the company from him back at the end of 2015. At the time, we didn't do a lot online, but we kind of mixed that up a little bit, and we're growing an online presence.
But it really came out of a need, you know? Athletes and active people, they get chafed, they get blisters on their feet, they're sore, their neck and back's sore. Back pain, I think, is the second leading most diagnosed ailment in the country, lower back pain. So we have a product for that. I think what makes us unique is that we have a product line. We're not just single focused, not just one product, just deal with one. We tell people, "We like to prevent, treat, and manage the different things that athletes and active people can have." Again, it's people of all ages. We've got a product that actually works for everybody.

Andrew Maff: Okay. So I also know that part of your business, which is always really interesting to me every time you and I talk, which obviously for those of you who don't know, Joe's a client of ours. So I noticed that you are one of the few sellers who noticed that there was a large B2B aspect of your company that was untapped, that you started to tap into.

Joe Freeman: Yes.

Andrew Maff: I know you do a lot of work with chiropractors, so how did you start to figure that out when ... 'cause I believe you were originally catering towards just strictly B2C, and then you really saw that opening for B2B that I believe has completely been a game changer for you guys. So how did you really see that come about?

Joe Freeman: You bet. Well, a couple things. So like you said, chiropractors are a big part of our business, and we're growing in that space. One of our guys is at a big trade show today down in St. Louis with 400 chiropractors out there. So give a shout out to Mark and the Logan University folks. But we saw this need for our PainZone product, and it's a topical roll-on. The way people were getting it for the most part were through a medical professional, through a physical therapist, through a chiropractor. So they act as resellers for us. They're happy, it's a product that complements their practice and their medical treatment. And we're happy because we're able to give them product and they are able to come back and offer to their patients as a complement to their care. The playbook really had been written. There's some bigger players who have been out there, some changes in the marketplace that happened.
I think we're able to get into that market because we have that full product line. Honestly, probably one of the biggest reasons is the fact we have a product that works, it's a very potent formula. We joke about that. You got to give the customers what they want. So we got a great product. We tell people we have great products and awesome service. Our customer service team here does an outstanding job.
And the chiropractic community specifically, they're looking for something to take care of their patients. They're looking for something that they can trust and a brand that they can trust. They like us because of the great PainZone product, but because we have these other products as well. So it gives them something else to help in their office. So we saw that as hopefully a smart business move, is that diversify ourselves. Go to the B2C and then go to the B2B route as well. So we're going in parallel paths. It's tricky some days on what we're doing, but at the end of the day, we're growing, we're helping a lot of people, and knock on wood, things seem to be going well right now.

Andrew Maff: Good. So you've been around since 2001 you said, right?

Joe Freeman: Yep.

Andrew Maff: That's very long time, so between the past 17 years, what was what you believed to be the big game changer for you guys?

Joe Freeman: I think there were a couple game changers. The product had been around since 2001. I acquired the company back in '15. And we put a lot of investment into R & D, into packaging, and then moving on to the online space. Because we were kind of a ... the best-kept secret. Athletic trainers for universities and professional teams knew about us, but the public didn't. So when we got onto Amazon, when we expanded our website, we were able to get to more people. So I think a lot of people say the internet has been a game changer. I think that's true for us as well, but what we found is by being on the internet, they're able to do the research and find out, "Oh, so you are credible, you are with University of X and you are with this professional team and you do have a lot of good reviews." So I think that was the game changer for us, 'cause we've always had a great product, now we just have a little bit more readily accessible information for customers to learn who we are. 'Cause we have big aspirations. Our goal is to have a million evangelists telling our story for us some day. So we've got big aspirations, so we had to get to the masses. You couldn't do that with just one-on-one meetings. We had to find a way to scale.

Andrew Maff: Yeah. Makes sense. So, did you take it online right after you acquired it in 2001?

Joe Freeman: Yes, '15.

Andrew Maff: Okay, so did you go straight to Shopify, or were you somewhere else prior?

Joe Freeman: No, we were on Shopify, we just expanded our presence. Shopify's been an awesome platform for us. I give all the kudos in the world to those guys, 'cause they've made a platform that is easy to use, very robust, our customers like it. So we expanded that when we redid the packaging, redid the branding, we basically revamped the company, the look and feel and touch of it. Because we knew people, they wanted to see something that was cool, for lack of a better term, that they could depend on.

Andrew Maff: Yeah.

Joe Freeman: And so Shopify was the ... redoing that was the first step, and then the second step was the Amazon move.

Andrew Maff: And are you happy with your packaging and your branding?

Joe Freeman: Oh yeah. I mean, there's always room for improvement. Any of my folks will tell you, I don't sit still very long. It's one of those, we can always do things different. We're looking right now at different dispensing mechanisms for our products, because we've got feedback from our customers. We ask people, "What do you like, and what do you don't like?" And they tell us, and so we're going to do some stuff, you know, the same basic brand standards will be there, but how we go to market in packaging, whether it's in display boxes for chiropractic offices, whether it's in different dispensing mechanisms for youth athletes, or athletic trainers, things like that, we're always going to improve ourselves. We're never going to rest on our laurels, that's for sure.

Andrew Maff: I asked the question simply because personally we love your packaging. We do get a lot of clients where they're like, "Oh, we're just not selling, we're not doing this." We get some issues here and there, and sometimes the packaging is just very plain and it's boring and it doesn't ... they think it looks clean and they think it looks nice, but it's not catering to the correct audience. Your packaging's cool.

Joe Freeman: We like it.

Andrew Maff: Like that one and the wounds wash looks great, like every time we get it like at least can make this look nice, because we're not dealing with something that's ugly. So whoever did your branding and your packaging, they did a great job. Love it. So how long did it take you to finally nail down the branding that you guys were targeting?

Joe Freeman: We were in it for about three or four months pretty heavy. You look at a lot of drafts, it's a big deal, and you only want to do it once. So making sure that we had our ducks in a row was important. But it was about three or four months, going through different iterations. But that's just the base packaging, the base branding and logo. We look at our packaging right now, we're looking at a ... we offer foil packs for samples to a lot of our customers. And we're looking at different dispensing ways that we can tweak that a little bit. It's going to still have the same Z, and it'll be red for pain or blue for BurnZone or orange for ChafeZone. But we want to be able to have that packaging. I'm a huge believer that we've got to listen to our customers, and we got to give them stuff that they want. We've got a great product, now if we can make it an outstanding user experience, then we'll have a customer for life. That's how we get to that million evangelists.

Andrew Maff: Yeah, so what's the big project you're working on now, like what are you doing to try to get you from where you're at to the next level?

Joe Freeman: The big thing is, is that right now we've had some success in this chiropractic market. Well, let me back up. There's two pieces. One, it's summertime. So it's summertime, and people are going to the beach, they're running, they're cycling, they're swimming. And chafing's a big problem. Nobody wants to talk about it, but it's true. It happens to a lot of people. Blisters are a big problem, new sandals, new flip flops. So this is our busy season, so we're doing everything we can to maximize our opportunity on Amazon, on our own store, in the marketplace. So that's the short-term, right now, the fire's hot, we got to get that.
The second, the more mid to long-term project we have, is getting awareness to these chiropractors. We've had some great reception from a lot of different folks. I got a video earlier today from St. Louis of a doc who loved us. And I had one from South Carolina earlier this week, and the guy said, "I gave this to my patient, and he looked at me and said, 'You better buy more of this.'" So that's the kind of stuff we love, but there's 70,000 chiropractors. We need to get out to the masses, we need to get to as much of those as possible. So our big focus is going to be dedicated to that chiropractic community and really trying to get our awareness out there.

Andrew Maff: Yeah. So you and I have been back and forth on an Amazon issue that you're having with your Wound Wash that is not getting accepted at FBA, at least as of right now. As far as I know, it's still not accepted, right?

Joe Freeman: That's right.

Andrew Maff: That's right. So what's your theory? Why do you think it's not getting accepted?

Joe Freeman: I think it's because Amazon is no longer the 800-pound gorilla. They're the 8,000-pound gorilla. And you have to give them all the credit in the world. For as many sellers who are frustrated with Amazon, those exact same sellers are buying stuff off of Amazon 'cause they love the buying experience. So I think that it's a big, big company. Dealing with any one product is tough, especially not in mass. And so it's just a matter of, you know, you can't give up. You got to keep going and plugging along, and finally you'll get to someone who says, "Oh, that makes sense. This should be an FBA."
Our Wound Wash is a sterile saline product. It's great for piercing, tattoos, wound dressings. It's sterile saline. It's not a hazardous material. But they need to make sure that they're doing things right and they're taking care of their customers. I get that. Like I said, there's a lot of sellers who get frustrated with problems like that. But you know what? You just got to adapt and move around. Because again, those same sellers, I buy stuff on ... I bought two things on Amazon this morning. I love buying, I feel like the ... when I go on Amazon, I get a pretty good comfort level that the product's going to be right and going to get delivered. So I like that.

Andrew Maff: Yeah, we have the same problem sometimes as well with ads and ... If I'm not mistaken, I think we had the same problem with one of your headline ads. I can't remember, but I know ... it's like you submit it, and they go, "No, you capitalized a letter that you shouldn't have had." Then you can just change nothing and you resubmit it, and they go, "Yeah, sure." And you're just like, "Ah, I got someone who didn't care. Like that's great." So they clearly don't have a process or any like templated structure that they follow. So do you think that just continuously attempting to get your product into FBA will eventually just get someone who's like, "Yeah, sure, fine."

Joe Freeman: I think that it's the tenacity of going back is the real issue. I'm not sure that somebody on the other side is saying, "Yeah, it's fine." I think you get to someone who understands what you're saying a little bit better versus acceptance, they get it. There's a ton of people that work there, they have a lot of international customer service reps. So I think sometimes the language barrier can be a problem. And they just get so many calls. And I'm not taking up for Amazon, I just think that the reality is, that's the marketplace we're in. 
So we have three options, we can keep plugging away, or we can accept it and just know that it is what it is, or get off of Amazon. Honestly, griping about it doesn't do anybody any good, so let's just kind of get after it. And when you got a great agency like yours to help me get after it, hey then-

Andrew Maff: Plug.

Joe Freeman: Yeah, plug. But you know, I'm on you all the time about "Hey, how do we do this, how do we do this?" I think that's part of it. Small companies that are on Amazon, mid-size companies that are Amazon, even large companies on Amazon, they're having the same problems.

Andrew Maff: Yeah.

Joe Freeman: They might get them rectified faster, but they have the same problems. But it's no different than if you're in the supermarket. You're going to have problems with supermarket, getting your stuff on the shelf the right way or getting the shipping right. It's problems. We always tell people, I always tell my kids, "You know there's no problems, we just have opportunities for greatness." So, very much believe that.

Andrew Maff: So you see this as an opportunity, maybe not an opportunity but a reason to really diversify and not focus so much on Amazon, or you just kind of like, "Ah, we'll figure it out," and keep trucking away at Amazon.

Joe Freeman: No absolutely. I mean, first class of business school is diversify. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. As great as Amazon is, if something would happen and they would cut off ... I don't think any company should limit themselves to just that distribution channel. You should have multiple products and have a backup plan. For us, that's how we grow. We have a distribution channel that's with athletic trainers. We have one that's with chiropractors. We have one that's different distributors, a martial arts distributor. We have a lot of different opportunities like that, 'cause we don't want to just depend on Amazon. I think Amazon's a necessity. It gives a layer of credibility to people who are out looking and shopping for your product. If it's not there, they may go, "Why?" But I would never, ever encourage anybody to put all their eggs in one basket.

Andrew Maff: Yeah, Joe, really appreciate you doing this with us. [inaudible 00:16:11]. I don't want to take up any more of your time if necessary. I'd love for you to give us a closing statement, let everyone know where they can find you. Anything you ever want to know.

Joe Freeman: You bet. Well, go to Amazon. Search MedZone, you can see one of the many products we have. It's summertime. If you're chafing, if you're going on vacation, if you're exercising, ChafeZone's a great product. Shoes, BlisterZone helps prevent ... if you got a sore back, sore neck, PainZone is a great topical to roll on. Go to Amazon, go to our website medzonecorp.com. M-E-D-Z-O-N-E-C-O-R-P .com, 866 MedZone.
I'm sure with my great marketing agency we're going to have ... it's going to be very easy to find me on Amazon and throughout the web. So we would definitely love to hear from people, appreciate if they buy product, leave a product review. And if you have a problem, I always tell people, "If you love the product, tell somebody else. If you don't love the product, tell me first."

Andrew Maff: Thanks Joe, I appreciate it.

Joe Freeman: You bet.

Andrew Maff: Have a good night, and thanks again.

Joe Freeman: Have a great weekend, take care everybody.

Andrew Maff: Have a good one.

Joe Freeman: Bye bye. 

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