There was an enormous market for medicine or, in the case of Squatty Potty, medical equipment to address constipation. In fact, the device was not just relegated to people with gastrointestinal issues. It had a clear application as a preventative measure for health-conscious households. And while constipation affected all walks of life, the purchase of these solutions was typically driven by women—specifically mothers—who accounted for 70–80 per cent of all household purchases. The average age of a first-time mother in the United States was 26.5
The Edwards family saw an untapped potential in this market. The barrier to much of this market was overcoming the social stigma related to discussing colorectal health. Constipation and bowel movements were highly intimate topics that most people had difficulty discussing or admitting to, even with their doctors. “We were talking about a subject that nobody wanted to talk about. I’m still embarrassed to talk about it,” admitted Edwards’s mother, Judy.6
However, the culture was evolving, as Edwards explained: “When you had cultural icons like Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz talking about poop, it meant something. The personal embarrassment of the topic was being overtaken by recognition of constipation as a significant health issue.” There was an opportunity for Squatty Potty—if it could artfully create a good fit for its market, product, and promotion. Doing so required not only identifying the right markets and marketing channels, but also the right messaging.
A BUSINESS BUILT ON A HOMEOPATHIC CURE AND EARNED MEDIA
In 2011, Edwards and his parents, Judy and Bill, started a business based on a home remedy for constipation—a foot stool that allowed people to put their feet up while going to the bathroom.
Having suffered from hemorrhoids and constipation for years, Judy had begun to use a footstool to prop up her feet while on the toilet. She found that the elevation of her feet brought her into more of a squatting position, which made going easier. Over time, she also found that her constipation had eased and her hemorrhoids had disappeared. After his mother’s prolonged use of the stool, Edwards fashioned a footstool customized to Judy’s particular need—with foot spaces on the top and a shape that conformed to the toilet, enabling it to be tucked neatly away when not in use.
The efficacy of the home cure, and Edwards’s enhancements to it, convinced the family that there was likely a significant need for such a product. Together, they pooled $35,000 of their own funds, and the Squatty Potty was born. Their funds covered initial production of wooden units to retail for $74 each, plus $20 for shipping. However, there was no money remaining for marketing. Edwards had a background in graphic design, so he built the company’s website himself. Otherwise, the Edwards family had to figure out ways to market their product without spending any money.
With no marketing budget, Squatty Potty had to focus on media sources that were earned, rather than paid, as Edwards explained:
We reached out to what we thought were influencers in the health world who were accessible to us. By accessible, I mean, anyone with an online audience of 30,000 or more, but not who were not so big that we couldn’t get noticed by them. These influencers posted online content about health- related issues in blogs, Facebook pages, or YouTube channels about parenting, nutrition, fitness,
5 Alexandra Sifferlin, “Average Age of First-Time Moms Is Higher than Ever,” Time, January 14, 2016, accessed September 5, 2017, http://time.com/4181151/first-time-moms-average-age. 6 “Mom’s Constipation Turns ‘Squatty Potty’ into $30 Million Cult,” YouTube video, 2:58, posted by CNBC, August 24, 2016. accessed September 1, 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4piYvQ_NYk.
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This document is authorized for use only by Diane Merians Penaloza in 2018.
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and so on. We initially sent 50 of these influencers a Squatty Potty along with a note explaining what it was. We heard back from about 30 them, indicating an interest in posting about the product. Some of them had even already been using a footstool in their bathroom!
The first influencer to respond was a vegan blogger in the Washington, DC area with approximately 75,000 followers. Squatty Potty’s website had been receiving an average of 30 visitors per day. After the vegan blogger’s post, the website received 15,000 visits. Of those visitors, 300 (about 2 per cent) purchased approximately $28,000 worth of Squatty Potties. Other influencers began to post information about the product, generating similar results.