When you’re doing too many things at once — it can be easy to feel burnt out. That’s why organization and prioritizing are important techniques to incorporate in your work life. If a task is too big don’t be afraid to delegate and split it up among people. Keep educating yourself on your industry and try new things! Sometimes a different approach is better than trying to optimize an old method!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dean Neiger, Co-Founder and Vice President of Business Development for Sky Organics.

Dean Neiger has always had a passion for environmental sustainability. Prior to founding Sky Organics in 2015 with brother Steven Neiger, the pair established Florida’s first “green” dry cleaning service Dryeco — highlighting non-toxic, eco-friendly solvents as alternatives to hazardous petroleum-based cleaning products. Dean managed business development for the company for four years before moving on to become a founding partner of DG Trading House — a rough diamond trading company based in Dubai where he oversaw their Angolan subsidiary and all trade-related activities. Dean’s strengths have always been in marketing and sales — both of which he leads for Sky Organics. Under his management the company has expanded to over 10,000 stores nationwide in just under 3 years — and he has even bigger plans for expansion in the future.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The natural journey came to us — we didn’t seek it out. After her first child, my sister-in-law wanted to make her home a greener, more natural space but found it difficult as so many products are formulated with harmful ingredients and toxic chemicals. The natural products she did find were expensive and hard to come by — so she started doing DIYs, making household and beauty essentials that were safe enough for the entire family to use. From then forward, we kept growing, making clean products using natural botanicals that our friends, family, and now, everyone can enjoy.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we founded this company back in 2015, I was wearing many hats — doing sales, marketing, managing social media, among many other things. Back then, we couldn’t afford a photoshoot and I don’t have any skills in photography, so I would purchase stock photos to use on Instagram. Well, for one post I wanted to advertise the way our Organic Castor Oil Eyelash Serum could be used to support healthy, fuller-looking lashes and brows — so I posted a close up of a woman’s eyes with beautiful, long lashes only to be pointed out by our followers that she was (very obviously, apparently) wearing lash extensions. Lesson learned — always do your research because people have no problem letting you know when you’ve got things wrong.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

For one, we are a family-founded and family-orientated brand, making sure our essentials are safe for everyone — even our little ones. Unlike some natural companies, we strive to be accessible — with all of our products priced below $25 because everyone should have the opportunity to live a green lifestyle. We value sourcing our ingredients from artisanal farms all over the world and then assembling a majority of our products right here in the United States. We also know there is a lot of confusion surrounding the natural movement. When my sister-in-law was looking for products for my niece, she found many companies labeling their products as natural and organic while using some frightening chemicals in their collections. That’s why Sky Organics makes sure to use safe, easy-to-read botanicals and keep our ingredients list short and sweet, often opting to use only a single pressed fruit or nut in our essentials. We focus on USDA certification, so there are no lingering questions about whether our products are safe or authentic. By far, our strongest and most differentiating quality is the open, two-way relationship we maintain with our beauty community. People message us asking for recommendations based on their skin type or send us photos using our products, and they know our team is always there to provide support and answer their questions without judgment.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have so many new projects! One major development that we have been tirelessly working on and only recently got to celebrate a launch for is the opening of our sister company Sky Organics CBD, which features two collections both a Wellness and Beauty line — formulated using safe, natural botanicals enriched with hemp-derived, broad-spectrum cannabidiol. Aside from that major project which we were so excited to have gotten off the ground, we are working on a rebrand to update our old packaging, as well as bringing to fruition two new, innovative collections — though for now, that has to remain a secret. We are also working on ways to be more involved in our local community, figuring out how to host pop-up events, clothing swaps, and beach clean-ups in the future — so stay tuned, 2020 is going to be a major year!

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

The main difference between the two — is that brand marketing, as the name would suggest, emphasizes the qualities of the brand, whereas product marketing follows the quality of the product. You can’t achieve true, long-term success without utilizing both. When we first started this company, we invested heavily in product marketing as it gave us a reliable way to understand more about our audience. As we continue to grow and solidify our values — we are investing more in our brand, which means we are investing in the way we want to be perceived by our audience. In the beginning, our values were “safe products made with ingredients you can feel good about using,” and while we still hold tightly to that message, we are more than just a place to find affordable, clean essentials. We are the big sister of the family, taking under our wings those who are trying to dip their toes into the natural world but are uncertain about where or how to start.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

General marketing and advertising will only get a company so far. Sure, a good ad can sell a product, but it’ll only sell that product to a customer once, maybe twice before they find another company that is selling the same product at a lower cost. When you invest in building a brand, you invest in a loyal base that will support your company beyond a one-time purchase. Our beauty community posts photos of our products, write reviews, advise one another about DIYs, effectively doing unpaid advertisement for us because they value our brand, our core message and want to share that message with others. Having a strong brand gives us a level of built-in authenticity and trust, as consumers learn to associate our products with messages like self-love, inner fulfillment, and family first. People support us not just for effective products, but because they support who we are as a company.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

The first one is to invest time into customer reviews. We are constantly encouraging customers to leave feedback of our products, whether it be on social media, Walmart.com, Amazon, or whichever platform. Doing so allows other people who are unfamiliar with our brand to see we have an established, trusted base, and aren’t a “scam” which can be a real issue when it comes to online shopping. Consumers are smart and don’t trust easily. They know brands are trying to sell products to them at the end of the day. People will more readily trust a review from another consumer who is gaining nothing by saying our product is great as opposed to us telling our consumers our products have value. Reviews give “realness” to a company.

Our second strategy is USDA certification and placing the seal on our products. USDA is a highly revered and trusted source for what’s what in the organic community. Having their seal on our products automatically elevates their value, and informs consumers before they even have to read the label, that the product they are holding in their hand is clean and safe to use.

Thirdly, walk the talk. By this I mean, if you value your company as being conscientious as our brand does — then prove it. Most recently, we partnered with two non-profit organizations that support COVID-19 relief efforts. The first is with Feeding America which is committed to serving meals to families and individuals facing hunger as facilities temporarily close their doors. The second is with Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation which establishes a relief fund for individual restaurant workers facing economic hardships or health crises as a direct result of COVID-19. We have donated $10,000 to both of these organizations.

The fourth tip is to be authentic and honest. Customers can see whether you are passionate or not about the work you do. There’s no need to strive to be perfect as that will always be a failed goal. On the contrary, customers understand mistakes when they’re small. Sometimes we record a video for our followers and might trip over a word — that’s okay. It just adds to the realness of the company and serves as a reminder that real people are working behind the screen creating all the images, words, and designs they see.

The final strategy is having solid PR. Advertisement is saying your company is the best, whereas PR is others saying you’re great. Our PR team has solidified for us features in Byrdie, Bustle, Refinery 29, Marie Claire, and Rolling Stone, to name a few. Good PR doesn’t just give your company traction with new consumers — it adds credibility as there is evidence to support what you’re selling has value.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

We admire The Honest Company, founded by Jessica Alba. Like The Honest Company, we share so many similar values — wanting clean, safe essentials that everyone in the family can use and being accessible to all. She’s a great example of resilience and the way that success isn’t always a straight shot. She tried multiple times to get her idea off the ground but couldn’t find investors willing to take the risk — so she buckled down and went to the drawing board, researching the market and the nuances of the natural industry. She even ended up in DC lobbying for reform to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. It paid off and her company gained incredible success when it launched. Unfortunately, things grew too quickly. They started selling products that alienated their original, and strongest consumer base — and even ran into formula and labeling issues that caused a backlash. What is admirable from all this is Alba took full responsibility for the mistakes. She decided to scale down and focus predominately on the original, core products for mothers and babies that created their initial success, and she created an in-house lab to ensure quality control.

What we can learn from her and replicate in our own brand — is remember where you started from and own up to your mistakes. Not only in a humility way but recognizing the small things that drew consumers to our company (simply formulated, natural products) and keeping true to those ideals as we expand and create new lines and have bigger ideas.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand-building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Success for a brand is a little different than calculating pure sales. We use social listening and engagement to measure how well our brand is being received. When we post something on Instagram and get a ton of comments from our community about loving our products, or have people tag us in their face mask selfies and message us skincare questions — that tells us a lot about how we’re doing as a brand. We also utilize tools like surveys and online reviews — making sure to check in on our followers and let them directly tell us how we’re doing and how we can improve.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media has been an incredibly strong tool in helping us build our brand. Ads can only do so much — to be successful as a company you can’t run non-stop paid advertisements. Social media has enabled us to always remain present in the market. We can have a more fun and personable approach with things like get-ready-with-us routines, behind-the-scenes, or clips of the team during our holiday party. Social media has allowed us to expand our consumer base by partnering with influencers that align with our ideals. It’s always better to have someone else talk about how great you are then talking about your greatness yourself. When a green influencer with thousands of followers talks about loving our products — that adds credibility and value to our brand.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

When you’re doing too many things at once — it can be easy to feel burnt out. That’s why organization and prioritizing are important techniques to incorporate in your work life. If a task is too big don’t be afraid to delegate and split it up among people. Keep educating yourself on your industry and try new things! Sometimes a different approach is better than trying to optimize an old method!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Bringing authenticity to the forefront of all things — work, our personal lives, and so forth, would inspire a lot of good. It seems like so many problems are created due to a lack of trust. As a business owner, I can see the ramifications of this firsthand, having to work twice as hard for people to believe a company wants to create accessible, good-for-you essentials with nothing up our sleeves. Not only will an increase of authenticity allow people to trust in brands again, but it’ll help cultivate more meaningful relationships all across the board.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Author Neale Donald Walsch said, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I truly believe that. The number one reason for failure is not trying — discounting yourself from the race before it even started. Sky Organics is my third business venture, and each of them in dramatically different industries. Don’t be afraid to try, fail, and start over. Each time you start again you carry the experiences of your past and it only makes you smarter.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Without a doubt Richard Branson. He is a man of many hats and has worked in music, in air, land, and sea transportation, and is involved in a lot of humanitarian initiatives that I admire — he even worked with Nelson Mandela at one point!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find us on Instagram at skyorganics.us or type in Sky Organics into Facebook and our page will show up! We also have a YouTube channel under Sky Organics.

Dean Neiger of Sky Organics: “5 Things You Need To Do To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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