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How to Create an Engaged Community that Loves Your Brand - CLEARSTEM | EP. #75

March 08, 2023 | Author: Andrew Maff





On this 75th episode of The E-Comm Show, our host, and BlueTuskr CEO Andrew Maff is with Kayleigh Christina of CLEARSTEM Skincare, a revolutionary brand that created an all-in-one category of non-toxic acne+aging skincare in 2017. In today’s episode with Kayleigh, you’ll not only learn a lot about skincare, but you’ll also pick up several tips on how to reach out to the right influencers, organically grow your following, and how be consistent in providing excellent customer service.

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How to Create an Engaged Community that Loves Your Brand - CLEARSTEM






Andrew Maff and Kayleigh Christina & Danielle Gronich


CONNECT WITH OUR HOST: AndrewMaff.com  |  Twitter: @AndrewMaff | LinkedIn: @AndrewMaff 

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Kayleigh Christina & Danielle Gronich



Kayleigh Christina & Danielle Gronich are the co-founders of CLEARSTEM Skincare, the revolutionary brand that created the all-in-one category of nontoxic acne+aging skincare in 2017 (as seen in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Poosh & WWD).


After struggling with cystic acne for a combined 15+ years, including three failed rounds of Accutane and ongoing, overpriced laser treatments, Danielle & Kayleigh decided that there had to be a better way to clear their skin without sacrificing their holistic health. Danielle, a Licensed Clinical Aesthetician, and Kayleigh, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, dove into the clinical research to formulate safe & effective skincare that reduces acne scars, regulates hormonal oil production, calms redness, and inflammation, and increases collagen & skin elasticity all at once.


Typical anti-acne products age you, and anti-aging products cause acne. That's why they created CLEARSTEM!



We've been growing for five coming on six years and we've been so lean from the beginning over bootstrapped and so we are really careful about where we spend our money and always focused on profitability.



Hey everyone, this is Nezar Akeel from MaxPro. Hi, I'm Linda and I'm Paul and we're the Love and Pebble. Hi, this is Lopa van der Merch from Rasa you're listening to and you're listening and you are listening to The E-Comm Show



Welcome to the E-Comm Show, presented by BlueTuskr, the number one place to hear the inside scoop from other e-commerce experts. They share their secrets on how they scaled their business and are now living the dream. Now, here's your host, Andrew Maff.



Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The E-Comm Show. I'm your host Andrew Maff. And today I'm joined by the amazing Kaylee Kristina of clear stem skincare. Kaylee, how are you doing? Great forget you're doing great today. I'm



ready for a great show. Thanks for having me on.



I'm so excited for this one I A there's actually I What's the best way for me I very much relate to this background of everything I was my skin was horrible growing up in high school. I went down we're gonna get into it. Let's pretend no one knows who you are. I love it.



I love talking to someone who just gets it so I'm really excited.



Oh let's do it let's so let's do the usual and why don't you kind of give everyone a little bit of insight into obviously more about clear Sam your background all that fun stuff? We'll go from there.



Awesome. So kick it off with clear Sam we are the only anti-acne anti-aging nontoxic skincare company. Our big reason why is that you'll know this Andrew anti-acne products just completely destroy your skin as it rips apart your skin barrier makes you really Sun sensitive and irritates your skin, which in turns actually ends up causing accelerated aging. So long-term use of acne products is accelerated aging of your skin or developing wrinkles faster or fitting your skin barrier. And then you have anti-aging products that are typically just filled with a ton of pore-clogging ingredients and synthetic fillers that end up causing acne. So you have people that struggle with skin issues like acne. And it can be you know, really bad cystic acne or can just be every once in a while you're struggling with some breakouts not knowing where they're coming from. And you want to be using anti-aging. So we're all getting older and ends up just making it worse. So we really want to create a line that was dual functioning for both helping with acne no matter the severity, and at the same time restoring the skin barrier, increasing hydration, minimizing wrinkles, and really tackling that anti-aging.



So with that, though, I will say the wildly competitive space that you're in. So a lot of I know there are aspects of your brand that are clearly differentiated from your competition. Do you want to get a little bit into what that is? Yeah, I



think it's really the approach in education behind acne and aging. That's never been done before. So Danielle, my co-founder, we always say that our first prep first and leading product really is education. Because without education, the products aren't don't work as well, right? The products work amazingly in themselves. But what if you aren't tackling the actual root causes of acne, acne is always going to come back. So one of the root causes is pore-clogging ingredients. So if you don't remove the products that you're already using, that have pore-clogging ingredients with big ones are moisturizers, SPF hair conditioners, for women, it's Foundation, bronzers blush, primers, all of those are typically written with poor clog ingredients, and there's a lot of amazing makeup haircare that doesn't have them. But if you're consistently using that you're still gonna break out. If the root cause is a digestive issue or a gut imbalance is over-supplementation of certain supplements that ends up causing a hormonal imbalance, you have hormonal acne. And so we educate about all these root causes. So our products work even better because right they're creating a lot of change on the outside of the skin, but if you're working on tackling those internal root causes, that's only going to transform your skin that much more. And we lead with our education through our website, and social media, Danielle and I host master classes. We have a ditch your acne course that helps you will get to the root cause of your acne and address all of these by leading with education and then creating products that truly work functionally and create change in people's skin. The blend of the tool has really had us put our mark in the space.



Nice. So when I was mostly in high school, but also when I was in middle school, horrible I went through countless things I can't remember, most of them. I remember some horror stories of like overusing one and then like the next day waking up, and it was horrendous. But it did get to a point where I did end up actually using Accutane. And that was a big, like, had to go through like, different, like, I just talked to therapists for a little while, because they were worried that there was stuff outside of that, like a couple of things that happen with kids that took them and like, yeah, it was, it's,



it's linked to a lot of mental health issues with Accutane because it has really rough side effects for mental and physical health. And yeah, for women, you have to take multiple pregnancy tests while you're on it, like every week, every two weeks because it causes a lot of birth defects. That yeah, you have some doctors will have you meet with therapists once or twice a week and like, it's, it's crazy, like, I laugh, it's not funny, but I laugh because it's like, it's insane to me like it's insane to me that people get put on it with all these side effects. But I do understand, like, especially like, I remember when I was a teenager, so everyone was on Accutane. Like there was no real other option for severe acne, I had so many friends that went through it, Danielle went through it three times her acne came back every time and so it's um, I'm glad you can touch on that because it's rough going through that really rough



side effects or worse, depending on how you look at it. But yeah. So let's talk about the business a little bit. Obviously, I know you're DTC you have your own website, are you selling anywhere else besides your own website? Are you Amazon, Walmart, eBay, or any of that fun stuff and retail?



We're on Amazon. And then we're in about a little over 300 wholesale slash retail locations. A bulk of them is in estheticians, dermatologists' offices, and then some different nontoxic beauty boutiques and fun stores like neighborhood guts.



Beautiful. So obviously, I know you've cleared that hard seven-figure mark, that's always really tough for a lot of sellers to pass. What would you say is your biggest differentiator? Or what would you say kind of allowed you to get over that hurdle? Because you think most especially in skincare, which is incredibly competitive, or anything really on the cosmetic side, it's very difficult. And then you have in your area, especially if you start selling on Amazon, or even hand things, a handful of things on Google, like you got to jump through some hoops to get approved to do certain things like what really has allowed you guys to kind of continue to grow.



It was definitely a compounding effect. And what I'll say to everyone is be patient, we've been growing for five coming on six years, and we've been so lean from the beginning, we're bootstrapped. And so we are really careful about where we spent our money and always focused on profitability. And any ads and performance marketing that we started running, we wouldn't do it unless we were achieving a 2x or higher and working really hard to get to that point and not operating within the negative. On top of that, we've built a really strong community based on education. So Danielle, and I get in front of our own community a lot. What's been really important to me, I'm very focused on community building. I think that's what builds a long-standing brand with people who will truly be your foot soldiers for you as far as referrals go. And one of those aspects is we answer every DM and email that comes through and we have a lot of people that are sharing their entire skin story and asking for help asking for resources. So we have a team of five people in our DMS because as we get more DMS and we get emails, five people in the DMS yet answering questions making sure people are feeling seen feeling heard. And so that's what most of our employees have gone through like building out our partnership programs with ambassadors, social media, and our customer service. And that's where the bulk of our employees are. And it's really having all those touch points with the customers to make sure we're not just building to just add more customers but loyal customers from a community standpoint. So I think it's the combination of really strong community building connecting with our customer, at the same time being really smart about performance as in keeping an eye on what is our CAC what is our role as you know, if something's working, pouring more money into it, having multiple eyes on things that aren't working, we've definitely caught inflation of numbers throughout different accounts. So we use different attribution software that can find the level of truth so we aren't completely burning cash when something's saying it's positive and it's not. So we pay heavy attention to numbers.



So a couple of things you mentioned there is a lot to dive into one. I'm sure there are several people who are going to listen to this episode and hear you say your targets a 2x row as and they're going to be like what that's it like they'd be broke. However, I'm gonna bet you You've probably got a pretty nice returning customer rate, I'll bet your LTV is tolerable, right? So, yeah, tell me a little bit about like, how you calculate that when you're looking at your advertising.



Definitely. And I will be mindful, we never dipped below it too. So we definitely shoot a lot higher from that. I would say Facebook, Instagram, you know, we're hovering closer to a three. And yes, our average order value is a lot higher. So because I'm speaking, I'm going to be a lot more open with numbers, because that's who I'm talking to on this. And I want people to understand the value, our average order value is about $90. And so yes, getting a 2x 3x row is really strong for us, we have a really high conversion rate on our website for dumping, and things we have about a 4.5% conversion rate. So we're we dumping a lot of time and energy into increasing that conversion rate on our website? And then we do have a high retention rate as well. So because skincare is so different than food and beverage and other things, right, like once someone sees a difference from their skincare, they use it every single morning and every single night and they don't switch until they stop seeing results. And they're like pushed to the point of oh my god, this isn't working for me anymore, I have to try something else. And that's just the mindset of the skincare consumer. And so we are in an industry that develops naturally very loyal customers if something works for them.



That makes sense. You also mentioned though, that you're you've got five people, I think you said it was that are all managing your DMS I know both you, and Danielle, you, they you both have a nice size influencer side of like nice sized following of Instagram followers as well, same as obviously the business so I'm sure are they managing all three of the profiles.



They're managing. So all five of those are managing clear stems. Danielle and I are mainly in our own DMS, I definitely don't have the capacity to answer all the DMS in mine. Um, I'll answer a lot like Voice Memos when I can if I see more in-depth questions that come in through mine, and I do direct them to our support that can get a little more one on one white glove service and I wouldn't be able to provide in the middle of my day. So I usually send them in that direction.



How do you walk that fine line because especially in your industry, where you know, you can't really say like, oh, you should do this, do this, do this? Because you usually have to caveat it with you should probably consult a doctor kind of thing, like a lot of the sellers we work with they're on like the supplement side or something like that, like you really want to help them and you probably know what the answer is. But you have to like, unfortunately, I can't be the one to give you that. How do you manage that?



Yes. So especially in the world of like we have one of the biggest questions we get all the time is this pregnancy safe, that's a huge one. So that one we immediately blanket statement have to consult with your doctor push towards that, for all other ones we go. So like a lot of people come to us because they're struggling with acne and we have a bullet-point list of the root causes of acne for them to address first. So talking through pore-clogging ingredients. For example, this something really big that causes acne in anyone who's acne-prone is over-supplementation of vitamin D, zinc, and B 12. All three of those trigger testosterone production in excess, again, very important functions to our body and great for supplementing, but a lot of times you'll turn over a supplement and they'll be like 40,000% of your recommended daily value of FY 12, which is insane. And so we've seen based on Danielle having her acne clinic for the last eight years and all of our research in the acne space. We've seen when people go over, you know, anywhere between 150 and 400% of the recommended daily value of those supplements. We've seen it trigger acne. So we'll address with people, the root causes, based on the experience in the clinic, and research what we have seen to cause acne and to check these things first, like that's how we'll phrase things so we can get people a starting point on their own without like you said, like the liability checking with your doctor. But there's a lot of white paper on the increased testosterone production with access to those supplements. So we do have the research backing for those.



Nice, good, good process. So let's, let's pivot a little bit to your marketing strategy. I know it's primarily on the social media side. Am I correct? Yes. What's your approach there? What do you think has been really allowing you to kind of continue to scale it out? Yeah, so



on the organic side of things because we really did grow significantly. organically before we ever put money into performance marketing, so when we started, Tik Tok didn't even really exist. So Instagram was the main thing to focus on Instagram slash Facebook. And so we've always been really clear to take all of our education and value that we're driving beyond our products and make it really digestible information on social media. So people can go to our social pages and get the value of some form, whether it is the root cause of acne, or other skin issues, or how to use our products and what products are best. So we cycle through, we also love just bringing in, we're really big on mental health. So just bring into funny memes and like stuff that'll make people laugh too. Like, we want people to come to learn and laugh. And just, it'd be really light in light, fun information, have like a breath of fresh air. And since the evolvement of Tic Toc, we have transferred a lot of that to Tic Toc, as well as keeping it educational, fun laughing but informative at the same time. So that's really been our organic approach to everything. And then as far as on the paid side of things we do really focus on again, what are the root missions of our company? And looking at what performs really well organically? And how can we recreate this into an ad forum, while maybe changing some things up, there's more of a hook in the beginning, it just captures people's attention faster, but the same type of valuable information that people aren't loving organically.



So from an organic perspective, tick-tock, I think, is a little bit of a different beast, because you have the for you page, and it gets discovered a little bit easier, especially in the beginning when they're just throwing impressions at everyone, and everyone's spending all their day on there anyway. But from an Instagram perspective, starting off and getting enough traction, just organically can be tough if you're simply just posting and that's about it. What was your approach was it I'm sure it was a mix of everything, but you also get the people that will spend some time doing outreach and having conversations, you know, with the profile on other people's profiles, or you know, or you also kind of including an influencer approach, like what specifically got the organic aspect to get moving?



Yeah, in the very beginning, because I always want to keep things really applicable for people because I want to share where we're at now. But also the tactics we use when we were super, super lean spending no money, many this. So in the very beginning, we are gifting a lot of products, but very intentionally I want to be so key on that. I think where I realized this was so important is because I did have some experience on the influencer side and saw how different companies reached out and the relationships that were built on it. And I also saw how companies can be tricked by followers thinking because someone has a high follower count, it's gonna form. And so I was very, I was very clear, not only with when I was building it, but then when we had an intern that was promoted to full time to grow this department, that you need a look on the community that the influencer has built? are they producing valuable information? Are people commenting and asking questions? Are they doing a lot of q&a stories where they're engaging with their community, and truly building a valuable community and then does that information does the values of that influencer align with the values of your company, because you want to work with different influencers that match the same demographics as your company. So our base demographic is women between the ages of 24 and 36, that are really passionate about health and wellness, they might be just starting off. They're, they're passionate about health and wellness and like figuring things out, they might be a little bit farther along. So we're looking for influencers who are driving value in that same area that if they were to talk about the clear stem, they are talking to our direct audience. So that was so important. So in the very beginning, I was looking for health coaches, and people building really strong communities within the wellness space, it was a little less flat fashion blogger for me because fashion bloggers were using more of the Sephora-type products and it wasn't going to be in alignment. So it was a lot more focused in the health and wellness space and not super strong in the fitness space where they might have been using. There's like the toxic side of the fitness space and like the health and wellness side of it, right? So kind of to be careful in the fitness industry to like who we were partnering with and I'd get the product. And I wouldn't even ask for a post I'd be like, hey, you know, these are brand missions values. This is what we help with, what are your skincare goals? What are your skincare concerns? I'd love to send you a product to help with that. And then just get your general feedback. And when we approach it in such a way people naturally posted about it. It wasn't aggressive like I'm gonna send you this you have to pull was, and then from there, if they loved it, then I started to build out an ambassador program where they could get set up. And we use grin now, but at the time more cost-effective, we were using reversion. And we're getting them set up with a code for to gift 15% off to their community, and then they get commissioned on the back end. But again, we'd only work with people that were using it, and then loved it. And then we would talk about a partnership, hey, if you want to be talking about clear stem sharing with your community, you can get commission on the back end, but again, always rooted in do they love clear stem? In the very beginning, Danielle, and I would get on Zoom calls with every influencer that we brought on in that capacity so they can understand who we are our brand story what we're about, and build that relationship. And I think that is the reason why that's led to such a strong influencer marketing program. We call it our ambassador program. And yeah, truly, it's that's what's led to the success of it.



Wow, that's, that's a very interesting approach. Especially with, you know, a product like yours and your price point of just seeding and giving away product and hoping that they post are obviously, you know, sometimes risky in the beginning, but not if it works out, obviously. One thing I was gonna ask you is you mentioned obviously, if they, if they post about it, and they love it, then you offer them, you know, basically becoming some kind of an ambassador and starting to develop a relationship with them that way. What about what size influencers are you working with? Because usually from an influencer perspective, they get over a certain amount of followers. They don't want a commission, they just want a flat rate. And they're kind of a little dependent on who you're talking to. But what's, what's your approach there?



We've since upgraded recently doing some paid campaigns with some higher-level influencers just to reach a larger amount of people. But for the first five years, we didn't pay anyone except for just commission, but we never paid to post. Actually one of our consistent top performers for the last Gosh, three or four years at this point, she has like 5500 followers. And she is she's built. She's a functional nutritional therapy practitioner, she not only has clients but just drives such strong value to all her information. And her buying community is just, you know, Ride or Die lives by everything she says. And so some of our top performers are well under 20,000. I'd say the sweet spot has been between some of those, like really, really strong communities around 5000 to 10,000 followers, but I'd say the majority of the sweet spot has been between like 10 and 60,000 followers. Yeah, it's, it's high conversions and building a really strong community. Yeah, you start I mean, just naturally as you scale like, you know, you just you lose the community aspect of things a little bit more. Yeah.



So one of the things that I guess not out of the influencer side, but out of what most of this conversation has been around, like kind of the self-care and you know, obviously, it's a little bit more towards the skincare side, however, I usually like to kind of end the shows with some kind of insight into how you take care of yourself, being an entrepreneur in the space because anyone that's at you know, an E-commerce seller that's of this size. It's a grind day in and day out. It's exhausting, you have ups, you have downs, what is your approach, obviously, your co-founder Danielle's approach to making sure that you're taking care of yourselves to basically make sure that you can also take care of business?



I was joking about this to a friend literally yesterday because I was talking about how a couple of years ago, I had like a two-hour morning routine, I'd wake up at like 450 or 5 am, and workout and then journal and then meditate and then make breakfast it was like a whole thing. And then I get work done for like an hour, two hours and I'd be exhausted from having a lot of boring routines. And I feel like sometimes as entrepreneurs, we can feel really pressured in two different directions pressured to not have a morning routine, or pressured for like, you have to do more of you all these things you have to draw, you have to meditate. And it'd be really intense. And I think you just need to find your happy zone where you can feel your best and most productive without wearing yourself out. So for me, I sleep a little bit longer than I used to I wake up at 7 am now and I get like a solid eight, eight and a half hours of sleep like I'm usually on calls for like eight or nine hours during the day and it's it's a lot of brain power. And so I've realized I need a lot more sleep than I used to show up and give my all brain power all day every day. So I sleep until about seven and I get up and I do a workout about 30 Maybe 40 minutes but I keep it just short and sweet. I drink a lot of water in the morning. With my element, my electrolytes, all that good stuff. And then I grab my coffee and I get in front of my computer, and then I end up having lunch a few hours later. But what I noticed is that morning routine just works really well for me, I'll journal a lot if I maybe take a couple of days, if I'm traveling, and or take a couple of days off here and there. But I go through waves of journaling, I get meditation in different ways. I'll do yoga, and sometimes I'll do breathwork every once in a while, but it's not an everyday thing. I do a lot of reflective work. Sometimes when I first wake up, I'll just visualize my entire day and how I want it to go. And then when I notice anxiety, stress, and pressure are higher. I have quite a few meditations downloaded on my phone, that'll be my go-to tool for that. So that definitely goes in waves but a short and sweet morning routine and then just eating really well I'm very not strict on eating, it's more strict on my quality is I'm very strict on my quality of eating, I don't eat junk food, I don't snack a lot, I thrive off of feeling good from what I eat. And so keeping my meals like rice diet, a bunch of different veggies and different types of proteins for lunch, and dinner just makes me feel my best every single day. So I just lean into eating what makes me feel my best. Because if I'm eating junk food or snacking in the middle of the day, I'm gonna be tired, and I'm gonna want to take a nap. So I focus on things that like really fuel me up and keep me energized. And then if I want to be a little more indulgent, at some point, it's like a little more indulgent in the evening or on, you know, something on the weekend, but I'm just I'm so cognizant of the effect that food has on my energy levels and on my mind, and to be honest, I don't really like quotes, treat meals or cheat meals that much because I don't like feeling like crap. Naturally, that keeps me from eating like crap is because I don't like feeling that way. So it just kind of naturally works out that way.



Nice. It was really refreshing to hear what you said in the beginning there too, because you read all this stuff online and it's like you got to get up at 3 am Go for a run, come back, read four books, then go for a second run and then maybe have breakfast like it's like, okay, I don't I can't do that.



messes with your hormone levels. Like if you want to do like a week or two stints of that and just test some things out, that's fine. But when we're not getting proper sleep and pushing our bodies extreme and then later in the day, pushing our bodies mentally to the extreme like physically and mentally the same day not getting sleep like we're just asking for health problems to be festering at some point it might start coming up in a few months might company come up in a year or two but it's going to arise because those things really just like wreck our nervous and immune system.



Oh, yeah. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being on the show. Obviously really appreciate it. I'd love to do the normal and give you an opportunity here to let everyone know where they can find out more about you and obviously more about their stuff.



Thank you so much, Andrew, this is wonderful. I appreciate you having me on.



Not a problem. Where can they hear more about you?



You can head over to clearstemskincare.com My Instagram is Kaylee. Christina and then on all other social channels clear stem skincare.



Perfect, Kaylee thank you so much. Obviously, everyone who tuned in thank you as well please do the usual rate review, subscribe to all that fun stuff, listen to whichever podcast platform you want, or head over to theEcommshow.com. But as usual, thank you all for joining us and we'll see you all next time.



Thank you for tuning in to The E-Comm Show so head over to ecommshow.com to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or on the BlueTuskr YouTube channel. The E-Comm Show is brought to you by BlueTuskr, a full-service digital marketing company specifically for e-commerce sellers looking to accelerate their growth. Go to BlueTuskr.com Now for more information says, Make sure to tune in next week for another amazing episode of The E-Comm Show.









































































































































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