Innovation Junkies Podcast

Tim Clarkson on Innovation in Marketing at Liveanew

The Jeffs chat with Tim Clarkson, CEO of Liveanew. They touch on how to access the Market that you’re trying to get in front of, advice on jumping into a Direct-to-Consumer marketing model and opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs in the senior care industry.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge, and this is the Innovation Junkies podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategies, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, and no matter the geography. Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business, and we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies podcast.

Announcer: Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkies. To learn more about our GrowthDX, go to innovationjunkie.com/growthDX. Now let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys, Jeff Standridge here. Welcome to another episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast.

Jeff Amerine: And this is Jeff Amerine. I’m glad to be back. We’ve got a fantastic guest lined up for today. You want to hear more about him?

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, but before we do that, how are you doing? Hadn’t talked to you in a few days.

Jeff Amerine: Hanging in there, hanging in there. Semi-Professional lumberjack work over the weekend to cut up a downed tree, just a typical weekend, but not bad. How about you?

Jeff Standridge: Very good. Jeff Bunyan.

JeffAmerine: That’s it, that’s exactly right.

Jeff Standridge: No, I’m doing great, doing great. Just enjoying the season change, loving it.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. And it’s good to see the Hogs actually pull one out in the final minutes of the ball game.

Jeff Standridge: And the Cowboys really laid an egg.

Jeff Amerine: Ah, they did. They definitely did. Well, let’s get to the matters at hand here. All right. Well, we’re really lucky today to have Tim Clarkson from Liveanew on the podcast today. Tim has spent some 22 years in marketing consumer products globally. His experience is with two startups and one turnaround. He’s got experience in reaching customers direct to consumer, mass-market retail, Amazon direct response, and catalogs. He’s currently the CEO and co-founder of Liveanew. Liveanew is a direct consumer adult diaper retailer with three websites and an Amazon business. It doesn’t sound like a very glamorous business, but he’s venture-backed, and he’s been doing a bang-up job the last few years in driving that business forward. So let’s hear more from Tim.

Jeff Standridge: Hey, Tim.

Tim Clarkson: Hey, good morning, gentlemen. It’s good to see you guys.

Jeff Standridge: Good to see you again as well. It’s great to have you on here today. We’re going to hop into the podcast here in a couple of moments, but before we do that, we like to always start with a random musing. I say always whenever Jeff and I remember to start off with one of those. At our age, sometimes memory’s a bit of a challenge.

Tim Clarkson: That’s it.

Jeff Standridge: But today, our random musing is— what’s the most memorable college football gameplay that you can remember?

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, for me, it was when Texas A&M played BYU in a bowl game, and BYU didn’t want to play A&M because they were highly ranked, and A&M wasn’t. And, A&M went in and just crushed the Heisman trophy winner, Ty Detmer, and at the end of one of the sacks, his helmet came off, and one of the defenders picked up his helmet and held it up above his head, just like the old warrior days. So that totally sticks in my mind.

Jeff Standridge: Was that before the rule on taunting? Or did he-

Tim Clarkson: Yes, way before that. No, would’ve been worth the penalty still today.

Jeff Standridge: Oh, absolutely. Very, very good. Very good. Jeff, how about you?

Jeff Amerine: Well, I was sitting here. There’s been several of them that have been spectacular. Some of them involve Arkansas, but I was thinking of one that definitely launched a guy’s career that probably wouldn’t have played in the NFL were it not for this play. And that was the Hail Mary pass that Doug Flutie threw at Boston College to beat Notre Dame in the closing seconds of that game. Doug Flutie might be 5′ 9″ if he’s got high heel shoes on and not a big guy, but he had a pretty amazing both Canadian Football League career and NFL career, and even kicked a dropkick in a Patriots game some years back. I don’t know what Belichick had in his mind to have him do that, but that’s when he was with those guys. So, memorable play, Doug Flutie. I think it was ’84 when they beat Notre Dame last second.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. I think mine has to be, and I’m going to go back nostalgically to the Hogs. Fourth and 25, overtime against Ole Miss, looks like there’s no opportunity. A pass to Hunter Henry. Hunter is just about to get tackled, and they call it the Hunter heave, where he heaved a lateral pass. I forgot, was it McFadden who he lateraled it to?

Jeff Amerine: No, it was Collins. It was Collins.

Jeff Standridge: That’s right. That’s right. So he laterals the pass, Collins takes it, and the rest is history.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, that play was spectacular because it wasn’t like it was thrown to him.

Jeff Standridge: No, no. It was literally a Hunter heave.

Jeff Amerine: Collins got it on a bounce and ended up making the first down, and that was it. Pretty amazing. Anyway, you can tell it’s college football season, right?

Jeff Standridge: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Very good, very good. Well, let’s hop into our podcast, Tim. We’re going to talk a little bit about innovation and Liveanew. But first of all, tell us a little bit about you. We gave a short bio, but you can fill in some blanks. A little bit about you and how you came to launch Liveanew.

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, that was just kind of a strange circumstance. I was having lunch with my new business partner, and we were just meeting for lunch. When he arrived at lunch, he said, “I was just listening to Bloomberg radio and heard the craziest statistic, is that, in Japan, they’re selling more adult diapers than baby diapers now.” I said, “We’re only ten years behind Japan.” One thing led to another. We weren’t even really looking to start this business, but within about two weeks, we had started Liveanew, and it’s just kind of taken a life on its own over the last nine years now.

Jeff Standridge: Wow! Very good. Yeah, I remember when we first met you, and you shared that stat. I’ve used that stat over the years, and I think that stat has resulted in the proliferation of companies serving the senior care market. I heard a stat not long ago that said 10,000 people a day turn 80 or something like that, and it’s projected to increase.

Jeff Amerine: Without giving away anything too top secret, I’m just curious how many deliveries you have on a regular basis to some of the inhabitants of the capitol in Washington, DC. You don’t have to answer that.

Jeff Standridge: Loaded question, loaded question.

Tim Clarkson: Yes. Yes, we do ship a lot actually to DC. I do know that.

Jeff Amerine: That’s not shocking to me based on what we see going on there.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, no doubt. Let’s talk about just the CPG market in general and your view of innovation in CPG, and then we’ll bring it down to Liveanew and the senior market.

Tim Clarkson: Yeah. Well, more specifically, in our end, which is the adult diaper industry, that’s the industry I know best. There hasn’t been a lot of product innovation over the years. There’s been a number of manufacturers try to do some small stuff, but it behaves a little differently. It’s certainly a much more mature segment than the broader consumer package goods.

Jeff Amerine: How do you see that changing? I mean, do you see, are there trends or things that you see coming that will change aspects of that product or people’s preferences and whatnot?

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, I think what you’re really going to see is more innovation outside of the product design itself. While we’ll certainly see some product changes and we’ve seen little tweaks. For example, some things that we try to do are different tapes and fasteners, different shape, maybe a little bit more absorption, but those are very, very minor. That’s really what most other people are doing. I think the big change you’ll see, in at least our industry, is going to be how people reach the customer. It’s going to be more on the marketing side. How do you get in front of the customer? We’ve seen over the last few years manufacturers, particularly out of Europe, acquire companies like us to reach customers. That’s going to be where the big innovation is going to come, is going to be on the marketing side. How do you get in front of those customers? How do you convert those customers, and then how do you retain those customers?

Jeff Standridge: I’d be curious to know, talk about getting in front of your customers when you’re serving the senior market. Some of those will be online, but probably a large portion of them or not. What have been some of the major learnings that you’ve had over the course of the last nine years of accessing the market that you’re trying to get in front of?

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, there’s a couple big observations we’ve had. One is we really have two different customers. We have the person that’s suffering from incontinence, and they could be a young person. We have a lot of young people, as well as middle-aged people. But specifically around the older person, they may buy the products for themselves, but we certainly see a lot of their caregivers, which is typically one of their own adult children buying. That’s been an interesting challenge. How do you market to both the end-user and their adult children in very different age groups, very different lifestyle stages? Then we’ve tried all sorts of things. That’s where one of our biggest, or most of our biggest innovations have come, is really trying to find how to reach customers.
When we first started the business, we did a lot of print advertising, a lot of magazines, a lot of direct mail, a lot of inserts with catalog partners. And those worked really well to reach the older demographic, but we have seen over the last number of years, a number of older people get online. What we’re really seeing is somebody that’s, let’s say, 70 that’s been online for a long, long time, a lot of their adult life, starting to age and need our products. They’re still online, so we spend most of our time and effort focused on customers online now.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, I didn’t think about that when I asked that question. Nine years ago, you were having to target a bunch of people who hadn’t spent a decade online, who maybe had not been online at all. Now you have an aging population who’ve spent the better part of the last 10 to 20 years in some shape, form, or fashion online.

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, that’s exactly it. Even with their adult children, we’re targeting them differently. It used to be we could reach, let’s say you had somebody that’s in their ’70s or ’80s, and their adult daughter is buying products for them, we would reach her on Facebook. Now we’re even going into more things like TikTok and Instagram, different ways to reach that group because they’ve aged with those products already in place.

Jeff Amerine (ad): Hey folks, we’ll be right back with the episode. But first, we want to tell you about a limited opportunity to take advantage of our strategic growth diagnostic. For a short time only, we’re offering a free strategy call to see whether or not our unique diagnostic tool is right for you. Go to innovationjunkie.com/diagnostic to learn more.

Jeff Amerine: Well, and it seems like your business was already set up and resilient to the sorts of issues we saw with the pandemic, given the fact that it’s a direct-to-consumer model. But what occurred during the pandemic that you would consider an innovation or a change, or just talk in general about how you responded to it?

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, there were a couple of really big changes for us that we had to be really innovative and respond to. One is we were preparing to launch our own brand right as that occurred. That had some supply chain issues right at that moment. If you think back to March, 18 months ago, and that’s when things were really unknown and changing very rapidly, so we had to make some changes there. But probably the biggest change that we had to deal with was if you remember back March, April, May of that time period, there was panic buying of household items, particularly things like toilet paper, that made the news. Well, what didn’t really make the news, that there was panic buying also of adult incontinence products. All of a sudden, we saw our sales spike during that time with a lot of new customers that had never bought from us before. We have all sorts of different types of products, but they were buying the products that they’d just typically pick up at a grocery store or drugstore, and they weren’t going there, so we saw this big spike.
So we had to respond on both the supply chain, and we had to really respond in terms of marketing because a lot was occurring there. Just, for example, our advertising spend skyrocketed during that time because all these new people, the volume was coming in, which is a great thing to have, but it was a big change that we had to respond to quickly and figure out which was good traffic, which was not good traffic, what areas do we want to spend money on, do we not want to spend money on? Then over the next several months, behind that was saying, “all right, how do we retain these customers once they get comfortable going back to their local drug or grocery store?”

Jeff Amerine: It was definitely a time of high stress, I would imagine, for you all. As a seasoned entrepreneur, would you say, and innovator, that this was a classic case in facing supply chain issues and the pandemic? If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Because this was not for the faint of heart by any means during this pandemic.

Tim Clarkson: No, you’re right. Certainly, years of doing startups has helped, but we hadn’t faced any of these particular situations. The only experience we were really able to draw upon saying, “Okay, we’ve got a new problem. We’re fairly creative people around here. Let’s put our heads together and find solutions.” That’s what we would do is, look at the data, find a solution, test it, look at data, find a solution, and test it. Keep just going through that cycle over and over until we found the right marketing spend, we found the right places to put our efforts and our time, found the right ways to reach back out to these new customers and communicate with them. There was a lot of new stuff that we were just diving into, and just had to trust the process of test, collect data, and make new decisions.

Jeff Standridge: I think that’s a key point we talk about a lot in innovation, is this concept of test and learn, right? Test and learn, test and learn, reiterate, test and learn. A lot of times, we go out, and we go all out toward a particular idea or a particular solution, and we don’t take the time to step into it, tiptoe into the water, test it, see if it actually generates the results we’re looking to get and then come back and put significant effort behind it once we’ve at least partially validated its success. I like that approach.
We’ve talked about some of the opportunities and challenges with innovating to a senior market. For instance, the opportunities of getting in front of really two customer segments; either the actual end-user or the caregiver of the end-user. The challenges of starting out nine years ago with a population that hadn’t been online that much and how maybe even that’s turning into an opportunity now as that population begins to age. What other maybe opportunities and challenges do you see for other entrepreneurs in the senior care market that you could share?

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, if we broadly define senior care, it’s really anything seniors are going to need. There’s a lot of challenges, but a lot of opportunities and probably even more opportunities than we can even imagine right now. But the biggest challenge is, one that I mentioned, is that you end up with two buyers that you have to market to; the senior and, a lot of times, they’re adult children. That’s a unique challenge. The other is the, just basic lifestyle of seniors is changing and becoming much more active. I think that’s where the opportunity really comes in. Anytime you’ve got this influx of change occurring in the market, it creates a lot of opportunity for those that are able to see it and execute on it.
You just take a quick example, very small example is the example of pickleball. Pickleball is booming all over the country right now, and that came out of the senior market where they were wanting to be more active, but they couldn’t go out and play tennis anymore, so they can play pickleball. I was just reading an article this week here in the city of Austin; they’ve now converted basketball courts and tennis courts in the city to include pickleball outlines. That’s just another example where the market is shifting, and I think you’ll continue to see that where seniors are just a lot more active. Where it used to be, people would move to assisted living or maybe before that some senior place, but even those places are becoming much more active. They’re much more resort-like, so how do you prepare people for that?
I think there’s probably products you can come up with to help prepare for that stage of life that really doesn’t exist, a more active stage of life. I think there’s certainly physical products that you can come up with to help memory care. One I’m particularly interested in working on for a long time and have not found a great solution is, how do we get older people more active with better balance? Certainly, balance starts declining probably in our 50s, and that’s the number one reason people have to leave their own home because they’ve lost their balance and fallen and, say, broken a hip. So how do we keep them more active and keep them healthy? By increasing and improving their balance. So there’s definitely a lot of opportunities in the senior space, particularly as they want to be a lot more active and they also want to be at home, which has been a trend going on for at least three to five years now.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, and that trend of wanting to age in place and stay at home versus moving to a facility has only increased significantly since the start of the pandemic, in my experience. You bring up pickleball. I was fishing with a guy down in South Louisiana over the weekend, and he was sharing with me that he and his wife have begun playing pickleball and that it is the fastest-growing sport in the United States right now. They’re traveling all over the Southern part of the United States playing pickleball tournaments. I have a home up in a resort community that’s mainly retired people in the community. I knew that pickleball was really growing there, but I didn’t realize that it had become a national phenomenon.

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, it’s really amazing, and it’s really fun to see that it came out of the senior space. Again, they want to be more active, and they want to be social, and pickleball is the perfect solution for them to do both of those.

Jeff Amerine: Forgive me, and maybe there’ll be some of the audience that is as ignorant as I am on pickleball. But is it a smaller court with a wooden paddle? Is that how it works?

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, think of tennis, but you shrink the court. You have this wooden pallet and a definitely harder ball that doesn’t bounce as much. You end up playing closer to the net and have more volley type, tennis would be a volley but have more simple net volleys and simple scoring. You don’t have to run a lot; you don’t have to make sudden stops, and probably most importantly, you don’t have to do a lot of backpedaling, where a lot of falls would occur for an older demographic. Then you got four people on the court, you have tournaments, so it’s a very, very social event, an activity for people.

Jeff Amerine: Very cool. I saw what looked like miniature tennis courts going in out at a place called JJs in Northwest Arkansas. I thought, “What in the world?” I had no idea, so that clears it up for me. I got to get caught up with the times. I guess I’m just right below that target market for playing pickleball. I better get busy.

Jeff Standridge: Well, that’s interesting to have a pickleball, one of the fastest-growing in the aging population, at a brewery.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. Rest assured, that crew at JJs will figure out how to make that into a drinking game.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, no doubt, no doubt. Well, Conway Regional, the fitness center here, has begun remarking some of their courts for pickleball. I know up in Fairfield Bay, they’ve been remaking all of their tennis courts for pickleball, so it’s a dual-purpose court with pickleball lines versus… That’s amazing, that’s amazing.

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, and men and women can play it together. Different age groups can play it together. So it ends up being a really remarkable social sport, social activity.

Jeff Standridge: Tim, tell us, what’s next down the line, given some of these changing market dynamics and some of these trends we’ve talked about? What’s next down the line for Liveanew?

Tim Clarkson: Well, we’re going to continue our path of really trying to innovate more on the marketing side. We’re always trying to find new ways to reach customers and build those relationships with customers. How do we retain those customers? That’s where we spend most of our effort. We have recently launched, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, our own product line. It’s got a lot of niche products in it, so we will continue to try to grow that while we offer all the traditional brand names, as well. But that’s where our big focus is, is how do we offer a lot of different solutions to our customers under other people’s brands and our own brands, and try to be a complete service provider for them? Because there’s a lot of people out there suffering with incontinence and we want to come alongside of them and help them out as much as we possibly can by communicating well with them and offering them real solutions.

Jeff Amerine: Follow up to that, given that you’ve had success with direct marketing and this direct-to-consumer model, if you were to give advice to others that are looking to jump into or expand into a direct-to-consumer model, what sort of advice would you give those people that want to get into that omnichannel space, or maybe want to exclusively build a model around direct-to-consumer?

Tim Clarkson: Yeah, it’s interesting you ask that because I get a lot of young entrepreneurs coming to me or people that have a product idea or maybe even a product that’s already out in the market. They’ll come to me saying, “Listen, I’m selling it through retail, I’m going through whether it’s local retailers or some sort of national chain, and my margins take such a big hit because those retailers want a big chunk of the margins. I want more of that margin for myself.” My first piece of advice is going direct to the consumer is typically very expensive because you have to acquire that customer. The nice part of working with a big retailer is the retailer generates the traffic. You just have to have shelf space in there.
Now, if you’re going to go direct-to-consumer, you have to generate that traffic to your website or to your Amazon site, wherever it may be. That takes a lot of effort, and it takes a lot of money to do that. Now, once you get good at it, that’s where the next piece of advice comes in— is you’ve got to test, look at the data, and make decisions and then increase that spend or use that channel more. Or you’ve got to cut that spend quickly and figure out what your next test is going to be because the market’s always changing, the technology’s changing. The way people are communicating is changing, and so our marketing response has to change. It’s just constant test, collect data, make decisions, test, collect data, make decisions and get that marketing spend per acquisition down to where you can run a profitable business.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking with Tim Clarkson. Tim is the CEO and co-founder of Liveanew, serving the adult senior care market. Tim, it’s great having you with us today. We appreciate you taking the time to join us.

Tim Clarkson: Thank you.

Jeff Standridge: Well, keep innovating. I know there’s lots of opportunity in the market space that you’re in, and I look for great things from you and Liveanew in the future.

Tim Clarkson: Great. Well, thank you, gentlemen. It’s been great being here and joining you guys.

Jeff Amerine: Thanks for coming on.

Jeff Standridge: This has been another episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. Thank you for joining.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies podcast, please do us a huge favor; click the subscribe button right now. Please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And, don’t forget to share us on social media.

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