US Wellness Meats’ CEO John Wood does many things for his company himself. For example, Wood, the founder of the nearly 20-year-old ecommerce meat purveyor, rises at 4 a.m. each morning to tend his cattle.
Launched in 2000, the retailer’s web sales now amount to several million each year. Wood attributes the company’s growth in part to being early to the online organic meat business.
“We were way ahead of our time in terms of going direct-to-consumer online [for organic, grass-fed meat], and among just a handful of souls that understood the healthy nutrition benefits of grass-fed meats,” Wood says of the company’s early days. The company also earned some early street cred when it rejected organic labeling on grounds that it wasn’t discerning enough to grace its products.
For US Wellness Meats’ first several years in business, the retailer used dial-up connections in its rural location in Lewis County, Missouri. “Fortunately, we had good Scotch and Irish patience,” Wood says. The retailer cycled through three different web platforms in its first three years, struggling to become efficient and trying to find a fit, Wood says. The company also took many orders by phone for customers that did not have email accounts in the very early years, Wood says. “We had no professional marketing skills at that time.”
Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and US Wellness Meats now owns its entire supply chain—from its 300-acre farm to its butchering, packing and fulfillment facilities. It also competes with mainstream grocers like Whole Foods and subscription services like ButcherBox, which have similar health-focused messages and compete for overlapping customer bases.
Wood today also relies on technology, outside help and tapping into social media channels for its marketing. “We realized huge gains with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest,” Wood says. And the company continues to make new inroads into social media with Instagram, geo-marketing, bloggers, niche influencers and creating YouTube recipe clips, he says.
In 2017, looking for a way to expose US Wellness Meats to new audiences and maintain its relationship with existing customers, the company began using autonomous marketing firm Albert Technologies Ltd., a marketing platform that uses artificial intelligence technology to automate retailers’ digital advertising programs. Albert aims to perform many of the manual, time-consuming tasks involved in a marketing campaign—from digital media buying to execution to optimization and analysis. Albert additionally offers retailers insights and recommendations based on the data it gathers over time.
US Wellness Meats tasked Albert with creating new awareness and demand for its products among its three primary customer types: moms, foodies and consumers following special diets, such as Keto and Paleo. Albert began by conducting large-scale lookalike campaigns on social media and in search advertising and autonomously testing multiple creative combinations across hundreds of audience segments. Once it identified the characteristics of its highest-value audiences and which creative combinations each responded to, it scaled its autonomous targeting efforts using the most valuable combinations.
“We chose Albert for its ability to autonomously run our paid social media and search campaigns and help us focus on high-value audiences and the right creative,” Wood says. “Our in-house marketing resources are limited and there are so many places to focus and be; we found ourselves just reacting and doing. This was not a strategy, just a bunch of tactics. Albert offered us structure, focus and an extra team member, if you will,” he says. Wood says Albert helped US Wellness Meats find and invest in marketing to audiences with the highest ROI.
US Wellness Meats now credits Albert with having contributed approximately 13-14% of its total revenue in 2018. Through its work with Albert, the company’s monthly revenue has increased as much as 21%, Wood says. And average return on ad spend from Albert is 889%.
“Marketing, marketing and more marketing, coupled with as much automation as possible—this is the key to competing with several goliaths in the market we operate in today,” Wood says. “The tools are much faster and easier but the competition becomes more aggressive and intense every step up the ladder.”Favorite