Instant Pot CEO Robert Wang on how his small pressure cooker company cultivated a rabid community of "Potheads."
“I don’t think there’s much secret. Get the product right, treat the customer well, and get them talking. And that’s it.” - Instant Pot founder Robert Wang
Instant Pot, the multipurpose pressure cooker, is so remarkable that it has spurred an outpouring of enthusiasm from a community of fans around the world. Some Potheads name their Pots, while others knit sweaters for the appliances.
That zeal wasn’t a surprise to founder Robert Wang, due to a core insight he had early on. “Cooking is not a solitary practice. It’s very much a social practice,” he tells us. “You cook for your family, you cook for your friends, you’ll throw a party if you make a dish.”
Today, more than 1.8 million “Potheads” of all ages, languages, and backgrounds have joined their Facebook group to share recipes and Instant Pot fandom. Robert and his team opened the group in 2015, imagining it as a space where customers separated by geography could help each other with Instant Pot questions—both connecting superfans and lightening the burden on the company’s customer support team.
We talk to Robert in this episode about how this community sparked and grew, and how they've approached their Facebook group as it's grown.
Get Together is a podcast about the nuts and bolts of community building. Hosts Bailey Richardson and Kevin Huynh of People & Company ask organizers who have built exceptional communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to thousands more members?
In this episode
- 00:44 - Who is Robert Wang?
- 01:28 - What was the best selling non-Amazon product in 2018?
- 02:12 - How can you build a successful community?
- 04:50 - What was Wang’s opinion of his product?
- 06:02 - Why was selling Instant Pot on Amazon the winning strategy?
- 08:10 - How did Wang attract his first few customers?
- 11:21 - How can you grow influencer marketing without paying a dime?
- 16:34 - What is Wang’s insight on cooking?
- 19:59 - How did Instant Pot community get started?
- 21:54 - What have customers used Instant Pot for besides cooking?
Smash Notes summary for this episode
Who is Robert Wang?
He is the founder of Instant Pot. More than 5.5 million people follow Instant Pot related accounts on Facebook alone. People even make decals and knit sweaters for their Instant Pot.
What was the best selling non-Amazon product in 2018?
On Black Friday, Instant Pot was the best selling non-Amazon product on Amazon. According to Walmart, Instant Pot was also their best selling item in 33 states.
How can you build a successful community?
Community building comes down to shared ownership. It’s best to figure out what to do with your customers rather than do for them. Wang, the founder of Insta Pot, has created a collaborative and creative approach with his customers.
What was Wang’s opinion of his product?
He thought the problem wasn’t that it was going to be popular on the market, but that stores had limited coverage. The best way to let people know of his product was through online businesses.
Why was selling Instant Pot on Amazon the winning strategy?
Wang tried different marketplaces for selling his Instant Pot. eBay buyers were looking for bargain, so that wasn't a good long-term opportunity, meanwhile Amazon had massive scale, and was ready for a premium product.
Using Amazon, Instant Pot got national, and sometimes even international, which was obviously great for business. With it, they also got a lot of customer feedback, which they quickly implement back into the product, shipping a new version of Instant Pot every 12-18 months.
How did Wang attract his first few customers?
Wang says that offline brick-and-mortar stores did not want to carry Instant Pot and so going to sell online was a move out of desperation. He placed the product online since the term “electrical pressure cooker" was fairly new and SEO helped to drive traffic to his product.
How can you grow influencer marketing without paying a dime?
Although Wang did not have any budget for influencer marketing, bloggers approached Instant Pot because they've heard of the positive reviews. To return the favour, Wang enabled some bloggers with what he could - providing Instant Pot for free, for whatever they needed. Chef AJ was an early user who needed Instant Pot to create delicious healthy meals for her program, and while doing so, she'd advertised Instant Pot for free.
What is Wang’s insight on cooking?
One insight that Wang acknowledges is that cooking is not a solitary practice, but a social practice.
How did Instant Pot community get started?
The company needed a place to talk about Instant Pot. Email and Facebook Pages weren't a good place to do that, but Facebook groups ended up as the best choice to host a community and to create a buzz about the product.