Instant Pot CEO Robert Wang on how his small pressure cooker company cultivated a rabid community of "Potheads."
Get Together

Full episode transcript -


Welcome to the get together. It's a show about the nuts and bolts of community building, and I am your host, Bailey Richardson. I'm a person at people on company. I'm another host, Kevin Win, also partner at People in Company. I do a lot of our one on one coaching with community leaders, and each episode Kevin and I interview people who have built 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? I'm gonna introduce today's interview with a little quote. The more value you create, the more reward you'll have. That spy, Robert Wing,

who is the founder of Instant Pot. More than 5.5 million people follow instant pot related accounts on Facebook. 1.5 million follow in Sin Pots official Facebook Group alone, where they gush over the product and swap recipes as well as user tips. Not just that. The phantom extends offline. People make decals, and they even knit sweaters for their instant pots, sweaters, letters, which are beautiful. It's like sweaters going on inside. Plus, it's not like, well, there's probably ends up on a sweater,

but we're talking about like a sweater for both. Maybe there's a sweater on in Sopot Oven. Instant pot on the sweater. Meta exception sweater pot. So in 2018 in Sin Pots on Black Friday was the best selling non Amazon product on Amazon, and Wal Mart also reported that instant Pot was their best selling item in 33 states. More than that, we all know Alexandria Cossio. Cortez has been going live with her instant pot tweet, not recipes. If you haven't heard of Instant Pot or the fandom you've been missing out on something special in this short episode with Robert, we're going to talk to him about what helped the company grow and the role that this rabid community of customers has played in that growth before jumping in Kevin, what jumped out at you about our talk with Robert? I believe that community building comes down to one big thing, and that's shared ownership, shared ownership every single step of the way.

You're trying to figure out how to do something. You figure out how to do it with your people rather than for them and Robert in so many ways, with instant pot has infused that kind of collaborative, community minded approach into every aspect of how of in Sopot company has grown. You know, like he's trying to build a great product. He brings people into the process, and even now they're posting like surveys on the Facebook groups about features and it really valuing that feedback. You're trying to provide customer support. Why don't you give ways for in Sopot fans that connect with each other and support each other? And to me, this that theme of shared ownership and how that is threaded through so many the actions of Instant Pot and the company? What Robert talks about is rad, and I really appreciate it. Yeah, absolutely.

I think Kevin's and mechanical engineer, my dad's a mechanical engineer is This product is like a one in a 1,000,001 in a 1,000,000 kind of thing, and I think it's so refreshing. You'll hear this in the conversation. He's a problem solver like he's still excited about learning about new use cases and and getting inspiration from people using the product about what they're using it for and what they might build the next version of instant pot to solve or two to serve. And I think that mindset of helping people with their problems and seeing himself in that role is just, like, really refreshing. And I can see how people continue to just be delighted by what instant pot does for them. They totally overdeliver because of that mindset. So great. All right, well, with that, we're gonna jump in. Um, we'll start our story with Robert driving around Ontario, Robert


traveling between the cities in Canada, specifically, are women sure, and drunk between the city's monk show is about two hours defensively. Traffic off someplace two and half hours away. And, uh, Toronto is 4 to 5 hours away. So I did quite a few of that. We did manage to get a few off flying brick motor stores small ways that they haven't called them, especially stores to carry our product. One typical example was that I got someone in mature to agree to taking stuff apart, and he asked for five unit. So I drove over there too, and 1/2 hours and then back home two and 1/2 hours, and it took them over months to clear that five unit, though,

uh, those are the hard life lessons I learned. I didn't think the product wasn't popular in a market. Now I think the problem was really those stores had limited coverage, which is normally a store surf a 30 kilometer radius. It's an innovative product. People won't be going into offline brick and mortar stores to look for it. You have heard of it. So the best way to let people know it's really online. And, uh, at the time there were quite a few online channels Amazon being one eBay, Wayfair, new egg, you in the high tech space. So we tried them all.

But the audience are actually very different. So eBay audience really looking for a bargain? And the comments about purchase of really comments about the cellar? No, the product. And, uh uh, new egg we fed. They're not having a scale s And so we eventually just focus on Amazon on Lee. So that's how instant part got started. And we you know, actually, you know, thinking back, I think the strategy really makes sense. Number one,

we get national coverage sometimes international, because people from the U. S. Army base, all of the world they order from Handsome, and they have a part actor to use it in foreign countries. So coverage is what we got. Number two, we got customer feedback on abs. Um, as you can see there, tons of reviews on East of Art and, of course, our other products. That's what those are most valuable feedback. Plus,

because all this is model is very much understanding the problem that people have and then fix the problem for them. We may not be able to do it right in the first round, so we will do the second round and then 1/3 of the force. So we've been following a every 12 to 18 months. We excuse a new version of things that part and this has been the strategy off the company we really, really want. Oh, solved a problem for people and solvent. Right? Well, listen to them. So that's what we need. Lots of feedback


from them. Yeah, well, I want to ask you more about the feedback and dig in a little bit. So that of some of the features I've learned more about that you've developed for instant pot, and I understand how amazing it is. to think about applying your electrical engineering PhD in an A I mind to making food so we can get into that in a second. But I do want to ask you, uh, there's still this period of your driving around knocking on doors and then you put the instant pot online and a few places it doesn't take off, but on Amazon, it really takes off. I mean, you have something in the 40 thousands number of reviews, and you're the best selling non Amazon product on the website now. But how did you get the first customers on Amazon? Or who are those people who were the people? That kind of I took a risk on you in the beginning. Or how did you find those folks?


I have to tell you that we didn't do anything apart from listing the product over there. So don't try to imagine that I'm sir practice for it Knows only


knows everything. I


did it. So we got to online because off desperation, I'm just beginning bluntly honest because the offline brick and mortar just doesn't work. The volume will not support business at all. One store, 5 to 10 units a month. It's no way. So we will pretty desperate to get online. I don't consider myself a expert on online selling, either. We were really learning along the way. So when we listed on Amazon, there are very few electrical pressure cooker. It's a renovated product. People won't be going into offline brick and mortar stores to look for it. Have you heard of it? So the best way to let people know is really online,

so that when we started the company when we decided things Llompart brand registered domain. We have actually putting a ton of contact over there talking about the design philosophy, the benefits, the advantages and all the thinking behind it, because electrical pressure cooker the times very, very new. So we build a you know, normally people College, a authority site for electrical pressure cooker, and I remember back in 2010 to 7 11 in some pa dot com was number one Google Search. When you search for the actual pressure cooker on when you search for multi quicker, we are number one or number two, and sometimes we have a second listing because we talk about the history off pressure cooking. You know, the whole the whole thing. You You can see many of those contents steal available on our website in some way.

This is the best approach off a CEO. So at a time when we started adding listing on Amazon eBay, we simply put the links on our website. I think we get a few 100 visitors today thanks to the issue for website. If they want to understand the product, we have a ton of content with it and if they want to make a purchase, we refer them to Amazon toe way fair to you act. So I think that would be the success factor for us because people researching electrical pressure cooker rather content, which is really helpful on they decide to try it. And there's the link taking that


what? At what point you also sent out. I've read a few 100 free devices to food bloggers that you identified perhaps personally, who had large followings or celebrity chefs to get the product in the hands of people who have their sort of own audiences. At what point did you do that? And can you tell me about how you chose those people or the way in which you reached out to them. Because I can imagine getting an instant pot mail to your doorstep could be a little intimidating and making sure that, you know those folks actually felt comfortable or incentivized to try out your new device. Uh, how did you do that? And when did that come into the picture?


We were only thinking about what? Miles? One of Mao's keeping the customer happy, making sure you be the best product and make sure customers a taken care off. Uh, the inference of marketing really wasn't on the agenda in the 1st 2 or three years, and the first bloggers, they actually approached us, and they discovered instant part on Amazon. And those people are really health coach cooking instructors. They have their own business, for example. One of them is Chef A. J. I think she wrote a book called On Process. If you search for Chef A. J,

you will be able to find find her, and she teach a plant based diet treatment in classes. You know, according to herself, like 203 100 people in a big class. And one problem that she had was that her student couldn't carry through her teaching afterwards because they don't have time to really caring that out. If you follow a plant based diet Richmond, you need protein. What you going protein? You can't get it from letters, salary, carrots. You get it from beings and being said actually rather difficult cook. You normally have to salt them. I think for me you 3 to 8 hours and then cook them for another four hour six just to make sure the beings are completely, I cook them break down easy for digestion.

So she discovered in some part, and she realized we can cook beings much faster than the conventional approach. You don't need to do the soaking anymore. You simply part of the writings in the cooker. And within 45 minutes it's done so that way, her student and carry out her teaching off a plant based diet fridge mint. So that's why she approached us, saying that you have a great product. I love to use that as the default to thank you for teaching and ah, do you mind supporting us that way? So at the time way never paid people for doing this What we really did was to help those bloggers to do their work better toe, help them to do what they wanted it. So when Chef A. J travels to different cities to teach a large class, she would write to us and saying, I'm teaching the class in Denver.

You know? Could you send a sample instant part over there so that I can use that for demo and after the class, all rougher toe off? Perfect. But so that's exactly what we did. We worked was quite a few robbers, instructors, coach, all of them in the healthy doubt.


Yeah, I love that story because we always think about how can you build something with a group of people? And it's so clear to me there so many stories of people who have written cookbooks or done courses like you're explaining or created their own Facebook in sin pop pages. But as instant pot has grown, their reach or their capacity has grown, and I think that's such an incredible relationship, tohave with customers and and not a normal one by any means my dad bought in Sopot, just a cook beans sole purpose of cooking. Robert I wanted to make sure to ask you as well with our remaining time. I believe you told Inc magazine. If it's great quote, you said, I don't think there's much secret. Get the product right, treat the customer well and then get them talking and that's it. And that really landed on us because absolutely, you can't grow a bad product.

You have to educate. Consumers have to make sure that you are there for them. But that final piece of getting them talking to one another is something that feels very obvious to us as community practitioners, but very non obvious, too. Almost everyone else, and you are an electrical engineering. PH. D. You know exactly how this machine works. You can handle all of the technical side, but you also had that insight to connect customers to each other. Can you tell me about how you knew to do that? Where did that instinct come from or what motivated you to understand the power of connecting your customers to one another?


When we started, the company was caught double insights, and we were believing that we know a lot of insides, oneness, the western market. The other is thea manufacturing process in China. So bring it that up of what I meant is that we really pay attention to those insights. Um, one king sight to me is that cooking is not a solitary practice. It's very much a social practice. You cook for your family, you cook for your friends, you throw a party. If you make a dish, which is really good, you will brag about the tool. Making a meal is three times that.

They even more so, Yeah, uh, practice. So we have a very good chance to get a world mouse going. Uh, in fact, I wasn't looking at the online a time. I remember. There was a book by Jonah Berger contagious, and he cited research numbers saying, I'm no intelligence over the number, but about 7% off the water mouse happens online. 93% of that, of course, it's happening offline.

It's in the party beside of water fountain. I think it was, um, to Southern 15. We have introduced off forced generations off instant part, and we have got maybe close to 100,000 reviews. You don't see them all because every time we introduce a new version. You loose the other version because the product is replaced by the new one and absolute won't list off reviews anymore. So we're getting lots of feedback from consumers. But our support team was growing like uncontrollable in orderto handle the number off from costs and tickets as we college. So we wanted to use the social media to facilitate some of those conversations, and I'm sure that you're familiar with the crowd South thing concept. But so we're basically asking, or consumers toe help each other s so that we can lighten the burden on our customer support. I was thinking, Hey,

we got to create some social media thing and I have to say I was an expert on Facebook either. So I thought I got to find help. So I actually found a consultant who was a fan of instant part. So I approached her, saying that we want to do some social media work. Could you come and help us? And, you know, she was really happy to help us. And she was, you know, instant Paul was one of her hashing this while, uh, so that's how the official instant part community was credit


And how did you decide on a page? One thing I heard was you decided you're thinking about an email marketing strategy and also, you know, a Facebook group is very different from a Facebook. Paige Paige is usually kind of an advertising mechanism, and a group is connecting people. So how did you boil that decision down?


Right, So we have the Facebook page a long time ago. I think it's probably to some 10 or maybe earlier. It's just do something in a social media, but without a very clear strategy. So in 27 15 we were thinking that we need more communication between the customers now. Before 2018 we didn't have a newsletter at war. That was because that I thought that was too much in the face. And the objective was really to get customers and the new customers and none customers to talk about it, for that needs email marketing won't work. And, ah, Facebook Page won't work because they are putting comments rather than talking to cover. So a Facebook group seems to be the best stripes. So that's how the instant part official community was created.


How has the role of how you see this community change since 2015 when you launched ah group for in some many reasons support reasons. How do you think about the passionate users of instant pot now lists? Has that changed at all? Is it the same?


Uh, it's more or less the same. We have six or seven moderators, so you But we can see them on Facebook Group and the Their objective is to facilitate the communication, and they being playing the role off hasn't support as well. They would try to provide help to the users. Something additional that we did in the group was to use that to do service for new designs. We know most of them are actually think some pot users. We love to hear their view, so we often post a simple survey and within a day off, so we get 6 7000 response, which was really, really helpful. I am actually really happy with our community that we achieved the goal that our users and you uses old users. None users are talking about very experience with things apart. We gather those unusual use off Vincent part many of them. That's you know we never,

ever thought about it, including things like people using stem part of soft and popsicle sticks so that they can use that to make art projects are on. One lady has great finger, and she plans Aldo. But in the over winter, all she can do is to punk in house and the the soil she got have some eggs off some barks and backs coming out from the soil, which is not placing at war. So her solution was to put the soil inside things apart and kill all those. So they're they're just many, many such examples. We actually gather them for them in a PowerPoint and share was all the keys learning that how much or uses loving some part and their creative use off Instant part is really a driving force for us.


I love that. Well, that's a great way to end our time with you, Robert. Thank you for taking the time, and we, like, talk about you behind your back in the business you've built so positively. So thanks for talking with us.


Yeah, it's pleasure talking to you about


if you want to grab an instant pot. Kevin does not own one. Busted, but Kai and I D'oh! Oh, I don't own one personally. Yeah, but Mom has won. My brother has one. My dad has one. Okay? Yeah. Slow motion for me. You know, I don't have room yet. In the kitchen. There's gonna be room for,

you know, you could be a fan and not own one yet. Yeah, OK, I agree. I'm not trying to pressure you. Sorry, that came off that way. But if you if you want to scope them out, you can visit their website instant pot dot com. If you wanted to, straight by one, go to Amazon Lethal view. You can also check out their Facebook group, which has been described as the kind of place on the Internet. They're user.

Name is It's like facebook dot com backslash group slash instant pot community. One word instant park community who will find out more about us? Kevin Bailey Chi at people and dot company, we're writing a book. It's called Get Together. It'll be published later this year and has more stories like this one. You heard from Robert? It's a guide to cultivating a community based on what we've learned from conversations like this, with lots of community leaders, Organizer's compassionate community. Participants sign up on our website to get notified and for other goodies in between now and then. You could also say hi to us at any moment. Say hi at people and dot company. That's the email Hi at people in dot company Word and last thing. If you're here, you're still hanging on.

If you feel like reviewing us on your podcast store or just clicking, subscribe, you're tempted to do that. Do those things. Yeah, do it. It means something's totally affects us. Just cool. All right, I'll see you next time.

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