Competing With Big Companies

“Competing With Big Companies” was originally posted by Hint Founder & CEO, Kara Goldin, on LinkedIn here:

This post is part of a series in which Influencers go behind the scenes to explain in detail one aspect of their work. Read all the stories here and write your own(please include the hashtag #BehindTheScenes in the body of your post).

When you’re at a small business or a start-up trying to go up against well-established competitors, you’re guaranteed to come across some naysayers. As the CEO of Hint water, I was told repeatedly that my idea for an unsweetened, naturally flavored water wouldn’t be able to stand up to soda monoliths like Coke and Pepsi.

During the development of Hint, I went to an acquaintance at a big beverage brand with a technical challenge. Instead of advice on how to solve the problem, he told me, “Listen, sweetie, this might work in San Francisco but it’s never going to take off anywhere else.” In that moment, I realized that he — and the rest of the beverage industry — was stuck in an old way of thinking. And I also realized that I would win, because he didn’t recognize that the consumer was thirsty for water that was delicious without being sweet.

Today, Hint is available in more than 20,000 stores and counting nationwide — and sold online. Here’s how we took on the big guys head-on:

We fill a need. I feel fortunate that people are actively looking for a beverage that is healthy and is made of a few simple, healthful ingredients. In fact, I developed Hint because it was what I was searching for when I was trying to wean myself off diet sodas. Filling a need goes both ways, too. Everyone who works here feels that we’ve created something that makes a difference — a real difference — in people’s lives. Our employees feel like they are part of a vision to make America healthier — compared to those in larger companies that are continuing to push the same old products. That passion is our point of difference.

We get personal. Through the magic of social media, we get to have tons of one-on-one conversations with our customers every day. I personally look at the comments on our Facebook page or peek in our company email inbox and the stories our customers tell us are truly remarkable. Whether it’s losing weight as a family to suggestions on how we can make the product even bigger, it inspires me every day to keep going. Our customers know there’s a real person — and not automated software — reading their comments. It’s hard to foster that sort of intimate relationship with consumers when you’re a giant corporation.

We’re always around. Sure, the big guys are in every grocery store. But our distribution strategy is to be where our customers are — where they work, shop, and spend their nights and weekends. That means you’ll see us at road races and out in the field giving out samples to people who would naturally gravitate to Hint.

We’re not afraid to be direct. In the era where you can basically get everything delivered to your home, we decided to let consumers buy directly from us rather than having to go into a store. We launched earlier this year with www.drinkhint.com, and consumers can get every single one of our flavors and have them sent to their home or office for a very competitive price. A majority of our shoppers subscribe so that Hint is on their doorstep every two weeks or every month and they don’t have to worry about running out.

We make it easy to share. Through our engaging social media accounts, we not only give customers information that may improve their health, but we also empower anyone who finds us and loves us to share Hint with their friends. Consumers like to buy things that have stories behind them — and they can sniff out what’s authentic and what’s manufactured. And if they fall in love with your story and product, you better believe they’ll tell all their friends, too. We constantly see people sharing pictures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. On Instagram we frequently thank and reward people who are talking about Hint with shout outs and Hint lip balms and shirts.