Am I rambling yet?
I ask myself that when I sit down to write these Musings every week. What makes up the present concept of Method Seven Trail is, in part, unorganized, excited, and jumbled thoughts that live in my head. I take meetings all day, stringing my thoughts into (hopefully) coherent chatter, and use these using Musings to reflect on the discussions, and the ramblings, and the learnings.
Luckily, I have noticed that I am not the only one who does this, but it can make for some pretty inefficient meetings.
Today, Eric Senseman (HOKA, Squirrels Nut Butter) joined me in my ramblings during a virtual happy hour. We discussed the PWR Lab partnership with Squirrels Nut Butter, how SNB is using it to better their product and community relationships, and Eric’s upcoming involvement with Method Seven.
I don’t know much about Eric. I know what I see on social media. I know roughly what he races every year, and we have a circle of mutual friends close enough that I feel this meeting was inevitable. But what I didn’t know is how he, SNB founder Chris Thornley, and the rest of the Squirrels Nut Butter team meticulously and authentically built their brand and their cred. Like we aim to be, it was community-based.
We can get overwhelmed in our mission as an optics company hoping to make an impression among established sunglass giants. Our margins are not those of our competitors. Our optics are expensive to produce. Our higher price point might deter someone who doesn’t know the value of good eyewear because they haven’t tried anything that has worked. If that is your experience, you likely won’t buy our optics from an online impression, not because you don’t trust us but because you don’t trust sunglasses. So why spend the money?
When Chris Thornley first started slinging trail running lube, he took it to races and just started giving it away. The day before my breakout win at the 2017 Western States 100, he just handed me a bunch of product. I then used it during Western out of convenience (one less last-minute trip to the store), and it worked, so I went home and bought some before my next event. It has been my anti-chafe lube of choice since, and all it took was for me to try it.
Chris followed this model for years, and now SNB is the choice anti-chafe in the trail running industry. Eric followed up by creating and engaging with the trail running community online, but the brand was built by creating a good product and letting people try it. Then “the people” let their friends try it. They are successful because they make the best anti-chafe, not necessarily because they are good at marketing (which, lucky them, they are also good at).
Unfortunately, we can’t give out eyewear. I am pretty confident that if we could, our CEO would replicate the SNB model because our lenses are so good. They facilitate such a different experience than those of your average sunglasses that we are pretty confident that anyone who puts these on will be a convert. But alas, we cannot sling our optics the same way Thornley slung his lube (10 maturity points lost for Cat).
And so the Beta Team was born! We cannot give out our eyewear to everyone we meet, but we can loan a few of our (very, very limited) prototypes away for testing to engaging trail runners who are passionate about gear.
In reviewing these Beta Team Applications, I am blown away by the depth of intelligent and creative trail runnings we reached. We almost have as many applicants as we do Instagram followers. Bonkers? Absolutely. But it also showcases the need for a product like ours. For the most part, Sunglasses are HARD to run in. WE ARE FIXING THAT!
I wish I could let every one of our applicants try our prototype TRAIL26 lenses. One day, I hope we can have a large community of testers. And the response to this program has been so enthusiastic it spurred talk of selecting another round in the late spring. I know I would like to! Stay tuned! But know that who we pick as our Beta Team are, in part, chosen because they are active community members, and we want them to share their experience with the TRAIL26 lens as much as possible. On social media, of course, but also as they attend local run clubs, training runs, social hikes. If you see a Beta Team member in your community, and it is COVID safe to do so, ask them if you can try on their prototypes. And team members, share what you have learned! Including if you think they are trash (which you won’t because they are fantastic).
Beta Team to be announced this week. Holy smokes!! Thank you for applying. I have read every application more than once. They have made me laugh out loud and think really hard. To the selected team members, I can’t wait to meet you. This is going to be special. But remember, this project isn’t to serve you with some free swag (well, you’ll get that too) but instead to help develop something that lacks in trail running. Unencumbered vision. Unencumbered eye protection. And to spread the word that something better exists! You can trust our optics.
We’ll see you on the other side. Happy Monday!