John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto, modern, easy payroll benefits for small businesses across the country. And because you’re a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Find out at gusto.com/tape.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape marketing podcast. This is John Jansen. My guest today is Greg Meade. He the CEO and co-creator of business and let’s just face it, a sport called Crossnet. So Greg, thanks for joining me.
Greg Meade: Yeah, no problem. John, thanks for having me.
John Jantsch: So I guess we ought to start with the two minute summary of what is cross net? Explain the game.
Greg Meade: Yeah, so cross net is a recreation of a childhood game. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with four square box ball. It’s a old middle school, elementary school game. You’d play in the ground, you bounce it, you’d have four quadrants and you’d always want to be the king and usually you want to stay in that four square. By the time recess ended or whatever lunch was coming. And so that’s the whole objective of that game. And then we ended up bringing it back to life. And it’s in the air now. So it’s four square in the air that’s cross net. So you play two 11 and you can only score in the king square, which is also the foursquare.
John Jantsch: So, so there’s an element of volleyball to it, I guess.
Greg Meade: Yeah, absolutely. You don’t have to be good at volleyball though. So I mean, obviously if you’re better at volleyball, the better you’ll do. Me and our founders, we actually aren’t volleyball players at all. We play basketball, soccer, everything else besides volleyball. So we have a little taps creation of it. And we’re athletic. So it, it works out well.
John Jantsch: So I’m envisioning this, I know when I was growing up, we used to do this. I’d get together with my friends and we’d make up these games and our own rules and it may be involved to baseball at a bat, but you know, other than that, we had our own rules. I’m envisioning you guys sitting around drinking one day. Okay, this is just my vision. Drinking beers one day and you said, “Let’s do this”. I mean is that the origin story of cross net?
Greg Meade: Similar, yeah. So my friend Mike, our co founder and partner, he graduated from Northeastern and he called me up one day. He’s like, “Greg, I want to do something. I want to invent something with you.” He knew I was in the marketing and entrepreneurship so he’s like, “I don’t want to be an engineer nine to five let’s go do something.” So I was like, “All right, come over right now.” So he came over, it was probably like two in the afternoon. We sat there all day on the couch watching ESPN highlights over and over, just thinking of ideas, jotting them down on notes pad on our phones. We came up with a list of 50 products. It was a wall charger, another speaker, and then cross net. And we were like, okay, we have to do this. We wanted to bring the element of sports to the next level.
Greg Meade: So we decided to go with go cross net. And the next day we went out to Walmart target and we bought two badminton sets. We ripped one apart and put it against a tree in my mom’s shed and the other one was normal and we ended up calling some friends over, we played it and it was a fun time. Then we actually produced it and made it official.
John Jantsch: So is this one of those things where you just making up the rules as you were going and eventually after enough trial and error landed on what seemed to work?
Greg Meade: Yeah, so we wanted to incorporate the normal foursquare rules. You know, you mess it up, you go to the back of the line. But normal foursquare, you don’t play to a points system. It’s more of like, whoever is in there the longest wins in a time period. We play basketball, play a lot of pickup basketball. You played 11 you win by two. So we implemented the score to 11 and you must win by two and if you mess up, you go to the back of the line still like Foursquare and you keep your points.
John Jantsch: All right, so you’ve got the idea, you’ve played enough, you’ve played with some friends to maybe people tell you, “Yeah, this is fun.” I mean, how do you take it to the next step to make it a real thing?
Greg Meade: Yeah. So we knew it was going to be a hit. So what we did was we outsourced it, we manufactured it, and we made it a playable game and a presentable game so we can bring to the beach, to a grassy area, and we got people’s reactions and they loved it. If you set it up right now, you go to the beach, you’ll set it up and there’ll be a line of 20 kids sometimes. And people taking photos, videos, asking what it is. It’s surreal.
John Jantsch: In some ways you have to create the demand, right? If you’re going to go to Walmart or Scheels or somebody like that and say, “We’ve got this great idea.” I mean they’re going to want to see people want to play it, right? I mean, so did you have to go out and I don’t know, for lack of a better term, expo and to create some demand where people are like, “Yeah, where can we get this?”
Greg Meade: Essentially. Yeah, when we go out in public, we play and then like I said, people would come up to us and end up playing. But we did a lot of marketing online, social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Really got social presence out there. We’re pretty good at that stuff. And then my brother’s also a lead sales man. So he picked up the phone and he got some deals done for us. We’re in Scheels right now.
John Jantsch: Yeah, I looked at your locator map and found a few of those. So what has been the biggest hurdle to this entire, I mean, obviously you’re not done, but so far what’s been the biggest hurdle to this entire idea or adventure?
Greg Meade: It would definitely be keeping up with demand. Last summer we got hit big time with a wave of orders. We weren’t anticipated for. I think we skyrocketed by eight times our sales. Our inventory depleted overnight and we had to make our customers wait a month for the product, which is, it’s unfortunate. We don’t want to keep running into that issue and that’s something we’re still actively trying to fix on this team. But we keep growing at a faster pace than we actually anticipate. So next time around we’re going to anticipate times 20 so we’re ready for everything.
John Jantsch: Is there a season to this? I’m guessing anytime you can do stuff outdoors that’s probably better than, say winter?
Greg Meade: Yeah, for sure. Summer is our Christmas. It’s hot everywhere, but when it comes to Christmas time, winter time, it’s still crazy off the charts. People are buying it for the summer or they’re just buying it because they live in hot locations. California, Texas, Florida.
John Jantsch: Yeah, where they can play year round.
Greg Meade: Some people play in the snow too, which is cool.
John Jantsch: Yeah. We have a little game that my kids and I play and it’s actually more fun. We’ll take it on a hike or a camping trip or something. It’s actually more fun in the snow and involves a little net and a ball as well. So what’s your marketing look like and how has it evolved? Or it simply just been word of mouth?
Greg Meade: It’s been definitely word of mouth after our initial marketing I would say. So we definitely scaled Facebook ads drastically over the last two quarters. We’ve found out our target market, which was essentially mom and dads. More than the typical volleyball player or the typical 20 year old kid that would be competitive at this. Obviously those people still buy, but our arc market is more towards the moms and we’re going to scale that and grow it and get them more involved essentially as that’s our main market right now.
John Jantsch: So they’re buying it more as a family activity.
Greg Meade: Yeah, that’s what it seems like for now.
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John Jantsch: So have you made anything that you look back now and go, “Oh that was a mistake. I wish we hadn’t done that.”
Greg Meade: I would say the development of the actual game in the beginning. We rushed it. Well, we didn’t rush it. We’ve had a bunch of different prototypes. We never really had that product that was the final product until recently. So I wish we went back and more in like just really went through each material, each process of playing the game. And from when it ships out of our warehouse to delivery to the people setting it up and actually enjoying it. So I would say that was a hurdle.
John Jantsch: Have you sensed there’s a competition to what you do?Are you having to teach people about the game before they have an interest in playing it? Or are other established games keeping you out of places? Have you sensed where your competitive pressure is?
Greg Meade: Yeah, I would say when people start seeing it, they always ask questions. How do you play? What is this? A lot of them understand that it is Foursquare and they just need to know the rules on how you actually keep points, win, and stuff like that. So that is a hurdle. We have actually implemented a nice rule book. So when people do get the game, they understand how to play, how to set it up. So you just read that, quick five minutes and you actually understand it. It’s really simple once you play once or twice and you really get the hang of it and it gets intense.
John Jantsch: So was there a moment when you were doing this and everybody’s like, “Is this is going to work? We’re putting a lot of effort in it.” Was there a time or something that happened where you said, “You know what? I think this is going to work.”
Greg Meade: Yeah. We have always had a good faith in it and we knew it was going to take off. It’s just a matter of time. I don’t think there was ever a moment where we had a relapse or whatever thinking that it wasn’t going to work. I think it was more of we hit Scheels, right? And we were like, “Okay, let’s really take this to the next levels. So yeah, we got into some good shot stores really quick and we knew that it was possible.
John Jantsch: Would you say the chain store purchase was a big break?Because sometimes a lot of people think, okay, I’ve got this product, it’s really profitable, we sell online, one at a time we make a lot of money and then a big retailer comes along and all of a sudden it’s like, “Yeah we want to buy a thousand of them” or whatever the number is, “but we also want it for 75% off of what you’re selling.” I mean, so sometimes there can be some like, do we really want to go that route? Did you ever have a moment where the type of distribution for a Scheels, even though it felt really great, felt scary too?
Greg Meade: Yeah. When it comes to Scheels, we just wanted to jump on that right away and get a feel for the retail side and we got a good deal with them. Moving forward though, like some future companies like Dick’s and all that, they work a little harder. So we do want to make sure we’re on the positive side of it things. And every place I’ve gone and we’ve been satisfied and have a good relationship with them. So I would say just make sure you’re risking it and make you’re being smart about it too at the same time.
John Jantsch: There are horror stories, and I hate to pick on Walmart, but there’s one that I know for sure where, went to a small company and so we’re going to buy 50,000 units and we need this price. And they basically were almost break even. And then they sent half of them back. So all of a sudden it’s like, yeah, this great deal that we got with Walmart sunk us. That that can be a scary time, I think.
Greg Meade: Yeah, for sure. And then we’re not going to face that difficulty, I don’t think. I think we’re smart enough and we’re above our market and we know what to do and what not to do. And we know our.com sales are very important to us. And we know people will go there regardless to buy.
John Jantsch: So are you starting to feel the pressure to expand? In other words like, okay, we have one hit, now let’s make another one.
Greg Meade: Yeah. As in terms of products or?
John Jantsch: Yeah. Well the products or really any fashion. But I guess I was thinking the typical way a lot of people expand is they, they get a hit, they get a little reputation, they’ve got some distribution. All of a sudden now it’s easier to go back to the well.
Greg Meade: Yeah, for sure. So we want to definitely expand to different countries now in 2020. Get more involved in Australia, South America, and countries that love volleyball. We’ve had a lot of love from different countries, over 30 countries. So we want to expand on that aspect, set up some tournaments. In regard to new products, we actually have an indoor model coming out in about 27 days and that is for the gymnasiums, physical educations, concrete so you can tailgate with it. It’s really good for gyms, schools in classrooms. So they can get it into the curriculum, which we’re all for.
John Jantsch: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a whole different sales channel isn’t it?
Greg Meade: Yep. And that means we need more manpower.
John Jantsch: So you started hinting at some tournaments and things. Do you ever see in your wildest dreams that cross net becomes, I’m trying to think of the right word, but a sport that has leagues and that has summertime sign ups for things and maybe even becomes a sport that has maybe levels of competition?
Greg Meade: Yeah, absolutely. We’d love to get it on ESPN, obviously, sports center and get it into a professionalist sport, I guess we can call it. Definitely. We do definitely see that in the long run. We have to grow our brand first and make sure it’s, what we want it to be and go down that route. If we want to make it a competitive side or makw it more fun side. But I think we have leverage to do both. Our first tournament actually was a few months ago in San Diego. We thought it would be 15-20 people. We ended up having 50-60 people come out and it was a hell of a time.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I hate to dwell on anything negative, is there ever a sense that this would be something easy that somebody else could knock off?
Greg Meade: No, we’re patent protected and we have a good legal team so I’m pretty confident in anything they try to do we’ll be able to back our end.
Greg Meade: Good. The reason I asked that is because I think a lot of times people pass over the need to do that in a situation like this because it costs money. It’s expensive to have a good legal team. And so I applaud you for taking that a longterm investment. So Greg, tell people where they can find out more about just the game, how it’s played, and obviously acquire the equipment that they might need.
Greg Meade: Yeah, you head over to crossnetgame.com and you can also buy it on Target, Walmart, Amazon, eBay, all that. If you go to our website though we’ll give you a pretty good description of how to play. You’ll see some videos. You can go to our YouTube channel, Instagram, Twitter. We’re always posting organic raw photos and videos to see how people play and stuff.
John Jantsch: Great. A small business success story. I appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, Greg, and hopefully we’ll run into you soon out there on the road.
Greg Meade: Sounds good. Thanks John, for having me.