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What Are We Investing In?

What Are We Investing In?
Years ago, I felt pretty comfortable sharing more of the business thoughts that went on behind the scenes at Almond Surfboards, probably because we were young in our journey and earnest in our pursuit of building a meaningful brand.
Somewhere along the way, I fell into the trap of feeling as though everything needed to be polished before we unveiled it to the world.  Developing things behind the scenes while planning a grand launch felt like the right strategy for a “real” business.
But I kind of miss the days of including you all in our process. After all, we exist to serve and equip you; and many of you have been part of this journey for the better part of the last 15 years. 
The primary output of our work is: equipment to help you get maximum enjoyment every time you paddle out into the surf lineup.
The boards we build see beaches, waves, and surf lineups that we will never see with our own eyes. (A fact that delights us around here.)
Now, onto the reason I’m writing this morning…
Regardless of industry, I imagine many of you are like us… trying to figure out what the “new normal” is.  
We, like most in our field, experienced about 7 years worth of demand in a 24 month period in 2020 & 2021. And it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since.
A lot of predictability seems to have been swept off the game board.  Which is fine, so long as we can adjust our lenses to focus on a longer time horizon instead of getting stuck in the day to day scoreboard watching that can so easily plague small businesses.
Earlier this Spring, I reached out to an advertising agency about possibly getting some ads rolling again. They’re a reputable outfit with proven results. The founder even said he would personally guarantee that he could run our ads profitably. 
And… We didn’t do it. 
Why would we turn down an offer to fire up the old ad machine when the founder is guaranteeing profitability (in a field where guarantees are rare)?
Because his strategy was for us to start testing our ads at $10,000/month in ad spend, figure out which ads performed the best, then scale our campaign to $40,000/month as quickly as possible—once the performance was proven & optimized.
Assume our return-on-ad-spend was 3 to 1 (A healthy return these days) that $40,000 could equate to $120,000 in new revenue, every month.
But what are we actually getting for that $40,000/mo in ad spend?
Rented eyeballs.
What is the value of those rented eyeballs after the month is over? Or a year later?
And more importantly… What is the value of it to YOU, our existing customer?
Spending $10k or $40k / month for Meta to show our products to more folks does nothing to improve the surfing experience of our most loyal customers.
Best case scenario, we make razor thin margins, Zuckerberg takes most of our profit, and we keep replaying that cycle over and over.
But that’s not why we got into this business.
Our aim, as we have said, is to equip our customers with the best gear for the many surf adventures that they will go on.  Imagine if we focused our efforts on product development instead of advertising. 
What is the value of improving the boards we build and the gear we make? Today, 12 months from now, 5 years from now...?
5 years from now, I'm quite confident that we will be much happier with the investments we made in improving our products than we will with the long-forgotten rented eyeballs of Instagram.
I believe most brands would benefit from more emphasis on product development and less dependence on marketing. Truly exceptional products have this funny way of being talked about by customers.
If the BBQ restaurant down the street from your house has a line around the block, it isn’t because they are spending a lot on advertising. It’s because the food they serve is outrageous and in limited supply.
A few examples... What if we could make our range of R-Series Surfboardslighter, faster, stronger, and more durable? That would make for an objectively more enjoyable customer experience every time you paddled out on one.
What if we started incorporating recycled content into the EVA deck pads? That would reduce manufacturing waste and reduce the need for more virgin material.
What if the new lighter, stronger R-Series construction allowed us to develop new models, broadening the offering to cover more surf approaches?
What if our monthly surf meet-ups became a testing ground for new custom board models—in addition to being a great excuse to paddle out together and share a few waves before the shop opens?
What if we could start arranging surf meet-ups in more places than just our own backyard?
All of these things (and more) are not only on our radar but specific goals of ours in the coming months and years.
We don’t view business as a flash in the pan.
We view it as a many years long pursuit of creating and adding value in as many places (and in as many ways) as possible. We don’t take surfing too seriously, but I do think we take it just seriously enough.
We care tremendously about the value we add to your surfing, and doubling down on that ultimately wins-out over pumping budget toward the Meta machine.
What role do you play in that process?
Converse with us. Let us know what you want to see more of.  Let us know when you catch the wave of your year. Let us know when we can do better (but go easy on us). And when you find a board that really makes your surfing experience come alive… tell your friends! (all of them).
One of the most generous things you can do for the brands, restaurants, and businesses that you love is to tell your friends. (This is one of the reasons why we value your reviews so highly.)
And stay tuned.  
The creativity is flowing over here, and like I teased earlier in this note… we’re working on some things that I know you are really going to like.
Thanks for allowing us to be part of your surfing journey,
Dave
What's Next?