Essential Foils COVID Multi-Level Marketing Team #3


No one has suffered more under COVID than multi-level marketers. The $167B MLM industry is down 50% over the last 4 months since most MLM products rely on in-person events and word-of-mouth for sales. Our team worked with an SME to come up with a new angle - “Essential Foils.”

Essential Foils is an aluminum-foil based COVID “cure.” (Legally we have to put this in quotes.) Our proprietary device vaporizes aluminum foil capsules and releases microdoses of aluminum into the air. The aluminum lines your lungs and forms a barrier against COVID.

Given the challenges of in-person events during a pandemic, we came up with a go-to-market strategy that relies more on online sales and viral social marketing. See below for more detail.

Team Members

(<280 char tweet-length description of what each person contributed)

Sam Stakeholder (Project Manager, Sophomore Informatics @ IUPUI) Sam was responsible for scheduling all internal and external meetings. He created a Trello board and ran a weekly planning meeting where everyone agreed on a set of tasks for the week. Sam also put this document together with help from the rest of the team.

Jennifer Salesmonger (Business Development, Senior Business @ IU Bloomington) Jennifer put together our online go-to-market strategy with some help from our GoSquad coach. She also ran our customer discovery process, conducting 10 interviews with potential customers in the last 2 weeks.

(omitting bios for the team members below, but you get the point!) Lance Pixelsworth (Designer, Junior Digital Media @ Ball State) Taylor Codington (Software Engineer, Junior Computer Science @ DePauw) Anna Atomslinger (Hardware Engineer, Freshman Mechanical Engineering @ Purdue)

How did you decide on this customer segment, problem, and solution?

We worked with our SME to identify 5 people we could talk to about this problem. In those interviews, we learned 3 things:

MLM products rely heavily on in-person events 4 of the 5 people had seen a decrease in their sales in Q2 2020 2 of the 5 people had tried selling a new MLM product to increase sales

Based on that, we decided to design a new MLM product and sales strategy that would be easy to communicate via social media and video calls during this pandemic. We also decided that our early adopters would be people who had tried selling a new MLM product, so we brainstormed keywords we could use to reach this audience.

We tested 3 different product ideas by posting on social media and comparing likes+shares. Of the 3 experiments, Essential Foils received twice as many likes+shares across Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok as the next closest idea.

How did your team build and iterate on the solution?

(prototyping process, third-party tools used, etc) Two of our team members had access to an InnoGear essential oil diffuser. After reading some research papers, we knew that there was emerging research about the protective properties of aluminum foil. (Again, our lawyers said we have to make this absolutely clear that we are joking and there’s no research to support the preventive benefits of foil vapors.) One of our engineers bought grocery store aluminum foil and used a MakerBot 3D printer to design a custom capsule using a template we found on Thingiverse. We used a cross-cut shredder to create tiny squares of aluminum foil we could drop into our capsules.

We found 3 multi-level marketers in our local area who were willing to test our prototype. We shipped each of them 1 box of 20 custom-designed capsules. Based on their initial testing, we discovered 2 issues:

  1. The PLA capsules we printed were hard to fit into the diffuser and sometimes warped or melted when subjected to heat
  2. The capsules had an unpleasant smell

Based on these feedback, we switched from PLA to ABS, which is a more durable material at higher temperatures. We also tried mixing the aluminum with several fragrant liquids and landed on rose water as a pleasant additive.

Key Metrics

(# of interviews, NPS, # of letters of intent signed, $ collected, etc)

Technical Details and Diagrams

(this could include architecture diagrams, schematics, data analysis, link to GitHub repo, etc)

If you had another 5 weeks to work on this, what would you do next?

(include both business and product ideas - additional customer personas, future roadmap, etc)

  1. We only interviewed 5 people from our target market, so we’d definitely want to interview more folks before going all-in on this idea. We think we would need to talk to at least 15 more people before we would feel confident in our current solution.
  2. We only ran 1 marketing campaign to decide which of the 3 ideas we wanted to focus on. We think Facebook would be a good venue for this kind of advertising, so we’d probably try out 2-3 Facebook marketing campaigns.
  3. The web application is pretty bare-bones as-is - just basic account creation and login, 1 product, and a checkout page. In our demo, you’ll see that we have ideas for expanding the app, such as: a. Multiple product variants (bulk ordering, different sized capsules, support for other diffusers, etc) b. Ideas to make reordering easier, such as mobile web support and stored credit card information c. Email notifications when your supply is likely to be running low (e.g. if you ordered a 30-day supply and it’s been 25 days, send an email)

Checklist of Completed Items

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