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Mark Quinn and Mark Kinsley, the two Marks behind the Dos Marcos Podcast, talk about their path towards building the galaxy’s greatest mattress podcast — and so much more.

 

Rob Stott: All right, we’re back on the Independent Thinking podcast, and worlds colliding. I’ve been waiting for this. We’ve been talking about this since Nationwide launched our Independent Thinking… but even before that, I think. Even prior to me joining Nationwide, but really excited now to have Dos Marcos, Mark Quinn, Mark Kinsley, joining the Independent Thinking podcast. Guys, hey. We’re all locked up here, but I appreciate you finding time and fitting the Independent Thinking podcast into your schedules.

Mark Quinn: We love it. Are you kidding? We were fired up. We’ve been talking about it, to your point, for a while. And Kinsley and I were thinking to ourselves, how can we screw up his podcast just as bad as ours? And the only answer to that is to be on your show.

Mark Kinsley: And I would put money down, at this point, that we can really do some damage here today, Rob.

Rob Stott: We’ll tread lightly. We’ll tread lightly. No, but the way I’ve been thinking about this is it kind of feels like that Dick Wolf universe, NBC, he’s got all those Law & Order shows, and we’ve kind of been existing in this parallel universe, and now we get to finally have our crossover. We’ve got Law & Order SVU crossing over with… his Chicago, that’s what it is. His Chicago world. He’s got med, fire, police, doctor, I don’t know what other industries he can pull into it, but we’re finally having our Dick Wolf moment here, with our podcast, so it’s pretty cool. I’ve been looking forward to it and excited to do this.

Mark Kinsley: We kind of jokingly say, but also half-serious, that we have the world’s, actually the galaxy’s greatest mattress industry podcast. And so now, we are on the galaxy’s greatest podcast for independent retailers.

Mark Quinn: By far

Mark Kinsley: It is a collision. This is like galaxies coming together. Who knows what could happen? We actually had an astronaut on our show. You’ve had Mike Massimino on your show.

Rob Stott: Yep.

Mark Kinsley: We had his friend, Chris Cassidy, who’s currently on the space station. He just did a spacewalk. And so these guys have been in the galaxy, they understand what’s going on, and we’ll take that endorsement, even if they didn’t give it to us.

Mark Quinn: We were… I don’t know what the right word for it is. My son would call it simpy. So when we talked to Mike Massimino at the Nationwide event, we had to namedrop our astronaut with him because… I call Chris our astronaut. He was on our show. And Mike Massimino says… Kinsley, you heard it, I don’t think I even heard it. I think you were telling me about it. He said, “He’s a great astronaut and he could kick my ass.” Because Chris was a Navy SEAL. So that’s pretty funny.

Rob Stott: That’s great. And Massimino, you talk about… I’ve never really been awestruck, talking to someone or having guests on, no offense to you guys. I’m not awestruck. I think it’s because I know you guys so well, at this point, but…

Mark Kinsley: Join the club, Rob.

Rob Stott: Yeah, right?

Mark Quinn: To know us is to not be awestruck. We get it.

Rob Stott: Touche.

Mark Quinn: We get told that all the time.

Rob Stott: But having an astronaut, I’m sure you guys could probably say this as well, I had the questions lined up, I went through them, but I sat there, giggling, half the time. Because I was like, I have an astronaut on my show. This guy has literally been out of this world, and he’s sitting here, talking to me about what that experience was like and trying to relate it, in some way. And to his credit, he did it beautifully, relating it to independent retail and business lessons that our members could take away from his experience, fixing the Hubble telescope. It’s just crazy.

Mark Kinsley: Yeah. One of the things… so I was really excited whenever Massimino retweeted me. Because I took a picture, I jotted down a few things he said during his speech, when we were at Nationwide PrimeTime in Houston, and he has over a million followers. He retweeted it. And I thought that was really cool. But one thing that I consistently see from astronauts and people that talk about speaking with astronauts is how awestruck they are, whenever they get out of this world, and they reflect back on our planet. And it’s not some hippy-dippy, granola-grinding, put a Subaru out on the road type of mentality towards the earth. It’s feelings of God injected in them, and they see our earth in this whole new way, and they want to protect it because it is this paradise, and they get to watch it live and breathe and change, from a vantage point that almost nobody gets to experience. And they’re all like that, every single one that I’ve come across, and all the people that I’ve talked to that have spoken with astronauts.

Mark Quinn: Kinsley, to make your point, one of the things we asked Chris was, so you’re up there for six months because he did a tour already. And so I said to him, “What do you do? For six months, you’re up there. How do you entertain yourself? You’d think you’d just go stir-crazy. And he said, “I look out the window.” He said, “We watch movies and listen to music and stuff,” but he said, “I look out the window. You don’t get to see that view every day.” He said he can just stare at Planet Earth and just have this thing, this overwhelming sense of wow. I thought that was a pretty cool way to explain what Kinsley just said.

Rob Stott: Yeah, no. Only a handful of people have ever been able to stare out the window from space, looking down on Earth. I think the way that Massimino put it, used to view himself, kind of as he grew up, his vantage point of where he was a resident of kind of expanded, obviously. Growing up in New York to then having the patch on his shoulder as an astronaut, the American flag patch, and thinking of himself in that regard, as an American citizen, and then going up in space and seeing it. He goes even further and says that he was a citizen of the world. Like you both said, thinking about it as needing to protect this planet, just because of the look he got on it, looking down on it, but we could go on talking about space and astronauts, I think, for a while. But we’ll focus it in a little bit. Before we dive into the obvious stuff, I want to really get to talking about the podcast. Tell us each a little bit about each of you guys and your backgrounds, how Dos Marcos came together and sort of how you guys came into this industry. Start with you, Kinsley.

Mark Quinn: How about we start with me, and I tell you about Kinsley? And then Kinsley-

Rob Stott: We could do that.

Mark Kinsley: Can’t do it. The interviewer teed it up in my direction, so I get to take the first swing.

Rob Stott: Not used to this.

Mark Quinn: Okay. You’re not going to be as nice to yourself as I would.

Mark Kinsley: So Mark Quinn is my hero, number one.

Mark Quinn: Stop.

Mark Kinsley: And he knows it. He actually brought me into the mattress industry as a younger guy than I am now. And he was my client because I was working at a marketing agency. And he worked at Leggett & Platt and handled marketing for them. It’s, of course, a big Fortune 500 company, four and a half-billion dollars in revenue. And so super fun for me to get involved in the mattress industry. And I thought in the beginning, I’m like, number one, me and this new client of mine, we get along great. We’re having a blast together, but we’re going to be talking about people that bend wire. Springs. And bedding components. And it’s just one of many clients that I had, and it ended up being my favorite account, my favorite client, and my favorite industry that I was a part of, the mattress business. And so through a series of events and turns, Quinn and I just kind of took off, we started the podcast when we were at Leggett for a property called Sleep Geek, which was… 

Mark Quinn: Under protest.

Mark Kinsley: Yeah. He didn’t want to do it.

Mark Quinn: I did not want to do it. Come on, Rob, aren’t you like, okay, mattress podcast. People are going to rush to that one?

Rob Stott: Yeah, that sounds highly engaging, highly entertaining. What are you going to talk about?

Mark Quinn: Well, our joke with people always is, you should listen to the podcast. It doesn’t suck, as far as mattress podcasts go. Not as bad as you might think. Anyway, Kinsley, keep going.

Mark Kinsley: I had a radio background, though, so I did a daily talk show for four years. Every single day. Two hours of talk. It was not music. And I’m like, man, don’t worry about the formatics or the subject matter. We can take the mattress industry, and it’s a vehicle for talking about this really cool space and talking about business and marketing and all the fun stuff that goes along with that. So we did it for Sleep Geek.

And Sleep Geek was dedicated to helping retail sales associates get better with their job and connect sleep to the mattress and the products that we sold. And so it was really there to serve the RSA and serve, gosh, in many regards, independent retailers, just like we’re doing now. And so Quinn eventually left to start Spink & Co, and then I took his role at Leggett. And then now, he’s running his business and I’m running Englander, and we just continue doing what we were doing. And on our 100th episode… so we did 100 episodes before we ever brought on sponsors, and Nationwide became our first sponsor. And we’re like, this is a perfect stink up of ideas because you guys serve independent retailers. We’re trying to help people understand the mattress category, get better at it. And now here we are today on the world’s greatest independent retailer podcast.

Rob Stott: Well, what can I say? Brush my shoulder.

Mark Kinsley: What did I miss, Quinn? Did I miss anything?

Rob Stott: I know, I was going to say, Quinn, any gaps to fill-in?

Mark Quinn: No, I don’t think so. I was in the industry since I was 23, and so I was with Sealy and Stearns & Foster, and then went to Serta. And then as Kinsley said, we met when I was at Leggett, but when Kinsley came aboard, it really was here is this younger guy, and tons of enthusiasm. So he says that about me being his hero. I would tell you that it’s probably the same the other way. There’s a ton of respect, and people don’t… I don’t know if they understand how genuine the affection we have for each other is, but we care about each other a lot. He’s a very close friend of mine, on top of the fact that we get to do the podcast together. So I get an incredible amount of energy from him, if I have a problem or I need to think through something. Or we talk about Dos Marcos together, time flies. It’s one of those things.

And it’s just awesome because you find people that you just have a groove with, but also can feed you and look at things differently than you do and challenge you and hold you accountable. And all of those really important things that add to your life. And so if he was just like I was… we share a lot of common thoughts. One of them was the idea around the podcast, which was let’s help people. So we love curators of cool stuff. That’s a thing that Kinsley kind of brought, in terms of vernacular, to us, but let’s find the really cool stuff out there. Let’s celebrate good behavior. Let’s promote the industry in a way we think that it needs to be represented. Let’s get everyone on the same team. Let’s get them to understand that we are on the same team in the furniture and the mattress industry, trying to beat out other types of things, like vacations and remodeling your home. And so let’s teach and celebrate good behavior in this industry.

And that’s what’s happened, and it’s been so awesome because all these people come to us. Even Nationwide, the relationship we have with you, some of your members… Kinsley and I just get overwhelmed, how grateful we are, when we sit and talk to those guys. And they teach us. They’re teaching us about what they do, they’re teaching us about what works for them. And then we can take what they give to us and share it with everyone else. We’re in a unique position to do that because of the media platform. So I don’t know. It’s just been awesome. So again, I kicked and screamed going into it, but Kinsley’s like, no, let’s do it. And thank God we did because we’ve had a lot of fun.

And Kinsley, what, 150 episodes now?

Mark Kinsley: We just cracked 150 episodes now, and they’re all up at mattresspodcast.com, if you want to go back and just get caught up. It shouldn’t take you very long.

Mark Quinn: Yeah.

Rob Stott: A little bit longer than Game of Thrones? Go through Game of Thrones twice? I think, what, they had 70 something episodes? So just a little bit longer.

Mark Kinsley: Similar.

Mark Quinn: And the difference is no one dies on our show. That we’re aware of.

Rob Stott: To date. I don’t know what happens if you write off a Mark, or you can’t even script something like that.

Mark Quinn: Well, the show isn’t over yet.

Rob Stott: Yeah, right. We’ll see by the end of this, how it happens. But to your point, though, and I can kind of talk about it from a trade media background perspective. People are listening to you, but it’s really, in turn, kind of the satisfaction that you get as a storyteller, being able to talk to people about the things that they’re doing so well and highlighting the things that work for them. At times, too, the challenges. The struggles that they’re going through. And I think, of late, maybe there’s nothing… that’s been a lot of the talk is the challenges that the industry is facing. But finding those stories. What’s it like for you guys to find those stories and cultivate them? I know, obviously, the Nationwide relationship, we got a lot of mattress guys that we can send your way, but they’ve got to have something to tell. So how do you find those stories, then pull it out of them in this kind of interview setting?

Mark Kinsley: I’ll speak first. It’s just what you said, Rob. If you come across somebody and you do a little digging, you’re kind of mining for information, and there’s no story there, it’s not really going to work that well. We are storytelling animals. That’s how we relate to each other and pass along wisdom and knowledge. And so, for example, when we had Rick Anderson, who was president of Tempur-Pedic North America, Rick had a great story to tell about coming from a background, Duracell batteries. And he lived through the Energizer Bunny battle from a marketing perspective. He gave us all this insight into the Tempur-Pedic brand being worth three and a half billion dollars, stripped of any assets. He had a great story to tell.

We came across a guy named Jesse Cole. And Jesse wears a yellow tuxedo. His baseball team he owns is called the Savannah Bananas. They have parking lot penguins, they have grandma beauty pageants, they hold up babies in center field and play the Lion King music. They turn baseball from boring to exciting. And he had a great story to tell. So we had him on the podcast.

We just had David Sax, the author of The Soul of an Entrepreneur. So it’s been amazing to me, and I’m so humbled and just grateful to people because it took a while. And we started very focused on the mattress category, but now, I think we’ve been able to kind of magnet some people in that are adjacent to our category but have lessons all of us can use. But we definitely use the mattress industry as our vehicle, and we try to map it back to that. And it all comes back to people having a great story to tell.

And Quinn, talk about this. When we sat down at PrimeTime the first time, we did 20 podcasts. And most of it with Nationwide members. And most of them didn’t think they had a story to tell.

Mark Quinn: It’s so true. And part of the reason for the exercise, Mike Whitaker had a great idea in having us do 20 podcasts. Because the theory was that everyone out there has this great story to tell, that you go to their about us page… Whitaker has this great thing where he has independent retailers come in, and he scrubs their about us page before they get there, and then he talks to them about that when they’re in the leadership session with them. When we sat down with those guys, and we got them, we drew them out and had them tell their story, it blew us away. At certain points, even in one of the learning sessions, this guy was like, “Yeah, we had this much furniture and we go to this farm, and these people do…”

And Kinsley and I, inevitably, always kind of look at each other and go, this guy’s got a freaking story. And sure enough, you go to his website, and it’s like, “We believe in quality furniture at the lowest prices.” And we’re like, no, don’t say that.

Rob Stott: Very cookie cutter.

Mark Quinn: Yeah. You have so much more to say. So we love, geek out on the fact that we can bring that out. And then we try to say to them, listen, if you’re going to win in your market, it’s really important you connect to people. And the best way to do that is to share part of who you are. Talk a little bit about your family, if you’re comfortable with that, but tell your story. Because people connect to you to the degree that you have common ground with them. And there’s so much discourse in the country right now. I really think that’s a solution to that too. Because if people were to just sit down and have empathy and try to learn about other people’s opinions or learn about other people’s businesses, in this case. It’s amazing how much affection you have towards them, once you know, oh my gosh, I love dogs too. Or oh my gosh… so anyway, we think that’s a really cool part of what we do, is help people kind of come to that point.

Rob Stott: It’s that human element. When you’re on a website, yeah, you’re trying to transact, you’re looking for product, but especially, and maybe almost exclusively, when you’re talking about independent retailers, it’s that added human element that really kind of distinguishes them from big box and going to sort of these corporate stores where there is no… you’re walking into blue shirts, orange shirts, whatever, what have you, whereas when you’re shopping local, you’re helping that family. You’re helping those employees. And you kind of… I get wanting to imitate big box in a sense, and just sort of the convenience and maybe price as well, of course, but it’s that human element and being able to be personalized that really separates these members, these companies, these retailers. And they’ve got to exploit that. You’ve got to show that on your website, and what better way?

Mark Kinsley: There’s an old story I tell about my friends Ray and Kathy Crane, Crane’s Mattress up in northern Ohio. And I got to work with them a few years back, and we really dug in. What makes your business unique? And I just kept turning the screws. Thankfully, Ray and Kathy were like, we want to do this. We want to do this hard work. And so I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing, and what really makes you different? And it all came down to their family. They’re a family-owned business. And I said, great. You’re a family-owned business. Where’s your family on the website? Is your family in all of your advertising? You can’t just say one thing. You have to prove it. If that’s your position, and that’s what makes you unique, then let’s prove it in everything you do. People will get to know you. They will trust you. They will want to do business with you. You will become a preferred place to shop.

And sure enough, we worked with them, they had meaningful and significant advancements in their business. They stepped away from it, I stepped back, and it was like they had to kind of take it and run with it. And they paused for probably six to eight months, and they didn’t do anything. And they said, okay, let’s trust the process. Let’s trust the system that we set up. And they started doing it on their own, writing these really creative radio spots, where Ray and Kathy, proving that they were a family, were on audio together or on camera together, and doing these wacky things, where Ray was kind of the one that was all about the numbers, and Kathy was having these crazy ideas. And they took this template, this idea, and they really blew it up. And I got to see Ray, and this big smile came across his face, and he said… I said, “Well, Ray, how’s it working, though?” And he goes, “Business is really up.”

And you talk about putting yourself out there and putting your family out there, putting a face on the business because that is your differentiation. Time and time again, we talk to retailers all over the country, even Steven Stone, one of your members. Steven Stone said, whenever Elana started going on camera as the face of BedMart, they had high double-digit increases in sales. So it is your differentiation. And I think now, more than ever, as people have seen restaurants and bars and businesses close, even temporarily. Some of them are coming back, some of them aren’t, Yelp said 41% of people on their platform, businesses, closed permanently.

Rob Stott: Wow.

Mark Kinsley: So when people see this in their neighborhoods, and they understand the impact of vacancies and the impact of lack of texture in a neighborhood because that business is gone, I think people are going to want to support that. If they’re reminded to do so, and if they’re giving a compelling reason to go shop there.

Mark Quinn: So let me kind of add onto what Kinsley’s saying. So if you think about big box compared to independent retailers, independent retailers are actually, in ways, much better suited to become preferred over the big box as a place to go. And here’s what I mean, and here’s how you know. So everyone listening to this that’s an independent retailer, I want you to think about your favorite brand. So it could be Apple, it could be Ford. You could have been a kid that grew up with your dad remodeling cars or reworking cars, reworking engines. So you feel something towards that favorite brand. It could be Rolex. It could be anything.

And so the question I have for everyone listening is, do people think about your business, or do they feel something about your business? So if you think about going out and asking 10 customers, maybe people that have done business with you for the first time or… not that loyal 10 year guys. But say why did you come here? If the answer is because they saw a sale or there is a special offer, that’s fine because it’s advertising and it’s part of the game. But if they came to you because they connect with you in some way, because they saw the ad with your kid in it, because they like the fact that, in Stone’s case, that Elana, a female, is running the company, and they think that’s awesome, that women are in power positions, whatever those little things are. If they feel something about your business, you then become one step closer to becoming a preferred place to go and not a transactional place to go. And when you flip the switch on that, that’s where the gold is.

And Kinsley and I kind of joke, but the real value in business or in life, it’s in the intangibles. It’s not in, hey, we’ve got to deliver stuff right, we’ve got to have quality… that’s all price of entry stuff. What are you doing to connect people to you and make them feel something towards your business?

Rob Stott: Right. That also all goes back to the storytelling and kind of the things we’re trying to help members and vendors as well, the brands out there tell their stories and make those connections. Because like you’re saying, a sale, saving a couple of bucks is great. The convenience of being able to get it in a certain amount of time, that’s awesome. But it’s once you get past that and once you make that connection that you’re not only getting that sale that day but you’re potentially earning a customer for life. So that recurring revenue of having them come back, and not even themselves, but making the recommendation to others that they know that are close to you, that really adds the value and it all comes down to being able to tell your story and make that connection.

So great. Well, we’ve kind of touched on it a little bit here, but beating around the bush of the challenges we’ve all been facing, I know we said at the top, the last time we all saw each other was in Houston at PrimeTime, and a lot’s changed since then. As far as the podcast, and maybe even to businesses, for your businesses. What’s life with COVID been like? And I’ll throw it to you first, Quinn, this time.

Mark Quinn: Yeah. So I don’t know. We had a downtime, a long period of downtime, Kinsley, and I, in terms of our media platform, took the time to do some strategy work. It’s not downtime, this is a gift. Time is a finite resource. So we took it, and we maxed it out, and we did some stuff that we’ll be talking about later, but pretty cool. And we got to work on some things together.

In terms of business, of course, we shut down at Spink & Co. Sherwood Bedding Company makes all of Spink’s beds. So I started doing some consulting work with Sherwood. So all of our factories were shut down, but now that things are coming back, we’re incredibly busy, a couple of weeks behind, actually, in orders. So it’s come roaring back.

I think the luxury side, Rob, less than the velocity price point side. People are trying to probably be careful a little bit, too, because the future is uncertain. But it’s growing back, and I’ve heard that from a lot of people. Kinsley, how about you? Englander kind of similar?

Mark Kinsley: Yeah, very much the same. We, at one point, had less than half of our factory shut down. A lot of them pivoted over. We started making PPE, primarily masks, and that kept them alive as essential businesses. We were providing mattresses to hospitals and places that had mattress needs. So that was our core focus for a fair amount of time. Different states had different mandates because we have 11 factories spread out across the US, and so there were very different conditions state by state. So we were able to get all our factories back up and running and open, and some have continued to make PPE where necessary. But the mattress demand really kicked in. And we kind of talked about some of the theories around that. If you’re at home, and you still have a job, and you’re lucky enough to have a job, you probably have more disposable income because you’re not traveling, you’re not going out to bars and restaurants, you’re not doing youth sports. There are a lot of things that are kind of normal expenditures that put some disposable income back into the bank account.

And I think for travelers, kind of road warriors like us that spend a lot of time out, of course, we’re in the furniture and mattress business, and we might pay attention to those things more, but the majority of people aren’t, and they are staying home, sleeping in their same bed every night, and saying, this thing is awful. And if this is going to be my nest, and I’m not sure how long I’m going to be here, I’m going to spend money on it. That’s why we’re seeing shortages in landscape materials. And at our factory level, we kind of ran into some supply chain hiccups that the industry as a whole is having to work out, one of them being non-woven material that are primarily used for pocket coils and some other applications in a mattress. Well, non-woven was being used to make PPE. And so there were shortages of non-woven. We saw some of the suppliers in the industry have trouble getting people to come back to work because many people were making more money on furlough or unemployment.

And so we’ve run into some different supply chain issues that seem to be getting fixed now, and flow through factories is starting to increase. Demand at retail has definitely been there. And the good news has been people have been able to discover, especially at the retail side, some new and interesting ways to handle how people want to shop. I’ve heard a lot of retailers, especially in the Nationwide network, that moved to an appointment model. And in the appointment model, if you make an appointment to get your teeth cleaned, you guys are walking out with that free floss and a new toothbrush. And your teeth are going to be clean. You made an appointment to get something done. And so I think when people make those appointments, they’re coming in, they’re going to buy a mattress or furniture. They’re there to get it done. They’re not there to shop around. And we’re probably going to see some higher average tickets because people want to limit exposure. They’re not going to jet over to Sam’s Club to check out sheets and pillows. They’re going to get that full kit right there.

So that’s kind of the lay of the land right now, and I think a lot of people are holding their breath at this point and saying, is this more like a W recovery, where we’re going to see a temporary spike in business, and then it’s going to drop back down? Or are we going to see things kind of level off? So I think once we get past Labor Day, we’re really going to have a better sense of that.

Rob Stott: Gotcha.

Mark Quinn: Hey, Rob, I just want to say something, too. We’ve had a couple people tell us how helpful Nationwide has been. So we’ve actually asked the question, knowing that you guys are our sponsor, like, “Hey, so have they been helpful? The websites, the information they’re putting out there?” All the safe shopping stuff you’ve done, and A plus for you guys. We’ve had a lot of people tell us that it’s been very helpful to be a Nationwide member because of all the stuff that you’ve done. But I think it goes back to why our partnership makes so much sense, because we’re kind of both in this to help the independent retailers out there. And so anyway, we’ve heard a lot of really great stuff about what you guys are doing.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Mark Kinsley: The back to business hub is clutch. It’s really clutch. Because there are so many different facets, and you got all those big, colorful squares up there that have different topic areas that people can dig into. Super easy to navigate. I saw you guys just rolled out some really helpful social media assets, so people aren’t haunted by trying to come up with what to do. The tool kit that’s there and available is so robust. And I think that might overwhelm people at times, but that’s where your field teams come in. I’ve talked to these guys and gals, and they are so good at helping retailers figure it out, put a plan together, and then take advantage of all those resources.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome to hear. And I know, like you said, we’re all in this together, trying to just create resources, make the connections, whether it’s through talking and sharing stories or just being there for them, having some resources available to them. It’s all about making sure that this channel can survive and operate and thrive. And that’s kind of what we’re here for. And part of that, too, on your end are these fireside chats that I know you guys were doing, and potentially still are, I don’t know, by the time someone’s listening to this, but to talk about what those have been like. The Campfire Stories, there you go. If you’re watching this, we’ve got some swag available. See that?

But what have those experiences been like, getting people together? In a different kind of setting, when you’re engaging with larger groups. And what have those been like, and what has come out of them?

Mark Kinsley: Yeah, we did a six-week series, and it did wrap up. And we wanted to take that time, whenever things were opening back up, to bring retailers in the industry together, to talk about the opportunities, the challenges. And really, we call it Campfire Conversations because for all of human history, people have gathered around a campfire for warmth, connection, community, shared wisdom and advice, so you can walk away more energized and more clear on how to proceed. And we hope that we accomplished that. We had a great turnout, about 30, 35 people. And different people floated in and out of each call. And we did that six-week series and put a retailer in the round. So we had somebody that was kind of our guest host there, to talk about their experience. Roger Cunningham, one of your members. We had Trent Ranburger, we had Kevin Split, we had Michael Grosman, we had Greg Law and Katie Law and Andrew and the team from Sweet Dreams. And we just took that time to say, let’s ask them questions. Let’s hear their experience. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.

And one of the coolest things that happened really goes back to something we talked about at the very beginning, or a little bit ago, which is the personalization of your business. Trent Ranburger has an 84-degree curve in his spine. He has major, major issues, and a lot of doctors are like, I can’t even believe you can stand up. And I was interviewing him, and I said, “Trent, talk about posting that picture on LinkedIn of that huge question mark spine that you have, and what that did.” And he was talking about how there was awareness around his condition for the month of June. And that opened up another story. He talked about people connecting with that, people bringing their children in who were suffering from spinal issues. And the connection that that vulnerability that he showed, made to his community.

And on that Campfire call, that final one, a guy named Adam talked about a condition he had with his leg that made it double the size of his other leg, and about how he was really embarrassed by that for many years, but by coming out and talking about it, not only at retail but in some of these camps he does. This little girl he mentioned saw for the first time in her whole life that this person is just like me, and I’m not alone.

And I think that’s what you can do in independent retail. That’s what you can do, just as a person who’s locally focused and cares about your community. Your vulnerabilities, people connect with those more than they do your victories. Quinn and I talk about this all the time. And you never know how something like that’s going to impact other people, and it impacted people right on those Campfire calls, and I saw it. Because we were Hollywood Square style on Zoom. And you could just feel the emotion coming out of those. So we love doing that. We’re going to try and kick up some more ideas that people can come to those calls and maybe work on some specific things. But it was really fun to see that community kind of gel and form over those six weeks. And people, I think, walked away knowing, I’m not alone.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And it kind of goes to show that there are so many inspiring stories in this industry, just from so many different corners of it, which is kind of a nice segue. I was planning to ask about, especially during this time, too, when you need those kinds of stories to be uplifting, to yourself or your business, and just see that other side. Are there any others like that that kind of come to mind, as far as what you’ve seen during this time of COVID that really stood out to you? Maybe from the Campfires or other episodes that you guys have done or retailers that you’ve talked with, that really stands out about just what they’re doing, that maybe either caught you off guard, kind of gave you that emotional feeling? Anything like that?

Mark Quinn: Well, Great American Home Store in Tennessee… and by the way, the cool thing about the Campfire talks, too, is a lot of times, people would reach out to us after the show and go, “Hey, can you give me their contact information?” So they wanted to get connected to each other because of what someone else had said. So there’s so much value in sitting there going, oh my gosh, that’s horrible for me too. Or I have the same problem. So it’s just that hey, man, we’re all in the same boat, we’re in the same storm, we’re in different boats. So we saw that a lot.

Actually, that story goes… there’s another… Trent’s raking it in here. I think, by the way, that story, Kinsley, with Trent during all this trouble, he used that time to shine a light on other businesses in his town. So cross-marketing for them and serving those other companies. And I thought that was a really cool thing to do. Great American Home Store put together a really cool spot, and that’s why their social media assets of what you guys are making available to people, it’s not just what do you do, but it’s like, how do you say it? You’ve got to be really careful here, and not be tone-deaf, and not be too cheeky or too humorous in your approach to it, but strike the right chord of that. So it’s really important. So I think Great American Home Store did that. They had a really cool spot. And they say, hey look, we understand. We know you’re not out right now, but just so you know, you can shop us online. We’re here for you. Set up appointments.

So just things like that, I think we’ve learned a lot from each other in terms of yep, I like that approach and just kind of how to navigate it all. And here’s the cool stuff. With our show, the creative thinking, Kinsley is constantly talking about the pirate flag and if you fly your flag, then people come to you. I’m stealing your story here, Kinsley, sorry. But it’s such a good story. If you sail into a port, and I’m going to get it wrong, Rob, so just wait for him to correct me again in this, I guarantee it. So you navigate your ship into a port, and you hoist the Jolly Roger up, then people are going to do one of two things. They’re going to come towards you because they’re a pirate, or they’re going to run like hell because they’re afraid of pirates.

And so with our show, and with the whole Campfire thing, you raise your flag. This is who we are. This is what we stand for, and this is what we want for you. And then people come to you or they run away from you. And that was a great opportunity for people to come to us.

So how did I do, Kinsley? Did I butcher you?

Mark Kinsley: Quinn, I’m so proud of you. I really am. You captured the spirit of it, and that’s all that matters.

Rob Stott: I was watching Kinsley the whole time, while you were telling that story, to see his face, to know if you were on track or not. It seemed pretty good. I didn’t… 

Mark Quinn: In Kinsley’s story, he draws it out. He introduces a parrot named Mikey, and this whole story. And I’m like, you don’t need the parrot in there.

Rob Stott: Just the Cliff Notes version, that’s all we need.

Mark Quinn: That’s right. Tighten it up.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. But as we’re kind of coming through this, you guys had an episode recently, correct me if I’m wrong, but you kind of dove into what the future of what retail and mattress retailing could look like. You might have even mentioned… the name’s slipping me, but the retail futurist on your show?

Mark Kinsley: Doug Stevens.

Rob Stott: Doug Stevens. Talking about what it could look like. So what, whether from him specifically or just kind of what you’ve heard through conversations, how much will retailing change? You’ve mentioned already, obviously, the appointment retailing that we’ve seen. Internally, at Nationwide, obviously the focus on digital more so than in the past, maybe, with retailers. But from everything you’re hearing, how much will retailing change because of COVID? Obviously, for the mattress industry specifically.

Mark Kinsley: We think that, we talked about this a little bit, we think that crisis fast tracks trends. And it’s not going to fast track all trends, but it definitely has the ability to move certain trends that we’re already seeing traction and momentum into the future faster than they normally would have had happen. Online education, you think that’s going to be a thing now? Yeah, I just saw a commercial for free high school online. Completely free high school. I would have been signing myself up for that, by the way, back in the day. So we’re going to see… 

Mark Quinn: Free high school?

Mark Kinsley: Free high school. Yeah, you want to go back? You and I should go back and dominate sports.

Rob Stott: Accredited… 

Mark Quinn: I’m not even trying to dominate now. I’m past my point of being able to go back and even dominate-

Mark Kinsley: Pickleball.

Mark Quinn: It would kill me. But I would introduce pickleball. But isn’t high school free for most kids, unless you went to private school?

Mark Kinsley: Yeah, but I think what they’re saying is you can go to high school anywhere in the country, as long as you go to this school completely free. So it wasn’t a state by state thing. It didn’t appear… a lot of times, funding is from property tax and that market, real estate, sales tax, whatever it might be.

But anyway, the point being, trends are fast-tracked. So online education at the college, university level, even in high school, we’re seeing that really take hold. Zoom and video conferencing, that was kind of like, oh, great, I got to get on a Zoom call. Now, it’s kind of normal. Work from home is a trend. Work from home is not something that we’re going to piece together as a society. It’s really going to take hold in a lot of ways.

So when we look at retail, and we talked to Doug Stevens, this futurist, about what retail could look like, of course, the big obvious one is people are going to shop online. And even if they don’t purchase online, they’re going to start online, and maybe they’re then going to go to a store. And then if they leave that store and come home without purchasing, they’re going to want to transact with that store, even if it’s a local store. And they want it to be intuitive and simple to do. So whether it’s buy online, pick up in-store, I went to your store, and then I want to go home and think about it and buy online and have it be a seamless experience, really thinking through how you interfaced and transact and serve online, big deal.

But when you get into the really crystal bally type futurist stuff, Doug thinks… and this really does map to online shopping. Because if you go online, a lot of times you’re going to want to look at products. So let’s say that you go online, you look at a mattress brand you really like, and then you want to go find it somewhere. Okay, that’s kind of a natural flow of how you’re going to shop. Doug says that brands are going to look for retailers to be media outlets. So instead of treating the store as basically a miniature warehouse, brands are going to find high-quality retailers and maybe pay them to be in their store. Because, in bigger markets they’ve already seen this, if you have a mattress brand that did not have a presence, physical presence in that marketplace, you put in a store, they’re seeing an online sales lift of about 30 plus percent. Up to 34%. So they’re increasing sales by a third, just by having this media outlet, this visibility, this experiential product place, in a market.

So he thinks that the new job of a lot of retailers is going to be, how do I create experiences with products and people in that space, so much so that people want to be on my channel, just like with TV. You find the eyeballs and the demographic that is going to work best for you, and if it’s ESPN and sports-minded, and that’s your mattress brand, and you’re all about sports, you’re going to buy media on that station because they have the right eyeballs. Same with physical retail. That’s his prediction.

Mark Quinn: Yeah, and I think further to what he’s saying, one of the things I liked that he said was one of the most important things for companies, as we go forward, is to value creativity in a different way. So value not the IQ but the emotional IQ. And so people’s ability for empathy or to think creatively because as we go forward, it’s those people that are going to have the advantage in the market. If you are listening to this right now, and you are a retailer that is a place to conduct a transaction, and you look kind of like the other furniture or mattress retailers or appliance shops out there, then your ability to succeed, going forward, is going to be limited. So it’s the people who stand for something unique, who fit a different niche in the market, who create a killer experience, once you’re in the store. Those are the people who are going to thrive and survive going forward. So I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

Rob Stott: Right. And funny it all comes full circle, but it goes back to being able to tell those stories, and being able to differentiate yourself in one way or another. And hey, that’s what the three of us are here doing.

Mark Quinn: That’s right.

Rob Stott: So it all kind of boils down to being able to stand out and make yourself stand out. All you have to do is hop on a podcast and tell a story, at the end of the day, right? It’s that simple, right?

Mark Quinn: That’s right.

Rob Stott: Little plug.

Mark Kinsley: Well, and just like you’re talking about, so everything changed for us whenever we started going to a weekly podcast. We know it’s simple, and it’s just like, eat your own cooking here. It’s what we would tell anybody. You’ve got to tell stories, and you’ve got to do it consistently over time. Because people, when you disappear, you’re gone. Saturday Night Live started airing on Tuesday nights, people would be really confused. You talked about Law & Order SVU or whatever, that show. It’s on at the same time, and it follows a similar format every episode because people can make an appointment with it, and they kind of know what they’re getting into. And it’s consistency over time that builds trust and audience and brand and all the things that are going to help you differentiate. So you get in there, you figure out who you are, what you believe, and then you tell your story consistently. Not erratically, no spurts and stops.

Rob Stott: Right.

Mark Quinn: One of the things he talked about, Kinsley, do you remember, he was talking about Nike? And they made a big decision at one point, that they were going to reduce the number of retailers they did business with. And they did it drastically. It was like 50,000… I’m making this up. I’m totally wrong. Kinsley probably can remember better than I, but 50,000 doors down to 1000. And their whole idea was to funnel their business through retailers that get it.

And so think about your favorite brands that you’re carrying now. If they were to do the same thing and really shrink the distribution base, but go through the retail channels that they felt added the most value, told the best stories, had the best experiences, would your retail establishment make the cut? And so going forward, you look at an example in our industry, Purple Mattress. They’ve done a… it’s a Tempur-Pedic, and my opinion of it is really the only company out there, and Select, that have created preference, real preference for the brand. So I just don’t know of the brand, but I actually want the brand over other things.

But Purple has put so much money into advertising, they’ve created raving fans. How do you make them feel? Their customers, they like them because they love their spots. They love the creativity that they bring to the marketing space. So now there’s an affection for that brand. So what Purple’s doing is exactly what Tempur-Pedic did at the beginning. They’re picking and choosing the retailers in those markets that they want to push Purple because they have limited capacities. So that’s a great example of what Kinsley just talked about. You are a touchpoint for their brand, and they want to make sure that they send people to experience their brand in a place that gets it and does a great job.

Rob Stott: Right. And this is what happens when three podcasters get together and do a great… I could talk to you guys for three more hours and have fun with it. But we know, I think you guys would agree, we know that at a certain point, you lose your listener.

Mark Quinn: You mean a half-hour ago?

Mark Kinsley: With us, Rob, we can always come back for round dos. Okay?

Rob Stott: There you go. Dos round of Dos Marcos. Oh, man, I love it. No, but this has been a lot of fun. And like I say, we could keep going, but we’ll save it. We’ll bottle it up for round dos, and I truly appreciate you guys taking the time out of your schedules and chatting with us, and imparting some incredible knowledge on the Independent Thinking podcast for our retailers. So I hope to see you guys in person soon. But for the time being, I guess keep chatting every week. You guys said it, every week on mattresspodcast.com.

Mark Kinsley: There you go. Mattresspodcast.com, yeah.

Rob Stott: Mattresspodcast.com. And a particular day of the week that you want to tell-

Mark Kinsley: Every Monday.

Rob Stott: Every Monday.

Mark Kinsley: And if you just go to mattresspodcast.com real quick, and a little box pops up, and you can put in your email. And then it will just send it to you every week, so you know what’s happening in the mattress galaxy.

Rob Stott: Get the notification and Dos Marcos can buzz your pocket.

Mark Quinn: There you go. Rob, we really appreciate being on. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. And we really appreciate… Kinsley and I both love Nationwide. The people we’ve met, the experiences we’ve had at your live shows, the conversations we’ve had. It’s been remarkable for us. So for all that are listening and all you guys out there, thanks for being so cool to Dos Marcos. And every time we’re around, it’s a pretty neat thing for us to get to do and be a part of.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. It’s certainly mutual. So we appreciate the support and you guys sharing the stories with the members. So until next time.

Mark Kinsley: Thanks, Rob.