Help small businesses and creators succeed, for free! – Vite Ramen

Help small businesses and creators succeed, for free!

Want creators and small businesses to succeed?
We need your help (it’s free!)

TL;DR Liking and sharing us on social media helps beat the algorithm that favors pay to win posts. This lets us use our marketing budget to support amazing content creators like Girl_Dm, EckhartsLadder, and all of our ambassadors! Here's how you can help our partner creators and small businesses like us succeed against big multibillion dollar megacorps.

  • Follow us and the creators we partner with on social media.  (Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook)
  • Turn notifications on. 
  • Like, retweet, share, and help us be relevant in the algorithm. 
  • Sign up on our email lists and SMS, and open all the emails and SMS to improve our open rates, and click on the links.

What’s one of the largest, if not the largest cost for an ecommerce business like Vite Kitchens?


And that cost is getting increasingly expensive. Enough so that we have to make choices, like where we can reasonably send our marketing budget: To creators or to multibillion dollar companies?

We’ll go over how these decisions are made later, and how you can support the creator economy and help our small business for free, even if you’re not buying our ramen at the moment!

And we’d really appreciate it too <3

Scroll to the end to find the answer, but otherwise, settle in and enjoy my rambling that only scratches the surface of the whats and whys of marketing.

Whoa, hold you, you may say, isn’t marketing all about sleazy sales tactics and manipulation and all of that sort of stuff? Well, no. The bad marketing is.

Marketing, in short, is just about promotion, or in other words, distributing information and communication. Just like some people can communicate poorly, lie, or omit a lot of truths, so can businesses, especially when someone’s sole reason is chasing profits.

In the end, if you have a great product, but no one knows about it, then you’re going out of business. Telling someone about your product? That’s marketing. Grassroots word of mouth? Also marketing. Making weird, carbonated, mayonnaise energy drinks and ramen? Marketing. It’s a way to describe a rather broad category, and applies to all kinds of things, from attention getting stunts to social media to traditional advertisements.

One of the best ways I’ve heard good marketing described is simply that good marketing is matchmaking. Bad marketing lies about what the product is and can do, like most of the claims the health and fitness industry makes. As an aside, that’s why we don’t claim our ramen does anything for that reason, because health is nuanced and complicated. I’m always a little peeved when I see billboards with things like “With added antioxidants to help you stay young!” and turns out they threw a tiny bit of vitamin C into it and called it a day, or “immune boosting” and it has less vitamin D than our ramen, or claims it to be a “nootropic” when all they add is a pinch of choline and the residual dust of the magnesium from the factory next door.


Anyway, back to the whole marketing thing. Good marketing is information seeking, and information matching. Have you ever found a product that you got, and then went, “this is so cool, I love this so much! How did I not know about/try this before?!” That’s when marketing has done its job right, and I hope one of our products is that for you. In its purest form, marketing distributes information, and the form and methodology of how that information is distributed is up to the person who wields the information.

As nice as it would be, product information in its most direct form doesn’t market well. As much as we would love to talk about the stats, and I really do like talking about them, because we work really hard at cramming all those nutrients and protein and fiber in there while making it taste as amazing as it does... It just doesn’t work.

When we started, we wanted simple, direct product information to work for marketing. Build it and they will come, right? Make a good product and people will spread the word for you, right? Eh... Not so much. I wish. And especially not in the modern world, where the average person can see anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. How many of those ads do you remember?

And realistically, how many times have you forgotten to purchase that one simple thing, like a USB cable, or tape, or glue, even though it’s super obvious and you really needed it?

With all the information out there punching us repeatedly in the eyes and ears all day, it’s easy to forget even the things that you really like. Have you ever suddenly re-discovered something you really, really love, and then wonder how and why you’d ever forgotten it?
That’s why we have to do marketing. Even those who love us the most may forget us when bombarded with all kinds of new bright shiny things every day, and we need to constantly stay in the fight for their attention, not even considering trying to grow and find new people who might love what we’ve made.

Even without being bright and shiny and memorable, there are thousands and thousands of ads that you see everyday. And often, they’re incredibly similar looking ads, fighting for ad space across all kinds of websites. If you can’t remember many of them, then most of those ads will have failed at their job-- at least, in terms of grabbing your attention and trying to communicate what they have to offer. That only simply adds to the noise, and makes it all the easier to forget even something that you’d liked once upon a time.

We don’t have that kind of budget to fling around. We can’t just say, alright, let’s grab this wad of investor cash and buy up a few million ad spots, or get a superbowl ad, or anything like that. Instead, we need to operate on a small scale, and be extremely, extremely careful about profitable returns.

Oh, and the other dirty little secret of marketing? Most marketing never makes its money back. Ever. One of the jokes I like to make is that, if you’re clever, you’ll never fail at marketing when reporting to a boss. Just be vague about your intentions with a campaign, and if it doesn’t reach your intended goals or numbers, just claim it’s a “brand awareness” and “brand image” campaign, then sit back and pat yourself on the back for doing a good job.

I swear that’s how 85% of the marketers in the industry stay employed, and how we’re constantly bombarded by terrible, generic, mid-at-best ads. Someone got paid a cool hundred grand a year to write that forgettable, stock-video like car ad that runs on TV. In fact, they get paid to change that ad into yet another mediocre ad come Labor Day, or Thanksgiving, or any other national holiday. No wonder these positions are so coveted and hard to get, eh?

As much as I’m harping on the lack of creativity, those ads do work, to some extent. Or at least, some of them do, and that’s why so many are done, because the ones that work end up bringing in huge amounts of attention and sales. However, the key word here is some. The rule I stated still applies, with most marketing never making its money back, ever.

The gigantic companies you hear of that burn investor cash, but are gigantic and everywhere? Their main spend is on marketing. Peloton, Blue Apron, Casper, Snapchat, and much more are all unprofitable. Despite their size and seeming market dominance, they do not turn a profit-- all of their yearly marketing budgets are in the hundreds of millions and are one the primary reasons they aren’t profitable.

Simply, even by hiring the best marketing minds they can afford with the ridiculous amounts of funding they have, they struggle to reach profitability (whether or not their investors want them to be profitable is another story-- Business is weird.)
Traditional ad spaces are dominated by these giants. They have the budget to spend, and they aren’t afraid to throw that weight around. But, you’ll notice that the specific brands I mentioned are, by and large, ecommerce focused, direct to consumer brands that sell, well, directly to the customer online.

Hey, so are we! That means, in the end, we fight for the same ad space.

In the early 2000s to the late 2010s, social media advertising, or CPC (Cost Per Click) advertising was the king. The use of cookie tracking technology, customer profiles, etc, etc, made it easy to send ads to people, and not that many companies were using these platforms heavily yet. Fast forward to today, where billions of people use social media, and every single company has a social media presence of some sort, and has flirted with paid ad spend across these platforms, and things have gotten significantly more expensive.

Previously, this was what companies lived and died by. For marketers, the early 2010s were known as the “Golden Age of CPC,” where just about any ecommerce company could throw random ads across social media and get huge, consistent returns on investment, and build themselves up massively just through that.

We started marketing and selling our ramen in early 2019... just as all that was dying. We caught the tail end of it, where we were able to propel ourselves past that early phase, and then... Everything went insane.

With everyone stuck at home, plus the privacy forward future (which I fully support, even if it makes our job harder), social media advertising skyrocketed in cost. It doubled, tripled, quadrupled-- As more and more companies bid on ad space, as more people stayed home, as the CPC market became cluttered with companies unable to directly target people anymore and instead used ad volume to make up for it, and all that investor money got flooded around...

Oof. We couldn’t really compete with those costs.

I mean, we still can’t, really. We flirt with social media CPC ads still, and basically hope that if we find new customers through those ads, they’ll be long term customers and the initial loss will make up for itself in the long run, but that causes us short term problems if we throw too much cash at it. Right now, despite the horrendous returns and high costs, it’s still proving to be more effective than other forms of advertising, like, say, radio, or TV, or billboards.

It’s a slow battle of attrition as we bleed out. Do nothing, and everyone forgets. We’ve turned off ads and tested before, and it gets bad. Do something with CPC, and we slowly bleed.

That’s where creators and social media come in.

See, the creator economy is booming, and I’m sure everyone’s seen their favorite YouTuber or podcaster talk about some VPN or the other or another digital service. There are some physical products in the mix as well, but certainly not nearly as many, and the mass, mass majority of them, if not all of them, are investor backed, allowing them to take a lot more risks and eat a ton more losses.

We’re still in that position where every single dollar we spend has to be calculated, and man, we can’t afford to be bad at math in this instance. If we take a single gigantic deal and it goes south, we’re done. Kaput. Finished. The entire company goes under. There’s no recovery, no golden parachute, no second chance. That’s it.

It’s a lot of stress.

We’re incredibly grateful for the creators who we are working with, and the ones who do cut us some slack in their pricing. If not for them, we’d be struggling, and we might’ve gone under by now when the digital Adpocalypse came about.
It’s because of those creators giving us a break, and because they offered kindness to us instead of turning their noses up because some other company had more cash to offer, that we survived.

We want to return the favor the best we can, and pay it forwards.

As everyone’s well aware, we stand firm in our belief of ethical business, and by that, we mean that we want to make sure there is fair and ethical sharing of profits, payment for effort and work, and mutual trust across the creators and partners we work with.

When we feel that the creators are too generous to us, and taking too little (looking at you, @girl_dm_ and @eckhartsladder), we insist on writing in the contract that they get more. And in that, we also want to make sure that everything we do with a partner is a win-win situation, where they’re eager and want to do it-- We never have ANY social media quotas or force anyone to promote us when they don’t want to, and never write any of that into any contracts.

However, doing it like this has more inherent risks. If we have no contractual way to force someone to do something, then what happens if they don’t? Doesn’t that just increase the risk of that one bad, big deal that can drag us under?

Absolutely. But it’s also the right thing to do, isn’t it?

Working with creators instead of a CPC algorithm inherently carries greater risks. There’s a chance nothing can happen at all. There’s a chance a creator we partner with has a gigantic scandal. There’s a chance we’re represented in completely the wrong light. A CPC algorithm is clean, clinical, and only spits out what we give it. Feed it money, and it’ll show it to people, no questions asked.

Which brings me back to the original point-- How can you help?

Simply, we don’t want to do CPC. It’ll likely always be a small part of our marketing mix, as we’ll always need to be constantly testing all and every avenue just in case, but it’s not something we’re keen on putting a lot towards. After all, when we pay Facebook to show Facebook ads, we’re just making the coffers of Zuckerberg larger, and I reaaaaally don’t think he needs more money.
On the other hand, if we get to work with more creators, we’re not only hoping we’ll be able to see the kind of marketing success of the ads of before, but also get to do something that’s more fulfilling, fun, creative, and, importantly, goes towards us supporting creators instead of gigantic, billionaire companies.

You can help in a simple way. The irony of creators, and still with us, is that even if we’re no longer paying for ads on social media, we’re still beholden to these companies and their algorithms. Our partners are too. These algorithms are clever, and don’t generally like the fact that you’re partnering directly with creators instead of paying them.

Whenever we have partner tweets or posts, and whenever there are links or anything of the like, the algorithm will punish the reach. It’ll purposefully show things to fewer people, and sabotage and otherwise make things less effective, so that there’s greater incentive to be paying for the ads on their platform instead.

To make all of this successful, what you can do is simple: 

  • Follow us and the creators we partner with on social media.  (Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook)
  • Turn notifications on. 
  • Like, retweet, share, and help us be relevant in the algorithm. 
  • Sign up on our email lists and SMS, and open all the emails and SMS to improve our open rates, and click on the links.

(P.S. Also, if you’re part of our email list, make sure you remove us from Gmail promotions jail and put us in your primary! Here’s how to do that!)

All of this helps us be more visible, helps us rely less on the algorithms, and allows us to remove ourselves from having to pay the billionaires just to be seen. This helps the creators out too, as their reach and their ability to help distribute information and help find the people who are genuinely interested and would love the stuff we make increases, which means they also share in the success.

It’s a win-win-win for everyone. For you, for us, for the creator. The only loser here would be the tech company algorithms.
But personally, I think that might be a win too, don’t you?

Anyway, we’re primarily active on Twitter nowadays, so follow us there, sign up for our email list (and remove us from promo jail) and SMS, and help us and creators succeed!

-Tim Zheng, CEO/Founder and the guy who does dumb stuff on Twitter

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