How Dan Cohen’s Sock Side Hustle Puts Him in Customers’ Shoes

What does it take to be a successful segment marketing manager at Klaviyo? We frequently talk about the importance of empathy, but one Klaviyo is taking it a step further—by putting himself in the shoes, or socks rather, of our customers.

I recently sat down with Dan Cohen, segment marketing manager, to learn more about his career before coming to Klaviyo and how owning a sock side hustle enables him to better help customers grow their businesses. 

 

Alex McPeak [AM]: What was your career before you came to Klaviyo?

Dan Cohen [DC]: I’ve always enjoyed jobs that have been very multifunctional roles where I wear multiple hats.

For my first job out of college, I worked for an apparel company called ‘47 Brand. I quickly became the Jack of all trades there because my manager left after about six months of me starting, so I became one of two people in the marketing department and remained so for the next year and a half 

I learned absolutely everything about apparel and marketing while at ‘47 Brand. I ran point for most marketing projects—I launched the company’s first direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce site even though, at that point, I knew nothing about ecommerce. But I was forced to learn quickly by being thrown into the project and I ended up running the ecommerce site for the first six months of its operation. 

I really liked my job because every minute was different. One minute I’d be working on the website, the next I’d be working with a major sports league, then I’d be working with a retail partner. So, in addition to marketing, I really learned everything about business there, too.

After that, I was at Dunkin’ Brands in a digital strategy role where I worked on their ecommerce business and overall strategy for the website. At Dunkin’, I really learned the importance of planning far out in advance. That job was completely different from ‘47 Brand because it was very silo-focused, which wasn’t a great fit for me because I learned that I like to work on multiple different types of projects. 

Most recently, I was at Zipcar where, at first, I was a segment marketing manager for the University segment, then I was promoted to be a senior segment manager for the University segment, which focused on marketing and setting the overall strategy for the University business. Similar to ’47 Brand, I did pretty much everything there—from creating campaigns to executing them—and every minute was different.

 

[AM]: What brought you to Klaviyo?

[DC]: I wanted to be part of a growing company and I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship. I was familiar with the product and I wanted to join an organization that did something that I was passionate about. I can’t say I was personally passionate about Dunkin’ or Zipcar, whereas I was very passionate about ‘47 Brand. 

Long story short, I wanted to get back to something where I was energized by going to work every day and the company that I worked for; and I certainly have found that with Klaviyo. 

 

[AM]: What does being a segment marketing manager entail?

[DC]: I oversee the entrepreneur’s segment at Klaviyo where I get to work with up-and-coming brands. The role is really grounded in marketing but entails working very closely with sales, customer success, and product to ensure the overall health of the segment. I talk to customers to understand their stories and how they’re using Klaviyo and then work cross-functionally with the team to make sure we’re creating a marketing plan and product that matches what our customers want.

"I talk to customers to understand their stories and how they're using Klaviyo and then work cross-functionally with the team to make sure we're creating a marketing plan and product that matches what our customers want."

Dan Cohen, segment marketing manager

[AM]: How do you help customers grow their businesses? 

[DC]: I first work with our customers to understand their needs. I try to talk to a handful of customers each week and just sit back and listen to how and why they started their business. We can’t suggest ways in which our customers can grow unless we understand where our customers are, where they’re coming from, and where they’re looking to go. 

I try to understand some of the challenges that our customers either currently face or have faced in the past and have overcome. I look for themes in these challenges to suggest ways within which they can overcome them and grow using Klaviyo. 

 

[AM]: How does your background help you in your current role and what kind of experience do you think someone needs to become a segment marketing manager?

 

[DC]: I’ve launched two websites from scratch—’47 Brand and my own personal business, Neon Bandits. I’ve also worked on the ecommerce side with Dunkin’ so I have a strong background working with an established brand. Working at ‘47 Brand was similar to a startup even though the brand had been around a while because I was wearing multiple hats and doing everything there, which really set me up for success in my own personal business and then here at Klaviyo.

I’ve always been interested in running my own business and, someday, I’d like to be running it full-time, which is the reason I really like being a segment manager. Because in order to be a successful segment manager, it’s important that you are well-rounded from a business perspective. You need to have some marketing chops but you also need to be able to see the big picture from a strategy and analytics perspective. You need to be comfortable with numbers and you need to be comfortable with anything being thrown in your lap. These are the types of skills that you also need to run your own business.

"In order to be a successful segment manager, it’s important that you are well-rounded from a business perspective. You need to have some marketing chops but you also need to be able to see the big picture from a strategy and analytics perspective. You need to be comfortable with numbers and you need to be comfortable with anything being thrown in your lap. These are the types of skills that you also need to run your own business."

Dan Cohen, segment marketing manager

[AM]: Tell me about your ecommerce side hustle.

[DC]: I launched the sock brand Neon Bandits with my sister in June of 2015. I’ve always been a very active person and a huge “sneakerhead,” and I’ve always loved athletic apparel. I learned about apparel at ‘47 Brand and my sister, Sammy, was in retail consulting. We both wanted to start a business and saw a need for a well-designed, functional, and athletic-inspired sock.

We also liked the idea of socks because they’re not that expensive to produce, you don’t need to offer tons of different sizes, and we liked the margins on them. But, we didn’t want to create just any sock—we wanted to create a really high-quality sock that you could wear anytime, anywhere. We noticed everything was very specific like, “This is a running sock, this is a biking sock, this is a dress sock.” We wanted to create something tailored for the 18 to 34-year-old that they could wear anywhere—working out or hanging out and everything in between.

When we launched we thought, “We’re only going to sell on our website. People will love our styles. We’ll sell out immediately,” but that was not the case. It was very difficult to get traction on our website. We were doing multiple things—trying to do marketing, sales, operations—all on top of our full-time jobs, and it was just too much. We didn’t get much traction in any area because we weren’t spending enough time on one of them to gain traction. 

We started putting more time in the wholesale area and as a result, we developed a program targeted at gyms. For every dozen pairs that gym owners bought, we gave them a couple of free pairs for their trainers and staff to wear because we found if the trainers and staff were wearing the socks, then people working out would want to buy a pair.

After that, our socks started selling really well with the gyms, and gym owners came back to us saying they wanted custom socks since the quality was so good.  At first, we said no because we wanted to get our own brand name out there but also the minimums were way too high for a small gym to be able to purchase. 

So we kept doing wholesale and ecommerce and we kept hearing again and again that people wanted custom socks because they bought a few of our socks and fell in love with them. So we pushed our factory to lower the minimums, which, after six months of us persisting, finally worked. Having lower minimums opened up more opportunities for us. About a year after they initially lowered the minimums for us, they lowered them even more for us, which completely opened the door for us to go after more types of businesses. 

Since this happened, we’ve shifted our focus to custom. We found that a lot of people want a high-quality custom sock and no one else can produce them at this quality, at this low minimum level. Now, about 99 percent of our business is custom wholesale and it’s growing really fast.

neon bandits

[AM]: How do you find time to run a business around your full-time job? 

[DC]: It’s one of those things where we’ve been doing it for five years now, so we just both have our routines and it’s like second nature to us. We couldn’t really imagine life without it right now. I think that most people think we’re probably crazy, but we just find time to do it. 

Nights and weekends are really huge for us. I put in about two hours after work pretty much every weeknight. I have no problem firing up work again right after I walk in the door coming from Klaviyo as that has just become my routine. On weekends, if I do something fun during the day, then I will work at night, or vice versa. And Sammy has her own routine. We’re doing this because we’re passionate about what we’re building and like the challenges associated with building the brand. 

"I think that most people think we're probably crazy, but we just find time to do it. "

Dan Cohen, segment marketing manager

[AM]: What’s something that you’ve learned from running your business that’s been particularly helpful at Klaviyo?

[DC]: No matter how hard you work or fast you move, some things just take time. Being a segment manager, people might think you just come in day one and you’re going to bring everybody together and business is going to grow, but that takes time. And working with teams that ordinarily aren’t used to working together takes time. We’re starting to really mesh and grow but it’s not something that happens overnight.

 

[AM]: What has been something that you’ve learned working at Klaviyo that’s been particularly helpful in growing your business?

[DC]: One of the things we were doing before Klaviyo, but we’ve really invested in since I started at Klaviyo, is personalized customer messaging and care. The great thing about Klaviyo is it allows you to communicate to the masses with customized and relevant content.

We’re really showing our customers personalized care in messaging and in all of our outreaches. There are only two of us doing this business, but we try to make sure that every customer that deals with us has a great experience. 

As a result of this, about half of our customers that have come in since 2018 have reordered with us. 

"We're really showing our customers personalized care in messaging and in all of our outreaches. There's only two of us doing this business but we try to make sure that every customer that deals with us has a great experience. "

Dan Cohen, segment marketing manager

[AM]: What has been a particularly interesting or challenging thing that you’ve worked on at Klaviyo?

[DC]: What’s interesting is this is an entirely new role as segment manager at Klaviyo and a segment manager, in general, is a unique role in itself. One of the great things is that I really got to build this role from scratch. I wasn’t stepping into someone’s shoes who was saying, “This is what a segment manager should do.” I’ve gotten to work with my peer, Marissa McGovern, who oversees the SMB segment to help shape what a segment manager does.

Through that process, we’ve brought together teams that ordinarily wouldn’t be together. Marketing and sales were working together, but we also bring product and customer success into the same room so we can understand what our customers need from multiple angles.

 

[AM]: What’s your most memorable moment at Klaviyo?

[DC]: The recent Owned Growth Stories program. It was my first cross-functional integrative program that we launched and it was great because everyone on the marketing team and some people on the sales team had a say in the program and helped to promote it. We had a good first phase of the program and it was really a whole team effort. It was awesome to see that come to life and have such success launching a new program early on.

 

[AM]: Any tips for somebody considering a career as a segment marketing manager?

[DC]: Be ready and open to doing anything that’s thrown your way—it’ll make you more well-rounded and help you understand the business better. You should also be open to collaboration. You’ll work with everyone across the company so you have to be ready to work cross-functionally and take in other people’s ideas and feedback.

Think a career at Klaviyo is right for you? We’d love to meet you! Learn more about what it’s like to work at Klaviyo and apply on our careers page.

 

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