Go behind the scenes of today's top ecommerce brands to see the strategies leading to their growth.
Go behind the scenes of today's top ecommerce brands to see the strategies leading to their growth.
Eric Bandholz: Beardbrand is a men’s grooming company, launched way back in 2012, originally as a YouTube channel and a blog, and we evolved and grew into the men’s grooming company that we are now, with over 120 products for not just your beard, but also your hair and your skin. Our mission statement is “We make men look and feel awesome.” And it’s all rooted on our core values of freedom, hunger, and trust. And those core values are kind of like the foundation, and the framework that we use to develop content, to tell our story, and to also how we make products and serve our customers
Alicia Thomas: In the time that Beardbrand has been around, how has your marketing strategy evolved?
Eric Bandholz: We’re a entirely bootstrap company, so our marketing strategy has evolved a lot over the years. First, we started off where we had more time than money. So that meant we had to do a lot of social media, kind of organic efforts. And then as we found traction in the marketplace that gave us opportunities to start testing new channels like Facebook, email marketing, and those that took a little more resources from our company.
Alicia Thomas: And I know you’ve been talking a lot publicly about your decision to no longer sell on Amazon. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and why you decided that Amazon was no longer a place for Beardbrand?
Eric Bandholz: Yeah, Amazon is a wonderful platform for a lot of eCommerce businesses out there. However, our core values here at Beardbrand are freedom, hunger and trust. And subsequently, we tried to build a business that revolve around those core values. And kind of blended into those core values is this motto of, “I don’t take pressure and I don’t give pressure.” And any Amazon reseller will know the communication between Amazon and the reseller is not necessarily in line with that motto.
Eric Bandholz: And frankly I have choices in life and I don’t want to put myself around that kind of environment. We were selling on Amazon through a third party. The third party was doing an okay job, and we were actually thinking about bringing it in-house and doing an even better job and making Amazon a bigger portion. So we killed that relationship, and started to try to hire someone to manage our Amazon business internally. And what we found is once the products dried up on Amazon, our sales on our website kind of went through the roof, more than we had expected if we were just completely shifting the demand from Amazon to Beardbrand.
Eric Bandholz: So after analyzing our data, we just kind of said like why bother managing two different channel, when we could just focus on one and make it really good.
Alicia Thomas: And so how many months have you been off of Amazon now?
Eric Bandholz: We exited Amazon January of 2018, so it’s been about a year and a half. Being off Amazon is, for me, it’s great. Like I go to bed with no worries and I’m not worried that someone with great tactics or black hat tactics goes and tries to shut down our products, or our listings or the reviews are all fake or whatever. All that stuff that Amazon sellers are too familiar with. I don’t worry anything about.
Eric Bandholz: Now that being said, I don’t think it’s the right move for everyone. Like if you have 80% or 90% of your business is coming into Amazon, you can’t kill it.
Eric Bandholz: The thing that we had at Beardbrand, that allowed us to do that, was we invested so heavily in content marketing and our brand that people were looking for Beardbrand on Amazon, rather than looking for our product and then just buying our product, because it had good reviews or pretty packaging, or whatever people use to buy on Amazon.
Alicia Thomas: So you mentioned content marketing, and how really that’s important to your brand. And I think for you guys it’s been since day one. Can you kind of talk a little bit about the content marketing process and how you think about content strategy for Beardbrand?
Eric Bandholz: Yeah, content marketing for Beardbrand’s been absolutely huge. It’s funny, obviously our content’s primarily focused around beards. We’ve grown beyond the beard, but I like to joke, it’s like, how many videos on beards can you make? And the answer is one, and you just tell people to wait. And then you have a beard. And we’ve created over a thousand videos on YouTube. YouTube has been our primary driver for content for us. And then also I would consider our blog and social media to kind of be like secondary and tertiary content channels for us.
Eric Bandholz: And then of course email marketing as well is a big flare for us, and content marketing, that kind of ties everything together. For me, I’m kind of like extroverted by default, so it’s easy for me to just kind of share what’s on my mind and what I’m going through and share the things that I’ve learned.
Alicia Thomas: So today, you have thousands of videos about men’s grooming and how to grow a beard. How do you keep coming up with new ideas? I think for a lot of people that’s a big problem. It’s like I can think of 15 ideas, but then after that, what’s next?
Eric Bandholz: Yeah, I mean it goes back to what I said, like how many videos on beards can you make? Coming up with ideas can be challenging. And one of the things that I recommend if you do want to embark on content marketing, is just have like a brainstorming session and try to come up with like 20 or 30 good ideas, because you should not really embark on content marketing if you’re just wanting to do one, see how it works because it’s not going to work. You have to have like a long term plan and vision for it.
Eric Bandholz: So really the first 20 or 30 ideas have to come from you. You have to have some kind of idea for it. But after that, when you create that content, you start seeing the comments from the people on your blog, or the comments on your youtube videos and they’re like, “Hey, do a video on this,” or, “Talk about this,” or, “Talk about that.” And you’re just like, “Oh yeah, that’s a great idea. I want to do that.” Or, for us, you take some risks, you try some new content, see if it sticks or not, and then people are like, “Oh I really liked this content, but it’d be great if you did it this way, or you did it that way.”
Eric Bandholz: So you’re able to refine and re hone your content to really suit the needs of the viewers.
Alicia Thomas: I think your videos are interesting because you’re such a part of the brand, you are the face, you have the beard. How do you think about your image, and how that works with the brand? Is it something that’s intentional, or you just be yourself? Or kind of, how do you think about being the Beardbrand guy?
Eric Bandholz: Yeah. Being the face of the company has always been a top priority from a strategic standpoint. And when we started, we actually didn’t want the brand to be completely linked with me. We wanted them to kind of function as independent things. And, going back to our core values of freedom, hunger, and trust, I can’t be free if I have to produce all the videos. So in the relatively early days, after we’ve gotten some traction, I started to bring on guest collaborators for the YouTube channel to be able to have multiple faces of the brand. And then that way, like people who just don’t dig my style, or my voice, or my beard, or my hair, or whatever it is-
Eric Bandholz: … they can connect with other people with other styles and other experiences, and other techniques as well. So it’s been great because, first of all, it allows us to essentially, you add a new person, you double your content. You have three new people you’ve quadrupled your content or something. And then also like the burden of creating content can get pretty heavy. It’s not easy, as cliche as it seems like the struggling actor or whatever. It is not easy to be creative and to come up with ideas and to perform at a regular basis that fit the viewer, or your audience demands.
Alicia Thomas: And I think another thing people are often curious about is how do you measure the success of content efforts? You know, sometimes you can’t see if a YouTube video of you became a sale, right? So how are you looking at that and measuring those activities?
Eric Bandholz: Yeah. With content marketing and also with branding, you need to have a little bit of faith in your process, and what you’re doing. And know that not every single thing that you’re creating is going to have a call to action. It’s not going to be driving people to buy things, and you’re not going to be able to track that. So you know you have to have that confidence to know that eventually you’re going to attract the like-minded people who will want to become customers, and want to buy your products and support your mission, because they’re going to recognize that when they buy your products, they’re supporting that mission and helping spread that word for whatever you truly believe in.
Alicia Thomas: I think your email marketing strategy is so interesting and unique in that you’ve taken a welcome series, and it’s not four steps, it’s like 17 steps. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to really build that out and kind of what content you’re giving to people when they sign up and say, “I want to grow a better beard<” or, “I want to have better skincare regimen?”
Eric Bandholz: Yeah. When we think about email marketing or really any content that we produce, we think about what is that value that we can bring to our audience, and to our customers. And how can we provide more value that they’ve ever experienced before from any other company? And that’s really going to be our competitive advantage to help us maintain sustainability of our company ultimately to stay in business.
Eric Bandholz: So with our welcome series, we talked about like how can we provide, we have a thousand videos, how can we condense all of that? Seventeen is actually pretty short, I can’t imagine honing that down to four. So we break it down to beard, hair, and body, kind of like the three core. And then we mix in some kind of like, I wouldn’t really call them promotional, but just like more product focus type of emails where we try to give incentives for them to become customers.
Eric Bandholz: So the other thing that we want to do with our welcome series, is try to prepare our audience to get regular communication from us. So that they don’t sign up for a newsletter and then never hear from us for a month.
Alicia Thomas: Your flows. I know that you have a quiz that you ask folks to kind of let them give a little bit more information about who they are to you. How are you using that data and nurturing relationships with the quiz?
Eric Bandholz: So we’re using quizzes quite a bit to tie in with our email marketing. We actually have three primary quizzes that we use. One of them is a product related quiz, where we help audience members find the perfect product for them. And then we have a quiz that we do like a beard style. So it kind of like what is your face shape? And what does the beard you should wear? And then we have a quiz that’s kind of like more of your personality type, what kind of beard’s man are you? So that’s a little more fun.
Eric Bandholz: And what’s really interesting about that is, one it brings value to our audience because they enjoy taking quizzes and learning more about themselves. And then the other thing is like we’re able to kind of learn about our audience as well. So we have questions like what are your favorite activities to do? And then because of that, we can say, “Well, one of our questions is, travel is one of the answers.” So like travel’s my favorite thing. Then we can market to them an email that says, “Hey, all of our stuff is travel-friendly. You’d be able to take, everything is under a hundred mil. You can take it on any of your trips. Don’t sacrifice and get the cheap hotel products. Take care of yourself for easy travel.”
Eric Bandholz: So those are just a really quick and unique way that we like to integrate that data into our email marketing.