A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, "How I built a $100k jerky business in 6 Months for Less Than $100". I was extremely delighted to receive a flurry of people reaching out in response.
Most of the messages I received were from those who had questions, or wanted to let me know of a good jerky they wanted me to try (#myjobsucks).
The most common question I was asked was in regards to the specific steps I took to grow my customer base and sales in such a short period of time.
In my last post I mentioned a few things: 1. The number of tactics I used were too numerous to list, 2. I spent no more than $25 on any single tactic, and 3. over-delivering on customer experience has been the single greatest driver of new sales.
Truth be told, nothing I've done has been revolutionary or even all that unique. However, I've discovered through answering questions that, while they're not unique, these things may not be obvious to everyone.
Rather than give an exhaustive list of everything I did, I wanted to provide a list of things that had the greatest impact:
Created a brand experience, not a product
If anyone tells you that branding doesn't matter, ignore everything they say from that day forward. Branding matters ALOT. This is especially true if you're in a commoditized market or don't have a big advertising budget. I could write posts for a year on this topic alone.
Knowing that I didn't have a big budget to spend, I needed to come up with a name and theme that had the potential to become an experience. The secret to marketing is not to sell your product, but rather to allow the customer to buy it. Experiences are a great way to do that.
As you may assume, the name Stick in a Box was a play on a SNL skit by a similar name.
Utilized my existing networks
Pretty self-explanatory--I started with the people I knew. Everyone has a network of some kind (family, friends, followers, etc.), simply let them know what you're doing. That's all I did.
Any approach works here, but I simply announced what I was doing over email and social and asked if they could help spread the word. Notice, I didn't ask them to buy.
Posted my company on relevant sites
There are several sites that I reached out/submitted to, however many of them weren't all that impactful. The most useful place I posted was on Product Hunt. If you're not familiar with the site, it's a daily curation of the best new products available.
While the post itself didn't perform that well in terms of votes, I offered an exclusive discount to Product Hunt visitors which generated a bunch of sales. The site drove roughly 2,000 unique visitors, which I was more than pleased with.
Pitched the press
Many people I speak with think that getting press coverage is a combination of luck and a lot of money. It's actually a combination of work and a lot of persistence.
In my case, I identified the places I believed had the highest concentration of my potential customers, looked for an editor that seemed accessible and wrote a short, personal email. When I didn't hear back, I followed up. And, I continued to follow up until they either said, "yes" or "go away".
I didn't use a press release or offer any kind of press kit. It's really not needed. Getting press is simply a matter of finding a fit, telling a compelling story and doing it in the fewest amount of words possible.
We've now been covered several times by a handful of publications.
Came up with a viral hook
When I say viral, I don't mean a Jimmy Kimmel twerking video, I simply mean something that has the ability to spread naturally. Doesn't mean it's going to work as intended, but if it does, it can be incredible.
In my case, the viral hook was spicy jerky. I found a jerky made with hottest pepper in the world, the Carolina Reaper, effectively making it the hottest jerky in the world. With that, I created a challenge, film yourself eating the hottest jerky in the world and we'll put you up in our Hall of Flame.
We reached out to several people with large followings who accepted the challenge--filming themselves eating the jerky and sharing that video with their networks.
Partnered with someone bigger than me
The popular listing site, Digg.com, was putting together an inaugural "Digg in a Box", which seemed like a good match. I made an arrangement to supply them with jerky for each box in exchange for advertising on their homepage, which normally costs $7k--$10k per day.
To keep costs even lower, I partnered with one of our beef jerky suppliers to provide the meat in exchange for future orders and a share of the ad space.
Built an email database
In spite of the noise, email is still one of the most impactful and lowest-cost marketing tools available. Needless to say, it's been a critical component in driving sales.
In order to capture as many emails as possible, I offered a first-box discount in exchange for an email address. To me, these are as qualified leads as you can get.
To prevent from email overload, I try to keep my emails to either once or twice per month.
This wasn't intended to be a list of magic silver bullets, but rather a small glimpse into what worked best for me.
At the end of the day, know that, no matter how small your budget is, there are things you can do to grow your business.
Oh, and by the way, if you want some great jerky, here's where you get it. (Marketing tactic #8)