At Perfect Audience, we’re fascinated by the evolutions young companies undergo as they find their footing. So, we’d thought we’d talk to several to hear their stories on the theme of customers: getting your first ones, finding new ones, and using their feedback to move your product forward. Think you’ve got a great story to tell? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Manpacks is a web-based service that offers subscriptions to all your morning ritual essentials — socks, shirts, underwear, razors, vitamins and more — that mails your personalized “pack” every three months.
Their customer base has changed and broadened since their launch in 2010, which meant Manpacks had to change the selling strategy used on early adopters and add new features to accommodate more flexibility.
Manpacks began when the original founders — Ken Johnson and Andrew Draper — chatted with each other about recurring business models after reading the Timothy Ferriss’ book, “The 4-Hour Workweek”. They asked themselves what kind of things they needed on a recurring basis and found a company in Europe that offered a subscription service for socks.
After spending a month making the site and $500 on inventory, which they stored in their own home, Manpacks soft launched their bootstrapped startup in January 2010.
In the beginning, Manpacks took their sales model from the software-as-a-service industry, offering guys several packages that contained various pre-set amounts of socks, shirts and underwear to be delivered every three months.
“We launched it as an experiment to see if there was any demand for it,” Johnson said. “Our target market was people doing web work — designers and developers. We were targeting the early adopters and picked a model they were familiar with. That’s how we launched.”
To reach their target customer, Manpacks received the biggest boost from social media, specifically Twitter. In the process of building their site, Manpacks was an early user of Chargify, which handles their billing. Once they launched, Chargify tweeted about Manpacks to their audience, which brought them a customer and further retweets.
Press mentions ranging from Maxim magazine to NPR contributed to a groundswell phenomenon effect. It wasn’t long before they gained traction and received so much traffic and customers that they had more orders than they could fill — a good problem to have.
But this was more than two-and-a-half years ago, and Manpacks now offers a wider amount of products and no longer uses the SaaS sales approach. As Manpacks grew in popularity, their customer base grew to the more broadly defined area of young professional men from all walks of life.
And with a broader base, Manpacks needed to change, too, putting a priority on customer service.
“Over time, we built more flexibility in and put more emphasis in customer service and being more of a club,” Johnson said, whose stated title of C.E.O. stands for “Customer Experience Officer” on the Manpacks website.
In the beginning Manpacks focused on just automation, resulting in a smaller customer service focus because of the limited options. Now, Manpacks has a full customer dashboard that allows guys make more adjustments — like snoozing or accelerating a shipment. Adding the “snooze” function has helped decrease the churn rate down to just 2%.
“Sooner or later, most people will “max out” on socks, or underwear, etc.,” Johnson said. “Instead of relentlessly sending more product their way and prompting them to cancel their service, we encourage them to take breaks.”
Manpacks dives deep into the customer experience, too, to learn more about their mindset, such as asking why a customer would snooze a shipment. The goal is to offer a concierge service, Johnson said, to customers that helps them get the full value of their company.
And the changes have paid off. By adding more products and flexibility, the average order size increased by 84%.
Customer feedback also played a large role in Manpacks’ expansion of products offered. When Manpacks began offering disposable razor cartridges, a customer’s musing on Twitter that some guys preferred to use safety razors led to a series of tweets asking the customer what brands were the best. The customer went on Reddit’s shaving community and solicited more recommendations.
Once Manpacks had safety razor blades in stock, they reached out to the customer again on Twitter and he was so impressed that they’d taken the time to listen he went back to Reddit and talked about what Manpacks had done.
“It generated a lot of goodwill and it was a cool success story,” Johnson said.
For the Manpacks founders, they never were quite able to achieve the 4-hour workweek. Johnson said he’s never worked this hard in his life, but it’s been a worthwhile shift.
“The more we move away from automation and the more we get into customer service, the more work it is,” Johnson said. “But it’s more gratifying and it’s more successful for the company long term.”
Do you have a fascinating story to tell about how you acquired your first customers or radically changed how you reach new customers now? Or maybe you had an epiphany from customer feedback that pushed your product in an exciting direction? We want to hear about it and tell others! E-mail me at email@example.com.