EPISODE
13

1.3M YouTube Subscribers to 7 Figures in Revenue: Beardbrand’s Content Marketing Strategy Revealed

with
Eric Bandholz

In the last episode of the Minds of Ecommerce Podcast, you heard from Tyler “Sully” Sullivan, founder of BombTech Golf who shared how he built BombTech Golf to over $7M mostly through email marketing by building relationships with customers, how they validate new products and achieves super successful product launches.

In episode #13, Eric Bandholz, the founder of Beardbrand, a men’s grooming ecommerce company that achieved 1.3 million YouTube subscribers and credits most of it’s 7-figure growth to their content strategy. He shares their YouTube strategy, including how they find topics for their content, how they use customer feedback for better videos, and also how they convert YouTube viewers into paying customers.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Today on episode number 13, get ready. Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand, a men's grooming eCommerce company, shares how he grew the brand from a $30 investment to a seven figure business through organic content such as their blog and their YouTube channel, which has over 1.3 million subscribers. I'm Raphael, the founder of SplitBase, a conversion optimization agency for fashion, lifestyle, and skincare brands. I'm your host and get ready. This is Minds of Ecommerce.

All right, Eric, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.

Eric Bandholz:

What's up, Raph? I'm excited to be here, man.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Yeah, I'm excited that you're here. As you know, this podcast is all about going really deep and dissecting one key growth strategy, so our listeners can get the most value right away. Now, you bootstrapped Beardbrand starting with $30 and built it into a seven figure business, mostly through an organic content strategy. To give context to our listeners, can you tell us a bit more about the growth you've been experiencing with your company?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah. As you said, we were a completely bootstrapped company. We launched in 2013, actually as an online retailer selling other products, and ultimately started selling our own products. Every dollar we made in those early years, rather than paying ourselves, it went back into the business. We reinvested our profits into the company and through some shrewd business decisions and allocating our scarce resources to those that have the biggest impact, we've been able to hustle and grind up to, as you said, a seven figure business and a team of about 20 employees.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Awesome. That's super exciting. Now, what I'm really excited to dive into is how you've achieved that growth. Right? You mentioned that engaging with your customers through your blog, email, social medias, and especially YouTube has been one of your main growth channels. Can you tell us how you've used YouTube, let's start with that, to grow the brand?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah. In a bootstrap business, typically you have more time than money. When you have more time than money, you do things that involve more time and less money, and social media and organic content is pretty much the best way to go. I actually just kind of started the YouTube channel, less of a strategy and more of just like an outlet of kind of checking the boxes. We're lucky that one of the videos we created early on got a little bit of traction and kind of showed us that there's interest in our topic, and interest in our brand in the early days.

We were able to kind of build off of that. Ultimately for us with YouTube, it's always been create content, look at the analytics of it, see what the analytics are telling us, and then try to create more content that is working and less content that is not working. We've always been a little evolving with our strategy within the framework and the boundary of what we're trying to produce.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Got it. Now your channel has 1.3 million subscribers. Let's talk about the content itself that you've got on YouTube. What type of content do you produce? How did you build up that subscriber base?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah, so as I just mentioned, it's been an evolution. In the early days, we created, what we call, a studio video. You can actually see here, I'm in the studio. We've got some lights over there. It was basically me talking to the camera and telling them how to groom your beard, how to grow your beard, how to deal with itchy beard, beard curls, all these kind of things. Then we added in some additional content, because I didn't want to be tied to the company all the time. Not only did I not want to be tied to the company, I wanted Beardbrand to be more than an Eric Bandholz project. I wanted it to kind of stand independently and represent its own thing. We brought in another talent who showcased their own skills and did these studio type of videos. That got us up to about, I'd say, like 150,000 subscribers.

In the process, we would generate content that was about self improvement, kind of a little bit beyond the beard. We'd get into hair care topics. We'd get into skincare topics. Then we started showing the experience of getting our hair cut and our beards trimmed at the barber shop. When we started posting those videos, we really saw a lot of engagement with the YouTube algorithm. Our channel, we combined both of those contents, so we were doing both studio type of videos and, what we call, barber shop videos, where we'd film a barber shop experience.

A couple of years ago, June 2017, we made a decision based on the YouTube algorithm and the data we were seeing, to do daily content. We were cranking out essentially a video day for the next two years. With that effort and that grind, we were able to go from like 150 or 200,000 subscribers up to where we're sitting now, which is 1.3 or a little over 1.3 million subscribers.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Wow. That's what, within two years or so, from 200 to 1.3?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah, pretty much. We added about a million subscribers in a couple of years. Like the one thing you'll learn is, like when you're building on someone else's playground, the rules always change, and you always have to be adaptable. While it sucks sometimes that you have to shift your strategy, it's the nature of the beast. It's not only like that on YouTube, but it's also like that in business. If you're not listening to your customers and adjusting to their wants and needs, then your business is going to go out of business. Same thing will happen on YouTube. If you're not listening to the algorithm and to what kind of the YouTube is rewarding, then your channel is not going to get views. What we realized, actually probably about two months ago, was that our studio videos were no longer getting the same core engagement that they used to get in the past.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

What was the content in those studio videos, before we go further?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah. Again, it would be like if you're trying to grow a beard out, we would give you the five best tips on how to grow a beard, or how to deal with an itchy beard. Or I would style my beard or else I'd style my hair, and I'd be like, here's how you... The women's beauty bloggers are really well known. It's essentially the same thing, but for guys, so a guy's perspective on it.

We were always okay with them not performing as well, because that's fine, but with the shift of the algorithm, probably about nine months ago, having bad performing videos would actually be detrimental to the channel as a whole. The algorithms shifted from a preference of daily content to more high performing content. What we decided to do about two months ago was to split the channels.

Now we have the large channel with the barbershop videos, which perform very well, then we've split off the studio videos onto a new channel called The Beardbrand Alliance. This was done strictly based on the data we were seeing from YouTube.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Interesting. Do you post a video a day on each channel or in total?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah, YouTube is no longer prioritizing daily content. As of the end of 2019, you don't need to be making daily content, but what you need to be doing is creating content that really connects with your subscribers. Because what YouTube is doing is essentially, if content is hitting with your subscribers, they're going to show it to other people who are similar to your subscribers. Then if that content hits with those people, then it goes a little broader, a little broader, a little broader. If at the very beginning, your content is not hitting with the subscribers, it's just dead in the water. There's no way for that content ever to see the relevant people that it needs to see. You have to understand your channel very well and really understand what kind of content is going to hit with them.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Let's talk about that, content that is relevant to your audience. You're saying if you don't have it, your content won't be relevant. YouTube won't show it. If we focus on that, how do you find all those topics? Like now, you may not be doing daily videos, but even when you did, that is a lot of topics that you got to come up with. How do you really find what's interesting for your audience and what's going to keep them attached to your channel?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah, I mean, it kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier, which is getting engaged with your audience and listening to them. Because, I mean the joke I like to make is how many videos on growing a beard can you make? The answer is one. That's all there is to growing a beard. But when you create that first video, you'll start seeing the comments and it'll be like, hey, you know, I'm dealing with this problem. How do I handle it? Like, oh yeah, I didn't really touch base on that.

What YouTube allows you to do, and really create in a deep dive channel, is get very specific. You could be like, how to deal with a wavy beard. How to deal with a curly beard. How to deal with a straight beard. Each of those things can be a topic in a video in of itself. It really allows you to niche down. Listen to your audience, and kind of get a feel for what they want and the feedback they want. Then produce content based on their needs. Then as you continue to grow in scale, you're not going to get a shortage of content. Then if you're around like us for seven years, some of our old content is still very relevant and very good, but YouTube just no longer shows it. We have the 1.3 million subscribers and a million were added in the past two years. Well chances are they didn't see the videos from five years ago, so we're able to kind of rehash that older content, get it up to date, maybe have it produced a little bit higher, add in a little bit better storytelling, and then get it in front of our new audience members.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Hmm. Let's talk about the length of your videos, because it sounds like you definitely want to have a niche topic for every video so you don't run out of content. It's not like a 30 minute or hour long video with everything. Are those videos short or do you still manage to do pretty long videos about one niche topic? What have you found works best?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah, I think the answer, which no one likes to hear, is it depends, right? It all depends on your audience and what they're looking for, who they are. YouTube wants people to be on YouTube for as long as possible, so create content that encourages them to be on the website and watch more videos, whether it be your videos or somebody else's videos. Do it in a way that is relevant to your audience. We are creating content that sometimes will be up to 30 minutes long for some barbershop, but it's create a video that's an appropriate amount of length for the content that you're trying to deliver. We have a wide variance. Some videos only four minutes, because it's kind of straight and to the point. Some videos, like I said, are upwards of 30, 36 minutes long. There is, for us, what we found is there is no kind of like, the video has got to be this long and it's got to have this format. There's really just a ton of variance.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Yeah, it's really about how long does it has be, right? It's not about, I need it to be 30 minutes. It's, is 30 minutes going to be too long to explain this content or do we actually need 30 minutes to explain it?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah. The way I like to think about it, I think a lot of content creators get afraid of creating content that's too long. I think that's really an issue they have. Then what I like to remind them is like, think of your favourite TV show. I was big into Game of Thrones, and if Game of Thrones was on every single week for the whole year, I would watch every single week of it. I could not consume enough content of Game of Thrones. The same thing is going to be true for the content you produce and your fans. Your fans want to watch as much content from you as possible, and you're doing them a disservice by cutting it or keeping it short because you think it needs to be short for the YouTube algorithm, or you think it's, you're giving too much more information that they may not find valuable. I'm telling you, some of those people can find value... They can skip it if they don't want it, but if you never put that content in there, they're never going to see the things that opportunity lost or whatever. There's a term I'm thinking of, but you're not going to know what you don't know because it's not out there.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. Now I want to dive in deeper into the concept of listening to your customers, because it sounds like, at the end of the day it's the only way that people are going to keep watching your videos or watch them for 30 minutes. How do you listen to your customers? Are there specific strategies or tactics that you're using to really find what's important to them?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah, I mean, you create good engaging content and you can do tips and tricks like ask questions or throw comments down below. The reality is, let's say we get 20,000 views on a video in the first couple of days, we're only going to get like a hundred or 200 comments. We've got 19,000 people who are not commenting. We have to listen to them through their actions, rather than listening to them strictly by the comments, because a lot of times the comments are going to be the extreme version of what the viewers think.

We put more of an emphasis on the data that YouTube gives us. On YouTube, you have average view duration, you have your click through rate, and those are kind of like indicators on, is a thumbnail engaging, is the title engaging, and then what part of the video is working within the content and do we need to make adjustments for future content. Look at the data. That's going to be more representative of the 20,000 people, rather than the hundred or 200 or so people who actually take the time to comment. At the same time, don't completely disregard those comments, because they are valid feedback and they will provide you some interesting insights onto what a certain subset of your audience may desire.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. Now obviously you've had lots of success with YouTube, now you've built subscribers, but at the end of the day, you are an eCommerce company and that has to convert into sales. As the founder of a conversion optimization agency, we have to talk about conversions. Eric, tell me what are strategies that you're using right now to convert your viewers into eCommerce customers?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah. Really, it's more for us like a brand awareness play on YouTube, a lot of our organic. To the best of our ability, try to give them a heads up at the end of every video. Hey, check out these products before you watch your next video or watch another video. Then after that, check out Beardbrand.com. We kind of have these reminders at the end, but if you go too hard with the call to actions and driving people off of YouTube to your website, then YouTube is not going to show your video. You've essentially shot yourself in the foot for taking advantage of one of the last few platforms that gives you organic growth. It needs to be more branding focused and then if you do get them to the website, try to drive them into the email flows, and try to hit them with a pixel where you can re-target with them down the road and continue to build that awareness of your brand. We did a post-purchase survey for our customers and asked them where they first heard about us, and 65% heard us first through our YouTube efforts. Nearly two thirds of our business is really from YouTube.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Yep. Super, super interesting. I love the post-purchase surveys and just a side note for listeners, if you guys want to learn more about those surveys and how to use them to really understand your customers and know what type of content to create, listen to the episode with Ahmed Zedan of Haute Hijab and you'll hear a full breakdown of how they use surveys to inform their site design and how to run the business.

Eric Bandholz:

Just to add onto that, if you just looked at Google analytics, we get no traffic from YouTube. If we looked at the analytics, we'd be like, ah, YouTube is not working. We only get like one click out of a million views or whatever and it's doing nothing for our business. The post-purchase survey is going to give you a more representative data set on how things are working. Otherwise, I think it would all be organic search or Facebook ads or something like that, which is not the case.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. Because at the end of the day, people are, your subscribers, are becoming very familiar with your brand and it doesn't mean that they're going to go to your brand directly from a video. Right? At one point if they keep watching your videos, it's just like the name of the brand sticks with them. At one point they'll be like, oh, I need a something for grooming, and then they'll go directly to your site. That'll show up as direct traffic that you can't attribute to YouTube. You've got to consider that part of your traffic channel. Eric, it sounds like you don't want to do too much promotion in those videos. I'm sure you feature your products a ton in the videos, but getting people to sign up to your email list is a key part of that. What are some of the offers that you're using to get people to sign up to your list from your videos?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah. We don't do any kind of offers like discounts or promotions. We tried to bring value through education and again, more organic content, or we'll do it through the course of giving them interesting quizzes to take, which kind of peak their curiosity. Yeah.

As a premium brand, we're trying to maintain the premium aspects of our company and not do discounts and not discount our products. We never really hit hard on the call to action, and we don't do popups, and we don't do kind of these more traditional things that you see everyone else do, which I think also differentiates us in the marketplace.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. I really want to talk about those quizzes, because people get to your website probably after the YouTube videos. Then the main call to action you have is take a quiz. That's been something on our side, I've looked at a lot of our clients in the skincare space, for example, and quizzes just perform like crazy. I've also had a guest on the podcast, Phil Kyprianou, who did a whole episode on quizzes. I want to know, Eric, what's your experience with quizzes? How has it helped your business and how are you using them?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah. As you see, it's our primary call to action. It's the only thing that's above the fold. We feel like it's the way that we can just bring a little more value to our customer without it being about us. It's more about our customer and how can we kind of entertain them and really bring them value. We just found that quizzes are a great way to do that rather than having a more Beardbrand focused kind of communication style. What we do is, right now we've got a quiz that's more of like a personality quiz. What type of beards man are you? We'll change that up from time to time with our beard style quiz, like what type of beard style should you have? It's a little more helpful. Then we have a third quiz that's like, what type of product do you need? Those kind of quizzes typically end up more in our flows or on relevant blog articles. Right now, we found the personality quiz performs the best for us. Then based on their personalities, we'll take them to a landing page, a collection page, that has different products to kind of be aligned with their personalities.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Do you use that data to personalize the email flows as well?

Eric Bandholz:

Man. I wish we did a better job with that. We've got a lot of opportunity to kind of speak based on their interests and we're not totally utilizing that. There is opportunity for us to do that as we build out our email practices.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Awesome. Now, we're almost running out of time. One thing that I really want to know is what are the biggest mistakes that brands make when it comes to building their YouTube channel and trying to grow their brand through organic content?

Eric Bandholz:

I see it all the time, and brands make a bunch of mistakes. First of all, they don't take the time to understand the platform and what content the viewer is really looking for. A lot of times they're going to overproduce content and the more you produce the video, the bigger the wall you have between the viewer and you.

What you want to do a lot of times in social media, YouTube especially, is break down that wall and really have that personal connection. I don't want to say having production is bad, but if your audio is there and they can see you, then that's going to be really good enough production value. What you want to do from there is just do that feedback loop of creating content, looking at the data, and rinsing and repeating. The more content you have, the quicker you're going to be able to get the data. A lot of brands, they'll produce one over produced video per month and you're talking about, you're only getting one video's worth of data over the course of the month. There's no way you're going to be able to respond and react to that. Speed is of the essence when you're creating content.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Amazing. Now, if we talk about your eCommerce business in general, if you were to go back a few years, what would you do differently? It could be when it comes to your organic content or it could be something else in the business, but what would that main thing be?

Eric Bandholz:

I think that the biggest hurdle that I had was making that transition from a small company with me and my business partner and a couple of key employees to one where we have a team of 20. In the early days, we just simply hired people with the expectation that they would just figure it out and solve our all of our problems and then life would be great. If I had to go back in time, I would have to be like, Eric listen, you have to give more to your employees, you have to support them more. You have to give them a good framework to work within, an organization where they can really feel successful and kind of execute to the best of their abilities. We're in the process of implementing EOS or Traction, those kind of blueprints within our organization that really give our team members the knowledge and the ability to be successful in their roles.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

That's super important and I love that you mentioned that because the next episode to be released after yours is with Brad Pederson of Pela Case, who ran seven startups up to nine figures in revenues with over 130 employees, and he's going to talk about exactly how to empower your employees and use those systems to really make sure your business can grow really just by leveraging your employees properly. That was a fantastic way to end that interview.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Eric, that is fantastic. Thank you so much for your time. If you want to summarize this, it sounds like at the end of the day, you're realizing the quality of the content matters more than the quantity that you put out. It's not about length, it's about the value that you're bringing, and at the end of the day, in order to achieve that, you really need to listen to your customers, post-purchase email, surveys, reading the comments, really looking at the data on which videos are more engaging than the others. Quizzes have also been quite successful for you. Using quizzes and tying it with your videos, and your blog, and your email is really how you're getting people into the brand and ultimately how you're converting them. Does that sound about right?

Eric Bandholz:

Right on, man. You nailed it.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Perfect. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Eric. Now, if people want to follow you online, you've got a killer Twitter. What's your Twitter handle? How can they learn more about you and your brand?

Eric Bandholz:

Yeah, my Twitter handle is my last name is Bandholz, and then Instagram - don't really follow me there. It's just selfies. Then the brand of course is Beardbrand. Do yourself a favour, go ahead and buy something from Beardbrand. You'll be glad you did. I don't care if you've got a beard or no beard, or if you're a dude or dudette. Just go ahead and treat yourself and you'll see kind of the way that we do it at Beardbrand for 25 bucks, you're going to get a ton of insight into the way we run our business.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Awesome, Eric, thank you so much.

Eric Bandholz:

All right, man. Appreciate having me on here.

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