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Ep. 44 - Targeting the right audience during holidays, community engagement and going balls out with Adam Hendle

This episode is nuts (pun intended)! On this podcast, we talked about the effectiveness of giftable items and content during the holiday season, how to ride the virality of your product, and tactics that boost your AOV and LTV.

Adam Hendle is the Founder of a bold new men's personal care brand Ballsy, which focuses on below-the-belt-care.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [1:29] Adam’s journey before Ballsy
  • [3:57] The Ballsy story
  • [6:49] Sponsor: Simplr https://www.simplr.ai/honest
  • [7:41] Adam’s marketing tactics to bring customers to his site
  • [9:31] Engaging with the community: Apps or Manual replies
  • [10:45] How has social media changed from 2017 till now
  • [13:16] Consumables and subscriptions are the best match for boosting LTV
  • [13:36] Ballsy’s “AHA moment/Trojan Horse”
  • [15:30] What are the biggest mistakes/lessons during Ballsy’s journey
  • [17:45] Chase and Adam’s “band days” and inventory management
  • [18:27] Sponsor: Gorgias http://gorgias.link/honest
  • [19:16] Ballsy’s cool Shopify apps/tools on the backend: Clearbanc and Brex
  • [23:20] What would make the biggest impact on Ballsy’s business?

Resources:

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Transcript:

Adam Hendle  

(What) we're trying to do is use this fun, playful brand of marketing. Get them in the door --like I said, it's this Trojan horse-- and then really surprised with how good the quality of the product is.

 

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, where we're dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. 

 

I'm your host Chase Clymer, and I believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

 

If you're struggling with scaling your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more. Now let's get on with the show.

 

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. 

 

I'm Chase Clymer and today we're meeting with or cyber-talking with one of the founders, the founder Adam Hendle of Ballsy which is a bold new men's personal care brand which focuses on below the belt care.

 

It's very pun driven in their marketing and I love it. Adam, Welcome to the show.

 

Adam Hendle  

Awesome to be here, Chase. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah So Adam and I, we met through doing some Facebook stuff together and then I found out he was using a really cool app and his back that led to this conversation of him being on the podcast. 

 

But before we get into that --it's [going to be at] the end of the show-- let's take it back to the beginning. Let's talk about before you started Ballsy. What got you to the place where you could found a brand and make it a success, I guess. What was your history?

 

Adam Hendle  

Awesome. So yeah, I won't go too far back. But long story short, (I've) been involved in a few tech startups pretty early stage. So about 6 - 7 years ago now, I guess, (I) worked at this startup called Storenvy

 

And Storenvy was basically like a Shopify meets Etsy and (I) was one of the first employees there. My job there was really to help the small Ecommerce brands there to grow through creating educational content for them. Blog posts. 

 

And then also, I connected the community of store owners together for them to learn from each other. 

 

So there I got to really see behind-the-scenes on what was working, what wasn't for what ended up being about 100,000 different Ecommerce stores. So, I was there for about 4 years. 

 

And they got an amazing opportunity to move down to LA and be the first employee at an influencer marketing platform called Famebit. And Famebit was basically a self-service marketplace that connects YouTubers with brands for sponsorship deals. 

 

This was pretty well before influencer marketing, which is a very well known marketing channel. So (I) was able to start there and after about 3 years, we were purchased by Google. 

 

And then throughout that time again, being involved early on those startups, you typically wear a lot of hats. 

 

So I was doing everything from, like I said, creating content to doing design, product management, marketing. You name it, I was doing it. So (I've) always been a generalist in that sense of the term. 

 

And I think that harkens back to the fact that I used to be in a band way back in the day and we used to do all of our marketing and design for the websites, t-shirts. 

 

So I just always had that more broad background, which has been able to pull upon while starting Ballsy, not having to rely on a lot of outside resources to get it off the ground.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I can definitely agree with the DIY ethics of being in a band because you don't have a budget at all. So you have to figure it out. 

 

Adam Hendle  

(laughs) You have a negative budget. (laughs)

 

Exactly. Well, you've already spent money just thinking about it yourself. That's pretty much how it works. So cool. So now let's fast forward. I guess explain Ballsy, the concept behind it. It's definitely a fun brand.

 

Yeah, definitely a fun brand to build over the last year and a half or so. The idea literally came to me in the shower, I would say probably three years back. 

 

I was just taking a shower like every other day and (I) just happened to notice how many different products my wife had in the shower. And I thought to myself like "Women, in general, just have a lot more personal care products with different needs, why don't guys?" 

 

And I was just like, "I have a body wash, face wash, I wonder if anyone's ever created a ball wash." 

 

I literally jumped out of the shower, quick Google search later, no one had created anything called "Ballwash". And this was right around the time, where I was just starting to get more into high-quality men's personal care products. 

 

And it just dawned on me like what if you had this bold, playful, in-your-face brand, but also delivered a really high-quality product. 

 

Because at the time when I saw was you have these high-quality brands, but they're just a little too stuffy. (They have) the apothecary look. It just wasn't that fun and playful. And me, myself, I just didn't relate to that.  

 

I wanted something that was really good, humorous, kind of like Old Spice but l better than that. Something that was a step-up. So that sent me down the path of going to Whole Foods and figuring out how to make a body wash of sorts. 

 

I quickly realized I'm a better marketer than (a) chemist. Then, I started calling around to a bunch of different factories and see if somebody could help me bring this vision to life. A ton of phone calls later and a lot of rejection, I found this company. 

 

I got them on the phone. My wife actually had an introduction to them through a friend and got them on the phone. I was like, "Look, I want to create this men's product called Ballwash." And full stop. Within a minute, they're like "We're in." (laughs) We want to help you with this." 

 

I'm like, "Well, I only might create around 500 units to start." And most factories, you're talking 5000+ minimum. And that was just something that wasn't on the table for me. I really wanted to try and validate the idea before I invested a bunch of money in it. So luckily, they believed in me. 

 

We spent about a year coming up with the original formula for Ballwash. And then we launched it in 2017. Basically Black Friday weekend, I had 500 units on hand and we sold them out basically in 48 hours. 

 

And I was like "Wow! Okay, this is good and bad. We sifted through this product but it's basically the holiday season and we're out." So (a) frantic call to my supplier. Luckily, they were super agile, they were able to make us 15,000 units. 

 

So we sold all 15,000 units in December and that really just propelled us into 2018.

 

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Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So let's go back. Let's talk about that launch weekend. What were you doing right? Obviously, you had the product-market fit. You had figured that out. But what are you doing on the marketing side? 

 

How are you getting people to this new fresh website? Because I guarantee a lot of our listeners are like, "I believe in this product, but I can't get people to my site." So what were some of the tactics you were doing?

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah, absolutely. So basically, we've set up a few different ad sets and Facebook targeting different customers. (We) had, I think, 5 or 6 at the time and the one that really just took off was targeting females in a relationship. 

 

So the idea was to target women more as a gift for guys in their life that lead an active lifestyle, and that segment just did amazing. I think we were getting a 7x ROAS at the time. I was putting $100 into it, and then it became $200 a day and then, like I said we did, we drove about 15,000 units. 

 

We were doing like $1,000 a day. So it ramped up pretty quickly. And it definitely wasn't limited by budget, it was more limited by inventory on hand. 

 

What really helped us when we started scaling that up, obviously the product being a little different and bold, we just saw a ton of engagements in the comments and adds a lot of shares between both females sharing it amongst their friends thinking it's fun and then also tagging their significant others. 

 

So just a lot of really fun engagement. And then I made sure I was very proactive in those comments. Leaving funny GIFs and being funny and responsive to what was going on in there, which just started to snowball more and more. Comments and eyes on it and it just drove the rise up. Which was great.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So were you using... I got a bunch of questions, I took a bunch of notes. This is gonna be a fun episode. 

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah. 

 

Chase Clymer  

One, for interacting with your community. And while you're building the brand, I've heard that... From numerous founders, I've heard that that was something that they say helped them grow. 

 

Were you using any apps to help you manage that communication? Or was it just being mindful of where you left off and getting back in there?

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah. At the time, it was literally just getting on there every night. I was still working a day job. So I was doing my best I could during the day, get home at night and then just go through every single comment. And they said I was making... We made some of our own GIFs using some of the products and then we used some others.  

 

People shining balls and just being really fun and playful with it. And then just staying on top of it. I mean, it was definitely exhausting. 

 

But yeah. Unfortunately, (there was) no tool at the time. Just grassroots, just getting in there brute force, making sure that I was being really proactive and it was great. 

 

Because a lot of the people in the thread were just tagging their friends being like, "You gotta check out these guys' responses and comments." What we're saying. So really, this helped the virality, being really active in there and also speaking the way that the brand comes across.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome, awesome. And then obviously... So you launched the brand back in 2017. And you got a lot of the traffic and a lot of the exposure --prospecting per se-- through Facebook ads. 

 

I want to draw a direct parallel to we're coming up on Black Friday, Cyber Monday. We're probably six weeks out, I think, at the time we're recording this. 

 

How has Facebook and Instagram and how that has been a driving force behind growing the brand? I guess, how has it changed as far as like a tool that's in your arsenal? Is it more expensive now? It's pretty much what I'm getting at.

 

Adam Hendle  

(laughs)Yeah, I think it's very safe that we can say it's definitely more expensive. I think that's no big secret right now. Costs have definitely gone up. So some things that we've tried to do, proactively, to combat that is one, we added a subscription program

 

So the idea there obviously, (is) hoping to funnel people into more of an easy-to-get our products every month. 

 

So while the costs have gone up, hopefully, we're keeping them around longer driving up LTV. And then we also, at the time, we added a product called the Sack Spray which is a natural deodorizing spray. 

 

And the real key was putting all 3 of those products into a box together. So we had a gift box and we have a normal box and that really saw our AOV rise tremendously because people were coming to the site, and it was $15 for each item or $40 for the whole pack. 

 

And we really only have those 3 products so it's [almost] this no-brainer to like "Yeah, I'll try the whole thing for $40." And that really helped drive AOV also again, combating you know the rising Facebook costs. 

 

And again we have a lot more products we're going to be dropping right before Christmas this year. We actually have 5 new products so again, the idea of, one driving AOV and then two, keeping the brand is a little bit more sticky for our current customers. 

 

We have a little over 4000 subscribers right now, which is awesome and something I'm super thankful for. And also (what's) surprising (is) they only get from us (the) Ballwash and a cologne once in a while. 

 

They still have to go get shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, all these staple products. And the idea there is adding some more of those staples will help them make their whole shopping experience easier. 

 

And then, you know, obviously, help our brand grow AOV and hopefully long-term LTV.

 

Chase Clymer  

Those are just so many fantastic ideas in there. Obviously, you've figured out what having a product that is... It doesn't last forever. It's not a luxury product. You're going to use it. I'm drawing a blank on... Consumable! That's the word. 

 

Adam Hendle  

(laughs) That's the word. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I couldn't do that and I was using leading questions. I'd be a terrible lawyer. 

 

Adam Hendle  

(laughs)

 

Chase Clymer  

But yeah, that helps with the subscriptions.

 

Adam Hendle  

And I think the other thing that was just a huge aha moment for us wasn't just packaging those products together in a box. It was packaging those products together and then theming the box for the holiday. 

 

So we've tried to make this very giftable item which I view is a Trojan horse. For example being in February of 2018. We packaged all 3 products together in this box that says "I'm nuts about you." And I will always give my wife the credit for coming up with that slogan.

 

But the idea was like, "All right, how do we get women to buy this for their guys and then not be like, 'Here. You have a problem.'?" Like "You need these ball products." It's like this endearing, fun way to give them a high-quality product. 

 

So again, we put all 3 products in this box it says "I'm nuts about you." On the inside flap, there was this word find with all these like fun words like “incrediball” or “sacktacular.” We made that like "Post this to social and tag a friend to win Ballwash for a year." 

 

And those theme gift boxes... For holiday, we have a box coming out that says "Keep your jewels jolly." Those themed gift boxes make it so easy for people to give it as a gift. And then we have so many customers that come to us and say "Hey, I got this as a gag or like a joke. But these are now my new favorite products." 

 

And I think that harkens back, way back to the beginning of not just having this fun playful brand, but also having a really high-quality product that delivers. 

 

I didn't want this to be this gag gift that like they get it and it's like super low quality and we made a buck on that. That's not what we're trying to do here. 

 

We're trying to use this fun, playful brand marketing, get them in the door, --like I said, is this Trojan horse-- and then really surprised by how good the quality of the product is. And hopefully, convert them to a long time buyer of the brand. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So we've talked about a lot of the awesome wins that you've had with the business, let's talk about the flip side of that coin. Where did you guys screw up? What were some of the biggest lessons? 

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah, we've had plenty of things that have gone wrong. I wish I could say it's been peaches and cream since the beginning but it's just things that like you don't plan for. So going back to December... I'm sorry. 

 

Valentine's Day 2018, We had sent out thousands of our gift boxes and all of a sudden it's a week before Valentine's Day and then these boxes are not showing up, they're disappearing. And so we're looking at tracking. 

 

They're updating, and then they're just gone. They don't update for a week. And we're just panic[king], we can't get any answers. So we start (by) trying to do right by the customer and we start sending out replacements for all of these. 

 

And we're not talking 5 (products). We're talking hundreds to --I think we ended up over, I think close to 1000 that we resent." And what happened was the UPS... So the USPS delivery center, lost power because it was so cold in Michigan where we have our fulfillment center. 

 

They lost power for 2 days, and that didn't trickle down to like our USPS locally, so they were just all stuck there. So then we figured this out, and they all ended up getting sent back out.

 

So we actually double sent basically, orders for 1000 people which was good on them and they really liked that. It was a good customer experience but for the bottom line, not something that you really planned for. 

 

So that wasn't good. We've had an issue too with boxes where we thought we had X amount of boxes on hand because that's what our supplier said they sent us, they had shorted us 3000. We didn't realize it until we had oversold 2000 of them. 

 

So then I had to go and email 2000 people that thought they were getting this box to let them know that they weren't. So the last thing you want to do is get in the way of a gift-giver being excited about giving a product and not be able to deliver. 

 

So that was not fun. So make sure to always actually count the physical inventory on hand. Don't take your word for it.

 

Chase Clymer  

You should have known that from the band days.

 

Adam Hendle  

No, I really should. Counting t-shirts and making sure you got the right amount of CDs for the show.

 

Chase Clymer  

They would always short us all the time.

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah, it's definitely a thing. Even when they say like we don't underrun we're always over. Make sure you count or have your fulfillment partner account. So things like that. And I could go on. 

 

Me and my wife jokes about, down the road coming out with a book that says "It Takes Balls" And then just going to talk about all the hiccups and the hurdles that you can overcome starting a brand and business. But yeah, I could keep going, but I figured we could stop at 2 for now.

 

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Chase Clymer  

Like I said, me and Adam met before this and we did some work for him actually. And while I was helping them with something, I noticed this cool app on the back end. 

 

And leading up to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, budgeting is always on people's minds. So, Adam, I'm gonna turn it over to you so you can talk about the app I'm referring to.

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah. So, I think the app you're referring to is Clearbanc. If you're not familiar with Clearbanc... And I'm going to take a step back. Ballsy, in general, is self-funded. We're bootstrapped. 

 

We've never taken outside investment or capital. We took an inventory loan last year to make sure that we had inventory in hand but we basically bootstrapped this entire business and just grew the snowball. 

 

So Clearbanc is this really cool app that you plug in your Shopify store and they can view your sales trends. 

 

And then based on the sales data that they're seeing, they can provide you a lump-sum loan, which is really cool of a way, less stressful way to acquire capital for inventory without having to give up any equity in your company. 

 

So the way it (works in a) high-level is it look at your sales, and they'll typically give you 3 different offers. So like a small amount, and the medium amount and a large amount. And obviously, the larger you go, the higher the fee on it is. 

 

And then from there, once you take that capital, they basically will deduct a percentage of your daily sales. And you agree to all of this upfront. 

 

So, for example, 5% of your sales every day will be deducted by their bank and then that will go to pay off your loan. And basically, it just keeps going until you pay off your loan. And then they... This is a fluid process where they look and see what your sales are. Send your offers. And yeah, it's a really cool, creative way to take on capital without having to give up a piece of your company. 

 

And I think a lot of Ecommerce brands are starting to look at this. And if you're needing capital, I think it's a really great tool that's out there. And I know there are a few other ones. Shopify is starting Shopify Capital. Paypal as well. And there's another company that we use called Brex, which is a little bit of different financing vehicles. 

 

You basically get 60 days with no fee to pay back whatever lump sum you took on day 1, which is amazing. 

 

So basically extend your cash flow by 60 days with no fee. And again, there are Shopify plugins, so they basically look at your sales and determine what is the amount that they could give to you without being too risky. 

 

So I think the byline there is as an Ecommerce brand that's growing, there's just a lot of really cool apps and tools and services out there where you can take capital without having to give up anything or any equity in your company.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, those are two amazing tools, especially when you're heading into the holiday and you're trying to get over the hump, you're not going to grow the business without taking a few risks. 

 

And one of those risks is usually borrowing money to build the next best thing for your business, either inventory or a new product. So it's something to consider and to look into.

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah, it definitely is. The other thing is, there are no personal guarantees towards the money. So worst case, --and I don't want to say like you should just take money irresponsibly-- but worst case, if it doesn't work out, no one's coming after you, personally. 

 

So that's obviously net positive but again, be responsible with what you do and make sure you take in the best bet possible.

 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely and just for a caveat, we're going to say like speak to a financial advisor about all this stuff because we are not. 

 

Adam Hendle  

(laughs) 100%. (We're) not trying to get financial advice here but again, the tools that are out there really amazing and I think over the last few years, what's available to entrepreneurs, they've just been really incredible. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Now, I don't know if this is going to come out before Black Friday. But I have one last question for you today. And it's what do you think your ace in the hole is for this year? What do you think is going to help you guys make a big impact for the business?

 

Adam Hendle  

Yeah, I think it goes back to what I was saying before. Really capitalizing on gifting, and doing something different and fun that catches people's attention makes it super easy for them to give a gift to someone else. It's one thing to like to buy a gift or product for someone. I would say everyone does that. 

 

But if you gift wrap it for --for a lack of better terms-- but make something special and unique. Like I said, we have this box that says "Keep Your Jewels Jolly" and it's all Christmas themed. 

 

And we have a bigger box that has all of our products called "Santa's Sack." It's just such an easy way for somebody to spend $40 and give a fun, memorable gift that they don't have to think about. 

 

They just got to put a piece of wrapping paper around it, the person opens it up and you know, but get a good reaction. So make it really easy for customers to buy from you with gifting in mind. It's just done. incredibly well.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Is there anything else that you want to share with the audience?

 

Adam Hendle  

No. So, we have 5 new products coming out. So depending on when you air this, make sure to check out ballsybrands.com (ballwash.com). I'll put up a discount code of HONEST20 for 20% off anything if anyone checks us out. And thanks again for your time, Chase. Appreciate it.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Thank you. 

 

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their journey and knowledge with us today. We've got a lot to think about and potentially add to our businesses. Links and more information will be available in the show notes as well. 

 

If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business, feel free to reach out and learn more at electriceye.io/connect. Also, make sure you subscribe and leave an amazing review. Thank you!