Shaving might sound like a really strange topic to talk about, to most people. In fact, shaving is perceived as something you need to do and not want to talk about. DSC(the Dollar Shave Club) changed all that perception though.
The Dollar Shave Club has come a long way thanks to a legendary video that changed everything completely. The video took audiences on a hilarious walk through their warehouse each time poking fun at every little awkward moment every shaver faces.
This nugget of a video, of a topic that could be purported as the most boring ever, became so interesting and was worth sharing with a friend. The video went viral and grabbed nationwide attention within quite a short time.
As we talk, this video has been viewed over 26 million times, and the Dollar Shave Club has grown even bigger and now includes a team of 45 employees, more than 1.3 million subscribers and a whopping $600M valuation. As we talk, Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club with a reported $1B.
The Early Life of Dollar Shave Club
Micheal Dublin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, always envisioned himself in the greatest of the moments when everything he was working towards paying off in the end. He always envisioned scenarios in which he would be ushered into a grand ceremony where prominent conglomerate would be eager to get on board with his company – dollar shave and make him a fortune of an offer.
Dublin said, “I thought we would pass a really nice pen around in a wood-paneled boardroom with portraits of men with white hair.”
That moment actually came to pass recently when Unilever acquired his company with a whopping $1b in a deal that was signed on July 19, 2016.
Even when this moment came to pass, Dublin still thought it was too early to sell his 5-year-old company but still denied to say whether he had received other offers prior to the Unilever one.
When Dublin launched Dollar Shave Club in 2012, Gillette had dominated the razor market claiming around 70% of the market in the USA. At the time Gillette was now under Procter $ Gamble after agreeing to a deal worth $57 billion back in 2005. There were other big fishes in the sea though, including Schick which was a distant second to Gillette.
This did not stop Dublin though. He had already seen an opening he knew could get him where he wanted to go. He made a strategy to start by undercutting the already existing competitors on razors, and then slowly build something like a shaving subscription and supply that aimed at grooming men – a brand with a great personality that everyone would want to be identified with.
In the early days of Dollar Shave Club, Dublin managed to convince Kirsten Green, Silicon Valley’s Forerunner Ventures founder to invest in his company and Kirsten confirms that
“If anyone else had brought me the idea, I would have said, ‘Well, it’s a tough category with lots of global competitors” But Kirsten goes on and confirms “Within the first 10 minutes of meeting Michael, I was completely drawn into his idea and vision and him.”
Dublin, with his determination on his brand, managed to launch products (in full range) in the years that followed and by 2015, had doubled industry-wide to $263 million. This was quite impressive, and as if that is not all, a year later, Dollar Shave Club became the most popular shaving company garnering 51% of the market while their fierce competitors had 21.2 percent of the market from research done by Slice Intelligence.
That was quite a huge run and Gillette had to launch their own Shave Club as well. The Dollar Shave club kept growing and doubled their revenue every year since launch.
So, how did they do it? It was not that easy. There are a number of strategies they used to grow. We will name the core strategies:
a) The power of video marketing
b) Great storytelling
c) Offering a Real Solution
d) Creating a Unique Customer Experience
e) Customer lifetime value
f) Referrals by word of mouth
g) Social engagements
h)Strategic Content Release
a) The Power of video
If you want to tell a story, video is the best format you can use. Video connects you with your consumer and establishes a not only powerful but also an emotional connection with them more than any other form of content.
This is exactly where Dollar Shave Club made the difference. Dollar Shave Club fleshed out the concept which resonated quite well with the audience and delivered it with a personality and voice that captivated through a one on one connection.
The video was a smart move putting in mind the following statistics:
Almost half of all online activities involve watching videos/motion
More than 90% of video consumers share with others through social media
Close to half of consumers trust video ads
More than half the users usually remember a video ad they watched in the last 30 days
b) Great Storytelling
If you know how to tell a story very well, then there is a chance that you are going to gain people’s attention. This is the same case to Dollar Shave Club. The company’s CMO confirmed explaining about the video:
“What we’ve really focused in on since our launch video has been all about finding which new stories to tell, to what consumers, and then finding the right distribution platforms to tell them. We take our video storytelling to the obvious places. We do a lot of investment in television, which is a great place to tell a narrative with video.”
He went on and added why in this time, and era storytelling could be the real deal when marketing any product or service. He asserted:
I think in the long term, as you get more into the digital places, the social outlets like YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter — those types of venues are great venues for telling stories via video. Those have become an increasingly larger part of our game plan. They offer a lot of unique capabilities that something like television doesn’t offer.
No matter how storytelling is effective, it does not fit for all aspects of marketing though but can work very well in most of the aspects of your marketing strategy just like we have seen for Dollar Shave Club.
The main reasons why storytelling works are:
i) Stories grab attention – You will grab a lot of attention from various audiences when you have a captivating and impressive narrative. Most people will want their curiosity satisfied, especially if the story relates to their daily activities.
ii) Builds a relationship – Dollar Shave Club had the best of a narrative, and it really builds trust with their audience. They opened up shared what looked like personal stories with the people, and that is what exactly left their audience wanting to hear more.
iii) Works better than raw content like facts or statistics – Not that facts and raw statistics do not work, but if you find a way to tell a story around data, facts and or any raw statistics, you are guaranteed to grab more attention.
c) Offering a Real Solution
DSC, at its core, is typically everyone’s brand with a simple value proposition. We know of various name brand razors that available in retail stores, and they cost too much. But for DSC, you have a number of generic alternatives that are delivered at your door for as low as $2 per month at your door. No hidden fees, no contracts or as the DSC teams always say, “no BS.”
This is what we could call a product fit market. Michael Dublin, the founder and the CEO, did not reinvent any wheels. What he did was to simply create an affordable solution to a real, relatable problem shared by most people almost everywhere.
Putting in mind the shaving industry had not seen much in innovations in decades, the video has set those marketing standards because Dublin was trying to sell something people actually needed and wanted and that is why it set a stage for the overall organizational success and marketing.
That said, regardless of whether you have the greatest of the marketing strategy, selling a service or product that no one need or want will 100% hang tough. Dollar Shave Club came up with a solution for a long term old need, and that is what exactly propelled them.
d) Creating a Unique Customer Experience
In any business you do, your customer will always be the priority because, without him, your product is useless. This is where Dollar Shave Club broke the mould. DSC, as we have seen, is a young, stylish smart and again, a playful brand. Once you jump on its bandwagon, you are not only subscribing for the low-cost blades and razors but also investing in the delight that comes along every month.
In fact, once you are a member, you tend to get in on the joke, and you feel obliged to be among an exclusive community that no one else can offer.
The little experiences make people happy. In fact, they give the people something to talk about, as Johnny Earle explained the importance of this idea perfectly before in an interview with INBOUND.
That said, if you can give people an outstanding experience, there is a possibility that they will share it on social media like through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and or even have to mention it their close people like family, relatives and even co-workers. This spreads the message, and most importantly, you are likely to get loyal people for your product in the long run. Among all the strategies, Dollar Shave Club has taken the user experience very seriously and no wonder they have grown so fast.
We will discuss a little bit more about the experience and the delight.
i) The experience & Delight – The Dollar Shave club brand informs you everything it does from their packaging to their digital presence to their media strategy. One of the members of the Dollar Shave Club confirmed saying “the brand informs everything we do” from an interview held by Brand Folder.
Once you sign up for DSC, you get a very warm welcome email that will confirm your subscription and transactions. The email fully expounds on how you can get more out of it and above all, welcomes you to the community.
A few moments later, your order will arrive with:
- A nicely branded package box
Another welcome note(friendly and playful)
The products you ordered
An explanation on how you can upgrade your process
Occasional free samples
Bathroom minutes – a newsletter including monthly quotes, trivia, member spotlights, club news, and even the chairman’s note, among other things.
The delivery is simple but generally very delightful. The content itself is inexpensive, and that shows how they were able to make an ordinary product look extraordinarily amazing and interesting by exciting the user experience.
Compared to even bigger brands, Dollar Shave Club makes acquiring the saving products quite exciting that you will look forward to every month. In fact, they have even introduced bonuses that make the whole subscription and shaving experience the best their customer can ever have.
e) Customer Lifetime Value
Dollar Shave Club offers lifetime value to its customers. The company funnels most of its efforts into trying to maintain their already existing relationships and subscriptions more than on how to acquire new customers.
Just like most subscription-based services or products, Dollar Shave Club relies on the monthly revenue, which is the main income that keeps the company afloat. For that reason, the company has to maintain customer lifetime value.
All this is done by keeping their subscriptions more affordable while at the same time trying to keep their customers delighted to help them grow through the word of mouth and referrals. It is one of the most efficient ways to market your monthly subscription-based product or service.
f) Referrals by word of mouth
One thing leads to another and thanks to the amazing customer support. The Dollar Shave Club began stretching out to more people. The stretch was possible due to word of mouth.
As w talk, 50,000 people refer a friend as confirmed by Dubin during an interview with CNBC. This comes to no surprises because it is easy for people to share their experience with their immediate people once they get a good experience.
First, it makes them satisfied, and with satisfaction comes happiness. When people are happy with your business or service, they want every other people to know about it because they would love them to experience what they experienced.
“If you can put your advertising budget into building unique [brand] experiences, through your products, your events, your retail space,” Johnny Cupcakes explained, “people will do the advertising for you,” and that’s precisely what DSC strives for.
g) Social Engagement
To add to their delight pieces of content, the company’s growth has as well grown through social media engagement. One of the ways they have done their social engagement is rewarding members who share their photo of their monthly box on Facebook and Instagram with a free T-shirt. These kinds of parks kept their customers quite special, and they easily shared photos, which made the brand grow bigger and popular. That as well promoted interaction with the brand.
h) Strategic Content Release
Most marketers will tell you that DSC might have got lucky with the content in their video. While it can be hard to argue against that, it is important to understand that the Dollar Shave Club timing of the video was the best. The strategy they had in releasing their content was the key to their video going viral.
Actually, the video was live online technically before it became a viral hit as the Dollar Shave Club team showed it around to attract the attention of investors and at the same time gauging reactions.
During the launch, Dubin decided to piggyback the video on a funding announcement which had a huge impact in media coverage. The strategy drew a lot of traffic which never disappeared among the multi video content that is usually uploaded on YouTube every second of the day.
Point to take away: Do not release or launch any of your video campaigns or content into a vacuum, you have to think strategically to give it a fighting chance.
Other Strategies Used by Dollar Shave even after its Growth
a) Amazing Website UX
Dollar Shave Club knows its target customers quite well. You can hear it quite well in the brand’s tone. The brand has clearly funneled a huge budget and amount of resources in its website and has perfectly optimized it for conversions by just one CTA(Call to Action). As a customer or visitor to the page, you cannot help but convert.
As proven by their ongoing success, their overall website optimization is on point. Some few changes were made and even more, can be done to smoothen the general conversion process, and probably the team is always looking for a way to improve on that.
The general usage of the website from, placing your order, to cancellation if you want, to confirmation has been simplified, and their clients really enjoy the experience. However, one thing has stood out among the rest – how much they value subscription customers.
Their customers who are already subscribed to their service get as much attention as the new or potential customers. Perhaps this is their secret. They would rather not lose a customer more than they need new ones. For every business, more so if its operation is based on the subscription model, this has to be the way.
b) Landing Pages
Dollar Shave Club’s landing pages are properly optimized. They have a clear Call To Action and a seducing offer for their prospect clients on a page that you will find one of the easiest to use.
The page has a catchy headline which explains to their customers why they need the deal. And on the page as well, there is the video which adds to the brand’s credibility.
As you scroll down the landing page, you will come across more information about their services. What the lack is the social proof and as an online entrepreneur, you would as well argue that they should ditch all the extra stuff on their page and instead focus on what could convert their potential customers.
This, however, is something that they have been testing occasionally since and everyone would be interested to know the rate at which they convert on this landing page compared to others.
There is one landing page that has done really well. Known as ‘Meet the man who is disrupting a $13 billion industry” as pictures show below. The landing page written in a 3rd party editorial fully extols the virtues and everything good you would want to hear about Dollar Shave Club.
The landing page highlights the clever innovation behind the Dollar Shave Club subscription model and what it took them to beat their fierce competitors Gillette. The landing page suggests that you will be joining the exclusive club of loveable rogues when you jump onto their bandwagon.
With ‘Do It’ as the Call To Action message, it sounds simple but very powerful and has been the drive behind Dollar Shave Club success.
Take Away Points from the Landing Pages – If you are a startup or business that runs paid campaigns, it is very important to use custom landing pages. Landing pages have a higher rate of conversion.
What you can do is use split-test a number of versions of your landing pages to find out those that perform better. Additionally, you can use visual cues like arrows, or an image of a person to channel users eye towards the primary Call To Action button.
Also, you can use catchy headlines like the Dollar Shave Club to attract more attention to your landing page visitors because traffic to these kinds of landing pages are from very generic websites.
c) Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization seems like an easy thing to do when you are such a known company. Dollar Shave Club is now a very well-known company because they get quite a huge number of traffic but they have to found it easy to get the perfect search engine optimization. The company still uses executes the SEO strategies like building a link profile targeting high traffic keywords and ensuring that their site runs smooth, fast and easy. To take a deeper look into this strategy, we will look at their domain authority, keyword targeting, site speed, and backlink analysis.
i) Domain authority – Many at times people think tend to think that Dollar Shave with its now-viral video would have it easy when it comes to domain authority. It is not s easy as thought. The highest domain authority any other site can get is 100 and for DSC, they \stand at 71. This means that they are even supposed to work more on that.
Improving the website domain has a positive effect on keyword ranks on search results of a search engine. This, in turn, increases traffic to your website.
There are many marketing websites that have linked to DSC website and it really works in their favors. Dollar Shave Club in turn markets themselves on more prominent or better-known websites.
They can improve on their general domain authority though by cultivating their links n various websites, especially though guest posing.
ii) Keyword targeting – Keyword targeting is one of the most integral parts of SEO campaigns. Many brands and companies have executed the use of keywords quite well and so do Dollar Shave Club.
Even though at the moment the Dollar Shave Club website is making more traffic from keywords that are not related to their brand like ‘match’ keyword which has 1.5 million hits, there is something more they can do with their relevant keywords like razors, shaving and clippers among others.
iii) Site speed – Dollar Shave Club has optimized their webpage and they have improved their website load speed quite faster. Site speed helps you keep users on your page. Research shows that you are most like;y to lose your 1 in 3 visitors on your page if it is loading slowly.
iv) Backlink analysis – Dollar Shave Club has gained 100,130 new backlinks for the past few days majority of them being from text and come from different websites. Backlinks are very important and they also increase the traffic flow to your website.
d) Social Media Presence
This is the exact place where Dollar Shave Club have spent most of their marketing budget. They get fairly good results and their social media engagement, in general, might not be the best but it still pays a good dime.
To jump onto the stats, they show that Dollar Shave Club gets 12% of its overall organic traffic from social media majority being from YouTube, some from Facebook and some from Twitter. Their video has all this impact and it is the one that sends traffic to their website from YouTube and Facebook: the to social media platforms in which Dollar Shave Club have hosted their video.
Their Pinterest, Twitter and Reddit traffic is not so significant but the little traffic they get from the 3 is outwardly important at the end of the day.
i) Twitter – Dollar Shave Club has two Twitter accounts and one between the two is solely created for customer care while another is for their brand. It is fair to say that they have put quite more effort to share custom graphics for their followers. They have used a men’s lifetime vibe, that reflects their overall content marketing strategy. At times, they even touch on topics like ‘shaving butts’ or ‘manscaping’ in their Twitter posts, but we would regard these topics as Safe For Work.
Their brand with a Twitter following of 100,1000 still doesn’t get much of engagement with most of their tweets. Even to say, their response on tweets of their followers is not as reliable but there is more they can do on Twitter to get more traffic to improve on what they get from it even if it enough.
ii) Instagram – Dollar Shave Club’s Instagram marketing strategy is not as bad. With a following of more than 180k followers, they get traffic from the platform as well. They have nice posts which generally displays the kind of products they are selling.
iii) Facebook – Dollar Shave Facebook’s marketing campaign has done well and they know it. In fact, putting in mind that their whole idea was behind a video that went viral, Facebook would have been the best marketing platform because it does very well with videos.
Dollar Shave Club have published tailored content on their Facebook page including humorous comic topics to engage their users. From that, they get quite a good interaction. They have also shared a mixture of B2C and B2B posts which have interestingly increased their traffic.
For a fact, half of their traffic moves back to their Facebook page which gives the brand the best of opportunity to re-engage their potential clients and their clients.
Aside from the normal posting and post-boosting, they have engaged in Facebook Ads with the help of Canvas. Most of their adverts have been trying to get women on board especially when they started making razors for both genders.
Their Ads have done quite well including the Ad which redirects to a story with the heading ‘How This Razor is Disrupting a$13 Billion industry” referring to their own story which has made a huge conversion as well because of the controversial headline.
e) Email Marketing
Email marketing has been an integral part of the growth of Dollar Shave Club. Emails are very important because they keep your customers posted and engaged with whatever will be going on with your brand as well as upsell them. Dollar Shave Club usually use Mailchimp to do their email marketing campaigns.
Under email maintenance, they have done the following strategy to make their campaign a success:
They have optimized lengths of their subject lines which have been cut to a number of characters to catch the attention of their audiences and potential customers.
i) Their email templates are well optimized for mobile use devices which is a choice device more than half of the people or the recipients.
ii) They have also created a well-written preview text which gives their clients and prospects a chance to see what is contained in the mails.
iii) In their emails, they include addresses that their customers can reply to. This encourages two-way personal dialogue that promotes engagement and in the long run creates a relationship between the brand and the company.
iv) Their image sizes are well condensed and optimized to allow them to load faster while in the mailbox.
v) They do not use too many CAPS and spammy words hence they pass the spam filters and this makes their emails to be seen in any inboxes.
To be precise, their emails are snappy, appealing and very stylish. In their email strategy, they have a welcome email series, triggered emails and transaction emails which have all been well drafted to fit their potential customers and their customers as well.
f) Display Advertising
Aside from every other marketing strategy, Dollar Shave Club has also done display marketing of their products and service around the web. They have mostly used Desktop, mobile and native. The desktop is their most popular platform.
To achieve the displays they have used networks like Google AdSense + AdX, Criteo, Rubicon Project, OpenX Ad Exchange, PubMatic and Media.net among others.
Aside from that, they have used different images to increase their traffic and conversion. Most of their ads contain good hooks that lure customers to take advantage of the $ 1-month trial which gets them signed up.
They also run a military campaign aimed at military families with a nice landing page for traffic diversion.
Wrapping It Up.
DSC is not just a razor or a shaving company anymore. It is now a brand with culture, lifestyle, and above all, humor. In a niche that you would not have imagined, they came in, and they have taken it by storm.
Thanks to a viral video which had lots of humor but directed to marketing what they were offering, now they are a billion-dollar brand.
The main take away point here is if you have a startup or business, try to make your target customers delighted by making them fully comfortable with the service or product that you provide especially if it’s a kind of monthly subscription service.
Once you do that, your service will grow with word of mouth quite naturally, and all you have to do is to try and keep your customers for life. If you have a growing audience and find a way to keep them, you are on your way to becoming a billion-dollar brand.