Lessons in Systems: Distribution

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From mid-2010 to mid-2011, I was the Director of Social Media & Online Marketing for an e-commerce website called BULX.com. Though it was my first time working full-time for a web-based company, I was uniquely qualified for the position.

BULX was (and still is) a  private sale site for high-end home improvement product. Each day, we notified our members about the sinks, faucets, toilets, fixtures, and home accessories that were available at deep discounts.

Our Columbus team had two primary objectives:

  1. Grow our membership base
  2. Operate the technology (website)

Looking back, we were young and probably a little inexperienced to run a website of that scale. We eventually created a solid process for getting products onto the site each day, but we were by no means innovative.

By the time we were acquired in August 2011, however, we were extremely good at the member acquisition piece.

Early False Assumptions

Early on, I naively thought social media and blogger outreach alone would be enough to fuel our growth. But it became quickly apparent that the big blogs didn’t care about us (yet) and the small blogs didn’t have the audience to justify our time.

That’s when Rob, one of the co-founders, came up with the idea to partner with a deal site to promote a few of our collections.

How It Worked

Sites like DealNews.com, SlickDeals.net, and FatWallet.com aggregate discounted products and services from across the web. The systems they have built enable them to find, store, and rank thousands of deals a day and serve them up to their visitors.

We partnered with DealNews to run a sponsored deal on some Danish chaise lounges we had access to. We were excited about the deal for three reasons:

  1. The chairs were very high quality (which positioned us well for people who were exposed to our brand for the first time).
  2. We were getting a great deal on the product (we could sell them at a super deep discount and still make money).
  3. We had LOTS of them (which meant we had the capacity to deliver to a large portion of this untapped audience).

Sites like DealNews monetize their traffic in a number of ways, the most lucrative being affiliate links. Visitors who see a deal they like click on a unique link which is tracked, and the deal sites earn a small commission on each product sold.

The Results

Up to that point, BULX had acquired somewhere around 8,000 members nationwide to date. That weekend alone, we drove over 20,000 new visitors to our website, gained thousands of new members, and made hundreds of sales.

Our product offering didn’t get better, and yet we our membership base increased more than the previous two months.

Learning Points & Takeaways

Quality doesn’t necessarily equate to meaningful quantity. That is to say, you can have the best product in the world, but no one can buy it if they don’t know about it.

We had run the same deal – the very same product at the same great price – to our current members the week before and only sold a handful of chaise lounges.

But the DealYard campaign worked because of wider distribution. DealNews’s reach was so large that it instantly expanded our offering – and our brand – and made it available to a wider audience.

Perhaps most importantly, we had systems in place (in the form of an email subscription list) to stay in touch with all of the people who visited our site but decided not to buy that day.

What platforms (both within and outside your vertical) can you tap into to that will help expand your reach?

This blog is created and maintained by:

Matthew Russo

Learn more about Matt here, or click on his face to connect elsewhere.

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