The Marketing Strategies that Turned a $900 Investment into an 8-Figure Business

Bushbalm started as a side-hustle when founder David Gaylord wanted to see how much he can learn while scaling with an initial $900 investment. In the years that followed, David honed his marketing skills to grow the business into an 8-figure skincare brand. In this episode of the Bushbalm Miniseries, David shares his three components of the marketing stack for new businesses, the rule of thumb for allocating marketing spend, and key ways to scale your brand using public relations. 

For the full transcript of this episode, click here.

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Chicken or egg: marketing or branding? 

Shuang: So David, how do you even begin marketing a pubic oil, and how did you guys come up with branding, a name for Bushbalm?

David: Usually when you’re coming up with a name, it takes a long time, but the name was actually the idea that started the business. So my partner said, “What about Bushbalm?” And then from there, it just expanded. So it was a weird one where the name started everything, and then kind of dominoes fell. But yeah, starting out with marketing, it’s just hard, it’s tricky. Often, you don’t even know where to begin.

Shuang: So for marketing, what did you tackle first, and what were some of the first things you guys tried out?

David: One thing I think almost everyone will go through is, you don’t know what works because you haven’t done it. First off, you don’t know the unique selling proposition. And at the time, I didn’t even know those words. I wasn’t even thinking that way at all. So for us, we tried to do a few different things. I think I threw up a Google ad, which was terribly not successful. I then tried some markets, we actually went to local craft markets to sell our product, and that was probably the best thing we ever did actually in the early days. So I’d recommend that to anyone because what it did was, you had to really sell the product and talk to people, and you quickly understood and got feedback on what pitch worked and what didn’t. So if we said we are a pubic oil company, people were kind of like, “Okay, that’s a bit odd”, but then once we changed the wording to, “We do bikini line skincare,” people went, “Oh, I get that, I understand what you’re trying to say and what the purpose is of this product.” So that was an early success, was going to trade shows. We sold a little bit, never really sold a lot, but we learned quickly. And then the next thing that we did, I was really excited to learn about Facebook ads. I tried it a little bit. I set aside $500, this is going to be my money, and I’m going to personally put it into the business to see what happens.

When I tried Facebook ads, the first ones were mildly successful, but what it did was it quickly gave us feedback on which ones worked and which didn’t. I wonder why, and then I started to test more and more. And some would say with Facebook ads, right now, there’s not as good of a feedback loop, but back then, it was such a quick feedback loop of success that you would get addicted to almost spending more and trying to do better ads because if you’re getting success with it, you just want to spend more and more. So yeah, that’s kind of the earliest thing we did, was the markets, and then the Facebook ads were pretty successful early on for us.

 A selection of skincare products from Bushbalm along with its dry brush and trimmer on a bathroom counter.
Bushbalm’s brand came before the rest of the business and kickstarted the journey of building the “skincare for everywhere” company. Bushbalm

Shuang: Do you remember which Facebook campaigns took off a little bit more compared to the other ones?

David: In the early days, I remember we did a lot of product shots with text overlays. They were more funny and had brighter colors. I think one said, we love your pubes, which was so jarring, so people would click it. It had a high click-through rate, and it kind of worked early on. Didn’t lead to many sales, but it got more traffic to the site. We made a cartoon explainer video, and it actually worked well. I don’t know if it would work now, but in the early days, I think we paid $100 for it, and we ran it on most of our ads for probably about a year. And yeah, it was kind of an odd video that was slightly different. So I still have the opinion, the more jarring of an ad to stand out you can make, the more someone will probably click through and just see what it’s all about.

Shuang: And I feel like, with social media, there’s also a lot of your own content, whether it’s blog or Instagram, that in itself can be a great marketing tool, and those could be free things that you do that helps you market your business.

David: True. I guess one thing I did forget about the early days is, we didn’t put money in. We didn’t spend a lot, we weren’t growing rapidly, we weren’t trying to, we were just trying to get everything set up and build a business. And one of the earliest things I did with marketing, which is paying off today, was actually writing a bunch of blog posts with keywords we thought would be helpful. And a lot of people at times think, “Oh, SEO, it’s a waste of time,” or “I want to do SEO to get sales,” whereas SEO is the longest game you can possibly play. So we wrote blogs five years ago, and now we’re seeing dividends from those blogs. They’re getting traffic to the site, they’re ranking higher, we’re making them better and better. So that was one thing we did early on, I wrote so many blogs early, and we had people write for us, we did a lot, and that actually has helped a lot now. And then one other random marketing thing we did was since we didn’t spend any money on ads at first, I just emailed, I DM’d, I reached out and I said, hey, you’ve got a listicle of this, you should include this product. So I spent hours and I’m not counting the cost of my time, but I just spent hours just messaging people trying to build relationships, trying to get in any sort of article we possibly can, and that worked out fairly well. We got in a couple, which in the early days was pretty huge for us actually.

Shuang: And I think content SEO, so much of it is about building your online reputation and also just making sure that your presence is seen.

David: For sure. And a simple one that I see missed often, it shocks me how many people don’t think about this, is when you go to launch your business, if the simple fact of someone Googling your business name doesn’t show your result first, then you should really either figure out how to change that quickly, or not launch, or in some cases, you physically might have to change your name. And people, I think don’t notice this. Because what we did before we launched, is we wrote five, six blog posts with the name Bushbalm, and we had it in there, and then our online store, it said Bushbalm. And so when you searched Bushbalm on Google, we came up right away. We were first to the case. But say if you launch a business, and the name is really competitive for some reason, and you’re running Facebook ads, you can expect a good number of people to go to the ad, they go to your site, they forget about you, and then a couple of days later, they want to search you. They’ll search your name on Google and if you don’t come up, then that’s a good chunk that you’ve lost already. So that’s pretty key to launching that we did a good job of, but I’m shocked at how often people will miss that, because they’ll keep their store password on until the day of launches and then they launch, and Google has no recognition of their business at all, so then they don’t come up. 

Building trust online with user-generated content 

Shuang: What did you do in marketing that made users online trust you to actually order your products and actually use them on their skin?

David: That’s really hard for most people, what we realize now as we’re bigger, is reviews are so important and trust is really important. Obviously, the more sales you get, the more reviews you get. That’s just one thing, it’s great. But if you don’t have many sales, you’re trying to gain that trust, we actually worked on a lot of UGC videos. So people saying, “Hey, here’s a product, it’s pretty new, here’s what I use it for and why I love it.” So that obviously is a new stamp of approval. You’ve got someone who’s a real person talking about a product they’ve used. So we quickly moved into UGC, we don’t have the reviews yet, we’ve got a few, but not enough, let’s use UGC to give that proof point. And then as soon as we got into any sort of press, let’s put that on our website. And then also the other way is, I said UGC video, but if you can put some UGC on different things early on, even your product images if you can show people using it, that’s really big. And we did that at first as UGC and not great photos, and then as soon as you can do a professional photoshoot with people using the product and holding the product and touching it, that adds one more element of trust. And for us, that was years ago, but I would say that was the tipping point of us being okay to us being really successful, was very professional lifestyle photos on your product pages, whereas before, we just had beautiful product images we took ourselves. Once we had beautiful lifestyle photos, it added this new element of professionalism. 

 A pair of models out of focus with their hands held out showcasing a cream by Bushbalm.
Making it as easy as possible for customers to submit content and reviews allowed Bushbalm to build trust with more and more customers. Bushbalm

Shuang: So speaking of user-generated content, was it built within your flow that you prompted users to create videos or create images and also have a way to easily send it back to you guys?

David: No, especially not in the early days. We weren’t that sophisticated. In the early days, it was anyone who we thought was interesting, or we see someone at 1,000 followers,we would say, let’s message them, let’s see what they’re up to, let’s ask questions. So in the early days, it was super scrappy, ask questions, especially on Instagram, DM’s. As we’ve grown sales and number of followers, everything gets bigger and harder to do in kind of smaller batches. So what we do now, which it’s still not as fully automated, but we have a great flow that anyone who’s purchased at a certain point in this journey, we ask them for before and after photos, say, “Hey, would you be interested in doing before and afters?” And a lot of people say, “Yeah, really interested, let me do it.” We send them a waiver that they sign, and then they send back their first set of photos, and then we just keep in contact, but it’s not automated in that way. But we do use a platform called Brand Ambassador, which it’s okay, it’s a pretty good platform, but there are so many other ones as well out there for UGC content. So as we got bigger and scaled more, it got more difficult, so we had to bring on some sort of platform to centralize everything. So we’ve been doing that for kind of five or six months now. And then we do a lot of these big campaigns with gifting, wherein one week we’ll send a 100 gifts out and we’ll say, let’s send them to these people. And we don’t even ask for a photo per se or a contract or anything, we just gift it to people that we love their content, and that’s worked out so well for us. People love getting a free gift, and then if they share that kind of thing, it usually leads to good sales on our end.

Shuang: How do you go about picking the accounts and the users and making sure that this is someone you want to be representing your brand?

David: Right now, we have an Instagram group, which is just our team. And we’re all on Instagram, and when we have someone come up, we send it in there and we say, hey, what do you think of this? What do you think of that? So every day it’s people bouncing ideas and thoughts around, and then generally we give the thumbs up really quickly. And in today’s day and age, you can look at people and go, okay, they seem great, they represent the brand, their images, everything’s great. It’s hard to dig deep, deep into archives of what they’re doing or something, because frankly, someone getting canceled, that happens obviously, whereas right now we do a lot with micro-influencers or people that don’t even consider themselves influencers, and people with really good content. That’s kind of what we care about. And if they have an engaged following, whether it’s 2000 people or more, we just want them to post a beautiful picture about our products, because if they post beautiful pictures, they’re not going to post one that’s not beautiful of our product. So that’s on the micro side. And then on the large-scale influencer campaigns we’ve done, that’s much more intense. We kind of negotiate price, we ask questions, we want to see engagement rates, all of those things, and it takes instead of a split second, we do our research, and we try to find the top ones who we think would have the biggest impact that can work in our budget, and we go from there. We constantly build a list, and we constantly see who could be available and when, and then we’ll work on specific campaigns with them.

3 fundamentals of marketing for new businesses 

Shuang: So as you scaled, has there been new channels of marketing you’ve brought on, and how do you know this is the right proportion to invest more in, and these are the new things I want to test out?

David: I’ll start with what I think is the right mix for a business like ours early on, and then I’ll go into a few other things that are coming up now as we’ve scaled. So if we go back to early on, what do I think the mix is that you should be thinking about? There are some that I call in my head table stakes. So as far as tables stakes, you should set up your email automation right away. So immediately before you even launch, you should have your welcome series flow, an abandoned cart, say maybe a resell or upsell. Make sure to have those, because that is what’s going to convert a lot of buyers into a kind of browsing and looking, to converting. To power email marketing, you often have to have a good compelling popup or any sort of prospecting tool where you can collect information, whatever it is you figure out. Ideally, you want to get a fairly high conversion of people opting in for that. 

Another one that I consider kind of table stakes, but a lot of people don’t, is Google search ads, and run them for only branded search. So when someone searches Bushbalm Sweet Escape or Bushbalm anything, they will see an ad for Bushbalm. The reason I call it table stakes is, generally if it’s your business and your name, the cost on those is really low, and what it does for consumers is, it makes them trust you a bit more. Hey, they’re running ads in their name, it’s great. It ensures you’re the top one, because frankly, as you get bigger and bigger, Amazon and others will run ads for your name. It’s going to happen. So by you doing it early, it’s really a defensive mechanism against other people trying to put an ad for your name as you grow. 

Then the last one for table stakes I would say is just Facebook retargeting. What we do is, we have a campaign for just retargeting, and then we have a lifetime value retargeting, so people who’ve bought already, and then we have dynamic product ads for retargeting as well. So the key with retargeting is, you can set it up, and if you get no traffic, it’ll spend $0, because you have no traffic, they can’t retarget anyone because no one even exists. So set up the retargeting, make sure the structure is nice, and then that’s your kind of baseline of what your marketing stack might look like early on. And then now we’re going to introduce things like prospecting campaigns. So you could run some on Google ads. You could do campaigns to try to attract people who are in your interest group or whatever it is. Facebook, you could run prospecting campaigns, which is generally what a lot of people will talk about Facebook, is what they’re doing. So they’re running new campaigns to try to lead to new traffic, click-throughs, kind of people to convert. And the key is kind of the first half I described, that’s kind of your funnel built. You’ve got your email, your prospecting, you’ve got your Google ads, if they search you, you’ve got the retargeting. So that’s the funnel in action, now you have to feed the funnel and put more people into it, and that’s where all prospecting tools come in with Facebook is a very obvious one, and still, I think works well, which a lot of people will debate me on right now. Google Ads works quite well. It’s quite expensive, depending on your category. Snapchat ads we use already right now, and it drives traffic, it doesn’t seem to convert, but it’s lower cost. And then TikTok is one that’s really booming right now and exploding. We haven’t really moved into it yet on the paid side, but we’re about to.

How to allocate marketing budget across different channels

Shuang: So as you scaled, have there been different proportions changing or different investments allocations changing?

David: I dove so deep into it, I missed the budget allocation side of it. So how I would describe budget allocation on certain things is, on the organic side of Google, you’ll have to up it as you scale. So that one, if you do the branded search only, you’ll have to scale it a certain way. And then on Facebook, a rule of thumb is about an 80/20 split. So you’ll spend about 80% of your budget on prospecting, and about 20% of your budget on retargeting. So that proportion, if you kind of keep it relative, it will grow and scale fairly appropriately. As long as on Facebook, you need to have a big enough audience to be able to scale up your spend. Because if it’s too small, you can’t scale up spend. A common mistake people do make with that allocation of funds is, your Facebook ads for retargeting, those are the ones that convert. You’ll see ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend), and you’re going to be getting money from those, they’re converting really well, you’re excited. Your prospecting campaigns won’t convert much. They’ll look like they lose money generally every time, whereas if you do the math, you’ll go, oh, actually we’re profitable on the entire Facebook strategy, but it only looks profitable on retargeting, it doesn’t on the prospecting. 

  A model in a robe using the Bushbalm trimmer on their legs.
The key rule to spending for Bushbalm’s team is to invest close to 80% for prospecting and 20% for retargeting. Bushbalm

But a common mistake people will make is, instead of spending their money in that 80/20 buffer, they’ll see success on retargeting, so what they’ll do is, they’ll spend way more money on retargeting. They’ll start to push budget there, push more budget, and then it’ll increase the frequency of Facebook ads for your retargeting. So instead of someone seeing ads four times in seven days, they’ll see it 12, which for you, it doesn’t increase sales at all, it just shows the same ad to the same person twice as much, which is kind of a waste. So you really have to scale up your spend and make sure everything matches. So if you scale up prospecting, you probably have to scale up retargeting. If you scale up prospecting, you’ll probably have to scale up your branded search slightly. So these things you always have to watch so you can appropriately scale them. And often Facebook, a good metric to track is frequency. So that’s how often does someone sees your ad within a certain period of time. So we always typically look at seven days. So if someone in seven days is seeing it two or three times, it’s fairly reasonable. If they’re seeing it 20 times, then your audience is way too small, so you should probably spend less or make the audience bigger.

Email marketing, I find is the easiest one to understand the budget side of it. Because as you spend more on prospecting, your email list will grow. And then when your email list grows, you probably have to spend more on email marketing. As you grow, you’ll probably just spend slightly more everywhere, whereas if email marketing you just stop spending, you just wouldn’t be able to send any emails, your email budget wouldn’t grow, everything just wouldn’t work together. It’s always this balancing act of what’s working, spend more there, but also make sure to spend more on everything that compliments those things.

Shuang: We talked a lot about that initial funnel and building out that initial marketing stack, how do your marketing strategies look now?

David: Our marketing strategies have certainly changed over the years. So right now there are lots going on in the world of marketing. So the iOS changes make even just retargeting slightly more difficult, and how we look at retargeting has changed entirely from two or three years ago to now. How we do email marketing. When you start, generally it’s easy to say we don’t have many people, we send an email to everyone. That’s changed drastically. Now, we have to really target people based on their preference and what they need, and what skin concern they’re trying to solve. Because people don’t want emails that are generic, they want emails that target them and just help them make the right decisions, or content they want to read. So as we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve had to get much more surgical with, this type of customer, they should really get this information, and this type of customer should get offers because they haven’t bought yet, we want to sell them something.

So we’ve segmented out quite a few different audiences and automation, whereas early on, it’s so easy just to send to everyone and hope it works in your favor. And then one random other iOS change that’s coming. I don’t know if it happened yet, is just data and tracking email opens is something that’s probably going to change with kind of Apple devices. So for us, we’ve now had to think about the data in a different of our business, and what data is most important to us, and how do we use that data. So that’s one thing if you’re not as a business if you’re scaling, data will probably become one of your most pressing questions, but not what data do we have, it’ll be, okay, what data do we have, and how do we use it benefit us, but also benefit the customer. That’s one thing that now is probably one of our biggest priorities, is understanding data and how we use it appropriately.

Shuang: For all of the digital campaigns, there’s always, you mentioned, such a great feedback loop, you can know what your cost per purchase is. Are there internal guidelines that you guys follow where you feel like this is the limit, we don’t really want to go beyond this cost per acquisition, or do you guys test out different channels and see how they are before setting limits for yourself?

David: So what I would say is, a lot of people call it blended ROAS ( Return On Advertising Spend) or blended CAC (Cost of Customer Acquisition). We track all of the data to truly understand how successful we are. So each week we’ll know we spent this much on ads, this is how much we got back in sales, but also here’s our cost of products, and here’s our profitability. So we actually look at that all the time to know if we have any room to move budgets up or down, and we react according to these numbers. At a glance in your Facebook ads manager or whatever it is, if there’s a metric that you use as a benchmark, that’s really helpful to be able to quickly do things up and down. But if you’re not doing weekly reporting on say profitability or spend, you’re going to miss a lot. So we do that every single week. It kicks off our Tuesday morning call. And then we can say, let’s up the budget or let’s lower budget, let’s test this, let’s spend more on Google in this campaign. So it gives us kind of the leeway to do that, otherwise, we would kind of maybe just aimlessly be spending.

Tools and apps to analyze data and generate reviews

Shuang: What are some tools that help you analyze data better to better understand and help you in your marketing efforts?

David: For that, we’re still in say spreadsheets for tracking much of our conversions across different channels, most of it coming directly out of Google Analytics. So we do use Google Analytics for a lot of stuff. And one just recommendation on data and kind of keeping it clean is, we have a really diligent UTM structure for everything we do. Some people will say UTM is not the way to go, but for us, we’ve made it really clean for email marketing, Facebook ads, so now we can actually see fairly appropriately in the weekly reporting we do. So yeah, we do a lot of spreadsheets which are kind of customized, Google Analytics, and then another tool that’s free and great is Google Optimize. 

So we’ve recently just started to use it, and it’s good because you can A/B test the same webpage to another one to see if the wording matter? So we’ve used it now for a couple of months, and it’s been excellent to be able to actually put data to changing that. And then for us, we use Klaviyo for a lot of our business. And it’s not really a data platform, but the ability to segment lists is really important to us, and it’s been fairly good to use. Some things are learning curves obviously. And then for us, the most intense data we have and tooling we use is definitely on the supply chain side. So we’re in the process of implementing an ERP to help us manage the business side of the supply chain, and that is just so we don’t sell out, which as a fast-growing DTC brand, your marketing is running quickly and you have a big win, the supply chain side has to quickly be able to kind of follow-through.

  A Bushbalm trimmer held by a hand model in a shower setting.
Having a clean UTM structure allows the Bushbalm team to keep track of traffic and sales. Bushbalm

Shuang: What kind of tools you were using to make customers leave reviews really easy and just helpful prompts that will generate more reviews for you guys?

David: So reviews, we use Stamped, but Yotpo is good. There’s a lot of different ones. And then there’s a review software now that does syndication of reviews to retailers. So as we’ve gotten bigger, that’s become something on our radar that we have to implement. But as far as doing reviews, looking at what timeframe works best for you, so how often they open the email on certain days and testing the threshold of reviews, we’ve done that quite a few times. Testing different headers in the emails for reviews is important. The number one thing for reviews is, if you don’t have a review software that lets them place the review in their email, you’re not going to get many reviews placed. That just seems to be a universal truth. The easier you can make that process, the better, and most of the review apps will do that for you.

And the other thing with reviews and UGC and technology is, we’ve tried to build that into our email automation to ask questions and get feedback because people often don’t want to go to some tool to do something. They don’t want to open a spreadsheet, they don’t want to fill out a form, they want to just reply back to an email. We do prioritize that and have people manage our customer service much more intently than you’d probably expect. We ask for feedback, and we get it in the email, instead of sending out some sort of survey, which we do once a year, but this is an everyday thing, we’re always getting feedback.

Experimenting with traditional media and public relations 

Shuang: What have you experimented with outside of digital marketing?

David: We’ve done a little bit on the press side. So we’ve worked with a few media outlets to just, send products, work with publicists. We’ve just brought on a PR agency, and they’re going to work with different channels to grow. So that’s a priority of ours, is connect with the right agency and have them help get more in the press. Especially as we launch new products, it’ll be more important. But yeah, in the early days, we’ve experimented mostly around just reaching out, connecting, sending free products to the right people so they can try it. The other thing that we’ve done, which I think helps, is we’ve done some promotions with wholesale spas. We’ll just send them an order, but we’ll do a promotion where we add an extra five bottles or 10 bottles to say, “Hey, let’s do a giveaway together.” That’s actually driven a lot of traffic to our site, which is good. And it’s very efficient, you just connect with people you already know or sell your product. We’ve only done a little bit of PR. We’re about to do a lot more.

  Tube of Tush cream and a trimmer by Bushbalm backdropped by a bathroom counter.
When approaching any public relations effort, Bushbalm tries to build from its connections and reach out to publications without the expectation of being featured.  Bushbalm

Shuang: How do you editors or writers and how do you go about pitching yourself and talking about your business and your product?

David: So it’ll be odd to say, but a lot of that world is relationship-driven now. So if you don’t have the relationships, a cold email is going to be difficult to work. So for us, it was, who do we know that might have relationships? Who do we know that we can work through or connect with or somehow meet the right person to help us get into this publication, or just even talk to the right person? Because you’re right, cold emails to someone with who you don’t have a relationship is going to be difficult, whereas you should really think about how do I sell my idea to anyone so that they go, you know what, that’s a really interesting, and I know someone who also could benefit from just either sharing the idea or being a part of it. So I would say you’re probably going to do some cold emails, and rejection is great, you’re going to learn from it, but try to connect as much as you can on a relationship level versus asking someone to write about you. It could be, “Hey, we’d love to send you a free product. No hassle. Don’t have to write about us. We’re just trying to get kind of on the radar,” that kind of thing.

Shuang: From my experience of learning about businesses and seeing them approach us to be featured having beautiful lifestyle photos helps a lot with publications because they’ll see that you have nice media assets and it’ll make it easier for them to write and also showcase you.

David: Totally. And we see that as well for things like retail and influencers. So the more professional you can be online with your website, the more likely they’ll go, oh, this is the real deal, they’re ready to rock. We’re actually getting a new website built right now, we’re in the process, and it’s going to hopefully get us to the big leagues. It’s going to be a beautiful website, beautiful photography, beautiful layout, and that will hopefully do wonders for not just onsite conversion, but the perception of a media outlet or editor seeing our site, they’ll go, wow, this is really nice, I love what they’re doing, this messaging is great. So yeah, no, totally, don’t have not great photos. That’s kind of the moral of the story.

Shuang: For the PR agency that you are partnering with, how did you go about the search, and what were you looking for in this partnership?

David: So the search worked out as we tried to find just kind of the agencies in our space, and we wrote them down, and then we contacted many that it was kind of cold contact. And then we also reached out to a few people in our industry who gave us other contacts. So what I’ve realized too, as you grow, not even for press media, but for employees, for anyone you partner with, the more referrals you can have, it’s always been a better way to go. That testimonial from someone I know goes a law long way, and in the end, we’ve had the most success by working with people we trust who others have recommended. So yeah, I would go that approach and ask people in the industry, hey, who do you use for this? Twitter’s a good place. There’s a lot of people on there who have great connections who are always recommending them, because maybe their connection actually is looking for more business to scale up, and you might be the perfect fit. So I would reach out and use your network.

Shuang: And at what stage were you comfortable seeking PR help externally? 

David: So it was earlier this year as we’ve gotten to this stage where we’re growing a lot. And we just hit over 100,000 followers on Instagram, which is kind of an interesting metric. But the next stage for us is, we’re launching kind of a new website to really get into the next level, we’re introducing a bunch of great new products at the end of this year, we’re really excited to bring all of those out. Many retailers like Urban Outfitters and Indigo, they just reached out to us, and we’re on the cusp of being ready for many larger retailers. And large retail, they want to see more press. They want to see you getting featured. They want to see you in the media. They want to see articles written about you because it benefits Bushbalm as a company, but also the retailers who are selling it, they’re proud to show, that they are selling our products. So we’re really serious to do all the things that a large retailer wants and would expect from us. So that’s the strategy we’re going with, whereas in the early days, we didn’t have the extra capital to scale it, whereas now we’re just investing more into press. It’s great for every aspect of the business, but it’s also a great sales tool to sell us into certain retailers because they can now see the buzz, the excitement around our business, which that’s really what we want.

Shuang: Have there been any internal discussions or mental hurdles that you had to overcome when investing in traditional media and PR?

David: Yep. There are definitely mental hurdles. And it’s the same hurdles you have for influencer marketing. Because for example, you could pay an influencer 10 grand and not know what it’s going to bring back. We got to a point where we said, okay, every single month there’s a budget set aside for influencer marketing. There’s a budget, every single month, it’s what we are going to try new partnerships and new things with. So it’s there, and then giving that to the team to say, “Hey, see what you can do with this, and try and experiment and learn.” That worked out so well because they found opportunities and partners that were excellent, whereas if we didn’t say that was available, every time they would’ve been maybe hesitant. Now it’s like, team, go out and do it. You have this budget, spend it, understand it, learn from it, and grow. So that was a hurdle that took a while to get over, and the press side is the same. We’re saying, okay, we’re setting this aside because we think it’s really important in the long term, but right now we’re probably not going to see the results, so we’ve got to understand that. And it’s just a hurdle to say, okay, let’s do that, we’ve set it aside, hopefully, it works out. But influencers are the same like hopefully, it works out. Generally, you can see a quick turnaround on it, but still, in the early days, I remember someone would say it’s $500 for a post, and we’d think, “Oh no, how many do we have to sell? Will we sell them?” It became difficult to validate it early, early on.

Flashy campaigns vs. fine tuning the overall strategy

Shuang: Now looking back five, six years under the belt, have there been any big campaigns or marketing moments where it really took things to the next level?

David: There’s been a few big moments around the press we’ve gotten, which has been really helpful and exciting as well. As far as campaigns, there’s been a few influencer campaigns that have been wildly successful, and most of that has been people with awesome audiences. So first off, you want to build a great product, and then the next piece is you want to get that product to people who need it and want to use it. So if an influencer needs our product, wants to use it, and then the third thing is they love it, now you’re building this thing where it’s like a genuine connection to our product line. And then the last piece is them posting and doing it. It’s so genuine, their audience is engaged with what they’re going through, what they’re talking about, and it’s usually a great success.

 A model in a bathtub setting using a trimmer by Bushbalm.
Finetuning marketing strategies over time is fundamental for Bushbalm’s success.  Bushbalm

So that’s kind of the piece that’s made a few of these big influencer ones work, but probably the most valuable thing to the company has been less about one-offs and more about finding our positioning for advertising and landing pages. If we find our advertising positioning and it works, then we just keep doing it and you can scale significantly. So I would say it’s less about the flashy campaign, this time it launched, it was two days, whatever it is, it’s more about what are the things you do that sustain for the longest period and are the most successful, those that had the biggest impact on the business. And you’re going to learn every step of the way, whether it’s Facebook ads, something new works, something new doesn’t, you learn each step, and you just get better as you get bigger and bigger.

Shuang: Awesome. Well, I feel like we’ve talked so much about different aspects of marketing. Is there any advice you want to give for people starting out and they’re approaching their first marketing efforts?

David: I suppose advice I would give someone who’s just starting out and just trying it is, take what you’re doing with maybe this lens of education. So a lot of people go to school, they do different things, but for me, learning something hands-on is the best way to ever grow a skill. So ecommerce is this up-and-coming beautiful industry, there’s so much opportunity, so if you’re going into this marketing role or you’re starting a business, even if it doesn’t work out, you will have a new skillset. And that’s how I approached it early on, and now looking back, it’s been so fantastic, because now I can talk about all these different things in an interview or whatever you’re doing. It’s hard to talk about Facebook ads when you’ve never done them. So if you’ve done a few, you’ve tried it, that skill will go a long way into whether it’s keeping a successful endeavor now, or a future endeavor. So always look at marketing with the lens of, I’m going to get better as a human being through this, and I’ll always have these skills in my back pocket as you learn them.