Lessons from a Friendly Bet: Beardbrand vs. Supply.co

by Latisha Bovey
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Patrick Coddou’s company, Supply.co, sells razors and shaving accessories. My company, Beardbrand, sells beard products. He wants men to shave. I want them to grow a beard. We’re both direct-to-consumer ecommerce merchants selling premium grooming items to males. We’re competitors, in other words.

But we’re also friends. I interviewed Coddou in August 2020 for an “Ecommerce Conversations” episode. We realized that our companies were roughly the same size. We stayed in touch. In October, Supply’s year-to-date revenue was roughly $167,000 higher than Beardbrand’s.

I proposed a friendly wager: Beardbrand will complete 2020 with more revenue than Supply. He accepted.

He and I recently met to settle the bet and to discuss learning from each other, friendly competition, and the value of trusted peers. We were joined by James Wilson, a Beardbrand colleague.

Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: Let’s talk about what we’ve learned from the bet. First, please introduce yourself.

Patrick Coddou: I’m the founder and CEO at Supply.

James Wilson: I’m the growth marketer at Beardbrand. I handle our advertising and website performance issues.

Bandholz: Patrick, I enjoyed my conversation with you on this podcast in August 2020. We’ve stayed in touch since then. Our businesses, Beardbrand and Supply, target the same guy but for different purposes. I want him to grow a beard. You want him to shave. You and I began sharing our 2020 revenue numbers. They were very close. In October, Beardbrand’s year-to-date sales were $166,763 lower than Supply’s. So you and I wagered a friendly bet as to which company would end the year with more revenue.

Coddou: You had a plan all along. The best part of Beardbrand’s year was coming up.

Bandholz: Then you had a holiday sale push. You had a huge day.

Coddou: Yes. We started Black Friday early, but we didn’t call it Black Friday. We started our promotions around November 1. Beardbrand doesn’t do promotions.

Bandholz: We do promotions. We don’t do sales or discounts. Anyway, you and I agreed to the wager. You sent me another screenshot of your promotion. It increased your lead within a couple of days to about $200,000.

Coddou: So by early November, Supply was up by 200-ish.

Bandholz: Then Beardbrand battled back. But, alas, by December 31 we were behind by $63,121. The final week of the year, after Christmas, was strong for us. But we lost the bet.

I’ve since reviewed the 2020 monthly revenue reports of our two companies. Beardbrand’s monthly revenue is relatively stable and consistent. Supply has mountains and valleys. Why?

Coddou: I wouldn’t say our sales are volatile, but they certainly weren’t as steady as yours.

Bandholz: They are volatile to me.

Coddou: I’m used to it. Supply’s monthly sales show the strengths and weaknesses of our brand. We’ve grown the company primarily from advertising — Facebook, Instagram, Google. When it works, it’s great. When it doesn’t work, it’s not great. So, that creates a lot of volatility.

You’ve built more of an organic traffic generator at Beardbrand. I’m envious of the steady consistency of your sales. We’re going to focus on organic this year. Still, I’m grateful for the strength of our digital advertising. It’s gotten us to where we are.

Bandholz: Beardbrand has a level base, but we could use your insights on pushing the gas pedal, so to speak.

Coddou: Every smart digital marketer I talked to in November and December was having a tough time, questioning if they’re any good at their jobs. CPMs were through the roof. The election was a distraction in early November. One of the reasons we launched our sale early, on November 1, was to get ahead of what we knew was coming: higher CPMs and uncertainty. It worked for us. We had a huge spike in early November. November 1 was bigger for us than Black Friday and Cyber Monday, on November 27 and 29.

It’s because it was our email list that was responding to the promotion. That was a big learning for me: Owned media is a good thing. It works. But after that, we had trouble getting advertising to work as well as in 2019.

Bandholz: James what did we see at Beardbrand? Did we hit our return on ad spend for November, December?

Wilson: Yes. We hit it both months. We started scaling up our budget in December.

We did run an ad promotion in December. It was a buy four, get one. Buy seven, get two. But those ads didn’t really perform. So we went back to ads with high click-through rates. We drove prospects to our website and then pushed the promotion. That worked pretty well.

Coddou: I don’t really use Instagram or Facebook much. But when I go to those platforms, my feed is full of ads for men’s grooming and skincare — all at upwards of 50-percent off. It is ad, ad, sale, sale, sale. Eventually, our eyes gloss over.

Bandholz: For the 2020 holiday season, we formulated a limited-edition fragrance for our beard oil called Black Sails. James, talk about our strategy.

Wilson: We started promoting it in an email on November 1. Then we created a tiered release for the product. The big insight here is exclusivity plus urgency is very powerful. We created a sign-up (text message or email), where we would notify a customer 30 minutes before the public launch. We hyped this list throughout November. We’d say, “Get a 30-minute advance. We’re going to send you a text message at 5:30 a.m. Pacific.” People signed up for it. It had that urgency, and it worked incredibly well.

Bandholz: $44,000 in the first hour.

Changing the subject, Patrick, you mentioned the success from your email list. Were you emailing once daily or more?

Coddou: We’re usually light on the emails. But in Q4 we do the buy-or-die strategy, which is if you’ve been sitting on our list all year and you haven’t bought anything, you’re going to get hammered with emails until you buy something or unsubscribe. So if you haven’t bought anything during the year, in November you probably got an email from us every day.

Bandholz: My thought process has changed with email. We were once respectful of people’s inboxes. But now we try to create emails so damn good that subscribers want to receive them every day.

Coddou: You guys come up with something great to talk about every day. I don’t know how you do it.

Bandholz: It’s 100-percent Mike, our writer. There’s no planning. No expectations. Certainly he’s aware of upcoming videos and events. Otherwise, he’s very creative. There’s no approval process. He doesn’t have typos or grammar mistakes.

Wilson: You let him do whatever he wants, and it shows.

Bandholz: Plus he’s an Urban Beardsman. He gets the brand and the voice. He has full autonomy. Finding a good copywriter is really hard.

Coddou: All of the unlocks in my business have been through finding the right people — partners, employees, freelancers. So Mike is a great example of an unlock. One of my focuses this year is finding people that are really talented rather than doing the work myself.

Bandholz: How is 2021 kicking off for Supply?

Coddou: I spend the first week of every year unplugged in Mexico in the middle of nowhere. I always think, “Okay, I’m sitting on the beach. What do I want to be different next year when I’m sitting on the beach?” I want to build an organization that I can trust to run the business when I’m not there. I’m trying to transition from founder to CEO. I’ve been on that journey for a year. I have another year or so to go.

It’s tough when you’re bootstrapped. You can’t afford all the people you want and need. You have to find generalists who can train themselves to be specialists as needed. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding the right people for certain roles. I need to quit thinking about the money and find the best people I can, without paying outrageous amounts. I need a copywriter.

At this time last year, my view was, “I’m not paying for a copywriter. I’ll write the copy myself.” But this year I’m thinking, “I need a copywriter. I need a videographer. I need these things to become the brand I want to be and forget the money. I’ll figure that out later.”

Bandholz: Here’s my unsolicited advice. As you search for these people, don’t settle. Don’t hire folks who are worse than you because eventually you’ll have to let them go.

Coddou: What if they’re inexperienced now, but you see the hunger in them to be better?

Bandholz: There’s potential there. James is a perfect example. We brought him in as a data analyst, and he’s now doing growth marketing for us.

As we wrap up this podcast, there’s one important topic for listeners to consider: Beardbrand and Supply are direct competitors. We both sell premium grooming products to males. Was 2020 Supply’s best year ever?

Coddou: Yes.

Bandholz: It was our best year, too. My point is to avoid a fixed pie mindset. Competitors don’t necessarily take business from each other. They drive each other to get better.

Coddou: Our companies are roughly the same size, dealing with some of the same things. A big takeaway for me as an entrepreneur or, really, a human is to find trusted peers to open the kimono with and be real — and maybe compete a bit.

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