Our last two Shopify Entrepreneur’s stories were about founders, those who took their bold ideas and, in the beginning at least, built them with their own hands. But this story is different. This is a story about the incredible people inside our businesses whose expertise and talent we rely on to help us grow and scale. This is a Shopify Intrapreneur story.
Imagine this scenario: you started a YouTube channel and just broke 4M subscribers. You even ended up on Shark Tank… twice. Your Shopify store, selling men's grooming products, is doing well. Not great, not bad, but pretty good. But with so many irons in the fire, you're struggling to take your store to the next level. What do you do?
Answer: you hire a rockstar.
Specifically, you do what Pete & Pedro founder, Aaron Marino, did. You hire a guy who’s been crushing it in your industry for 10+ years, and who you trust immensely because of past collaborations. And that's precisely how Michael Levy, former e-commerce guru of Grooming Lounge, took over mission control for Pete & Pedro. (As an aside, if you’d like to hear Aaron’s story, we did a profile on him last month.)
In this story, we talk about how Michael has transformed marketing and operations at Pete & Pedro, helping almost double their annual growth rate, and about how simple tweaks can have outsized impacts on every business.
After college, Michael had been working in a variety of business jobs before deciding to get his MBA from Babson Grad School. By the way, Babson has been a leader in entrepreneurship education for over 25 years.
After graduating from Babson, Michael settled into a job at Grooming Lounge, one of the pioneering e-commerce selling men’s grooming products. Michael was in his element. With his help, Grooming Lounge grew immensely and became a well-known brand in the industry.
In 2012, Michael’s attention was caught by a young up-and-coming men’s lifestyle influencer, Aaron Marino. It was the early YouTube days, and Aaron only had 20,000 subscribers to his channel, but Michael rightly saw where Aaron was headed: up and to the right.
Years later, that decision would come back to reward Michael.
In early 2018, Aaron Marino wanted to take his company, Pete & Pedro, to new heights as well as free himself up to pursue other entrepreneurial passions. And he thought to himself, "Who knows more about men's grooming than Michael?" And luckily, Michael was looking for a new challenge, a way to put his online marketing skills and knowledge to the test.
Naturally, there was only one logical next step. Michael accepted the job, and they were off to the races, transforming Pete & Pedro forever.
Michael used his first six months with Pete & Pedro to capitalize on low hanging fruit. When he started, he found an interesting mix of inefficiencies and easily-fixable issues.
For example, Aaron’s videos were driving a lot of traffic to the site, but as anyone with an online business knows, visitors don’t necessarily equate to sales.
“The big thing with online marketing is that everybody wants more traffic,” Michael said. “The reality is, if you convert the traffic you already get, you'll probably do much better and spend less money doing it.”
So the first thing Michael tackled at Pete & Pedro was making small, impactful adjustments to the website to give visitors a better experience and increase conversion.
“I tweaked all the copy to make it all flow better and with more images,” Michael explained. “I started building advice sections and different graphs so guys can reference useful tools which basically help them pick out products they want.” Additionally, the team redesigned the entire site to be mobile friendly. With more than 60% of traffic now shopping on their mobile devices, this improved mobile experience made a big dent in conversions.
These changes made for a better user experience on the site. What’s more, they made customers feel more valued and helped them deal with choice overload, all of which built trust for the Pete & Pedro brand. These simple fixes increased Pete & Pedro’s conversion rate by 13%.
But that was only the beginning.
Another early critical addition was the addition of a (shameless plug here) fantastic little review app called Judge.me.
"Now, if you go look, our top product is a product called a putty, and it has a thousand reviews," says Michael. "When I started about six months ago it had ten reviews. So in six months, it has gotten 900 reviews. If you're coming to the website and you see a product with 900 reviews, you're going to be way more likely to buy it. Getting a thousand reviews gets you a lot of credibility."
Michael and the team made several other high-impact decisions that cost almost nothing.
They started a rewards program called Pedro bucks, which has seen good success. They created an interactive hair recommendation tool, which helps men choose hair products based on their desired style. What’s more, they began giving customers product recommendations based on which products were frequently purchased together.
“We also started adhering to a content calendar for social media,” Michael told me. “We started posting daily. Before that, posts would go up maybe once per week or whenever somebody had time to do it.”
All of these changes were simple but made a massive difference in Pete & Pedro's sales.
For years, Pete & Pedro relied almost exclusive on traffic from founder Aaron Marino’s celebrity status, both from his YouTube channel and his multiple Shark Tank appearances. But doing so was a double-edged sword.
Aaron is a charismatic guy who is a natural at promoting his brand. However, as all good marketers know, you need to diversify your marketing channels and shouldn’t rely on a single source.
"The thing about Aaron," Michael told me, "is that he can really sell something because he's energetic. He's got a lot of energy, and people can tell that he's authentic. So when you do a pitch with him, it usually moves." It's true. During my interview with Aaron, his authenticity and energy were on display at every turn.
“But one of Aaron’s beliefs is that it's not all about him,” says Michael. “He wants the company to be a thing on its own. He can be the face of the company, sure, but he doesn't have to be the one to move the needle. So my goal coming in has been to move the needle without him doing it. Anytime we can do that without him doing it directly is a huge win.”
One of Michael's first successes in moving the needle was noticing that Pete & Pedro was failing to take advantage of its customer list to promote and educate people on the brand and their products. He wanted to build another foundation to reach customers, and he knew that a well-managed email program was a powerful way to do just that.
"You think that people know a lot about your company," says Michael, "but they actually don't. Some of our customers just watch one of Aaron's videos. They have no clue about our company, and they just give it a shot. So there's a lot for people to learn. Many of us in the business think people go around your whole website, but they don't know. As an example, we launched a new product a while back, and we thought we'd done enough to get the word out. Then just today, I got an email from a customer who commented, Okay, you guys should make this in an XL size... We've had that for like two months!”
So Michael created a welcome series for new customers to better acquaint them with Pete & Pedro. Additionally, he drove a pile of new product reviews with a highly focused email campaign.
Whereas email accounted for a mere 1% of Pete & Pedro’s conversions in the past, the changes that Michael implemented have had a huge impact. Email now accounts for almost 20% of all conversions for Pete & Pedro.
Now, with Aaron on one end and Michael on the other, Pete & Pedro has a lot more ways to inform customers and drive sales.
Michael has been in this business for a long time and has gleaned valuable lessons along the way. He has many suggestions for business owners and marketing directors in this continually evolving environment. His most valuable advice? Keep learning.
According to Michael, there are so many ways to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date, from white papers and marketing blogs to attending conferences like IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition). Another great way is to get certified on the leading apps and platforms including Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and other PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising services.
And while it may seem clichéd, his last bit of advice for sharpening your marketing toolset, honestly can't be repeated enough. You must network with other online marketers and learn from them.
“If you really like another website and the work that they do,” Michael said, “try to talk to the marketing person there and see if they’ve got 15 minutes and basically pick their brain.”
In Michael’s estimation, a good marketer looks to see what other companies do and then incorporates those practices into their own routine. There are so many amazing companies out there doing a stellar job with their marketing, which means there’s no lack of opportunity to take little pieces from each of them and put them to work in your own brand.
As we wrote about recently, it’s okay to take ideas from others, especially when it comes to marketing.
Even though Pete & Pedro has seen some pretty impressive metrics since Michael came on board, he knows he has to stay sharp. In this highly competitive and rapidly changing marketplace, it takes more than just doing what you’ve done in the past to ensure success in your future.
Diversification is the current strategy for growing Pete & Pedro. They have recently expanded outside of just men's hair care products. Since Michael came on board, they've launched both a shaving line and body washes, and they plan to add over 25 new products in 2019.
With several strong channels mostly down to perfection, pushing the company's sales higher and higher now is the perfect time for Pete & Pedro to intensify and diversify their marketing approach even more.
And this is key to Aaron’s advice to newer companies. He says you should only diversify your channels once you’ve maximized the ones you have.
"You want to find the channels that you can scale when you're small and go after them," Michael told me. "That's the key. Find two or three channels and go hard if they're successful for you. Versus doing 12 different channels with a small budget, it's just too hard. So if you're a small company find the best two or three channels and put all your time and energy into those. If it's successful, then you can start exploring one or two more."
Before we finished up with Michael, he offered one last piece of advice for marketers in the e-commerce world.
“The best marketing today is customer service,” Michael said. “Answer people’s questions with a good spirit and good energy. People want transparency and credibility, honesty, and help. So ‘customer service is king’ is really something that I've always believed in.”
In the end, developing a phenomenal marketing strategy comes down to one thing: experience. You can’t skip ahead. Following the trends often results in lower results, and worse, results you don’t fully understand. Take it from Michael’s story, the more time you spend learning, experimenting, and putting your head to the grindstone, the more talented you’ll become. There’s no shirking experience.
Of course, as we know from Aaron Marino’s example, you don’t have to do it all yourself. You can always hire a rockstar like Michael to propel your brand into the stratosphere.
We’re grateful to Michael for his time and look forward to seeing Pete & Pedro grow like crazy in 2019. If you want to get in touch with him, you can find him at email@example.com.