Ron: Welcome to the eCommerce Growth Series. My name is Ronald Dod, Chief Marketing Officer at Visiture. I’m here today with another episode where I talked to Stephanie Bregman at Manly Bands. I’ve known Stephanie for about eight years now. We’ve worked on three separate businesses together, so we go way back. She’s currently at Manly Bands, which is one of the fastest growing eCommerce brands out there right now. We talked for about 55 minutes, so I’ll try to make this introduction short because you’ll be very impressed with Stephanie, her knowledge of marketing and eCommerce. I know I learned a lot today and I’m really excited for you all to hear what she had to say.
We talked about a lot of really creative things from: how having important and strong creative assets are for social media advertising and more; how to make customer service rock stars; and the importance of customer service and just really treating your customers as best as you can. We discussed partnerships with other organizations and ambassadors to really promote content and promote products. We discussed Generation X and how it’s going more online due to COVID-19 and other factors. We discussed how they’re giving back monthly and are really building this successful work culture. Then, we also discussed how they came up with unique merchandising ideas such as meteorite rings, dinosaur rings and more.
And really, I could sum up the entire conversation that Manly Bands is such a successful company because they have such passion in what they do and they’re just so passionate about the work and the products that they make. And really, Stephanie exemplifies that and you really get the same sense that I do listening to her.
So excited to share this episode with you all.
All right. Thank you for joining the show, Stephanie. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Stephanie: Thank you for having me. My name is Stephanie Bregman. I’m the CMO of Manly Bands and I’ve been with them now for over a year and, basically, I run all of the marketing for the Manlybands.com website. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Ron: Great. And for those who don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about Manly Bands?
Stephanie: Sure. So, Manly Bands has basically been around for over three years. It came around when the owners John and Michelle – they’re co-CEOs of the company – were just about to get married and they started looking for a ring for John’s hand. And John always says that he’s like a bigger guy and he went to go into the jewelry store. He tried to find a band that would fit him and, for some reason, there’s just no bands that would fit his fingers and there was just no variety, no choice. And they pulled out a catalog in front of him and said, “Here, pick something.” And there were like thousands of dollars for these really plain, boring rings that he just didn’t want. And he was like, “There’s got to be a better solution for this.” They ended up going online and they couldn’t find an experience that made it feel special for him. And he said, “Even though the wedding process is very special for the brides, sometimes when it comes to finding a band for a guy, the experience isn’t there.” After they got married, they decided they wanted to start a company together and they started thinking about what problems they faced as a couple. And when they started thinking about the process of buying a band, that’s kind of where Manly Bands was born.
Both of them had very creative backgrounds and they came up with this concept, came up with ring names and ring personalities and there’s just a lot of humor to it. With John’s strong background with photography, he really has a great eye for knowing what customers want to see and how to portray it in a way that makes them feel special. And I think that’s what’s so incredible about Manly Bands is really just the experience of buying the band and also providing a really cool product. Things like dinosaur bone, meteorite, you know, antler. And they also have traditional materials as well, but they just show them in a really cool way and give lots of fun different varieties for people of all different budgets.
I just think it’s a very incredible space that we’re in. We’re really lucky because we get to be part of our customers’ lives during the most exciting part of their lives. So, for us, it’s an honor that we get to sell them something they’re going to wear forever. So, yeah, that’s really what Manly Bands is all about.
Ron: Yeah, it’s so funny because we’ve had accounts throughout the years that have sold engagement rings. I don’t think fun would be the word I ever used to described them or, with men’s rings, I don’t think that is ever in the same sentence with that adjective. I love what you all have done with your merchandising. So, do you all use that kind of fun personality as well in your advertising, too?
Stephanie: Oh yeah! Not only do we use it in our advertising, but we do it even in our comments. If you look at our social comments, we have a lot of comedians that we hire that work with us and they really help us put together the brand voice. We know what that voice sounds like. You know, we always kind of joke around and say the Manly Bands’ voice is basically like your best friend trying to help you through the wedding process. It’s your sidekick. And we want to make sure that that experience kind of comes across. It’s like friendly. It’s silly. It’s fun. We don’t want to take it so seriously. We don’t take ourselves that seriously. But we do take our product seriously. We take our customers’ experience very seriously. But we want to have fun–not only in the copy of our ads and our social responses, but in everything that we do.
If you take a look at the product descriptions on our website, we want to make it easy so someone can really find what they’re looking for and every ring–just like every person–has its own personality. And what’s also really cool too is if someone says, “You know what? I kind of like this ring, but I also like that ring.” We can combine things. We can make custom rings for people as well and the custom experience has really gotten much stronger over the years. So, definitely excited to see how that kind of rolls out this year. We’re giving people a little bit more opportunity to see, as they make their selections of what they want from the ring, what it looks like in real time, which I think is really important.
Ron: Over these past three years, I’ve been able to see you all’s growth trajectory and story and I love it. Besides your kind of fun personality, are there any other things that really led to Manly Bands’ success so far?
Stephanie: I think it’s our focus on our creative. I think creative is so important for a brand because whether it’s SEO or pay-per-click advertising or whether it’s streaming or whatever method of advertising that you’re using as a company, if you don’t have strong assets nobody wants to see it and nobody cares. I think that we’re putting effort into the creatives and into the video process because we want to entertain. We understand that our products are amazing. But how do we tell our customers that? And it’s that story that we tell each and every time we do a video. Every video has its own purpose. We look at what customers are facing, what issues they have and how we can touchpoint on that problem in a very fun and exciting and silly way that will get lots of people to watch it in a viral kind of way.
So, if you think about, for example, a lot of guys don’t realize they can get a second band for their hand. When I told my husband, “Hey, you know I’m at Manly Bands now. Maybe we can get you another ring.” He literally said to me, “Am I allowed to do that?” Because guys don’t realize like, yeah, of course you can get a ring upgrade, of course you can get a second one. I mean I did it, most women do it and it’s just about how do we tell that story in a funny way that resonates with other people. Just like with John and Michelle when they went to go find their band, I had the same experience with my husband. He could not find a ring that would work for him and he kept saying to me, “What do I go with? What do I go with? Do I go like with a silver or like a gold?” He doesn’t know anything about metals. He’s like, “Do I want diamonds or not?” He’s like, “I don’t know.” And at the time you’re looking, you’re just like I don’t know. I’m looking for myself. You know, figure it out. I love the kinds of commercials that we’ve done where it says, “Oh, go to that bucket over there and pick out your ring” because it’s like they have three choices. And that’s it.
You know, it’s not fair, but that’s been how the process has been this whole time. And I’m just so glad that we can change the way that people buy wedding rings–or wedding bands I should say–for their weddings. I feel like it’s so archaic the way it used to be and this is something they have to wear forever, so why not make it special?
Ron: Yeah, and as someone who’s not gone through the process, I can tell you me and all my guy friends have no idea what we’re doing. We are very uneducated. So, is that an issue for you at all? Like how do you educate a customer base who has no idea about your products or no idea what they can and can’t do?
Stephanie: Yeah. We actually have a couple of things that we’ve done for customers. Number one, we have this great guide on our website that’s like a comparison guide that shows the different materials in kind of a graph format side by side and you can look at price. You can look at how durable the material is and whether it’s hypoallergenic. You can look at whether it cracks easily. Every material has a different personality. Really, it does. And so certain rings, if you drop them, they could crack. Other rings that are wood are great for people who are electricians, for example, so you don’t have to worry about possibly electrocuting yourself. They want to wear a wood ring, or a lot of times, doctors who are using a lot of hand sanitizer want to stay away from certain materials. So, we put this into a graph that makes it easy to see. Then also on the website, let’s say you’re like, “I like these two or three materials.” You can select them and it shows you that graph in a format on mobile or desktop that makes it really easy to kind of navigate price for the material specifically that you’re looking at. Because typically guys have an idea in mind of what they want. They just don’t know which one to choose from those two or three and so we try to make it easier on that perspective.
We also have a lot of really great video content about what ring material you should get and we’ve done a lot of really fun videos about that, too. So, when you go to the website and click on what materials that you should get, it really has a great way of explaining it on our site to make it as easy as possible. For those who don’t want to go through and watch the videos or don’t want to read, our customer service is so knowledgeable on this. And so, all you have to do is pick up the phone and call them. Or send an email if you have any questions and don’t want to call and just want to send an email in or message our chat. Our customer service can help walk through all the different options for you and figure out what’s best.
Ron: Yeah, Stephanie, and I love what you all have done from a customer service standpoint. Like how have you built customer service rock stars?
Stephanie: Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think the one thing I will say – whether it’s through customer service or just all the employees that we have on our team – is that our team is amazing. I always say it kind of starts from the top because it does. We care about every single person that works for our company and we want to make sure that they have everything that they need to be able to do their job and that they love their job. And I think the most important thing is that we’ve really put a focus on putting people in a place where they’re doing what they love to do. And then finding out from them, “Well, now that you’re here, where do you see yourself next?” to finding out, “Would you want to be in a different management position? Would you want to move up or do you want to continue doing customer service? Do you love helping the customers?” We want to make sure that people are doing what they love because we find that when you’re in a place doing what you love, you do it really well and you’re happy.
Customer satisfaction is very important to us, but so is our employee satisfaction. We send out surveys as a company constantly asking employees, “How are we doing as a company? What can we be doing better? Are there any issues that you have?” And then making sure that our managers on our team are really meeting with our team members every single week to make sure that there are no problems or issues. We have such a strong team.
Our customer service – I think because of the training that they’ve done when they first started – has a very strong idea of what they need to do and how they need to communicate to our customers once they start getting on the phone or onto our chat or start going through our emails. So, they really have a strong amount of knowledge before they even hit the gate running. So, I’m really proud of the team that we have on customer service because they’re such a huge part of our marketing team. And I always say that even though I know it’s customer service and separate from marketing, we are one cohesive team. When we run promotions, we have things going on, we let customer service know because we want them to push those promotions as well so that our customers can save. We want to make sure that they know everything that’s going on in the marketing side. So, there’s really strong communications, and from an interdepartmental standpoint, to make sure that communication is constantly flowing between all the departments and that we’re all one cohesive team.
Ron: So, I haven’t heard that in a while, really, that kind of one cohesive team. I love it, honestly. Can you speak a little bit more on that and why you think that’s important?
Stephanie: Yeah, so, I think that having a cohesive team is really important because every department communicates with one another, right. So, me being on the marketing side, for example, whenever there’s things that I’m seeing, I’m like, “Oh, you know what? We can make this improvement and maybe make this a little bit easier for the customers.” You know I can communicate that information to the customer service team and they’ll come back and say, “Yeah, I think that’s a great idea that could help.” Then, I communicate with the IT department and say, “Hey, guys, do you mind seeing if we can try to implement this and test this and see how it works? Let’s run an A/B test.” Then, we have to go back to the customer service team and say, “Hey, we’re going to run this test.” Some people are going to see it, some are not going to see it. We need you to be aware of this and then they help to kind of get us through these processes. I rely so heavily on our IT department and our customer service team.
And not only that, but our shipping department…you have no idea. There are times where I’ve run promotions and our orders have doubled and I have to let them know ahead of time because it’s a huge amount of work for them. And I want to make sure that their staff is prepared for those orders because we have promises to our customers that we’re going to get things out in a timely fashion. And so it’s really important that every single department knows what each other is doing, what promotions are going on, what kind of giveaways, promotions or things that we’re doing because customers will call and say, “Hey, I saw you did this promotional giveaway on social. How can I do this?” And I don’t want them to have to ever message us and say, “Hey, I didn’t know about this” because I want them to be able to respond to the customer right away and know exactly what’s going on.
So, we have a very cohesive marketing calendar that goes through every single aspect of our business–what we’re running, what we’re doing. It breaks it down. And, we share that calendar to everyone, every department so that they have a really good understanding of what’s happening. So, we’re preparing for bringing certain people into the office, out of the office depending on how many people we need certain days. We want to make sure that if it’s a Black Friday promotion, they know it’s all hands on deck, for example.
So, we try to make sure that we give them enough notice when we do these–like whether it’s a summer promotion or something like that–that communication is vital. And I think that’s what makes us so strong because a lot of us work remotely. Even though, yes, our company is located in Vineyard, Utah and we have a lot of people that are in our headquarters, a lot of our marketing team is from all over the country. So, we’ve created a process where we have to communicate really well to make sure that there are no missed deadlines, to make sure we understand exactly when things have to get done by and it really helps us stay like a well-oiled machine. Our team just feels really happy because we all are doing what we love and we all work really well together. This is honestly the best company that I’ve ever had the honor to work for.
Ron: I love it. I love it. And I feel like working remotely and managing marketing teams has just become more and more important as we progress away from an office environment, especially since COVID.
Ron: Yeah, one thing that I love about you all is how much you really put into the experience from start to finish and something I wish eCommerce merchants would do more is really care about their packaging. Something I wanted to talk to you about is how do you really make that experience with your packaging?
Stephanie: Oh my gosh. I’m excited that you asked me that question because we actually just came out with brand new packaging this month and it’s a whole new ring experience. So, anyone who’s ever ordered from us in the past…or I’ll say this, when you decide to get your second ring from us, you’ll see the new packaging that we have. It’s absolutely incredible. It is an experience. And I do agree with you that we have such amazing assets to get them to the site. Our site has beautiful displays of graphics and imagery to help customers understand what the products really look like so that we make sure that that color is perfect on the site. So, when you get it, you know exactly what you’re getting. And so that experience is important all throughout. And then when you get to the end of the process, we want to make sure that when that ring comes to you that we’re giving you that same experience.
So, we have this beautiful box. And I’m telling you that I laugh all the time because our shipping department are absolute heroes because it’s an origami project, okay. For every package that goes out, there’s a lot of pieces that go into it. But, literally, it’s a beautiful package that comes, and when you open it up, we have a little sector where the ring box is going to go. The new ring boxes we have are these wooden bases with this kind of marked Manly Bands logo on it with this glass encasement–literally like a baseball would be if you think about it that way–and the ring is kind of pushed up on this little thing. So, it’s just like a beautiful presentation of the ring. And then we also have these little silicone band card areas where you could put something in there. And then we have these other little cards that basically say on there, “Now you’re a badass. Manly Bands.” So, we try to make the presentation great.
The other piece of it too is not only do we want to do that for the customer, but customers want to take pictures of their ring. And what we’ve noticed is since we’ve changed that packaging around, people are taking pictures with the logo, with the packaging and they put it up on social. It becomes just another advertising opportunity for us, for people to share their experience working with us. And so, especially because it’s a wedding band, we know how important it is. And because of that, there’s also lots of vendors who really want to get in front of people who are getting married. We’ve also allowed them to be able to put something into this little envelope that we put into our boxes, which is really special. It gives a lot of our customers special discounts on things that have to do with either the wedding space or things along that line. And that program has been really successful because people are opening them up, they’re opening these boxes. It’s such a good experience. It’s a very special package for them.
So, by providing them a really cool experience, it allows us to really market the brand continuously and then we get them to want to share. Because if I had all this hype and then get my ring in and it was just in a small little box like a plastic baggie or something, I’d be so disappointed and I wouldn’t want to share that. And so, I feel like if you want to have that full experience from the start to the finish, you have to care about your customer. It’s not about just getting them. It’s about keeping them and creating a loyal customer who really enjoys not only the product, but the experience and wants to share it with others.
Ron: I love it. I feel like that’s just becoming so much more important now. I see so many brands being successful using user generated content with their Instagram ads and acquiring customers. Can you speak a little bit more to how you all leverage video and creative assets and in social media in general?
Stephanie: Yeah, so, it’s funny that you say that. We’re doing another promotion right now where we’re giving away Manly Bands shirts and gift cards and things like that in exchange for testimonial videos. That promotion is going up next week, but we do that a lot. We will basically put up ads requesting customers to send us their experiences when they were buying their Manly Bands and what they thought when they got their product and just talk about not only what the experience was for them, but their experience as a couple. It’s important for us to know their story. And we’ve heard so many amazing stories from people who have gotten married. And heard stories, unfortunately, about what they’ve gone through with the COVID-19 pandemic, how it’s made them stronger and how they decided to get married anyway. Just hearing those stories are very inspirational, I think, for other people to hear. And then talking about how Manly Bands was part of that story. It’s an honor for us to be part of that story. It’s very special to us.
So, being able to get those stories from the customers and then sharing it with others, I think is really vital to our success. Because if I hear someone say, “Oh, I wish I would have known about Manly Bands,” that’s the one thing I hate hearing. Because I’m like, you know, we are advertising everywhere because we want people to know that we are here to help and that there are so many happy customers out there who love their rings. We stand by our products. We have warranties on our items and we have the most unique products. And we have a facility that makes all of our major orderings right here in the Utah area.
The rings are beautiful–just absolutely gorgeous rings. I should say “cool” for the guys out there who are listening. These rings are incredible. We just want to share that with everybody. And I think hearing it from someone else other than us, it speaks a lot louder.
Ron: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I feel like user generated content reviews, testimonial videos – I really feel like that’s the future, so I love what you all are doing there. Speaking of which, do you all use brand ambassadors? I know you were talking a little bit about using celebrity endorsements soon.
Stephanie: We do. We’ve actually been utilizing brand ambassadors for a while, whether it be athletes and other celebrities who want to do social posts for us. This, for us, is our year of brand ambassador partnerships. Maybe we can do a follow-up podcast on this because I think this would be really cool to talk about. I can’t mention it yet because I’m still waiting on getting our signatures together, but we have a really, really big celebrity brand ambassador this year who will be jumping on board with us in the next month who has been in the wedding space. So, we’re really excited to kind of move forward with that partnership. It’s been a little challenging during COVID-19, but I think people are going to be really excited to hear it. And I think that also lends a lot more credibility to our brand. We’ll continue to do that.
What we’ve really focused on though is making sure we find a brand ambassador who will really love our brand, who gets our brand, who’s in our industry in some way because it has to be authentic. We’re not just going to have a brand ambassador who just wants to be part of it because they want to be part of it. We want someone who really loves it, who loves the concept of what we’re doing and wants to be on board–and we found that. So, hopefully we could have another follow-up conversation maybe with this person or we can have a follow-up conversation about how it’s affected our brand. But we’re really excited. And I do believe brand ambassador partnerships – if done right and done organically – can be really helpful to increasing brand awareness.
Ron: Yes. Absolutely have to have a follow-up show to talk about that. I’m excited to hear about it. I know you’re excited and I’m just super excited for you all.
Stephanie: No, I want to talk about it. Sorry.
Ron: No worries, Stephanie. Something that I felt like you’ve talked about a lot and something you’re super passionate about is video content. I’m really passionate about it, too. I think it’s really the future – using video content – and it really acquired that kind of top of the funnel traffic. So, can you tell us a little bit about your content process? How do you make these fun videos? How do you stay on top of your brand guidelines and more?
Stephanie: Yeah. We actually do videos in different ways, depending on what project we’re doing or what we’re doing, but some of our main videos we partner with other agencies to work with them. Some of the most recent videos we did we partnered with an agency here in Utah called Creatively. They were wonderful. So, I don’t know if you guys ever have a chance to speak with Jay or Damian, but they are just absolutely amazing. And we actually sit down with them and go through scripts for some of these bigger videos of how we’re going to put these things together and we’ve had just an awesome experience working with these guys.
The other thing that we also have – because what we’ve noticed is obviously the big stuff is good, but we have to constantly be churning out new videos and repurposing them only gets you so far – but what we decided to do this year is we created our own in-house studio. We have an amazing creative director who I absolutely adore working with – Jason. And we also have an amazing photographer, Chris, and a videographer, Corey, and we have this amazing graphic designer and her name is Shannon. We have the strongest team. What we’re doing with our internal team, as we bring more people in, is we’re working on our own internal editing, we’re working on our own internal videos. Whether it be for TikTok, if we’re allowed to continue doing that or not, whether it’s for YouTube, whether it’s for different live streaming videos, we’re just constantly producing new content or coming up with our own podcast. We’re constantly trying to create more content and we have the most amazing team.
We did a co-promotion this week with Manscaped. It’s going to be going out at the end of the week. And they put together some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen – great stuff like just video type of content, great imagery. And so we understand that we have to constantly be pumping out great stuff to entertain, to have fun, to show the product in the best light. And we constantly have to bring in new products. Stuff that’s different that nobody else has. And so this week we just introduced some more dino rings and we’ll do some more shoots for those. So, we’re just constantly pumping out new stuff internally as well as also leaning on some of the outside agencies for other support. Because as we grow as a company, having external resources is important, but we also know having our internal team and strengthening our internal team is important. We’ve just been killing it on our end and so I’m so proud of our team. Again, video is probably one of the most important things, as well as strong photography, and our teams really have not let us down. So, I’m really proud of them.
Ron: Yeah, that’s amazing that you are doing that internally. With all the advancements in technology, it’s so easy now to do really high quality video production that was not able to be done, maybe five or ten years ago – you’d had to have really expensive equipment, but now you can have a stand that attaches to your iPhone 11 and produce amazing videos and get a sound bite, too. So, it’s pretty incredible what you can do nowadays with video editing and video content in general.
Stephanie: Yes. Again, I always say yes, the creative is great, but we can’t do it without the people and the people are what make our creative amazing. I’ve met other photographers, I met other videographers, and we have the best team. So, I just feel like the content that we’ve been producing has really helped us stand out and I think that’s what’s most important about video content, whether it’s video or still photography. I think it’s important to say what do people want to see? How can we show this to them that when they scroll down their feeds, they’re going to stop? And I can’t tell you enough, but some of this creative stuff that our team has come up with has been incredible. And stuff that you wouldn’t think–“Okay, well that’s kind of cool” where you would literally have a mobile experience scrolling down your phone and you see a picture of a person’s hand as if you were holding it and it looks like your hand is going through the phone. I mean, it was like the coolest stuff I’ve seen them do.
So, yeah, we have internal creative discussions about what’s coming up next, what do we want to do, how are we going to do it, what are different ideas, what are different ways of seeing it. Bringing in the comedians and how can we say this in a funny way so it resonates. And just making sure that when I say there is cohesiveness, you have to have cohesiveness because it’s not just one person that makes this happen.
Ron: I want to talk about it because I love talking about it–TikTok. How are y’all leveraging TikTok?
Stephanie: We’re doing a little bit of advertising on TikTok now. It’s kind of in the new stages and I keep hearing rumors about TikTok shutting down. We literally were about to start doing TikTok videos recently. I think what we’re going to do, as long as nothing happens with TikTok, our plan is just to basically start creating video content that will capture people’s attention organically. Things that are happening within our offices. Just the cast of characters we have at Manly Bands is hysterical in itself. And I used to always say, hey, if we could just make a movie out of what happens in this office every single day and the fun stuff that occurs and the different pranks that happen. We just try to have fun and I think that’s what people want to see. They want to see fun right now, and so as long as we can kind of portray that in the videos – and then also we’re testing out advertising. Right now, we’re kind of in this in between – because of COVID-19 – with filming and a lot of restrictions. So, we’re just trying to be very cognizant of that and being very careful, so it’s kind of delayed things a little bit more. But it’s definitely still on our radar as long as we see that it’s a valuable option for the future. We don’t see it going anywhere.
Ron: Yeah. And I think you all are super smart for having more fun and engaging content. I’ve done a few webinars where a lot of these eCommerce directors, marketing directors are asking questions. What can we do now with advertising when we can’t do promotional content? And I think that’s why it’s just so important to have a brand personality to have fun, engaging content or informational content. Because you can’t just do promotional content forever. You have to build that brand’s relationship with your customers; otherwise, they are just not going to want to buy from you.
Stephanie: Yeah, and you have to be consistent. I think it’s really important to be consistent with the brand. If you’re going to do TikTok stuff, you have to be consistent about what’s the message you’re trying to get across, like what are you trying to portray. It doesn’t have to be salesy and we’re staying away from that. Yes, there may be somebody with logos on their shirts or hats, but we’re staying away from that. It’s more about just finding that personality in your company that can really make you shine. Because you know what…once you’re on TikTok, it’s a black hole. So, if you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. You can get stuck watching TikTok for hours and go, “What the heck happened to my day?”
So, we want to produce content that makes people want to watch it and then continue to watch and see what happens and subscribe. It’s definitely something that’s a priority for us. Our goal is to continue looking at different social media platforms that will continue to change because our audience is very Millennial and so we want to make sure that we always are speaking to that audience. Which is why you’ll see things in our video where the girl is holding the phone and they say, “Oh well, I found her by swiping right.” You know that wasn’t like that during my day. I mean, yes, there was online dating, but there was no swiping involved. We didn’t have cell phones at that time that could do stuff like that.
So, I think that we try to make sure that as we’re speaking to our customers, we as marketers are literally involved in this. We’re watching the same stuff they’re watching. We’re watching all the streaming stuff. We’re watching all of the apps that our Millennial customers are on. We’re following all the trends and trying to make sure that we’re doing things–not to be trendy–but we’re doing things that fit in with the brand voice of our company and also resonate with our customer base.
Ron: So, yeah, I have a few questions and these are kind of more because I’m just really curious. With COVID-19, I felt like the older generation will now be forced to really adopt online and eCommerce. I always felt that that was probably one of the biggest reasons for surges in eCommerce. I’m just curious. Has that been a growing kind of target audience for you all? I know Millennials, as you said, are your main target audience, but do you feel that a larger group of older individuals are utilizing you all now?
Stephanie: Oh yeah. It may be the majority of our audience, but it’s definitely not the only audience. So, we do have a lot of customers who are probably I would say 35 to 45 and some of them are probably like 45 to 65. We’re seeing a lot of customers in that group and I’ll tell you what I think is happening. I think that Generation X and older are getting into the fact that they have to do everything online now. They’re getting much more comfortable with it. I almost think that COVID-19 almost kind of kicked our butts into gear and said, “Hey, if you don’t know how to use this app, you’ve got to learn now. If you don’t know how to shop online, you’ve got to learn now. You know how to pick up, get groceries delivered to your home. You’ve got to figure this out.” And it almost pushed us to do it, which is why I also think that during times like COVID-19, companies in the wedding industry have been really damaged by what’s been happening. But companies like ours, whose business is primarily online, we’ve seen such success because what’s happened is everyone’s starting to say, “You know what? We’re still going to get married. Or we’re going to get married next year, so we may as well just start getting our rings.” And people who were not going to get married, who are living together, who are stuck in that together now like, “Oh, now we’re going to get married. We’ve been together. We can do this. Now, let’s talk about getting married.” So, either there’s been an influx of weddings that are happening or people are just saying, “You know what? Let’s just do this. Let’s at least get our bands. Let’s get ready for it.” And people who traditionally would have gone to a store are now buying online.
So, we are so lucky as a company, which is why we’ve done so much charitable work in the past two or three months since COVID-19 started because we know how lucky we are as a business. We’ve been hiring. We’ve donated over $70,000 to this amazing charity called Team Rubicon, which was helping people during the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve donated meals to hospitals. We’ve donated face masks and shields. We’re doing everything we can to give back because of the fact that we know, as a company, that we were able to get through this and a lot of companies weren’t. And so, what we want to always do–and we’ve always done this even before COVID-19–we’ve always had one to two charities every month that we do give back to, like the No Kid Hungry charities. You can take a look on our website. You’ll see that there’s a list of all the charitable donations that we’ve done. It’s really important for us to be able to give back to the community, whether it’s our local community or on a national level, because we have been able to get through this, thank goodness, and hopefully we’ll continue to do so once this will–knock on wood–be over soon.
Ron: I love it. Yeah, and thank you for mentioning that. That’s really great. I feel like that really separates you all. I mean, there’s so many things that separate you all–from experience, giving back, creating an amazing workplace for people–that I think made you all successful. Something I want to talk about too is merchandising. I know you said you have dinosaur bones, antlers. How do you all come up with those ideas?
Stephanie: Okay, well, I cannot take credit for any of that stuff. My job is just to market those items. But I will tell you that it starts with Michelle. And then she’s now working with Stacy on our team, who’s head of all of our product creation and bringing in new products to the site. But Michelle started off in the company as our co-CEO, coming up with not only what products we should sell, but also the names of the products and the personalities of the products. This is her genius at play. Whenever you hear that brand voice, that started with Michelle and she is so creative. She’s the one who initially started bringing a lot of the stuff in and working with our ring manufacturers in Utah and saying, “Hey, guys. What else do we have? Can we test this or can we try this?”
And, honestly, we have another amazing person in our company – Holly – who handles all of our custom bands. She gets customers that will call and say, “Hey, have you guys ever thought about doing this before or that before?” – and it leads us to creating new concepts.
So, from a material standpoint, a lot of these materials have been around. They just haven’t been used. So, for example, dinosaur bone. A lot of people say, “Where does this dinosaur bone come from? Is it real?” We’re like, “Yes, it’s 100 percent real.” It actually comes from museums who have these small little incremental pieces of bones they cannot use. There are little pieces that are left. And so instead of destroying them, people buy them and then they grind them up and turn them into rings. And so, you’ll notice that dinosaur bone comes in different kinds of shades, depending on, I guess, where those dinosaurs were in the world and how they died and all this kind of stuff. So, it’s really cool and it’s a piece of history that you can literally carry with you forever. I mean, I think it’s just the most amazing thing.
Then, there’s things like meteorite. Let me tell you something because I’ve been to the warehouse where they have the meteorite in this vault. You would think you’re going into somewhere in the future. You walk into this fault and they have all these materials and there’s this big chunk of meteorite. It’s heavy and you can’t even lift it. So, they’re able to take this actual, real meteorite and break that down and put it into rings. I used to laugh because I think John said to me, “Oh, having meteorite and dinosaur bone together, it’s kind of like a cruel joke, right. But we have rings and I think it’s really fun and things like antlers.” And again, no animals, I would always say, are harmed from these rings because antlers are something that naturally are shed. They use those shed antler materials to make some of these rings. Even things like the camo are just very unique materials.
But the cool thing that we see are some of the custom rings that kind of come about. For example, when I first started, I was working with Holly in our custom department and we were talking about how one of the rings has like this guitar string that’s kind of wrapped around it. Anything that’s small enough that you can get into a ring, they can do. You know within reason, of course, depending on the process of getting it in there. But we’ve been able to create many cool concepts from ring ideas that we’ve gotten from customers that turned into something else. So, creating rings like the Pi ring that has the Pi symbol. People who absolutely obsessed with mathematical equations can get a ring that’s very unique to them. And then also creating other lines of rings kind of come about based on some of the partnerships that we have. So, for example, we have a partnership that we are solidifying with Major League Baseball very shortly. So, we’ll be having our own line of Manly Bands rings with like the sleeve of their favorite team. It looks like a regular band on the outside, but when they put the ring on, a guy who loves their team despite what’s going on in the MLB right now – we know about all the stuff with COVID-19 – but despite that, baseball will hopefully always be our pastime and be here to stay. And guys who absolutely love baseball, who love their teams, can get a really cool ring upgrade if they already have one with their favorite team closest to their heart. So, without it showing even on the outside, we can always do something on the outside as well. But having lines like that are really fun. We also have another ring line. We partnered with Jack Daniels and we have a really cool whiskey barrel ring.
So again, a lot of stuff has come up from our team and then also it comes about from some of these brand partnerships that we’ve created with some of these other really unique, cool brands. So, the whiskey barrel rings are actually made from authentic Jack Daniels wood barrels and that’s just really cool. It’s just neat. And having that authentication again adds a level of authenticity to the brand. And then, also, we’ll have another line with our celebrity, too, once that gets kind of put underway. But yeah, there’s different ways that rings come about. But it’s really collaborative and we always ask the team. We ask customer service: “What are you guys hearing? What are people asking for? What’s unique?” And that’s shared on those meetings and those calls to make sure that we are listening to the customers, hearing what they have to say and providing what they’re looking for. And if it’s not something we have yet, we can create it for you.
Ron: I love it. I love how much you listen to your customers and really take that feedback and really apply it, too. Because I think so many brands say, “Oh, we listen to our customers,” and then no actual items come from that. But you are literally creating MLB rings and dinosaur rings.
Stephanie: We respond to every customer. If you message us, we respond. You can message us on social. You may get a sarcastic answer back, but we will respond. But yes, we always do. So, that’s what’s really important because I’ve seen over time how customer brands get so big, they stop caring. We cannot stop caring as a brand. We always will care. We always will listen. This is too important of a product and too important of a time in someone’s life. It’s a stressful time when someone’s getting married. Our job is to make that one piece a little bit easier.
Ron: I love it. I love that you really take away the stress from it, too. I like your one messaging that you’re a wingman for your customers. Can you talk a little bit about that and what does that really entail?
Stephanie: Yeah, I always say that Manly Bands is kind of like the wingman, right. So, he may get you in trouble a little bit, he may do or say some things that are a little off edge, but he always gets you there and he’s always by your side. He helps you get through thick and thin, helps you get through the process and helps you narrow it down and so that it can help. So, I always say wingman because I always think of a wingman as the sarcastic fun party guy who is just there for their friend and who wants the best for them. And that’s how we look at ourselves, right. We want to be your wingman. We want to make sure we can help you get through this process easily and narrow down the possibilities–have fun with it and don’t stress about it. Don’t make this something you have to worry about. Let us worry for you. Let us get you what you’re looking for and help make the process easier for you. I think calling it the wingman just takes a little bit of the load off of the process and the pressure of having to get just the right ring.
I also want to add that every ring is unique to every person, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t later on in life, as you change, get another ring. So, it’s more about the uniting of a couple–male-female, male-male, female-female, whatever it is. Whatever couple comes to us, we want them to know that we hear you. That even if you get a ring today and five years from now say, “You know what, I liked that then.” But five years later, “I kind of wish I had this.” Guess what? It’s something we can help you with. We can help you find another ring today, five years from now, six years from now. I have customers who buy five, six, seven, ten rings because they want to wear a different ring for each of their outfits. The ring is more of a symbol of someone’s love for somebody. It’s not the ring itself. It’s the symbol of the uniting of two people who love each other and I think that’s what’s really important.
We joke around a lot in our brand about being manly and what we don’t want to confuse people with is that we’re very satirical with our brand. Being manly to us means that we care a lot about our customers and we want to make sure that people understand that being a man is someone who is respectful of others. And that’s our definition. We joke around a lot and we just want to make sure people understand that, but it’s really about just mutual respect, respect for each other, respect for others–and that, to us, is a true man. We want to make sure that the people do understand that you can have more than one ring and that’s okay because of the person or the man that you were at the time–whether you’re male or female buying one of our rings because we have a lot of females who also buy our Manly Bands. But whether or not you buy our ring today, for me, I’ll tell you from experience I’m not the same person I was when I got married as I was five years after I got married and then after I had kids. You constantly evolve, your taste evolves, your clothes change and everything about you changes. So, your ring can, too. It’s not the end all be all if you change your mind. Then, we also have the ability, for example, for resizing and things along that line too as time changes. It’s something that we can always talk to each customer about individually to talk about those time frames. But it’s just important to know that there are options and that we’re here to help you get through those options.
Ron: I think it’s really important for men to know too that you can have multiple rings because there’s nothing worse than spending a lot of money on your ring and then it being in the bottom of the ocean.
Stephanie: It happens. We have that call, “We were on our honeymoon. My husband lost his ring in the ocean.” We’re like, “We get it. We hear you.” And it’s another fun video we’re putting together for that too because I cannot tell you how many guys will lose their ring in the ocean. You’re not alone. We should create our own semi-like Facebook group for the men who’ve lost their ring in the ocean or just lost their rings at all. It happens. It’s normal. You’re not alone. We will have a support group for you. We’ll help you get through that and then we’ll help you make sure you get another ring. So, don’t worry about that. We do have a warranty. We have warranties on all of the rings that we have and if they are lost, let us know and we’ll do what we can to help to make sure we can get your ring back.
Ron: Absolutely. Something I want to ask you that I thought was very unique to you all – because I haven’t seen any other eCommerce business in general do this – is that you are hiring a growth marketer. I haven’t seen anyone really label it like that. Can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to hire for that role and how you envision it?
Stephanie: Yes, so believe it or not, a lot of the bigger companies, the ones that have grown really fast – which is kind of the trajectory that we are on right now – have one. We’ve been having super successful growth. And as we grow, it’s really important to put somebody into a position where they can manage that growth because it becomes very overwhelming very quickly. And there are people who, literally, that’s their job. And it’s kind of the new key term of marketers who know how to take a brand and bring it from one dollar amount to another dollar amount quickly and scale the brand in a way that still allows us to tell our story. That still allows us to scale our marketing without overspending and can do it in a responsible way – and there are a lot of people out there. It’s kind of like the new key term right now in marketing. It’s what a lot of companies are looking for because there’s a lot of people who say, “I’ve done marketing for this company or that one.” But what brands want to know is, how have you helped them grow? How have you helped them scale? How have you helped a company that started off making this much money and then taking it and tripling and quadrupling sales within a two-year period? How have you done that? Those are the growth marketers. They’re the ones who have the strategy, who understand how to manage the teams to understand on which places to go first and which places to test. So, you don’t waste time trying a million things because the person you bring in hasn’t done it before.
And that’s really what growth marketing is about. It’s someone who loves analytics, someone who loves data, someone who loves marketing and who’s very strong and can help really manage all the different relationships you have. Because as you do scale and you get bigger…when you’re a startup and you’re just starting off, really all you’re doing is you’re working obviously on the SEO side, but you’re working also on paid and social. Those are usually the three places that you start off. But as you get bigger, what they don’t start telling you, especially people who–and please listen if anyone’s in marketing–this is so important to know when you start leaving that space, you start going into native. You start kind of exploring a little bit outside of Google. You start going into podcasts. You start going into linear and TV buys and streaming. Then you start going into radio. You really need someone and you really need to have a game plan so that you don’t end up throwing money away. Because unless you probably know how to plan out those schedules, how to work with all those people, it will turn from managing two different places to managing six, seven, eight, nine different agencies. It goes on and on and it’s a full-time job in itself.
I think growth marketing is so important to find. And it’s important for any company that’s growing quickly to find someone who has worked for another company and has been able to scale quickly. I think it’s super important. I think if you are a marketer that’s listening and you are out there, I think it’s important to make sure you can develop those skills. Start with a company. Help them grow. Find ways for them to grow. And if you don’t know how, I always say find someone in the industry who’s done it. Find them on LinkedIn. Create a friendship. Talk to them. Have them as a mentor. Have them lead you there or work with the company on having them learn how to consult with you. It’s so important so that you can provide proper direction and lead the company in the right way. Show that you can prove it and now you’re a growth marketer. It’s basically putting your money where your mouth is. It is saying that not only can I market, but I’ve been able to grow and this is how I’ve been able to scale and this is where I was able to take this company. This is where they are today. And that’s what’s impressive to companies and what they want to see.
Ron: Yeah, Stephanie, super solid advice. Is there any other advice you have out there for marketers or just anyone in the eCommerce industry in general?
Stephanie: Yeah. I would just say this: Never stop learning and always make sure that you love what you’re doing–whether you’re in customer service, whether you’re in marketing, whether you’re in product development. No matter what side you’re on – the eCommerce side or even on the IT side – just make sure that, number one, you love what you’re doing and that you’re working for good people. I’ve met a lot of people and I’ve worked for a lot of jobs before where you love what you’re doing, but the people that you work for are awful. Thank God that’s not the case in my situation. I have an amazing company, amazing team. And also, just make sure that you love what you do. If you don’t love what you do, you’ll never be happy. And you always want to make sure that you’re happy because when you’re happiest, you do your best work. When you work for a company that treats you well, then you want to work for them.
So, just always take that, whether you end up running your own company or whether you work for someone else. It’s just those are such vital pieces. And I also just want to say thank you to Manly Bands for giving me the opportunity to work with them. It’s really an honor. We have a great team and if you do decide that you would like to get married, Manly Bands will definitely be able to help. So, thank you so much for giving me the time today.
Ron: All right, Stephanie. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Stephanie: Thank you so much, Ron. I hope you have a wonderful day. Thank you so much. I hope to be back on the show soon.
Ron: Thank you for joining the eCommerce Growth Series. And a big thank you to Stephanie Bregman at Manly Bands. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at Ron@visiture.com. We’ll see you next time.