Liam Brennan is one of the co-founders of BusterBox.com. A Dog subscription box service that has thousands of subscribers in multiple markets. BusterBox.com launched in 2016 and are now doing around €60k per month.
About the Business
- Based in Dublin
- Three Business Partners
- Sells to the UK and Irish market
- UK is the company’s biggest market
- Uses the Subbly Platform
Liam and his partners wanted to get into business together and began toying around with different ideas in 2015. They were interested in how successful the Birchbox subscription box had been in the US and wondered if they could bring a similar idea to the Irish and UK market.
The partners are all passionate dog owners who had struggled to find great products for their own dogs and thought a dog subscription box would have a wide appeal and be something that dog owners would easily buy into. Liam jokes that dogs are the best customers you can ask for since they never complain about the product.
Buster Box is entirely bootstrapped with the partner’s own money, skills and time. The decision to invest their own money exclusively in the business was a conscious one.
Liam says they even started the process of raising money and had a lot of interest but ultimately turned potential investors down in order to retain full autonomy and ownership.
A Team of Three
Somewhat unusual in the world of startups, Buster Box has three founders and partners who share the responsibility for the business equally. While they now have three more people on the team, the partners each spearhead equally vital areas of the business.
Liam says that it’s been a good experience and they have been able to recognize and rely on each of their unique talents to drive the business.
A Slow Start
Despite the team’s high expectations, Buster Box didn’t immediately take off. Liam recalls having high hopes for 300 customers the first month and was being pretty disappointed in the reality—that first month, the team only processed three customers.
They continued to scramble for ideas on how to find and convert customers when they put out a special offer on Instagram and saw some more conversions from that one ad then everything previously. Wisely, they decided to double down and do more of that. The team quickly put out a Facebook ad with a similar deal message and CTA and started seeing a massive shift.
They focused on building customer engagement through facebook and when it continued to prove it’s worth, the team doubled down again—splitting up the load and spending all day on the platform. Their commitment paid off and success has been more contingent on the mindset of finding something that works and going all-in than relying on a singular channel.
Ultimately Liam argues it’s not about where you put your attention, it’s about how much focus you give your message and your work.
Dealing With Churn
The single most important aspect of any subscription business is keeping churn to a minimum. Ultimately, the subscription business is largely about balance.
As more people sign up and the business experiences churn—it must balance its marketing budget and resources for new customer acquisition and retention. Ian says that people naturally don’t like to sign up for subscriptions.
The offer, he says, is extremely important and you have to create something that is enticing enough to make your ideal customer take immediate action. In order to convert, the customer needs to sign up as soon as they see your ad. He points out that discounting your product isn’t the only way to create an offer.
A free gift or perceived high-value inclusion for new customers are other great ways to get people to sign up. There are a lot of opportunities to create value for customers and a lot of ways to leverage your subscription base to negotiate great wholesale deals from suppliers.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Facebook Ads—Liam says FB Ads are Really powerful even though they can be difficult to gain traction at the beginning. He says you have to do the “dirty work” of finding your ideal customer. Paying those high CPA’s (cost per action) at the beginning in order to get the right seed audience pays off in the long run. For Liam, it’s a combination of good Ads and a good Audience—but the audience is ultimately more important.
Tool Top Tip
- ChartMogul for tracking and understanding all things subscription.
Growth Top Tip
- Master one source of marketing at the start. Having multiple channels is important, but at the start, put all your effort into learning one channel. Get obsessed with that particular channel and master it.
- Subscription eCommerce – what you need to know with subscription specialist Stefan Pretty
- Content marketing with Jacqueline Parisi of Hello Fresh – we dive into blogs, quizzes, & KPIs
- HoneyTree’s Sebastian Galbraith-Helps on site migration, subscriptions, and the Foo Fighters segmentation
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