By Josh Ledgard
Our goal is to provide you with quick and easy ways to grow your online audience organically.
We love great customer success stories and today we’re talking with the founder of ComfortableBoxers.com, Mike Madrid.
Mike Madrid founded ComfortableBoxers.com in 2014. Comfortable Boxers Co. is an Austin based startup, partnering with crafters, designers, and procurements partners from around the world to bring you the last underwear you’ll ever want to try on.
Hello and thanks very much for having me. It’s been a wonderful experience using your tool. I’m very happy with the results.
As for the company, we started about a year ago with an idea… and we actually started with a very personal problem: I was tired of spending $30 on a pair of undies.
I’m strict on my comfort level requirements and still thought $30 was not worthy of an underwear.
So having my experience sourcing and with procurement, I went about finding the right partners.
Go back a bit and tell us how you got the experience with procurement.
I’ve been through a whole bunch of businesses.
I’m currently working at another company, which I will have to quit in a couple months, but I’m a procurement director for a very large company in Latin America. With this company we source product and take care of quality control.
It’s a very hard problem to solve when you’re importing products. You have to take make sure to get things right before it gets on the boat. So sourcing and supply chain is my experience.
The transition into underwear is a bit hazy, I believe it was more of an “aha moment”. I was actually reading a book on entrepreneurship.
The book is called the “The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” and explains why most startups fail. I highly recommend it.
Basically, the message behind says that you have to start in an orderly way… otherwise you’re going to be buying yourself a job that you’re going to hate eventually.
I just grabbed life by the horns and did it.
Some of the comments I get a lot from other founders are; “I’m not sure I have a good idea, there’s a lot of people who do this”, or “there’s already a lot of X out there”, or “there’s already a big company that does Y”.
And so here you are going headlong into an industry where a lot of companies sell underwear; Gap, Walmart, Target, Hanes, just to name a few.
There’s 2 segments to take note of in the underwear market:
There is the “Target” segment, where they sell a six-pack of Hanes underwear for $10. It’s a great deal, but it’s a market for people that don’t really care about their underwear.
Then there’s the “Premium Underwear” segment, that’s the $30+. There’s a whole bunch of brands in that space; Saxx, MeUndies, Calvin Klein, UnderArmour.
I ran a cost model and got some quotes from some factories, and $30 does not merit what you’re getting.
Those larger companies have huge marketing budgets to cover; with commercials, magazine ads, million dollar models… I wanted to cut that out and try to appeal to people that really care about changing the way we sell things online.
That’s another thing, my market is online only. If I go ahead and sell my product at a department store, that adds another 50% markup. I’m avoiding that. That’s the idea.
So working on disrupting the traditional sales model for premium underwear.
Right now, I have 2 partners working on materials, fabric and sourcing. I have my brother helping as well… it is a family business in that sense.
The guys working on procurement and fabrics have plenty of experience in those areas.
You wanted to get a launch page up before you had pre-orders available.
I could’ve gone ahead and opened up a store on any ecommerce platform to start selling directly.
The thing is I probably would’ve launched to crickets.
There won’t be anybody out there that knows about the product. Because your website is your storefront, it’s like placing it in the middle of the Arizona desert.
The idea was getting a following before we launched. It also works as a litmus test, to gauge enough interest to merit the project going forward. It definitely proved to do so :)
Tell us more about the launch page… You used KickoffLabs (obviously).
I wouldn’t want to show what I was using before KickoffLabs, it’s a bit embarrassing.
I went through a bunch of “newsletter signup” services, but those didn’t have the tools that I needed to get the word going and automating that process.
I looked into the Harry’s Launch, which is a very popular pre-launch story. They used a tool that required coding, so I went ahead and hired a freelancer on Odesk. We got a Ruby on Rails tool going called “Prelaunchr”.
The thing about that is I depended on someone else.
It didn’t look the way I wanted, I couldn’t update as quickly as I wanted and it just didn’t work out. That’s when I found KickoffLabs (through a Reddit post) and it had exactly what I needed.
I needed a tool that tells people how many friends have signed up under their link. And that’s key, people want to keep track of this.They can’t depend on you telling them “you earned 50 referrals”, when they don’t know exactly how they’re doing.
Giving people the tools to share easily as well. KickoffLabs worked wonderfully for this and it’s very customizable too.
I love how you used our Harrys Goes Viral theme to communicate what you are doing.
I liked the headline which included a date, making the campaign feel more real and authentic. You have the key which makes it feel like you’re unlocking something. And then you have a great product explanation below.
It was definitely trial and error. I did get some feedback from KickoffLabs during one of your Live Landing Page Review webinars, which I really thank you for.
The thing about it is that you follow a specific template out of concepts that you have to respect.
The first being a welcome message that has to be very clear. That’s the first thing that people are going to read.
You have to then present your product, and if it’s a service; what does it do.
After that there’s the famous call-to-action. I made it a bit like the Harry’s launch, where the signup key shows that something is going to happen if they input an email address.
After that, of course you have to explain your product in a bit more detail. The thing is there’s also a specific guideline you have to follow for this. You have to add pictures, otherwise people are not going to know what they’re signing up for. And you have to provide clear messaging on what you’re solving.
People don’t like spam in their inbox, so they’re not just going to give their email away just because. If you look like a company that’s giving away or going to sell a product that’s worth it and the message resonates, you’ll definitely get the email.
That’s the leap of faith that you convince people to take for you.
I kept things very concise and straightforward.
The message “Premium no longer means expensive”, that hits a spot with me. “Premium” I associate with big name brands, but “no longer means expensive” means things are changing.
You mentioned several times about being concise with the message… I see a lot of people struggle with clearly communicating what they’re doing.
So I always tell people: “if you do nothing else on the page, clearly communicate what problem you’re solving and why it’s important to you”… and you did both of those things.
I think the other thing that worked really well for your page was having the images that backed up the text and not relying on solely one or the other.
And you’re right, there’s a psychological trick to that key. It stands for access and people are curious what they’re getting access to.
Yeah, I actually tried out a set of different messages for that. “Be the first to know” was one of the last ones. One of the first was “Sign up and you could earn free product”, that message definitely kickstarted a whole bunch of people to sign up. It got the ball rolling a little bit faster than the “Be the first to know” message.
But you have to be clear, if you sign up you’re not guaranteed free product it says you could earn. That’s key for me.
Yeah, you don’t want to break somebody’s trust too early in the customer relationship.
It actually got started before I was even ready. I still hadn’t gotten all the integrations ready. But I did post a question on Reddit asking people to critique my landing page.
From all the reviews and critiques I got, one of those people signed up and shared it on Facebook. Consequently, a whole snowball emerged out of that so I quickly scrambled to get the landing page to look nicer.
That happened in a matter of a few hours. I started getting a whole bunch of email notifications from KickoffLabs of new signups, so much that I had to turn those off.
I didn’t even promote the thing to get started. That tells you that this worked without even having to try too much.
If I did have an email list to send this to, it would have been even bigger.
There’s 2 things that stick out about that:
It looks like you posted in a few places, so you had the guts to go out there and found the places you wanted to post it to.
A lot of people fail at this promotion stage.
People are afraid of being critiqued, but it’s something I got over a couple years ago.
Embrace the reviews, embrace someone telling you “this sucks”. Take it as a teaching lesson. It might mean a lost customer but there’s a billion others that are ready to look at this after you fix it.
Getting over that small scare is what it takes.
My co-founder Scott is keen on saying, even to this day when we launch potential features, “we’ve probably reached 0.1% of 0.1% of our potential market, so if we lose 1 person now but we get feedback sooner that makes it better for the next 99%… then we’ll be much better off”.
You talked about the initial promotion and spreading the word. The sharing is what really started to make it take off, I imagine.
That’s probably the most important part of this project.
You have to assume that you can afford to give something away to begin with. You also have to have something to give away. Depending on what it is, what benefit it gives the customer and how much it resonates with them. That’s how big your company could be.
Who can say no to free underwear?
How I designed the tier levels was too early in the stage to change it afterwards, but it worked out the way I wanted to. I assumed that 95% of people would never reach the 10 signups, which resulted to be true. Most people reached 0 to 9, that means they’re getting a coupon code.
I’m not giving away free product, but I’m giving away a coupon that will incentivize people to actually buy my product. So it’s a win / win for the customer and me.
Once they reached 10 referrals, they got a free boxer. If you gave me 10 referrals and given that I can afford giving away a pair of boxer briefs – including shipping, logistics and everything – you probably deserve something physical from me. That covers people that got 10-25.
Once people got into the 20 referral range, that’s when they really got interested in getting more and more. So they started pushing and sharing more. Those are the people that really made a difference.
50 is a very aspirational # and about 1% of people reached this. It’s very hard to get 50 of your friends to sign up. But if people managed to get 50 for me, they deserve something special.
First, you have to be able to afford it. That means it costs something and people know this.
If you are a service, say an online or offline service, and are not going to give away your product… you have to give away something that is worth the exchange of an email. It might be an instructional PDF, a free lesson, a coupon code for use at a later date. You can’t just tell people to sign up and see what happens.
This is a screenshot from your dashboard that listed your top referrers.
Your top reward level was fifty, but you can see the last person in this screenshot has done 11X that number.
At the end of the landing page was a referral policy that was very clear on how it was going to work if people went over 50.
There’s plenty of things you can do; but I just reset the counter so people can earn unlimited product. That works great for influential people with thousands of followers.
It is in a sense paying for advertising, but there’s a fun aspect behind it and it get’s people to share.
You can do it another way as well… the way Harry’s did it was to setup a target cap, and if you reached that cap you would earn a lifetime of free product. But they are a subscription model so it works differently for my business.
The landing page at ComfortableBoxers.com had pre-filled sharing messages for Twitter and Facebook – which is a tool that KickoffLabs lets you do – and the message was kept very friendly.
The most trackable one was Twitter. The night that it went bananas my Twitter account was actually trending in Canada. I got a notification from a bot that tracks these.
I saw this while at the gym and had to run to my house to see what was going on!
But the biggest source of referrals was actually Facebook. It seems that since Facebook shares have an image attached to it, it was more visual. I also see Facebook as more of a trustworthy platform for friends.
Email did about 10% of the work.
Posting the KickoffLabs social referral link on websites gathered a good 50%. People who have relevant blogs would post the link and get their audience to sign up as well.
I did get a few posts from coupon websites, which is not exactly the target I want. You know: freebies and giveaways people. These people are coupon junkies who look for free stuff. That’s probably not going to be a recurring customer in the future. But if you do get them, even that small percentage is okay.
In addition to the pre-filled social sharing messages that we help fill out at KickoffLabs.
I got a lot of emails and social posts asking general questions. People who were genuinely interested in the company as a startup.
Besides through those channels, people would reply back to the KickoffLabs automated email. The reply to email that I used was “email@example.com”, it’s a very welcoming email. I made them feel as though they can talk to me if they found the need to. And they did, I got plenty of emails asking questions.
You followed the basics of thanking them. You have a great subject line, a big image and then immediately dive into asking people to share with the sharing links below that.
You also took the next step – which we encourage all of our customers to do – and activated the KickoffLabs Influencer Email.
Which had the same really simple, effective layout.
The influencer email is one of the most important features inside of KickoffLabs.
If somebody manages to grab a few referrals, this is a reminder to guide people on their way to getting free product. It gives them a sense of social importance.
The email reattaches the sharing links, and it’s automated! It’s also a daily thing that gets sent out. So instead of people signing up and forgetting about the whole thing, they would get reminder emails on their progress. That’s a HUGE viral aspect for this.
In our product, it’s called the Influencer Email… and guys probably would’ve benefited from our recently launched Viral Incentive Emails, which actually let’s you set the specific referral targets for email rewards automatically :)
But yeah, I notice that customers who set up this Influencer Email understand a little more what they’re doing and really does drive a lot more signups. Just letting people know that they were successful in getting customers helps them feel like they are making an impact.
Psychologically that encourages people to do it more.
Exactly. And if people would revisit the landing page at ComfortableBoxers.com, they would see their sharing page (as opposed to the sign up page) with a status of their referrals.
It’s not only a reminder that people already signed up, but this is how they are doing.
Looking at the Campaign Conversion Rate and Viral Boost, it says you got a nearly 60% conversion rate on your landing page and nearly 87% of your leads were coming from people that were using their KickoffLabs unique social referral links.
I did some A/B testing – which is another KickoffLabs feature I liked. I setup 2 landing pages where 50% of people who see landing page A and 50% would get landing page B.
I varied the language between them and also some colors as well. But the whole concept was the same, but the conversion rate stayed the same. That tells me that tiny changes didn’t make any difference, it was the whole concept in its totality.
As for the 60% of people that signed up during their visit, that tells me that I nabbed the correct market. It’s like advertising on Google and telling them, just advertise to men. That’s too broad.
I believe the success behind it is that the people that landed on the page were actually interested in the product to begin with.
Besides, if people click on a Facebook post that says “you can get free undies”… they are probably in the market for undies.
I don’t know if you’ll answer this question, but…
The budget was tied into the product. I did a cost-model on what I expected to give away versus my profitability once the campaign starts.
I went a little bit over, because I probably should’ve given away less… but I can’t specifically say the number.
You just have to be prepared for a budget that you can handle, because there is money involved in giving away free product.
Zip, zero, nada. Nothing at all. It did everything on its own.
This project was a litmus test where I was gauging interest. If people were sharing it was because they wanted to, so there was no need.
There’s some built in identifiers, biggest one being the IP address. Once some people sign up, they start trying to cheat the system by using alternative emails. I got plenty “firstname.lastname@example.org”s and “email@example.com’s, but it’s a tiny fraction.
I made sure to notify on the policy that if there’s two signups with the same IP address it would become invalid.
I integrated KickoffLabs with Mailchimp to send leads there, once there I sent it to a 3rd party service that would check for legitimacy on the emails, then sent a transactional email to the signup… and if it bounced back I would discount it from the list and reduce the referral amount for the person who referred.
It does take a bit of work to filter out, but it’s worth it.
In general, KickoffLabs does some things behind the scenes to filter out invalid email addresses. We’ll scrub those frequently and from the referral counts for people.
Any time you’re running some kind of competition, people are going to try and game the system. It’s just the way people are, but do your best to look at your list. It’ll become fairly obvious who’s trying to cheat.
It’s easy to export your list as a CSV and see any suspicious activity.
You generated over 35,000 email subscribers with this campaign…
That’s when I was at the gym and was surprised that this was happening. I posted on Reddit 3 days back, and it just started rolling!
It was a complete surprise to me. A few bloggers that had posted really got the ball rolling for me.
It was a great experience, though you do want to be ready for that. If something is broken; your email service is not working; something is not connected… you are missing out on the wave. So you have to be ready.
So this is a quote that you made:
I’m very happy with KickoffLabs and have recommended you as well.
So I have this huge email list :)
How I’m going to use it is key, there has to be a purpose behind it.
I can start bombarding my audience with emails right now and tell them “hey, this is us. We’re starting in June”.
Or I can hold off for something more important. I believe fundraising is a huge part of my companies future success and I’m going to launch a Kickstarter in a month or two.
If you start sending emails that people are not interested in, they are going to unsubscribe.
That’s my next step, the Kickstarter.
Alongside that, there’s going to be a blogger outreach program. Where I get samples shipped out to them and have them review it.
I see that as a model now. Nobody wants to launch a Kickstarter campaign where you’re actually asking for money right away. So it’s become common practice to try and build an email list before.
You want some initial success to reach your campaign funding goal.
Even without the Kickstarter campaign… you’ve led to some dollars coming in through this list, right?
I had to launch a web page. I didn’t want to leave the signup form indefinitely. I wanted to set a date where the campaign ended and keep my audience informed.
Immediately after the pre-launch campaign ended, I launched the official website where I described the product and manufacturing in more detail. Things you can’t do on a landing page because it would be too much.
I also setup my pre-ordering system. I connected my fulfillment center, my ShipStation account… I connected everything.
With this, I actually got people to buy my product without advertising. I was still getting traffic coming into the website and that did wonders, even though the landing page was over!
That helped me get some orders and I still get visitors, looking at my analytics there’s traffic all day long.
What probably did the job was SEO, because I got so many hits my domain is considered an important domain. And the name ComfortableBoxers.com is very SEO friendly too. That helped a lot as well.
I’m doing a lot of social media, but am not advertising just yet.
It’s working great. That’s a very good sign if you’re getting pre-orders on a product that’s launching in months!
I see that from the lessons you learned A/B testing the landing page, you’ve carried that through to your current website. I saw a lot of the quotes from your landing page there because you realized that was important.
The website is a whole other subject, but you can see that my homepage right now doesn’t follow all the ideas I used for the pre-launch landing page. But that’s because it’s still under development.
I will follow the same concepts of the call-to-action, a message, something that’s going to convince to click on a button. It’s the same psychology that will be applied.
Mike’s done a great job documenting this entire process on the ComfortableBoxers.com blog, so be sure to check that out too.
Lastly, if you want to launch your own success story. Give KickoffLabs a try!
Mike had a great campaign to begin with. The marketing tool that he used is just a vessel, but I’d like to think that we helped get him started :)
Thanks Mike for coming out and sharing your story! There’s a lot of people who are in your situation who would love to build a huge email list like this.
I’m extremely happy with KickoffLabs. If I could use it again I would… and with your ongoing lead generation capability I probably will.
We want to help you get your own success so you can come back and tell an amazing tale, and be like Mike!