This Week In Startups: Blank-Label, Success Dispite Marketing

I recently reached out to Fan Bi, Co-Founder of Blank-Label, he called into “Ask Jason” to ask, what is your formula for marketing.  You may have noticed they recently received some attention from some of the big news site and I figured this would be a good time to see what has been working.


Catch me up to date from your call in, how have your marketing efforts succeeded?

Jason told us to focus on product. And honestly, when he said that, I thought in my head “man, I really wish you didn’t say that”. Focusing on product, that’s not tangible. What do I actually do, how do I track that. I guess the thing about start-ups is there’s so much damn uncertainty, sometimes you just want someone to tell you specifically what to do.

The interpretation of it ended up being focus on a Customer Experience that people want to tell others about. Numbers at this stage aren’t super useful because everything’s been heavily skewed by a half-page feature in a New York Times Sunday edition.

I noticed the article in the New York Times, Putting Customers in Charge of Design, do you know how they found you?

So part of creating a Customer Experience so unique and compelling extends to P.R. My co-founder Danny Wong is a fascinating story in himself. He’s a 19 year-old from Bentley University in Boston, and the last four months, he has got us features in Mashable, Businessweek, CNET, ReadWriteWeb, Consumerist and NYTimes. We’ve also received a ton of blogosphere write-ups and mentions in FastCompany, Forbes and MSNBC. He got all of these with zero PR experience and doing it part-time from his dorm room. As of June, he’s gone full-time. He pitched Amy Wallace from NYTimes, the writer, and the story just stuck

How has that article helped?

We got 55,000 uniques in three days direct from the article. The previous 30 days we got 12,000 uniques, for the entire month. It has sent customer service into an absolute frenzy. It has clogged our supply chain. It’s chaotic.

We’ve had to put up a large banner on our homepage, a pop-up in our application and changed our email sales confirmations that we are overwhelmed with production and there’s no guarantee that we’ll get their shirts anywhere close to on-time, but orders are still really strong.

Have you found any creative approaches to marketing that you’d like to promote (I noticed some YouTube photoshoots on your blog)?

I’ll be honest. We haven’t really figured out other channels outside of PR. We’re on Twitter and Facebook, and our followers and fans have a good engagement rate, but it doesn’t do a lot to drive sales. We’ve contacted a couple of YouTube personalties in our space and one of them turned out great. We’ll definitely look to do more of these in future. We haven’t done anything where we’ve said “alright, we’re going to try make this thing go viral”. I’ve listened to Jason’s lessons on creating amazing content, and frequent references to Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, we just haven’t found it yet.

Jason loved your idea and site and recommended trying to reach out to social media influencers have you tried that approach, if so who, did they help?

This is interesting, a lot of people have suggested this to us. The thing about our product is it’s just not just something we can send someone. It’s really about them designing it. We’ve sent Jason a code for a free shirt, but as I said, there’s still some friction of him actually going to the site to design and checkout with it. Instead I’ve done the same with Tyler, who I assume is the gateway to Jason. His shirt is on the way to him. After the NYTimes article, we actually received a few orders from the types of people who we’d think about being influencers, so that’s pretty cool.

How can the TWiST community help?

I’ll be honest, I was incredibly impressed after I called in by the response of the TWiST community. We got sales, we got advice, we got biz dev opportunities. More of the same would be awesome =)

If anyone has any marketing suggestions for Fan I am sure he would love to hear your ideas, please add to the comments.

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