During a golf tournament, Jeremiah Curvers was injured and got a double herniated disk. Bedridden for three months, Jeremiah got to think a lot about mattresses and what he wanted to see in his ideal mattress.
Motivated by his research, Jeremiah launched Polysleep to create a direct consumer sleep brand that offers better rest while making a social and environmental impact.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you'll hear from Jeremiah Curvers of Polysleep on how to partner suppliers and physical stores.
I wouldn't say from day one, go all in. Be careful. Test your stuff, if you can do part-time, do part-time and keep a certain level of stability for you and your family.
Tune in to learn
- How to partner with physical stores to showcase your product
- Their tricky pre-Black Friday email that sold out all of their Black Friday products
- How to create high converting content with your affiliates
- Store: Polysleep
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: ShipStation (Shopify app)
Felix: Today we're joined by Jeremiah Curvers from Polysleep. Polysleep created the perfect sleeping surface with the right amount of comfort, support, and firmness, made of high-quality products at a fair price. And was started in 2016 and based at Montreal. And passed one million dollars in revenues in just two years. Welcome, Jeremiah.
Jeremiah: Thank you for having me, Felix.
Felix: Awesome. So, I think the question that's in a lot of listeners' mind is that this is a highly competitive industry, very visible in terms of the direct consumer ecommerce space these days. I think a lot of times, people that might even think about entering the space or are looking at products in this space, number one question is, how are you different than the other kind of big players in the space like the Casper and so on? So, how do you usually answer that question?
Jeremiah: It's a good question, and often, it's a complex one to answer. The first thing and the most important one is, what's going to set you aside from the competitors, from a product standpoint? Polysleep was created really to improve everybody and everyone sleeping experience. So, we had to create a new product, or, at least, a new approach to creating that product. So, this is what we invested a lot on the first, I would say, six months. How can we take from competitors and from the market what is successful? And how can we improve upon that? We were very interested, like you said, by the polyurethane mattress that offers the capacity to be rolled in the box, and therefore offer very interesting shipping method. But, at the same time, these come with issues, and most of our competitors haven't yet solved these issues.
Jeremiah: So, that I would say is the main differentiator. We can definitely talk a bit more about the product in detail going forward. But, that is the most important part. What is going to set you aside from your competitors? As soon as you get that, now it's how you're going to talk or narrate, bring a narrative that is different to your consumer, that's going to talk with them and resonate with them.
Felix: Yeah, I think that this is something I definitely want to talk about. So, the first thing is, you mentioned that you did some research to figure out what was already working in this space so that you obviously could offer that as well. But then, what was more important was, what wasn't working for the products that were out there in the marketplace, and those are opportunities for you to come in. So, talk about how you did his research, how did you understand the landscape and understand where you might fit in with your product and company?
Jeremiah: Absolutely. The mattress industry is obviously, and that's no big news, a saturated industry. We've been sleeping on beds for more than a hundred years. So, the arrival of these new shipping methods, which are commonly called bed in a box, to me is just a new shipping method. Now, you have to do compromise in terms of products, because there's certain type of material that will simply not be able to be put in a box and then come back to the original form. The second challenge is what I call RVC unicorns. So, brands that just in a couple of years had so much investment and so much marketing power that it's extremely hard to compete with them because we have... A lot of people don't understand that ecommerce in a certain area is still a growing thing. The mattress industry, roughly about 20% of the people are comfortable buying a mattress online exclusively, which means that 80% of the people will still want to have physical contact with the product before buying it.
Jeremiah: Even though they don't like the sale experience in the store, they still want to feel and touch the product. So, that's the first thing we realized. The second thing we realized about foam mattresses exclusively, because that's what we found the most interesting, in Europe, it's very popular. And this is where there was the most advanced in terms of technology foam, so, we decided to go that path. And there were a couple of roadblocks. The first one being allergies, more and more people are becoming allergic to latex, and more and more people would like to have healthy material. The problem is, any type of mattress, organic or not, will require a chemical reaction in order to create the foam. So, that was the second step that we had to find and we created a lot of different various type of foam, to come up with our own recipes.
Jeremiah: And after that, the last challenge was, what is the right marketing stack to bring that new product in the market? In terms of the product itself, another thing that I forgot to mention which is very important is, what makes our product different from the others? We realized that form mattresses often offer very poor support on the edge. So, it's really hard to create a mattress that is comfortable, that is not too hard or not too soft, that will support you, especially if you sleep with a partner. That's why we created what we call our edge support, it's proprietary integrated foam support around the mattress. If you've been on the website policy dot-ca, you can actually see it in action, we've got a 3D animation explaining how it works. And you know what's funny is that competitor's study had to tell, "Yes, Polysleep offer much better edge support, even though their sleeping surface is as soft and comfortable as ours."
Jeremiah: So, that was, I would say, something that we really enjoyed because any brand can talk about what they do better than others. But when it comes from competitors or another source, a third-party source saying, "Yeah, these guys really did something different," that's usually a good sign that you can hit the market and you're going to be able to grow quite fast.
Felix: That's amazing. So, the product development has sounded like you invested there first because you wanted to differentiate the product from what was out there already. So, what was that process like? How did you guys go through the process of doing research and developing the mattress with edge support?
Jeremiah: What I would suggest, our listeners, is really, without investing a tremendous amount of money, you can still do very thorough research in a specific industry. In my case, it was quite simple, go in every possible mattress store, test as many mattresses as you can possibly can, and ask as many questions as possible to the salespeople director. Why do we have so many options? Why people usually don't like coming to the stores? And these people will often, you don't even have to say, "I want to start my own brand," but they'll be inclined to answer and give you an honest answer. So, that's going to be the baseline. The second thing is, how can you have a third party helping you out in your R and D? Sometimes it is possible, sometimes it is not.
Jeremiah: In our case, it was possible. What we did is that we associated ourselves with a foam manufacturer, not a mattress manufacturer, a foam manufacturer, who was already providing a lot of different material for mattress manufacturer. So, usually how it happens in the industry is that, you're going to buy the foam from someone, you're going to buy covers from someone else, or the fabric and make it yourself, and people who have spring mattresses, well, you're going to buy that somewhere else. And just assemble it, ship it to a warehouse and try to work your point of sales, rather than physical or online, through marketplaces or your own website, that's usually how it works. My goal was really to cut every possible middleman that doesn't bring any value for the end-user.
Jeremiah: As a user, I was asking myself, do I care that the mattress was in three different warehouses before I purchase it? Absolutely not. Do I care that there were four different providers that provided the material that was made before I purchase it? Absolutely not. So, basically, I did a checklist of, what can I cut that doesn't bring any value? And, can I aggregate most of the work within one specific place? So, what I did is that I went to see a foam manufacturer, and some of them thought I was crazy. And I sit down with them and I told them literally, "I know you do provide foam, what if I were to bring the cover at your place? Because, I know you just recently purchased that machine, that roll and pack mattresses in a box, and I bring myself the plastic, I bring the box that is branded, I bring everything, and you become my official partner to create the mattress.
Jeremiah: And I only go see you, and that's going to open the door for you to possibly offer drop shipping or pick, pack shipping services for maybe sub-brand that would like to create their own brand or their own mattress, and don't have the capacity to do that." And that worked. So, now, obviously, it was a lot of research and development, but I had that partner. He absorbed most of the cost of it because he wanted me to be successful.
Felix: Now, how did you have the insight to do this? Because, how did you know that that particular partner was, I guess, ripe for a partnership like this?
Jeremiah: Foam mattresses, obviously, the main component is foam, and there is not a lot of foamer in the industry. When you do a bit of research, there's maybe four or five of them in Canada that are big enough. And you have to see someone big enough who got space and the capacity to produce, if you want to do R and D, and then production at the same time. To be honest with you, that was a wild bet, and it worked out. So, if I were to do any other venture, I would probably have the same approach as much as possible. If you want to create a product, you can sink a lot of money, do R and D. So, in this case, this foamer have been producing mattresses for more, I think, than 60 or 70 years. So, I was asking the question, should I do that? Should I do this?
Jeremiah: And to give you an idea, the support frame that we created was the only one, it took 23 different trials. We thought we had the right foam, and then it was not springing back in place. Or, the support frame was breaking when we were rolling it. So, there was a lot of problems. But, once we achieved it, that was a big milestone. Because, now we're the only one doing it, and I would be very surprised someone being able to replicate that, especially with the costs related to it, anytime soon. On the other hand, when you see a manufacturer and you tell him, "I want to bring back business to you, because you're in Canada or you're in the United States or you're in the local market," often, they will try to help you.
Jeremiah: So, rather than always turning your back on local supplier and go see a drop shipper that is listed on AliExpress or in Asia, because, often, we think it's cheaper, in our case, we were able to create a better product at a similar cost than what it would have cost us to R and D it here and produce it in China.
Felix: So, you found the right partnership that allowed you to take advantage of these opportunities. I think that's amazing. So, when you approached these foam manufacturer and asked them to partner with you, you mentioned that they thought that you were crazy. So, how did you talk them away from this belief? Because, someone that's crazy, you probably don't want to do business with. But, someone that's sane, you probably are more comfortable doing business with. So, how did you get them to be comfortable with your relatively radical approach to doing business with them?
Jeremiah: Yeah. One thing that really helped me was the Ghost brand, I would say, that literally exploded in the market in the United States. Our main competitor is obviously Casper in Canada. There's a couple of other ones, but Casper, who is the ultimate venture capitalist unicorn, really helped me convince him, saying, "Look, imagine if it works. Imagine if we can create a better product at a price that is affordable, and the market picks up." And that was really the narrative of the conversation. Or, I could do like everybody else and go see a drop shipper, who already produced, but then I won't have anything different, then I won't be able to bring something new to the market.
Jeremiah: And he was open to the conversation. I might have... And I was lucky. As I said, I maybe would have had to go to four or five, six different people, and there was still a little bit of investment from our parts in order to do that. But, that allows us to really focus our marketing budgets in marketing, once we had the right product, rather than sinking everything into research and development.
Felix: Got it. Do you remember how long... I guess, how long did R and D take from the time that you guys decided to work together, and then get to a point where you felt like the product was ready for the market?
Jeremiah: It's actually a funny story, because, the reason why I ended up working with a friend of mine on the project that unfortunately he didn't pursue for personal reason, but he had that idea, looking at other brands such as Casper rolling mattresses in a box and he actually introduced me to that foam manufacturer. And I was interested, but I wasn't in digital marketing before, I worked for national brands and agencies, helping them monetize their website, doing a local SEO strategy, very complicated stuff. And I was like, you know what? Let's give it a try. And I was not that focused until during a golf tournament, I injured myself and I had a double herniated disk. And I was stuck in bed for about three months, and that really made me realize how important your sleeping surface is.
Jeremiah: And what really motivates me every day is, as much as people right now are focused on organic stuff and food, I think sleeping and rest is the next big thing. So, that was really the goal there. Yeah.
Felix: Go it. Okay, so, once you guys had a product that was ready to go to market, what was the next step?
Jeremiah: So, it took us, as I said, it took us about six months to do all the R and D research and all. Then, obviously, the next step was, what's the right marketing stack? And we don't have a lot of resources, we're two people, I was still part-time because I had a full-time job. And just like anybody probably who's listening right now, who would think about starting something, I wouldn't say from day one, go all in. Be careful. Test your stuff, if you can do part-time, do part-time and keep a certain level of stability for you and your family. Because, by going all in, often, you're not able to think critically and you might do mistakes because you're panicking because you want that to work so much.
Jeremiah: So, the first thing was, what is the right marketing stack? And we don't have a lot of budgets, and that's why actually we went with Shopify. One of the critical elements that I knew was important in Canada was privacy in terms of our data, and the security in terms of everything related to payment processing. And Shopify was by far the best solution for our needs. The second thing was, okay, we'll need some partners out there because I don't feel like hiring people right away internally to do our creative assets and everything that needs to be created for a website. I'm not a web developer. So, for less than two, three thousand dollars, we had a website up and running in a couple of weeks. It was far from being perfect, but it was doing the job. And we went with Shopify, we added a couple of apps to that, and we were live.
Felix: Amazing. Okay, so, you guys are now live, what were the first steps to getting your first customers?
Jeremiah: The first step was definitely word to mouth. People tend to put a different name on it now, such as influencer or ambassadors. Word to mouth always comes from your family, your friends, anybody who would potentially support you, those were the first people who bought our products. And that's what really got me into what is the core of our business nowadays, affiliation. And we're going to talk about that maybe a little bit later. The second thing was, we need to grow our audience. Right now, I think, social networks are a benchmark, where, if you're trying to build the brand, you need to hit a certain threshold in order to gain credibility. If you have a hundred followers, even though they're highly engaged, you don't have as much credibility as you have five, ten thousand.
Jeremiah: So, we created a lot of small media contests, where we were doing giveaways, and that drove a lot of traffic to our websites. And as soon as we start working on our persona, who are buying our mattresses, we started working on CPC based buy on Facebook, Google, and for content marketing on Reddit as well.
Felix: Okay. So, lots of good stuff there, let's dive into each one of these. So, the word of mouth started first with your friends and family, do you remember that first day where you started getting purchases from people that you didn't know? How did that start branching out just beyond your personal network?
Jeremiah: It was so funny, because, I remember the first sale we had, right now, we use ShipStation. But, we have the sale, and we have the manufacturer making the mattresses, and we don't have a lot of stocks. And we're like, "Okay, how do we do that now?" So, we had to manually contact UPS to set an account, and they came to pick it up at the factory. And that was a very stressing experience. But, I would say, in the first week, we had a couple of sales, which was great because we were thinking, "Oh my God, what if it doesn't work?" Because these are expensive items, it's between 600 and close to $1,000. And it worked out really well.
Jeremiah: And like I said, word to mouth is very, very important, because, if you offer a good customer experience, I remember, the first people who bought the mattresses were family members, but then, there were friends. And what we were doing is offering a courtesy call, just thanking them for encouraging the local economy of supporting a local brand, because this is really close to the core of our business.
Felix: And you found that that resonated with them, that you made the effort to make the call, and then, basically, put a face to the brand and not just some massive corporation that doesn't have a human to talk to.
Jeremiah: Absolutely, everybody's working very hard for their money. Rather, it's a $10, or 100 or $1,000 item, everybody invest times and money to purchase something. The least you can do is offer them the best possible experience. The other thing people must keep in mind is that companies such as Apple, Amazon, really alienated the way we shop. Our expectation are so high, you have to respect that, even though you're a small brand, even though you're a startup. And often, it doesn't take that much effort to surpass that, calling a customer to just say thank you, that is something Amazon will never do, and they probably cannot. And as a startup, this is the type of edge you can have over these companies.
Felix: Right, that makes sense. So, you were just, at first, just almost like creating these products on demand. They didn't exist yet. Did someone place an order and then you would have it manufactured? How long did it take before you built up an inventory?
Jeremiah: Okay. The way we work with our supplier is, we use a technique that we call internally a buffer. Now, it's been three years, so, we have a bit of history, and we know, for example, that Moving Day in Quebec is very popular, back to school, or, for example, the Black Friday period is very popular. So, what we try to do is have, let's say, between 50 and 200 mattresses in stock because we know, in roughly two weeks, that's the amount, that's the volume we're going to be able to push. And that's amazing because that allows us not to have a distribution center, because we don't have a lot of stock, and we have enough time to produce as people purchase the item.
Jeremiah: So, that's how we work right now, and that'll, again, save a lot of, in terms of distribution money tension, that, again, is not an added value for the consumer.
Felix: Right, as you were just saying. So, it took a little bit time for you to be able to have the data to make that determination, how much to hold. Okay, that makes sense.
Jeremiah: So, we were keeping five, 10 in stock, and then we were like, sometimes we will run out, and then we were keeping 15, but it didn't happen often. So, the other thing is that we didn't have the money to have a stock of two, three, four, five hundred mattresses because our cost is fairly high, we're not a very high margin product. And that's funny because the mattress industry is by far, and it's known for that, everyone and everybody's on sells at 50 or 80%, and these guys still makes money. Because we offered that a hundred-night trial and we know that return rate could potentially really hurt our business, we really invested more in the product in order to make sure our return rate is as low as possible, and that paid out.
Felix: Right, that makes sense. So, I like this approach where you look for the middleman and the processes in the supply chain that don't add value to the end customer, was this just based on gut instinct on what would and what would not add value or what would not be valuable to the end consumer? Or, did you have some kind of data or research to back up what you should be focused on removing from the process?
Jeremiah: The idea behind that, and we applied across everything, is, if I can cut a middleman, there are two options, I either make more profits, or I can sell a better item at the same price, and the consumer will win. So, whatever we do, our main question is, does this initiative bring better value to the consumer? I'm going to give you an example of that, and that was last year, and that was a great fail, and we were lucky to be able to try that. A friend of mine had access to a very prime spot real estate, pop-up store, downtown Montreal. And that rent goes for about $25,000 a month, it's very expensive.
Jeremiah: And because there was renovation around it, we were able to negotiate with the company who manage that location, if we could give a percentage, it wasn't aggressive, but a percentage of our sales in order to pay for that specific space for a period of six months. It actually ended up being one year and we were quite lucky. But, that basically allowed us to test physical location, a brand store. So, everything was branded Polysleep, there was purple everywhere. We had six different beds, we had three employees full-time there. And my goal there was really to see one and only one thing, does that bring value for the consumer? And is this any way profitable? Or, that's just pure marketing? And I've got to tell you, I'm quite happy we didn't have to pay for that, because we would have probably lost $15,000 a month. Maybe more, considering we had to pay our employees, full-time staff to answer questions and all.
Jeremiah: The other thing is that we conducted interviews from people who bought from the store versus people who bought online, and we saw a poor correlation in terms of customer satisfaction between people who went to the store, our brand store, versus people who bought online. So, we killed the project and we went with a different approach.
Felix: Why is it that they would have a worse experience in person than online?
Jeremiah: Two things, the main one is the perception of a salesperson in a mattress store. Nobody likes to go in a store and have someone following you telling you, "Oh, this is the level of support you should have, and this is the type of mattress you should buy and try this one and try this one. And are we good with that? Perfect. Give me your credit card, I'm going to pass it, you're going to receive it next week." And people are afraid of that. I mean, you can probably relate going to a store and running away from the salesperson.
Felix: Right, definitely.
Jeremiah: So, even though we told our employee, "This is really not what we want, we want you guys to have a good time with the customer. Tell them jokes, just give them information, be proactive but don't try to sell anything." We realized they had a good time, the consumer, but it was not better than people who purchased online. And the cost to do that, the one thing that was great about it, is that we were able to tap in the 80%. Remember earlier when I was saying only 20% of the people as of today are willing to buy a mattress exclusively online, 80% still want to see it. So, a lot of people from our website were asking, "Oh, can I go see the mattress? Can I test it?" And even though we tell them, "Oh, you can try it for a hundred night at home, and you don't even have a 30-day minimum period to test it out. At any point you don't like it, we send someone there to pick it up. You don't have to carry it or anything."
Jeremiah: And that was not enough, they were still asking, "Can I see it somewhere?" And that $25,000 it would have cost us, would have been a big issue. Now, that's an example of, does that add value for the consumer? And we sat down with my team, because at the time, we had already three employees, and we decided to go a bit differently. And that is something I would invite a lot of people who have an innovative product and would like to get in the market, in a physical location market, is to work with stores that already exist in connected, I would say, areas. In our case, furniture stores that do not sell mattresses were a good fit. Because, they often have bed frames and they go to IKEA, buy a little mattress just to put some decoration around it.
Jeremiah: So, what we did is that, we killed the pop-up store, and we hired someone full-time, who is basically on the road, and go see these local stores and tell them, "Look, what about Polysleep? Drive people from our website, we have about 30 to 50,000 people going on our website every month, and a lot of them are asking, 'Can I try the mattress?' And we're going to drive these people to your store, where they can try the mattress. Now, here's the good thing, you don't have to pay for anything. We give you the mattress, we give you the pillows, we give you some marketing material, and we give you a referral code that you can put on your email list. We even give you buttons, if you want to put them on your website, you know the Shopify Buy button that you can integrate." And they love it.
Jeremiah: So, we basically now have more than 20 physical location, and we don't have to pay employees, we don't have to pay rent. And we pay commission based on each and every partner we have, whenever someone used a coupon or whenever someone used their link. So, that's amazing because we have ambassadors that own furniture stores and they're really happy because they don't have to add investment to the table, to sell an additional product. And we bring people to their store where they add additional skews to their own sales.
Felix: Yeah. So, I think one very clear entrepreneurial skill that I see coming from your actions here is this creativity to problems that you're trying to solve, from the whole approach of the manufacturer to partner with them for R and D purposes to paying for physical retail space using a percentage of your sales to now partnering with retailers, furniture stores, to put your mattress in the stores to create these showcases, you obviously have a very creative approach and you don't just think about the traditional way that you might want to solve a problem or you might want to partner with someone. How do you approach problems that come up with these kinds of creative solutions? What kind of questions do you find yourself asking to start exploring new, I guess, alternatives to solving a problem?
Jeremiah: I've studied graphic design and I'm a creative person. But, creativity can be applied to solve a problem. And again, I'll go back to my original statement, think about what the consumer might ask or will ask and validate that. Go on Google Trends, ask people who are experts in the industry, listen to podcasts, there's a lot of information available. What's going to make the difference is how you process it, and how you come up with a solution that is a little bit different. And then you can always push a bit further. One thing we didn't think from the beginning, from the get-go when we did that approach with our affiliates partner was the potential for an ecommerce to work with these partners, to rank locally without having our own physical location.
Jeremiah: And now we have a complete local SEO strategy, where, if you go on our website policy, dot-ca, you go to stores, you're going to be able to have, from the city you're in, not only the information about the store that is our partner, like, what 80% of the people would do, but on top of that, we created their own custom page on our website. So, to give you an example, there's a store called Space Espace Meuble. It's in Laval, it's close to Montreal, and that was one of the first stores we had. And I was asking myself, just like anybody, how can I get as many people, as many pair of eyes on my name? And SEO is such a powerful tool.
Jeremiah: But, often, for ecommerce, it's extremely complex to rank when people are looking for localized research, because of Google Map, because of local ads. And then, on top of that, there's often a lot of big brands ranking. And we were able to rank in, we're now ranked on the first page, if you look for the best mattress in Laval, or if you look for Polysleep Laval. And the way we did that is that every store, we created their own custom page. And they often also put their promotion on their own Google listings, and they have a link to our page as well. And we create these little local SEO articles to promote their store. And it's a win-win situation. They rank better, we bring more people to their website, and our name is getting more and more and more visibility locally.
Jeremiah: So, again, it's really, how do you see a problem? And how do you apply a certain level of creativity to see, what can I do something different, in order to outperform my competitors?
Felix: So, let's talk about this approach with working with furniture stores or when anyone out there is listening, or as I've been listening is, looking at retailers, physical retailers to partner with, to create these showrooms, what was the initial response from these stores? What was the pitch that got them to agree to place? Because, I mean, you're placing an actual mattress, which is not a small piece of product in their store, right? So, how did you guys get them to agree to do it?
Jeremiah: That was again, a bet that we did because you can't come up with a contract. You're asking someone to put, to give you space. Where this guy is basically, he have employees to pay, he has his rent to pay, and every square feet is important to him. So, our approach was really to say, we are a brand that is growing year over year tremendously, more than 300%, and you know how ecommerce... Ecommerce for any retailer is something that scares them, and it's something that is very sexy at the same time. They're like, well, ecommerce is the future, they just don't know how to approach that. So, if you are an ecommerce expert, or if you have your own ecommerce business starting, often, these people will be, at least, open to a conversation. So, that was the first step.
Jeremiah: I was calling a furniture store, "Hi, may I speak with the manager? May I speak with the owner? We are an ecommerce brand, we sell sleep product and mattresses. And I know you might not be interested in anything of that, but would you be, at least, available if I come to see you and just to have a coffee and a conversation?" And often, the answer is yes. And the second step, I was going there with a small PowerPoint, four or five pages, and I was saying, "This is our product, it's made in Montreal, we encourage local economy, we want local economy to strive again like it was back in the days." And that resonates with them. And we were saying, "Now, would you help us to send people to a local store to have something as beautiful as you have in your store, where people can try our product, and at the same time, you have the opportunity to sell something else."
Felix: And are these furniture stores already selling mattresses?
Jeremiah: Often, we were targeting ones that were not selling mattresses.
Felix: Got it.
Jeremiah: That was helping a lot. Some of them, surprisingly, are mattress stores. And we don't give them, by far, they don't make as much profit as with other brands, but they still like the idea that they have a link and a coupon code and anybody on our website can use that to get a rebate, because of anybody-
Felix: And this is pretty much their first link into ecommerce for most of these businesses?
Jeremiah: Absolutely, yeah. And that's what they got in. And often, we tell them, "Look, here is our email newsletter, and we created a copy of it that is customized with your coupon codes, you just need to send it to your whole database, and that's going to help your sales." And often, they do it. So, some of our stores, partner stores, have more than 20,000 people in their emails' database. So, multiply that by 20, the scale it gave us with a brand that is already communicating on a weekly basis with these people is humongous. To which, we're able to expand and extend without having necessarily our own data internally, is amazing. So, it's really a win-win partnership. The question you have to ask yourself as an entrepreneur is, and I don't know, let's say if you're selling healthcare products.
Jeremiah: And, let's say, you have, I'll take something completely different, shampoo bars, and it's organic. And right now, it's being, it's very trendy, and you don't see them in pharmacy. Well, you know what? Give it a try. Talk to the pharmacist who owns the place and asks him, "Would you mind if I put that for a week or two and try it out?" And often, they might say yes. And if it sells, well, he might talk to a friend, and this friend might be open to give the same thing. And that just creates this opportunity, where, you can without investing any money, have a physical presence, even though you're an ecommerce company. And that's very powerful, people tend to try to squeeze every dollar out of Facebook and Google and their marketing strategies. And how to build a good funnel and all that.
Jeremiah: While in reality, even though that works really well, the physicality and the interaction you can have with the products, especially in our case, I mean, I'm not saying every industry, it's very powerful. Now, absolutely, like you said, you have to be creative in your way to approach it, because it's easy to lose a lot of money there.
Felix: Yeah, I think the edge that you get as an entrepreneur is often about doing the work that others don't want to do, or maybe haven't thought of doing, this is where the creativity comes in. And like you're saying, there's so much focus on trying to squeeze out every penny out of your Facebook Ads or your conversion rates when there are bigger wins that can be had, if you do have the guts, to some degree, to go out and start asking people to partner with them with these kinds of unique ways to benefit both sides. So, when you did roll out this approach, how quickly or how big of a difference did it make to your sales?
Jeremiah: The first thing it did is add credibility to the brand, and that allowed us to tap into major mattress review websites. The way our industry work and that took me a good year to understand, is that life events is what often motivates people to change their mattresses. So, babies coming, oh, we need a new mattress for the baby, we might change ours as well. We move, oh, that's the type of item we're going to change. So, when we opened the stores, that created opportunity and that brought traffic to our website. And at that specific moment, that's when we realized, we should have invested a bit more on our website, and that's what we did this year. The first six months of 2019 was really focused around creating our own custom templates. And really, offer a better experience online for our consumer.
Jeremiah: So, this store opened the door to additional credibility, brought more traffic to our websites, and vice versa. And that opened the door for specified reviews websites, such as Sleepopolis and Sleep Sherpa. So, how it works is that these guys often take affiliate commission as well. You send your product and they do a thorough review of it, and they compare it to other brands. And that's when it really kick-started everything. That's combined with a good email strategy, and obviously, a little bit of Facebook Ads and Google Ads is what really fuels the engine as of today.
Felix: Now, what's the approach that you've built out, the system that you've built out to scale this up to... because I'm assuming you want again to, as many stores as you can. How are you guys approaching scaling this system up of having showcases inside physical retailers?
Jeremiah: Since the core of our business is ecommerce, you cannot buy the mattress in that store. As I was saying, it's just a showcase partner. So, what we did is that we took the highest density cities across Canada. So, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and these were our first three targets. We need to have at least one store in one of these major cities. And then, we're going to go with Edmonton, and then, we're going to go with what we call B market. So, our A market where the top 10 cities in Canada, then we hit our B market, which is a little bit smaller. And eventually, we're going to hit our C market.
Jeremiah: One thing we do though, is that we open probably one or two boutiques a month, because, as I said, there's still investment on our end, we've got to send a mattress for free, now we sell pillow, so, we send them the pillow as well. We have marketing material we give them. So, we can't afford to have 10, 20 new boutiques every month, even though, it might be something we'll do in the future. But, we really pick our battle based on, okay, where most of our traffic is coming from our website. So, let's say, you're based in New York, and most of your traffic comes from New York and L.A. Well, these are the first two cities where you potentially would like to have a physical location, where you can send people going on your website there if they haven't converted.
Jeremiah: At the end of the day, the way I see it is, someone sees my brand, good. Now, someone who saw my brand is looking for a mattress, I've got a couple of chances to make sure he understand I've got a better product than what my competitor has. And this is where it becomes a bit tricky. Some people like to go on the website, don't talk to anybody. Some people are very analytical. They'll go on Reddit, they'll go on three different website, and they're going to spend 30 minutes chatting about the foam density. And that's fine. The question you have to ask yourself is, what is the most critical element you want to invest your energy in, in order to be able to solve these issues? Because that takes time, that takes effort. And obviously, that takes resources. So, you can't do everything at the same time, and every business is a bit different.
Jeremiah: In our case, our website is where we want to offer a very clean experience for the user. And most of the information is actually on the third party website. And this is something I learned from Bell, which was a company I worked back in the days on the strategy. And as we were seeing, some of the executive there were asking, "How can we increase our capacity to convince people we have a better network than our main competitors?" And the solution was actually Netflix. Because, as your own ambassador, I can say I have the best mattress all day. But if a third party say, "These guys have the best mattress." And that third party have credibility, just in the case of Netflix, "Oh, yeah, Bell has the best network in Canada, if you want to stream 4K TV." That adds a lot of weight. So, that's what we're trying to do right now.
Jeremiah: Instead of just, of course, we do invest a lot of time to create content on our own website. But, we want to have, let's say, guest bloggers, or third party writing stuff about us. Right now we even have healthcare specialists. So, we have physiotherapist, chiropractor, who interact with our product and give advice on how to use them, why they're better, and things like that.
Felix: This is the idea of having these affiliations with all of the third parties that can generate conversations around your brand?
Jeremiah: Can you repeat the question, Felix?
Felix: So, I was asking, this is the approach that you've taken to partner up with these affiliates essentially, to create meaningful conversations around your brand?
Jeremiah: Yes, absolutely. And we did test, I would say, regular influencers, that have a couple of hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. And we realized that we better off, we see better traction when we target a niche and create valuable content where we gravitate around. So, for example, one of our affiliates is a physiotherapist, and he's very active on Facebook and on YouTube. And what we said when we originally approached him is, "We don't want you only to take a picture on the bed and take, say, you have a coupon code and never hear from you again. What can we do for you user, that would matter?" And right away, he said, "Oh my God, we should definitely do a series of videos on stretching in your bed or what is the exercise you could do to avoid back pain when you wake up, or to sleep better." And that came from him.
Jeremiah: So, our approach with anybody who does business with, is, how can we leverage that person as an ambassador? And if he doesn't want to, that's fine. But we don't necessarily want to put more energy working with him, because that means, he doesn't see a fit with our company or with our products. And that's okay. And often, that's a mistake, I think, people do thinking about, especially Instagram, where, the number of followers or just even the amount of likes or comments, is not, I would say, a KPI that should be that highly considered when you build your brand. At the end of the day, think of a niche and think of really product-market fit. So, that specific niche, do you have experts you can leverage to showcase your products? And then combine it with maybe a promotion or an offer, and that's often what's going to work.
Felix: Got it. So, you're not just looking for people that might be reviewing mattresses all the time, you're specifically looking for the niches that might be able to use your product. So, you've gone to like a physical therapist, or you go to like people that are into stretching and basically present content that they are specialists in, in conjunction with your product. So, you're not looking to produce a commercial, essentially, you're looking to have content that's actually valuable, and then include your mattress in the content.
Jeremiah: Yeah, we're trying to solve sleep issue every day. And that is the core of all our activities. What can we do? If you have back problems, probably you don't sleep well. If you have insomnia, obviously, you don't sleep well. Can I do anything to help you out? Because I'm trying to sell a sleeping surface that theoretically should help you sleep better. So, that has to be connected with my core value. And actually, that's why we created four additional product this year, that's what we did from January to right now. And actually, the last one is coming in June, it's our baby mattress. Because, as I said earlier, life events are often what motivates people, everybody needs a mattress. So, it's really hard to say my persona are women between 30 and 45, that are doing yoga and that is active.
Jeremiah: Because you know what? The 350-pound gamer who has a Twitch channel also has a mattress. And how can I speak with these two people? It's very complex, and that will need a lot of different strategies. So, in order to scale with a certain level of volume, what we did instead is, okay, what are a common element that will motivate the purchase, or, at least, the interest of buying a new mattress? And life events were the key. That's why, now, what our approach will be, instead of offering five or 10 different levels of comfort for our product, what we really focused on instead is, okay, what does your body needs to sleep better? And this is where, there's very three simple things, good temperature control, good body alignment, and something that will avoid, at any cost, pressure points.
Jeremiah: If your sleeping surface does that, you're going to sleep like a baby. Now, based on what you're doing on your day-to-day or based on where you're at in your life, you might have different needs. I can create the best baby mattress, a 60-year-old will not buy the baby mattress to sleep on, because he's not there anymore. But that's what we did. So, now we have a baby mattress, we have the Origin Mattress, which is more aimed toward people who would buy their first mattress themselves, or often, who would go to IKEA, people who have, or secondary residents, Shelley. And then, we have our Polysleep Mattress, which is our most popular mattress that, I would say, fit any couple, any person who starts in life, who want a good sleeping surface.
Jeremiah: And then we have the Zephyr. The Zephyr is the best of the best. We even have nanotechnology incorporated in it, and that is more aimed toward people who maybe had injuries, who really want the best possible sleeping surface, who are athletes. And that allows us to really tailor our experience based on these different personas, in regards to their life events.
Felix: Got it. Thank you so much Jeremiah, polysleep.com or polysleep.ca. And I want to close the interview by you telling us a story about the leaked internal email for your pre-Black Friday success. Tell us about what that was and tell us a story about what happened when you guys launched this, essentially, this very interesting marketing campaign.
Jeremiah: Yeah, this strategy worked extremely well, and I was so surprised to see that. So, what we did is, our concept for Black Friday was to say, okay, the first 500 mattresses, I don't remember the exact number, but we're going to have very, very aggressive rebates, but that's going to last only 12 hours. And we're going to put a big timer on our website. And then we're going to have X amount of mattresses at another rebate. And then, ongoing, we're going to have, let's say, 20% off, for the rest of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And then we were brainstorming and we were like, and what about our email subscribers, our database, what are we doing with that? And we decided to create a fake internal email from different addresses, so, there's a whole conversation.
Jeremiah: Where our customer service ask a question to the marketing department, asking when does this offer, which was the most aggressive Black Friday, like $400 off coupon goes live? And when do we put it on the website and for how long it works? And the marketing department said, "Oh, the coupon is already created, but we haven't pushed it anywhere. So, it's going to go live at midnight, and it's going to be only available for 12 hours, and it's only going to be for the first 500 mattresses." And then the customer service reply, "Oh, thank you. So, we've got to make sure that is not written anywhere or I don't communicate it if someone talked to me." And so, that conversation was actually leaked through our whole database.
Jeremiah: And I think three minutes after, all my friends who bought a mattress were sending me a text. Like, "Oh, I know someone who's going to lose his job." Or, "Oh, someone is in trouble. I actually bought it for my mom. Sorry, Jay." And I was dying of laughter because they actually, yeah, they believed it. So, even before Black Friday, we sold out the 500 mattresses, and we had to come up with a new offer.
Felix: That's hilarious. I think lots of people are going to try this strategy with this coming Black Friday, I guess. So, thank you so much for your time, Jeremiah. Thank you for sharing that story. And I appreciate you coming on.
Jeremiah: Thank you very much for your time, Felix, as well.
Learn more: How to Find a Business Partner