This story is about the launch of Harry’s, a new men’s grooming brand.
Specifically, it will explain how they gathered nearly 100,000 email addresses in one week (!). This post includes all the email templates, open-source code, and insider tricks that you can use to replicate their success. It’s similar in depth to my previous how-to post, Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days.
This post is of great personal interest to me, as I’ll be doing a ton of fun stuff with email soon. For a sneak peek, click here. Now, on to Harry’s…
Harry’s started small and grew quickly. They now have 40 domestic employees, an online store, a barbershop in New York, and a thriving online magazine called Five O’Clock. Harry’s also recently raised 100+ million dollars to buy the 94-year-old German factory that makes it blades. By doing so, they added 427 people to their team. Today, you can find Harry’s products on harrys.com, in select J Crew stores, and at more than 65 men’s boutiques and hotels across the country.
This is piece was written by Jeff Raider, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Harry’s, with input from key members of the Harry’s team.
Prior to Harry’s, Jeff co-founded Warby Parker, a brand offering designer-like eyewear at lower prices, which also helped pioneer the “buy one, give one” model.
We can’t launch to crickets
We opened the digital doors of our shaving brand, Harry’s, in March of 2013. In the weeks leading up to the launch, there was one persistent worry: Were we going to launch to crickets? Would anyone notice?
My co-founder, Andy, and I had spent the better part of two years researching the global men’s shaving market. We’d found the nearly century-old German manufacturer who would make our razor blades, we’d worked with talented industrial designers to create an ergonomic handle inspired by fine pens and knives, and we’d laid the groundwork for the direct-to-consumer online brand that would become Harry’s. We were excited to offer our customers a quality shaving experience at an affordable price.
Fortunately, Andy and I had a team of 10 who believed in our not-yet-existent brand as much as we did. We needed people to find out about us and come to our website to find our products. After all, a direct-to-consumer brand isn’t anything without the consumer. We couldn’t launch to crickets. We had to figure out a way to make sure that didn’t happen.
That also meant a lot of pressure.
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Thanks to what you’ll learn in this post, our first week at Harry’s was a huge success. We were inundated by tweets, emails, and—our favorite—customer phone calls. It was an incredibly exciting time.
Much of the success of week one was due to what we did beforehand. One week before our e-commerce site went live, we had gathered emails from nearly 100,000 people who were eager to learn more about Harry’s.
We had collected those email addresses thanks to a one-week long prelaunch campaign, the focus of this post.
Since launching the campaign, we’ve shared it with friends and other entrepreneurs. Now, together with Tim, we’re excited share the details of the campaign —the thinking, the code, our strategy, and the results—with all of you. One of our company values is transparency. We believe in open source, not only for code but also for ideas. And we hope this might help you or your business reach and engage with more people in a fun and constructive way.
Just one large disclaimer: we can only share what we did. We’re sure we made lots of mistakes (we make them a lot) and have no doubt you’ll be able to improve on our template.
Now, without further ado, here we go…
The Most Credible Source
The idea for our campaign was built around our belief that the most powerful and effective way to be introduced to our new company was through a credible referral. Thus, we focused on building a campaign that helped people to spread the word to their friends.
Ahead of our launch, Andy and I spent a couple of months meeting friends, entrepreneurs and virtually anyone else who would listen to us talk about Harry’s. Whether or not they were interested in razors, we tried to interest them in our story. That list of people was probably a couple hundred long by our launch, and we created the campaign to help that group of people publicly share in the excitement of our launch.
We also took inspiration from other startups that we looked up to. Michael Preysman at Everlane is a friend and has built an amazing company. Early on they’d had success with referral mechanics. We also admired Fab’s launch and the manner in which they had success in promoting sharing.
So, inspired by those closest to us and some other amazing startups, we created a referral campaign.
The General Campaign Design
The user interface of the campaign was relatively simple—a two-page microsite.
First, users entered their email addresses on a splash page. This first step was essential since we wanted to capture emails both for our list and so that we could use it as an identifier for tracking referrals.
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The second page was where the referral mechanisms lived. It contained a shareable link to the splash page coded specifically to the user. Below the link were buttons to share the link through email, Facebook and Twitter with the click of a mouse. By sharing the link with friends, users had the opportunity to earn free product. The more friends who signed up using your unique referral link, the bigger the prize you earned.
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Here is all the code for the campaign. If you have trouble with that link, you can also download the files here.
[Note from Tim: Modifying and deploying this app requires some technical knowledge, BUT if you’re non-technical (like me), you can find people to help you. If you aren’t familiar with editing HTML and CSS code, or have never deployed a Ruby on Rails app, I recommend finding a partner with design and Ruby skills in either the Heroku Partners Directory (if you want a team), or ODesk (if a single freelancer will do). ODesk will have more options.]
The mechanics are simple. It automatically generates a unique code for every unique email address entered, and it appends that code onto the given URL. In our case, the link looked something like this:
When a referral—say, a friend of that first user—comes to the site using a unique link, we save it as a cookie we can use to find the email address responsible for the referral. For the engineers out there, you can see our engineering team’s explanation of the code here. As for the code itself, check it out here.
The code is, of course, important to creating a campaign. In addition to sharing the code, we wanted to provide a few insights into how we thought about using it to drive growth.
Step 1: Make Special People Feel Special.
We saw prelaunch as a way to make people feel special.
And the first people in the world to find out about our brand were really special to us. We wanted our first customers to feel like they were getting insider access.
Splash Page Messaging
The copy on the splash page said, “Respecting the face, and wallet since like right now.” These words were intended to be playful and introduce people to the purpose of our brand but also leave an air mystery as to what we were all about. We paired the line with photo of one of our razors, but we included no more information about our company or product.
For the call to action on the button, we chose the words STEP INSIDE. Above the field was a small drawing of a key. We wanted to reinforce for our early customers that they were getting insider access.
Referral Page Messaging
Our referral page had more enigmatic design and copy. A picture of a wooly mammoth was coupled with the words: “Shaving is evolving. Don’t leave your friends behind.” Again, we wanted people to feel that something big was happening to which they had front row seat and the opportunity to invite friends to join them. Our first customers were insiders and we wanted to make them feel like insiders.
Step 2: Choose Tangible Rewards And Make Them Achievable.
The fundamental mechanic of our campaign was a game: complete the challenge of referring friends and earn prizes. It seems pretty straightforward—and it is—but we think that what those prizes are, and how they are doled out, is critical to getting people excited play. Not all reward structures are created equal. Here are a few things what worked for us.
First, we tried to make our rewards tangible: free Harry’s product. On the page, we very clearly emphasized, “Invite Friends and Earn Product.” It was the one message on the page where we did away with mystery and left nothing up to interpretation. We didn’t want there to be any doubt about what people might receive.
Second, we paced out the rewards so that they were attainable, appropriate for actions taken, and increasingly exciting. The first award was easily attainable and each subsequent tier wasn’t discouragingly difficult to achieve. To earn the first tier prize—a free shave cream—you had to make only five successful referrals. The next tier was only five further referrals. If you signed up ten friends, you earned a free razor. The jump between tier two and tier three was more significant but still not overwhelming: 25 referrals and you’d receive a shave set with our more premium handle, The Winston. Finally, even the grand prize was within reach: a year of free shaving for those who referred 50 friends. Indeed, over 200 people achieved our highest referral tier. At one point we had considered offering a lifetime of free product for 1,000 referrals. We ultimately decided to scrap that tier, worrying that it would discourage people from participating at all, and — though we can’t prove that that decision bolstered the strength of the reward structure — I strongly believe it did.
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Step 3: Make Sharing As Fun As Humanly Possible.
We wanted the entire experience to feel like a fun game. To amplify the experience, the campaign page included a tracker, pictured above, where users could see how many friends they had referred and what prize they had achieved—or not yet achieved. This dynamic progress tracker served the dual purpose of (1) giving users faith throughout the one-week campaign that we were good for our word and (2) keeping track of their referrals while also incentivizing users who were close to the subsequent tier to keep sharing.
It also amplified the fun people might have with the interface and campaign as they compared their progress to their friends and strived to reach the next tier. We heard from some friends that they took the referral campaign like a personal challenge.
Step 4: Make Sharing As Easy As Humanly Possible.
Through the campaign, we wanted to encourage friends to tell friends, and those friends to tell their friends, and so on and so forth. Any barrier to sharing would hinder the campaign, so we did a few things.
First, we included social sharing buttons. You can’t rely on the user cut and paste the link (though do make it available for the user who prefers that method).
Right below the custom link field on the page, we included icons for Twitter and Facebook. We had learned that using the standard Twitter and Facebook icons for sharing yields higher engagement than if you design your own. People are used to them and recognize them immediately.
Clicking the icons pulled up a dialogue box with a pre-populated message.
This seemingly small measure was really important. It removed a barrier-to-sharing for the user and allowed you to push forward a message.
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Ours was really, really simple: “Excited for @harrys to launch. I’m going to be #shaving for free” with a shortlink back the campaign site.
Here are a few quick ideas that were helpful to us:
- Include an @ mention of your company or initiative
- Include a link to your prelaunch site
- Resist the urge to be salesy. We tried to let the mystery of the message drive traffic through the link.
Step 5: Start by Telling Your Friends–Use E-mail, Social, Etc.
This post isn’t one where you learn brilliant tactics for generating and closing media leads (for that, check out “Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days”).
In fact, by our count, there was one article about the campaign while it was live. We didn’t have anything to do with the piece, and, while it wasn’t fully accurate, we liked it because it added to the fun around our launch and helped to amplify the social sharing that was already underway.
While we love the press (and they have been generous to us at Harry’s), for this campaign we deliberately decided that we would focus on our friends and let the groundswell build organically. We thought that having the referral come from a publication would be counter to the campaign’s ethos.
We started there, with our own friends. We had our team of 12 employees seed the campaign to their friends. Here’s a breakdown of how we suggest approaching those two mediums.
A few days before the campaign, we walked the whole team through the process of creating groups of contacts in Gmail. Everyone on the team added all of their contacts to two groups—a group that was familiar with Harry’s vs. a group that hadn’t heard of Harry’s. We wrote a sample email (see template below), though we really emphasized making the messages personalized. We wanted people on our team to share the news of our company and brand in the most comfortable way possible for them. We did all of this a day or two in advance because we wanted to be able to simply hit send on the day prelaunch went live.
Here are some tips for these emails:
- Make it personal. These people are closest to you and, thus, to your product or company. They’re friends—so write to them like they are!
- This is for friends, not press. If you send your prelaunch campaign to friends who are part of the press, make sure they know it’s not the time to “break news” about your company. If you can’t trust them not to do so, don’t keep them on the list. You want press when your company is actually live.
- Encourage your recipients to spread the word. Make that ask explicitly—don’t be shy!
- As a rule of thumb, assume the email will be forwarded, and craft your message accordingly (i.e., don’t disparage the competition etc., etc.,).
- Set up email signatures—with links back to the prelaunch site and social channels—before emailing the world.
- Consider appending a visual asset. We included a simple product shot of our razor with the phrase “Harry’s is coming,” hoping to pique interest.
Title: “Harry’s is Coming!”
Friends and Family,
After months of closely examining the weight of razor handles, natural ingredient mixtures in shaving cream and angles of razor blades, we are really excited to only be days away from launching Harry’s.
You’re important to me and I wanted you to be the first to know about our plans for launch. We have just put up our pre-launch site, you can check it out at www.harrys.com.
Our full site will be up in about a week and I’ll be sure let you know when it’s live!
In the meantime, I’d love your help in spreading the word! Here’s how:
1) Go to our website www.harrys.com
2) On the first page of the site, enter your email to join our mailing list
3) On the second page, refer friends using your own custom link back to Harry’s – and as a bonus you can earn free Harry’s products!
Thank you so much for all of your help and support. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it. Look forward to continuing to shareHarry’s with you and appreciate you telling the world!
All the best,
We also reached out to a number of people individually.
We wanted to tell them ourselves in a personal way. For example, some of our friends could reach entire companies. We’d ask people individually share Harry’s with their teams. For an example of what this email could look like, see below for an actual email (in looking back maybe I got a little carried away in the excitement of the moment).
Hope you’re great and everything is going really well at [Company].
I wanted to drop you a quick note and let you know that we just put up prelaunch site for Harry’s – check it out and sign up at www.harrys.com. We plan to launch in about a week. Super excited. Would love for you to pass the prelaunch site on to the [company] team and anyone else who you think might appreciate it.
Thanks for your help. You’re the best. Hope to see you soon.
We launched our Facebook page and Twitter handle the day that prelaunch went live in an effort to capture social followers from the prelaunch buzz. As part of our seeding, our small team made a concerted effort to interact with our new social pages and handles. Our whole team did the following:
- Like your company’s page on Facebook
- Follow your company’s Twitter handle
- Tweet about the campaign with an @mention of your company
- Update your Twitter and Facebook profiles to say you work at your company
- Track @mentions of your company and respond with a thank you—from your personal handle—if you see anyone you know tweeting about the campaign
- Post a personal Facebook post about the campaign. We encouraged people to frame the launch of the campaign as a personal life event, i.e. I just started working at Harry’s and after a lot of hard work our pre-launch site is finally up! Check it out: www.harrys.com”
Step 6: Protecting Yourself Against Fraud
When you’re giving away free stuff, you’re opening yourself up to the risk of being scammed and the liability of people gaming your system. We took a few simple precautions to protect ourselves against fraud.
First and foremost, we set up IP blocking. This means our code looked at the IP address of every sign-up, and if a single IP address had signed up two email addresses to the campaign, we blocked the ability to create any more sign-ups from that IP address.
Second of all, we used SendGrid to send a simple transactional email to every email address entered. If that transactional email bounced back—a data point that SendGrid provides—the email address was interpreted as illegitimate. Unsurprisingly, we saw the most fraudulent activity in the highest tier.
Step 7: Cross Your Fingers. You Never Know What’ll Happen.
Before the prelaunch, our small team set wagers on how many emails we would collect.
We wrote the figures on a whiteboard: Three thousand. Five. Seventy-five hundred. One bold person thought we could get 15k. (I think that might have been me!) We broke that high bar in the first day. When all was said and done, we had collected by our estimation over 85K valid email addresses (and over 100K emails in total) in the span of seven days.
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The referral mechanics were amazing. As the first graph above shows, 77% of the emails were collected via referral, meaning about 20K people referred about 65K friends. This means referrers, on average, referred more than 3 friends.
Yet there were a lot of people who referred well above that average: More than 200 participants referred more than 50 of their friends, achieving the highest tier reward. These were largely people who were close to us with large followings or access to companies that sent out blasts on our behalf. Even in the lower tiers it was pretty amazing how many people participated. In total we gave away product to about 3,000 people and believe that those folks are still some of our most ardent supporters.
Two More Things…
The heavy lifting really started after our prelaunch: we had to get product to customers.
We sent out coupon codes to customers for the rewards they won. In this way, we redirected our customers to our full, live site where they could read the backstory of the mystery company whose prelaunch they had just participated in and browse our full suite of products.
We handled reward fulfillment through the distribution partner we continue to work with today. We selected a distribution partner based on these four key principles:
- Scalability – Can they grow with us?
- Flexibility – Are they willing and able to play around with process to work toward our vision?
- Price – Are they in-line with the market across all their services (not just pick/pack but also receiving, inventory, etc.)
- Partnership – Do they require minimums and do they mark-up any pass through costs like outbound carrier costs?
In addition to a reliable distribution partner, a second critical element to our prelaunch campaign was customer support. We used—and continue to use—a platform called Zendesk to manage tickets from customers. We had fully a functioning customer support operation where customers could contact us via e-mail, phone, Twitter, Facebook, and even text message. On our first day in business, we had literally everyone on our small team manning Zendesk and replying to inbound tickets.
Thanks Where Thanks Is Due
It was truly amazing to see the impact that our friends and their friends (and their friends) could have on our brand.
We’ve thanked them numerous times, but if you’re reading this, and you participated in our campaign, then thank you again. It was instrumental to us building Harry’s.
While it’s very difficult to attribute its success to one specific variable — the code, the tactics, the idea — we thought we’d share our story in the hopes it might help you with your future endeavors. We have no doubt that you can tweak and improve this early experiment, and we look forward to learning from your future successes.
Jeff, Andy, and The Harry’s Team
Afterword from Tim: For an advance look at what I’ll be doing with e-mail, click here. I am also creating my own micro-site (a la Harry’s) and will be sharing all of my tweaks and findings with you.
Look forward to your thoughts and questions in the comments!
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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209 Replies to “How to Gather 100,000 Emails in One Week (Includes Successful Templates, Code, Everything You Need)”
Tim + Jeff: this looks like a beast of an article. Lots of gems just from skimming. Look forward to reading in depth this evening.
Could you give more tips on making people feel special? How does it tie into the concept of exclusitivity?
Great post. Love the specifics on making referrals a natural process.
Wow, this is awesome. Thank you for sharing Tim, Jeff & Andy!
This is definitely something I’ll be sharing with the bands that I coach and manage. Thank you!
Looks great – thanks you guys! Hope to put some of this to use in building my band’s audience – job #1 for any independent musician. Any tips on how creative types might specificially adapt some of what you did?
I’ve been coaching bands for many years, and can confidently say that for this to translate to your band, several things need to be in place: (1) Know your Ideal Fan extremely well. Methods such as Michael Port’s Red Velvet Rope Policy work well for this. (2) Interview your ideal fans. Methods such as the Lean Canvas and interviewing for it, like laid out in The Lean Startup or The $100 Startup, work extremely well for this. (3) Brand yourself very well in everything you do, based upon your core message and what you know both conveys that message to and attracts your Ideal Fan.
At that point, you’ll know precisely what to offer potential fans, including where and how to offer it to them.
Great post! The links to the engineering teams explanation of the code do not work however. Would love to see that!
Great article….a LIST is worth GOLD!
All of my team has printouts. Homework before our 8:30 meeting
Great post full of a simple plan. I always enjoy getting the chance to peek inside of companies strategies. Thanks for sharing. It reminds me a lot of the MailBox App when it first launched, or when Dropbox launched…I still haven’t paid for the service.
Kudos for the transparency, great to read the reasoning behind your decisions, even down to the details in the copywriting. Just lost about 15 minutes browsing your site, ‘Five O’ Clock’ magazine, and social media profiles.. the branding is fantastic, there’s a consistent polish to everything.
Now just wish I was American so I could apply for your designer vacancy in NY!
So getting people to sign up and having to give away free stuff is interesting, but whats the conversion rate?
would love to know this as well
If you’re giving out free stuff, expect the conversion rate to be very high as opposed to an ordinary e-mail signup request.
But this is not giving away free stuff, but a basic affiliate/referral system where you get compensated in free product – and this is not mentioned before signup (at least not on the landing page, only potentially in the content that brought people there).
I would also love to know your landing page conversion rate…
Thank you for sharing so freely, some great stuff in there!
Amazing Tim/Jeff. You guys are killing it!
This blog is the best. You are a good man.
Thanks for the GREAT article! Very informative. I will definitely put these strategies and tactics to use on my future projects.
This is amazing and very timely for me. Thanks Tim and the guys from Harry’s.
It looks like there is a couple of links missing here: “For the engineers out there, you can see our engineering team’s explanation of the code here. As for the code itself, check it out here.”
Yes, the links are missing. Jeff or Tim?
Yes, i realized that too
Thanks for posting all of this!
Great post! Jeff – If I may ask, who is your distribution partner?
Great Stuff, Some ideas are new.
Tim, I’m curious. What was the sales rate, if any, from the launch, from the 100k in email collected. Is that info available.
Every e-mail costed them around $2.
Interesting to know is what was the conversion rate from those 100,000 e-mails to see if it was worth it, considering the short margins.
Anyways, very helpful article. Thanks
Okay, wrong math.
Every e-mail costed them 0,5$ as they spend around $50,000 on products (purchase value). I suppose it was money well spent then 🙂
Is there a wordpress plugin that can do the same?
Awesome post, thanks for sharing. Loved how you have used the viral “referral” principles from Jonah Berger’s Contagious with a successful real world example.
Reminds me of how Zappos started with their twitter strategy.
Good luck to you in the future – not that you need luck!
Tim, I do hope this is about hacking your bio-chemistry. 4HB was a blast and you have the gift (as well as the pleasure) and the connections to advance in this field. The talk with Rhonda Patrick was amazing. keep it up bro!
This is just what I needed! thank you guys! I recently moved and relaunched my blog from one domain to a brand spanking new .uk one which am really happy about!
At the moment I am writing an eBook on blogging and the technical aspects of it and was thinking of selling it for say $15 or so! I had thought about giving away the first few chapters for free for a signup.
I had just set up mandrill and mailpoet together and just set up a simple subscribe form in my sidebar with an image of my new upcoming book that would take the user to my download page for the first three chapters.
However the more I think of It the more I think I should set it up like this with a subdomain spashpage! And offer my complete book to people who refer 5 signups!
Many thanks for the inspiration! I will be sure to let you know how it went!
– Phillip Dews
We released a WordPress plugin based off a very similar method a couple of weeks ago and have had similar results.. one user collected over 300,000 from a single prize launched with only one email blast and one tweet – the webpage wasn’t even configured with any images or design.
As this article mentions in the last paragraph it’s hard to attribute success to a specific variable and replicating it is very much a guessing game. It’s clear these guys put in a lot of work to ensure a successful campaign which likely attributed to the success.
From my own personal observations of a number of similar campaigns recently the key is getting enough momentum to create a tsunami – it’s like a small wave in the ocean that gathers more and more momentum until it’s being shared every 30 seconds for 7-10 days straight.. but like a wave if it dies off before it becomes a tsunami then results may not turn into a life changing event.. but it’s still one of the fastest ways to grow a list!
Could you please share the WP plugin you reference?
If you click my name on the post above it will take you to our website. I did not mention the actual name in my post as this is primarily about Tim’s blog and Harrys code but since a few of you are asking..
Ditto Tarik’s comment, can you let us know which plugin this is? Cheers!
Hi, Did you find this out? I’m looking for a WP solution as well.
How do you plan your giveaway if you don’t know how much is you conversion rate from the emails ? I understand if you make a lottery of something. But if you give it away like they gave away the blades, you might loose a lot of money.
Hey mate, yea the ruby code to implement this campaign is way outdated, does your plugin come with templates etc? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
This came in the nick of time. Cheers!
Does anyone know of a WordPress app that can run the same type of referral contest?
Did you find any. If so can you email me @ email@example.com
Awesome. Lots of great ideas!
Thanks for sharing your story! It’s rare that somebody would include templates and code for reference, which is a huge help. I love the way you formed your strategy and I’ve learned a lot from this post. I’ll be looking forward to future content. Good luck!
Fantastic insights, thank you so much for being so transparent and sharing everything!
Thanks for the article, Tim. Is there any way to duplicate this process via WordPress that you know of? I am using an affiliate Plug-in & I am not sure if it’s the same as far as getting people to sign up & measuring their rate of sharing. Any help would be much obliged. Thanks!
As someone who has worked in email marketing for a decade I can tell you with absolute certainty that Harry’s problems are just beginning and I’d urge any business to research much more widely before embarking on a viral campaign like this with email.
Rapid list growth like this becomes a nightmare for on-going engagement once the initial “FREE STUFF!” campaign ends. Expectations are now sky-high. The churn rate on the subscriber list could burn your sender reputation unless engagement is sustained, relevant, and meaningful. This could mean that email delivery becomes much slower (higher deferrals), inbox placement suffers (we live in the age of the priority inbox and smart sweeping), and you burn through your SendGrid IPs and get your account closed. Future marketing via an email channel is going to suffer.
This campaign also teeters on the very edge of what is legal. In the EU, for example, this kind of viral campaign is incredibly close to looking like a dodge of the prior consent rule. In the eyes of the UK’s ICO, the “instigator” of the message is not the 3rd party — it’s Harry’s. Therefore Harry’s are responsible for any malicious act resulting from this campaign and any distress it caused people who did not welcome receiving the viral email.
I also hope that Harry’s were very clear in the management of the data. The email addresses of the forwarded contacts are not owned by them and they do not have consent for further marketing activities without an explicit opt-in. Or double opt-in as they’re US-based.
double opt-in is not a requirement in the US, it’s a courtesy, and preventative. That’s why a lot of ecommerce companies are opt out only.. You’ve discredited everything you’ve said with one sentence.
Awesome sauce, thanks guys. Launched a couple of products recently and went down the PR route with mixed success, this feels much more organic and natural. Time to learn, apply and iterate for the next launches!
Tim and Jeff – wondering what your thoughts are about ‘off the shelf’ product launch/ splash/ recruitment platforms like launchrock and unbounce?
Awesome and ultra-actionable article! Any suggestions/ideas on referral rewards for a pre-launch free, social, community-driven app?
Thanks a ton!
Great story and love the transparency!
I’m sorry, I am so sick of articles like these. “hey would put up a splash page, a cute slogan and social networking icons and we got 100,000 sign ups!”. BULL. Why didn’t you mention the amazing (and expensive) press you used? 99.9% of people don’t have the money to invest in something like that. But titles like these really get people to read these generic blogs right?! 🙂
Do you have proof of that? Would be pretty eye opening to see that their success was mainly due to the expensive press
Awesome info! Step 6 is a great way to deal with scammers. However, it seems a few links were left out of the following sentence under General Campaign Design:
“For the engineers out there, you can see our engineering team’s explanation of the code here. As for the code itself, check it out here.”
Are you kidding me? I have bought $97 ebooks and sat through $5000 internet marketing boot camps that had more fat and less meat than that juicy article!
My BIG takeaway? Both Harry’s and FHWW grew the exact same way…word of mouth. When you create something epic, with some social sizzle something magical happens.
Saying thank you for this article isn’t enough…must…share…with…friends!
I really love the actionable steps here! Very commendable to take the “open source” process to your whole vision. I’m curious, how would you go about this scenario if you were offering an app or a service that may not have as much opportunity for someone to earn free product? Early beta codes? Free swag?
Thanks so much, guys!
Hey Tim, why don’t you create a 4-hour solution for male patterned baldness. It looks like you could use that solution.
I’ll follow this to the “T” for our launch of [Moderator: link removed] . It would be so great to have it take off like a rocket and apparently, we have more control over that than I thought !
Absolutely love this idea. The thing that pops up for me was being human, authentic, real, to make the email list grow quickly.
I dig their creative approaching to boosting subscriber counts but feel more than anything, being personable is the way to go. Making special people feel special is the key to business success. It’s all about the feeling, the listening, and serving, and paying strict attention to detail.
I launched a new blog 2 weeks ago. My #1 intent was to make each reader and social sharer and commentor feel really special, by doing all I could to respond to every comment and social interaction possible. I’ve been up late at nights, but it’s so worth it as my blog took off quickly.
Listen, Engage. Connect. Ask. Answer. These simple acts preclude tremendous accomplishments, just like yours…..and the woolly mammoth doesn’t hurt either.
I also note the strict attention to detail, including the research done to find the best, most comfortable but effective razor blade. Savvy marketing rocks but the product provides some serious juice too, and when you’ve made folks happy, they will spread the word for you, making your job a little bit easier.
Thanks so much for sharing Tim. You rock.
I’ll be tweeting in a little bit to get this one out bright and early, EST time.
Signing off from Savusavu, Fiji.
Enjoy your day!
Get the f*ck out of here. No way this actually works. Sheesh.
You are certainly wrong. Over the course of previous year I worked as a freelance developer on dozens of projects based on Harry’s prelaunchr, and most of them managed to gather more than few thousands of real emails without spending much money on marketing.
This was killer Tim! Thanks for sharing it bro.
Again, it’s a case of who you know.
While, it’s nice to share your methods, many sites have launched with referrals and most don’t do well, because they simply don’t have a team of people with friends and family that give a crap about what they do.
What about the micropreneur, who’s family/friends don’t have a clue what they do? Think throwing up a referral site will do anything – Nope, again, they don’t know the right people in the beginning.
These sites all work on the same simple principle – it’s all who you know.
If friends and family won’t promote it for you there’s always a thing called social media and paid ads. 😉
I’m a micropreneur, and I am launching a coffee product design company. I launched a campaign similar to this and just had to increase the value offered until it exploded today and went viral. I got over 1,000 email sign ups today and its increasing exponentially. It’s not about who you know, its about offering value.
Bravo on your execution! We’ve been experimenting with email marketing in the legal space and have had some recent successes. I’m always interested in learning about successful marketing campaigns. Thanks Tim.
Hey Tim, Jeff and Andy, I really enjoyed your article. Great stuff. Thank you.
Brilliant. Bookmarked. I plan on reading this over and over… (like many of posts from this blog)
Anyone plan on deploying this soon?
Awesome! It seems to be a running theme lately with startups. The more you give and truly appreciate your customers, the more you receive. Would love to hear an update in 6 months or so to see how their initial launch continues to pay off for them.
Love this write-up. One thing I noticed in the copy that two links are missing.
In this paragraph you have the following text:
>>When a referral—say, a friend of that first user—comes to the site using a unique link, we save it as a cookie we can use to find the email address responsible for the referral. For the engineers out there, you can see our engineering team’s explanation of the code here. As for the code itself, check it out here.
Yet both of the links that say “here” and “here” are not linked. Would love to see those links. I know that the code itself was linked above by Tim in the sidenote, the Github link…but the explanation by the engineering team was not – unless it is further down in the article, which I haven’t finished reading yet. So if it is, I apologize in advance 🙂
No need to code up your landing page. Launchrock allow you to set up the same sharing mechanism with excellent referer data that you can slice and dice afterwards. Used it on many launches including the eBook launch of The Obree Way to great effect.
See some advertising 🙂 professional question, did you scan web for keywords, or you find article first?
Would have been good to see this article before we launched our product. But still very helpful. Thanks
I suppose you could still apply most of these tactics for a new product launch (or a re- iteration, relaunch or whatever). You could actually do a specific microsite as well I suppose and then later integrate to your main site with a redirect (as Nikon and many others do with new products, for example)…
Also: I think the main message here is probably just to leverage your networks by tapping the extended network of’em and so on, which you can do anytime. I think these days people are so accustomed to regular marketing that “personal” messages are way more effective, and some form of reward system obviously helps as well…
Just saying. You can make this work.
Well one good read. Learnt a lot.
I have been following the four hour body diet for over 2 years. While I am reducing fat and getting thinner, I find that my semen volume has gone down a lot, presumably due to lack of carbohydrates. Is there something I can do to solve this while continuing to be on diet ? I am really trying to see how I can get some advice here and would be grateful for suitable advice that comes.
?? My advice would be to post your question elsewhere and delete it from here. Your question HAS NOTHING to do with this article. NOBODY here cares about your diet, let alone your semen volume. TMI.
Hands up, great article!
Can’t wait to read Tim’s tweaks…
Implemented the strategy in my App site in less than a night. Awesome! Thanks Tim!
[Moderator: Link removed]
First of all, thank you for contributing this article (and to Tim Ferriss for posting it). I found it very helpful.
Because I am always curious as to the other factors involved, would you be willing to elaborate on any other advertising you used during the pre-launch phase? You mentioned no PR push (which is interested and runs counter to a lot of advice you see coming out of YC and other startup advisors, although understandably also counter to you “ground-up” referral campaign). Still, really no Google AdWords, no social ads, no AdRoll or similar?
Thanks again for writing this article.
CEO, High Touch Courses
Awesome thank you! I look forward to implementing these ideas. Ill let you know how it goes!!!
Extremely valuable information once again. Really insightful and actionable. Already downloaded the code and started looking into it.
Thanks for Sharing, Harry’s!
Excellent write-up, thanks for sharing!
Awesome content! I will use this for building my list.
Well done and great article! 😉
Great detailed info. Now trying to brainstorm a great product idea that could be marketed just as well as this one has! Just goes to show though that it can be as simple (or actually complex) as a shaver!
Awesome article! We are doing our launch on Labor Day and decided to implement this to build up our email list beforehand. After a couple of technical glitches and some mid-campaign sweat, we’re finally up and running. Thanks Tim and the team at Harry’s for sharing!
Brilliant Insights. M going to use couple of insights while launching my product!!
I will have to check this out and see how well it goes 😛
Love the open source sentiment of this article. Do you think that this rewards tactic can work on luxury products as well? Luxury products wouldn’t be able to give away products, but could offer a discount? As this is less tangible, it feels less rewarding to me. What do you think?
Please, please put the missing links in (For the engineers out there, you can see our engineering team’s explanation of the code here. As for the code itself, check it out here).
Great case study! It would be even more interesting to see the numbers and the values of the orders. But I could understand that this data is not to go public.
How many days before the launch did they start the prelaunch campaign? Did not they use ads at all to drive traffic to the microsite?
Wow! Fantastic article.
Thanks for sharing so much great information.
Just got my site up….tweaking it some, but I really appreciate your work (and sharing it) and Jim Deville, my coder friend for all the help!!! prelaunch.gymnastcare.com
Thanks Tim for bringing these guys on!!!
Your app looks great! Did you deploy it yourself or did you outsource it? Also if you don’t mind me asking how to the back-end mechanics work? Where do the emails you gather go? How are discount codes generated?
Thank you Tim and the people at Harry’s for sharing this. Can I use mailchimp’s sign up form within your code? Because I use Mailchimp for my list.
Nice stuff, with the help of simple strategy a brand can be created easily. Mediums of internet are really helpful in reaching to millions of people.
Curious if you considered making it “invite only”? We are launching a new concept and discussing the pros/cons of creating exclusivity
so niceee.. a very useful rails app
I did this exactly to the T. sent it out to a list of 700 people who signed up to find out more info, shared it on our business page that has almost 3,000 likes, had my team blast it on their own facebooks, twitters, their own email lists, posted it in different groups. we are barely reaching 500 signups on this and its been over a week and ours is for free womens activewear which is one of the most popular trends out there for women right now. so… 100,000 in one week from just this? hmm must be some other secret in there.
It’s who you know!
Love the depth and transparency!
The Harry’s team: This is a classic business story I have ever heard!!I have been enjoying each and every line you wrote there.. Very much informative and useful to the aspiring entrepreneurs. Many people fail to successfully launch a campaign despite having great products and people.. this is an eyeopener for all businesses in the digital world..
@Tim, We wonder how and where you get the success stories of businesses.. Truly amazing.. No wonder why people visit your website/blog repeatedly.
Thanks a ton!!
Loved this post!!! such a great idea. Will try to implement it to my launch!!!
Awesome post. Very eye-opening for someone who isn’t too savvy with coding and garnishing thousands of emails.
Thanks to you and the Harry’s team for sharing. Does anyone have a cache of the page at https://prelaunch.harrys.com/uniquereferralcode ? Thank you in advance.
Every campaign deserves a well-thought out approach that covers all the holes and ensures everything runs smoothly. Great insight regarding scalability and growth of consumer products. I imagine there is a different technique to engage other industries such as B2B
This is an amazing case study. A couple of things I wanted to point out.
1. The virality achieved was amazing, but still wasn’t the “hockey stick” style that people seem to expect… no matter how unrealistic the expectation is. Having 77% of the leads come from sharing though… is great. It’s probably because:
2. The lowest level goals felt achievable. Getting 5 people to do something for a reward feels very plausible for most people. Having the stepped goals gave everyone something they could look forward to, but still provided fuel for:
3. The influencers at the high end feeling like their efforts were worthwhile. It provided something for them to look forward to.
Because they weren’t getting > 1 people signed up for every single signup they still had to do a LOT of work to market their idea and get the word out.
They were willing to give away a lot. Some people don’t make the awards worthwhile. Giving away product to 3,000 people is not cheap… but probably cheaper than if they’d had to replace all the referrals with purchased traffic.
[Moderator: link removed]
[Moderator: link removed]
how about with floral ideas? how can i grow my subcribers?
This is exactly how a referral campaign should look like. This is proof why ebooks and giveaways are not working. People want physical products in exchange for a share and the product must be something that’s worth sharing. I once offered a Samsung Galaxy tablet for those who get the most people sign up for my mobile app and no one shared the website. I am not sure if the tablet was the only reason for people not sharing it, but it definitely played a part. Maybe it scared people off that only one person could have won it. Next time I will offer cheaper products for the first 10 persons and see how it goes.
thanks for this great article. I use a similar technique collecting mailing adresses. The hints to avoid fraud are champion.
Tim, the link in your afterword doesn’t work anymore. Plus: Have you written that post about your own micro-site yet? I don’t remember having seen any such post in my inbox. If so, could you share the link, please?
Many thanks Tim and Jeff from Harry’s for the great story and launch. It would be interesting to see how such a thing could be pulled off in Europe with multiple languages, sales taxes etc.
Tim, would be great to hear some international stories as well from time to time.
Nice! I really just got hooked into Email marketing a few month ago and wished I had got into it earlier. Small question: I’m starting a blog and would like to know if it is allowed to repost part of this post… By the way, reading 4 hours works really changed my perception on life. I used to only think about money and lived a pretty boring life. After introducing your techniques and the concept of lifestyle design into my life: I now have a steady income from my investments, I’ve travel the world, lived in 4 different countries, became fluent in 4 different languages and I am now building a massive business (while I keep travelling). Thanks for all the inspiration. Still got a lot of work to do to get where you are but I am on my way.
Like the insights here – who wouldn’t want to get more customers, especially in the early stages. They are worth their weight in gold!
Why wouldn’t want customers, especially early on when they’re worth their weight in gold! Great post!
Wow guys! This is amazing! We’re just about to launch our new product (a sneaker discovery platform) and are using this to a build up our email database beforehand. By any chance would you be able to share with us the open and click through rate from the email list you generated? Also, if it’s not too personal the cost of the prizes that you gave away?
We’re trying to work out how we can make this as cost effective for us as possible.
YO! In the paragraph following” the html for the uniquereferral code, there are some a couple of inactive referrals to some code: the words “here”:
“. . . you can see our engineering team’s explanation of the code here”
“as for the code itself, check it out here.”
Tim this was a great article showing the kinds of success that can be had with some forethought. I loved it,
Thank you! This is very helpful. I’m working out a plan for a new website and have been looking all over the web for information. You have more on this one page than others have had on their entire sight. I got hung up on something to give away because others have made it seem so difficult. I appreciate the help very much.
great post. i read it a while ago and now i’m actually about to execute something similar. i wonder how do you guarantee the quality of the email addresses provided?
In order to identify and block fake email addresses you can use one of the approaches which I used on various prelaunch websites:
1. Limit the number of signups from the same IP address. If you don’t do it, then you can be sure that more than 50-70% of all submitted emails will be unreal 🙁
2. Ask users to confirm their email addresses by sending them confirmation links.
3. For each winner you can calculate these metrics:
– Average number of referrals of winner’s referrals. Let’s say if some bad guy submitted 10 fake emails, then his “main” email will have 10 referrals, but all his fake emails will have ~ 0 referrals. So, average number will be close to 0.
– Average time difference between winner’s signup and signups of his referrals. I suppose that this number will be really small for fraudulent accounts, because nobody will want to wait a couple of hours in order to submit a lot of fake emails.
– Percentage of winner’s referrals whose IP addresses belong to the same country as IP address of the winner.
Of course, to get better results you need to somehow combine all above-mentioned approaches.
Great results with 100k emails in 7 days but
it’s not the quantity but quality of emails that really matters. 10k quality emails could convert to more sales than 100k emails of mostly people who aren’t interested in the product.
1) Were these quality emails or people that mostly just wanted free stuff?
2) How much did the campaign earn?
“For example, some of our friends could reach entire companies. We’d ask people individually share Harry’s with their teams.” Most people don’t have access to CEOs. So I’m curious
3) How many companies were reached?
4) How Big were they?
.” These were largely people who were close to us with large followings or access to companies that sent out blasts on our behalf.
5) How large were the followings? 50k 100k or more?
6) How large were the company blasts?
Tim, please tell us the answers.
I would like to think the average person could get similar results by following this strategy but until we have the answers to these questions we won’t know if the average person would be lucky to get 100 emails or less in a week following this same plan..Until we have these answers (although it looks like a detailed plan of action to get approximately 100k emails in a week) it’s really just another general article that offers us potentially false hope.
The title to this article makes it sound like you just plug in to the strategy and WALLA you have the magic recipe on
How to Gather 100,000 Emails in One Week (Includes Successful Templates, Code, Everything You Need)
I really hope it is a real recipe for the average person with less resources and connections to get similar results. Please show us.