Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Liam Valentine.
The business I run is SexToysForMen.Co -- the .com was taken by a domain seller, unfortunately, yet the .co domain has sufficed.
We currently sell to a wide range of men and some women. We entered into this space not entirely sure what to expect or who would purchase from us.
Our goal was namely to raise awareness of the pleasurable potential of prostate massage, and as a result, we’ve found that there isn’t specifically a target market.
In other words, our customers are people from all walks of life. Men from all sorts of demographics and backgrounds. And in some cases, women who want to support or surprise the men in their lives. Or simply women who happen to buy from our women’s collection.
As of now, we gross around $2,000-$3,000/month in revenue, so it isn’t something to write home about necessarily, however, this journey has been very rewarding.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
So now you’re probably wondering… why in the world are we in this business? And how did we get started?
Well, we’re glad you asked.
We’d already been involved in the internet marketing world for several years and we were interested in trying out a different niche.
Pick something your gut is already leaning towards then just do it.
Something unique and something you don’t normally see. We actually didn’t have something like adult toys anywhere on our radar, and basically stumbled into it.
We were messing around with an SEO tool when we discovered that the domain SexToysForMen.Co was available, and thought, “What the heck, let’s give it a go.”
And the rest is history.
There was no examination of markets, brainstorming sessions, or anything of the sort. We just saw the domain was available and decided to go for it.
Everyone on our team has another larger business project of their own, so this was more of a ‘side-gig’ for all of us. We believe this may have been an important factor in our success--small that it may be--because none of us have lost sleep over whether or not this project succeeds.
Likewise, it is given us the freedom to experiment with the business however we choose, without fear of losing customers or something similar.
Lastly, none of us are ‘newbies’ to the internet marketing space. We didn’t walk into this not having a clue how to drive traffic to a website.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Deciding on our ‘flagship’ product took some experimentation.
None of us had experience with sex toys, especially of the male variety, and we had to do some browsing on Amazon to see what was popular.
Now don’t get us wrong, a few of us had messed around with cock rings, vibrators, and the like in our personal lives.
But prostate massagers?
That was something completely brand new.
Moreover, we had to find out what really ‘got the job done,’ so to speak, with regards to prostate massage. We ultimately never decided on creating our own product from scratch and wanted instead to differentiate ourselves through marketing.
We decided instead to pick a well-built model of a product already in existence and then go ahead and order it through Alibaba.
Initially, our primary offer was our C-Type Prostate Massager marketed with a Free + Shipping offer, but over time we decided to move into full retail and wanted to offer something at a higher price point.
That was when we decided to forgo the Free + Shipping offer and instead focus on marketing the 10-Speed Prostate Massager. The 10-Speed is overall a higher quality product and really is the physical manifestation of what our brand is all about.
It’s worth noting, however, that if you’re starting from scratch, the Free + Shipping offer can be a very viable method for building up an email list to send future offers to.
With respect to start-up costs, we’ve kept this operation lean. Everyone on our team has done what many entrepreneurs do when they first start: spend way too much money on things that don’t matter.
Since this wasn’t our first rodeo, aside from product costs, our only expenses have been the basic Shopify plan along with a few apps.
No fancy Shopify templates, no lavish team-building ‘strength-finder’ software.
None of that stuff.
Just the basics.
At the end of the day, it’s really all you need.
Describe the process of launching the business.
When we first launched it took us about a week to see our first customer. Our entire marketing plan has been all about leveraging free traffic and focusing on virality.
The most difficult aspect of starting this business was determining how to most effectively position ourselves in the marketplace to make ourselves appear different and not like just another ‘run-of-the-mill’ adult toy shop.
As we’ve already discussed, we never moved beyond the basics--as of now, we are still using the default Shopify store theme, albeit slightly modified to our needs. It didn’t take us too long to get things going, yet, to reiterate, our biggest challenge was business differentiation.
If we had a do-over, we would have taken things at a slightly slower pace so we could have fully fleshed out how exactly we planned to make ourselves stand out amongst other online retailers in our niche.
Overall, we feel like we spent a bit too much time second-guessing ourselves the first few weeks of launch: should we have stuck with a different flagship product? Are we sure we should ditch the free + shipping offer and move onto full retail? And so on.
Make your plan, stick to it, then measure the results. If they don’t work out, you can always backtrack and try again.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our entire marketing strategy relies almost entirely on content marketing and referrals. With the nature of our niche, we are very limited in terms of paid traffic channels, and as of now have abstained from them completely.
At some point, we plan to branch out and give them a shot, but as of now, we’d like to stick to organic traffic. Furthermore, we also have been exclusively focused on our own website, so, for now, we have refrained from selling on Amazon--although we plan to in the future.
Our email list accounts for a HUGE chunk of our revenue, around 30%, so we want to put as much effort as we can into growing it. With respect to strategy specifics, what exactly are we doing content-wise to sell sex toys?
As of now, our focus goes into three different areas.
- 1. Blogging
If there is one marketing method that seems to be underrated in the eCommerce world, this is it.
With so much talk of Facebook Ads and Instagram influencers, so many people forget that you can build an entire business just through interesting articles and SEO.
And to top it off? It’s FREE.
Free of charge, that is.
You have to pay with sweat equity--putting your nose to the grindstone and getting it done.
So if there is one thing you take away from this entire interview, let it be that. We are so fortunate we live in a time where you can build an entire business leveraging free traffic channels.
- 2. Free eBooks
The second important aspect of our strategy is free ebooks.
Let’s face it, at this point in time the average person’s attention span is totally shot.
So no, we’re not talking a free 78 page eBook, even if it was chock full of awesome information.
We solely focus on actionable content that can be read in a few minutes or less.
A few minutes?
Because any longer than a few minutes and your eBook probably won’t even be read.
Free information isn’t valued, even if it is valuable, therefore you want it to be of a realistic length so it actually is consumed after it’s downloaded.
Even if you’re someone who actually does read a free eBook in its entirety, most people don’t.
So leverage it!
- 3. Newsletter
As we said above, our email list accounts for a large chunk of our monthly revenue.
Our site isn’t making multi-millions per month like so many others, so ensuring that we are consistently providing value to our email list is very important to us.
We regularly send out interesting, useful, and usable information to our readers alongside a regular newsletter that is fun to read.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As of today, our focus hasn’t changed.
We’d like to continue growing our business organically using the above strategies, with a couple of additions for the future.
First, we’d like to create some sort of video/YouTube presence. What that will be exactly is yet to be determined, but the idea is there.
Second, we want to get onto Amazon. That will most likely happen in the next year or two. Likely sooner.
Lastly, we want to refine our organic reach and improve our SEO rankings.
As our email list and newsletter are so important to us, that is our number one desire.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The most insightful thing we’ve learned through all of this is that, for the most part, nearly every idea you have can probably be done--provided it is executed properly.
In other words, we never saw ourselves working in this niche, and are honestly shocked that it’s generating revenue.
As long as you have a realistic marketing plan that you’re able to regularly execute, your business idea will work.
It doesn’t even have to be something original.
Going off of that, this project has really dispelled the myth of ‘niche-saturation’ in our minds. Provided you actually start and stick with it, your business will work.
The two keys are proper execution and showing up every day--hitting your daily marketing goals. Finally, if this is your first business ever, focus on one--maybe two--marketing channels. Don’t divert your focus.
You need to get the ball rolling before you start thinking about Reddit ads, Twitter ads, TikTok, and whatever else is hot right now.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our favorite tools are as follows:
- eCommerce Platform: Shopify
- Email Marketing: Klaviyo
- FAQ Page: Help Center
- Fulfillment Updates: Aftership
- Page Speed: Kaleido PageLoad Magic
- Payment Processing Protection: PayPal Tracking on Autopilot
- Store Protection: Rewind Backups
- Photo Alignment: Photo Resize by Pixc
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
If you haven’t read them, read them.
They’re both life-changing!
And we’d be remiss if we left out The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz.
I definitely recommend that one, especially if you’ve never been in business for yourself.
It’s very easy to blow through your budget on frivolous stuff you don’t even need, and that book will help you get your mind straight if you find yourself doing that.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You don’t need an original idea. We repeat: You do NOT need an original idea.
Pick something your gut is already leaning towards then just do it. You’ll figure out the details along the way.
Secondly, if your business is online, focus on free traffic first before you move onto paid traffic.
We find it odd how so many ‘YouTube Gurus’ push newbies into paid ads when they still haven’t even generated their first dollar online yet.
In our humble opinion, don’t listen to them.
Too many people we know have blown thousands by following that advice. Learn to make a few bucks using free traffic, and then look into paid advertising.
In our opinion, you should try to reach a certain revenue threshold organically so that when you do start using paid ads, you can simply set aside a portion of the money you’ve already made and use that.
It’s really easy to burn through a lot of money on paid ads and it can sting if you don’t have any cash coming in that doesn’t rely on paid traffic.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
As of now, no, but we may be looking for content marketers/writers in the future.
If this is something that interests you, you can reach us at the email below.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Discover the best strategies of successful business owners
Join our newsletter and receive our handcrafted recap with the best insights shared by founders in Starter Story each week.
Useful, convenient, and free:
Are you ready to boost your revenue?
Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!
Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!