Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Scott Purcell, and I’m one of the Co-Founders of Man of Many, one of the world’s largest men’s lifestyle sites and a proudly self-funded, bootstrapped, and independent publication covering the latest in Products, Culture & Style.
Each month we reach over 2 million readers primarily between the ages of 25-44 and have over 700,000 social followers.
Now, a decade into our journey we’ve grown from a part-time hobby to one of the leading home-grown media brands in Australia and globally.
The quality of our work and efforts as a media brand has continued to be recognized by industry peers in several awards as we solidify Man of Many as a trusted voice for readers, and we now turning over more than $4M per annum.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In 2010, I met Frank through a mutual friend, Andrew, while I was just starting my career at Westpac Institutional Bank. A couple of years later, in 2012, after moving into a shared apartment and surviving many shared meals, we conceived the idea of Man of Many. This was a product of my tech geek side and our shared interest in diverse hobbies and cool discoveries we would come across on various websites.
Our concept was a publication tailored to our eclectic tastes since there was a conspicuous gap in that niche. The name, 'Man of Many', credited to Frank, perfectly echoed our wide-ranging interests and the extensive coverage our site would provide. In a stroke of luck, the domain was still up for grabs, a rare occurrence.
In the early days, the website was our part-time endeavor. We were juggling late nights, weekends, and our day jobs to run the site, curating one unique product daily. The positive response and growing readership led us to scale up to two or three products a day, fuelled by the thrill of presenting something new to our visitors every day.
Our enthusiasm and dedication transformed this side gig into a demanding full-time venture. It felt like managing two full-time jobs - our conventional roles and the mounting responsibilities of the site. The realization hit in June 2016 when the intensity of the demands pushed us to take a leap of faith. To my surprise, when I decided to quit my job to focus on the website, Frank immediately followed suit, leaving his position as an industrial designer.
My past experiences of dabbling in blogging and website creation, coupled with our mutual passion and perseverance, fueled the growth of Man of Many. Our success affirmed that we had been onto something special right from the beginning, distinct from any other business idea I had previously contemplated.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
Building the first version of Man of Many was a humble affair. Leveraging my basic WordPress and website design skills, I created a simple page using a customizable theme that fit our needs.
We began with a consistent content strategy, focusing on a single product per day. Without a background in SEO, these were fairly poorly written 50-100 word descriptions but we wanted to ensure that each day someone came to the site, there would be something new for them to discover.
I believe they largely came back to us for the quality of our curation and choice of products as we were very much own own audience and target market.
The initial content strategy was to create a men's gear blog, focusing on showcasing the latest trends in men's products, culture, and style. We aimed to help men discover new products and keep them ahead of the pack in areas such as tech, fashion, autos, design, adventure, and entertainment.
The content was designed to be fresh and exciting, targeting an audience of influencers, tastemakers, and opinion leaders who were affluent, savvy, and actively seeking lifestyle inspiration, entertainment, and purchasing advice.
Operating part-time, our work spanned over four years, during which we gradually expanded our content. As we progressed, we increased our sponsorship pricing for advertising.
There might be times when progress seems slow, but remember that every small step takes you closer to your goal.
Navigating the media and advertising industry proved to be a real challenge, especially since many of our deals came from PR firms instead of advertising agencies. However, despite the persisting barriers, we were committed to fostering these relationships.
We both brought unique experiences to the table; my background in institutional banking provided us with a firm understanding of financial management, while Frank's design expertise informed our creative decisions. We combined our skills to curate content, oversee video productions, and negotiate brand alignments.
In the early days, our ambitions were modest; we hoped for a few freebies, but as we began to fill a significant gap in the market, we realized the potential of our venture. We transitioned to creating premium content for a male audience, and our site's growth skyrocketed. After deciding to go full-time, we tripled our traffic in just a year, reaching 250,000 people monthly.
By December 2016, the site was generating over 500,000 page views and 250,000 unique visits per month, with a combined social following on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram of 84,000.
Being consistent with our content and enhancing our production quality played a significant role in our growth. We started taking more of our photos, producing our videos, and partnering with brands to tell the stories behind products, not just standard product reviews. We had to adapt our approach to platforms like Facebook, diversifying the type of content we shared to maintain reader interest.
As we continued to grow, we started focusing on video content, hiring a videographer to help us create compelling visual stories. This shift has greatly improved our engagement, especially on Facebook. In addition to producing and sharing videos, we've also hosted competitions and giveaways, which have helped grow our online following.
The decision to work full-time on Man of Many allowed us to broaden our content, moving into video production, lifestyle pieces, how-to guides, and more. Today, we're proud to be working with global brands, producing engaging content, and hosting in-person reader events.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our launch strategy was straightforward: we were committed to sharing one intriguing product per day with our readers.
This steady approach ensured our audience knew exactly what to expect when they visited our site, fostering a sense of trust and anticipation. It took us just a few months to begin seeing a surge in visitor numbers, particularly as many men's lifestyle magazines, such as GQ and Men's Health, had not yet shifted their focus online.
To begin with, I built a simple website, with a clean interface that allowed readers to easily navigate through our selection of products. Unfortunately, I don't have screenshots of the original website, but it was quite minimalist, with an emphasis on high-quality images of the products we were showcasing.
Alongside the website, we established our initial online presence on various social media platforms, growing our follower base organically through regular posting and interaction with our audience.
In the early stages of our journey with Man of Many, we recognized the importance of establishing an online presence not only through our website but also on various social media platforms. This multi-platform approach was crucial in reaching a broader audience and engaging with them in different ways.
We interacted with our audience through regular posting of content and direct engagement. This included responding to comments, participating in discussions, and even hosting live sessions or Q&As.
We believed in the importance of building a community around our brand, and these interactions helped us to understand our audience better, respond to their needs, and build stronger relationships.
Given that we were a small team of two, we had to be smart about how we managed our time and resources. We utilized automation tools like IFTTT and DLVR.IT to automate the sharing of our articles on social media platforms. This allowed us to maintain a consistent online presence and ensure our content reached our audience, even when we were busy with other aspects of running the site.
We also experimented with posting a mix of content formats like videos, articles, memes, and images to each platform. This allowed us to see what types of content resonated most with our audience on each platform. By monitoring the engagement levels of different content types, we could adapt our strategy and focus on creating and sharing the content that our audience found most valuable and engaging.
The financing of the business was mainly bootstrapped by Frank and myself, with occasional assistance from credit cards to cover the initial costs. The expenses, in the beginning, were mainly focused on website hosting, domain registration, basic marketing, and procurement of products.
We managed to keep costs relatively low by handling most tasks ourselves, such as web design and content creation. We didn't use Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding method as our strategy was more focused on organic growth and reinvesting profits back into the business.
Looking back at the whole process, there were numerous lessons learned. Perhaps the most important is the value of consistency and patience. It takes time to build an audience and establish a brand, especially in the digital world.
Moreover, we learned the importance of keeping our tone approachable and relatable, especially when writing about premium products. We were determined not to appear elitist or exclusionary. This lesson helped us foster a strong connection with our audience and allowed us to continually grow and evolve our business over the years.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since our launch, we have focused on leveraging a comprehensive and nuanced strategy to attract and retain customers. As the largest men's lifestyle site in Australia, we've learned valuable lessons that aspiring founders might find insightful.
One of the most significant is the need for a multi-faceted approach: we have not relied solely on organic search traffic or social media but rather used a combination of strategies to maximize reach and engagement.
Our strategy has included an emphasis on Social Media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Email Marketing, Partnerships, and high-quality Content Production.
Our strategy relies heavily on producing original short-form videos, which are specifically designed for individual social platforms like TikTok and YouTube Shorts. We enhanced this by investing in a dedicated social and video production team, led by a Head of Social and Video Producer.
Our content focuses on fostering community, generating thought-provoking discussions, and driving traffic to our website. For example, our Australian Fashion Week vox pop video resonated with our audience, garnering over 3.5 million views.
In the last 12 months, our innovative strategy led to phenomenal growth in our social following, with a surge of 75% to nearly 700,000 followers. Our engagement rates soared by a staggering 1,230%, demonstrating our success in connecting with our audience. We also experienced rapid growth on emerging platforms like TikTok, where we accumulated over 94,000 followers and 77 million video views.
Alongside video content, we've also tapped into the power of platforms like LinkedIn and Pinterest. Our LinkedIn community has grown considerably through daily posts linking to relevant articles and news.
Pinterest, on the other hand, has become our second-largest traffic driver, with more than 10 pins shared daily with our 122,000 monthly followers. Our partnership with Pinterest Australia in June 2023, for instance, allowed us to produce a series of original content for Men’s Health Week, further boosting our visibility.
In our journey with Man of Many, we've found that SEO is a critical component of any successful digital strategy. Here are some specific, actionable tactics we've employed:
Understanding Google's Guidelines: With Google's constant algorithm updates and core updates, it's been a challenging journey. We've found it crucial to closely follow Google's content and review guidelines. These guidelines provide valuable insights into what Google values in a website, helping us align our SEO strategy with these principles. Two key links I would recommend treating like your bible:
Engaging with the SEO Community: We've also found it beneficial to stay connected with SEO influencers on platforms like Twitter. This has helped us stay abreast of the latest trends and updates in the SEO world. We’d recommend following the likes of Lily Ray, Brodie Clarke, Search Engine Roundtable, and Marie Haynes.
Understanding Quality Raters Guidelines: Google's Quality Raters Guidelines PDF provides detailed information about what Google considers high-quality content. We've made it a point to have a solid understanding of these guidelines and incorporate their principles into our content creation process.
To improve E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) for Man of Many, we highlighted our expertise by including detailed author bios and producing high-quality, well-researched content.
We enhanced our authoritativeness by improving our company information, providing clear disclosure statements, and building quality backlinks from reputable pages. This comprehensive approach has helped us establish trust and credibility with both our audience and search engines.
Fixing Technical Site Errors: Technical errors can harm a site's SEO performance. We've used tools like AHREF reports, SEMRush, and Google Search Console to identify and fix these errors, ensuring our site is easily crawlable and indexable by search engine bots.
To improve E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) for Man of Many, we highlighted our expertise by including detailed author bios and producing high-quality, well-researched content.
Employing External Help: We've also employed the help of an external agency to recover from a Google Core update. This has involved a comprehensive SEO audit of our site, including our content, technical SEO elements, and internal linking structure. We've then used these insights to improve our site and recover our rankings.
Utilizing SEO Tools and Documents: We've used a variety of tools and documents to guide our SEO strategy following this audit. These include a Content Decay Tracker to identify content that's losing traffic, a Content Gap analysis to identify opportunities for new content relative to competitors, a Keyword Research document to guide our keyword strategy, and an Internal Linking Audit to optimize our internal linking structure.
In summary, our SEO strategy has been a constant journey of learning, adapting, and improving. We've found that staying updated with the latest SEO trends, focusing on creating high-quality content, fixing technical errors, and utilizing SEO tools and documents have been key to our success.
Our email newsletter is distributed to an audience of 150,000 subscribers at 10 am, 7-days a week, featuring 10 top-performing stories published across manofmany.com in the last 24 hours, along with nine “Products of the Week” for linking to partners and our e-commerce store. This way, readers stay informed at a glance, with an enjoyable snapshot mid-morning of important news and products.
Our Editor-in-Chief selects top-performing posts based on pageviews, social media engagement, and time on site to identify best-fit content. The newsletter is headlined by a feature story, serving as the lead article, with a bespoke subject line to drive enhanced click-through.
Our email marketing strategy has been a significant part of our growth at Man of Many. Here's a detailed look at how we've approached this channel:
We've strategically placed email sign-up forms across our website to encourage visitors to subscribe to our newsletter. These forms are not only visible in the header and footer but also within the article content, on the homepage, and as overlays or anchored formats.
To reduce sign-up friction, our form only requires one field - the email address, and Autofill is enabled to populate previously saved email addresses within the browser.
Our sign-up widget is designed with conversion in mind. It doesn't blend with the background, instead, it features contrasting colors between the widget background and the Call To Action (CTA) button. The CTA button is in a striking red, orange, or yellow color with rounded edges to draw attention and encourage clicks.
Beyond the design, we've personalized our messaging to go beyond the generic "Subscribe to our newsletter". We highlight the value of subscribing, giving visitors compelling reasons to join our email list.
Exclusive Content: We offered exclusive content, such as guides, e-books, or special articles, that were only available to our email subscribers. This provided an incentive for visitors to sign up.
Giveaways and Partnerships: We frequently ran giveaways and partnered with brands to offer exclusive deals or early access to products. This not only provided value to our subscribers but also attracted new ones.
One of the most unique steps we took was utilizing the power of partnerships. By collaborating with relevant brands, we could leverage their audience to drive traffic and sales on our platform.
Our partnership with Google's SHIFT News Consumer Insights provided us with actionable data on reader behavior and engagement. We used this information to refine our content strategy and ensure we were delivering what our readers wanted.
Our strategies for retaining existing customers are deeply embedded in our engagement strategy. We use personalized email marketing and push notifications to re-engage customers. The focus is on delivering valuable and relevant content to our users, thus encouraging them to revisit our site. Additionally, our investment in AI ChatGPT plugin provides an innovative way for users to discover and engage with our content.
Our strategy for optimizing user acquisition for our newsletters was multifaceted and focused on increasing visibility, reducing friction, enhancing aesthetics, and personalizing the message.
Visibility & Position: We ensured that our sign-up box was easily discoverable across articles and placed above the fold. This meant that it was one of the first things a visitor would see when they landed on our page. For desktop users, we focused on inline sign-up boxes, while for mobile users, we used anchored formats.
We also ensured that we were measuring the performance of our newsletter sign-up modules and tracking our newsletter readers in Google Analytics with the correct UTM tags. This allowed us to understand how well our strategies were working and make necessary adjustments.
Once a reader signed up, we sent a "Thank You" or "Welcome" email to acknowledge their subscription and start building a relationship with them.
We made it easier for users to sign up, which led to an increase in our email subscribers to over 150,000, with an open rate increase of 45% from 39.5%.
Our partnership with Google's SHIFT News Consumer Insights was instrumental in these efforts, providing valuable insights into user behavior that allowed us to refine our engagement strategies.
Lastly, we cannot overstate the importance of continuously experimenting, learning, and adapting. As an aspiring founder, you should be prepared to adapt your strategies based on the changing landscape and evolving customer needs.
Our experience of over a decade in digital publishing has taught us the value of adaptability, and it's a lesson that's sure to benefit any startup.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, Man of Many is performing remarkably well. We've seen substantial profitability as we posted a 16.4% increase in revenue in the past year compared to the same period the previous year.
Our gross margins remain healthy, courtesy of our continued effort to control the cost of goods and diversify our revenue streams. Furthermore, we've streamlined our customer acquisition process and continually fine-tuned our ad strategies to ensure a high return on ad spend.
This, coupled with a focus on maintaining a high customer lifetime value, has significantly contributed to our success.
The average time our readers spend on our site is consistently high, with our monthly traffic numbers hitting new records. We attribute this to the captivating content we produce that resonates well with our target audience.
Our conversion rate has been impressive, and we are pleased to report a steady growth in email subscribers, with 150,000 subscribers as of the last count. Our social media following has grown exponentially, showing an increase of 72% compared to last year. This is a testament to our engaging content and effective social media strategy.
The distribution of our content and products is quite diversified. The bulk of our sales come from our online store and our affiliate partners, with whom we generated over $1.7 million in sales in the past year.
It's crucial to build a loyal audience that trusts and values your content before introducing monetization strategies.
In addition, we have exclusive publishing deals with tech giants like Microsoft and Apple that have dramatically broadened our reach. Our content is readily accessible on all iOS devices and Windows PCs, enabling us to reach our readers where they are.
On the operational front, our team has grown by 67% and we have managed to effectively scale our processes to accommodate this growth. We have also focused on increasing operational efficiency and continually improving our best practices.
We have also expanded our product offerings by investing in our content production studio, Man of Many Media. As we move forward, we plan to expand to new products, audiences, and regions to further grow our brand.
In terms of short-term goals, we plan to relaunch our e-commerce store with a larger product range and improved user experience. We are also focusing on further improving our customer acquisition strategies and enhancing our content production capabilities.
Long-term, our goal is to continue growing our brand and solidifying our position as Australia's largest men's lifestyle site. We plan to do this by consistently producing high-quality content, expanding our product offerings, and pursuing strategic partnerships that align with our brand.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Starting Man of Many has been an incredible journey filled with both triumphs and trials. We've learned from every success, mistake, and missed opportunity, using these experiences to refine our approach and make better decisions.
One of the early challenges we faced was learning to delegate. As founders, we were used to handling every aspect of the business. But as we grew, we realized that we couldn't do it all and that delegation was key to managing our workload and sustaining our growth.
This was a tough lesson, but we learned to trust our team and give them ownership of their tasks. We made it a point to hire talented individuals, invest in their development, and foster a culture of transparency and open communication. This approach not only lightened our load but also empowered our team, leading to increased productivity and a positive work environment. It's been a rewarding experience to see our team take the initiative and contribute to the success of Man of Many.
Starting and growing Man of Many (MoM) has certainly been an enlightening journey, rife with opportunities for learning and growth. Opting for self-funding was one of our biggest challenges in the initial stages. Although this approach meant slower growth compared to the turbo-charged journey that external investment can enable, it fostered a more deliberate and measured approach to decision-making.
In retrospect, it seems to have been a blessing in disguise, as it made us scrutinize every decision, weigh our options, and focus on sustainability and long-term growth over immediate gains.
However, this meticulous approach also meant that we delayed some crucial initiatives that we later realized could have accelerated our growth. Implementing features such as infinite scroll, sorting out SEO strategies, and focusing on advertising monetization took a back seat.
The learning curve was steep, but it highlighted the importance of balancing caution with proactiveness and the necessity to keep abreast of technological advances that can enhance user experience and engagement.
Reflecting on our journey, one of the most significant steps we took was the launch of a brand rediscovery project. It allowed us to hone our purpose, vision, and values, providing a guiding compass for our future actions and decisions. This initiative not only transformed our brand identity but also led us to develop HR policies that align with our values. These include a comprehensive Paid Parental Leave Policy, paid pregnancy-related entitlements, flexible work arrangements, Work From Home policies, and Mental Health/Wellbeing days. These actions have solidified our commitment to building an inclusive culture and prioritizing the well-being of our staff.
Moreover, we understood the importance of continuous learning and improvement and aligned with the Google News Initiative to provide our staff with ongoing training and support. This association enabled us to adhere to best practice editorial standards, in line with The Trust Project, emphasizing our commitment to trustworthy journalism.
In a step towards responsible journalism and sustainability, MoM embarked on the journey of becoming carbon neutral and is now working towards securing the government-backed Climate Active certification. Our recent membership with the Australian Press Council further emphasizes our commitment to upholding and promoting high standards of media practice.
The journey has been full of challenges and victories, but the lessons we've learned are invaluable. They've shaped our values, guided our decisions, and will continue to inform our approach as we strive to maintain our status as Australia's largest men’s lifestyle site.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Running a high-traffic website like Man of Many (MoM) involves using a diverse set of digital tools. As the foundation, we utilize WordPress for our website's backend, offering us extensive customization and easy content management. For our e-commerce operations, we trust Shopify because of its powerful features and extensive integration capabilities with other tools.
One of our absolute favorite tools is TickTick, a personal task management platform that helps us stay organized and prioritize our tasks effectively. It's an enhanced version of Google Tasks, and we appreciate its simplicity. Over the years, we've completed thousands of tasks using TickTick, and we highly recommend it to anyone looking for an easy-to-use task manager.
Our team project management needs are covered by Trello, a product of the Australian company Atlassian. This tool's user-friendly system of boards, lists, and cards makes managing complex projects a breeze, breaking them down into manageable parts.
For scheduling meetings, we rely on Calendly. This tool eliminates the back-and-forth emails typically associated with meeting scheduling by syncing with our Google Calendar. It's a flexible solution, allowing us to block out certain days or times and set limits on meeting lengths.
Managing client relationships is a critical part of our business. We utilize Insightly, a cost-effective and simple CRM, that allows us to manage our numerous campaigns efficiently. Despite considering other solutions like Hubspot and Salesforce, Insightly's affordability and ease of use make it a top choice for us.
We are big fans of data, and Looker Studio by Google is our go-to tool for custom report generation. We use it for scheduling daily reports across a range of metrics, from traffic and sales to email newsletters and invoicing.
Finally, for our music needs, we love Hype Machine. It's our preferred source for new music discoveries and offers a great selection of easy-to-work-to tunes, often featuring new artists not readily found on Spotify. It’s a delightful pick-me-up during a busy workday.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The world of digital business is evolving at a rapid pace, and keeping up with the trends requires continuous learning. I draw much of my inspiration and knowledge from a combination of resources, including newsletters and influencers in the digital space.
Search Engine Roundtable, run by Barry Schwartz, is a definitive source of news and updates about search engine marketing and SEO. Its insights help us understand the shifting landscape of search algorithms, which plays a crucial role in our business's visibility and reach.
Marie Haynes' Newsletter is another excellent resource. Haynes is an expert in Google's algorithm updates and search engine penalties, and her newsletter provides critical updates and insights into these often complex topics. It's been an invaluable resource for ensuring we stay in Google's good graces and maximize our SEO effectiveness.
Finally, Lily Ray is a prominent SEO Director, and her expertise in digital marketing is truly inspiring. Following her on social media and reading her articles and thought pieces provide us with fresh perspectives and strategies in digital marketing, helping us stay ahead of the curve.
These three resources have been pivotal in guiding our understanding of the digital marketing landscape and in developing effective strategies for Man of Many's growth.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Starting a new venture is an exhilarating journey filled with both challenges and rewards. Here are some insights I've gathered from my experiences with Man of Many that I believe could be beneficial for budding entrepreneurs.
Firstly, it's essential to remember that success doesn't happen overnight. Patience and persistence are key. We started Man of Many as a part-time hobby and only moved to full-time after several years of hard work and building our base. There might be times when progress seems slow, but remember that every small step takes you closer to your goal.
Secondly, focus on building a brand that aligns with your values. During our journey, we undertook a brand rediscovery project that allowed us to define our purpose, vision, and values. This not only guided our decision-making process but also helped us in building an inclusive culture that resonated with our readers and staff alike. It's tempting to chase trends, but lasting success comes from authenticity and sticking to your core values.
A common mistake I often see is the rush to monetize without first establishing a solid user base and engagement. It's crucial to build a loyal audience that trusts and values your content before introducing monetization strategies. This ensures your revenue generation methods are well-received and effective.
Lastly, don't shy away from leveraging technology and data. We utilized Google's SHIFT News Consumer Insights, conducted a Reader Engagement Audit, and focused on data-driven strategies to understand our audience better and maximize our content reach.
Being an entrepreneur requires a learning mindset. Be prepared to make mistakes, learn from them, and continue refining your strategies. It's a journey of continuous evolution, and the willingness to adapt and grow is what ultimately leads to success. So, keep the faith, stay patient, and remember to enjoy the journey. Your passion and resilience will pave the way for your entrepreneurial success.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Indeed, at Man of Many, we value talent and creativity, and we're continually looking for fresh perspectives to enrich our content. Currently, we are particularly interested in freelance writers with expertise in the field of men's lifestyle, technology, fashion, grooming, and more.
Our freelance writers are responsible for creating engaging, high-quality content in line with our brand's tone and values. Tasks will include writing articles, contributing to brainstorming sessions, and working closely with our editorial team to ensure consistency and quality. This is a paid position with flexible hours, perfect for those who are looking for a part-time commitment that can work around their schedule.
If you're passionate about men's lifestyle and believe you can bring something unique to our audience, we'd love to hear from you. Please send your CV and writing samples to our team at [email protected]. We're excited about expanding our team and looking forward to receiving your application.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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