Pete & Pedro Update: On Diversifying Our Marketing Channels And Growing 40% [$7.2M/Year]

Aaron Marino
Founder, Pete & Pedro
Pete & Pedro
from Marietta, GA, USA
started January 2013
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hi - I'm Aaron Marino, the founder of Pete & Pedro - a premium men's grooming brand. I have one of the biggest men's lifestyle channels on YouTube with 6M+ fans and also have a few other businesses as well including Tiege Hanley, Enemy Sunglasses, and Menfluential Advertising Agency.

Pete & Pedro - my baby as I like to call it - is a Shark Tank featured brand. We target men in the 18-40 range (but it is much wider) looking to help guys boost their confidence by helping them look their best.

I've been on Shark Tank two times... one of the few! Pete & Pedro is focused on the men's grooming market and our core products are our hairstyling/haircare/fragrance products led by Putty, Salt, and REBEL.

We also just launched some amazing body products including a new Deodorant and Balls Powder.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

The past few years have been great for business. With everyone working from home and not going to physical stores or barber shops, there were a lot more men shopping online and we saw a ton of growth that way about 40%.

We look at Amazon as the ultimate sales force. When nearly 50% of all online sales come from one source - you better be there and win. You gotta go where the customers are.

We got very lucky that way, when Covid hit we were doing a break-even analysis just to see how much we would need to make a day to stay in business. A few weeks later it was starting to become clear that from a business perspective everyone being online was helping us since that is where we primarily focus.

Also, I did a video on how to do an at-home haircut which I thought might be useful and it went viral so that helped propel us during some crazy and sad times as many other businesses struggled. The key tip here which you hear a lot on Tik Tok is to look for those viral hashtag topics and quickly make a fun video of it if you can.

You never know what may take off, but at the same time, you can’t have “viral” as part of a guaranteed consistent marketing strategy.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Online marketing is growing up and getting a lot tougher. The costs of advertising on Facebook, Google, etc. have gone up dramatically. And, YouTube has started to get noisy and harder to reach my audience.

My views this past year or so (or at least the men’s lifestyle space in general) have gone down, which is why one of my goals was to diversify our channels and reach since I was the main driver early on and the face of the company. We’ve done a great job of that as we’re now a player on Amazon, SEO, Social, Content, Email, and more – we worked hard to diversify and it has paid off when one area doesn’t do as well.

Since advertising costs have gone up so much, and some of our channel traffic has gone down, we’ve put a big focus on growing our first-party lists. Customer data and information are everything. Our Email Marketing is very powerful with a strong list, and we’ve made a big push into Text Messaging as well via Attentive.

Text messaging is really easy to do but you don’t want to spam your customers. Make sure you only send valuable texts or they will get off your list. We’ve seen strong conversions/returns in this space so we’re going to keep pushing this channel.

There’s no magic wand, usually never is, but right now there’s nothing out there that is crazy converting vs other channels. The biggest thing that we’ve done is decided to go all-in on Amazon vs just being on there. We put our products in Prime/FBA and we’ve seen the growth of over 100% on Amazon.

Amazon is a beast when nearly 50% of all online sales come from one source - you better be there and win. You gotta go where the customers are. We look at Amazon as the ultimate sales force – instead of 1,000s of reps you have the king of online shopping doing a lot of the work for you – you pay for it – but its reach is incredible. You do lose though having the customer information, but you can’t win every battle.

We’ve only hired one employee in the past two years, I like to be lean. This is my own self-funded company, not some big corporate entity. When we advertise it is coming out of my bank account, so I want to be sure it’s going to be as successful as possible. We don’t spend lavishly, we spend strategically.

Hiring the new staff member has been great though as we’ve stepped up our social game big-time, and we’ve been able to pump out so much more video content. There are very few brands that pump out as much content as us and that’s a big part of our strategy.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Again, my goal has always been to want to see this company grow without me. If we can move the needle without me doing videos that would be incredible and that goal is starting to pay off. With budgets being tighter than ever, I think one of the key lessons is don’t be afraid to move around your marketing budget.

Sales are good, but profit is king. I’d rather grow slowly profitably, than fast in the red.

For example, Facebook has struggled the past year with all the Apple issues and conversion tracking so we moved a lot of our budget away from Facebook and over to Amazon and Google. It was a smart move.

Sometimes those numbers can be a little fluffy, but attribution is always key – knowing really what is moving the needle is important. If you don’t think it is the reason, then you should lower your budget there – your gut is more right than you even think if you know your business.

We’ve also slowly but surely grown our Tik Tok channel (I almost have a million followers) so while it’s not a total sales driver for us today, we know it might be… getting started early is so critical to success later on (I sound like a financial advisor! But it’s true) as you likely need a bigger audience if you want to move the needle or hopefully get something that goes viral.

We haven’t done any advertising on Tik Tok yet but maybe down the line, but I’m not looking for brand awareness – we always want sales.

The biggest things I’ve learned in the past year or so, and it sounds a bit silly since it is so basic and critical, but knowing your numbers. Pete & Pedro has grown up. We now do monthly income reporting/evaluations where we break down our entire marketing budget and also do a diligent monthly count for inventory. We’ve fine-tuned our machine significantly from just a mom-and-pop shop a few years ago.

Also, I’m a big profit guy. I don’t care about sales if it doesn’t lead to profit. I’m obsessed with profit and profit margin only. I could care less about more sales if I’m not seeing the success on the bottom line. I think more and more companies and investors are finally coming to this realization… sales are good, but profit is king. You would think this would be obvious, but it isn’t. And, I rather grow slowly profitably, than fast in the red. Pete & Pedro could be a lot bigger, but we wouldn’t be nearly as profitable.

Also, the inventory you start to realize is so critical – it’s your cash that is sitting on a shelf doing nothing. And, with the crazy supply lead times the past year or so and the shipping costs going up dramatically, these numbers add up so fast. As I like to say, no one cares about inventory until there’s a problem. It’s a tough job as when it is quiet that is a good thing!

Over the past few years, we’ve put a focus on really controlling our inventory costs by being super disciplined with counts and models and more. Inventory means a lack of cash flow and money tied up on the shelves. Early on that wasn’t a big deal, but as we’ve grown it has become more important.

We’ve done a good job of grabbing extra inventory for our key SKUs and shrinking our non-essentials. You don’t want to run out of your most important SKUs, but it is okay with your slow movers. Also, don’t be afraid to discontinue stuff. You’ll know pretty quickly if you got a winner or not. Focus on your winners. The old 80/20 adage is so true, pound your hero SKUs and that will trickle down into guys buying other items.

As a leader in the influencer marketing space, I can say it has gotten a bit out of whack. Some influencers are charging thousands of dollars and getting no conversions. This just can’t last as brands won’t do a second deal. Brand awareness is nice, but sales are what the name of the game is… and with now everyone being an influencer people are starting to ignore their messages, too.

Find ways to leverage bigger companies/influencers but that aren’t too big. Look for the medium guys. The two big companies won’t care and the too small won’t be worth your time.

So, I think it is important if you want to be an influencer to be selective with who you want to work with and do what you can to help them succeed. I rather have 1-2 companies paying me for 12 videos vs 12 companies paying me for 1. And, the whole marketing touchpoint is so true – that a customer needs to have like 8 touch points before they purchase from your company. You have to pound the message many times before you get even a believer to be a buyer. We have guys take months to buy a $20 hair Cream!

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

We’ve had some major launches in the past two years and the products have been getting rave reviews. It’s nice to pitch top-notch products. I’m lucky in that I can be very selective – I get way more brand offers for my channel than videos that I can even produce. In today’s age, the number one thing is to be authentic. You gotta believe in the product, or just don’t pitch it. It’s not worth it even for a quick buck.

Back to Pete & Pedro, in the past year or so we’ve launched a Thickening Hair Cream, Volumizing Conditioner, Texture Powder, Ball Powder, Villain Cologne, and just recently a new Deodorant. They are all big hits and our customers love them.

So, I think our big thing for the next 1-2 years isn’t necessarily growing horizontally by adding to our product line too much to grow sales, but vertically with our current lineup. We just need to keep pounding the message that these products are amazing and being aggressive in our advertising that is working, and growing our Amazon store which I think we can double in a few years.

Three years ago when I added our Marketing Director the whole idea was to build a solid foundation for success. It’s taken a bit longer than most because of our leanness, but I think we don’t need to do anything revolutionary next year. We just need to do what we are currently doing better.

I feel like we’re truly a real company now vs. a one-man show when I started. It’s pretty cool to be a part of a team and see the successes. It’s a grind though!

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

I think a lot of this I mentioned above and prior but here you go with my quick tips:

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of reviews. If you don’t have them. Get them. Do whatever it takes. It’s important on your site, and even more so on Amazon.
  2. Stay focused on your hero products. Just keep pounding the same message. It takes so many touchpoints to finally make that sale. Less is more.
  3. Leverage – find ways to leverage bigger companies/influencers but that aren’t too big. Look for the medium guys. The two big companies won’t care and the too small won’t be worth your time. Leverage the middle guys to do something together – always focus on the win-win, too. Think long-term.
  4. Know your numbers. If you’re starting up, start slow on inventory, you can always get more, but make sure it can sell. If you have less inventory you can take that cash and advertise more to move your stuff faster.
  5. Consistency is key. It’s also a grind. If you’re going to do something, make sure you follow thru and do it daily/weekly/monthly. Start slow. There’s always time. Don’t get involved in too many marketing channels until you have enough time to maximize each one.
  6. Get your customers involved with UGC if you can. They can be your best ambassadors. It costs so much less to keep/grow with a customer to buy something new than to acquire a new customer completely. Old adage, but true.
  7. Business is a grind. There’s no magic formula. You will have bumps on the road of both highs and lows. If you believe in your team, don’t change it. Sometimes they will make mistakes and sometimes things are out of their control like a bad economy or an algorithm changing on Google. But, if you think they are the right fit stay the course. Turnover is a killer on so many fronts. Delegate as much as you can so you can focus on growing.

Where can we go to learn more?

Aaron Marino, Founder of Pete & Pedro
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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