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Shipping $36000 worth of Japanese candy (bemmu.posterous.com)
297 points by bemmu on Jan 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments



To get more subscribers, I think you ought to be:

- Writing about Japanese candy. - Making videos about Japanese candy. - etc.

Doing this will attract people interested in Japanese candy, and will pull in potential and real subscribers. Over the long term I think this could be good. I also think the topic of "Japanese Candy" is big enough for you to write/video about it once or twice a week.

As for the service itself - I think it lends well to word of mouth, or at least it could. People get their candy and share it with others, and those others ask where you got their candy. I was a subscriber for probably 4-5 months, and at least two of my friends signed up because of my word of mouth.

Thing is, all three of us have unsubscribed - and for all three of us, it actually came down to the quality of the candy (or perhaps, it came down to our tastes in candy). I know originally (and maybe still) your thing was about sending people Japanese candy they can't get outside of Japan too easily. That's good and all, but in the end, after a while we all realized the candy itself in terms of quality / taste was hit or miss... and with subscription, you can't have too many misses before someone unsubscribes. I'd say I personally enjoyed the candy I got half the time, so I just unsubscribed because it wasn't worth it.

I think finding candy that people will like rather than candy people find different or original is much more important. I think that's the difference between gaining more subscribers naturally through word of mouth and losing subscribers.

At least, that's my opinion on it. I do hope you start revving sales up again, though. I loved the candy when I loved the candy, and I think it's a good idea, but between myself and friends we unsubscribed because we didn't always love the candy :(


This was interesting, thank you.

I'm not sure how to only send the good ones, and that would depend on the recipient's tastes as well. Part of the idea is to try new things, so it seems unavoidable that as I go through all the varieties out there, people will not like some of them.

Some people don't like gummy candy, some really do. Some people are really into "construction kit" type candy, some hate the effort involved and so on.

Perhaps there could be a way to make the subscribers feel like they didn't lose out even if they got something they really hated, but not sure how that would work exactly.


I agree, taste is super hard to figure out -

Maybe if you ran some kind of candy A/B Test.

Send two different kinds of envelopes to people, and keep track of who got what. Then, send a survey to these people to have them rate the candy's they received. After a few months, you should start to have a general idea on what types of candies are liked more and what types are liked less. Even though you'll never have a taste-consensus, you can get a general idea, and modify what kinds of candy you send and the amounts of the kinds of candies you do send.

Or, another way would be to send all the same candy to everyone and send out a survey. Then the next two weeks send another set of candy and run another survey.

Whatever you do / don't do, getting stats and info is really nice.

You can't, unfortunately, please everyone :( so might as well please a group of people _a lot_ and get a group of really evangelical fans, I think.


Right, the only trouble is that if I want to create a community, I have to send the same thing to everyone, otherwise there can be no common discussion about it.

If I totally abandon the community aspect though, then I could start designing the ultimate sequence of candy that maximizes retention. Not sure which is better.


Construction kits with some pre-made sets is probably a good way to go. I would be interested to see if advertising on western manga or anime sites would provide better value for money.


Candy, coffee, cigars, women's shoes/accessories...

There seems like a ton of subscription businesses around and I almost feel there might be room to create a white/gray-label platform that can handle the website, subscription management, payment and shipping labels to potential operators of these kinds of services.

Wondering how big the addressable market is.

UPDATE: http://member.ly already does this according the child comments - awesome!


I launched http://teapeat.com a little over a month ago. I like to call it TAAS: Tea as a Service.

I've had a decent amount of signups since then, but it has leveled off. I hope to share what I've learned so far very soon.


As a tea neophyte, I strongly suggest that you add a link to recommended equipment for brewing loose-leaf tea. I have considered trying to get into tea several times, but could never figure out exactly what I should buy if I want to brew loose leaf tea. (I'm sure I could find something, but I only like buying things off of recommendations.)

This could do 2 things for you:

1) You could earn some money off of an affiliate program.

2) People like myself who are new to tea are unlikely to subscribe to your service without some help. Tell me what I need to enjoy tea (include brewing directions if they don't come with your tea), and I'm much more likely to subscribe.

I would specifically recommend that you recommend a single product with a direct link—not a type of product or brand.


I'm still a bit of a newbie myself, but one thing to consider is how much tea you want to brew in one go.

If you're drinking high quality, delicious tea, I don't think you'll want to settle for only one cup at a time. But the more you brew, the more leaves you need to use.

It's somewhat counter-intuitive, but let's say you use one teaspoon of leaves for one cup of tea, you can't just steep the same amount of leaves longer to get one liter of tea. But you can brew whatever amount at a time, several times. I think the "10 - 15" times on teapeat.com is exaggerated. It's probably closer to 5, and even then, the taste kind of changes along the way.

I brew something like 7.5 deciliters ( http://theoatmeal.com/pl/senior_year/science ) of tea at a time, and that gives me roughly three nice-sized cups. But I need to use roughly four teaspoons of leaves for that.

If you want to get serious about enjoying high quality tea (and who wouldn't!), you might want to invest in a water-boiler that lets you set the temperature. Almost no quality tea can be brewed at 100C.

For Japanese sencha (my favourite type of tea), it appears that roughly 70C is good, which just so happens to be the temperature I get from my water boiler when I ask for 80C. A lucky coincidence.

Another choice you need to make is the kind of teapot you'll use. A glass pot looks pretty with your lovely green tea in it, but will break into pieces when it slips from your hands when you're washing it. True story. A stainless steel pot won't break, and will keep your tea warm for a long time. Then there are other kinds, like cast-iron pots, ceramic ones, etc. I've got a steel pot now, and I'm quite happy with it.


Thanks. I will definitely do that. I actually thought about selling tea "equipment" through the site but for it to be economical I would have to buy a decent quantity. Using an affiliate program may indeed be the better option at this point.


Maybe have a deal where if they pre-pay some number of months, you'll include that equipment with their first order?


Your pricing is insane. At $24/month I can buy a lot of good teas online, much more than "2.5 to 3.5 ounces" you offer.


god, we programmers love to abstract things.


'Just one more layer of abstraction and I can rule the world!'


Well, it could be like an Etsy of subscription services where anyone could easily start one.


http://member.ly/ (no affiliation)


I'm a designer at Memberly — this is precisely what we do. If anyone has any questions/interest, feel free to contact me (email in profile)!


Asking here because I'm sure many people will have the same question...

...how much does your service cost? There's no pricing info on the site :/

Thanks!


Yeah, we're invite only right now so our sales & sign up flow is only given to people we let in. There's an application form if you're interested.

The pricing isn't a secret though, just not advertised. Memberly takes 5% (like Kickstarter) and then Amazon takes their payment processing fee which varies according to volume but is typically 2.9% + $0.30.


On your website there are five subscription services listed. Is there any way to browse for more?


Not yet, we're focused on the provider workflow side of hte product at the moment. The discovery end will come later, when we have more momentum. We're only working with providers that drive their own traffic right now.


Looks great, signing up to see if this could make running Candy Japan easier or provide more payment options.


Yes, that could be useful and I could consider switching to such a service if it was available. I would worry though about giving total control over my subscribers to some outer service that might hike up their prices suddenly.

It would be nice though if someone else dealt with all the different payment buttons, subscription management and just wired me a lump sum monthly and sent the PDF for address labels that I need to print out for shipping.


Do you have any more options to reduce shipping costs? If its your largest expense, you can do more profit with less customers.


I could use a cheaper sending option and that would really boost the profit. That would introduce an initial delay for the subscription start, but of course after that it would not be noticeable for the subscriber.

One time I was experimenting with sending first package using airmail and subsequent packages simultaneously using the cheaper shipping option that was supposed to be 2 weeks slower. But in reality the slower one arrived first and the faster one a day later, leaving subscribers confused.


Try switching a quarter of your subscribers to it and see what the reaction is. If its not bad, move all of them over.


How would you streamline the shipping process?

It would seem that the next wave of movement to web services will be SAAS services that address larger business side services like shipping and piece-meal manufacturing, but I'm not sure how that is going to be done.

/thread-highjacking.



Actually I tried this.

I sent Amazon one pack of candy and then shipped it through them to see how it would work and what it would cost. Had no trouble with the service itself, but it adds a slight cost for me since I have to ship to Amazon and then pay for shipping again.

I sold a pack of candy there for $9.90. After Amazon's fees I got $5.60. Someone bought it from Amazon.com instead of me dispatching it through the API, which would have cost more. The cost for me to buy that candy was $2.05 and shipping it to Amazon cost $4.20.

Of course in reality I would ship much larger amounts, but then there would be new fees too since I would need to clear customs and pay import taxes.

Also it seems we have to attach some kind of label with a bar code to each individual candy because they don't have a normal UPC code so that the Amazon system can deal with it. Biggest killers for me from using this is having to clear customs and that they won't send you the money for your sales unless you have a US bank account.


The barcode you mention links your specific merchant account to the physical product's UPC/ASIN in order to properly track your inventory. Amazon can also handle the labeling of the inbound inventory for an added fee.

(Disclaimer: I work for Amazon doing FBA Ops)


The checklist on the packing slip seems to indicate that I need to do something for each item: http://i.imgur.com/yyJXf.png

The first item is "ALL items are covered with the correct FBA stickers". So actually that is not necessary, and if I just buy a huge pack of candies and ship it to you with only this single packing slip on the big box containing many candies, then you can still sort things out?


If you are subscribed to the labeling service, absolutely. If not, the fulfillment center may do it as a courtesy. The most important issue is what the FC expects from your shipment. Any unplanned or unexpected prep activity will cause your items to be sidelined in order to continue the inbound process for all of the other shipments. If a massive shipment comes in that isn't labeled/labeled correctly the FC may elect to ship it back due to things like space considerations or man power needs to handle the prep.

Sorry for the delay in replying. Feel free to pm if you have any other questions.


Personally, I wouldn't because it's too specific to the particular goods being sold and thus can't easily be abstracted. Coffee is going to need to be handled v differently to candy or women's shoes.

I would offer a service up to the point of providing the labels and packing slips to the merchant and let them execute the fulfillment themselves.

My guess is that for most 'normal' people the website, payments and subscriber management aspect is the most difficult part of the operation to run so it seems best to focus there.


http://member.ly looks great. I recently launched http://sockpanda.com, and this would have been great to have when we started out. I wonder whether their choice of payment processor (Amazon) vs. PayPal/Stripe/etc has any effect on conversions. Also I'm curious if anyone has tested whether offering only the set-it-and-forget-it option like candyjapan and sockpanda do (and not having a finite-term subscription options like the member.ly sites) might get the average subscriber to stay on longer (people get used to receiving the items and don't bother to cancel).


NetPlenish works on more or less exactly this idea: creating subscription service for delivering common products. Their service launches pretty soon, let's see how much traction it gets.


Why don't you buy candy directly from one or two Japanese suppliers rather than pay for the supermarket's margin?

Although that wouldn't address your decline in subscriptions it would improve your bottom line.


I do get a bit of discount from them (5%). Mostly it's just really convenient since they save me a lot of time by doing the packaging on site. Maybe if I reached really big volume then it would start making sense. The price of product is only 23% of the cost even now. Shipping is the biggest one at 33%.


Would it reduce your shipping costs if you shipped all candy to your US subscribers to one person in the US, who would then mail out the individual packages? Just a thought.


Then I would become the importer and would need to pay for customs clearance of my bulk package too. I would need to start cooperating with the manufacturers to get them to help me with the necessary paperwork.

At the scale I am in, I doubt anyone wants to talk with me since I'm only buying $1000 worth of their product (I cycle through different candy so don't buy that much from single manufacturers) as it is. Also not all of my subscribers are in the US, I have many in Canada, Germany and all over the place.


Ah, I didn't realize that about needing customs clearance. I know that not all of your subscribers are in the US. I was just using the US as an example.

In that case, how about partnering with people in each country who live in large enough cities that they can acquire Japanese candy themselves (at the Japanese mall or whatever), and then ship to the subscribers in that country? As I think a few people have pointed out, the real benefit to a subscriber is if they live in a rural place with no access to Japanese candy.

Again, I have no idea if this would reduce your shipping costs in the end, but I'm curious if it would. I think that there are not a lot of people who both (a) don't have access to Japanese candy themselves, and (b) are willing to pay $24 a month for it (since high earners tend to live in larger cities).


You should be targeting tech startup's kitchen staff with this. Imagine if the people who stock Google or Facebook's food pantries bought a bunch of subscriptions. You could also target campus stores at universities with a large Asian population.


@bemmu maybe you should get in touch with the guys at Zerocater. Try emailing Andrew Badr, andrew@zerocater.com.


Alright, trying that.


I don't know how to navigate the regulations to get a bulk amount of edible product into the US. Any ideas?


"Are you a small business with questions about your FDA-regulated product? Or, do you wonder if your product needs to be approved by the FDA? Contact us!" http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/SmallBusinessAssistance/Small...


I sent this question to the mentioned e-mail address industry@fda.gov last August, but never got a response. Retrying.


Any luck this time around? If not I'd give them a telephone call.


I got a copypasta response from them, outlining the steps I already took on their website. Will read it carefully to see if contains any of the info I actually asked for.

One thing is that they expect me to use their web interface to file "prior notice" for every single package I send. I see writing a scraping script in my future..


Government loves bureaucracy.


This is like contacting the IRS for assistance with your tax bill.


Is that supposed to be a bad thing? The IRS provides amazing tax advice -- on the phone, for free -- ask any question and they'll give a detailed answer, point you to the exact parts of the tax code that answer your question, and send you a copy of the documentation if you want.


However, if you relay on the IRS' advice and they turn out to be wrong, you still get hit with a tax bill. "Trust us, but don't trust us." Gotta love government.


That's not completely true: http://taxrelief.lifetips.com/faq/129997/0/what-if-i-rely-on...

You have to pay the tax, yes, but no penalty, so you have nothing to loose by asking.


I had heard of your service before and thought it was a really neat idea! I wished there was a service like yours for getting paprika chips in the US. For some reason, it is nearly impossible to get them here. At one point I even thought I'd start a service that regularly ships just these chips to people in the US/Canada. When I looked into the import laws though, I was very confused how to navigate through them. I've heard the people who did the Zico coconut water had to get rid of their entire first shipment because they weren't allowed to bring their goods into the US. Any suggestions on how to navigate these complex regulations?


Afaik if you send directly to someone abroad, you are not the one importing it, rather the recipient is.

I did look into importing a bulk of product to US and then shipping from a hub there. I got as far as the FDA page where I was supposed to register my product. The FDA site requires you input the code of the factory the product is produced in. I tried asking the manufacturer for the factory code, but they weren't interested in helping me.

At my scale it probably doesn't make sense yet, anyway. But since you asked, you at least need to get that factory code and fill some forms on the FDA site.


Have you tried Amazon? Amazon is the first place I go for non-perishable specialty food items.


I love your idea and love candy more than you can imagine; however I found the service quite expensive and since I live in a big city I can find most Japanese candy in Chinatown (yes, there are some Japanese shops in London's Chinatown). I did assume the shipping pushed up the cost and it turns out to be correct. If I didn't live in a big city though, the cost probably wouldn't be an issue. Best of luck.


Yes, if you have a local shop that is importing bulk amounts, you are probably better off buying from there if you're not after the surprise element.


I love these stories on HN about travelers supporting themselves through entrepreneurial means. It gives me inspiration to do it myself.


Any links to other stories of travelers supporting themselves through entrepreneurial means?


I grew up in SEA (South East Asia) and ever since I moved to Canada, one of first things I notice was the lack of high quality stationery and junk food - essential for any students. Naturally, Japan/Korea/Taiwan are the places to go for excellent craftsmanship.

Perhaps you could try targeting a different audience. While through sites like HN is great, try going for a younger audience. I grew up in the 90s, it was always fun to share and showoff something new in school (but then again there was no iPhone, or iPad etc) But I'm not so sure about today's teen generation's mentality, and their willingness to subscribe something monthly.

Very intrigued by this concept though.


Reminds me of Joel's post on streamlining a shipping process http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/HowToShipAnything.htm...


Joel's post was useful. I managed to avoid buying that $1000+ label printer they use. Instead I have a script that makes a PDF of labels and then I go to the convenience store, discreetly replace the paper in the common expensive looking copy machine with labels and print with that. Prints 300 labels in under 5 minutes this way.


Hi bemmu.

We met at a meetup just before Startup School last year. I remember you telling me about your Japanese candy selling business. Glad to see you post an update about it. Best of luck!


Yeah, I recall you also have a Japanese wife. Startup School was a lot of fun, hoping to get a chance to visit SF again too.


You might try once a month. Do a poll and see how people would react. you have been so honest thus far, I think continuing to say that it will be very difficult to continue with the existing profit margin will allow subscribers to take a hit. Example: they pay $15 for one shipment per month. You will most likely keep most subscribers and potentially gain the cheaper ones who don't want to pay $24 for Japanese candy


That video on your site is so surreal. In that way it really fits with the Japan-theme.


Thanks. Having a video on the site has also improved conversions a lot. I suppose it gives people confidence in subscribing to see that there are actually people in Japan running this service.


surreal indeed - i thought the jellyfish was going to kill you


Have you considering putting a phamplet in each envelope that people can give to friends who can try it at half price for the first month or so? That way you could get access to new potential customers.

You could also make it more enticing for people to give the phamplet to someone by rewarding people who have friends sign up.


Good idea, I should probably include something anyway to explain what the package contains. I could make a combined candy explanation + referral pamphlet and include that.


Have you considered offering a second "chocolate"-focused subscription? Things like green tea pocky, sweet potato kit kats, or even those little pocky-style mushrooms. After reading your post I signed up for the $13 sample, but $24/mo is a little high for me when I'm not a huge fan of the sort of candy you're mailing out. It would also hit on koichi's issue where some people are more concerned about quality than novelty.

For what it's worth, I'd pay $15/mo for one package or $30/mo for two packages - personally, the difference between $24 and $30 is negligible, given how much I'd already be paying. I currently pay ~$50/mo to have Steaz and/or other iced teas delivered (cheaper than going to Dunkin' Donuts once a day), so the issue isn't really price, rather it's the relative value compared to, say, $24/mo of drinks.


I tried sending chocolate before. It was an embarrassing disaster, the goods got delivered damaged. If I try that again I have to up my packaging first.


Have you considered the possibility of starting distribution branches? For example, might you save on shipping if you shipped via a single shipment to a central location (country) where your primary subscription base is. From there, mailing them from the central hub to the clients. For example, if you set up a US branch and then sent them via UPS or FEDEX to the customers. Obviously the shelf life of the candy is figures into this process, but if its mostly hard candy I imagine it probably has a couple months of shelf life. Maybe you could offer a 4 or 6 month subscription plan at a lower rate.


I'd like to try this, but not sure how to proceed with FDA. If you know anyone who has done this with food, I'd love to learn.


If you are solely relying on the site to drive your subscriptions - it could use some work..

1. High-res pics of candy and call to action above the fold.

2. Registration/Membership on-site not just paypal sub link.

3. Video is great, but it would help to have, sorry to be frank, less amateur shaky cam in favor of something a little more pro that gives me confidence in handing over money every month to a person out there.

You should also consider reaching out to daily deals sites with a "discounted membership" deal that could really move the needle for you.

I think this is pretty awesome, I'd love to see how this develops...


I'm a subscriber to Candy Japan and I love it. Nice work Bemmu!


This guy is going to eventually run afoul of the US Customs and the FDA. http://bit.ly/w2XSMA

"Food that is sent to an individual in the U.S. for personal use (i.e. not for resale) by a business is subject to special requirements of the Food and Drug Administration. Businesses that send goods to the U.S. must file prior notice. Prior notice may be filed on-line if the goods are being sent through the postal service."


I'd love to work with FDA to make sure I follow all the rules, but so far they have ignored my emails. Perhaps I will try to reach them by phone some night.


This is a bit late but there seems to be a market for: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&...

kind of candy in the US. Consider importing it if only to raise your brand identity by getting it featured on novelty blogs.


Here's an idea to generate some revenue: Some people might love some specific candy you sent. Let people buy packs of that candy through you.


Yes, I should seriously consider this. Again I probably couldn't send very big bulk amounts without getting the recipient in trouble with customs.

Another reason I haven't done this yet is that I would need inventory control again. I was running an ecommerce store once and it does add a bit of extra work to make sure you have every item you claim to have and to be able to pick and pack them efficiently. Basically need barcodes and labeled shelves.


I was wondering about this, too. We haven't been able to get Puccho Grape around here for months now.


Have you done any marketing towards otakus? Also, have you done about expanding it to other Japanese goods? like tea? dried fruit? cookies?


This was my thought exactly - Find out where the candy otakus and/or japanophiles hang out, and test buying advertisement there, in whatever form is available/can be negotiated. This might look like banner ads, blog sponsorship, etc. Test and measure what converts to subscriptions, and renew with the ones that work.


This can definitely work with other Japanese goods. I tried a similar service (after seeing Bemmu's early success) with tea (http://teapeat.com).

With only posting to HN, I had a decent amount of sign ups.


This gave me an idea of shipping dark rye - eastern european kind of bread. They do have rye bread in UK, but it is completely different from the real thing. I wasn't able to find any "lithuanian bread" online, maybe the nature of the product is difficult to ship. I think most breads shelf life is like 3 days, with some extremes of 10 days..


Issue with rye bread is that unless it is really fresh, it loses a lot of flavor.


On the traffic and subscribers front, I'd recommend reading everything that patio11 has written about Bingo Card Creator: http://www.kalzumeus.com/


I'm a big fan of patio11, read his posts and even went to see his talk in Osaka. The idea of scalable content creation was interesting and I have been thinking about how to apply it here. I'm starting by having individual pages for each candy, for example http://www.candyjapan.com/chelsea-butter-scotch

Not sure if that will really be applicable to this, though. I should go back and re-read his posts.


I'd say a good goal would be to rank #1 for long tail searches like "where can I buy FOO_CANDY in the US?" for the top 50 best selling Japanese candies.


Great start. You probably have too little content -- consensus says 300 - 1,000 words.


What about advertising on manga forums? They still seem to be popular


Would you deliver candy toy cooking sets?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr-qewC-4gY


This one would not fit in a normal envelope. What happens in the US when you get something that doesn't fit into your mail slot?

I just know that in Finland, in such cases you have to go to the post office to get the package, so I've tried to avoid sending such things as part of the regular shipments. I might still add an option to order those separately.


maybe if you made it not just japanese candy but candy from all over the world, it just seems like a service that could work.


Thanks! Perhaps other countries could be added and there could also be an overall subscription to get from any country, it's a good idea. I do feel I should get this working well for Japan before expanding.


~300 subscribers without much labor from you anymore isn't working well?

Edit: Checking out the website, from a sales funnel / marketing perspective, there are many things you could do to increase the sales just from the current traffic you're receiving - and would likely reduce the new customer acquisition cost from $60.

Edit2: Other things can be done to reduce churn rate as well.


Yes, it would be great if it could continue like that, but extrapolating a bit from that chart it seems this service could experience a slow death unless I can figure out a way to market it (and reduce churn).


Have you thought about adding a candy "rewards" program?

If someone starts a subscription from a referral maybe they and the referrer can each get a bonus candy package when they start? That would probably be much cheaper than trying to do advertising with only a marginal increase in packaging complexity.


Yes, that's been on my mind, especially since I keep having candy left over because there is a difference between the bulk amounts I buy (which have to be divisible by 60 generally) and the amount of subscribers I have.

I have to be careful though, since it does actually cost a bit to send a package. Another thing I considered was starting some page similar to http://duckduckgo.com/spread.html and reward the most helpful people (as judged by me or by voting) with free extra packages.


Maybe come up with a 3 months subscription package or something along that line and reward those who pay the 3 months subscription upfront with additional candies for free. You can use the leftovers you have or other unique Japanese products that people may like. This way you're assured that you have subscribers for the next 3 months.

Or instead of giving away free candies to the package I mentioned above, reduce the price to say $20-$22/mth if they pay upfront for 3 months to give them the $6-9 savings over 3 months.


Not sure how much space the leftover candy takes up, but twice a year (maybe once in the summer and once before the winter holidays) you could sell $24 boxes of random leftovers from the year. Would be great for new subscribers. You could even give the option of doing a random box + first month of a subscription for $36.


Thanks, in response to HN suggestions I added the option to get a sample envelope, for which I can use the extra items. I think I already sold a few dozen, now just need to write another script that finds those orders on PayPal. Their site is painfully slow to navigate by hand.


What kind of marketing are you doing to increase subscribers? Do you send out press releases to bloggers, magazines and news sites?


Thanks for the email template, I plan on using it as a base for reaching out to bloggers. Is there something that can help with this, besides hiring an expensive PR agency?

I mean finding bloggers, contacting them with personally crafted messages and keeping in touch with them. I'm terrible at following up on emails when I happen to be in the coding zone.


I recently saw an interesting strategy for finding bloggers to contact: "I wrote some code that pulled the top 500 environmental blogs and their descriptions from Technorati along with their site descriptions." This is quoted from: http://www.giftrocket.com/why-marketing-bd-should-learn-to-c.... I intend on trying this to get some publicity for my sock subscription site - sockpanda.com


Nothing free, as far as I know. Just an excel spreadsheet, some research, and a well-organized email inbox.


I should look into this and craft a nice email with useful media for them to use. What's been holding me back is that I don't really know exactly what to say in such an email to make it likely for them to feature it. It's true that one mention from Lifehacker for example could really change things completely.


Just go at it and see how well it works out. You can always send out one email a day to a news outlet or blogger and tweak it as you go along. As an example, it could be this:

"Dear Blogger,

Are your readers still looking for that unique Valentines day gift? Candy Japan has the answer. We sell candy subscriptions filled with fun and delicious Japanese candy.

How does it work? Every two weeks, we select some surprise Japanese candy and mail it to you directly from Japan. Prices start at $23.95 per month for two candy deliveries each month, or you can buy a single delivery for $13.00.

For more information, visit www.candyjapan.com

If you would like any more information, you can email me directly at [email]. I can also provide further images optimized for blog posts an emails.

Sincerely,

[Name]

Obviously, its directed at bloggers or websites who talk about gifts, gift giving or valentines day. You would tweak it depending on who you're trying to reach. After Valentines day, you would direct it to people looking to give fun gifts. With your prices, it would be best to concentrate on hip, urban websites or bloggers.

I just wrote that quickly by the way, maybe other people here can improve on it.


Well, there are plenty of things you can do if you understand nuances of marketing - just with the design, sales copy (text on the page), and other marketing pieces. You have a good start. And really I'm jealous of what you've accomplished so far. You could make this 10 times bigger with little effort, and time.


I saw you're Finnish - salmiakki products would be popular with Scandinavian expats... (Norwegian here, living in the UK - Amazon delivers some salty licorice / ammonium chloride candy, but their selection is very limited and mostly to Dutch brands I'm not used to)


A friend of mine was visiting me in NYC from Norway and we were talking about Salmiakki Koskenkorva. It's the first thing that I've simply been completely unable to find here -- looked for it all over the city. Still need to get a bottle.


It seems that http://www.suomikauppa.fi/?language=en is executing well here.


Also, the price is a bit high for candy... have you tried a one envelope a month subscription?


This is a good idea.

Another one would be a one-time purchase that is slightly more pricey but gives more. I don't want to commit to a monthly thing, but I'd pay $40 to get a single, larger package for my Japan-obsessed daughter's birthday and Christmas.


I could try that, but am hesitating a bit to introduce more complexity to this, since then I would have multiple tiers of subscribers.


Do you have to precommmit to the grocery store with how much candy you'll buy? If not, then really the only added complexity would be the label printing step - you just print some labels on different frequencies from others. If I were you, I'd be listening carefully to the feedback you're hearing in these comments - seems like there's a lot of demand for a less frequent/less expensive option.

If you want more data on whether you should do this, try asking customers that have canceled their subscription if they'd stay on if it was once a month. Also, think about running an a/b test with once a month vs twice a month...


No, I don't need to precommit. There is nothing really preventing me from doing this.

I want to say yes to this experiment, but immediately come up with more stuff that this would require that holds me back from adding it right now.

With tiers you will eventually have people who want to upgrade / downgrade between the tiers (of course I can just say you can't do that). I need to change my scripts that scan PayPal to support these tiers and still correctly figure out who to send to.

Need a tier selection page and this will also complicate wording on the main page. Not missing out on those customers who only wanted one envelope a month seems it might make this worth doing, agreeing with you there and hoping to find the time to add this.


I agree, I don't think your churn rate is so bad that you need to offer any more levels. I would put all your work into acquiring new subscribers first. Every business is going to have churn, but the only way to grow is with new customers.


I second the once a month idea, you'd have me as a buyer.


I would appreciate a service that sent me the same thing over and over every two weeks, say Mini Dickmann's from Germany, they are the best.

This way people could get their favorite thing, or a selection which is tailored to them.


Did you get the email I sent back with ideas? I love what you're doing, but there has to be some community formed around it.



Do you have to pay customs/duty?


Nope, since I am not the one importing them. Recipients do not need to pay either, since the envelopes are small and fall under the customs limits.




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