Google and Facebook (now Meta) are two of the largest digital advertising platforms in the world, and they both have strict policies in place when it comes to the types of ads that can be run. This is mainly to protect their users from false information, violence, hate speech, and adult content. However, this heavily backfires in certain companies that do not mean any harm.
This is the case for Knafs, a small company owned by Ben and Athena, a married couple that currently lives in Utah. Ben has a strong background in Marketing, and is also really well known in the pocket knife world. They started their company in 2018 mainly selling innovative products to the community. Things like posters that explain just about anything concerning pocket knives, fun stickers about the brand, mousepads with the same poster idea but minimalized, sharpening products, etc.
Since then, Ben has released some of his own pocket knife designs with the support of companies like We Knives, Civivi, and QSP. Their products get seen by thousands of people everyday, they have a healthy amount of traffic in their website, and Ben has been invited to just about any YouTube channel and podcast about the pocket knife industry. All of that without being able to run a single ad.
So, how did they do it? What is the secret?
- Ben was the marketing manager for a knife retail company called BladeHQ. One of the things he did as the manager was jump on YouTube once a week, and talk about knives. The videos started to get popular, people loved to shop in the BladeHQ website, but they also loved to watch Ben.
- When you start a company, you will be behind in SEO, SEM, data collection, and many many other things. However, your personal brand is not something you have to start over every time you open a business. You can get fairly good traffic from day 1 if your personal brand is strong.
- It is important to have friendships within your industry, and with influencers. Their products are always mentioned by strong YouTube channels. Even Peter Mackinnon mentioned the Banter model in one of his gift guides videos.
- Being mentioned in other people’s content (YouTube videos, as well as Instagram and Facebook posts, and others), will increase the awareness about your products, and even increase traffic to your site. You can even get backlinks that will help with your SEO. Just make sure to be legitimate. If you reach out to people just to get the benefits of networking, it will show, and you won’t find anyone to mention you.
- We can’t forget Search Engine Optimization. Knafs has done a great job at ranking well in google, despite the fact that many other retailers carry their products (they are even listen on Amazon).
- Content, keyword research, backlinks, internal links, external links, user experience, analytics, and more. When you look something up, how often do you visit the second page on google? Exactly. 90% of users never click in the 2nd page in a google search. Ranking is a key element for business success.
- Their media accounts have grown to thousands of followers in Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Not to mention their Reddit community.
- Nowadays everyone is a “social media expert.” I will only say that the best way to gain followers and build an audience in the different platforms is to watch for the trends, and use them. If you were one of the first ones to create a reel, or use TikTok, you probably got a decent following fast.
- Once in a while they will drop an email to their list announcing a holiday sale, the release of a new product, or just to share what they are up to. Enhancing the people that have a relationship with you will drive more traffic to your website, and more sales.
- What we like to do, is to take a look at a store google analytics, and see which product is seen the most by it’s users. Then, send an email out with an offer, something like 10% off in such product, or maybe full price but send out an accessory for free with each order that comes in.
As it turns out, running ads is just a small part of a good marketing plan. In the case of Knafs, they have been able to create a loyal audience through tools that are accessible to anybody. They are a good reminder that getting in front of people doesn’t require ads. It is just about hard work, and discipline.
In their case, they can’t run ads because on the industry they are in, but there are many reason a company might choose not to. Lack of budget, or maybe it has been tested with negative results. Whatever the case might be, you can still build a strong audience, and have a successful bizz.
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