Vaping. E-cigarettes. It’s a relatively new industry– the modern e-cigarette was patented in 2003, and it’s gotten particular popular over the past 3-5 years or so.
There’s even tentative evidence that it can be useful as a smoking cessation aid, and thousands of ex-smokers swear by it.
But it’s still somewhat controversial, and like with nootropics (see: Powder City), the industry is going through a phase of regulation.
We had a chat with Mike Li, the founder of Vapor DNA, to learn about their company, marketing efforts and their referral program:
- Team of about 30 people.
- Mix of warehouse, office, retail.
- At the time of the interview, Mike was the only person handling marketing full-time.
“What challenges are you facing now?”
- Government regulations restricting sale & availability of e-cigarettes – it’s important for legitimate businesses to stay on the right side of the law.
- Challenge of changing public perceptions – vaporizers & e-cigarettes are usually viewed in a negative light.
- VaporDNA is working to show that it is a positive product, that helps people quit smoking: Mike says that e-cigarettes saved his life after trying to quit smoking for 7 years.
What does marketing look like for VaporDNA?
- “SEO not that important– customers are discerning, and rarely just buy whatever pops up on Google.”
- “PPC not a priority– it’s difficult to advertise. All the common keywords have been outbidded like crazy already.”
- “Word-of-mouth and organic referrals are important, so we make sure that our customer service, product quality, and shipping speed are top-notch.”
“We believe that if we take care of people, they’ll come back and refer their friends.”
“In this industry, customers talk to each other – they go to communities and share their experiences and recommend products and stores. so we work hard to build a strong reputation where our customers trust us enough to refer us online.”
“Why referral marketing?”
“People trust reviews more than ads. People listen to what other customers are saying. I have several businesses so I know the effect of getting word-of-mouth sales.”
“The e-cigarette community is really tightly bound together; it’s mostly 18-35, tech-savvy people who are active on social networks. People love to help each other, and people trust each other. Word-of-mouth referrals happen all the time, with or without a formal program. I just want to make sure I’m getting the most referral sales possible.”
– Mike found ReferralCandy through search.
“For a fast-growing business, I like modular approaches– every part can be taken apart and re-arranged. I knew getting a referral program was important, but I didn’t want to build it myself and add another project. I just wanted to get it up and running, and ReferralCandy lets me do that quickly.”
What can you tell us about your referral program setup?
($10 off for advocate, $10 off for referred friend– with a minimum spend of $35)
“I took the consumer’s point-of-view – I just looked at it in terms of what would get me to refer a friend.”
“Knowing your customers and what motivates them is important, and has been a big part of making my referral program a success.”
Can you tell us about your experiences with ReferralCandy?
“Actually, once I set up my program, I’ve barely made any changes since. I trust it and know it’s going to work. I just upload coupon codes as needed, and that’s it.”
“I don’t mind being told to go in and upload new codes – it lets me know that they are being used, and that the program is working.”