The Quietly Amazing Case of Butcherbox

Growing 500-600% annually off a small base is the bleeding edge of exponential growth. And ButcherBox quietly did it. It pulled a Chobani as the meat industry incumbents slept. 

Fresh meat, as insiders know, is primarily an unbranded space in grocery retail. Most Americans buy unpackaged counter meat or private-label, wrapped products. There are more ‘brands’ on the premium end. 

Butcherbox’s premium price, focus on higher social stakes meat ‘cuts,’ high AOV plus laser-focus on paleo geeks as its core audience follows the high repeat purchase, niche audience model outlined in my book

And I’m not surprised it allowed Mike Salguero, CEO, and co-founder, to bootstrap at the AOVs a box of premium meat can command. 

Many have yet to notice how effectively ButcherBox harnessed real micro-influencers as a commissioned, direct sales force. Not a model everyone would want to follow, but it turned out well when you have no likely rush of competition (due to the low margin % of any DTC, refrigerated business). 

What is more compelling is Salguero’s validation of something founders don’t celebrate enough. Capital constraints early on force you to excel on one, maybe two growth levers. Being DTC also forced the company to take awareness-building seriously. There is no lazy equivalent to 2 U/S/W online. 

“The decision to not raise money forced us to make those kinds of moves. We created a moat around the entire paleo/keto/CrossFit world with all the influencers,” Salguero recalls. “All those influencers are still getting checks from us, and some of those checks are $5,000 to $10,000 a month. They’re not going to rep someone else’s stuff because they don’t want to stop that income stream.”

The company essentially stumbled into influencer and affiliate marketing, staying lean in the process.”; Source: TechCrunch Nov. 6, 2022 How ButcherBox Bootstrapped to $600M revenue.

If you’re going to do the paid influencer thing, you should be first to your influencer niche with your innovation and lock them up. And make sure the influencers are small enough for commission sales to be a compelling revenue stream for them. The last part is counter-intuitive for most who get into the overhyped, overpriced influencer game. 

Dr. James Richardson

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