Alex Brown, President, Truly Free

Alex Brown has scaled and/or exited from a variety of e-commerce businesses over the last 10 years. In 2015 Alex & his team built & launched The Beard Club (formerly Dollar Beard Club), which went from 0-10$M in revenue in its’ first year of operation.  They created a globally known brand mainly through viral videos getting 100’s of millions of views. Now, as a partner & the President of Truly Free, he’s helping to revolutionize a new industry with family-safe, eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products freeing over 240,000 homes from harmful chemicals, eliminating over 10 million single-use plastics from ever being made.  As a totally unnecessary side hustle, he also built & runs an accelerator program for Canadian eCommerce entrepreneurs in partnership with various colleges and local economic development organizations.

Q: Tell us a little about your approach to marketing.

At the most foundational level, I believe that great marketing is like holding up a mirror for people to see themselves in.  All great brands act as a vehicle for people to identify themselves with… The more people who are willing to wear your logo as a badge, the better your marketing must be.

At the everyday level, marketing is a LOT of trial and error.  Many of the things that we do as marketers (whether it’s coming up with a new offer or campaign) don’t actually work out as planned.  They need continual improvement and testing and optimization.  Marketers need to be willing to try new things which they know might not work.

I would say my approach to marketing is a blend between becoming that mirror, and using direct-response tactics to have people take a specific action (and ultimately drive the sales that the company needs)

Q: How were your marketing changed over the past few years?

Initially I was deeply rooted in the brand side of marketing – creating great content that people identified with and build a strong movement… but that doesn’t always pay the bills as intended.

I had to really develop strong direct response marketing skills in order to round myself out as a marketer, particularly in writing great sales copy.  I think copywriting is a foundational skill that all marketers should poses and it has been incredibly transformational for me to learn.

I would say the biggest shift has been the most recent one I have had to make however, where I go from doing all of the things, and instead am spending my time helping our incredible team build up their own skills.   Watching them build their own skillsets and becoming better and better marketers every day is incredibly rewarding!

Q: We’ve heard a lot about the rising role of A.I. in marketing in the past year. How much or how little are you using A.I. or automation in your marketing efforts?

We leverage AI every day on our marketing to help generate ideas, angles and foundational copy for campaigns and new product releases.  It definitely doesn’t replace any team members, but it’s a very powerful tool that our team can use to get a head start on many things.  I would highly recommend that any marketers who aren’t leveraging AI already to start dabbling in the space as a great supplement for their team to be able to collapse time and get thing moving forward, faster.

Q: In 2023, marketers have more channels to utilize than ever, from shoppable social to CTV to the traditional. Which channels are you using? Where are you seeing the most success?

Our most powerful channel is our private network of incredible of affiliate partners – ranging from blogger moms through to doctors who build communities that help people solve health issues.  A close second and third are Google and Meta ads (where we leverage some amazing content creators to tell our story for us in ads).

The 3 of them together form a powerful triumvirate, and work very collaboratively to help prospective customers get to know us and trust us enough to make the switch to us as a better alternative to some of the less healthy options out there in the world of cleaning products.

Q: What challenges do you anticipate facing in 2024? How do you plan on meeting those challenges?

2024 will surely bring a unique set of challenges, just as every other year has.  Because there are so many shiny tools an platforms and tactics, I anticipate a key challenge to be balancing experimentation without causing distractions.

Obviously you cannot close the door on potentially important new tools, but the foundations of marketing are still the most important to stick to rather than allowing shiny objects to appear as if they could be potential shortcuts.  There are rarely “shortcuts” in building a brand so beware of distractions that look like them.

Lasty I think we share the same challenge as everyone in eCommerce shares for 2024 – how to keep customer acquisition costs down when they seem to be rising everywhere.  This is where the willingness to try creatively new things becomes important – you have to keep mining for gold where you believe it can be found!

Q: What is something you’ve learned in your career that you would like to share with young SMB marketers entering the industry?

Generally speaking, marketing is never about you… It is always about them (your customers).  It sounds bad to say, but people typically only really care about themselves, and what is in it for them.

The more you try and make your marketing about you, and how great you are, the more it will fall on deaf ears.  Your customers HAVE to be the hero in the journey… you are only a guide in the process.

The more you make your customers the hero, the more customers you will have.

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