A billion dollars. It certainly has a nice ring to it. I’m sure it did to Dollar Shave Club co-founder and CEO Michael Dubin when he heard the number. A few weeks ago, health products juggernaut Unilever swooped in a scooped up Dollar Shave Club for a cool $1 billion in a merger where, according to Bloomberg, Unilever paid five times the revenue that Dollar Shave Club is expected to reel in this year. So how did the online shaving products company become a business worthy of a ten figure price tag? Let’s examine some of the ways.

Creating a New Market: The margins for razors are enormous. Meanwhile quality razors are costly for consumers. Plus, traditional razor companies love to try and monkey around with perfectly good products (How many razor blades can we fit onto this razor head? Is that goo coming out of the razor?) Finally, purchasing blades at your local pharmacy often feels like you’re committing a felony. Those blades are locked up tighter than Fort Knox. All of this leads any well-groomed gentleman to exclaim: ”There must be a better way!” Enter Dollar Shave Club which started its subscription service in the spring of 2012 offering razors for as little as $3 a month (plus shipping and handling of course). The company was quickly recognized for a little crafty marketing, which leads us to our second point.

Harnessing The Power of Virality: I won’t take much time describing the above video, because you’ve probably seen it. If you’ve ever attended a FPOV Digital Marketing Series, you’ve definitely seen it. It’s a brilliant piece of marketing. The video has been viewed online around 23 million times and helped introduce the world to Dollar Shave Club and its rather charismatic CEO Michael Dubin. The video helped lead to Dollar Shave Club’s website temporarily crashing and its stock of razors to sell out in six hours. Dollar Shave Club puts a lot of emphasis on crafting its organizational voice, which is fun, cheeky, a bit sarcastic, and edgy. Dollar Shave Club’s marketing has not always been perfect. At times their efforts have fallen flat. But they’ve hung true to this voice, which tells all who hear it that Dollar Shave Club is a bit different than those guys selling you razors over there.

Understanding Your Customer Base: As you can see in the above video, Dollar Shave Club never took itself seriously, at least when it came to its marketing. Razors, now that’s a different story. While nailing some well-timed jabs at its competition, Dollar Shave Club understands that it is selling shaving products not kidney medication. It can have a little fun. Plus, not every guy who reaches for a razor has the physique of Fabio, the golden skin tone of Enrique Iglesias, and the look of a Greek god in a white bath towel. Most are mere mortals who don’t have beautiful women rub their faces after a daily morning shave. Dollar Shave Club leveled its marketing at ordinary guys who think about shaving as much as they do the part in their hair. The company took advantage of this “regular guy” model. For example, it developed the “One Wipe Charlie” a wet wipe to replace your toilet paper. The company also included with each delivery a “Bathroom Minutes” magazine which featured shaving and lifestyle tips and other information on important bodily functions such as why fingernails grow faster than toenails. You know, the type of content that might be handy to have around as you’re conducting nature’s business.

Maximizing Efficiency and Engagement: Dollar Shave Club has 3.2 million members and around 200 employees. That (if I did the math correctly) is 16,000 members per employee. A pretty solid margin for any outfit. Its razors are made in South Korea by Dorco, its distribution is contracted out to a third-party company in Kentucky, and the vast majority of its business is conducted in the cloud. While Dollar Shave Club has paid for costly television air time, much of its buzz came from good old word of mouth and free channels such as YouTube. In short, they have extremely low overhead and utilize their marketing dollars rather wisely. This all allows for a lean and scalable organization that practices marketing which exudes the imagery of a startup pointing at the juggernauts and saying “we’re coming after you!”

Seizing Disruption: It’s hard to find an article online where disruption and Dollar Shave Club aren’t mentioned in the same breath. When your direct, and already very established, competitor creates a service eerily similar to yours, you know you’ve done something right.  Dollar Shave Club is a master at selling stuff online. Much like Warby Parker in the eyeglasses space, startups like Dollar Shave Club seem to come out of nowhere and then, faster than you can say “the best a man can get,” turn an entire industry upside down. This brand of disruption is often difficult for traditional organizations to emulate, including Unilever (and its direct competitor, Procter & Gamble who owns Gillette). Digital marketing has now become so critical that it can disrupt an organization’s bottom line, even ones as large as P&G and Unilever. Even the boards of multi-national, hundreds of billions of dollar corporations are beginning to understand they’ve got to get hip. Getting hip means going digital. These powerhouse corporations aren’t just buying a business; they’re buying the brand. Unilever purchased Dollar Shave Club for many reasons, and one of them was its online marketing savvy and its digital chic. What they purchased was more than a grooming products company. What they purchased was a technology company.

There is a Dollar Shave Club waiting in every industry. Somewhere there is a David of your industry readying his slingshot with the hopes of dropping Goliaths to their knees. I say this not to be overly ominous. Cases like Dollar Shave Club are wonderful because they should open your eyes to power of digital tools to gain competitive advantage. Effective digital marketing is so formidable. It allows you to reach more people and serve them more effectively because you understand their individual desires. Digital marketing is such a saturated term. It’s become loaded, or maybe bloated would be a better description. Like snake oil salesmen, companies across the world are selling digital marketing “quick fixes.” Let me set the record straight! There are no “quick fixes” to effective digital marketing or digital engagement. Becoming shrewd at digital marketing is not easy. It takes practice and preparation and study. Like anything important in this world, it takes a lot of effort but the results can be enormous. Just ask Michael Dubin. It is our mission to help organizations become world class at digital outreach. One place to start is by attending our upcoming Digital Marketing Series where we teach many fundamental aspects of digital engagement including crafting a memorable organizational voice, building a greater understanding of your customers through comprehensive relationship journey mapping, and harnessing digital tools to increase efficiency and reach.