NPS Blog

Harry’s: Taking on the razor blade giants by building personal relationships with customers

Andy Katz-Mayfield of Harry'sWhen my former colleagues Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider told me they planned to start a business selling razors and blades, I thought they had lost their marbles. While there are few certainties in business, one of them is that competing against entrenched market leaders rarely works out for the new entrant. This is especially true for products sold in grocery stores and drugstores. And in the razor and blades market, two companies are dominant: together Gillette and Schick account for about 80% of the global market.

So how could a brand-new competitor ever hope to achieve a toehold in this business? It wouldn’t be just the usual David vs. Goliath affair. It would be tiny little David going up against mighty Goliath and his slightly smaller brother.

Andy and Jeff started a company called Harry’s, which sells razors, blades and other shaving supplies online. Andy is my guest on the latest Net Promoter System podcast, and he explains how Harry’s is taking on this monumental challenge.

The idea for Harry’s came after an experience with which many men are familiar: Andy had gone to the drugstore to buy blades. There they were, locked away in a display case. When he finally found someone to open the case, he was—once again—appalled by how much the blades cost, roughly $4 apiece. While less expensive, the alternative of disposable razors brought unacceptable quality trade-offs.

Net Promoter System podcastMaybe, Andy thought, there was room for a high-quality, lower-cost alternative—particularly if the new company could create a deep bond between the brand and its customers, turning them into promoters.

That launched the start-up saga he recounts on the podcast. Turns out it isn’t easy to make razor blades: the giants mostly do it in-house, using a lot of proprietary technology. But Andy and his colleagues tracked down a factory in Germany that could produce blades with the necessary quality. They liked the plant and its people so much that they bought the whole thing.

But then came the task of creating a bond of loyalty between company and consumer. The website had to be attractive and easy to navigate. The packaging had to make the customer feel “almost as if you were opening a present.” Subscriptions would be available but not required; although investors like the subscription-based model, Andy doesn’t. “It’s our philosophy of just being very consumer-centric,” he says. “Why should we force you to have a subscription?”

The team also decided that first-time buyers would get personal emails, sent by real people, asking them about their experience. That approach has generated great feedback, as have the company’s regular Net Promoter requests. One customer—an engineer—decided that the handle on the company’s razor wasn’t quite right; then he actually sent the company working drawings for fixing the problem, which it did.

“The key,” says Andy, “is getting people to engage with the product, engage with the brand, and come back and buy more.” In the podcast he talks about how Harry’s does that day after day—the metrics it watches, how it hires and deploys its people, how it keeps everyone focused on the customer experience so that their little David really can take on those two giants.

You can listen to my discussion with Andy on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

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