ButcherBox’s famous “free bacon for life” promotion was actually a happy mistake, says founder of $500 million meat subscription service

Mike Salguero likes to say that ButcherBox, the meat subscription company that made him a multimillionaire, was “built on bacon.” While entrepreneurs may often overuse hyperbole and flowery language, this is not an exaggeration.

Early on, when the company was still getting off the ground with a Kickstarter campaign, Salguero and his team told backers that if they reached $100,000 in sales, everyone would get free bacon in their grass-fed meat box. Naturally, bacon lovers began to support the $100,000 goal, Salguero recalled in a recent interview with Fortune. And the company kept its promise, including a pack of premium bacon in every box.

ButcherBox soon outgrew Kickstarter and began fulfilling orders from its own website, focusing on a subscription model rather than one-off purchases. Then came the fun part.

“About two weeks later, my engineer called me with a problem,” Salguero said. “He said, ‘It turns out we gave free bacon to everyone, not just the Kickstarter people.’ Everybody who signed up. That’s a problem. ‘”

It wasn’t possible to fix it at the time, he added, because the initial code was created irreversibly. This meant there was no way to stem the tide of free bacon. Fortunately, Salguero said a marketing leader on his team suggested taking advantage of the happy accident: “‘Why don’t we just tell people: Sign up and you’ll get free bacon?’ And this is all.

Due to the technical nature of the error, ButcherBox has changed the message to “Sign up to ButcherBox and get free bacon in your first box.” The hook worked surprisingly well in attracting new customers, Salguero found. But they didn’t stop there. When someone suggested putting bacon in every customer’s box never gets, he thought, “That would be nice.” Thus, Bacon for Life was born. It still exists, and a free order of bacon appears in every box for the duration of a customer’s subscription.

It was a brilliant incentive, Salguero found, and helped drive the company to its current valuation of $500 million (Salguero himself has an estimated net worth of $375 million). They have since launched several “for life” campaigns, including chicken wings. , ground meat and steaks. “It’s a much better value for [customers]; they’re getting free products,” he said. “And they’re signing up a lot more frequently, so we’ve built a whole bunch of lifetime offers around our business.”

The idea behind the promotions is quite simple, he said. “We’re a subscription company, so we want you to get more than one box.” Her team has found that “customers really appreciate it when they have these additional offers in their box, and we keep them for a much longer time.” This is an especially important statistic considering the collapse in customer loyalty for most meal delivery kits in recent years.

That’s not really a problem for ButcherBox, which boasts 400,000 subscribers and has sent a $169 personalized box to 1.6 million households and counting.

As for Salguero himself, he’s more of a steak guy. “We have these amazing Tomahawk steaks and I love grilling our ribeyes and I make a really amazing gravy,” he said Fortune. “I’m more of a functional cook. I want to cook something in under 30 minutes and then finish it.”

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