top of page

Transforming a Real Weddings Publication back into a Subscription Powerhouse

Engagement Executive Summary:

Product Paths was engaged by StyleMePretty to help the company achieve operational excellence. In the first 12 months of operations consulting, our team reorganized team structures around revenue generation, customer retention, and brand awareness, internally recruited key team members into new leadership positions, reduced operational costs, and drove better data collection and management practices. As a result, StyleMePretty saw significant improvements in core health metrics for 2022, including a 1,504% increase in total subscribers, a 56% increase in gross sales volume of the core product, a 49.6% increase in net sales volume of the core product, a 97.1% increase in lifetime value, and a reduction in churn from 12% to 1.2%. Additionally, StyleMePretty saw a peak ROAS of 6.9 and an average ROAS of 2.5.


Customer Background

StyleMePretty is a well-established media publication and social media organization that caters to the wedding industry.


Founded in 2007, StyleMePretty is the longest-running digital media publication and social media organization for the wedding industry, competing with top brands like TheKnot and Brides over the last two decades in the editorial sphere and with newcomers like Zola and PartySlate on the vendor directory listing front.


The company was purchased from its original owners by AOL before being bought back on the announcement that AOL, and its owner, OATH, were looking to shut down the publication.


After going back into startup mode, StyleMePretty diversified its revenue streams and began working toward its peak readership.


One of StyleMePretty's primary services is selling wedding vendor directory listings through their application-driven Little Black Book program. This program is designed to vet and verify potential vendors, ensuring that customers have access to reliable and high-quality services for their weddings. Through this program, StyleMePretty has become a trusted resource for engaged couples who are planning their wedding and looking for vendors to help bring their vision to life.


In the last few years, the company had been experiencing operational challenges that were impacting its ability to grow and achieve its business goals.


The company had a complex organizational structure that was not aligned with revenue generation, customer retention, and brand awareness.


Additionally, the company had high operational costs due to excessive travel, redundant contractors, and underutilized FTEs.


Finally, at its core, the company had poor data collection and management practices, which resulted in dataless decisions being made throughout the organization.


Upon the exit of a key executive, StyleMePretty looked outward for an opportunity to address these challenges.


Challenges:

  • A complex organizational structure that was not aligned with revenue generation, customer retention, and brand awareness

  • High operational costs due to excessive travel, redundant contractors, and underutilized FTEs

  • Poor data collection and management practices that resulted in dataless decisions being made throughout the organization

The Product Paths Solution

Product Paths was engaged by StyleMePretty to help the company strive toward operational excellence.


Our team worked closely with the company to reorganize team structures around revenue generation, customer retention, and brand awareness. Through rigorous internal interviews and team-level inquiries, we were able to identify a restructure that allowed the Content Team to operate with a more data-driven approach, understanding what was working and what was not working while putting a leader at the helm of the team who had deep expertise in eCommerce and content creation from other well-known brands. At the time, that employee, now the VP of Revenue and head of content for the organization, was working part-time and moonlighting for another partner (with permission from former leadership.) Acknowledging the wasted talent, we elevated that employee into a leadership position and achieved substantial gains in followership, engagement, and reach across platforms, while diversifying beyond our sole reliance on Instagram into Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts. We understand that Revenue starts with our brand and our trusted editorial experience.


On the Sales & Membership side of the business, we recognized that deep-rooted behaviors and habits were holding us back due to an over reliance on manual procedures and manual data collection. Multiple redundant sales systems and CRMs (i.e., Ecwid + Stripe, or Freshsales + Reamaze + Airtable + others). We moved quickly to evangelize a culture of automation and tracking. With increased accountability, our strengths and weaknesses became clear. While this did result in some layoffs of underperforming sales representatives, the ultimate realization was that with fewer team members and more appropriately designed systems and tools, the company could make the same or more revenue without major changes in procedure. Looking forward, we are now, post 12 months into the relationship, beginning to bring more impactful initiatives to the table.


With the company stabilized and reorganized, we were then able to make more introspective realizations and decisions.


One major initiative resulted in a reduction of operational costs by targeting bloat in extraneous expenses, redundant contractors, and underutilized FTEs. We identified and simplified a number of tools that we were using, in some cases trading out 3 or less expensive tools that did one-off things for more appropriate multi-function platforms (think introducing Airtable and Zapier to replace a lot of cruft.) With the company being fully remote and distributed, the need for travel beyond the vanity of showing up to industry events became another target for cost reduction. The team vocalized valuing more flexibility and freedom in their day-to-day over trips abroad. Having more money in a paycheck was a higher priority than having five contractors working on a problem that Zapier could solve.


This resulted in benefits for the P&L of the business but also created an environment where employees felt ownership of their tools, having to use them in deeper and more complex ways, while allowing them to remain flexible to get up out of their chair and go run an errand without a manager staring at them from across the digital cubicle.


Finally, we drove better data collection and management practices to enable team members to use data in every level of the organization. From understanding the difference between vanity metrics (like pageviews and likes) from business metrics (like Lifetime Value and Monthly Recurring Revenue). For editorial and content, growing followers and reach has taken priority over individual likes on posts. For the Memberships team, we’re paying closer attention to customer acquisition costs, retention, and lifetime value. Using Airtable, Stripe, and a variety of homegrown reporting in tools as simple as Google Sheets, the business is now substantially more cognizant of it’s ebbs and flows, and can react more appropriately to unexpected spikes or downturns to make data driven decisions and monitor cash flow.


An Opportunity to Increase Utility and Market Share

Within the first 90 days, we recognized an opportunity to expand StyleMePretty’s vendor directory listing services to a wider range of vendors. To do this, we reintroduced a subscription-based model that was accessible to vendors in the middle market. For a fee of just $99 per year, vendors could gain access to the StyleMePretty vendor directory and reach a wider audience of potential customers. Differentiated from the premium Little Black Book offering, this membership excludes much of the benefits of that program like social media placements, verification and the pink check mark, priority in search results, etc.


This move had a significant impact on the company's monthly recurring revenue (MRR) growth. By opening up the vendor directory listing to a larger market, StyleMePretty was able to tap into a new revenue stream while offering a substantially better experience for users searching in the directory. No longer would a user encounter a blank search results page because we were lacking vendor representation in a given geography or service category. The $99 subscription fee provided a reliable source of income, which helped to stabilize the company's financials and allowed for more consistent revenue growth.


Furthermore, by providing more affordable access to the vendor directory listing, StyleMePretty was able to attract a larger pool of vendors. This, in turn, led to an increase in user retention as more vendors were able to take advantage of the benefits of being listed on StyleMePretty. This not only increased revenue from subscriptions, but also created new revenue opportunities through upsells, downsells, and reactivations for the large pool of vendors that have engaged with the vendor directory over the last two decades.


Some Data & Results

Under our operational leadership, StyleMePretty saw significant improvements in core health metrics for 2022. These metrics include:


Customer Acquisition:

  • Increased Total Subscribers 1,504% (~100 ➡ ~1.6k)

Sales Volume:

  • Increased Gross Sales Volume of Core Product 56% ($539k ➡ $846k)

  • Increased Net Sales Volume of Core Product 49.6% ($516k ➡ $773k)

Lifetime Value:

  • Increased Lifetime Value by 97.1% (~$1.1k ➡ ~$2.2k)

  • Reduced churn from 12% to 1.2%

Return on Ad Spend:

  • Peak ROAS - 6.9

  • Average ROAS - 2.5

Data-Driven Operational Excellence

Product Paths was able to help StyleMePretty achieve operational excellence by reorganizing team structures around revenue generation, customer retention, and brand awareness, internally recruiting key team members into new leadership positions, reducing operational costs, and driving better data collection and management practices.


These efforts resulted in significant improvements in core health metrics for 2022.


As a result, StyleMePretty is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the future.


We continue to work as an embedded resource and support team at StyleMePretty and look forward to collaborating for years to come.


Want to learn more?




Comments


bottom of page