I’ve known Tamar Yaniv Klorman, CEO of Preen.me, for a decade now, from way back in the day when we both worked in gaming. When she first started the company (which was originally called Lushlee) almost a year ago, she called me to meet for coffee and to hash out ideas (as a friend, not as a client). I recommended she get the heck off of Facebook immediately since it’s always best to own the property you’re sending users to.
I’m glad she completely ignored my advice. By growing the Beauty Addicts Facebook Page she was able to learn all about her users, what they love, and what gets them going. She also built an audience that converted directly over to Preen.me once the site was built.
I interviewed Tamar because I think Preen.me is one of the most interesting startups out of Israel today. It’s a business-to-consumer play that relies on engagement in a way that Israeli startups generally avoid, and she’s nailing it (that’s a good thing.)
What gave you the inspiration to create Preen.me?
“I couldn’t find a moisturizer. I needed a new moisturizer, and figured if I did a bit of research online I could figure out what to buy. After years of buying expensive products that either irritated my skin or had no effect, I wanted to do the research to find what will actually suit me – at my age, with my skin, in the climate I live in. Three days later, I was no closer to having any kind of confidence that any of the hundreds of products I was looking at would work for me.
“I was stunned that there were no real resources to help women pinpoint the beauty products that would work for them. So I decided to create one. Our platform will help women find the right products for them based on objective, personalized recommendations, utilizing social graphs and crowdsourcing. At this stage in the product lifecycle we are focused purely on engagement, while building up the technology and data back end.”
I then checked the website, couldn’t find any moisturizers and called Tamar to ask where they were. They are coming – the engagement stage is more about beauty and color products because this is what more people react to and engage with.
Why did you start as a Facebook Page?
“Because first and foremost we wanted to see how women engage with beauty. What do they talk to about, what gets them excited, how do they relate to products, looks, and beauty as a whole. We went on the assumption that we know very little, but that if we manage to create an environment in which women engage around beauty, we’ll learn.
“So we started experimenting, we listened, responded, optimized, threw lots of things out there, participated in the conversation, listened, and listened some more. And things started falling into place. User generated content started pouring in, and generated a ton of engagement. There is no better way of understanding what your users want than to let them demonstrate it to you. When we started getting love letters from our fans, we figured we were on to something.”
Did that end up helping or hurting?
“It was not only instrumental in our ability to create a relevant, engaging product that our users love, it continues to be a huge element in our growth. We know from the outreach we’ve done to beauty bloggers just how powerful our Facebook community is. They know that one post from us can get them hundreds of followers, so they’re very keen to have their work featured on the website and the community.
“The amazing thing about having this community is the fact that we have over 140,000 users that we continuously communicate with. We make sure to be part of the conversation, so we’re talking with them, not at them. Successfully creating, engaging and building a community is a result of micromanaging a million details.”
How did Preen.me get so many fanatical followers on the page?
“We’re lucky in that we deal in content that is very emotional and passionate for our audience. We’re also very passionate about this subject matter, and I think that really comes out in how we communicate. Every once in a while I tell myself I need to get back to work, and then remember that this is work – and I think people can sense that.
“Our ‘Talking about this’ (the number of fans we engage with on a weekly basis), is currently at 77,855. That means that on a weekly basis, more than half of our 141,000 fans interact with us, respond to our content in an active way. The roughly 1:2 ratio of “engagement : fans” is extraordinarily high.
“L’oreal, for instance, has over 1.5 million fans, with a talking about this of 9436. We’ve gotten so good at engagement by experimenting constantly, improving our ability to press the right levers. We’re constantly analyzing what the users respond to and what they don’t, and we optimize accordingly. The basis of practically everything we do is a constant loop of: experiment > listen > optimize.”
Did you use ads to bring users in the beginning?
“Absolutely. Facebook ads are also something we are constantly experimenting with and optimizing. More and more of our audience is acquired virally – over 50% – but by testing and learning, we have brought the acquisition price down to a few cents, while many in the industry pay $1 a fan. And we know we acquire the right fans, because our engagement is through the roof.”
What’s Preen.me’s business model?
“There are multiple revenue streams that will be applied to each user. Affiliate, advertising, retargeting and anonymous data selling will all generate revenue; they will each carry different weight at different points in the product life cycle. Right now the website is completely focused on engagement, building a passionate community while providing value.
“This is the first step towards a platform that will provide highly personalized recommendations for beauty products, while continuing to provide a fun and engaging experience. Therefore revenue models like advertising are more relevant in the short term, with data selling kicking in a bit farther down the line.”
Right now you’re based in Israel – will it stay that way?
“Development will stay in Israel, we plan to move the business part to the US, which is the first market we’re focusing on. I’ve always believed that in order to really succeed you need to be physically in your market. If you’re not seeing what your users are seeing when they wake up in the morning, turn on the television and go to the supermarket, you’re missing something.”
Image credit: Beauty Addicts Facebook Page