In 2015 Nootrobox was flying high from stories about its flagship product -- a pill supplement called RISE designed to enhance cognitive performance -- that appeared in a series of media outlets such as The New York Observer. Not even a year old, the San Francisco-based startup had the kind of marketing boost every company dreams of. Then it ran out of product.
“We were very excited about the press coverage, which blew orders through the roof,” recounts founder and COO Michael Brandt. “We had pulled the trigger on a purchase order to replenish supply and tried to get our supplier to move faster when the press stuff happened. But you can’t just snap your fingers and get a product like ours made faster.”
That meant almost a thousand new and existing customers weren’t going to get their orders filled anytime soon. Here was a company whose products claim to promote mental acuity, showing its customer base a clear lack of exactly that with a faulty demand forecast. “We felt like it would undercut our entire brand if we didn’t roll up our sleeves and try to mend these relationships,” Brandt says.
But rather than dump the problem on their customer service staff, Brandt and his cofounder, Geoffrey Woo, grabbed the hot seat themselves and started contacting customers personally.
“We decided we could do the best job of repairing [customer] relationships by answering their questions one by one,” Brandt says. “It took half our day, every day, for several weeks to do it, but I think we succeeded in getting people to understand the processes we have to follow to make our products and that we weren’t going to compromise quality just to ship faster.”
After about 1,000 personal emails and phone calls, they managed to salvage all but a handful of customers. “The conversations turned from a cold, ‘Where’s my product?’ to excitement and curiosity about our products,” says Brandt, who is convinced the unorthodox crisis-communications campaign saved the company.
“Conservatively I’d say saving those 1,000 customers was worth at least $50,000 in revenue, and likely a whole lot more in recurring revenue. That was a very important $50,000, because soon after we resolved this situation, we were able to raise $2 million in VC money that we otherwise might not have been able to raise.”