Case Study

Shark Tank Brand, Three Jerks Jerky Achieves 8-fold Email Revenue Growth with Email Aptitude's Strategic Direction and Campaign Management

A business that started as an experiment in an apartment kitchen needs more than a great product and good fortune to transform into an established brand with distribution in retail chains.

As their grassroots business took off, the founders of Three Jerks Jerky recognized that they needed to support their direct-to-consumer online sales with professional email marketing that connected subscribers and customers with the brand.

Success Highlights

  • Email revenue has jumped 718% since engaging with Email Aptitude
  • Opt-outs have decreased by 67%


The Three Jerks Jerky brand began in 2012 with friends brainstorming over beers. Jordan Barrocas and Daniel Fogelson were best friends from college who shared an interest in entrepreneurship. As they sat on the couch one evening, their conversation turned to food and they began lamenting the state of beef jerky, the dried-meat snack commonly found in convenience stores and gas stations and notorious for being full of chemical preservatives and sodium. Barrocas and Fogelson came up with a revolutionary idea: what if they made jerky with quality, not shelf life, in mind?

The duo purchased some filet mignon -- the choicest cut of beef -- and used a dehydrator they already had in their apartment kitchen to produce their first batch of jerky. After several experiments, they shared the results with friends and family; the response was overwhelmingly positive, and Barrocas and Fogelson began turning out jerky to sell door-to-door to retailers and at local farmers’ markets. Three Jerks Jerky earned a grassroots following for producing tender, flavorful jerky without nitrates or preservatives.

With funds from a 2013 Kickstarter campaign to fund their growth, Barrocas and Fogelson moved to a professional production facility and spent nearly a year replicating the home-made flavor and texture they’d first created in their kitchen. Three Jerks Jerky continued to gain steam, earning celebrity endorsements and distribution in more retail outlets, as well as direct sales to consumers via the brand’s eCommerce Web site. First-year sales topped $250,000.

Then, in the fall of 2015, the duo appeared on the network show “Shark Tank” and won not only backing from retail and food impresario Daymond John, but massive exposure for the Three Jerks Jerky brand. Sales soared -- but so did the demands on the business, which needed to expand quickly. With the email channel being such a key component to their growth, Barrocas and Fogelson needed a complete full-service solution along with innovative email strategy to ensure continued growth. They turned to Email Aptitude to gain broad email expertise without a long learning curve. Email Aptitude handles everything from high level strategy, calendar management, design/coding, segmentation, tactics, deliverability management, ESP management and more.

“The hyper growth spawned by ‘Shark Tank’ meant we had to ramp up fast and achieve solid results through the email channel as a means to connect with brand enthusiasts and existing customers,” said Barrocas. “After a lot of due diligence, we found that Email Aptitude was the best in the business with a reputation for outstanding expertise and the flexibility to meet our needs.”

– Jordan Barrocas,
Three Jerks Jerky

Swift Collaboration Turns Challenge Into Opportunity

Shortly after kicking off the Email Aptitude partnership, the Three Jerks Jerky team found they had too much of a good thing. A surge of new orders from the October “Shark Tank” appearance, in tandem with the seasonal uptick for the holidays, meant products were backordered with many customers becoming frustrated. The risk of alienating customers was real; in the eCommerce sector as a whole, roughly 75% of shoppers who discover products are out of stock online are likely to take their business elsewhere.

But Three Jerks Jerky managed to craft an altogether different storyline, thanks to efficient action from the team and seamless collaboration with the strategists at Email Aptitude. Together, the teams devised a notification message targeted to customers whose items were backordered that offered a discount on their next purchase and reinforcing the key product and brand elements to look forward to; they sent the email to a small segment of the list to test its efficacy, then sent the offer to all affected customers -- ultimately achieving an open rate of more than 50%, decreasing customer complaints and social media backlash.

Simultaneously, on the advice of Email Aptitude, the Three Jerks Jerky team sent a targeted message to customers whose orders were not affected, showcasing positive product reviews -- serving to bolster the brand’s reputation among shoppers with potential to become advocates. The tandem campaigns helped Three Jerks Jerky’s email revenue jump 1400% in December of 2015 compared with the prior month. Total revenues for 2015 increased by 750% from the prior year.

“What could have been a stumbling block became a positive situation for the brand and for our customers,” said Barrocas. “Our Email Aptitude team responded quickly and provided knowledgeable guidance that helped us not only retain customers, but grow sales in a challenging situation.”

– Jordan Barrocas,
Three Jerks Jerky

Creative Content Boosts Cadence and Visibility

With growth skyrocketing, the next order of business was to boost email engagement sustainably. When the Email Aptitude engagement began, email was sent infrequently, and opt-out rates were high.

Improving the relevance and frequency of email communication was imperative; developing novel and engaging content about beef jerky to fuel stepped-up campaign cadence was potentially a challenge. But thanks to the collaborative nature of the relationship with Email Aptitude, the Three Jerks Jerky team rose to the occasion.

Successful campaigns have ranged from seasonal tie-ins such as Valentine’s Day and “Christmas in July”, to content-rich messages featuring product benefits and recipes, including a filet mignon jerky mac and cheese concoction featured on The Hallmark Channel. As a result, 2016 so far has seen email volume increase while the number of opt-outs has dropped by a whopping 67%, signalling that subscribers are receiving relevant content and offers.

Email Aptitude strategists also identified the opportunity to send targeted content to new subscribers introducing them to the brand with comprehensive content about product benefits and invitations to connect via social media. The welcome series earned significant revenue in its first seven weeks post-launch, and individual messages within the series earn open rates ranging from 25% to 54%.

Putting New Products and New Markets in Reach

In 2016, Three Jerks Jerky has launched a new product line and a new wholesale initiative -- big moves that the Email Aptitude team is supporting with tailored email campaigns that are poised to drive sales and engage customers.

Just in time for the Labor Day weekend, the Three Jerks Jerky team debuted two types of filet mignon burgers, the first non-jerky products in the company’s lineup. The Email Aptitude team was integral to planning the launch, and synchronized email content to promote the burgers’ debut. Fall promotions focused on football tailgating balance promotion of the two product lines.

Simultaneously, Three Jerks Jerky is making a push into the wholesale market to boost distribution via retail outlets. Again, Email Aptitude has collaborated with the marketing team to create a campaign calendar exclusively for wholesalers who’ve signed up via the eCommerce site, with content that includes tips for displaying Three Jerks Jerky products in stores, nutrition facts, shelf talkers, and other marketing materials. And by optimizing the technology behind the targeted emails, Email Aptitude has automated a communications campaign that might otherwise have entailed hours of manual outreach.

“As we expand into new territory, we’re confident that our email strategy will be able to adapt. We’re able to tap Email Aptitude’s expertise and integrate their best practices into our growth plans,” said Barrocas.

– Jordan Barrocas,
Three Jerks Jerky

About Email Aptitude

Email Aptitude is a leading ESP-agnostic email agency, providing strategy and full-service management for some of the world's largest brands and fastest growing startups. The Email Aptitude team is made up of industry veterans and the new bright minds of email who work tirelessly to crush records for our clients.