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One of my favorite parts of my job is helping founders bring their vision to life and bring their brands to market. Yes, it's absolutely exciting to work with a brand when it's already established, but in those first few meetings developing a go-to-market strategy for a brand that's so new you can still smell the glue on its packaging, hit just different. You can hear the heart of the brand beating with every new headline and see the founding team grinning from ear to ear with every product shot you feature.
But all that excitement tends to be balanced with the fear of a successful start. There have been months if not years of research and development, trial and error, and ups and downs that led to the moment when it all goes live. Everyone is waiting to see how well the brand will be received – and whether people will actually buy it.
In the past few years, I've learned a thing or two about branding and product launches to help startups get their legs and acquire established brands. And while there are many different strategies for getting a brand off the ground, there are a few things that I think are essential to getting a successful start.
Related: 10 Skills To Master Before Starting A New Business
Identify your ideal customer
The most successful brands know exactly who they are, what makes them attractive and, above all, who cares. If you think your brand is suitable for everyone – and it could be – you may not be able to get your news out for everyone. Understanding your target audience is of course a basic strategy, but let's take it a few steps further. Name your ideal customer, understand their weaknesses, define what other brands they may be loyal to, and create your messaging-specific person in all of your marketing initiatives. It seems pretty simple, but too often we see brands that fail to connect with an audience because of a copy that doesn't connect with a person.
Activate social networks and collect data
One of our most successful product launches was Winged Wellness, a women-centric lifestyle brand. We strategically activated our social campaign 3 months ahead of the planned launch date to use our quote cards and lifestyle images to empower women (we didn't have the final product yet) to win an audience on social channels and drive traffic to land the brand Page. Why did we drive traffic to the website and have nothing to sell? This is how we can later create custom audience data for social ads.
Make a list of interests before you start
When you're talking about driving traffic to your website before you launch, it's a good idea to build your email list of interests for a successful launch date. I'd rather remind consumers of a brand the day I'm ready to sell my products than introduce the brand. Before you start, keep your list of interests up to date by scheduling a newsletter sequence highlighting your progress and "alternative" solutions to the problem your brand is about to solve. For example, if you're launching a skin care brand, consider sharing content about foods that could improve a person's complexion.
Pro tip: think of a pre-order campaign so you can estimate how much inventory you will need on the day of launch.
Related: Effective Email Strategies For Startups Marketing On A Budget
Prepare your Influencer Marketing Blitz
Look, I understand. You may be burned out by the idea of partnering with influencers, but at the end of the day, you get reach, targeted engagement, testimonials, and really great lifestyle content with each of your partnerships. The trick is to be strategic about who to work with. See who's following them, how sincere they are, how many times they've worked with other brands, and what their target audience is interested in using a third-party data aggregator. Please don't spray and pray based on just the number of followers. If you plan your influencer partnerships like any other aspect of your go-to-market strategy, you are giving yourself the best chance of making them a profitable arm of your marketing campaign.
Related: 4 Influencer Marketing Secrets Business Owners Must Know
Be strategic about social ads
Since you've already wanted to run social ads, here are some pointers: Start your prospecting with a broader targeting that is traffic-optimized to capture your interest data before remarketing your offers, ideally before your product launches. Imagine how films gain interest in their launches. Trailers are released months, if not a year, before "Coming Next Summer" is released to keep audiences excited and give the film such a big weekend opening. One of the big mistakes I see all the time is showing ads by brands that are optimized to convert to a cold audience. This is a surefire way to flop your metaphorical movie on opening day.
Look at the press
You may think PR is a thing of the past, but some of our managed brands rely on press releases to get massive reach quickly and establish themselves as industry leaders. And every time a brand gets a good press hit, sales increase almost immediately. Nothing screams "must" like "As Featured On …". But don't worry, you don't have to be placed on Allure's Reader's Choice List to have a meaningful impact on your startup. Even a mention in a trusted digital publication can give your brand the reach and credibility to turn readers into loyal customers.
Get your feedback as soon as possible
When your product finally got into the hands of your customers, ask them to review your website ASAP. In fact, it might be a good idea to use package inserts to remind your customers to show you some love on your website, if not via an automated, product-specific email on delivery. During your startup stages, product page reviews can be particularly useful in increasing visitor intent to purchase and lowering your initial cost per acquisition through paid traffic. A study by the Spiegel Research Center shows that the likelihood of buying products with five reviews is 270% higher than the likelihood of buying a product without reviews.
Getting your first customers is just the beginning of their story with you. After working with numerous founders who know about DTC product launches, the focus of conversation lately has been on Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), which I believe have become the buzzwords in digital marketing in 2020 . And while these metrics are imperative to consider, I'd like to say that improving your client's lifetime value (LTV) is even more important. Think about it, the cost of acquiring a customer has a deep impact on your profit margins. Recurring purchases and cross-selling are therefore critical to the overall profitability of your business.
How you do that? You can start with email campaigns that increase the usage of your product, like Truff, by regularly exchanging recipes that go well with the truffle-infused hot sauce. Creating exclusive Facebook groups and maintaining an engaged community that experiences your brand through webinars, Q&A, or panels is another way to keep your customers in your ecosystem. And of course don't forget that a great brand starts with a great product.