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One of my favorite aspects of my job is helping founders bring their vision to life and launch their brands. Yes, it's absolutely exciting to work with a brand when they're already established, but being in those first meetings developing a go-to-market strategy for a brand that's so new you can still smell the adhesive on their package just hits different. You can hear the heart of the brand beat with every new headline, and watch the founding team grin from ear to ear with each product shot you present.
But all that excitement tends to get matched with the anxiety of a successful launch. There have been months if not years of research and development, trial and error, and highs and lows that lead up to the moment that everything goes live. Everyone's standing by waiting to see just how well the brand is received — and if people will actually buy it.
Over the last few years, I've learned a thing or two about launching brands and products, helping startups get their legs and well-established brands get to acquisition. And although there are many different strategies to get a brand off the ground, there are some things that I believe are essential to a successful launch.
Identify your ideal customer
The most successful brands know exactly who they are, what makes them appealing, and most importantly who will care. If you're thinking your brand is for everyone — and it might be true — your messaging can't be for everyone. Of course, understanding your target demographic is a foundational strategy, but let's take that a few steps further. Name your ideal customer, understand their pain point, define which other brands they might be loyal to, and create your messaging specific that person in all of your marketing initiatives. It seems pretty basic, but too often do we see brands that fail to connect with an audience because of copy that doesn't connect to an individual.
Activate social and collect data
One of our most successful launches was Winged Wellness, a female-focused lifestyle brand. We strategically activated our social campaign 3 months before the projected launch date to begin growing an audience on social channels with our female-empowerment quote cards and lifestyle images (we didn't actually have the final product yet) and drive traffic to the brand's landing page. Why were we driving traffic to the site with nothing to sell? So we could start creating custom audience data for social ads later down the road.
Create a pre-launch interest list
Speaking of driving traffic to your website pre-launch, it's a good idea to start building your email-interest list for a successful launch date. I'd much rather be reminding consumers about a brand the day that I'm ready to sell my products than be introducing the brand. Keep your interest list engaged before your launch by planning a newsletter sequence highlighting your progress, and “alternative” solutions to the problem that your brand will be solving. For example, if you're launching a skin-care brand, consider sharing content on food that might help someone's complexion.
Pro-Tip: Consider a pre-order campaign so you can gauge how much inventory you'll need to have on hand the day of launch.
Prepare your influencer marketing blitz
Look, I get it. You might be burned out on the idea of working with influencers but at the end of the day, you're getting reach, targeted engagement, testimonials and really great lifestyle content with each one of your partnerships. The trick is to be strategic about who you're partnering with. Take a look at who's following them, the sincerity in their engagement, how often they've partnered with other brands and what their audience interested in by using a 3rd party data aggregator. Please do not just spray and pray based on follower counts — by planning your influencer partnerships as you would any other aspect of your go-to-market strategy, you'll give yourself the best shot of making them a profitable arm of your marketing campaign.
Be strategic about social ads
Since you were already going to be launching social ads, here are a few pointers: start your prospecting with broader targeting optimized for traffic to gather your interest data before remarketing with your offers, ideally before the launch of your product. Think of it like how movies gain interest for their launches. Trailers are launched months, if not a year, ahead of time stating “Coming Next Summer,” getting audiences hyped and thus helping the movie have a big opening weekend. One of the big mistakes I constantly see is brands launching ads optimized for conversion to cold audiences. That's a sure way to get your metaphorical movie to flop on its opening day.
Do consider the press
You might be thinking that PR is a thing of the past, but a few of our managed brands depend on press releases for a quick hit of massive reach and establishing themselves as a leader in the industry. And each time a brand gets a good press-hit, there's almost an immediate spike in sales. Nothing screams “must-have” like “As Featured On…”. But don't worry, you don't have to get on Allure's Reader's Choice list to make a meaningful impact on your launch. Even a mention in a trust-worthy digital publication can give your brand the reach and credibility to convert readers into loyal customers.
Get your feedback as soon as possible
Once your product finally gets in the hands of your customers, be sure to ask them for a review on your website as soon as possible. In fact, it might be a good idea to leverage package inserts to help remind your customers to give you some love on your site, if not through an automated, product-specific email upon delivery. During your launch phases, reviews on product pages can be especially useful in increasing visitors' intent to buy and decreasing your initial cost-per-acquisition through paid traffic. A study by Spiegel Research Center shows that the purchase likelihood of products with five reviews is 270% greater than the purchase likelihood of a product with no reviews.
Getting your first customers is just the beginning of their story with you. After working with numerous founders who know something about DTC launches, the focus of conversations as of late have been about customer acquisition cost (CAC) and return on ad spend (ROAS), which in my opinion have effectively become the buzzwords of 2020 digital marketing. And while these metrics are essential to consider, I'd venture to say that improving your customer's lifetime value (LTV) is even more crucial. Think about it, the cost of acquiring a customer bites deep into your profit margins, so repeat purchases and cross-selling are critical to your business's overall profitability.
So how do you do that? You can begin with email campaigns that reinforce the use of your product like Truff does by regularly sharing recipes that go well with their truffle-infused hot sauce. Creating exclusive Facebook groups and cultivating an engaged community that experiences your brand through webinars, Q&As or panels is another way to keep your customers in your eco-system. And of course, don't forget that a great brand starts with a great product.