Now it’s time for us to step up and provide you with what we feel are proven steps your business can take to implement a successful direct-to-consumer plan.
First, let’s quickly explore the basics.
Being a direct-to-consumer business means you produce your products and then sell them to your customers and consumers directly—typically over the internet.
You make your products, you develop an avenue through which you can place these products into the hands of customers, and then you finalize sales in-house without the use of any third-party middlemen or distribution. Easy peasy, right?
Not so fast! The DTC market was vastly different 20 and even 10 years ago than it is today. Essentially, when companies were able to launch DTC models thanks to the rise of the internet, social media companies weren’t as powerful or prolific.
As social media companies grew to become the behemoths they are now, ads on said platforms have astronomically grown. Moreover, competition has also grown thus causing ad-spend to increase while also causing revenue growth to dwindle.
Look, we get it. The DTC world is topsy-turvy, but in its essence, it is a very simplified, streamlined way to do business. Like we mentioned before, find your niche, and run with it. Be interesting, be unique, be creative, and be wanted or needed by a whole lot of people before you move forward with a DTC model.
So, let’s walk you through the steps that you can take to ensure you are equipped to implement a successful direct-to-consumer plan; and your DTC brand can launch as successfully as possible. We’ll guide you through the process through these 6 steps, and be sure to remain open-minded when considering all of the stated ideas and their potential ramifications. First up will be preparation—cross all the I’s and dot all the T’s!
Steps to Implement a Successful Direct-to-Consumer Plan
Kidding aside, being completely prepared to launch your direct-to-consumer business is serious business. You’ll need funding, you’ll need capable workers and leaders, and you’ll need to vigorously plan ahead. From these things, you’ll be able to build your platform, create meaningful and interesting content, and be ready for hiccups and obstacles before you encounter them.
If you’re a new start-up, this is the thinking you’ll need to embrace. However, if you’re already in business and have been practicing older, more traditional ways in which to sell your wares, then an ambitious reorganization is likely imminent. Acronyms such as SEO and ROI and others will need to be known and embraced.
Funding is everything (it does make everything much, much easier); you can’t start a DTC business without it. Whether you crowd-source it or find it through venture capitalism, you will need seeding that can get you not just up and running, but growing for at least a year or two. This is why we mentioned vigorously planning ahead.
As you build capital and plan ahead, you’ll also need solid, capable workers and leaders in place to help shape your brand, generate meaningful and interesting content, and prepare your brand for unforeseen bumps in the road—they will happen. The backbone of your soon-to-be thriving business requires you to have a team in place that can handle it all. Vet them all carefully, but also don’t be afraid to include outliers who can bring a fresh perspective to the otherwise status quo.
Now that you’ve got your core team in place, your ideas are on the table, and collaboration has begun, planning now becomes paramount to a successful direct-to-consumer model launch. Yes, we know; we purposefully used a widely generic section title in order to hopefully encourage some open thinking as you prepare. Planning can mean a million different things, and that’s exactly where your heads should be.
You’ve got previously mentioned content to create, and you also have your platform, packaging, shipping, vendor partnerships, incentives, customer communications and service, (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), and everything else in between to plan. It’s a lot and we’re not going to mince words here placating to something that’s easy to do when it’s not.
Yet, with proper planning (including working as a team to further mete out the process), launching a DTC business is much less complicated than a full-on, third-party-based organization that sells widgets via numerous brick-and-mortar outlets. Even from a sales standpoint, a DTC company is much more streamlined and efficient when everything is done in-house as one collective—a ‘family’, as we so endearingly like to refer to it.
The topic of support is an equally important one to consider even if it could fall under the purveyance of planning. We’re highlighting it separately because you truly do need to be mindful about how you’re going to not just support your customers, but also your teammates.
First, you’ve got your customers to think about. They need a clean avenue through which they can shop and make purchases, and then they also need speedy, efficient, and empathetic assistance when they reach out. Before you flip the switch on your DTC business, be sure you’re laser-focused on customer support and service by being hyper-supportive of employees.
Marriott International sets an incredible example. They strive to treat their workers with as much dignity and respect as possible knowing a happy house means guests will be treated happily in return. Example: You order your favorite dish at a restaurant and they get it wrong. When you politely raise the issue with your server, that person immediately fixes the problem and then also includes complimentary dessert for the trouble.
Secondly, you have your teammates to think about. They need reliable equipment, incentives to do a great job, and leadership that is supportive, encouraging, and empathetic while also being able to maintain disciple—and we’re not just talking about timeouts for unruly children. There are a lot of things to be considered, but in your start-up phase, don’t be afraid to put a pin in some things in order to be fiscally responsible. (Just don’t forget to actually pin things and revisit them in timely fashion.)
Before it’s time to launch your DTC business, there is one other category to consider: incentives. We don’t mean incentives in the narrow sense of just rewards; we mean incentives in the full sense of the word. There are quite a few ways you can incentivize your future customers so let’s go over some of the most popular and successful.
Having a subscription-based DTC model could certainly incentivize your customers as well as cement a solid flow of revenue. Some of the biggest and most successful direct-to-consumer brands out there have subscription options, and that has often been their reason for massive growth. If you’re able to come up with some way to keep your customers coming back while fostering loyalty, do it.
Another incentive would be, as previously mentioned, a rewards program. Whether it be sharing official announcements and posts to social media for points toward a discount, or loyalty rewards for continuously coming back, a rewards program could be very beneficial while not really costing you all that much to maintain. Like the subscription-based model, a rewards program also fosters loyalty to your brand, and that’s what customers truly appreciate especially when recognized.
Though pricey and not as reliable as a few years ago, influencers can still help draw attention to your brand and incentivize others to check you out. When considering influencers, don’t hesitate to bring on some big guns as well as some not-so big guns. You want to remember that you’re trying to reach as many different demographics as possible depending on what you’re selling. If you’re like Harry’s, marketing via influencers who appeal to a non-face-shaving audience likely won’t yield much return so be mindful while also being open-minded.
Once you think you’re ready to launch, give pause, and take some time to ponder your marketing efforts before you hit the “go” button. Marketing a DTC business is a lot more complex than you think. The reason why is because the best ways in which to market your brand is an ever-evolving concept.
Don’t go breathless on us here; we’ll walk you through the basic setup and considerations you’ll need to embrace. First, make sure you have your branding set in stone. How your potential consumers will recognize you is paramount to your future success. You will want who you are and what you sell to stand out in an already saturated market.
Secondly, you will need the infrastructure to capture as much meaningful data as possible. Social media may be popular upon which to market your wares today, but tomorrow may see a shift towards other avenues, and you’ll need to pivot your marketing efforts as quickly as possible if that’s the case. Make sure someone is keeping an eye on where your audience is being engaged the most, and capitalize on it.
Thirdly, be thinking about ways in which you can get your brand to go viral. This is why we mentioned above that you should consider outside-the-box thinkers for your staffing needs. Coming up with clever, imaginative ways in which to market your brand such that an image, article, or video goes viral could really give your business a healthy boost.
Lastly, communication will be key regardless of medium. Email, social media posts and interactions, “snail” mail, and other means through which you can connect with your potential consumers and lead them to your products need to be embraced and initiated with an open mind.
Don’t shy away from generating an email list (within reason and according to federal law) of regular shoppers, while also never, ever shying away from sending out a physical letter or informative postcard. Just like being inclusive with your demographics and reach, different people’s interests are piqued by many different means of communication.
Okay, so everything seems to be in place for the launch of your direct-to-consumer business. The website is set, ecommerce is set, people are in place, plans are well know and laid out for all to follow, and you’ve got your support systems firmly in place. Now what?
Triple-check everything! It all boils back down to who has invested in your brand, and everyone involved in the launch is ultimately responsible to do everything they can to help bring about a return on the investments. Neglecting to be mindful of that and in your preparations for the launch could lead to some bad outcomes.
Has the website been triple-checked for errors and security? What about handling traffic? Can purchases successfully go through using all types of payment options?
Are your phones, contact page, online chat, and/or other means for customer support working okay? What about the planned marketing efforts? Are they all prepared and set to go off in sync with the launch?
We know, we know, it’s a lot to consider, and the above rhetorical questions are just a few that come to mind. Think of your company’s DTC launch as if it were opening night for a Broadway musical. There are a whole lot of moving parts that all need to work perfectly right alongside the performance of everyone involved—both on stage and behind the scenes. This is why we highlighted support for your teammates; you need to have a well-oiled, motivated machine once everything goes live.