There’s a fascinating shift taking place that pits old-school marketers against new, millennial-backed promotional minds.
Today’s start-up consumer brands are skipping traditional retail channels in favor of building relationships directly with consumers. Note: they are not focused on SELLING directly to consumers, but are instead building relationships with them through mostly online channels.
The business world calls them D2C, or Direct-to-Consumer. Notable players include Dollar Shave Club, The Honest Co.and Jet.com, all of whom have taken on monolithic competitors and captured market share quickly.
According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a trade group that conducts research on marketing and advertising, “two-thirds of all U.S. consumers expect direct connectivity to the companies from which they buy goods and services.”
Translated, today’s buyers know that by using digital and social channels, they can first build relationships with brands, and then be educated and/or entertained by them (before Dollar Shave Club ads showed up on TV, they were notoriously found displaying funny videos on YouTube).
As that relationship grows, an initial purchase ensues, and if the product experience is good, the buyer (now in a full-fledged relationship with the brand) literally BECOMES the marketing engine.
They share the educational and witty videos, tools and tips. They tell their friends what they liked and didn’t like. It’s totally transparent and ridiculously cost effective.
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For small businesses in particular, it’s flat out brilliant because marketing expenses are virtually nil for years, yet revenue grows organically through satisfied customers who want to share their experiences with their friends. It’s also authentic at its core, and authenticity is central to this strategy.
For example: The product (or service) experience has to be a “better than good.” Gone are the days when ingenious advertising made up for an inferior product. In this authentic D2C world, quality products are simply shared through authentic promotional strategies that focus on value exchanges, as well as relationship building with prospective buyers.
So, how do small businesses implement these authentic promotional strategies and start growing more cost effectively?
- Know your target market very well. Where are they online? Know what they want/need well BEFORE they buy your product. If you’re not sure, ask them. Even if you are sure – ask them anyway.
- Be creative, tell stories, and have fun. The best example of a D2C killer brand is wine label 19 Crimes. The Australian wine label used history and an ingenious app to literally have wine bottles come to life and tell a story about 18thcentury British criminals imprisoned for one of 19 crimes who were subsequently shipped from England to then “new world” of Australia.
The app is simple: Focus your phone camera on the criminal’s face (that is on the wine label), and the app plays a short video on your phone. It’s that cool!
19 Crimes has quickly become the fastest growing wine label with virtually NO marketing. The customers who love the creativity of the story-driven technology and believe the wine is “better than average,” tell their friends, who tell their friends.
- Determine what you can provide for free, that they will consider valuable. Dollar Shave Club provides entertainment on a boring subject – shaving.
Beauty brand Glossier was launched from the founder’s highly successful beauty blog “Into The Gloss”. She gave away free tips and product suggestions based on her passion for beauty products, and over time, built a loyal following.
Subsequently, the brand established a personal approach with customers and now involves her customers to co-develop new products based on feedback received from consumer comments.
- Last, but most important, just be real. Don’t try to spin or fake your way through it. Engage with customers before you try to promote to them.
IGNITE On Purpose was established to share what we call Authentic Demand GenerationTM, with founders and business owners who care for their customers, want to build a respected brand that matters, and are looking for the most cost effective ways to grow. We are so good at it, that we offer it on a Pay-for-Performance basis.
If your business is trying to do well by doing good and wants to grow profitably through authentically generating demand, contact us today.