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DTC 11: 📦 The Ultimate Ads Dashboard, 20% Rule R.I.P. + Packaging Performance Proven
May 21, 2023
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We love this inspiring image from Reddit user, jiinxyee3, with the title: 


“Got told I was crazy to try to produce purses during the shutdowns. Yesterday I shipped my 365th bag.” 


Congrats! Your DTC future is as bright as your product 🍊🍉🍋


And please join us in welcoming new subscribers Chippendales, Sunscoop, Kynship, Playboy, Bacardi, and Plantsome.ca 🌱


(Did a good friend send this to you? Be sure to subscribe here.)


Here’s the little bit of magic you’ll find in every box, this week:


📦 Facebook’s 20% ad text rule is no more! (and how you can take advantage)

📦 How to level up your brand’s email personalization TODAY

📦 Can your packaging get your brand better results (that you can prove)? PLUS an exclusive Q&A for DTC Subscribers

📦 A hack to get around pesky tagging issues in Facebook Ads

📦 Everything you need to negotiate with influencers in a single Twitter thread + Influencer Lookalikes


As always, there’s a lot you can take action on to get forward progress for your DTC brand. If you find yourself wanting to share with team members who can help with execution, be sure to use your referral link for cool rewards: %RHREFLINK%


Read until the end to hear about the new format for “augmented” product images that earn 94% conversion lift according to Shopify!



Facebook’s 20% text rule is no more!

Official word came yesterday from Pilothouse’s Facebook rep that they would be discontinuing their rule that no more than 20% of your ad image can be text.


Of course this means that Facebook’s text overlay tool for testing is now redundant and unavailable. We started noticing that it was removed on most accounts earlier this week. 


The rule seemed arbitrary in a world dictated by total performance, so we’re glad to see them removing it.  


☘️ Evan O’Gorman, Designer at Pilothouse advises the team to test into this opportunity as soon as possible: 


“Since this is a fairly new development, it might be worth testing text-heavy creatives asap - not a lot of agencies/people will be aware of this development so they'll still be following the 20% rule, potentially giving us a short-term window to push really eye-grabbing content as users will not be used to text-heavy creatives.”


There goes your window Evan, now the whole DTC world knows about it. :D


4 Easy Ways To Level Up Your Brand’s Email Success


Looking to develop a deeper relationship with your customers through email? 


Last week, Litmus released their 2020 State of Email Report Insights -- a 29-page treasure trove of data-backed takeaways for email marketers. It runs the gamut from email marketing discoveries in a Covid world to top productivity killers for email teams (spoiler alert: poor approval methods is #1).


Before we get into the goods, let’s take a quick sec to go over WHY email works and why it will continue to work:


  • If you think your customers spend more time on social than email, think again -- it’s about the same. According to the Adobe Email Usage study, Americans spend an average of 143 minutes each weekday checking email (compared to 144 minutes on social media)
  • It’s permission-based: your audience raises their hand to give you the key to their inbox kingdom. It’s a more intimate relationship and your email audience will be more receptive to your message.
  • Look at the inbox like you would a Facebook feed. Who controls the email feed? The owner. Who controls the Facebook feed? The algorithm. In other words, email is curated by PEOPLE, and social channels are controlled by ROBOTS.
  • According to a Litmus survey, 4 out of 5 respondents said they’d sooner give up social marketing over email marketing (leading us to believe most people are generating a greater return from email)
  • On average, email generates $36 for every $1 spent 🤯


Now that that’s out of the way, here are some ideas to help you take email personalization beyond just [First Name].


If you remember anything from this section, make it this: Ask. Remember. Tailor.


  • Ask your audience questions about themselves...
  • Remember what you learn and put them into buckets...
  • Tailor your content to those ‘buckets’...


Here are some ways you can do that:


  1. Ask More Questions. Get More Insight.


There are two fast and easy ways to do this:


First is to just go ahead and ask. Write up a short email that asks one question and send it to your entire list. For example:


  • If we were to give you a sweet discount on any product, which product would it be?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in your skincare routine today?
  • What’s your number one fitness goal THIS YEAR?


In our experience, the more simple and casual the questions are, the more responses we receive.


You can direct your audience to a simple form that lets them select their answers and automatically segment themselves. You can do this for free using Google Forms.


The second way to ask more questions is to build a survey or quiz into your onboarding process. For example, when you sign up for DTC, we ask for more information with this survey


(Since launching DTC just over 2.5 months ago, we’ve received valuable insight from over 400 DTCers. They’ve told us who they are, what they like about us, what they’d like to see more of, and more.)


  1. Put your audience into buckets


Either using tags or lists, put your audience into their respective buckets. This gives you the ability to communicate with your audience like a ninja:


  • Use conditional formatting to show email content depending on the bucket they’re in (think headlines and CTAs)...
  • Send special offers on products your audience is most likely to want based on the bucket they’re in...
  • Send seasonal promotional email campaigns to each bucket for higher conversion rates...


  1. Celebrate important dates 🥳


The easiest dates to get started with are the date they came into your world (either through subscription or purchase), and their birthday.


Here’s a great example from Jet Blue celebrating someone’s anniversary with their brand:



Think about it, some people’s best friends don’t even remember their birthday. If your brand can go that extra step to make someone feel special on their birthday, it’ll go a long way. 


Give a $10 gift card, coupon code, free subscription, shipping on you, or gift from a complimentary partner brand.


  1. Use conditional formatting to tailor your call-to-actions based on the buckets


Go ahead and map the most compelling call-to-actions to each one of your buckets. For example, let’s say you’re in the fitness space and you have two buckets: those who want to get strong, and those who want to lose weight.


Here’s how you could map those two buckets to tailored CTAs:


  • Want to get strong like Popeye? This 100% creatine gel will help you make it happen faster. Get 20% off today only 💪 
  • We want to support you in your weight-loss goals. Get a 15% discount on the Weight Killer Package.


You can see how over time tailored CTAs are bound to get better conversions.


Think of these ideas as ‘gateway drugs’ to take your email personalization to the next level. When you evolve beyond [First Name] and ‘e-blasts,’ your audience will thank you by buying more stuff 🚀



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How to Create Packaging that Performs with SmashBrand’s Kevin Smith 


The DTC Podcast sat down with SmashBrand’s Kevin Smith to discuss all things package design strategy. In this episode, we share packaging tactics to reduce risk, differentiate your brand, and communicate your values to your customers. 


Kevin is the founder and managing partner of SmashBrand, working with clients such as Kraft Heinz, Duracell, 7-Eleven, and Paypal to innovate their packaging design, brand strategy, branding, and consumer testing. Kevin started his career as a CPG entrepreneur growing several brands to over $40M in revenue before pivoting to his true passion - brand strategy and creative direction. 


Watch the full conversation here or read on for key takeaways from Kevin’s data-driven differentiation-based strategies. 


🔑 Product with Purpose 

Kevin outlined four essential questions that all brands have to answer before activating. These foundational elements, when communicated well, will carry your product. 


  1. What is our purpose? 
  2. How do we add value to our customers? 
  3. What’s your differentiator? 
  4. How do you prove it? 


Spend all your effort, time, and money defining purpose, value-adds, and differentiators. Once that foundation’s in place, deploy these elements across all funnel touch points. 


🔑 Data Backed Decisions


As DTC marketers, using data comes as second nature, but in the world of brand packaging, how can you be sure that the decisions you make about how a product looks are working for you? 


The answer: Structured feedback and iteration! Kevin’s Smash Brand has built a systematic, multidimensional process for brand package creation (and a month’s long waiting list to work with his firm), but we pressed him on how DTC entrepreneurs can practically produce relevant data themselves to get started. 


If you already have an audience, it’s a lot easier. Embrace the idea of “building in public” and ask your audience about critical aspects of your new packaging on your page, in your group, or to the most loyal superfans on your list.


If you’re starting out and don’t have a gaggle of followers, start like Kevin (and Eric) did, by using Amazon Mechanical Turk, or MTurk, a platform that allows you to structure high volume feedback testing for cents per signal. 


For example, if you’re evaluating your packaging colour or font, you could send 1000 people a picture of your proposed product design on the shelf next to other competitors and ask them which product they would pick and why. This exercise will cost you $50 or less, and the results will establish your baseline. Systematically run the test with key changes made to your brand and/or packaging and see if you can improve the selection rate.


Kevin cautions that you have to be careful how you ask and structure your tests. Still, MTurk is a viable tool for generating the performance signals you need to make profitable decisions about brand packaging. Watch the poddy for more information. 


🔑 White Space

Again for the people in the back - differentiation is the most important thing when approaching your product and brand strategy. Kevin advocates for a research-driven strategy - evaluating your competition and noting absences in the market. Eventually, you’ll see patterns and areas no one is operating in - this is your most significant opportunity as a brand. Go after white space, and own it.


🔑 A Step-By-Step Guide to Bringing your Product to Market 


  1. Research - research, research, research. Take your time and dig into desk research, industry reports, competitor evaluations, online and in-store research. Break apart every competitor - their positioning, tone and voice, communication strategy and design systems. Use this detailed research to map out the market landscape, looking for patterns and white space. Find your positioning from the holes in the current market.
  2. Positioning - once you’ve completed your positioning, move onto testing. Compare your positioning hypothesis against your competition to weed out the good and bad ideas from your initial strategy until you land on a final concept that’s resonating with a significant portion of your audience.
  3. Communication - next step, work on messaging themes. Compare 5-20 different ways to communicate your positioning until you land on a winner. Head to the pod for a breakdown of Kevin’s white box testing strategy. 
  4. Naming - find a handful of potential names that bind with your positioning, and run affinity testing to establish a name that aligns with consumers. (affinity testing is a data mining technique that targets similarities, providing intel on customer behaviour, what they have purchased, and what they are likely to buy next). Mturk works here too!  
  5. Design systems - take it back to white space and find design options that aren’t replicating aesthetics of competition in the market and test these options against each other. For example, think of the endless stream of pastel, serif DTC “blands,” and consider what visual systems you could adopt to disrupt that trend.
  6. Final Testing - once you have tested your positioning, communication, naming, and design, take it back for final testing and compare it against your competition. At this point, you should be capturing a significant portion of your market, and you can confidently move forward with the data-based evidence of your product’s impact on consumers.


You can watch your early screening of the full conversation, covering “blands,” harvesting Amazon reviews, and how DTC brands are chipping away at the sales of older behemoth brands, here.


If you submitted a question for Kevin via email a few weeks ago, you can likely find answers to your questions in this private link. 




Forecasting COVID-BFCM Traffic, Sales & Support Volume 


Wondering what to expect this year with questions around the economy, household disposable income, and discount fatigue? 


Our friends at Gorgias compiled customer support data to forecast numbers on what to expect coming up + 5 tips on how to manage the influx for customer service.


You can download it here


If you need help scaling your customer support this upcoming holiday season, don’t hire extra seasonal staff - try Gorgias. They get more done with less thanks to automation and machine learning. 


Get your second month free by speaking with the Gorgias team here.



How To Build An E-Commerce Ads Dashboard: Key Metrics


Ever heard of Pearson’s Law? It states that, "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."


(In other words, reporting is Peter Drucker on steroids 🦾)


And a central piece of performance reporting is having a universal dashboard that everyone on your team can efficiently access to get on the same page.


Pilothouse media buyer, Dustin “Dashboard Specialist” Dobravsky, shares some insights into what he includes in his dashboards, and how he builds them.


Here are the basic metrics Dustin includes on all dashboards and a high-level view of how he looks at them:


  • CPM (Cost Per 1,000 Impressions) 👉 Shows the supply and demand of an audience and how competitive it is. A high CPM is not necessarily a bad thing as it can indicate a high quality converting audience. Monitoring it in relation to audience size can signal saturation or, in relation to conversion rate, indicates audience quality.
  • Link Click CPC (Cost Per Click) 👉 CPC shows the relationship between CPM and Ad CTR. It’s a particularly important metric early on to find efficient CPCs to gather data without breaking the bank. Once conversions are coming in and ROAS is achieved, CPC doesn't really matter as it’s all about the right blend of audience quality and conversion rate. For example, you can have high quality audiences AND high converters, which will yield a high CPC -- but that’s okay, because it’s working.
  • Link CTR (Click Through Rate) 👉 Shows the efficiency of an ad in relation to the targeted audience. High CTRs indicate that the ad is relevant and well matched to the targeted audience. As ads mature and get saturated, CTR decreases
  • CPA 👉 Most important metric as ads can have super cheap clicks with good CTR, but if they don’t convert within your funnel, there is a problem. Naturally, the FB algorithm allocates spend towards best converting ads, however, cheap CPCs and high CTRs may alter that allocation of budget towards specific ads, so very important to check which ads actually convert. 
  • Funnel CVR (Conversion rate) 👉 Very important metric to check full funnel efficiency. Click bait aside, if you have cheap clicks + high CTRs the ad is efficient. If the ad is efficient with low CVR, then the landing page is NOT efficient and needs to be improved / more user friendly. We want to see a 2%+ CVR for e-commerce landing pages.


Here are metrics specific to e-commerce dashboards:


“E-commerce dashboards are a bit more complicated,” Dustin says, “We have to account for delayed purchases, full funnel optimizations, and where users may bounce off the ads or landing pages.” 


(Additionally, key metrics such as AOV and ROAS must be accounted for given the account’s goal.)


Here are all the columns we include in an e-commerce dashboard:



Here’s more detail about these metrics:


  • Same-Day Sales vs Total Sales 👉 Important differentiation to understand user behaviour. Is this purchase an impulse buy or a multi-day decision? This helps us understand our customer’s journey. 


(BTW, we went deep into this last week with the ROAS Multiplier. Hit ‘reply’ and let us know if you need access to that email.)


  • Same-Day CPA vs Total CPA vs CPA Difference 👉 Essential differentiation in metrics. CPA oftentimes is the most important metric within your account. A low CPA generally means a high ROAS and hence a positive cashflow for your account. 
  • Same-Day ROAS vs Total ROAS 👉 Generally considered the most important metric: what return are you getting on your ad dollars? A high ROAS generally means a low CPA and good account health/efficiency. 
  • AOV 👉 The Average Order Value is an important metric to help optimize upsells and cross sells. Are customers taking you up on your post-purchase offers, or is there more work to be done?


Remember how we mentioned we’d tell you HOW to build a dashboard? Dustin kindly did that for you. Access it and make a copy for yourself.



Facebook Ads is filled with all sorts of fun quirks that you can only figure out through trial and error. Case in point:


😖 Have you ever had issues with properly tagging a brand in a dark posting/white listed ad campaign in FB’s copy editor, when for some reason, Facebook won’t allow you search for the profile to tag with the @? 


Happens to us all the time posting and promoting our podcasts!


Hot Fix: You just need to edit more than one ad’s copy at once (i.e. the same two ads in different ad sets) and it will let you tag the FB profile in the copy, using the @ symbol.


We don’t know why it works, but it does 🤷‍♀️


Try it and let us know if it solves the issue. Also, reply back to this email with ANY little platform hacks you have that seem to just work and we’ll share them with the DTC world!


🛍 Augmented Reality Now: Shopify reports an astounding 94% conversion lift in products that incorporate 3D/AR (augmented reality) content vs. products not featuring it. Watch this space. 👀



🤳🏻 Influencer Negotiations 101: This great thread by @cody_wittick has everything you need to know about negotiating, pricing, and contracting with influencers to grow your brand (so you don’t get ripped off). 



🎵 Music for Fall: Fleet Foxes is a dying breed of truly great American rock bands. Their new album Shore, dropped yesterday. Folky, rocky, always with gorgeous orchestration and harmony and surprisingly good lyrics if you’re into that sort of thing. 



🍂 Delicious Abomination: PumpkinSpiceKD.com is a real thing just announced by the KD twitter account. They slyly pun, "We’re whipping up some new KD, and it’s no basic batch." The campaign looks to be run by an agency called Cheetah Digital and proves that legacy brands are up for getting weird in 2020. 



✈️ Travel But Not: Before Covid, work travel was a glorious opportunity to network with peers in amazing and new settings. But I don’t miss airports, long flights, or even breathtaking views out the fogged portal, but apparently lots of people do. Quantas sold out their seven hour “Flight to Nowhere” in 10 minutes, offering passengers a scenic view of Australia, dropping them off in the same spot seven hours later. We say they should restrict it to ages 60+ and call it the Boomer-ang.  



🛒 Shopify Subscriptions: Shopify CTO, @jmwind, Tweeted some great news for subscription brands announcing that their native solution for subscriptions, which incorporates post-checkout and upsell APIs is currently in closed beta, and should be released for the public to build on by late October. 



🚛 Fraud Drama: When we first heard about Nikola electric trucks, we were excited about a new DTC player entering the electric car world. Turns out it was a total con-job. The stock has cratered and its CEO, Trevor Milton has resigned after fraud allegations. In December 2016, we saw what appeared to be a working prototype, but this past week it was admitted that the "Nikola One in motion" video wasn't moving under its own power. Rather, Nikola had towed the truck to the top of a shallow hill and let it roll down. 😩



🚀 Aircraft Advancements:  Speaking of flights and bold claims, have you heard of Otto Aviation? Their Celara 500L model might look like a flying pickle, but apparently its design achieves “laminar flow,” essentially the ultimate airflow, making it insanely efficient and capable of making Transatlantic flights for an operating cost of $328 per hour, vs most business jet aircraft which cost $2000-plus. If they’re not “Nikola-ing” us about these specs, air travel could get a lot more popular and affordable in the coming years.



👯‍♂️ Influencer Lookalikes: @taylorlegacy explains the benefits of using your micro-influencer whitelist partners as seed audience for lookalikes, citing an example that saw this LaL beat the target metric by 60% to become the most valuable audience in the whole campaign.



✏️ Rogan Rip Off: It’s hard to believe that Joe Rogan got ripped off after selling the distribution rights to his podcast for a couple hundred milly, until you notice that the move caused Spotify’s stock to jump up by $3B in the same day. The podcast model is literally changing the world, in terms of distribution of attention, so it’s hard to overvalue what that attention will mean in terms of dollars over the next 30 years. If Howard Stern can make $90MM a year for his shtick, surely Rogan could have held out for more. 



🎙Podcast: Donald Miller is a G, and his StoryBrand always inspires us. This week he and his co-hosts lay out a proven framework that makes any communication campaign a success and gets buy-in from your entire team.

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