With BFCM coming up fast, we’re fastening our DTC seatbelts to prepare for a shopping season that’s likely to be, well, out of this world.
You don’t need to phone home, just be good, and read on because we’ll bring the mothership to you, helping you make Q4 your most profitable quarter yet.
New here? Welcome! You’re not alone -- here are just a few of the brands who’ve joined the DTC army in the last week alone: Huckleberry, Berkeley Shirts, Perrigo, Klaviyo, Thule, Pronails, Prepdeck and Fiverr.
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Here are the goodies in your Reese’s Pieces box, this week:
📦 9-figure brand owner Josh Elizetxe shares key insights about how DTC brands can "scale past the algorithm"
📦 3 quick audience building tactics from the Twitterverse
📦 The #1 influencer marketing mistake and what to do instead
📦 Timeless copywriting reminders shared by the Pilothouse in-house copywriting team
📦 Speaking of copy, we discovered a literal bullshit detector you can use to make sure your copy is fluff-free
Stick around to catch up with Supreme’s $2.1B acquisition and ponder the paradox of how they’re going to scale when limiting supply has been their whole strategy.
As an agency partner to ❄️ Snow, we’ve enjoyed a front row seat to their journey of both category dominance, and category creation. We caught up with Josh on a podcast to discuss growth in all its dimensions.
Elizetxe’s (pronounced el-is-et-chay) superpower is his commitment to challenging the status quo. His trailblazing attitude inspires others to think differently.
When it comes to growth, Josh is always willing to explore and experiment in many dimensions at once, both through ad-driven DTC, retail, billboards and more.
What follows is an unpacking of Josh’s central ideas about growth that he’s learned throughout the process of scaling his company beyond $100M.
🔵 Head & the heart: It is essential to have clarifying conversations to determine what success means to you, and what end goal you’re looking to achieve. Is your goal to provide for 5 to 10 people? Are you looking to create a generational company you can pass down to your children? Dig deep to unpack what making an impact means for you and your business. As Elizetxe puts it, thinking about scale starts in your brain and your heart.
🔵 Brace yourself: Be proactive as you prepare to scale. Take what you’re doing and multiply it by 100. What systems and how many people will you need to accommodate that growth? Start to take the next best affordable steps to work towards that goal, putting in place the building blocks for that growth moment.
🔵 Macro management: Elizetxe advocates a high-expectation, low-pressure managerial style. Give your hiree’s full control. Be sure to brace yourself for growing pains in delegation and relinquishing control when scaling to a bigger team. A lot of stress can be reduced by due diligence in the hiring process - hire someone you trust to sit in the driver’s seat.
🔵 Swim with sharks: As you scale, hire those that share your risk appetite. You want your team filled with scrappy folks who are operating on your level. Only egotistical leaders are intimidated by hiring entrepreneurial forces to be reckoned with.
To avoid a recruitment time-suck you need to tap into role-specific networks, cherry-pick, and hone in on candidates fast. The best way to do this? Elizetxe goes to the experts:
🔵 People experts: When it comes to sourcing talent, Elizetxe goes to recruiting agencies. Source the recruiter with the biggest following, biggest team, and best presence to bring in top candidates.
🔵 Subject matter experts: Elizetxe supplements his recruiter approach with his own independent reconnaissance on LinkedIn and Clarity.fm. He’ll seek out an expert in the field he’s hiring for, pay them for their time, and ask if they have any leads/suggestions for top players in their network who would excel in the open position.
Surge your growth with epic C/X and velocity
How did Snow achieve its initial growth surge? Elizetxe boils it down to two central strategies:
🔵 Attention to detail: Like a smell, texture, aesthetic? Feed that into your brand and your customer experience. In Elizetxe’s words - your product is the creation of a bunch of artists collaborating. Aim for a unique vibe that emanates across your brand and constantly consume and retain information that could prove to be useful to enhance your brand.
🔵 Velocity: Snow has pursued an aggressive customer acquisition strategy aiming to convert 1 million customers. Their team approaches paid advertising with a blitzkrieg mentality approaching customers from many angles with intense velocity. To achieve this, Snow leverages an amazing internal marketing team, and works with several agencies, each with their own unique core competency.
Retail had always been a part of Snow’s roadmap - it made sense to have their product available where most people buy their toothpaste. But, the move became essential when Snow realized they had nowhere else to grow within the constraints of the DTC social space.
While Facebook is an incredible launch and scale strategy, to push above $100M, you need to utilize larger networks to further establish your business. Right now, consumer behaviour has not changed enough to facilitate exponential growth via DTC - not all your customers are Facebook shoppers and the algorithm can only take you so far. To continue to scale you’ll inevitably need to diversify to radio, tv, billboards, and retail.
This requires a shift of thinking outside of the addictive framework of Facebook. Scaling to radio ads, billboards, retail, means relinquishing control, and reworking your approach, but it is essential to your journey to becoming a household name.
Snow’s billboard and radio ads directed consumers to getsnow.com (rather than the usual trysnow.com URL) to have some trackability for the ad’s efficacy. For more attribution tips to keep all this hypergrowth straight - listen to the full pod.
In Snow’s case, ecommerce retailers have actually created new categories for them to dominate. That’s how you know your brand has some weight. (Is it weird to anyone else that Target calls them "Tooth Whiteners"?)
With all this growth across multiple fronts, you might wonder about over exposure and how to combat that. For that we’ll leave you with Josh’s best named strategy 🕺🏻
🔵 The Drake Maneuver: After an initial intense push, disappear for a while and let your reputation stand for itself. The less your audience sees of you, the more you retain your initial value (a la Drake, Adele or other big musical artists that took some time away or reduced their presence after a hit album). By taking away supply, and letting demand ruminate, you build pressure for more product. If you’re overexposed and oversaturated, you’ll lose price control and control over demand.
For more discussion on how to stop having one-night-stand customers, how Snow leveraged positive spillover from a similarly named company, the everpresent monotony of blands, and why your DTC brand needs 10 more products, take a listen to the full pod.
If you’re interested in following Josh on social media where he fully embraces the idea of building in public, check out Josh’s Facebook page
@joshduram asks, and DTC Twitter delivers a bunch of fresh ideas of expanding your audience targeting for Facebook Ads.
Not to be outdone, we contributed one of our fav tools for audience research: alsoasked.com
We all like a good giveaway! Think about it - who doesn't like to win something for free?
But have you run giveaways in your business? If not, check this out:
With a conversion rate of 34%, giveaways are the most effective way to generate leads for your business.
PureFilters, an ecommerce shop, generated over 650 leads in only two weeks with a giveaway while spending less than $120 (including the giveaway).
Grab our proven checklist to run your next successful giveaway to generate leads like PureFilters.
Last week we sat down with Roger from Hashtag Paid, a leading all-in-one platform for simplifying influencer marketing, to get a rundown on what they’re seeing in the space. If ecommerce is in hypegrowth, creator content and influencer marketing is surely the rocket fuel. Roger’s been in the creator economy since it began and was filled with solid insights.
Listen to the full podcast, or read below for the key takeaways.
Don’t micromanage your creators. Often businesses are hesitant to relinquish creative control to their influencers, which undermines the point and benefit of pursuing an influencer campaign. You go to creators for their authenticity - don’t steamroll them into one size fits all creative - they aren’t a billboard. Influencers know how to engage with their audience - let them do their thing.
That said - influencers want boundaries! They don’t want to be dictated to, but they do want to be pointed in the right direction. Finding the right balance is key.
Depending on the specificity of your product, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to influencer marketing.
If your message is broad, appealing to a universal audience with limited targeting or segmentation, a large following traditional celebrity will absolutely do the trick. However, if you have a highly specific message it is a far more impactful strategy to pair with micro-influencers who share your niche audience - you’ll get way more bang for your buck.
For the uninitiated, whitelisting is when you partner with a creator to run your brand’s ads through their account. Whitelisting benefits from both the authenticity of influencer marketing and the optimization and targeting of Facebook ads. With organic influencer marketing, you’re only targeting the creator’s followers. Whitelisting grants you access to a much larger audience, and it is an effective strategy to use across your funnel.
TIP: Hashtag Paid has had success activating whitelisting campaigns to build client email lists in advance of Black Friday.
Influencer marketing should not be seen as a "point solution" as in something you use in specific campaigns, or even in specific parts of the funnel. Successful marketers use influencer marketing across their funnel, over an extended period of time.
Repeated interaction with a brand leads to familiarity, which leads to trust. Consumers already trust the influencer they have subscribed to, and therefore will grow to trust your product by proxy. Really good brands are using this familiarity focused strategy of targeting across their funnel for an extended period of time.
The unfortunate reality is, there is no standard when it comes to creator compensation and the unpredictability of rates can be a huge deterrent for those on the fence about jumping into influencer marketing. This is where Hashtag Paid can help out. In addition to cherry-picking influencers who like your brand, they pre-determine rates and approve creators for whitelisting.
Listen to the full pod for a debrief on the COVID-induced creator economy, why legacy brands are reluctant to jump into influencer marketing, how to effectively measure influencer targeting, and a laxative case study in influencer authenticity.
In the latest installment of All Killer No Filler, we’re discussing all things copy with Pilothouse copywriters Alora Bossi and David Franklin. This dream team blends old and new school copywriting practices to offer insight into the somewhat elusive world of impactful copy.
In 1905 Canadian mountie John E. Kennedy spent a lot of time meditating and thinking about the fundamental concepts of copywriting while isolated in the wilderness. In 1906 he went to Lord & Thomas, the largest ad agency of the time, and delivered the following note to their execs: "You do not know what advertising is. No one in the advertising business knows what advertising is. No advertiser knows for certain what advertising is. If you want to know, tell this messenger that I should come up, I’m waiting in the lobby downstairs." Kennedy was invited up and they discussed advertising till 3 am.
Kennedy’s answer? Advertising is salesmanship in print.
Copy is persuasive and creative writing used for marketing. You only have a split second to give your brand a voice, and inspire your prospects to action - this is what good copy does.
If you were face to face with your very best prospect, what would you say to make the sale? If you’re an old school salesman beating on a door, somebody answers the door - what’s your pitch? This is the core of copywriting, only extended to thousands, even millions, of people all at once. But when it’s really good copy they’re all going to think you’re talking to just them and only them.
Conversion copywriting is all about initiating action. To do that, conversion copywriters follow specific, proven formulas such as AIDA (attention - interest - desire - action) and pass.
Conversion copywriting is also research-driven:
If you want to learn more about Conversion Copywriting, check out CopyHackers.
Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Copy is most effective when connecting to emotions. Content needs to matter to the reader.
Rather than focusing on the product or brand, focus on people’s real problems and how they make them feel. Get to know an issue they’re facing on a deeper level than they do, so when you’re hooking them in they think, "wow, these people get me."
Hone in on real emotions and feelings, then offer a real solution - that’s where the magic happens.
The best way to do this will always be through conversations with your customers. We ‘catalogue’ their pain points and then use their exact language as hooks in our ad copy.
Without testing and adapting your copy - you’re wasting time and money.
Nothing is more important than thorough testing. A simple headline shift can make an 80% increase in conversion, and you won’t have that information unless you test. You need to cut what’s not working for you and keep up with rapidly changing standards.
When launching a product, launch different angles at the same time. Test your safe and your oddball ideas against each other to establish your best angle, then test headline variants of your winning approach. Campaigns are far more successful when you can refine your copy early.
The quickest and easiest way to build a test right now is through Google Optimize.
People are skimming first, reading later. You need to snag their attention with a solid hook.
The job of the headline is to get the reader to read the first sentence. The job of that sentence is to get the reader to move on to the next sentence, and so on. You’re constantly working to convince the reader that your content is worth their valuable time.
Your goal is to get to the point where you’re having an ongoing conversation - ideally to the point where they not only love your content, they’d actually miss you if they didn’t hear from you. That starts with that first conversation and that first hook.
And the kernel of every hook is their pain.
⛏ Use visual cues to draw readers eyes down to the next scroll
Above the Fold/Below the Fold: visually, especially on mobile, you need to always have a headline or the top of an image in either the top or bottom of the fold, with your copy sitting between that. Why? So that as you scroll there is always something drawing your eye down to the next scroll. Always make sure to break up long paragraphs with intriguing headlines.
Copywriter’s Reading List
Take a listen to the full AKNF pod for advertising anecdotes, a breakdown of headlines vs. subheaders, and to find out why you should take copywriting cues from soap operas.
💰DTC Acquisition: On Monday, Supreme, a brand name so powerful it sells a $250 brick, was acquired for an insane $2.1 BILLION by VF Corp, the DTC conglomerate behind The North Face and Vans. The only question: How will Supreme retain its cool factor (and price tag) with wider distribution when so much of its value has been from limiting supply and letting the aftermarket drive up the price? Our guess: watch for an acquisition of aftermarket tech platforms like grailed.com or stockx.com.
💻 Platform News: Parler, a social app that promises true freedom of speech and none of the censorship of "big tech." Twitter was buzzing with talks of people jumping ship. As of Monday, Forbes reports that Parler had been downloaded 320K times. Early days but we’ll keep an eye out for their ad network.
👨💻 Shopify App: Want to customize a Shopify store, but you aren't a programmer? Mesa's app makes it dead simple to turn repeatable work into automated workflows - no code necessary. Create e-commerce automations and integrate applications with a click. No-code FTW!
🛠 Tool: This literal bullshit detector will help you make sure your copy is fluff-free.
🐦 Tweet Thread: @chasedimond unrolls an incredible thread on how he built up a 500K travel list in just 10 months, leveraging cold email, giveaways, organic social (through acquisition), and an ambassador program. The secret is deceptively simple: make them love you, but the details he goes into is pure gold.
🖼 Ad Creative: This TikTok ad tells the story of unxpectd.co, a clothing brand started by bunch of friends in highschool. It’s mind blowingly simple but a complete masterclass in creative storytelling that highlights the upside of the wild times we live in and the real life-changing opportunity at the heart of the DTC space.
🚲 Salary Review: Ever wonder what employees of unicorn dtc companies earn as salary? The article is gated, so we’ll just tell you: At Peloton, software engineers make between $115,000 and $170,000. Meanwhile, a senior engineering manager at Google makes $250,774, whereas a senior engineer manager at Peloton makes roughly $260,000. What’s really crazy is that you don’t always have to live in SF to get paid these rates any more.
⚙️ Efficiency Booster: While Apple makes most things highly intuitive, others have been historically difficult. Here’s a simple hack to batch rename files.
👩🎨 Ad Creative: Neville Medhora shares Jim Beam ads from 1990. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in ‘gee-whiz’ ads -- these are great examples of how stripping away complexity can powerfully get the message across.
🔧 Tool: Super cool tool that makes it easy to give your social profile picture and cover image a fast face-lift.
🐦 Tweet: This one reminds us that it’s also important to do things that don’t scale sometimes.
🤓 Copy Nerdom: For those of you who are copywriting nerds, you’ll enjoy this piece from the legend himself, Gary Halbert. You’ll learn about copy AND why he was sentenced to prison.
💻 Website: Harry Dry is a fresh faced millennial copywriter with a long list of accomplishments including collaborating with the one and only Kanye West after building a Kanye based dating website. He got asked about it so much, he turned the experience into its own website called TheKanyeStory.com. It’s amazing the way one thing can turn into another when you don’t focus on your limitations.