DTC 27: 📦 A finely woven tapestry
May 21, 2023
Content Tag

Welcome to the twenty-seventh issue of the DTC Newsletter (and check out the world’s most valuable rug, which sold for $33 million at auction in 2013.

The world is getting woollier by the minute, but we’re willing to shear the sheep and spin up a fine yarn. 🐑

Today we’d like to welcome new DTC readers from Saalt.com, Tally, Taft Clothing, Metagenics, Proctor and Gamble, and Crocs.

Gather round while we weave a tapestry of value, featuring rich threads on:

📦 Part two of our DTC 2021 Double Down series featuring a broad spectrum of wisdom

📦 Build your ambassador program with DTC Boardroom member Afif Ghannoun’s deep dive (and the launch of our blog)

📦 Five ways to better engage your customers in 2021

📦 An all killer, no filler take on iOS14 that answers: “will my campaigns be wrecked or what?”

📦 What’s next in digital experience design? An interview with Facebook Shopping Design Manager Andrea Wagner

Read to the end to cut a rug with veteran word weaver Brad Knell, who’ll teach you the steps for high-converting copy. 

2021 DTC Double Down - Part Two

As 2021 kicks off with a bang, we find ourselves wondering how much more things can accelerate. 

Regardless we’ll be here, dispensing DTC wisdom with the help of the Pilothouse team and the incredible network of talented marketers and brand builders who we dive deep with on every podcast.

🧠 We asked our brain trust, “what did you do in 2020 that you’ll be DOUBLING down on in 2021?” 

Part deux begins… NOW!

📦 Journal to find your focus 

Jimmy DeCicco, CEO  - Super Coffee  

2020 forced me to focus on the fundamentals. 

Without midweek meetings, happy hour networking, and dinner parties on the weekend, we all had much more alone time than we were comfortable with. It was easy to ignore David Goggins’s discipline and get lost in one Netflix Marathon after another (Yellowstone was my favorite series in 2020). 

But when I found my focus, I directed it at the boring basics – journaling, reading, meditating, diet, and exercise. Self-help experts preach the power of these fundamentals in every podcast I’ve ever listened to. 

Yes, we all know meditation works, but how often do we actually practice it? Not enough.

In 2021, my simplest hack is 10 minutes or less of journaling every day. 

There are no rules! Just write what you’re thinking. If you don’t know what to write, start with the things you’re grateful for. It can be as simple as your morning cup of coffee. Starting your morning with something as simple as gratitude sets a positive attitude for the rest of your day.

📦 Launch SMS as VIP program

Srdjan Popovic, Head of Growth – CrossRopes

We're doubling down on SMS in 2021.

We started experimenting with SMS as a marketing channel in 2020, and the numbers were impressive.

So in 2021, we're going to up our game. We'll be testing frequency, multimedia messages, different flows, value-based messages, and more.

With everything that's going on regarding privacy and tracking, the value of first-party data is only increasing. Email will continue to thrive, but we're going to place some bets on SMS too.

Pro tip: give your SMS subscribers VIP treatment. It takes a lot more trust for someone to give you their phone number than it does their email address. So treat those subscribers with special care. Give them access to special offers, first dibs at launches, access to new content before anyone else, etc.

📦 Misery loves company

Loz Greenberg – Performance Marketer and DTC Superfan

Relating to your customers’ struggles works better than promising them a rainbow. 

More than ever, customers are along for a journey, not an instant fix.

Time is the new currency: With most of the world living and working from home, you can’t underestimate the value of free personal time. 

Stop selling them “the dream” and sell them 15 minutes of attainable “me” time instead. 

Never be lonely: Loneliness is more rampant than ever, thanks to lockdown. Anytime you can relate your copy back to community, inclusion, and connection, it will help encourage action from your customer and increase their likelihood of purchase.

📦 Brand building outside of Facebook and Instagram 

John Hagan, Director of Performance Marketing – Purelei

One of the largest bottlenecks prohibiting young brands from scaling their business is an inability to understand how to properly leverage brand building tools outside of Facebook marketing. This leads to immense frustration when paid social spend lacks the impact required to create a profitable return within the ever-growing competitive landscape of eCommerce. 

This year, I am doubling down on assisting the portfolios of brands that I manage in brand building activities far extending the Ads Manager. The most readily available ways to do so include maximizing influencer relations, storytelling through content, event marketing, and leveraging public relations. If done successfully, the brand’s paid social landscape is changed forever. 

If a company values their brand in 2021, winning in the game of eCommerce extends far past the idea of a marketing campaign being “let’s put some Facebook Ads live!” 

With the prospect of iOS14 on the horizon & CPMs being more expensive than ever – agencies and brands alike must execute a fundamental pivot away from being single-platform reliant in order to extend the longevity of their business to meet and exceed growth goals this year.

📦 Amazon Brand Ads with direct checkout links

Rob Russell - Pilothouse

In 2021 we’re doubling down on sponsored brand ads that direct to a targeted Amazon store page with links direct to checkout. With this strategy, your customer can go all the way from click to final sale without seeing your competition. 

You have greater control over the brand experience and the ability to create high-converting content specific to the keyword you are bidding on in that campaign.

Check out SmartyPants Vitamins for an example of this done well. 

📦 Snapchat diversification NOW

Margaret Fortner, Director of Growth – Hydrant 

Snap was an area where we were able to reallocate budget after facing higher serving costs tied to the election and holiday period. Over the crucial Black Friday / Cyber Monday period, we were able to shift ~30% of our spend over to Snap at much stronger efficiency than we'd seen on past BFCMs on core platforms like Facebook. One creative tip we've found: building on UI elements for a native but thumb-stopping moment!

(Editor’s note: lock up your spot for our Snapchat workshop this week for  only $1)

📦 Double down on Q4 content

Nate Vankoughnet -  Pilothouse

At Pilothouse, we spent more money on creative/copy testing in Q4 than we did in the entirety of Q1-3, in a lot of cases. Because of that, we have more learnings and more concrete data, on what works and doesn’t, than we’ve ever had. 

Now is the time to think about how you can make subtle changes to your top-performing Black Friday and holiday content to make it suitable for evergreen campaigns because chances are it’ll work now too.

We have a bunch of winning ads running right now that are just ripoffs of our Christmas ads that now say “new year’s.”

📦 Adapt to new angles

Raven Dixon - Pilothouse

2020 brought in a whole new world of available angles from both copy and creative perspectives. In 2020 we had to be adaptable and think outside of the box while keeping up to date with current trends (for example, working from home became the hot new angle).

In 2021 we need to be even more adaptable and ensure that we are delivering content that is directly in line with the trends in the market. 

Consider your audiences – are they working from home, working out at home more, or are they looking for specific home comforts as they are spending more time there than ever?  

Think outside of the box in 2021 while making sure that you are delivering content that consumers can easily relate to.

Your angles are going to rapidly change as trends in the market do. Test faster and more efficiently so you can hit those pockets of success while they exist.

📦 Test all Google Ads Campaign features

Saul Garcia - Pilothouse

Never assume one solution or one method of Google buying will work for all clients. The best approach is to never let your ego get in the way of results. 

Test, test, test. 

The mindset “I am a hotshot buyer so Smart Campaigns are beneath me,” will take away a very useful tool for successful account learnings and performance. We will keep thinking outside the box and finding little hacks that help our clients scale profitably.

📦 Test day-parting ASAP

Liam Robinson -  Pilothouse

Ask yourself: When do customers usually purchase my product? Are there pockets of the day where your product solves a specific problem? 

Test time-of-day specific messaging. In my experience this strategy sees lower scale, but higher ROAS.

⏰ Test an ad-set hitting people from 6am - 10am with "morning messaging"

🌖 Test out an ad-set hitting people from 7pm - 11pm with "night time messaging"

Example: home fitness equipment

  • Morning: "going to the gym today?"
  • Night: "couldn't find time for the gym today?"

That’s a wrap for this week, but damn I love this format. 

Will there be a 2021 Double Down Trilogy? That’s up to you. 

Send me YOUR 2021 Double Down strategy and a glamour shot of yourself and we’ll feature them next week. Email me. 

How to Build a DTC Ambassador Program with Biohm’s Afif Ghannoum

If you're even somewhat inside the DTC world, you know the power of "social proof" and "UGC."

We've all read stories about brands that skyrocket off the mentions of key influencers (Kylie Cosmetics anyone?)

If you're the only one doing the talking about your brand, you're doing yourself an exponential disservice – unless you're a celebrity or influencer yourself.

Why? Because the brutal truth is that people are way more likely to trust someone else saying your brand is awesome or your product works, rather than you saying it.

Even before we launched, I was starting to line up coverage in Forbes as a contributor, which allowed me to write over a dozen articles about what it took to turn my father's research in the microbiome, into a microbiome company built on real clinical science.

We followed that up with coverage everywhere from a national NPR interview to Muscle & Fitness Magazine, and seemingly everywhere else in between. In fact, the day we launched, Goop ran an article on us which resulted in over $16,000 in sales the day we launched.

But the problem is, PR is often a one time hit, so if we weren't able to leverage ongoing coverage, by definition we would see huge ebbs and flows between those media mentions.

Sure, we were able to turn those features into ads and soundbites that we could leverage into ongoing social proof, but the organic impact on sales was very hard to predict.

As part of our launch we had also started to look for influencers to work with, and at first I found a handful of yoga influencers that I paid to post. While they brought in some revenue, it was really interesting to see the way they positioned BIOHM and the questions and comments their audience would make on their posts.

We also got some really cool UGC.

Here are some of the influencer posts we got from that first campaign:


After those initial posts went live, we had a number of smaller influencers (with between 5k and 25k followers) reach out and offer to post for free in exchange for some product.

We said sure, and instead of paying them, we gave them a code they could use which would give them up to 15% commission for any sales they generated.

We figured, what could we lose?

Well, a few weeks later we started seeing awesome content.

Unlike the paid posts (that were good but honestly seemed a little posed), the influencers posting for free came across as super passionate about the brand and they were surprisingly generating a decent amount of sales.

They were also breaking down the complex science behind BIOHM into easy to understand messaging for their audiences.

It was great!

So it really got me thinking, "Huh… I wonder if we could systemize this and scale it without having to pay for content?"

And so from the summer of 2017 on, we have slowly but surely built an army of BIOHM ambassadors that are not only talking about BIOHM on an ongoing basis, but that create endless UGC that we have been able to repurpose into killer ads and social media content.

Do they generate sales? Absolutely. It ranges from some that have never made a dollar and posted a couple of times ever, to hundreds that make a few hundred bucks a month, to our upper echelon ambassadors that make in the thousands a month in commission.

Our biggest ambassador consistently makes over $25k a month in commission. Not sales, commission.

So my goal is to show you exactly how we run an ambassador program, including the templates we use to reach out to potential ambassadors, as well as how we stay organized.

Ready to get tactical? Read Afif’s full guide to building your own ambassador program, which includes tips and tricks, influencer outreach templates and compensation structure head to the DTC Blog.

5 Ways to Better Engage Consumers in 2021

Understatement: things aren’t normal right now. 

There’s never been a more critical time to capture attention and drive consumers to your online channels. 

But let’s be honest, typical marketing playbooks are out the window, and no one really knows the best path forward.

BUT we can look to experts to help guide the way. 

Enter Jebbit

We checked in with their team of customer experience experts to ask what their recommendations are for the most effective ways to engage consumers in our current climate of crazy. 

Their recommendation is to go beyond conveying a product or brand message. Your best move is to deliver a little bit of fun, entertainment, and – most importantly – an escape from the newsfeed. 

Here are their top recommendations for value-driven consumer engagement strategies that you can activate today: 

  1. “Find the perfect x for you” Product Match

Who doesn’t want a custom recommendation based on their preferences? Product Matches are one of the best ways to drive someone to your site, even to a specific page. 

Jebbit has seen online conversion rates as high as 60% for some clients.

  1. “What type of x are you?” Personality Quiz

Let’s be honest; we all love quizzes that tell us about ourselves 😉. 

These are some of the most popular ways to engage, and for good reason – it’s all about making the consumer the hero of the experience. Personality quizzes have a fantastic ability to get to the heart of consumers’ interests and motivations and are excellent for lead capture since everyone wants to get their fun results.

👀  Check out this Personality Quiz for Express

👉  Create a Personality Quiz now

  1. “How well do you know x?” Knowledge Test

Everyone loves to test their knowledge on a topic when only they can see their results. Trivia is a great way to educate consumers on your brand in a fun and engaging way. 

Plus, you can squeeze in one additional question about a preference that will help you remarket more relevantly.

  1. “This or That” Voting Experiences 

Jebbit sees the highest completion rates with this simple concept. 

Better yet, it takes no time to build! Let your audience vote on what they like most, show them how others are voting in real-time, then follow up with results later. It works across industries: Fashion, Sports, CPG…whatever!

👀  Take a look at this “Would You Rather” quiz for Live Nation.

  1. “Shop the season” Lookbook/Catalog

How do you create an in-store experience without the store? Create an interactive catalog showcasing all the latest products and trends. 

This can be as simple as a linear lookbook, or it can branch off in several ways based on how each question is answered. Men’s or women’s? Pinks or reds? Send them down virtual aisles based on what interests them most.

These experiences provide genuine value to the consumer and generate engagement rates of 80-90% on average. 

Ready to launch? Head to Jebbit, where you can create fully branded experiences that requires no code or dev work and can be built in their platform in an hour – not days or weeks. 

Give it a go – and let us know your results! 

Join DTC+ for $1 and get access to our Snapchat workshop Jan 14-15 (plus all other workshop recordings).

It’s a crazy deal, especially considering we’ve secured a $1000 Snapchat credit for everyone who takes the course. 

The workshop with Van Oakes and Grayson Rudzki will take place mostly in live accounts showing exactly how to set up and scale campaigns and creatives on the platform. 

They’ll be covering setup, creative, and scale for both eCommerce and lead gen. 

Diversify your social traffic with Snapchat (and with Influencer Flywheel) 

All for $1!

(Actually it’s more like -$999 when you factor in the $1K credit)

You must be thinking to yourself at this point. “Yes, yes this is a good idea.” click. 

All Killer No Filler: Agency Impacts of iOS14 with Dee Deng

Last week the Pilothouse team caught up with Right Hook Digital Co-Founder and CEO Dee Deng to discuss the far-reaching impact of iOS 14. Check out the podcast here or read our overview

This looming update has the potential to change eCommerce as we know it, holding far-reaching implications for measurement, optimization, and business tools. It sounds scary, but we’re confident in figuring it out. 

Our initial take: Survive the shift by going back to basics with: 

  • Owned audiences to avoid platform reliance 
  • Invite only communities where an email is required for entry
  • Membership services
  • Ability to target granularly 
  • Strong hooks and creative
  • A solid product and price-point

Listen to the full pod for our panel of agency experts’ breakdown of the challenges heading their way, and their instincts, plans, and strategies for surviving this big change.

Key Topics Discussed:  

📦  Facebook and Google’s response to the imminent change 

📦  How retargeting will work 

📦  How this compares to GDPR 

📦  How to patch the loss of data fidelity 

🎧 Listen on Anchor

👀  Watch on YouTube

Still not totally clear? Take a listen to Dee’s detailed breakdown here

We’re all working together to establish the best path forward through this disruption. Chaos creates opportunity and we’ll make sure you capitalize on it. Stay tuned. 

Writing High-Converting Copy with Pilothouse’s Brad Knell

Recently, the DTC team asked me to offer up some copywriting tips for the new year.

After some thought, I put together a list of things that I’m confident could help to 2x or 3x your conversions.

Most of what follows are guidelines used by nearly every copywriter all year round, so some of this may look familiar to you already.

First, a little sales psychology.

It’s no surprise that prospects are bombarded by 1000s of ads.

When they land on your ad their ‘monkey mind’ says: “What’s in it for me?”

It’s self-defence really. They’re trying to weigh an investment of their time against the value of your offer. And, they have nearly no time.

Marketing research claims you have about 3 seconds for a prospect to decide whether to keep reading or move on.

Crafting Your Headline

Your headline needs to jar their brain and compel them to read further.

Whether it’s long form copy or short, your headline is worth approximately 80% of the value of your promotion.

It should clearly convey the important sale details.

This is especially challenging in cases where ad copy space is limited. 

Be sure to include:

Your offering: (product)

Product benefits: Remember: A feature is what something is and does, a benefit is how the feature helps your prospect solve a problem.

Your discount / deal: ex. Get 33% Off; Buy One (Two), Get One Free

Create urgency: ex. Sale Ends Tomorrow; Order Now While Supplies Last; Offer expires in 12 hrs; etc.

🔑 Pro tip: Check out the winning ads your competitors are using and use them as a general guide to craft your own winning ads.

If something is working for them there’s no sense in completely reinventing the wheel in my opinion. Analyzing their ads may give you some winning inspiration.

Note: NEVER rip off their copy verbatim. This should go without saying but plagiarizing can get you into serious doggie doo.

Make it about ‘them

“You” is the most important word in an ad copywriter’s arsenal. Be sure to make your ad about them, not you.

Your ad should never scream: “Hey, look at how star spangled awesome we are!”

Remember, you’re talking to your one ideal prospect here - they don’t care a hill of beans about you until you help them. It’s all about what’s in it for them.

There are instances, however, where you may not be able to use “you” outside of a specific context.

For example, Facebook doesn’t like their advertisers “connecting "you” directly with any personal attributes (i.e. “You could manage your weight better with XYZ”).

Instead, you might need to reword it something like this: “Have you heard how XYZ could help you lose 10lbs in as little as seven days?”

Using “you” throughout your copy makes it personal, and it all starts with understanding who your best prospect is. Research is key.

Avoid overused words and phrases

People see and hear 100s of promotions every day. They get sick and tired of seeing the same, tired old buzzwords and “marketing speak.”

The copy loses its compelling appeal and prospects tune it out. Not good.

I mean, “beautiful” is an okay word, but it’s so overused it doesn’t even budge the needle on most people’s interest gage.

When I see this in advertising I cringe. To me, it means the copywriter was too lazy to come up with more exciting and unique language.

When you only have one shot at a sale, it pays to spend the extra time to break out a thesaurus and put on your creative thinking cap.

The Rule of One

In direct response copy we employ the Rule of One: one prospect, one central idea, one product, one offer.

Adding more than one product or complicating the offer with too many bundling options usually results in a diluted copy message, and/or confusion or buying indecision.

Applying the rule of one keeps things simple.

Observing the Rule of One affords you the best opportunity to write powerful, laser-focused copy that makes your best prospect whip out their wallet.

Be sure to include all the details in your ad. People are intelligent, but when it comes to a promotion, they don’t want to think. Not much anyway.

They want to be told what to do. So, if you’re writing copy for an eGift Card that follows a Facebook ad for the same product, tell them exactly what the card is and how to purchase and use it.

Never assume they understand. Spell it out.

Ex. “To purchase your eGift Card, simply click on the “Buy” button below, fill in your details on the next page and check your email inbox. In a few minutes you’ll receive an email from us detailing how to redeem and use your eGift card.”

A short paragraph using simple, grade eight level language is perfect. 

Podcast Value Bomb: Designing eCommerce Experiences with Facebook Shopping’s Design Manager


We’re serving up high-end experience and design expertise for this week’s pod with Andrea Wagner, Design Manager for Facebook Shopping and Jesse Campbell, designer and founder of design agency Partner.

Here’s a creative quick hit to whet your appetite: 

💥 Create a two-story arc 

Jesse suggests breaking down brand stories into two streams.

1. A functional story that says "we made this product, it does what it intends to do really well, and it will show up on your doorstep if you order one."

2. An emotional story that says "we made this product for you because we understand why you need a product like this, and what goes into your decision-making process when making this kind of purchase."

How heavily a company weighs each side of the story depends on the product. But both sides need to honestly communicate the company's brand (read: values, purpose, mission). 

Need some help solidifying your brand’s story? Jesse recommends asking off the wall questions of your brand: 

  • What would a popup in the middle of (a post-pandemic) Times Square look like?
  • What are some out-there products that would also fit into our product line somehow (ex. Dyson's hair care line)
  • What industry or era most accurately reflects your brand? (ex. 1970s air travel)

Take a listen to the full pod for discussion on building with the customer in mind, radical transparency, and predictions on upcoming trends in digital experience design!

🎧 Listen on Anchor

👀 Watch on YouTube

Quick Hits 🥊

📱Facebook Redesigns Pages: The platform announced several updates to pages including a new Q&A format, a newsfeed exclusive to pages, and updated navigation. The most prominent update however is Facebook’s elimination of the “Like” button. FB believed likes weren’t accurately demonstrating the popularity of a page with some users liking, but never following or interacting with it. As a way to decrease the confusion, followers will be the primary indicator of a page’s popularity. Look for these updates in “the coming months” according to Facebook. 

😂 Tweets that Laugh: “What’s your best social media marketing hack. Wrong answers only” - Ana Santos

💰Bitmoji Wardrobe: Snapchat is continuing its expansion into eCommerce by allowing users to dress their Bitmoji character in clothes from retailers such as Jordan, Ralph Lauren, and now Levi’s. Eventually, Snap’s goal is to allow users to purchase any clothing items they see on Bitmoji characters. For now, we’re expecting more retailers to test partnerships with Snap especially with 70% of users engaging regularly with their Bitmoji character.  

❤️ Valentine’s Day Reminder: Here’s a little reminder for those running Valentine's Day ads. 1) Don't just target your ads to the generic women buying for men or vice versa. 2) Consumers will still take advantage of a good deal if you're offering a promotion as a gift for themselves. 

🍜 Healthy Ramen: This week we’re highlighting the newest DTC brand Immi. A better-for-you Asian-American brand that’s created the first low- carb, plant-based, and high-protein instant ramen. Founders Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan provide insight into their inspiration for starting the company with this awesome thread.  

💁♀️ Getting Paid to Wear Clothes: Clothing is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions and injects half a million tons of plastic microfibers into the ocean every year. Eco-friendly clothing has become popular, but overproduction is the real killer. To combat this, Fashion company Aday invited 600 customers to wear purchased outfits in exchange for $25-$75 in-store credit. The more times you wear a piece, the more money you receive. Other fashion brands are offering $100 gift cards to wear the same shirt for 100 days straight. The stench by day 15 would be enough to hurt someone, but a $100 is enticing. 

💥 Snapchat's Partner Program: Snap is relaunching its global partner solutions program. The company says it’s “a partnership with industry-leading companies that help advertisers connect with the Snapchat community in exciting and innovative ways.” The program is split into multiple types of partners including agencies, sales, video, mobile measurement, and more. Check out the list of partners here. 

🔊 Social Media’s Future:  For decades AM/FM radio was the primary gatekeeper of audio. Then podcasts came along and knocked’em off their pedestal. A similar transition is taking place with the development of social networks combined with audio. Platforms like Clubhouse, Discord, Twitter’s Audio Spaces, Wavve, Riffr, and Spoon are early adopters with the goal of making it easy for anyone to jump in on the conversation via audio. Like all social platforms, supporting and building the proper infrastructure for creators is crucial. When creators build followings advertisers aren’t far behind.

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