DTC 6: 🖨 print this one
May 21, 2023
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Welcome to the DTC Battle Royale. Shout out to new subscribers NiceKicks, Disney, CrossRope, Oakley Sunglasses, and my Aunt Wendy.

If you’re in this field, you’re in the right place. Let’s arm up, and win together. 

(Did a good friend send this to you? Join thousands of other brand and agency marketers. Subscribe now!) 

Here are the flanking strategies, tool trebuchets, and impervious insights, in this week’s newsreel from the front lines of DTC marketing:

📦 Crowd-sourced ideas to build your DTC moat

📦 The anatomy of a pre-sale page from an OG direct response copywriter

📦 Email best practices leading up to Black Friday (and Cyber Monday)

📦 How to keep your Facebook ad account secure from recent COSTLY breaches

📦 A no-brainer funding opportunity for e-commerce brands ready to scale

📦 Humour can be a powerful differentiator for your brand’s voice -- we point you to a masterclass of ad creative that’s light, punchy, and hilarious

Stick around until the end for your 👀private viewing of this week’s DTC Podcast, and learn how Keranique got to $1BN with lessons learned in the Israeli Special Forces.

Let the battle BEGIN!

🏰 Why Are There So Few DTC Exits? + How To Build A DTC Moat

Tools like Amazon and Shopify make it easy to get into the DTC space, causing a surge of competition (and bloodied battlefields).

In Shopify and the Hard Thing About Easy Things, Packy McCormick breaks down why there are so few lucrative DTC exits, despite e-commerce being bigger than ever:

  1. Innovator does something innovative. 
  2. A brave few try to copy the innovator.
  3. Someone builds software to let everyone do that innovative thing. 
  4. The innovative thing is no longer innovative. 
  5. Everyone does what the innovator did, making it hard to stand out and shifting the battleground to audience-building and brand. 
  6. Curation becomes important. 
  7. Next innovator comes along and does something innovative, and the cycle starts again.

For a healthy (albeit sobering) DTC awareness, go read the article. It’ll help you understand where you can build competitive advantage into your brand.

Our favourite truth bomb Packy dropped was this: “...because my competitors’ marketing teams are run by mom and pop founders, inexperience and optimism drive up the prices I need to pay. It’s like playing Black Jack at a table full of drunk amateurs.”

And speaking of competitive advantage, we’re here to help you build that moat (and keep those battlefields nice and green). We tapped into our community of successful DTC marketers to see how they’re insulating their brands from competition:

There are no drunk amateurs here 😎

P.S. Would you like to join a community of DTC marketers helping each other not only build powerhouse brands, but also conjuring ways to cross someone else’s moat? Hit ‘reply’ if you’d like an exclusive invite 👈

🦾 The Anatomy of a Pre-Sale Page

With Black Friday preparation season upon us, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share a formula for pre-sale pages (or any long-form copy, for that matter) that we’ve seen work again and again. 

Pilothouse’s head copywriter, Brad Knell, shares 20 quick steps to writing effective long-form copy (that’ll work powerfully in pre-sale pages and advertorials):

Long-form direct response copy has been used for eons to sell everything from Rolls Royce cars to how-to guides. 

And, despite what rumors you may have heard, it’s not going away any time soon.

Nearly every well-known A-list copywriter has a favorite long-form copy formula or ‘blueprint’ they use to help them knock the ball out of the park.

Here is a brief look at one formula that has been tried, tested, and proven to work consistently well. 

To quote the ‘world’s most interesting man’... “I don’t always write long-form copy, but when I do, I use this formula.” Use it and make money.

1. Grab their attention with a Big Promise, a benefit-driven headline that tells prospects specifically, what you are going to help them with. 

Testing shows that a great headline message should be urgent, ultra-specific, unique, and user-friendly.

The more of these four “U’s” you include the better - include all four and you’ll have a winner.

2. Backup your big promise headline with more detail (sub-headline). You want your opening statement to elaborate on the promise you made in the headline. You could even use a raving user testimonial that backs up your promise, right away in your copy.

3. Identify the problem - Your prospect needs to know that you understand the problem he/she has, how it's affecting their lives, and the pain they feel as a result of it. One way of accomplishing this is to tell a story about your own experience.

4. Provide your solution – and prove it is the best option. This is where you introduce the solution (your product or service) and explain why it is the best option for them. Sell them on the USP, and all the benefits that set it apart from competitors.

5. Explain ease-of-use - Your prospect is busy. They’re looking for a solution that makes their life easier in some tangible way. Explain how your product is easy to use. Eg. “A simple copy hack that could increase CTA’s by as much as 51%”

6. Show speed of results - this works hand in hand with "ease of use". Life moves at a rapid pace and people want fast results to help them manage their lives better. Discussing how quickly other people got results using the product can help satisfy your prospect’s need for speed.

7. Future cast - You want your prospect to imagine themselves experiencing the emotional benefits. Paint a picture for your prospect -  immerse them in that mental imagery.

For example: "Just imagine...a few days from now you could be turning down dates from dozens of hot, young babes/studs after you start using XYZ product". You get the idea.

8. Prove that you are the expert (credibility) - People need to feel confident about their buying decision. Show real proof that positions you as an expert.

9. Detail the benefits - People like cool features, however, they buy for emotional reasons. Highlighting the deep emotional benefits of the product will make you a rockstar when you write your benefit bullets. 

10. Show proof/testimonials - People are more web-savvy than ever before. They've been ripped off so often that now, they do their homework. Not only do they look for scientific proof, whitepapers, study's and official research, they also look for social proof. 

A recent PowerReviews study revealed that 97% of consumers rely on review sites to help guide them in their buying decisions. 

Important: NEVER use fake testimonials. If they’re paid endorsements you need to state that clearly in your copy. The best testimonials are organic - ones where people who were thrilled with your product are happy to shout about it.

11. Make your offer in detail -  This is the part where you detail your offer in plain language. This is what you get - this is how much you pay. Don't assume they know - make it clear. 

12. Offer a guarantee and be clear about what your return policy is. Most people won’t buy unless they know there is a money-back guarantee and understand how long it is extended for. You may want to tell them exactly how to use the money-back guarantee feature so they don’t need to go hunting for it after the fact. Transparency adds credibility and confidence.

13. Build up your value - if your offer includes several items, build up the value by listing each of them with their monetary values to show how much prospects would pay if they bought each item separately.

14. Add bonuses - People love free stuff and they want to know they're getting maximum value for their hard-earned money. By adding several "can't say no to that" bonuses you add even more value to your offer. Be sure to highlight their approximate monetary value too.

15. Restate your offer - Here you want to summarize everything you're offering them including all the bonuses. List costs for each item separately so prospects can appreciate the real value of your offer. 

16. Restate your guarantee to remove/reverse all risk

17. Inject scarcity - If they leave without purchasing, chances are they won't be back so adding some urgent language to press them into buying now could help with conversions.

For example: "This offer ends in 11 hrs - First come first served.",  "Limited Supply available", "Only 16 units left in stock", etc.

IMPORTANT: Don't fabricate scarcity if there is none. It will come back to bite you in the ass in one way or another if you do. It's dishonest and people will never forgive you if they find out you misled them. 

18. Call to action – Be specific and tell them exactly what to do to take action now. You don't want coupon code confusion or anything else preventing them from buying. Eg. “Claim your discount now”

19. Give a warning - remind them of the reasons why they need to buy and make it personal. Eg. “If you leave this page without claiming your discount, you will NEVER see this low price offered again.”

20. Close with a final reminder. A "PS." offers a great opportunity to restate the primary benefit, summarize in a sentence or two why they need to buy, or remind them about the scarcity element, etc.

It can also be used as a way to direct attention to an important proof element in your copy, to re-engage people who prefer to scan a long page.

Eg. “PS. Did you watch the video we just showed you? He crushed his short trade earning a whopping 1,117% profit in 11 minutes flat! Scroll up and watch it now.”

A final note. It is not only that these 20 copy elements are important. The ORDER in which they appear is equally essential.

Great direct response copy creates a ‘slippery slide’ designed to take prospects from the headline straight down to the Order button, so arranging them in the order they appear here, is important.

Thanks to Pilothouse in-house copywriter Brad Knell for this contribution.

Want to see this ‘formula’ working in all its glory? Check out this direct response piece from AWAI. Brad tells us as far as he knows, this control hasn’t been beaten in 10 years!

Email Best Practices Leading Up To Black Friday

As part of our commitment to make this year your best Black Friday season yet, we asked Pilothouse’s head of email marketing Julien Normand what his best practices are in preparation for Black Friday:

  • Build Hype Early ➡️ Run ad and email campaigns AT LEAST 1.5 months prior to tease with best sellers and trending items.
  • Email Your “VIP” List ➡️ Segment out top grossing purchasers or heavy repeat purchasers about getting an exclusive discount or early access before inventory disappears (be sure to deliver on this promise). Don’t have a VIP list? Now’s a great time to build one 😉
  • Launch To General Audience ➡️ STOP ALL split testing and use what’s worked in previous quarters. Time to double down 😈
  • Closing Hammer ➡️ Before the closing moments, hammer down on social proof, testimonials, ugc, etc. Whatever you’ve got, use it! Now’s the time to hit ‘em hard with using urgency and scarcity (bonus if you can throw in some curiosity).
  • Cheeky “Missed Out?” Sale Option ➡️ Segment out non-purchasers for a "missed out?” sale to mop up those "too-busy" and “on-the-fence” lost opportunities.

Remember, now’s the time to be in the thick of Black Friday planning. Get ahead of it early!

🚨 How to Protect Your Facebook Ad Account From Spending $120k In 4 Minutes

There have been recent costly security breaches on the Facebook ad platform for DTC advertisers. 


Here’s a dose of reality: it can get bad quick. In some cases, intruders are spending well over $100,000 in a single night.


This is particularly important for agencies and those with high limit invoice billing. 


Here’s what Pilothouse does to keep clients safe, and what you might want to do right now:


  • Go update your Facebook password and initiate it across your team  (especially if you haven’t done so recently and use the same password for other accounts)
  • Review all users in your Business Manager -- clear our any old contacts or agencies
  • Make sure 2 factor authentication is setup on your account, and across your organization
  • Review “Where you’re logged in” and clear out all devices except the ones you know are safe


Want an easy way to do this? Just copy and paste this section and share it with your entire team 👊🏽

As a DTC Newsletter subscriber, you get early access to the video version of the DTC podcast. Check it out a day early right here.

This week, we interviewed Tom Shipley who took Keranique Hair Regrowth from a napkin sketch to $100,000,000 in sales in 18 months.

Some of the ear-nuggets you’ll find in this interview include:

📦How to maximize the lifetime value of a customer at each step of the funnel

📦 How to build a team that will crush your competitors 

📦 The DTC blue ocean of merging product with content (hot product + great offer + story = next level of growth)

📦 What Tom considers to be the most important entrepreneurial skill

📦The “Simple Exponential Math” to increase your bottom line by 50%

Speaking of the bottom line, our favorite quote from Tom was this: “I don’t give a shit about 10X-ing my top-line. I want to successfully 10x my bottom line while I’m delighting my customers. That’s the formula for long-term success.”

📺 Watch Now: From Napkin Sketch to $100,000,000 in sales with Keranique's Tom Shipley

And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.

Sponsor Invitation: Get Funded with Vested Interest and Gorgias

Are you an Ecommerce brand that’s looking for Venture Capital? Apply to Vested Interest!

Vested Interest is an online show where three pre-selected Ecommerce businesses are given 10 minutes to pitch their brand to three venture capital and private equity investors. 

Our partners at Gorgias are connecting investors & entrepreneurs in a format that is very similar to Shark Tank or Dragons Den. If you’re an online merchant and are ready to scale your business, this is the opportunity for you.

By the end of the episode, at least one of the three enterprises is awarded:

  • A follow-up call with an investor
  • Three months worth of free Gorgias access 
  • A web optimization audit from a Gorgias Premier partner agency
  • $100 credit for SMSbump + 3 free months & much more.

Apply here!

Next Episode on Thursday, August 27th @ 12:30PM EST with Michele Romanow, a dragon on Dragon’s Den & Co-Founder of Clearbanc. Watch here.

Look To Tushy For A Dose Of Humour Inspiration

We can’t all be blessed with a product that lends itself well to bathroom humour, but look to Tushy’s ad library for a masterclass in ads that are punchy, short, light, and hilarious.

Tushy reminds us not to be timid with our concepts! We have a real time decision engine at our disposal 24/7 so never be afraid to test almost anything (as long as your exposure is controlled.)

Things We Loved This Week

🐦 Tweet: Trevin Chow shares a graphic that lays out the progression of how data becomes wisdom (and even conspiracy theories)

📷 Instagram: @influencersinthewild shows how the UGC sausage is made. It isn’t always pretty but it’s usually hilarious.

✏️ Article: We’re very interested in the DTC liquor space. Babe canned wine rose to fame with a cheeky PR move, but backed it up with rock solid DTC tactics en route to 7.6x increase in sales during Covid. 

📖 Reddit: Apple banned Fortnite. Fortnite replied recreating an Apple  commercial from the 80's that did not age well 😂

📆 Event: Digital Marketer and ActiveCampaign have partnered up to create the digital “anti-conference” -- an antidote to long and pointless Zoom meetings. It’s called This Just Works. Our interest is piqued!

🎥 Documentary: Adam Curtis’ BBC masterpiece “Century of the Self” chronicles how Edward Bernays (Sigmund Freud’s nephew) used his uncle’s theories to create the world’s first PR firm. Big insights here on harnessing the masses unconscious impulses and why the world is the way it is. Watch it free on YouTube.

🛠 Productivity Hack: 3 tips from Neville Medhora for staying sane with work: 1) Make a to-do list the night before. 2) Once done with that to-do list, no more work allowed. 3) Never add stuff for the to-do list the same day. If someone asks you for something, reply with “Ok I’ve got it on my calendar for tomorrow!”

✏️Article: A look inside TikTok's exclusive creator ambassador program, where 12 influencers get paid trips, brand connections, and access to new features

🔎 SEO: Often overlooked by DTC brands in favor of paid ads, SEO can be an effective way to build your brand ‘moat’ (definitely a theme today). If your product solves a real pain point (e.g. morning grogginess, fatigue, mental fog, etc), check out Grow and Convert’s guide to Pain Point SEO.

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