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Why Appealing to Less People Will Help You Make More Sales

When I was a sophomore in high school my best friend’s mom told me:

“Shannon, you’re not for everyone. People either love you or they don’t.”

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say to an insecure 16 year old but in her defense, I was a pain in the ass.

When I was younger I was opinionated, bossy and vocal. There were multiple times when I was asked to leave my world history class for arguing a point too emphatically (Ms. Gillard, I owe you a drink).

Much of my formative years were spent relishing in my “individuality” and how people responded to it. I prided myself on being polarizing because no one had to guess where I stood.

Over the years I’ve chilled out and matured, but this idea of “not being for everyone” has stayed with me — and it’s taught me something about entrepreneurship.

The fastest way to sabotage your business is by trying to be everything to everyone.

Have you heard the expression: If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, then you’re actually appealing to no one?

This is one of the most valuable pieces of marketing advice you can remember.

I’m not suggesting that you start pissing people off, arguing with your customers and forcing your opinions on others. We’re not teenagers anymore.

What I am suggesting is that you get very clear on who your company is meant to serve, so that you don’t waste time trying to market to people who don’t fit that mold.

Not only will this cut down on the risk of competition (which I’ve written about before here and here), but it will ensure that the right people find you.

Market studies have proven that the better you are at establishing a niche, the faster your customers will come out to support you.

Here’s an example: I have a current entrepreneur in Factory45 who launched her company last week. VETTA is a five-piece capsule collection that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits.

Cara, and her co-founder Vanessa, did an excellent job of designing, positioning and marketing their first collection to appeal to a particular niche of women.

While yes, it would be nice if every woman in the world pre-ordered from their Kickstarter campaign, VETTA doesn’t try to appeal to every woman in the world.

The VETTA customer is an aspiring minimalist, conscious consumer and wants to do more with less. The majority of women in the world don’t think about their fashion choices that way, but this positioning has ensured that the right people find out about VETTA and the right press writes about them.

If it was just another run-of-the-mill women’s clothing line on Kickstarter, then I guarantee they wouldn’t have seen the success they’ve had.

That’s all to say, VETTA reached its $30,000 goal in five days and was featured by Who What Wear and Darling Magazine.

VETTA - 5 Pieces

So, how do you make sure that you’re not for everyone?

First, you have to figure out who your customer is by digging deep — in Factory45, I ask my entrepreneurs to answer over 30 questions about their ideal customer.

Where does he/she live? What kind of books does she read? Where does she hang out online? Where does she shop? Is she religious? What political affiliation does she gravitate towards?

You can’t begin to effectively market to your customers until you know who she is, how she feels and what she believes. Everything you message and market is riding on the fact that you know your customer inside and out.

As another example, we can look at my own business. Factory45 is positioned, messaged and marketed in a way that appeals to a certain type of person:

  • I believe in localized manufacturing, so I only work with entrepreneurs who are in the U.S. or Canada where my production partners are.
  • I don’t believe in making more clothing for the sake of making more clothing, so I market to entrepreneurs who want to solve problems for people.
  • Environmental responsibility is important to me so I only accept entrepreneurs who care about sustainability, too.

Factory45 isn’t the only fashion accelerator out there, but it is the only one of its kind. My business model is unique, my philosophies are different, and what I teach can’t be found elsewhere in the fashion education landscape.

This helps to ensure that the right people apply to Factory45 and the wrong people join a different fashion accelerator.

It’s that simple. And it can be that simple for your business, too.

So, the next time you find yourself writing a product description or an “about” page or a sales page that is boring and generic, just think of teenage Shannon…

What would she do? ; )

 

 

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Photo credit (second photo): VETTA


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Launching a Fashion Kickstarter? Consider this.

Raise your hand if you’ve seen more fashion Kickstarter campaigns than you can count and you’re feeling kind of “over it”…

Considering that I dedicate an entire module of Factory45 to teaching entrepreneurs how to launch successful crowdfunding campaigns, I’m sure it sounds weird for me to say that.

But I’m going somewhere with this.

I regularly get emails from people who want me to share the news about their upcoming Kickstarters. Oxford button downs, dresses for the working woman, lingerie, kids clothes, you name it.

The problem isn’t in launching a Kickstarter.

I think crowdfunding is awesome – it reduces the risk of production, alleviates startup costs and provides free marketing and customer feedback.

The problem lies in the way the story is being told.

For the most part, the sustainable fashion projects going through Kickstarter aren’t saying anything different from the last one. The majority are riding the same wave:

  • We manufacture in the USA.
  • We use only the most sustainable fabrics.
  • We say ‘no’ to fast fashion.
  • We believe in a better planet.

Sound familiar?

As the same thing is being said over and over again, do you know what’s happening?

Consumers are shutting off and becoming numb to the same “our fashion saves the planet” mantra.

 

We’re now in a time when being asked to support a Kickstarter is becoming more common than contributing to the neighborhood kid’s bake sale (yum, do those still exist?)

If you’re going to ask people to support, share and back your campaign, then your story has to be unlike anyone else’s.

Yes, consumers are now more willing to pay a small premium for ethically-made products, but saying so shouldn’t be your marketing tactic. It should be an afterthought.

Kind of like, “Well yeah, of course our company manufacturers ethically and transparently.”

Or:

“Well yeah, of course we’re always pushing to use the most sustainable materials possible.”

The ethics and sustainability of a company should be embedded into the business model as a non-negotiable, not a strategy for saying: “Aren’t we so great? You should pledge to our Kickstarter.”

As the fashion industry becomes more and more accessible to new designers who want to launch their own collections, there is going to be more competition in the market.

As I tell my Factory45’ers, the best way to stand out from the competition is to say something new — something memorable.

Here are a few examples of Kickstarter campaigns that are telling a different story about ethical and sustainable fashion and are doing it well:

VICTOR ATHLETICS

Organic, vintage-inspired athletic wear for men & women, made by small-town American factories and delivered directly to you.

What they do well:

  • The organic materials of their new athletic line is mentioned briefly in the description, but the story focuses on the small-town American factory as the victor.
  • They created a hero or protagonist to pull for.
  • They’ve made organic cotton and made-in-the-USA “sexy” with appealing visuals and a brand aesthetic that isn’t crunchy, hippie or rustic.

victor

FLINT & TINDER

A premium sweatshirt built for life, designed for a decade.

What they do well:

  • Jake Bronstein has done multiple Kickstarter campaigns for his company, Flint & Tinder, but this was the most successful. This is Kickstarter’s only fashion project that raised over a million dollars.
  • The story is focused on a hooded sweatshirt that will last 10 years. If it doesn’t, you can send it in to be mended.
  • Fast fashion thrives on the idea of planned obsolescence which is exactly what this campaign is combatting. What Jake did really well was put the focus on the consumer’s desire instead of the same old fast fashion story. Who wouldn’t want a sweatshirt that will last 10 years?

10-year-hoodie

SWORD & PLOUGH

A quadruple bottom line bag company that works with veterans to repurpose military surplus fabric into stylish bags.

What they did well:

  • The labor story is focused on military veterans who are employed to make the bags.
  • The materials story is focused on surplus military materials that would otherwise be wasted.
  • Most compelling of all is the story of two sisters, one who is in the army, starting a business together.

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If you’re getting ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign or are thinking about it for the future, this is the best advice I can give you: say something new.

If you do that, I’m certain you’ll get a better response from potential customers, from the press pitches you send out, and from the industry at large.

 

 

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5 Tips for Building Brand Exposure

This is a post I wrote for the Ethical Fashion Forum. The original version can be read here.

How do you get your brand noticed? It’s an over analyzed topic. The Internet is oozing with headlines that claim to hold the golden ticket. While viral marketing videos and giveaway contests are obvious answers, they don’t always apply to the startup brand with 46 Twitter followers.

So how can you build your brand for the best chance of big exposure? It starts the moment you begin — when you’re just laying out the groundwork and building the foundation of your company.

I looked at four different companies building brand exposure the right way:

1.) Create a remarkable customer experience.

Walk into a Warby Parker store and you’re instantly hooked. Pristine, white shelves, bright lights, crystal clear mirrors, and eyewear with names like Baxter, Malcolm and Chamberlain calling your name. Try on a pair, any pair, the frames beckons from their shelves.

Once you’ve chosen your style, a spritely salesperson appears with an iPad to instantly take your order. One quick fitting, the exchange of your prescription and information — and voila, your glasses arrive at your address in seven business days.

For those who don’t live near a Warby Parker store? Well, they’ll ship you a box with five different choices and give you five days to pick your favorite. All for free. It doesn’t get much better than that.

warby-parker

2.) Know your target market. (Know them so well that you talk like them.)

If you’ve seen the social media accounts of The Reformation label you’ve remembered them. The company has taken on the role of the “cool girls” of sustainable fashion. Founded by designer Yael Aflalo initially as a side project, Reformation has garnered a cult-like following from some of the hottest names in fashion.

With edgy images, bold messaging, and a distinct voice that speaks directly to its ideal consumer, Reformation is more than a clothing company — it’s a brand that embodies everything its customer wants to be.

The bottom line is: know exactly who you want wearing your brand and speak directly to her — the clothing will sell itself.

reformation

3.) Have one clear, memorable message.

“Modern basics. Radical transparency.” That’s the tagline of luxury clothing brand, Everlane, a sustainable apparel label; that blew up in 2013. If you’ve explored the Everlane brand, then you know what it’s all about — high-quality basics at low price points by cutting out the middleman.

Everlane has found success not by parading itself around as another sustainable clothing company, but by being very clear about what it does and what it offers. It prides itself on being a collection of essentials without crazy designer markups. While most consumers won’t pay the premium that comes with the “ethical fashion” label, Everlane has flipped its messaging to make shoppers feel as though they’re actually getting a deal.

While utilizing a strong Facebook and Instagram following, the brand is clear, defined, and seemingly irresistible.

everlane

4.) Do one thing really well.

Flint & Tinder knows underwear. Founder Jake Bronstein proved it when he raised nearly $300K on Kickstarter for a line of American-made, Supima cotton men’s underwear.

From the beginning, Bronstein didn’t set out to make anything other than underwear. He found a hole in the market and figured out a way to fill that hole. Then he did everything he could to become an expert on the fit, comfort and quality of men’s underwear.

It wasn’t until he found success doing one thing really well with Flint & Tinder that he expanded to a more robust line of men’s clothing. F&T will most likely always be remembered for its underwear because of how it started.

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5.) Word-of-mouth is massively effective.

Each of these four brands has one thing in common. Their primary area of success has been found through word-of-mouth marketing. Brand exposure was built into the early foundations of each company, simply because their customers had something to talk about.

When you find something good you want to share it with the world. That’s what these companies were counting on — and by knowing that from the start, it’s exactly what they got.

Photos courtesy of  , , , , Brand Driven Digital