How to Grow and Market a D2C Brand (A 22 Step Process)

Banner image for post How to Grow and Market a D2C Brand (A 22 Step Process)

How do you grow and market a D2C brand from idea to 8 figures?

After working with 100+ brands at my growth agency, I have seen some raise $80M and others go on Shark Tank.

Here are the 22 things to do if you want to guarantee success.

 

1/ Get the Product Right. If Not, Nothing Matters.

How?

  1. Be different >> Atoms Shoes has 1/4 sized shoes
  2. Know your persona >>> Dear Cleo with brides
  3. Solve a problem >>> Hims with balding

Know your persona - Solve a problem - How to Grow and Market a D2C Brand 1

 

2/ Launch on the Back of Your Flagship Product

What product do people talk about the most? What product has the highest conversion rate?

  1. Girlfriend Collective >> Leggings
  2. Bonobos >> Men’s Chinos
  3. Universal Standard >> The Geneva “Travel Dress”

Launch on the Back of Your Flagship Product

 

3/ Solve a Real Problem

What problem makes customers proactively search for a solution?

  1. KreyolEssence helps with hair growth
  2. Curology personalized acne care
  3. Ministry of Supply makes men’s dress clothes comfy
  4. Feets going after, well, feet

Solve customers problem - D2C ecommerce

 

4/ Focus on a Specific Persona

Don’t be everything to everyone. Bonus points for having a persona with low price sensitivity and high intent to buy.

Bala Shoes hit $1.5M in 7 days w/ shoes for nurses . . . and that’s targeting one job profession. Listen to their story below.

 

5/ Get the Business Model Right

Here is the holy grail for a D2C business model

  1. High AOV
  2. High repeat purchases
  3. Low return rate (Beauty products > pants)
  4. Limited colors & sizes
  5. Bonus points for subscriptions (Ex: Billies)

Why do you think Peloton is so valuable!

D2C business model

 

6/ Create a Movement

Don’t just sell a product. Sell an aspiration.

  • Everlane >> “Radical Transparency”
  • Toms & Bombas >> Buy a Pair, Give a Pair

Leverage Bain & Harvard “Elements of Value” study for ideas.

Don't just sell a product - Sell an aspiration - d2cc ecommerce

 

7/ Create (and Own) Your Category

Don’t promote your product. Promote a category and it’ll lift your brand.

Spanx invented the shapewear category with a simple use case. Own a category and you own the market.

Don't promote your product. Promote a category and it'll lift your bran - ecommerce d2c marketing

 

8/ Pick a Fight with the Status Quo

How do you make noise and get noticed? Take on the status quo or big brands and become the underdog.

Look at how ThirdLove attacked Victoria Secret to gain market share.

ThirdLove attacked Victoria Secret to gain market share - d2c ecommerce

 

9/ Build a Community Early

Your community can become your super power. They have a high repeat purchases, they help w/ product development, and you can mobilize them for launches.

Take notes from Kreyol Essence, Glossier, and LuluLemon.

 

10/ A Cool Product Isn’t Enough. Test Activation Tactics.

Try creative experiments w/ how you educate, activate, and convert people.

  • ThirdLove > Fit Finder
  • Curology > First Month Free
  • Mott and Bow > Home Try On Program
  • Beardbrand > Beardsman Quiz

Test Activation Tactics - d2c ecommerce

 

11/ Turn Your Customers into Marketers

Launch a referral mechanism that actually works by giving away a product that wows customers. Plus, it gets your CAC down.

  • Girlfriend Collective gave away leggings for a social share
  • Harry’s gave away razors for emails

Tools to use: Kickoff LabsViralloops, and Smile

Launch a referral mechanism that actually works by giving away a product that wows customers

 

12/ Invest Early in Organic Traffic

As you scale, you need to get your paid traffic to under 50%. SEO is a way to do that. Invest in content that captures searches for high intent phrases.

Honest Company nailed this with definition searches like below.

Invest Early in Organic Traffic - How to Grow a D2C Brand

 

13/ Retention is the New CAC

As ad costs go up, you want to invest in email, SMS, loyalty programs and lifecycle marketing to grow sales.

Create a personalized retention strategy by getting customer data with a quiz funnel or w/ onboarding.

Take it from Forerunner Ventures and their article: Your CAC Doesn’t Matter.

invest in email SMS loyalty programs and lifecycle marketing - How to Grow a D2C Brand

 

14/ Customer Service as Marketing

For high repeat purchase biz models (Ex: beauty, razors, etc.) customer service can serve as a secret weapon for building customer loyalty.

Customer Service as Marketing - How to Grow and Market a D2C Brand ecommerce

 

15/ Build Your Growth Strategy Around Seasonal Dips & Spikes

  • Q4 will be big (Over 35% of sales)
  • Q1 will be slow (Less than 20%)

Calendar your launches, partnerships, & promos around the peaks and troughs to maximize sales. The best brands make noise every 2-4 weeks to hit sales goals.

The 4 peaks method is very real!

 

16/ Facebook / Instagram Ad Tips

Too many to list but do these out of the gate:

  1. Connect Shopify Catalog and run these ads for anyone that abandons their cart
  2. For prospecting creative, lean on UGC & Influencer content
  3. For retargeting creative, How-tos, social proof, and detailed product shots win
  4. Optimize for purchases using CBO

 

17/ Google Ad Tips

Google ads and Facebook ads work well together when you can do the following:

  • Bid on your brand name (Yes, it’s annoying but protect your brand)
  • Setup Google Shopping ads
  • Do keyword mapping on the high intent but medium volume keywords

 

18/ Don’t Reinvent the Wheel with Your Tech Stack

If you’re just getting started, start with the following tools and don’t look back:

  • Shopify
  • Klaviyo
  • Smile
  • Yotpo
  • Outgrow
  • Deliverr
  • Justuno
  • Shipstation
  • Gorgias

 

19/ Know Your Unit Economics, Then Scale

  • What is your margin?
  • What’s you’re payback time?
  • What’s your LTV
  • What’s your CAC (blended) and CAC (per channel)?
  • Revenue per email
  • Purchase Conversion rate

Click here to check some benchmarks from StoreGrowers.

 

20/ Invest in CRO to Unlock Growth

Don’t waste good ad dollars on a bad conversion funnel. Invest in a CRO agency (I am biased to Growthhit.com) that does on-site tests and qualitative research for you. You could be 1 test away from doubling your conversion rate.

Click here to see our favorite funnels.

 

21/ Your Pre-Launch Strategy Gives You an Unfair Advantage

  • Ministry of Supply leveraged Kickstarter for pre-sales
  • Harry’s built a 100,000 waitlist pre-launch
  • Bala Shoes spoke with 500 Nurses pre-launch

Click here to see some launch examples.

 

22/ Continue to Learn from the Best

This industry is changing with every Facebook ad update. To stay in the know, check out:

WebSmith, Forerunner Ventures, Common Thread, mutesix, and Growthhit.

 

CONCLUSION:

To see the full list of these 22 things, check it out as a twitter thread here:

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Jim Huffman

Founder & CEO GrowthHit. Startup mentor at Techstars, General Assembly, and Sephora Accelerator. Author of The Growth Marketer’s Playbook #1
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