Apparel startups are almost a dime a dozen thanks to sales channel such as Etsy, Amazon, e-commerce ready websites and simple transaction tools like the popular Square card reader. In a marketplace such as this one, how do you get to market fast and differentiate yourself from the competition? Here’s a 10-step guide for getting to market faster (pt. 1).
Understand your value proposition
One of the most common mistakes designers make when understanding their brand and company is not knowing their value proposition. The value proposition is what sets you apart and attracts people to your product or service. Many will say “providing quality clothing,” but “quality” is assumed to be part of the product by consumers. Having a clear understanding of your value proposition and how you are solving the needs for your customers is the best path forward for sales, channel partners and buyers. In addition, this strategy will also lead to why a customer would purchase your designs and not a competitor’s. Don’t just write this down in your short-term and long-term business plan, rather live your value proposition throughout your marketing channels, company messaging and corporate culture. It is important to realize – your customers are not going to read your value proposition; they need to understand it through your brand and actions.
Create and Maintain a Digital Look Book
Your online portfolio is essentially your digital look book. While print look books are still important for buyer meetings, sending information via snail mail and trade show exhibits, a digital look book will invite more prospects and leads into your sales funnel that you may not have known or prospected before. It is a lot easier to get a digital look book into the hands of a buyer or retailer through an email marketing campaign or landing page download as compared to a printed look book that has been mailed to a buyer but never makes it past his assistant.
Have an interactive website that utilizes keywords for SEO
Today, your website is your story—even if you are not an e-commerce company. Your website should be interactive to gain the attention of the visitor, provide engagement past the home page and gain curiosity for action all of these will keep your bounce rates low. Include relevant product information, your company story, a blog, collections, your digital look book, a means of contact and certainly link your social media sites.
To have a website is only the start but to optimize it for search engine optimization is another thing. Utilize keywords, meta phrases, page titles, headlines and URLs for SEO purposes so your website ranks high on search engine searches. Think about what your target market is going to search for when they are looking for clothes or designs similar to yours. Next take these keywords and use them throughout the content on your page, and adjust your meta description to be persuasive so those consumers come to your website.
Use a custom public relations plan built for a startup, not a major fashion house
As an apparel startup, a big question that designers often ask is what media will pick them up. One thing to keep in mind is that 99% of the time Vogue or Elle Magazine is not going to immediately cover your brand. Start with local media and work your way up. The designer that is located in a medium-sized market and not near a major fashion city probably may doubt their ability to get press in their own town; however, as an apparel startup you are also an entrepreneur, and media outlets like that. Outside of news stations look for local lifestyle magazines, local or state events that you can participate in, or make a small and intimate fashion show for local boutiques. Capture video and pictures for any events that you participate in so you can publish them on social media and your website.
When preparing to send a press release (if you don’t have a PR contact or agency), make sure the information is attention grabbing and that there is a clear narrative for the story that will attract both the journalist and the reader to your release or article. For more about good press releases see here.
Co-promote with channel partners
Channel partners can be an excellent way to promote your products. Most companies today are using digital media, and therefore, can promote your products on their own digital platforms such as social media, websites, digital portfolios, etc. For instance, your manufacturing company could promote your products on their Instagram feed kind of like what Create Manufacturing out of California does with their clients. This is a great way to get B2B leads for your clothing and/or accessories as a retailer or buyer could be following the company for the purpose of the co-promotion. Another benefit is that consumers may be following the account from a fashion or clothing related hashtag and these consumers may become great promoters and ambassadors of your new startup as well.
By: Justin Ashwell, Partner