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2021 Wrap Up: The 10 Most Useful Topics of my DTC Newsletter in 2021

Tech Stack
November 7, 2021

This Sunday, you should be enjoying the time with your family, or just relaxing, so I am going to keep today's newsletter short. It's less than a 5-minute read today. There are a lot of links, so I recommend reading it through, and then going back and finding the links you want to open.

After my emails were opened over 1M times this year, I wanted to compile 10 things people loved the most with some resources. It might inspire you to test or implement one of these for the new year, or if it inspires another question, feel free to hit me with it!

1. Landing pages work.

You might remember this handy old Landing Pages Guide we put out earlier this year or even the landing page template for Shopify stores we made with Builder. The PDF will be getting a facelift soon and I'll re-share it.

If you're spending lower-funnel ad dollars for customer acquisition, don't just send people to an un-curated homepage or a PDP with little information on the brand. Instead, create and direct your paid traffic to landing pages. It gives you an opportunity to properly explain who you are, what you're selling, and gives you the opportunity to curate their first order. Having the right first purchase for a new customer can increase your chances of their experience with you as a brand, and increase the odds they'll come back.

2. TikTok is underrated.

We recently used TikTok to blow up Jolie's pre-launch waitlist and ended up driving thousands of customers off TikTok. This is another example by Cadence, of using TikTok creators to create content for you. If you send your product to 100 people and 75 of them post, at least 10 will give you views like this.

The platform is completely free. No CPAs or CPMs. Just creativity and understanding of the platform’s culture are required to win.

3. Be a brand, don't just sell products.

Modern consumers don't want to just buy products from you anymore, they want to be a part of the brand. If they're buying a jacket from you, it's not just for the utility of a jacket, but it's also because of the artist behind it, the sustainable practices in your supply chain, the reason your founder started the company, and more.

Click here to read 10 simple things you can do, in order to consistently build brand equity.

4. Explain your "Why" at every touchpoint.

The reason iOS 15 f'd things up for everyone is that they were overly reliant on the Facebook website pixel getting data back into its system to know when it should show you the next marketing message it believes will convert the best. Hopefully, you've overcome those iOS 15 issues, but if not, try adding the "Why" more often.

The brands that were minimally impacted were those that always answered "Why does this brand deserve to exist" in every ad, email, SMS message, retargeting banner, or direct mailer. Focus on telling the story more, whether it be through creators, long-form content, or customer stories. Quick-cut Instagram ads can't be your end game for driving new customers.

5. Leverage alternative capital.

If your business is doing well, or you just raised, you now have leverage! Use companies like Wayflyer or Settle to go out and get non-dilutive capital. These companies can help you spend dollars on advertising, inventory, or hires with a 7-figure line of credit that costs you 2% and has a 6 month payback period. It's basically free money and doesn't dilute your equity.

6. Subscriptions are a journey.

You can't (and shouldn't) expect your customers to subscribe on the first purchase. I mean, would you ever walk into a new store and commit to getting something every single month when you haven't even tried it yet? Probably not!

What I found working with a handful of successful subscription businesses was this formula:

First purchase: a variety pack, including a variety of flavors, scents, colors, etc.

Second purchase: guide your customer to select their favorite out of the variety they were sent over, and purchase it to confirm

Third purchase: encourage them to subscribe to their favorite variant, earn a discount, and enroll in a membership component (there should be value for them there).

You also want to focus on creating a lean-in-based subscription model, versus a lean-back one. You want them excited to get your box in the mail every month. We've started to think of ways to build memberships that really come with benefits through NFTs for brands.

7. Zero-party data is holy.

Having Nik Sharma with an email, an address, and what he orders is great. But knowing what kind of content Nik consumes, how often he uses the product, why he uses the product, and what triggers him to buy more is much more valuable.

The best way to think of zero-party data is it helps explain your first-party data even better.

Zero-party data = adjective

First-party data = noun

8. Use good technology.

There's nothing worse than using technology that is ancient, outdated, or is just a big name because of how long it's been around. Here is the tech stack we have used for the last two launches we did:

eCommerce CMS: Shopify

Landing Pages: Unbounce or Builder

Reviews: Okendo

Email: Klaviyo

Customer acquisition: Co-op Commerce

Influencer Management: Dovetale

Analytics: Tydo

Subscription: Smartrr

Customer Service: Gorgias

SMS/Text: Postscript

Affiliate: Refersion

Gift Cards: Govalo


9. Copywriting matters, a lot.

Good visual creative usually gets 90% of the attention when it comes to creating marketing content, but copywriting can make all the difference. When it comes to the pages you drive people to, or the way your ads are written, copywriting matters a lot. I don't have a great resource I've made yet, but check out this Twitter thread by Jeremy.


10. Use advertorials.

Last year, Scott Swanson and I started 1180, an agency where we create content for some of the fastest-growing DTC brands, and then handle the media buying to drive new customers. It's not easy, but once you can figure out how to do it with sponsored editorial content, it can grow your business really fast. Our largest client spends mid-7 figures a month with us at a CPA that's half of their internal CPA. (If you spend >$400k/month in ads, we'd love to see if we can help you too)

There is so much opportunity with this strategy and I think anyone can try it. You need to find a publication that is open to telling your story, or pay for a piece of editorial content to be placed that tells a good story, and then get eyeballs there.

Long-form content is underrated when it comes to social media, because they love pushing quick-cut Instagram ads, but remember, people open their social media apps to be entertained, not to look at digital billboards in their feed.