Guide to DTC Marketing Strategy: A DTC Marketing Agency’s Take on What Brands Need to Know
As the DTC space booms, so is competition. More direct-to-consumer startups are taking to physical retailers and television spots faster than before to lock in the advantage over competitors. We can expect needs and DTC marketing strategies to reflect a change in approach.
Given that the direct-to-consumer space has seen an increasingly crowded field, DTC marketing agencies are presented with the challenge of innovating without relying on the same design principles that have made DTC brands the successes they are today, leading many DTC marketing agencies to ask, “how can we help a disruptive brand stand out from all the other brands that also call themselves ‘disruptive?’”
A second challenge with DTC brands and DTC marketing agencies today is the need to think about adopting new avenues quicker than most direct-to-consumer players have before. Since more brands are springing up in the DTC space, emerging brands need to have an edge before word gets out about their competitors—something incredibly crucial to brands that have little to no name recognition at all as they try to spur engagement and purchases.
One of the most popular ways DTC brands are adopting distinct methods to their DTC marketing strategy is the quick embrace of TV advertising. The rush to running TV ads shows that the DTC space is not what it used to be. Before, the last thing on a direct-to-consumer brand’s strategy list was looking for TV slots when matters like acquiring customers and being the most prominent name in a niche were more pressing. Now, the push for atypical advertising stems directly from DTC brands needing to attract attention from the start. It shows that DTC brands need to be more flexible and willing to set a faster pace.
On the same note, DTC brands need a partner to help them execute and realize an idea quickly. Part of why DTC brands are quick to roll out (besides the absence of the typical business apparatus that exists between manufacturers, retailers, consumers, and everything in between) is that many of them are venture-backed. Pressure exists to have a tangible product showing positive returns to entice further investment.
Where a DTC marketing agency comes in.
But typically, the same kind of mentality that’s led to people starting a DTC brand also shows in the unreceptive attitude towards outsourcing business to an agency that can help accelerate a brand’s growth. And while the most visible product coming from agencies may be the logo or advertising creative for a brand, the reality is that agencies are far more capable of just pushing creative work. And for transpiring DTC brands, an agency can be a valuable partner in ensuring a successful launch: providing assistance in critical positioning and market research, formulating value propositions, and just who is the target audience and how to engage them in ways that brands instantly click.
In truth, not every agency is made to successfully devise a DTC marketing strategy. Because the business model behind DTC brands is glaringly different from the traditional line, agencies must be acutely aware of how to acclimatize to these emerging brands. What a DTC marketing agency needs to encompass, then, is a digitally-inclined perspective, a proficiency in performance marketing, strategic planning, and connections needed to help DTC brands get to market quickly, deftly, and iterate without friction.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a DTC marketing strategy starts from the very beginning: envisioning what a business stands for and how it can position itself to impact consumers. “At its core, what an agency should aim to do is connect the brand with people. It’s not just a matter of what product you’re selling but what kind of lifestyle you’re offering with your brand,” says Juan Manuel Gonzalez, founder of UI/UX web design and DTC marketing agency G & Co.
And while branding is, of course, one of the most aspects of a direct-to-consumer name’s appeal, it’s performance marketing that DTC brands are looking for the most. As direct-to-consumer brands need to have closer interactions with their target audience, they look to have the fastest possible way to optimize their channels should there be a problem or something to improve on.
But what’s most important that both DTC brands and DTC marketing agencies need to realize is that performance marketing is not about edging out the competition’s numbers so much as it is about staying true to a consumer-driven mission. With DTC brands especially, this key component should always remain their north star. By understanding what the specific customer profile is and what exactly it is they want in a brand, DTC marketing agencies can know what course of action they can take to help their direct-to-consumer clients move effectively and adjust their approach where needed.
Adjusting our focus on the DTC marketing strategy.
One of the DTC brand business model's greatest features is that brands themselves touch the consumer without an intermediary party. This means both DTC brands and DTC marketing agencies can notice what consumer behaviors are without involvement from a retailer or middleman, which speeds up the time for brands and DTC agencies to adjust their approaches where needed and optimize for even greater returns.
Of course, a digitally native brand will have to employ digital means given that today’s consumer uses the internet on a daily basis. More so specifically, DTC brands are targeting brand-conscious consumers who care about the value they’re getting in a purchase. However, considering that other brands have just as much accessibility to target these conscious consumers, DTC brands must recognize how to be visible and effective in engaging in this time of serious disruption.
It is also up to DTC marketing agencies to help direct-to-consumer brands bridge the gap between them and their audience. It’s commonly established that the DTC audience today is largely millennial and Generation Z. What that means for a DTC marketing strategy is that it must be tailored to this digitally savvy consumer. And with millions of them using social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, there are plenty of avenues in which DTC brands and DTC marketing agencies can interact with consumers to build much-needed brand awareness for emerging names.
Brands already acquainted with social media should know that although it is a fine method from which consumers can learn about them, what matters is that a brand acknowledges consumers and connects with them regardless of what platform they choose. After all, the focus on any DTC marketing strategy should be consumer-centric and not platform-specific.
A few things to note with social media in a DTC marketing strategy is the following:
- Be sure to engage the audience
Any DTC marketing agency will tell you: social media requires you to interact. And so brands must find how they can best encourage engagement in their social channels. What can be most helpful in learning which way is the most applicable to express your brand is to identify what it is you express—is it a lifestyle you’re promoting that your product helps become a reality? Is there a big, defining problem you’re helping to solve? Whatever it may be, this can help you tying that mission and vision to express your brand on social media.
- Spread out your reach
Of course, not all of your target audience resides in one platform. We’ve touched on how crucial it is that a DTC marketing strategy is consumer-centric rather than platform-specific. This means that brands have to recognize that the best way to approach interaction and engagement with their audience is to find where they are and meet them there.
And because every platform has its unique capabilities and advantages, DTC brands and DTC marketing agencies will want to make the most out of them to captivate attention wherever they choose to set foot.
- Find your brand vouchers
One of the most popular ways to tap into the social media sphere is to have brand advocates. Granted, not every brand will have their own influential icon that they can turn to, but micro influencers that have a following much like your target audience can be just as, if not more, effective.
By having brand vouchers post high-quality and consistent content, you can reach an audience through a trusted champion.
- Show how it is
We know that brand-conscious consumers love to learn. And DTC brands know that, too. With informative content and infographics, brands have demonstrated how they’re different from the traditional competitor while also endearing consumers.
How do DTC brands edge out the competition through search engine optimization (SEO)?
The fundamental principle of an excellent DTC marketing strategy employing SEO is that it ought to target keywords best associated with your product in addition to having a well-optimized website with those keywords.
And since DTC brands must compete for brand awareness, given that they will have very little of it if they are only just emerging, an SEO strategy must work to convince prospective customers at the very beginning of their customer journeys. What DTC brands will want to have covered in this area is unbranded search queries. Unbranded search terms are what a user will use to look up a product without a particular brand name associated with it, say “running shoes” or “jeans.” This typically means a consumer has not yet chosen a brand from whom to buy from, and thus are at the beginning of the customer journey.
Obviously, unbranded keywords are what DTC brands should aim for so as to break through and win over their target audience. But also as important is recognizing that DTC brands will have to engage with consumers at different stages of their customer journeys through SEO and target branded keywords.
The difference between unbranded and branded keywords is simple: we’ve established that users who search with unbranded keywords have not yet chosen what brand to buy from and are at the earlier stages of the customer journey, whereas users who search with branded keywords are people who are looking for a product by brand name directly, and are familiar with the brand already, thus closer to making a buying decision.
Both unbranded and branded keywords are essential to a DTC marketing strategy, with perhaps a little more weight towards the unbranded key terms than the branded, where competitors are constantly vying for the top spots to earn the most visits and sales. But to rank for either keyword categories, DTC brands and DTC marketing agencies need to consider the following to work a brand’s way to the top and build some brand awareness:
- Organic keywords
Organic keywords are the number of terms your website is ranked for.
- Organic search traffic
Organic search traffic is calculated as the number of monthly estimated visits a website receives for unpaid search results. These are visitors who find your website exclusively through a search engine and not by a referral or advertisement.
- Domain authority
Domain authority is a measure of how trustworthy your domain is.
Backlinks are the links from other websites that forward to yours. While a higher number of backlinks means a greater domain score, remember that backlinks from reputable websites are worth higher than any ordinary backlink.
All of these contribute to a DTC marketing agency’s search engine optimization strategy. Through a careful measuring of all four of the above metrics, DTC brands can track their online presence and pinpoint any notable trends.
Going back to what we mentioned about competitors: DTC brands need to understand how to rank higher for relevant terms and find an edge. There’s no doubt emerging brands will also come along and contend for the same keywords you may be trying to reach and rank for. And the sooner DTC brands understand how to build this advantage, the better their brand awareness will be among their target audience.
One thing to note about SEO is that along with unbranded and branded keywords are short-tail and long-tail keywords that also connote where a user may be in their customer journey.
Short-tail keywords: You can guess by now that short-tail keywords are those that consist of one or two words; these are more general and broad search queries. These have more search volume than long-tail keywords but indicate a less clear intent, which means a lower click-through rate (how many times consumers click on a link vs. consumers who just view the result).
Long-tail keywords: Usually consist of three or more words and represent a more specific query. Long-tail keywords have a lower search volume but a higher click-through rate because the returns for these queries generate a more specific search.
Understanding short-tail and long-tail keywords ensures that a DTC brand covers all facets of a prospective customer’s search journey. Of course, not every person will be at the same stage in the customer journey, and search results reflect that phase.
Utilization of both short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords can help strengthen a DTC marketing strategy and optimize its results so that consumers can easily find them and purchase their products.
Of course, what this guide has explored is only a general overview of how DTC brands can implement and execute an effective marketing strategy for 2021 and beyond. And with various methods available to engage and target consumers amid the rising shifts and competition, it’s more important than ever to consider what’s right for your DTC strategy. Given that DTC brands have far more flexibility than most traditional brands to choose how to position themselves and boost their strengths and image, what you decide will depend on what method can best deliver the kind of impact you want to see for your DTC brand.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go at it alone, either. G & Co. is a full-service DTC marketing agency and UI/UX design and development shop. With a specialized focus on DTC brands, G & Co.’s services range from mobile apps and brand identities to digital marketing and advertising strategy. Through our work with Outdoor Voices, Burrow, and Burberry, our reach and level of experience with emerging and disruptive DTC names, we’re confident we can help make your direct-to-consumer strategy a success.
Ready to move forward? Shoot us an email to help you get started.