Category: Launch My Brand

Foundation: Identify your Customer

Identifying your customer will help you with your marketing, sales strategies and overall development of the direction of your assortment. Whether you are a startup who needs to identify your customer to properly position for marketing or an established brand that is evaluating brand direction, your customer is king and queen.

 

This post is two pronged. The first section is dedicated to startup companies who are struggling with identifying their customer based on either a lack of sales or because you are in the process of launching. The second section is for brands with selling history that need to analyze their customer base to make strategic decisions.

 

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Part I

 

Please, never ever say, “my customer is between 25-40, female, makes $80K a year and lives in urban areas”, how general and simply not true. This is a rookie mistake when starting to think about your collection, brand and marketing efforts. You need to start to get inside the mind of your customer. I ask of you to start to look at your competitive matrix, and start to look at whom your direct competitors are pitching to. Where are they getting press? Where are they being sold? Who are their followers on Instagram? The purpose of this exercise is to come up with a real profile of outlets and customers that actually exist. At the end of the day your customer profile might look more like this, “Reads Flaunt Magazine, shops at Flat 128, follows celebrity DJ’s on IG, follows brands like A Peace Treaty, Claire V. on IG”.

 

Your list should effectively yield a target list of brands that are competitors or potential collaborators, blogs, influencers and magazines that are actually relevant to your customer, and potential stores you will be selling you. You should also check your price points to make sure you are within reason of what your customers will spend. This means double-checking your direct competitors to do apples to apples comparison.

 

As your brand grows your customer will self identify by purchasing and engaging with your brand. If you have been selling for three seasons with no traction, its time to re-position your brand and look at your pricing, assortment planning and branding

 

Check out the Launch My Brand workshop to get in depth coverage on how to identify your customer and market effectively.

 

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Part II

 

If you have selling history on your brand, you might be wondering how to maximize this information.

 

This is what I would do:

  1. Analyze what is selling by category, color and price point. Develop an assortment plan for future collections based on this and then layer on the creative direction and inspiration.
  2. Review where the most sales are coming from. Etsy? Ecommerce? Wholesale? PopUp Shops? Leverage this information to get in front of your customer more by being where they are. Develop a strategy to maximize these channels.
  3. Communicate with customers so you can introduce new categories and products. It’s essential when scaling your brand to grow in ways that your customer will support. So before you take the time to produce outerwear when you are known for dress shirts, ask your customer what they want and give them what they need.

 

Your selling history tells you what is working and what isn’t. Making money is the litmus test to tell the success of a business, otherwise you would be running a charity or this would be a hobby. For more ideas on how scale and develop your brand for the next 5 years contact me (syama@scalingretail.com) and we can set up a consultation.

 

Foundation: Product & Assortment Planning

Developing your collection can seem like a 100% creative experience. You get inspiration on colors and have inclinations towards certain fabrics and silhouettes. However, this is just a part of the product planning process. Your final collection should include planning on how many styles and sku’s, basic vs. fashion items, collection or item driven, key items, seasonal planning. We will touch a few of these topics below and will be going further in depth on it week 2 of Launch My Brand.


  1.  Basics versus fashion analysis can be applied to both the styles and colors in your collection.
    • From a styles perspective, basics refer to ready-to-wear or accessory brands that are producing an assortment of products. Your basic items are the items that are staples in the line. Often referred to as ‘bread and butter’ of the collection, each season your customers and wholesale buyers expect to see these best selling silhouettes and items. In contrast, fashion items are changing each season, these are the pieces that are generally produced in smaller quantities and are more ‘risky’. How to determine what your basic or fashion items are? If you are a small brand you might still be testing for this. Keep your eye on how people are reacting to your products and of course, sales are a huge indicator.
    • From a color analysis, this is fairly simple. Your basic colors tend to be neutrals; black, brown, gray, cream, white, navy and the fashion colors are all the other colors that can be more seasonal. Its important to have a balance of both offerings. Your customers and wholesale buyers might be enticed by the new fashion colors, but at the end of the day basics tend to get a lot of play. This shouldn’t dissuade you from producing fashion colors, just think of them as your PR/Marketing pieces. If your brand rests on fashion colors for the entire collection, you don’t need to change your focus, simply think about how you can merchandise your collection to have wider appeal.
  2. Seasonal planning is more than just planning for outerwear in the fall and dresses in the spring. As you start your inspiration boards start to think about seasonal vision planning. How will spring be different than fall, but still have the same brand direction. Its important to make sure the brand is cohesive each season. Also remember that there are other deliveries you can sell and ship in. Here is a key list of  delivery dates for the women’s market:
    • Spring 1: Delivery Dates: End of Jan- Mid March
    • Spring II / Summer: Delivery Dates: April/May
    • Fall I: Delivery Dates: August
    • Fall II:Delivery Date: September
    • Holiday: Delivery Dates: Mid Oct
    • Resort: Delivery Dates: Late November
    • Note: I always suggest giving a two week delivery window and not to plan a hard date when you speak with retailers.
  3. Collection versus item driven brands should market and develop their collections as so. Item driven brands are focused on creating the best “xxx”, collection driven brands are selling cohesive collections: tops, bottoms etc. If you are focused on making the best pair of pants, as Bonobos did when they launched, then do it well. Diversify with colors, try  a variety of shapes, but stay committed. These days Bonobos is producing collections, they now sell tops, bottoms, outerwear etc. So don’t think you will preclude your brand from branching out by staying focused right now. Collection driven brands will need to make sure they have the right number of tops to bottoms and that there are enough styles to offer diversity.

These are the beginning steps to start to develop your assortment and product planning strategies. If you want an expert to review your collection this season send us an email: hello@scalingretail.com. To learn more about this topic and other important areas to launch your brand successfully join us at the Launch My Brand 6 week webinar workshop.

Foundation: Finances & Cash Flow 101

 

 

It can be awfully frustrating to project expenses for your company within the first 3 years of launching. There are lots of unexpected costs and if you are self funding you might be unsure about what is essential to succeed and what is the extra mile. I’m going to share with you a couple essential areas of your business you need to budget for.

  • Digital Marketing. As you pick your channels to drive traffic to your ecommerce site choose ones that have a paid advertising component. Set aside at least $300 a month on advertising for one platform.
  • Photography. This is a critical part of your branding. Don’t skimp out on this. Your wholesale buyers and online customers rely on photographs to make critical decisions about your brand. A decent photographer will start at $500 a day. If you are shooting lifestyle and stills two times a year plan to budget $2,000.
  • Samples. As you are developing your collection and looking at different manufacturers it can be an expensive process. While I can’t tell you how much to allocate for your particular collection, I will say take whatever you estimate and double it. Sample makers get things wrong and you may need to try different manufacturers.
  • Professional Fees. Chances are you will need to hire a lawyer, maybe a production consultant, retail consultant, bookkeeper, and tax accountant. Get a quote on all these services and plan on these costs yearly.
  • Office Expenses & Printing Costs. These can sneak up on you. Plan these out in advance and don’t over buy. Yes, business cards do depreciate in value over time. A famous Syama quote “if you don’t have a place to hand out your business cards, don’t print them”. Think of all your branded assets: postcards, packaging, notecards, stickers etc. and plan for it. Do some shopping around before to get some quotes before you need to buy.

There are many aspects of finances and cash flow to consider. How often are you producing your collection? What resources do you have access to for free? Projecting your sales and developing an accurate flow of sales channels in relation to marketing. Understanding your gross margins and properly building out your company cash flow versus your product sales projections are essential. Launch My Brand has a class specifically on finances and cash flow. In fact, the very first class we go over a financial projection template and discuss how to build out custom projections for your brand. Learn more about Launch My Brand at our FREE webinar 2/16/16. Sign up here!