There is a LOT to be done when it comes to launching and running your fashion brand. If you’re looking for a co-founder, use this criteria for a successful search.
Fashion startups! This business is tough but it’s even more difficult if you don’t take the time to master the basics of retail. How well do you understand your fashion business? There’s a lot more required for retail success than having beautiful products, inspiring photography, and a creative brand voice. These are all important considerations but you have to take charge and be just as effective with the business side as you are when it comes to design.
This is what I teach in my 9-week program- Fashion Profit Plan: Fundamentals. In 3 months’ time, you’ll master every aspect of retail and immediately be able to put what you’ve learned into action. You’ll also have access to resources and templates worth $1,000s, weekly group coaching calls, and 3 one-on-one strategy sessions with me so we can develop and discuss unique game plans for your brand.
Here’s a couple of lessons based on some of the retail essentials you’ll explore in the program: Cash Flow, Competitors, Customers, Wholesale, and CEO Advice.
A lot of you are probably coming from strictly creative backgrounds so cash flow management can be especially intimidating. Don’t stress out, you can still become a cash flow pro. You just have to understand the essentials – why you need to know it, how it works, and how you can use the insights you gain in the process.
For the newest startups, cash flow is particularly complex. Why? You don’t have any sales history to reference. You need to project your expected future expenses for the next 3 years… project too high and you may think funding is out of reach, project too low and you could face lots of future unexpected costs.
As you project your future expenses, the most important costs to include are professional fees (lawyer, accountant, etc.), office space expenses (rent, office supplies, printing costs…), product samples, professional photography, and digital marketing campaigns.
How you plan your finances depends on a lot of different factors like the number of collections you’ll produce each year and the type of resources you can score for free!
You wouldn’t believe how many brands say “I have no competition”. That’s never true! Your customers (individual shoppers and wholesale buyers alike) have plenty of options of where to spend their money so even brands with the most unique designs still have competitors. Build a competitive matrix to understand what options your customers are choosing from and how your brand fares sitting next to the competition.
There’s a lot you can do with your Competitive Matrix including… indexing pricing, identifying potential wholesale accounts, gaining website and branding cues, gleaning copywriting inspiration, and deciding how many styles/SKUs to produce.
You have to be able to accurately identify your customer in order to get the right marketing and sales strategies in place as well as to develop your product assortment in a direction that makes sense. Those outdated, generalized customer profiles don’t work because they’re way too broad to be useful. It’s time to get specific.
As a startup with no sales history, you can look to your direct competition for answers.
Where are their products sold? Where are they getting press? Who follows them on Instagram?
Instead of a customer profile that looks like this…
25-30 years of age
Lives in Urban Area
…it will be much more precise (and useful) like this…
Reads Porter Magazine, shops at Barneys New York, follows celebrity architects on IG, follows brands like The Row, Sophie Buhai, and Jil Sander on IG.
Your research should also leave you with key insights like additional competitors you may not have discovered before, magazines, blogs, and influencers relevant to your target customers, and potential shops to approach for wholesale business.
Use this formula for wholesale success: Product + Pricing + Persistency + Proof.
Product: Create your product perfectly – read: based on your audience.
Price: Use competitive pricing.
Persistency: Be strong. You need a thick skin to navigate the rejection-filled world of wholesale pitching. And always remember that no doesn’t mean no. It means not right now. Be persistent. Keep emailing, calling, and sending out those postcards.
Proof: Build social proof. Instagram should be your #1 channel as a fashion startup. Post 3x a day and maintain a balance of lifestyle, brand, and product images. Actively engage with your audiences! Buyers want to see that you have a market for your brand.
Even if you have 0 management experience, as the founder of your fashion brand, you are the CEO. It can feel strange to think of yourself as the top executive in charge but that’s exactly who you are.
The future success of your business relies on your ability to manage yourself and others with confidence, smart decisions, organization, and strategic delegation. Yes, even if you only work with 1, 2, or 3 other people, these are all crucial skills – planning, goal setting, negotiation, scheduling, and adopting the right tools.
As a fellow CEO, I know how it goes. I also love what I do and I’ve been guilty of working around the clock from time to time. The truth is, balance is important for your health and the health of your company. The CEO needs to be well-rested, healthy, and sharp to continue to make the right moves. You need to commit to a 30 minute lunch break and even a time to call it quits for the day. If not, things can really get out of hand!
Learn actionable insights about these aspects of your retail business and more (including pricing strategy and e-commerce) in Fashion Profit Plan: Fundamentals!
You are launching your startup fashion brand and you’re pumped up to start pitching. Top of mind is how to best position your brand to wholesale buyers. Often misunderstood, the job of a buyer is not only to look and find cool new products but really to act as an investment banker. Much of what a buyer has to do with wholesale fashion is financially motivated, based on margins, probability of sell through at full price, and minimums. At the same time they are getting that information of ‘sellability’ from a variety of sources. Read on for the five ways to make your brand more sellable to wholesale accounts.
It’s easy to want to protect your sales, and never allow a return. In fact, by the time your website is live, you will probably have your product in such great shape that you can’t even imagine someone even wanting to return it. But returns happen and it’s important to have the right return policy. Returns tell you if a product fits true to size, it tells you if your quality matches up to the price point and if your product copy sizes up to the product. As a result, returns are a great litmus test for startups and growth stage brands alike.
I was writing a blog post for StartUp Fashion on “How to Launch an E-commerce Shop Selling Your Own Brand and Others” (will update with link when its live), and I had an idea that I never saw in practice, the CO-OP website. We’ve all heard of CO-OPs, like the Park Slope CO-OP where you donate time and get a discount on food, or CO-OP apartments, where everyone in the building owns the building together. And in the last 5 years CO-OP fashion retail stores have become more popular. But, what about the idea of a CO-OP fashion retail e-commerce site? A place where each brand owned a part of the site and contributed to its growth.
Facebook is such a powerful advertising tool. It is effective for both fashion retail brands with robust Facebook pages and those who do not have active Facebook pages- as you can drive traffic to your site and bypass the Facebook page engagement. Facebook for fashion startups and growth stage ecommerce businesses can be especially confusing and overwhelming. I’m not sure why the user interface is still so complicated.
Today’s video we are discussing if you really need a business plan for your fashion business.Traditionally we are told before we even start working on your business you need a formal business plan in place. There are different kinds of plans that can relate to you; such as a Product Plan, Action Plan, Sales Plan etc. Watch our new video and see how you can start your planning!
If you are ready to launch your brand then set up a consultation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Scaling Retail is the consulting firm for retail globally. Specializing in startup and growth stage ecommerce, brick & mortar, and wholesale.
For more tips and exercises for building a fashion website check out
Creating Fashion Websites That Sell by Syama Meagher and Nicole Giordano: http://blog.scalingretail.com/product/creating-fashion-websites-that-sell-ebook/
Check out Scaling Retail website for more business ecommerce and retail tips, reviews and more: http://www.scalingretail.com/
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Black Friday is upon us, and as a business that may not have $50,000 for an advertising budget you may want to re-consider what options you have. Not all businesses HAVE to participate in Black Friday or the sales leading to Cyber Monday. Your business is only responsible for catering to your audience. This is not the time to go all out on big campaigns if you are going to be bidding against big retailer budgets. This is time to communicate with your customers and take the time to reinforce your existing relationships.
If you will be participating in Black Friday and other sales this quarter then follow these marketing steps to create cohesive campaigns and see results.
Step 1: Research
You are no stranger at evaluating your own digital platforms, but have you really analyzed it? Spend some time looking into your own platforms to see what people are engaging with. Make note of that content. Is there a core user base of followers on your platforms? These people will come in handy. The more organic your engagement the less your digital advertising spend needs are. If you don’t have much organic engagement then you will want to increase your budget for paid marketing and read on.
I’m not a huge fan of Facebook for Facebook pages, but I do think their digital advertising is really smart. Leverage hypertargeting ad placements to get specific with who ends up seeing your ad. Remember: It’s not about the number of people who come to your site, but the number of people who convert (a.k.a. buy things). Since you may not have a lot of time to test advertising to hone in on your Facebook target market, take an educated guess.
As you monitor and pivot your campaigns you may be able to make some tweaks based on what you find. For these ads you will be creating graphic assets to support it. If you need to hire someone fast to do it I suggest Upwork, TaskRabbit and 99designs. Make sure your ad lands on the right shop pages and that you have supporting banner ads to echo your messaging.
Example messages: Free 2 Day shipping Over $50, BOGO (buy one get one free), Free Shipping with Code HOL15.
Twitter has updated their advertising platform to allow for more dynamic product advertising. If you have an active Twitter account then this is a good option for you. If you don’t then I wouldn’t suggest hopping on Twitter right away just to do these ads. The cool thing about Twitter ads is that they allow you to target your competitor’s handles directly. This will allow you to market to your competitor’s audience. If this is a good fit for you, you will need to reformat and change your ad specs to accommodate this platform.
This is a good platform to use for selling. If you have been on this platform for a while I do suggest taking advantage of dynamic pins. At this moment Pinterest is getting ready to open up promoted pins, so you will have to join the waitlist to be notified when it opens up. When you do engage with dynamic pins and change pricing on your products it will bubble to the top of the feed for your followers.
Tip: Do price changes just for the weekend just to get the visibility.
Until they open up their platform to allow smaller brands to engage in advertising this will remain an organic channel for our purposes. The best way to leverage your organic audience will be through giveaways that generate likes, reposts and tagging.
If you have some time to do research into influencer marketing you may be able to get on the radar of high ranking influencers, but be cautious of high ranking influencers who don’t have much engagement on their platforms. Its too easy to buy followers these days, so if you get awed by an influencers 45k followers see if they have a 5% conversion rate (2,250 likes). To track your sales generated by Instagram use Google short links and alternate the products promoted on your channels by day.
Does your brand have a YouTube channel? Have you thought about partnering with a V-logger (video blogger)? If you have a YouTube channel, you may want to create a short promo video about the holiday season. Maybe it’s a sneak peak into the office and talks about your best selling holiday products. Maybe you are offering ideas on what to give for the holiday. These can be free to produce and be edited very fast. On YouTube make sure you connect the links to your product pages! If you couple this with an ad it could become a place to drive sales for your brand.
Creating a banner ad on your site is a great way to harness your own traffic to convert. Keep your messaging consistent, especially if you have different ad promos running. Purchasing banner advertising on niche market websites is also a great option. Smaller, more targeted publications will also be speaking directly to your customer and they won’t be targeted by larger brands- so do some digging you might find some jewels.
Dedicated Blog Posts/Dedicated Newsletters/:
Similar to the Banner Ads, if you are looking for placement on another parties channel it takes a little time. Do some research into niche markets and find potential partners that your product will make a great fit for. It should be a natural fit, as if their audiences were to say “but of course this product/brand would go in my closet/shelf”. If you do find a great opportunity make sure that you find out the number of people your placement will reach, and what similar advertisements have converted.
Getting in front of your customer has to take on a 360o approach. It’s not enough to rely on digital to get the word out. It does take time to create direct marketing assets, find the right outlets, negotiate pricing and get placed. Long-lead publications take 3 months and smaller ones take about 1 month. Keep in mind that the holiday season is the biggest time for ad spending, next to the Super Bowl. The earlier you plan this- the better. While your timing and budget may be limited there are a few things you can do to generate sales.
Putting together a multi-brand pop up shop can happen very quickly if you already know whom you want to work with. Think about the brands that currently target your same demographic but are selling different kinds of products. Make sure your pricing is aligned, doesn’t make sense to have a luxury brand trying to sell to an entry-level price brand. Check out resources like thestorefront.com to get a read on what spaces are available in your target area. You will need to make sure you have inventory to sell and to make it a cohesive campaign will want to have postcards, stickers for shopping bags and back it all up with some placement on your digital channels.
Having postcards handy are great for passing out at events, leaving them at local coffee shops, mailing out to your existing customer base and to your trusty list of bloggers and editors. Use a beautiful image of your product and include all of your relevant contact details plus a few key words or sentences about your brand. To get extra oomph out of it have small stickers printed up with a few targeted coupon codes. You can stick them on before an event or marketing opportunity to track effectiveness of bounce back to your site.
Print Advertising: Magazines, Newspapers, and Periodicals:
For a last minute strategy this type of outlet can be the toughest to target. I only suggest using these channels as a supporting campaign to your digital or live events. It’s tough to track the conversions on these ads, and even with bounce back codes the conversions can be quite low. Heads up: most print advertising will have longer lead times for deadlines. If you are running out of time but want to include this type of channel then look to weekly publications since they might still have some openings.
Step 2: Outreach
Since you are on a short timeline you need to find out quickly which paid and unpaid channels you are going to go forward with. Start by reaching out to the paid channels first to get an idea of deadlines and cost. Make sure to get all relevant data on the target market, reach numbers, and what assets you will need to create the best campaign ever.
I hope you are great. I’d like to chat with you about November/December ad placement on Man Repeller. Could you let me know what your deadlines are for submission and your ad rates? Right now I am looking into <insert type of ads >.
Step 3: Budget
Now while we would love to do everything on our list of potential outreach, we need to optimize for budget and timing. Normally I would suggest we create the budget based on your overall marketing budget for the year, but if this is last minute here is what I suggest. Set aside a minimum of $50 a day on your digital marketing campaigns until you get some solid data on what is working. This should be evident after 7 days of advertising. Once you get a sense of your responsive target market then up your budget and keep trekking.
Creating graphic assets, while echoed throughout this guide, is often overlooked. This aspect can take time and you want to make sure you have the right dimensions and call-to-actions in place. If you aren’t creating these yourself then look to some outside help. A copywriter might also be in your budget if you aren’t the strongest writer. A general rule of thumb your annual marketing budget should be about 15% of your yearly sales. This very much applies to businesses that have tested and gained target insight.
Step 4: Develop Timeline
No matter how much (or how little) time you have a timeline is important. Create an excel spreadsheet with the platforms both paid and unpaid and track it out by week. What channels launch when and what assets need to be finalized by when. Also track your goals and expectations. Are you targeting a niche market? You might have a small outreach but a higher expectation on click throughs and conversions.
Tip on conversion: make sure you have a newsletter pop up ready on your site to capture all these new leads!
Step 5: Develop Assets
Get creative! If you don’t have Photoshop then I suggest using simple graphic design programs like Canva and PicMonkey. Make sure your graphic assets are cohesive, with the same branded fonts and design direction. For this reason it’s best to either have a style guide for consistency purposes or to have the same designer create all your assets and then create the style guide afterwards. Be clear on the dimensions you need and what content can be put on the graphics, or on the text portion of your post. Many ads allow you to create multiple variations to test your image and text, so be sure to take advantage of this.
Step 6: Launch
Whoohoo! You made it. The work is almost over. Remember to be patient and to keep in mind that marketing is a long tail game. The first time you see an ad will you buy it right it away? You might buy it, but you also might not. In many cases it takes up to 3 different social proofs before a potential client converts, hence why I push the multi pronged approach.
Step 7: Monitor & Pivot
Even if your campaign is only 7 days long it’s important to track data on performance. Use your timeline and goal sheet and add your results right next to it. If your campaign is longer, then monitor which ads are performing best and redirect your ad dollars to those ads. Having multiple styles of ads will allow you to compare more effectively. Maybe it’s the image with the model that’s getting the most traffic, maybe it’s the clear product shot. Creating the tests to get the answers you need.
Step 8: Recap
A post-mortem allows you to recap what worked and didn’t work during your campaign. Remember the whole point of doing all of this is to make sales! Over time you will develop the channels that work for your brand but you need to keep records so that next year when you start to plan for Holiday again you can improve your odds of conversions.
Tip: Add a reminder on your calendar for February of the following year to review your recap and start to think about holiday again.