August 21, 2023

Are These Strategies In Your DTC “Growth Playbook”?

If your brand is struggling to reach the right customers, take a closer look at your growth marketing function. 

From making the right hires to building out the right tech stack, multiple pieces need to fall into place for your DTC growth marketing team to drive the results your product deserves!

We sat down with founders, experts, and operators at Curie, Everlane, Glamnetic, Storetasker, and Sunday Citizen to learn exactly what they believe it’s going to take to build a top-performing DTC growth marketing machine next year.

We’ll cover five must-have ingredients:

  1. Building a roster of high performers
  2. A focus on innovation and experimentation
  3. Diversifying with the right multi-channel mix
  4. An influencer / affiliate strategy
  5. Scaled efficiency in paid social advertising

Let’s dive right in. 

1. Attracting & Hiring Top Performers

The best growth marketing campaigns aren’t devised by algorithms. They’re thoughtfully planned and creatively executed by people

Like any growth function, top-tier marketing has to start from the bottom-up — with the actual team members powering your day-to-day efforts. 

Tim Masek, Director of Growth at Storetasker and Founder of 1-800-D2C, has hired so many growth leaders for direct-to-consumer businesses that he’s gotten things down to a science. To ensure you’re hiring the best of the best to populate your growth marketing teams, look out for: 

  1. Love for the company — This is Tim’s #1 requirement. If a head of growth isn’t all-in on the brand’s mission and industry, they won’t put in the extra hours to push the business forward or come up with nontraditional ideas. 
  2. A broad skill set in growth — Any growth marketer should have a strong handle on analytics tracking, acquisitions, conversion rate optimization, and retention. 
  3. A bias toward action & implementation — Especially if you’re hiring a head of growth, they’ll need to be the go-to, reliable executioner and implementer of tactics. 
  4. Leadership qualities — They’ll be in charge of recruiting your next few marketing hires and daily collaboration. Make sure they’re equipped for that across the board. 

2. Cultivating an Instinct to Innovate

Growth marketing — like the users we cater to or the platforms they browse — is ever-evolving. 

After all, it only took the rollout of iOS 14.5 to upend everything seasoned DTC marketers knew about paid channels overnight. 

Therefore, a stand-out growth marketer is constantly experimenting and looking toward that next innovative strategy or SaaS tool. It’s the only way their team will be able to weather a permanently shifting DTC landscape. 

Take it from Michael Preysman, Founder & Executive Chair at Everlane, who grew the apparel brand into the eCommerce giant we know and love today — starting back in 2011. At that time: 

  1. Facebook was essentially the only social ad network for merchants
  2. Fundamental infrastructure like Stripe was barely in its infancy
  3. eCom brands couldn’t do a thing without a tech team

Flash forward just a few years, and apps like Instagram began to dramatically shift how users discover products, while the Shopify ecosystem enabled anyone to launch a digital storefront. 

In Michael’s words, DTC eCom became a “Wild West.” 

Everlane was able to ride the wave accordingly by picking up on SaaS developments as they happened. But what cemented their place in the industry was pioneering the idea of radical transparency in retail — a business ethos that centered ethics, not cutting corners. It’s why we still call Everlane the standard for sustainable retail a decade later. 

These days, Michael compares the hyper-competitive DTC growth landscape to a form of warfare between rival brands. 

Brand marketers have no choice but to find every opportunity to innovate. 

“Honestly, my friends in eCom say it feels like a knife fight every day. You have to come in with your arsenal fully loaded, but you don’t know what tools you’ll have to use that day. The game changes so fast.” - Michael Preysman, Founder & Executive Chair at Everlane

3. Nailing the Right Channel Mix

Growth marketers must be able to nail the unique channel mix that works best for their brand, rather than defaulting to industry standards. 

Margaret Fortner learned this firsthand as Glamnetic’s Head of Growth. The beauty brand saw unbelievable growth via traditional paid channels (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) in 2019 and 2020. 

As soon as Apple rolled out iOS 14.5, CACs skyrocketed and the efficacy of social campaigns — from lookalikes to click-through rates — nosedived. 

Margaret was quickly forced to pivot, test, and diversify Glamnetic’s channel mix. 

She calls this one of the company’s greatest growing pains so far: learning to craft an omnichannel model for capital-efficient, sustainable acquisitions. Right now, that means: 

  • Remixing the channels you know — You don’t need to abandon Facebook just because its performance has taken hits. Try varying your strategies and diversifying your creative. 
  • Trialing new or unfamiliar channels — If you haven’t made the jump to apps like TikTok, it may be time to envision how short-form video could work for your brand. Or, look to non-web channels that we’ve forgotten, like TV ads.
“Everyone was so accustomed to simply throwing money at Facebook and having more come out. So, we knew we had to respond [to iOS 14.5] with a very blended CAC approach. The main issue is deciding how best to achieve it.” - Margaret Fortner, Head of Growth at Glamentic

4. Distilling an Influencer / Affiliate Strategy

Once you’ve found the channels that work for you, how can you execute campaigns, influencer deals, etc. in ways that best suit your unique brand and business model? 

According to Sarah Moret, Founder & CEO of Curie, her team brought their marketing budget to a lower price point and percentage of their total revenue than most DTC brands. 

How did they do it? An incisive, three-pronged growth playbook. 

Build a Clear Payment Framework

Many brands immediately pay influencers for their individual posts and swipe-up stories. 

Instead, Curie will sign a handful of content creators and pay them every month for serving as de facto brand ambassadors. 

They’ll also seed micro-influencers across social platforms who are only paid in product. 

Make TikTok Work for You

Like many DTC brands, the Curie team was exhausted by CACs on Facebook and Instagram — before deciding to make the leap to newer platforms like TikTok. 

As far as socials go, Sarah points out that TikTok has shown significantly lower CPMs (roughly less than half of the costs at Facebook). 

For this DTC eCom brand, three growth tactics have driven reliable returns: 

  1. Organic posts — Several videos posted straight to Curie’s account went viral organically. 
  2. Influencer seeding — They send product to creators who then post about the brand. This helps Curie accumulate millions of views, which convert to trackable sales. 
  3. Targeting — If a video (either organic or posted by an influencer) starts gaining traction, Curie puts serious ad spend behind it. 

Find Affiliates in Nontraditional Places

Curie works with a PR firm to get their products mentioned in articles and listicles with trackable affiliate links, pushing traffic back to the brand’s landing pages. 

More importantly, Curie partners with fitness studios to stock their locker rooms with Curie’s natural deodorants, hand sanitizers, etc. The studios also plug Curie to their email lists and social followings for a percentage of the sales generated by their direct affiliate links.

5. Scale efficiency in paid social ads

Ultimately, every growth marketer can only go as far as their tooling allows. 

Andrés Szkolnik, Head of Performance and Acquisition at Sunday Citizen, kicked off his Disco Audiences trial by leveraging a 5% lookalike based on a seed audience of 300,000.

Within the first 14–30 days post-implementation of Disco Audiences, Andrés saw three key metric improvements: 

  • A significant lift in AOV
  • A 25% boost in ROAS within two weeks
  • A decrease in bounce after shoppers place items in their carts

In all, even if CPAs may be somewhat higher, explains Andrés, Sunday Citizen is selling more products per cart — meaning the equation yields stronger results on the ROAS side. 

Like most marketers, Andrés is thrilled to be moving away from platforms that were effectively stunted by the iOS rollouts. 

Unlike those traditional channels, Disco Audiences actively unlocks new, untapped possibilities. 

Andrés refers to Disco Audiences as his secret weapon, something most marketers have yet to discover due to the industry's long-standing reliance on the old-school paid media playbook. 

As Michael from Everlane said, the game changes fast, use these strategies and tactics from industry leaders to create the foundation for your 2023 growth marketing plan and be ready to innovate and think on your feet when the time comes!

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