To launch a fashion brand to a specific niche of customers or market is an age-old tested recipe for business success. In these 3 part series, we show you how to do it and why it is important in fashion to follow and apply what already is proven to work well.
In part 1 of these series, we looked at why defining a niche is important and the wide positive effect it will have on your future fashion business. In this article, we focus and look into the second phase – once you have completed your research and development and are ready to launch a fashion brand, product or service.
There are 3 Stages in Fashion Brand Business Development
2. The Launch Phase
Once you have fleshed out your idea and done enough research to ascertain that your idea is viable and that there is a product/market fit, you’d have progressed onto developing your idea into a finished product. You would have spent much time, resources and finances to get to a point where you feel ready to plan your launch.
The mistake most fashionpreneurs and start-ups make is that they plan for a big and fancy “launch” before they are ready.
The many months spent working on creating the product or service makes them impatient. They think that if they are ready – the market is ready too.
Ready to welcome them with anticipation, open and arms and ready to spend cash.
But nothing can be further from the truth. Just because you are ready to launch a fashion brand and have worked on your idea for months behind closed doors, the world outside is non-the- wiser of your endeavours.
So let’s look at what you should do in order to ensure a launch that doesn’t disappoint.
a) The Pre-launch
If you feel you are ready to launch, then allow yourself 8-12 weeks of “soft launch” time during which time you will focus on doing two main activities: seeding and gathering social proof.
Seeding is a new terminology used for soft marketing activities done in advance of a launch. Much like planting seeds in the ground, you would start planting the idea that something you have been working on for a while is about to come; about to be revealed.
You can do this by posting on social media and writing blog pots about some of the creative stages of your product development. You can create polls and have people vote on colourways, names for your product…etc All in all the idea is to build a following while also engage them and make them think and feel as if they are part of the product creation.
Think of ways how you can capture their email addresses and while seeding and creating a following also to build up your mailing list so you can keep in direct touch with your “fans” and hopefully later convert to customers.
Allowing ample time for this ‘seeding’ marketing process is very important, as once you are ready to launch your brand and product, you would be launching to a warm audience, eager to see the final reveal of the product, as well as purchase it.
If you think this is something new, then you’re mistaken. Observe how bog brands prepare and seed the idea of new collections they are soon going to launch weeks in advance of the launch. They place some of the new product with influencers and celebrities and get the public talking and eagerly anticipating the launch.
Brands who do this quite well are H&M with their fashion designer collaboration’s series, as well as Apple with their new product launches. They so masterfully reveal and build up interest and desire for the product that on launch day there are queues outside their outlets of eager and impatient customers, ready to buy.
During this pre-launch phase, it is also a good idea to soft launch your product or service. In other words – do a mini launch with a select group of perfect customers.
This can be done both online and offline and the aim is to get early feedback of your product as well as reward your most loyal fans (until now).
You can sell some of your products and services at this point at a special “early bird” price. The goal of the exercise is to get some product into the hands of customers and capture their feedback.
If they love it – get them to give you testimonials, write reviews, share on social media that they were part of a pre-launch event and of course, sell some product/services and get some of your product onto the market.
If for some reason the soft launch is not as successful as you wish – find out why. It is better to find out at this stage and correct the issue than spend money later and launch to mediocre or disappointing results.
Assuming all went well, now is the time to start thinking and planning your proper launch. You have confidence your product works and it is well received by your target customers. You have also testimonials that you can use as social proof as part of your launch.
It is important to remember that while some people love being the first to buy, the first to have something new – it is in our human psychology to be cautious and reserved with anything new.
This is where your testimonials, early customer reviews and social proof comes in. You can use them to show during your launch that your product has already sold and already has happy customers. This will give a much-needed boost of confidence to anyone who is exercising reserve and considers to wait until more people have bought.
b) The Launch
Having tested your product and sure all is well – it is time to launch your product to the public.
A launch really is nothing more than taking an action and setting in motion “something”.
In fashion, a “launch” is associated with a fanfare or a party celebrating the beginning of a new business, collection, new product launch….etc In online businesses, a launch may be as simple as switching the website on to be viewed publicly.
If you are new to the fashion business or launching a new product, the most common way of launching it to do the following:
Write and send out a press release to all members of a targeted press list, announcing the launch of your brand, product or service.
This would usually be followed up with one or a few phone calls to try to set up press appointments in order in person to show and introduce your product.
When you are ready to start selling or operating as a business, this is the point when you also make your website available to the public.
But just because you have done so, doesn’t mean that you will get customers. It is estimated by Google that on average 380 websites are created and launched every minute around the world.
So unless you make an effort through marketing and paid advertising to make your ideal clients aware of your brand and drive traffic to your website – you most likely will remain unnoticed.
You must also ensure your website is properly built and optimised for search and sales and tested repeatedly and often, especially in the early days.
Make sure you set up simple “rules” and funnels that capture the IDs of people who visit your site so that you can either email them at a later stage or retarget them with ads.
There is much on the internet on the subject, as well as freelancers who can help you ensure your website is properly set up for success.
You can of course also organise a party as a launch. This can be as humble or lavish as your finance allow.
Be clear on the outcome you want for this party and ensure you have a marketing plan before an after the event. This is a great opportunity (again) to generate more content to feed your marketing machine.
Think and plan in advance how can you make this party fun and encourage attendees to enjoy and share online and offline of their experience.
In today’s day and age where the fashion market is oversaturated and truly no new products are needed by anyone anywhere – those who make it are the ones that shout the loudest. Not the ones who have the best product.
No! The ones with better marketing, with deeper pockets to spend on advertising and hiring specialist help are the survivors.
SO, YOU HAVE LAUNCHED – NOW WHAT?
One of the biggest mistakes start-ups and small brands make is to branch out into new products too early.
Being creative we often want to create more new designs. We get bored quickly with the exiting and want to fabricate all the ideas we have.
However, this is totally the type of behaviour that leads brands to bankruptcy.
Hat many people going into business do not understand is that many of the things that lead to success in business are in fact counter-intuitive.
We all somehow over the course of our lives have become accustomed to thinking that more is more.
That is a false truth.
The opposite is right.
The single most important element that will contribute to your success at this point would be to FOCUS.
Knowing who your niche is and having tested your product and launched it to this niche of perfect customers, it is time to create a business around that product, service or product vertical.
Don’t discontinue your initial product if it sells well. At the start of your business and for many years to come, you will be growing your business by bringing in new customers who have never heard or seen your product and brand, or by launching new collections and products.
Product development is costly and time-consuming. Therefore make the most of any product you launch. Extend its life by updating the design, small tweaks and changes you can make to refresh it from one season to the next.
Create, test, launch and repeat within your niche and product vertical is the formula for long term success. Do this for the first 2-5 years of your brand’s life. Ensure you become known and associated with a product and service before branching out.
You have no business unless you’re selling and turning over revenue consistently and repeatedly. Unless you are and making a profit, albeit small, you don’t have a business to expand on but an expensive hobby.
Any questions or thoughts you’d like to share? Drop them below in comments.