To launch a fashion brand to a specific niche of customers or market is an age-old tested recipe for business success. To grow your fashion brand is a whole other story. In this final instalment of our 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 we talked about why defining a niche is important for any brand and business and the wide positive effect it will have on your business long term.
In Part 2 we delved and looked into what steps to take once you have completed your research and development and are ready to launch a fashion brand, product or service.
Now it is time to glimpse at when is the right time to expand and diversify your product offer.
To grow your fashion brand, new products and new markets must be introduced. That’s true enough!
But when is the right time? How should it be done?
Now that you have launched your brand it is important to FOCUS on growing and establishing it to your customers and market.
Many assume (wrongly) that a “launch” means they are now in business.
But in reality, a “launch” is nothing but a word. A verb. A vanity stage.
Unless you take action consistently to market and sell your product or services and therefore make money – there is no business.
Now that you are launched and “in business” on paper at least, it is important to spend some time to establish your brand and business to the market.
What does that mean?
Simply put, you must focus and for a time period of a few years – two to three years maybe, maybe more… you need to get known for ONE THING. One product or product category, or service.
Just like the tree illustration, once the tree starts growing, it does not immediately start to grow branches. Instead, it grows a tree trunk for a period of time until it is strong and sturdy enough to only then branch out.
Slowly. One branch at a time.
In business, we must emulate this example.
As creative and impatient entrepreneurs we often make the mistake of rushing and thinking that we need to add more. More products, more colourways, more product categories….
But in business, the most successful steps we must take are more often than not counter-intuitive. As it is in this case.
Stop the urge to add more – focus and become known and associated with something – one thing.
Get better at making, marketing and selling that one product or service. Learn all there is to learn, make all the mistakes you can possibly make and improve constantly. Steady and grow your income and sales.
Without steady and predictable cash flow, you have no business. You have a hobby.
This may take you a few years. You may decide never to diversify. But one thing is for certain – diversifying too soon can kill your business. The idea of “more is more” is a lie.
Let’s have a look why?
REASONS WHY NOT TO DIVERSIFY YOUR FASHION BRAND OFFER TOO SOON
Adding more product lines and new categories or services to your business requires more time and even people.
In order to launch anything new to the market – your market, your customers to THE market if you’re embarking on something new would require you to start at the beginning – research, prove product/market fit, development, testing….etc…etc. See part 1 of this article series.
To do that and continue to run your existing business properly and even grow it will be a challenge. You’ll need more people to help you, which may also mean larger working premises, working equipment etc.
In order to add more people, you need more money.
In order to develop new ideas into products that you launch and put into production – you need more money.
Having the financial means to underwrite a new project is vital to its success.
Also – bringing in new products and services into your business too soon will potentially dilute your existing sales. Unless they are steady and you have regular customers for your main product offer, you are jeopardising what you have created until this point of your business.
3. Your existing customer base
Many of you, in an attempt to grow your fashion brand assume you need to broaden your range. But introducing newness too early also means that if it doesn’t work – you don’t know why and how to fix it.
If you are not established enough and have a steady growing main business, by bringing in new product lines and your sales decline, it is hard to explain why that happened easily.
Was it that the introduction of the new product doesn’t resonate with your existing customer base? Was the new product right for these customers and market or another?
Are your current sales declining because the new product is taking sales away or you’ve lost customers?
These and many more questions will need to be looked at and answered in order to assess the situation you may find yourself in. But if you didn’t have a strong business before that, a clear product successes, strong and clear marketing campaign and a plan you were following and that was working – you wouldn’t know how to get back to where you were before the new products were introduced.
You can fix something if you don’t know where it is broken.
To grow your fashion brand a look into the history of fashion will quickly show you many examples of brands that diversified too soon and lost their way.
Tempted by interested and eager investors to put a lot of money into their business and grow their fashion brands, collaborations and licencing deals, offers to jump into wholesale too soon perhaps….these are all nice to have when you are ready.
If you allow vanity and ego to take over and accept these business challenges and temptations too soon – it may cost you a lot.
But, if you’re ready to add more products and services to your business, then great.
Here is how to do it.
HOW TO GROW YOUR FASHION BRAND
Step 1- Research
Just like you did when you first worked on launching your business, you need to find your niche and your perfect customer for this new product line or service.
T may be the same as you already have. It may be slightly different – older, younger, different location altogether…. Is this product addressing a particular need or nice to have addition to your business and your customers lives?
Knowing all you know by now, this shouldn’t take you long to do.
Is anyone else doing the same or similar? How will you be different from them and stand apart?
It is hard these days to constantly innovate and create something totally new to the market. Some of the best selling products in any industry were improved re-iterations to already previously launched products.
So being able to clearly differentiate your product or service from what’s out there on the market already is key for your success.
Step 2 – Development
You may be lucky and be able to use your current manufacturers to work on the new idea. Or you may need to look for new suppliers and makers.
Regardless – following a well-established process of development is vital.
Read more: How to Turn an Idea Into a Finished Product
Take the time and be sure that any new product addition to your business will not undermine or destroy what you have so carefully over time created until now in terms of reputation and customer expectations.
The quality of any product is always important but especially at the beginning of its life cycle. We live at a time when customers are less forgiving of our mistakes and have many brands circling and vying for their attention.
Retention of existing customers is key to business growth.
Step 3 – Test and Improve
A part of your development process, you must test and continuously improve your product until it is ready for launch.
Even after that – you may need to make more changes and improvements based on customer feedback. So plan for this in terms of time, resources and finance.
Most successful products took time to fine-tune and become the perfect products everyone wants to buy.
Step 4 – Pre-launch
Just like when you were first starting out – it may be a good idea to have a mini reveal of your product to your die-hard customer base. This serves to make them feel more appreciated and engaged with your brand as well as get you the much-needed confirmation that what you have created is right. It allows you to build up a little bit of a buzz with a good marketing campaign created for this new product launch. And of course, get your social proof that you can feed into the social marketing machine and use it to leverage for the future main launch.
Of course – you may be confident enough in your abilities and product and go straight to proper launch.
Step 5 – Launch
Ready to launch properly? Great!
To be truly successful a launch requires much planning.
So plan ahead of time and allow extra spare buffer time. Things don’t always go as planned. Delays occur and changes and compromises must be made at times. Other industry events may be scheduled for the exact same time as your planned launch and “steal your thunder”.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Remember this and get extra help is needed and plan every last detail especially the marketing that will go hand in hand with this new project.
Follow the steps outlined in part 1 of this article and allow time to seed the idea of the new product or service. Then move into feeding some early adopter reviews and feedback and build up buzz and anticipation. The move on to the proper marketing of the project.
So this is really how great brands launch and grow successful businesses.
FASHION LESSONS FROM THE PAST
There may not be many examples within the fashion industry to showcase, however. But bad examples of how to grow your fashion brand also serve as lessons.
In the 1980s and 90s when the western world was undergoing an economic boom time, fashion brands were launching new sub-brands almost daily. They were called “diffusion lines”
Essentially these were Secondary lines acting as ‘bridges’ between the main designer collection and the new lower-end or higher-end collections.
In other words – sub-brands of the main brand aimed at a different demographic.
The aim – to expand the market for this brand and grow it by adding more product and wider customer base.
Everyone just about did it.
Armani, for example, added Armani Prive ( higher-priced line), Emporio Armani (lower price point) Armani Casa (homeware), Armani Kids….
Michael Kors introduced MICHAEL Michael Kors, Kors by Michael Kors and maybe more.
Burberry launched Burberry PRORSUM (a higher-end collection) and Burberry Sport, Burberry Kids…and countless licenced add on products and lines.
There are countless more examples of such additional diffusion lines most big brands launched and subsequently closed when the recession of 2007-9 came.
As these were not a well managed and positioned add on lines, but opportunistic endeavours, when sales slumped – going back to basics and the core of the business was the only survival option.
Other industries outside of fashion offer a different view, perhaps with better lessons and successful examples.
Many of our favourite food brands constantly introduce new products but if you notice they do it slowly. They launch one new product and upon its success, they widen the category with additional complementary products. Then they take this product and launch it multiple times in new markets. Sometimes tweaking the design or packaging and even the name to improve on the product/market fit required by this new location and demographic.
Watching how big brands outside of fashion launch and grow new products is a good lesson for any fashion brand to observe and emulate.
It is often said, that “success is an inside job”.
You need to ensure that internally as a business you are ready to expand. That you have a solid strategy and therefore, plan of action to follow. That you have the right team to execute this plan. That you have the space to make changes and adjustments along the way – because without a shadow of a doubt – you’ll have to.
Take your time, follow the steps we have outlined here and don’t forget – successful business decisions are often counter-intuitive.