So you want to start an online business? Starting one is a piece of cake, with e-commerce platforms, like Shopify and marketplaces, like Amazon, available with the click of a button. But getting it off the ground and building a successful brand is another thing entirely..
Assuming that you know what problems you want to solve, which products you want to sell, and who you want to sell to, I’m here to help you break down the exact steps to take to ensure you start off on the right foot and launch your product with a bang.
Why trust me and my advice? Let me introduce myself… My name is Nick Milani, an Investment Analyst here at Clearbanc, but also the Founder of Penguinni, a plastic-free line of kids portable dishware. I’ve always been environmentally conscious but started becoming a lot more aware about how much waste I was producing and that my dad-a “boomer”-was producing even more. He had no issue throwing everything out in one pile called “garbage”, whereas I was focused on garbage and recycling.
Why was it easy for him to do this and what made me more picky? I realized that we are who we are based on what we were taught at an early age. So that got me thinking: if we start using sustainable and healthy goods for our kids and with our kids, then they will grow up being conditioned to be more environmentally conscious and less likely to produce waste. And that’s why I founded Penguinni.
Around 2017, I was selling a few products under another brand I created, for a year, but I was reselling products rather than manufacturing my own. Finally, in May 2018, I realized that I wanted to start my own brand and take my e-commerce game full-time.
Although Penguinni was born around May 2018, it wasn’t officially launched until November, 2018. I followed a specific recipe to make sure my launch was successful. It was a mix of content marketing, social media marketing, and influencers. Check out my recipe to successfully launch a new brand (that won’t break the bank.)
3 months before launch: Create an online community
The first thing I did was create a Penguinni Facebook page. All you need at this point is your branding, and you can use the next few months to sort out designing, manufacturing, and shipping.
It’s important to do your research into which platform your target audience spends most of their time on. For me and Penguinni it was Facebook, since it is still a well-used platform amongst parents and the over 30 demographic I’m targeting.
The idea here is to forget your product entirely and focus primarily on how you can provide value to your target audience and help solve their problems and answer their questions.
I’m not a parent myself, so starting a conversation and really listening to what they need and what they struggle with was crucial. I quickly realized that parenting is not something anyone is really prepared for, it’s something people are constantly learning about as they go (especially with a first child). This taught me that parents need easy and simple tips, tricks, activities, and recipes to reference. And also some humor so they can laugh at themselves (and with others) on the journey through parenthood.
During my research, I found that Pinterest has a ton of content around this topic, so I started to repost it from Pinterest to my Facebook Page.
Top tips when building your online community:
- Always stay native to the platform you are posting in. Figure out how and why your target audience uses whichever platform you are starting with and make sure the content you are creating or repurposing is perfectly formatted.
- Use a scheduler like: later, loomly, or zoho social, to plan your content days or weeks ahead and post regularly, around 1-3 times a day.
- Make sure to stay true to your brand and mission. Having a variety of content is great, but make it always align to your core values. You’re building an audience and you want them to know exactly who you are and what you stand for.
- Try to fight the instinct to invite all your friends and family to the page because this will eventually give you false data moving forward as they may not be part of your target audience.
2 months before launch: Spend $1/day on Engagement Ads:
Once you are posting consistently and your page has some depth, it’s time to start running Facebook ads.
For me, that meant investing in Facebook News-Feed Engagement Ads that linked to valuable content.
Here are the steps I took to create Engagement Ads:
1. Open Facebook Ads Manager
2. Create an Engagement Campaign
3. Target your audience
4. Only use Facebook Newsfeed as placement
In my experience, quotes worked the best in terms of engagement. But in the early stages, focus on testing different pieces of content to help you understand what your audience finds valuable.
And let me be very clear: This doesn’t have to break the bank—I can’t stress this enough! All you really need is a dollar a day to target ads to the right audience. Run each ad for 7 days and you should get a decent amount of engagement..
Then get ready for the awesomeness that comes next: Every person that likes your post can then be invited to your page. To do this, just click each like and then “invite” them to like and/or follow your page.
Always remember that high quality and high value content is key.. Without this, it won’t work. Your goal is to create content that is so amazing, it will entice your target audience to start following you.
1 week before launch: Hold a giveaway
About 1 month before you’re ready to launch your product, unveil that you’re running a giveaway to celebrate the launch of your brand. By this time, you (hopefully) should have at least 100 real followers that are part of your target audience. Real, meaning they are genuinely interested and engaged with your brand (quality over quantity!).
Continue to post the content that your audience craves, while also keeping your audience informed about the launch of the product. Do this by posting features and details about twice a week.
I held a giveaway for the Penguinni sippy cups exactly 1 week before the big launch. The giveaway ran for 7 days. The reason I decided to run the giveaway for a whole week was so I could give any non-winners a coupon to purchase the product on launch day with a big discount.
This works especially well for Amazon sellers because coupons help give your listing an early boost, which helps it jump many pages closer to page 1 for a specific keyword.
Make sure the giveaway is enticing. The Penguinni giveaway was for 10 sets of sippy cups for 10 different people, valued at $350 USD total. You can get creative with the rules of entry as well! For example, have people like and comment on their favourite product feature. However, whatever you decide on, be sure to follow Facebook’s guidelines.
If you see that your organic audience isn’t reacting all that well to the contest, don’t be afraid to run ads to lookalike audiences for the giveaway. You can still keep your budget set at $1/day because people love free things and that’s exactly what you’re offering.
After launch: Leverage influencers on Instagram
So, you’ve launched with a bang. To keep the momentum going past the first week of your launch, reach out to some micro-influencers that are part of your target audience. Send them a free product in exchange for a genuine review or to post and tag you in a few stories on Instagram.
Micro-influencers having followings ranging between 5000-25,000 and a lot of them are more than happy to receive free products and leave a review.
You can find influencers in a few different ways:
- FREE: Comb through hashtags that relate to your brand and/or audience and look for potential micro-influencers who match your brand and could be a good fit.
- $: Use a scraping software like Upfluence to filter through Instagram with certain criteria. This tool also allows you to analyze their followers . This feature is actually free for a limited amount of searches and checks for percentage of real followers vs. fake, which country their mostly in, age group, etc.
- $$: Use a solution like #Paid. Their platform helps match you with your ideal influencer for your campaign and facilitate the end-to-end experience, including providing helpful insights on how your campaigns turned out! (Plus, they are a Clearbanc tech partner so any Clearbanc customer has access to exclusive cash back perks!)
Once you have a healthy list of influencers, go ahead and simply DM them with a nice and personal message. I can’t stress that enough: personalize each message, at least the intro., If you don’t, it’ll look like spam and it won’t feel genuine.
With Penguinni, I found that one out of every 5 influencers I messaged agreed to work with me. I reached out to 75 influencers and ended up working with 15.
So, let’s say that you’ve found at least 10-15 influencers who are willing to work with you and post a review — great job! Encourage them to post the week of your launch (the sooner the better). This allows more traffic to head over to your website or Amazon product page and increase purchases to help boster launch success.
Nothing I did during the launch of Penguinni was rocket science. A lot of it was pretty basic: create a community of your target market, give them what they want, get testimonials from people they trust. But the formula works.
The key is to provide value to your target audience before asking for anything in return. You’re essentially a media company, entertaining your audience with content. Once you’ve built trust and awareness of your brand and content, your audience will be more willing to take time out of their busy lives to see what you have to offer and listen to what you have to say.
So, there you have it! How I successfully launched Penguinni for no more than a buck a day! I hope you found value from this post and are excited to use some of the same tactics to launch your own brand. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave it here, below the article, and I’ll be sure to answer!