It’s not all about money
Early on in a business, it’s easy to think of success in a black and white manner. Is the business making money or not? Does this decision make me money? This is an easy lens to filter all of your decision through, but using it as a singular focus can be problematic when you’re building a brand.
One of the bigger lessons I’ve learned is that you can’t make all of your decisions thinking about short term gains. For example, if you get a really nice feature in a magazine and then call it a bust because you didn’t sell a ton of stuff that day, you might be missing the point. Not everything is quantifiable by short term sales. Building a brand is a long term play and is incredibly hard.
Press, placements (where celebrities wear your products intentionally or randomly), and even some forms of marketing are easy to shun as too fickle to last, but they all play an important role. The same goes for traditional marketing, be it email campaigns, SEO, social, or paid marketing. Wholesale is another marketing channel. The strongest brands fire on all cylinders. You shouldn’t be above any channel, and early on you should try them all. Different channels work for different brands and products.
When you’re experimenting with marketing channels, try and look at both the short term and the long term impact. Press and placements are a long tail game, meant to reinforce your relevancy and your place in the game. They get people to pay attention, which is great but different from getting them to purchase. Wholesale might not make you as much money as selling direct, but selling your products in a store gives you access to their customers, which can often be a massive opportunity (think of the followings some influential stores have, both in terms of the number of followers and their intent to purchase). And SEO and social campaigns might seem painful and hard to evaluate but they allow you to test really quickly and cheaply and get your message out.
If you were only thinking about short term revenue, you wouldn’t sell wholesale because your margin could be half of what it is if you sell online. But if a store like Union or Assembly or Notre wants to work with you, I would give it a serious thinking because they bring more to the table than just cash. The same goes for press, where it’s easy to write off a piece as a bust if there isn’t a big sales bump after it’s published. Again, these pieces have value. It just might not be a financial value in the short term.
The best approach I’ve found is to come up with a plan that works on the short term cash, the long term viability and the long term relevancy of the brand. You need all of it. But you need to be deliberate about which channels and mediums are for which part. If this is all planned in advance, you’ll have a much easier job assessing if something is working how it should.
Before you make most decisions, think about it through the short term and long term lens. This is really hard to do, especially in a cash intensive business, but your company will be healthier as a result. You’ll have more structure to your decision making and your expectations will stay in check when something turns out how it should and you were ready for it, instead of hoping for something that wasn’t going to happen.
Yes, in the end it comes back to money, but along the way it’s about much more.
Originally published at loosethreads.richiesiegel.com on August 19, 2015.