Everywhere I look these days, in every sporting category and in every niche, I seem to find new brands.
Disruptors are taking on the established sporting goods manufacturers, harnessing the power of social media, ecommerce and the multitude of free tools available across sales, marketing and sourcing and providing good product and good prices direct to end consumer.
I have more and more clients who are start up/early stage approaching me for help and advice to go from idea to product. So here, within the limited space available, is my quick guide to launching a sports brand.
The idea and target market
This, of course, is the critical part. Find a niche that you understand or look for a gap that you feel exists in the market i.e. the current products seem overpriced, are poor quality, or there is an area that nobody seems to concentrate on.
Do some market research and get an understanding of what numbers might be possible. There are two invaluable tools for this:
a) google keyword research - this will give you an indication on the number of searches for certain products (obviously if they/ something similar already exists).
b) amazon research using Jungle Scout – without doubt the best tool to establish potential volume of sales across any amazon channel. There is a cost associated here but the results will enable you to verify your idea and get an clear understanding of demand.
Think about your target market - Who are they? What do they need? What do they want? How do they act? What do they like
Evaluate your competitors’ brands
Next, start evaluating your competitors’ brands. What do their logos look like? How are they different from one another? How do they talk to your shared customer base? It’s important that you don’t take any of these qualities and copy them for your brand. Instead, look at the motivations behind these choices, and use the qualities themselves for the next step of your process.
In recent years the ability to source products relatively easily has been facilitated by the growth of alibaba.com. Launched in 1999 it has established itself as the global platform for global wholesale trade. It connects buyers with sellers, manufacturers with those looking to source goods. The process is very straightforward and the ability to source almost any product through this platform is astounding.
Alternatively, if you are not even looking to purchase stock and simply want to begin by launching an apparel brand then there are many drop ship suppliers available such as Printful which can be added as a shopify app. This will then give you the ability to create designs which, when ordered, will be printed and shipped direct to your customers.
Now we have the product idea an understanding of potential demand, what our competitors in the space are up to and our product source, we need to come up with a brand name …...so get your creative hat on!
Identify what makes your brand different. How will you make it, and its products, stand out. Think about your brand qualities and how these might translate to more tangible, practical areas of your marketing strategy. What colours will be associated with your brand? What might your logo look like? How will your voice come across in your content and marketing activities. Once you have these answers you are ready to brief a designer for logo designs. Visit fiverr.com and outsource the logo design for a small fee.
We also need the domain name – try 123reg.com and use the ‘search for a perfect domain’box and register a domain and email. Go with .com and .co.uk as a starting point.
Any new brand is going to need a website. No idea where to start? Well the good news is that there are many off the shelf options now available for a small monthly fee. Shopify is the default starting point for many start-ups looking for a painless way to get started with an eCommerce store. It has many plugins (some free and some with fees) as well as excellent default integrations with your social media accounts to enable you to quickly launch a transactional website.
If you are looking for some assistance visit upwork.com and find a freelancer who specialises in shopify to upload products, content and get the look and feel you are looking for in the store. Make sure that the website reflects your brand message and tone as this is your shop window.
No start up brand is complete without a social media strategy. Concentrate on facebook, instagram and twitter to begin with and ensure that the branding across all channels is consistent. Post and update regularly and concentrate on different content for each channel.
Think of facebook for your story telling (you may also want to create a blog at a later point for this) twitter can be competitions, updates, news and instagram can be used to reinforce your brand message and voice with some clear product and brand imagery.
Your stock has arrived. The website and social media channels are live. But how can we begin to drive sales?
a) google adwords: Open a google adwords account. Use the keyword planner and begin to experiment driving traffic to your website. Start with small sums aimed at different target words. Keep them niche as bidding on generic words is likely to be expensive and lead to low conversion rates.
b) amazon and ebay: Traffic to both of these sales channels will certainly mean you get eyeballs on your products. Both have advertising options so, again, start small and experiment until you get the right return on investment and conversion rates. Make sure include seller fees in your margin calculations. Follow these simple steps and, like many successful businesses before you, you may finally have a successful own brand.