12 customer acquisition ideas for DTC brands that AREN’T sales, promotions or performance paid media.
If you talk to a traditional retailer or listen to most Twitter influencers, you’d think that promos and Facebook ads are the only ways to bring in new shoppers. I’m going to give you 12 reasons why that isn’t true.
12 Customer Acquisition Ideas For DTC Brands
Serve an unmet need. The skincare brand Topicals sold out of their first shipment to Sephora. The brand created a product that spoke to, and worked for, an unserved market: women of color with dermatological issues like hyper-pigmentation and eczema.
Launch a “troll” product for PR. The internet exploded when they discovered that Nordstrom was selling a pair of dirty men’s jeans for $425. Did Nordstrom place the buy on purpose, knowing it was likely to rile people up? Unclear. But any PR is good PR, as they say.
Collab w/another brand. This strategy has become so common that no specific examples are needed–several have probably come to mind already. A collab is a great way to introduce a new, sometimes completely different audience to your product. Even more so if you can launch at an entry-level price point without diluting your brand.
Sell product from another brand’s collab. Two existing bars in Soho, London and Soho, New York will be transformed into “Palace Atrois Pubs” for three days only. Palace Atrois is a collaboration between a skate brand and a beer brand. Will this transformation bring new awareness, and new customers, to both venues? You betcha.
Open a popup store. This is another tactic that has almost become part of the standard DTC playbook. It’s a great way to build awareness in a new market, or test out the IRL potential of locations where a lot of your eCom customers live. There are even vendors and services who can help you handle the logistics.
Or a traveling popup trailer. DTC mattress brand Casper built awareness in new geographies with a mobile truck where curious passers-by could test-drive the brand’s products. This is a relatively low-overhead way to enable sampling, especially for products where traditional “free samples” aren’t feasible.
Give away free samples. This is a tried and true tactic almost as old as modern marketing itself. From Costco to Sephora, giving out freebies is a great way to hook people into your product, especially if it’s consumable. Bonus points for providing a 1-2 week supply to turn it into a habit.
Become an authority in your space. This strategy is most often employed by B2B brands, but consumer brands can do it too, especially if your product serves a specific need or is part of a hobby. MOZ sells SEO software, but they are also synonymous with SEO education and content. There is a natural pipeline from learning about SEO to purchasing their products.
Founder press push. I learned about the aperitif brand Haus because I saw a lot of press coverage around the time of the brand’s launch. This strategy only works if the founder is charismatic and the brand has a strong narrative. In Haus’ case, it was an alcoholic beverage designed for moderate drinking with low ABV and an intriguing flavor profile.
Launch an ambassador program. Jewelry brand Kendra Scott recently went viral on “rushtok” due to the groundwork laid by the brand’s Gems campus ambassador program. Think of this strategy as a way to leverage micro-influencers IRL. It doesn’t just work for sororities–you can target any niche, engaged community.
Build out an eye-catching IRL activation. DTC intimates brand Parade is creating a “meadow of wildflowers” in Lower-Lower East Side neighborhood Dimes Square. When done right, activations like these grab the attention of your target market and create a halo of awareness via social media posting. You can also sell product, give out samples, or collect emails and phone numbers.
Open a community-first space. Art supply brand Happy Medium opened up an “Art Cafe” in downtown New York. Relatively little of the square footage is dedicated to merchandise. Instead, there is ample room for visitors to sit and work on their art. The brand also hosts regular figure drawing events in the space that quickly sell out.
The Bottom Line On Customer Acquisition
Not all of these ideas will work for your brand. And selecting the right idea requires a deep understanding of both your current customer and the audience you’re trying to target. So if your strategy is “any growth at any cost”, it’s going to be hard to get creative about customer acquisition.
Some of these ideas require product development. That may be outside the wheelhouse of your current marketing team. Or may be tricky given the current structure and climate of your company. Product is the “lost P” in marketing, and a powerful tool in driving awareness and conversion.
These ideas also have payoff periods that may be longer than one day view, seven day click. And the return on investment may be harder to track and calculate than a Google Analytics dashboard. But sustainable, scalable growth requires a full funnel approach.
You can’t build a brand with Facebook ads alone. So give one of these customer acquisition ideas a try.