Are you yearning to jump on the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) gravy train? Good call. But that can be easier said than done when it comes to ad sales.
In our previous piece titled: Understanding the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Market, we dove into how the consumer-oriented model was causing a shift in both how customers interact with brands and how brands interact with the advertising industry. It’s not just a new business model to deal with; it’s an entirely new way of doing things. “Not only are DTC brands flipping around traditional business models from packaged goods brands or retailers,” writes Lauren Johnson at Business Insider. “They’re also rippling across the industry and causing everyone from publishers to TV networks to tweak how they work.” It’s clear this includes our approach to ad sales.
So how can we go about making the tweaks that will make the biggest amount of difference when selling ads in the DTC market?
The Big Picture: Media Spend for DTC Brands
With the exception of DTC darlings like Warby Parker and Casper, most Direct-to-Consumer brands do not have deep pockets for media space. This has led to a couple of developments in DTC ad spend.
First, DTC companies have an affinity for native advertising and social media. They place branded content (particularly in publications well suited to the format, like Yahoo! & BuzzFeed) at three times the rate of traditional brands. At an even more foundational level, DTC brands focus on social media – either paid or organic – for audience engagement. Social channels allow them to get in front of the exact person they want to sell to – often with a clear path to conversion. Instagram, for example, allows for seamless purchasing from within the app. Both approaches work for a focus on the Millenial and Gen Z audiences, who are spending more time consuming content online (and through their phone) than through traditional television.
The second development is that most marketing efforts for DTC brands goes into gathering first-party data; then using that data to optimize marketing efforts. As Katherine Hays writes at AdWeek, the smartest DTC brands are using the data to develop “essential one-to-one relationships.” It’s the near-perfect loop for simultaneously increasing lifetime customer value and average order value with personalization. Any efforts to sell to DTC companies should include how advertising in your space will aid these efforts.
Getting Personal: How to Sell to DTC Brands
Selling to DTC brands requires the same level of personalization they offer their customers. But how do you accomplish that?
First, be willing to prospect a bit differently. Start by looking into who is buying advertising in DTC categories. You can do that in a few different ways:
- In MediaRadar, search by category (e.g. online retail – apparel) to home in on specific DTC companies.
- Look at who is buying on BuzzFeed, a media company that has done extremely well in capturing DTC brands.
- Review IAB’s list of the 250 direct brands worth watching. There’s a lot to work with there.
Once you highlight your brands, take a step back and ask who is leading them and how. Many DTC leaders value traditional experience – the Casper CMO Jeff Brooks was the head of an agency, for example. At the same time, most DTC brands buy media in-house, rather than through an agency.
Be ready to speak to the unique value that you bring – particularly if you can offer creative work.
Second, get ready to make it personal. As a sales rep, show you’re committed to the client’s brand from the start. Follow the brand on social media, reach out with a direct message or a comment, and don’t hesitate to buy one of their products. If you’re selling to Warby Parker, snap a selfie and tag the brand on Instagram. The goal? Show them that you know them, even before the first meeting. Most sales leaders would argue you should be immersive for all brands, but this is especially essential for Direct-to-Consumer brands. When dealing with brands focused on customer experience, you need to set yourself apart.
Finally, don’t ignore your metrics. All (or nearly all) DTC companies rely on metrics to optimize sales, marketing and service. Track and study how ads running on your platform impact the client’s business – especially for top-of-funnel content, where the DTC brand won’t have easy attribution metrics available. Taking your time here has an additional, literal payoff: unless you know the metrics of how content is driving performance, DTC brands will use your ignorance to push for price discounts.
Looking for more insight into how to guide these conversations? Here are a few actionable tips based off of MediaRadar’s research into DTC:
- Speak to their needs first and foremost. Show that you know their market, you recognize the efforts they’ve made so far, and that you have a specific suggestion for making tweaks to their marketing approach. You’re not here to sell ad space; you’re here to help them connect with their audience.
- Speak their language from beginning to end. Speaking of connection, it’s critical to remember that a DTC brand’s goals may be different than what you’re used to. The goal is rarely to get their copy in front of as many eyes as possible. It’s often to educate an audience segment (attract), convince them to join their brand story (convert) and provide a winning experience over time (delight). This approach to advertising typically requires being familiar with how to use data and metrics.
- Give them a chance to speak. The whole idea behind customer experience is that the business interaction doesn’t end with the sale. Give them a channel to give feedback on advertising campaigns – and then work on ways to close that feedback loop.
In short, the DTC business model begins and ends with customer experience. It permeates product strategy, marketing, customer service and – you guessed it – marketing priorities. To sell to these brands, ad sales teams and agencies should take a page out of the DTC book.