Beardbrand’s guide to building a brand

Originally poster here.

First off, I think this is the type of content /r/entrepreneur needs. If you found value in it; please upvote and get involved in the comments.

Intro

I am Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand, and we build and sell beard care products; as well as other items for the bearded lifestyle. Our tagline is that “We foster style for the urban beardsman.” Many startup companies focus on selling their products, but they neglect building their brand. While simply selling is difficult, it’s still easier than creating a brand. This guide shows how we are building a brand with Beardbrand and what you should focus on. Keep in mind that not all businesses need to build a brand, but if you are B2C company it should be a pretty high priority.

Advantages of building a brand

  • Customers will be more loyal
  • Your products can carry a higher price point
  • Word of mouth marketing / viral marketing is more common
  • Valuation of your company will be higher (One example: the US company Electrolux sold their brand and nothing else to the Sweedish Electrolux. Their new brand is now known as Aerus.)

Disadvantages of building a brand

  • It’s more expensive
  • It’s a longer strategy
  • Must invest in more company culture to ensure brand is not tarnished
  • Return on investment is not as clear as call to action marketing
  • A tarnished brand loses all the hardwork you’ve done to build it up

The Start

First you will want to commit to building a brand, and all the challenges that presents. You will have to be prepared to say “no” and stick to your guns. Inconsistency is the death to brands. Spend a lot of time up front to truly understand what you want to be and how you want to present your company.

With Beardbrand we developed the term “urban beardsman” which describes a man with a beard who cares about their style, their grooming habits, and who has a plan and a vision with their personal life. Traditionally beardsmen were thought of as hippies, bikers, outdoorsmen, or homeless folks. We wanted to unite people who didn’t feel like they fit those labels.

To get this rolling we place an emphasis on design and branding. Our logo is simple and clean. Our primary colors are black and white and secondary color is cyan. We have had our tagline front and center on our store since we created it. Fortunately, I am a self taught designer and have implemented a lot of our designs. If you do not have those skills, you will need to invest in a quality designer. Most likely you won’t find those at Fiverr, 99 designs, or any of those spec work places. Try instead to search for them via Dribbble, /r/graphic_design, your local AIGA club, or other places designers like to hang out.

Plan on establishing a relationship with a designer you can trust and work with. You’ll want to send all (or at least a majority of) your designs to them so that you create brand consistency. All designers have different styles, and like I said before; inconsistency a roadblock to building a quality brand. A good designer can also help you with brand guidelines to keep you and others on track. It’s essentially a blueprint on how to keep things consistent.

The Build

First off, it’s important that you walk the walk. IE; the image you are trying to create of your brand is something you actually eat, drink, sleep and live. You’ll want to tie together your branding across all your channels. That means your actions, business cards, website, merchandise, advertisements, emails, marketing, etc must all be cohesive. To show you how we did it, here are a few elements Beardbrand has created.

In addition to your brand’s design and feel, your company also has a brand on how it performs. Based on our target audience, we decided to provide a premium experience to our customers. To us that means quality products, fast shipping, no hassle customer service, and no sales pressure. How this reflects on our business is that we are using premium oils that put beard care first, quality packaging, shipping within one business day, making things right with customers when things go wrong, and offer no discounts or sales on our store.

When we attend events, trade shows, or put on parties – then we carry the same attitude and image that we portray online. We try to be as friendly as possible, not pressure anyone into anything, and have a good time. There is more to life than just selling beard products.

The Sacrifices

We frequently get suggestions to do things differently. We are always have open ears (in fact made a lot of changes based on Reddit’s friendly advice) but sometimes we’ve got to say “no” and do it for the right reason (or at least you think they are right). Here are a couple of examples.

  • I’ve had multiple marketing professionals tell us that we need to put our products on sale. I stand by our viewpoint that our product is fantastic, and when people are ready to buy they will buy. Granted, we might be missing out on some opportunity; but we feel in the long run we prefer the culture of quality over immediate gratification. We use Nordstrom’s and Lululemon as inspiration.
  • We don’t put advertisements on our YouTube videos. We are approaching 1 million views and I’m sure I could have had a few thousand extra dollars, but it’s a more pleasureable experience not watching ads when people watch our videos.
  • We stick to style inspiration on Facebook. In a land of 10 day old internet memes, we could exponentially grow our user base by simply posting beard meme’s. While, it may slow us down in growth; it’s more important for us to accurately show we are about.
  • We market with no direct performance tracking. Some examples: We are putting a party on down in SXSW called SXBB. | We are buying ads that simply have photos of beardsmen and no call to action. | We are building an Ambassador program where we give out freebies to the select few beardsmen who really represent the image well. | Plus many other things.
  • We’ve spent way more on business cards, PR kits, and other items than your typical company

The Results

  • In less than a year we went from $0 in sales to $120k/month in sales.
  • We have a higher repeat customer rate than industry average
  • Our 7k email list gets 46.6% open rate and 13% click rate
  • Our users gladly write reviews of their experiences and share it on social media
  • Customers will tell us that they purchase from us because of our videos and our vision
  • Building our business is a very pleasant and enjoyable experience

Ultimately, I tried to cover everything, but I’m sure I missed a lot. Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.

TL;DR Building a brand is hard work but doable; this is how we are doing it. Most important thing; be consistent and be the company that you present yourself as.

Q&A (only A actually)

1. )Our online marketing consists of:

  • Facebook Ads (Branding/Direct sales & shows up in the feed)
  • Adwords (Direct sales strategy)
  • Retargeting (90% Branding)
  • A couple niche websites, ie: http://thebeardsman.co.uk/

The goal is to drive people to the website using Facebook & Adwords, then stay in front of them with retargeting. I’m meeting with our online marketing company today and will have more hard numbers. But our growth has correlated with our investment in online advertising and we continue to find it a valuable use of our resources.

2) They are a small local fulfillment company and they are awesome. We use Pacific Fulfillment.

3) I’m a big fan of ShipStation and our fulfillment house will log into an account we created for them to handle all the orders. It’s been great.

4) My emails are generally me just speaking what’s on my mind. I try to keep it to 3 short paragraphs and keep it on topic of beards or our store. Within those paragraphs I’ll usually have 2 or 3 links and then my signature.

Again, try to keep things simple, not salesy, and fairly regular.

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