The Story of Daniel and Mara Launching a DTC Ecommerce Brand - UPDATED!

Navigating an Ecommerce Launch

Udpated: Daniel, believes a referral program right from the launch will incentivize his initial customers to spread the word and bring in more buyers. But to combine this with the existing 25% discount offer? Mara perceives several challenges…

Sep 2023

Navigating the Launch: EcoClyn's E-commerce Dilemma

The bustling urban environment of New York City, 2023. Amid the city's evolution towards sustainability, a new wave of eco-friendly startups is emerging.

EcoClyn is an e-commerce startup poised to launch its innovative eco-friendly cleaning product. With a minimal market presence, they have managed to intrigue a modest group of 80 potential customers through a pre-launch signup, offering them a 25% discount.

This is the story of Daniel Steward, the founder of EcoClyn - a DTC ecommerce brand of sustainable cleaning products. While passionate about his product, he is navigating the challenging waters of business for the first time.

As much as it is the story of Daniel, it is the story of Mara Jensen, a consultant and advisor to startups. She brings a decade's worth of experience in helping startups scale.

However, Mara perceives several challenges with Daniel's launch.

Follow both as they navigate a special set of challenges accompanying the launch:

  • The Dawn of an Ecommerce Startup

  • A Tiny Triumph: Pre-launch sign-ups

  • Maras Insight: Getting Startup Advice

    • Challenge: Overcrowded Offer
    • Challenge: The Allure of the Discount
    • Challenge: The Pricing Puzzle
    • Challenge: The Affiliate Ambiguity
  • Revisiting the Launch Strategy

Chapter 1: The Dawn of EcoClyn

Brooklyn, New York. The early morning sun peeked through the newly build skyscrapers of Brooklyns waterfront, casting long shadows over the bustling streets below. Daniel Steward, seated at a makeshift desk in his compact apartment, gazed at the screen before him. His heart raced. EcoClyn, the brand he had poured his heart and soul into, was on the cusp of its grand reveal.

On the desk lay a small sample of his eco-friendly cleaning product. It wasn’t just about clean surfaces for Daniel; it was about a clean Earth, a lasting impact. The bottle's simplistic design was a testament to its pure intent, and the product within promised a revolution in green cleaning.

Daniel, a former tech executive, found himself obsessed with the environmental impact of everyday cleaning products. Months of research and brainstorming led him to create EcoClyn, an eco-friendly solution.

All of that made EcoClyn more than just an eco-friendly cleaning solution; his brainchild represented a dream. A dream to alter the narrative around everyday cleaning products. However, every dream has its challenges.

As he began drafting his launch email, doubt clouded his enthusiasm. Was he doing enough? Should he be doing more to ensure EcoClyn’s debut would be met with fanfare?

Man standing in front of window looking at cleaning supplies.

Chapter 2: A Tiny Triumph

A chime broke his train of thought. An email notification displayed on the screen, “80 Sign-Ups for EcoClyn Pre-Launch!” For a moment, pure elation filled him. Eighty potential customers. Eighty believers in his vision.

After months of R&D, he had chosen to launch a pre-launch campaign after Mara Jensen whom he had run across at a tech conference in San Franciso in September had told him to build an audience and let people participate in his R&D efforts by what she “called building in public”. He had ignored her advice until recently when a friend set up a simple email signup button to his otherwise rather empty website.

Incentivized by a 25% discount, 80 individuals showed interest. A small number, but to Daniel, it's validation. He feels excited but wants more. An idea strikes - why not add an affiliate or referral program right at the launch?

After the success with how it easy was to set up apps in Shopify he craved for more. "What if I introduce an affiliate program at launch?" he mused. "Combined with the 25% discount, it would be irresistible!" The idea was tempting. It promised more eyes, more traction, and perhaps, more sales.

The thought stayed with him even ‘til the next morning: Those 80 pre-launch sign-ups might seem insignificant to many, but for him, they are the first affirmers of his dream. Yet, Daniel yearns for more. He wants EcoClyn to make waves, and for that, he believes the combination of a referral program and a 25% discount is it.

However, before he could implement this potential game-changer, Daniel felt he needed a second opinion. And who better than Mara Jensen, the e-commerce consultant who had seen startups soar and plummet?

Chapter 3: Mara’s Insight

Daniel's coffee shop of choice was a quaint little space in the heart of the city.

As he waited, he rehearsed his pitch, hoping to convince Mara of his brilliant strategy.

The café's ambiance was calm, with the distant hum of conversations mixing with the aromatic scent of freshly brewed coffee.

The door chimed, and in walked Mara, a confident figure with an air of wisdom around her.

After initial pleasantries, Daniel wasted no time. He laid out his plan: the 25% discount and the affiliate program, side by side. A two-pronged attack for maximum impact.

Businesswoman and -man sitting at a table with coffee discussing strategy

Mara listened intently, occasionally sipping her coffee. Once Daniel finished, she took a moment before speaking.

"Daniel," she began, "I understand your enthusiasm. But there are several challenges you may not have considered."

"Mara, I genuinely believe that by combining the discount and affiliate strategy, I can maximize my launch's impact," Daniel interrupted her. "The math seems simple; more incentives equal more sales."

Mara paused, taking a moment to consider her words. "It's not always about quantity, Daniel. Sometimes, it's about the quality of engagement and establishing a brand's value."

"But I've seen competitors do it. They've combined multiple offers and seem to be thriving," Daniel countered.

"Thriving in the short-term doesn't necessarily equate to long-term success," Mara replied. "Let's break this down."

She began detailing the potential pitfalls of overcrowding the offer, diluting the brand's perceived value, and sending muddled messages. Daniel’s confidence wavered, replaced by the dawning realization that launching a brand might be more intricate than he initially believed.

Challenge 1: Overcrowding the Offer

"Think about your favorite store," Mara began. "When they have a big sale, do they simultaneously introduce loyalty cards, referral programs, and multiple other offers?"

Daniel thought for a moment. "No, usually it's just the sale."

"Exactly. Because the more messages you throw at a customer, the more you dilute the primary call-to-action. Your launch is critical. It sets the tone for your brand."

Daniel nodded, understanding beginning to dawn. "So, you suggest focusing on the product launch first, and then, after some time, introducing the affiliate program?"

Mara smiled. "One step at a time. Let's first see how the market responds to your product at its actual value."

Practical Exercise:

  1. List down three potential drawbacks of overcrowding a product launch with multiple offers.
  2. Think of a successful product launch you've witnessed. What was the primary message or offer they focused on?

Challenge 2: The Allure of the Discount

Mara leaned forward, her sharp eyes locking onto Daniel's. "Firstly," she began, "it's about the clarity of the offer. When a potential customer reads your email, what do you want their primary takeaway to be? Is it the innovative eco-friendly aspect of EcoClyn? Or is it the flurry of discounts and affiliate programs?”

Daniel pondered this. “I want them to know EcoClyn is here and it's worth their attention. But I thought incentives would drive that attention.”

Mara nodded, “Incentives do drive attention, but introducing too many attention grabbers and they will also detract from the primary value of your initial call-to-action. If you present them with multiple calls-to-action, they will get overwhelmed. And an overwhelmed customer often takes no action,” she reiterated the previous point of their discussion.

“Get 25 % here, receive an additional 25% when you refer a customer… does that mean I get 50% off now? Or can I just apply one coupon per order? What happens to the friend I refer? Will they get a 50% off as well? …and so on”, Mara explained, “too many open loops in your customers head!”

She presents Daniel a visual of illustrative examples and studies where customers, bombarded with multiple offers, ultimately leave the site, overwhelmed and confused.

"Alright, Mara," Daniel sighed, "I see the problem with overcrowding the offer. But what's wrong with giving discounts? Everyone loves a good deal!"

Mara tilted her head, contemplating. "It's not about denying customers a discount. It's about understanding when and how to give one. Constant discounts can skew the perceived value of your product."

Daniel raised an eyebrow, curious. "So, are you suggesting I remove the discount entirely?"

"Not necessarily. But consider offering it in a more strategic manner. Maybe as an early-bird special or a limited-time offer. This creates urgency without devaluing the product."

“…offering discounts in a strategic manner creates urgency without devaluing the product.”

Challenge 3: The Pricing Puzzle

“And then there’s the issue of price,” Mara continued, drawing a quick chart on a napkin. “Look, when you continually discount a product, especially after the launch, you’re essentially anchoring its perceived value to that discounted price.”

Daniel looked at the napkin, “So, you're saying that by offering a 25% discount, I'm making customers think the product is only worth that much?”

“Exactly,” Mara affirmed, “and if you pair that with the referral program, or other programs which offers even more discounts… you’ll eventually teach you customers to wait for a discount code just to stock up, or they’ll feel really dumb if they just bought and then get a new discount code the next day.

Daniel jotted down notes as Mara continued, “They will use apps like Honey or will add stuff to their cart and leave your site just to wait for that cart recovery discount code… Constantly offering discounts, you risk never truly understanding the market's willingness to pay. What if your product, because of its eco-friendly nature and efficiency, is something customers are willing to pay a premium for?”

This was Mara's most significant concerns: The erosion of EcoClyn’s perceived value.

"What message are we sending if our product is always available at a discount?"

Daniel’s notebook was filling up with notes, his mind racing. "Alright, I see your point. I need to think about how to strategically place these offers."

Mara nodded, her eyes showing a hint of pride. "You're getting there, Daniel. Remember, it's about building a brand, not just making quick sales."

Practical Exercise

  • Imagine you're launching a product. How would you structure your discount strategy to entice customers without devaluing your product?
  • Reflect on a time you purchased a product solely because of a discount. Did you value it as much as something you paid full price for?

Challenge 4: The Affiliate Ambiguity

Daniel took a deep breath, absorbing Mara's insights. "Alright," he conceded, "but what about the affiliate program? Word-of-mouth is powerful, right?"

Mara agreed, "Absolutely, but timing is key. If you introduce an affiliate program now, how will you structure it? How will commissions be tracked? What if there's a dispute? And remember, without proper checks, such a program can be misused."

Daniel’s brow furrowed, realizing that what seemed like a straightforward plan was brimming with complexities. He had heard of the pricing aggregating sites and the discount browser apps that made millions of affiliate dollars of just by checking every code without really being a referral from a friend or fan of the product.

Chapter 4: Revisiting the Launch Strategy

After discussing the potential pitfalls in depth, Mara leaned back. "Look, Daniel, your passion for EcoClyn is evident. It's commendable. But, launching a brand is as much about strategy as it is about passion."

She continued, “What if, instead of the initial discount, you focus on highlighting EcoClyn’s unique selling points? Talk about its eco-friendliness, its efficiency. Engage customers with the story behind it.”

Daniel nodded slowly, "And the affiliate program?"

Mara smiled, “Introduce it later, once you have a base of satisfied customers. Let them be your genuine brand ambassadors. For now the most valuable thing you can do is writing the messages for an amazing launch sequence and I can offer you to help you with that.”

Interested in how the story continues?

Then connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn so I can let you know!

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