Launching is a very exciting moment. You only have one chance to launch and if you make a mistake there are no do-overs. How you define a launch is just as important as how you announce it. A launch is not the moment your website goes live nor is it when you have your samples done. A launch is when you are ready to sell and have a plan! Don’t make any noise unless you can back it up. I’ve coached many brands through launches and the momentum is exhilarating, but without a solid plan, a launch can fall flat.
A fashion launch is also very different from the Silicon Valley definition of launch. In the tech industry, you can launch with a product that functions well then build on the visual assets. Fashion is a feeling and conversation. You cannot launch a fashion “MVP” minimum viable product and expect to see results.
So then, what does a strong launch look like? A cohesive, well thought out launch has staying power and long-term benefits. I’ll go through a checklist that you must ask yourself before being “launched.” Print this out and keep it handy.
- What items will you launch with? Styles and SKU assortment planning.
- How often will you release a new product? Customers and buyers need to know what to expect.
- What are your price points? Evaluate your competitors.
- What is your lead time on production? You must know if you need to place reorders or sell something out right away.
- Are you really with the right manufacturer? Make sure. Don’t just work with the first one you talk to. Get samples done right before you commit to working with them and shop around for quality and price.
Logistics & Operations
- How will you ship and accept returns? Shipping from home or office or distribution center.
- How do you get paid? Plan out payment terms and invoice processing.
- How do you assess your cash flow and accounting? Excel, QuickBooks, Fresh books.
- What are your fixed and variable operating costs for the next 18 months? Do the financial projections.
- How will COGS planning change over time? Forecast your collection planning costs by talking to sourcing and production now. Get the details on minimums.
Visual and Verbal Branding
- What is your brand color palette? Will you be using a pop color for your website navigation? Colors tell a story.
- What is your primary and secondary font? You need two and no more than three. Visual cohesiveness is important as customers read your site.
- Do you have a short and long form of your logo? Think about your Instagram and Facebook accounts when developing this.
- How do you talk about your brand? What is the brand voice? What do you say or not say?
- How do you position yourself with your brand? Are you the focus? Is it a team effort.
- Is your site optimized for mobile? Double check and get friends to QC it.
- Do you have seamless one step checkout? This will improve conversion. Have your friends test it out.
- Do you have all your website copy done? Terms & Conditions, About Page etc.
- Is your navigation optimized? Again, feedback is helpful here. You don’t need too many headers if you have a small collection.
- Does your email acquisition form entice new subscribers?
- How often will your homepage change images?
- Do you have the right filters on the category pages?
- Are you link selling and cross selling between items and categories?
- Have you integrated a Shop Instagram section?
- What landing pages will you be driving customers to?
Press & Outreach
- Build you list the right way and don’t use a list that you have not vetted. No point in pitching the wrong editors, stylists or influencers.
- A bigger list doesn’t mean better. Aim for a global list of at least 400 names and email addresses for niche pitching.
- Set up a system to keep track of outbound emails and responses.
- Make a list of all the topics you can pitch. What are your story angles?
- Pitching doesn’t just happen when you launch. Develop a monthly calendar to keep developing these relationships.
- Are you launching with e-commerce or wholesale or both? Decide on your channel/s so you can plan the market entry strategy.
- Look at your 18-month expense projections to gauge where your sales goals eventually need to hit to break even.
- Look at your Average Unit Retail (AUR) to determine how many units you need to sell to hit sales goals.
- Will you be managing sales yourself? If doing wholesale, you need to focus on list building. Plan to have a list of at 250 boutiques, with specific names, email addresses and mailing addresses. Don’t just use a list without vetting it! Buyers move around companies and bigger companies have nuanced departments. Women’s Contemporary is different than Advanced Contemporary or Designer.
- Evaluate the tools you need for sales and the respective costs: Tradeshows, Graphic Design, Lookbooks, Photoshoots, advertising, 2nd set of samples, Travel, Showroom, Sales Rep’s.
- Start building organic social media now. Depending on the market focus on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and Pinterest.
- Develop marketing strategy for first 18 months. This will help you develop inventory needs for e-commerce or popup shops.
- Create marketing budget. Be generous as you are testing new channels determining your product market fit. The demographic that loves your product may be totally different than what you thought it would be. Include
- If you are not strong in graphic design or copywriting then hire someone to help you position your content.
- Do you have enough images to sustain your social media, paid advertising, homepage changes, lookbooks and product images? Think ahead and get enough images to keep your brand fresh.
Each brand is different and requires a nuanced approach. You must give yourself adequate time to test, set-up your systems and get ahead. I am sure you can imagine that each of these questions and tasks has a sub-list so take your time when building out your custom launch plan. Launching a brand is not for the feint of heart! If you are working on your launch and need more guidance lets’ talk. Email me: Syama@ScalingRetail.com
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