You should purchase gross sales, however you can not purchase success.
Why? As a result of whereas can drive consciousness and buying, it alone gained’t encourage prospects to like and evangelize your . Additionally, the outcomes of promoting could be deceptive. “Paid media can trick [entrepreneurs] into conflating gross sales with demand,” writes Entrepreneur columnist Adam Bornstein.
So what’s a greater plan of action?
That’s what Athena Club spent years exploring. Since 2019, the digitally native private care model has progress via a sensible and data-driven mixture of marketing — and this this 12 months it formally went massive. It introduced a $15 million Series A funding spherical in Could, and in October launched its first-ever nationwide marketing campaign, that includes commercials throughout streaming and linear TV, in addition to billboard and subway advertisements throughout New York Metropolis. The advertisements spotlight “how individuals really shave,” and have a various assortment of athletes, creators, and fashions, together with US Olympic observe star Tianna Bartoletta, influencer Diana Vieras, gymnast Norah Flatley, and mannequin Fabienne Heymans.
Right here, cofounders and co-CEOs Maria Markina and Charles Desmarais element the methodical means they constructed their advertising and marketing technique — together with what labored, what didn’t, and why now was the time to spend massive.

RELATED: The Time for Diversity in Advertising Is Now

Picture Credit score: Courtesy of Athena Membership

Entrepreneurs are sometimes warned that you would be able to’t spend your approach to success. Up till now, how did you consider spending cash on advertising and marketing versus different types of buyer acquisition and engagement?
We’ve been extraordinarily considerate with spending throughout all features of our . Within the first two years, we noticed rapid success with sure channels comparable to influencer partnerships, so we continued to take a position and optimize the place we knew we might win. However we’ve at all times believed that investing in product improvement — each bodily merchandise and digital experiences — is equally vital. You need to by no means put {dollars} behind a product you don’t totally consider in. It’s essential to remain laser targeted on creating the most effective merchandise doable — for us, that’s private care merchandise that folks use daily — and listening to and appearing on buyer suggestions about how one thing could be improved.
By way of advertising and marketing and buyer acquisition spend, we’ve been conscious of not turning into hyper reliant on any single channel, however somewhat sustaining a wholesome stability of acquisition methods throughout channels. Many DTC corporations rely closely on paid digital promoting (and Fb particularly) for progress. Whereas this channel can supply alternatives, placing all your eggs in a single basket could be harmful. We’ve invested in a number of acquisition and engagement channels ever since launching in 2019, together with podcast promoting, influencer partnerships, referral, unsolicited mail, and public relations, and consider this diversification of channels fueled the two,000% progress we had in 2020. And we simply launched our first-ever linear TV, streaming, and out-of-home advertisements. We plan to proceed investing in all these present channels, and can diversify this combine even additional with model partnerships, neighborhood programming, and product placement initiatives in 2022.
Experimenting with totally different channels and operating exams means that you can garner so many useful insights and learnings that may be utilized to ongoing and future advertising and marketing initiatives. You by no means actually know if one thing will work till you attempt it, and testing out numerous channels and investing extra closely in people who show profitable has allowed our enterprise to develop quickly. Set clear targets when experimenting with new channels and make sure that efficiency is rigorously tracked — and use the outcomes of those experiments to tell plans for the right way to enhance and what to do subsequent.
How did you optimize for influencer partnerships? That is an space that journeys up numerous entrepreneurs, as a result of it’s not at all times clear what the ROI goes to be on a person influencer, or who to make use of.
Each influencer partnership is considerably of a raffle, so you must do your finest to set the partnership up for achievement within the negotiation course of. Exterior of followers and engagement charge, there are a number of bins it’s best to at all times tick earlier than greenlighting a partnership, together with:

  • Is the influencer’s viewers aligned together with your goal demographic?
     
  • Is their content material aligned together with your tone and aesthetic? Or, would you repost this content material in your channels?
     
  • Does the influencer’s paid content material carry out effectively?

It sounds fairly easy, nevertheless it’s so essential to do your due diligence earlier than any content material will get made. Then, you simply must belief your companion to make one thing nice.
We’re additionally investing extra in 1:1 neighborhood constructing on Instagram and TikTok, and are on observe to launch a proper ambassador program within the close to future. Whereas this type of 1:1 neighborhood constructing could be a heavy carry upfront, we consider it is going to create stronger, extra lasting model champions in the long term. To not point out, the insights that may be gathered from these conversations are extraordinarily useful in figuring out the place and the way finest to focus future advertising and marketing power and product improvement.
You say numerous your corporation till now has been pushed by phrase of mouth and referrals. What did you do to drive that?
Actually, we consider it begins with creating a very wonderful and differentiated product expertise. We obsess over product high quality and performance in order that when somebody makes use of an Athena Membership razor or physique lotion for the primary time, it’s a optimistic and memorable expertise they usually’re inclined to inform their buddies. Equally as vital is a wonderful buyer expertise. We’ve a robust conviction that when you put individuals and product first, you create useful prospects and useful model champions. And it’s working — six % of our month-to-month prospects to-date have come to us from family and friends.
Are you able to share extra about what you discovered whereas constructing your buyer expertise? Have been there particular issues that you just discovered alongside the way in which, maybe about what your buyer wished that you just didn’t count on?
We discovered fairly shortly that our buyer base is actually unfold throughout the nation. Most DTCs have the NYC and LA saturation drawback, however we checked out our client demographics and noticed that our product and positioning was resonating with a variety of individuals all around the US. Due to this, we catered our advertising and marketing choices accordingly and maximized our advertising and marketing efforts throughout extra channels that will attain individuals throughout the nation, not simply within the main coastal cities.
In relation to making a memorable product, each new product launched must be intentional and based mostly on present client wants. We conduct surveys and market analysis for each class we increase into to make sure that we’re responding to the wants and desires of shoppers whereas creating merchandise that provide a brand new set of advantages. New merchandise have to be actually differentiated and of higher high quality than present merchandise out there, and it’s actually a win if you are able to do it at a extra aggressive value level.
We rely closely on analysis for perception into client calls for, and use that to information product improvement. For instance, in private care, we discovered that buyers are more and more contemplating high quality, comfort, and sustainability — so we made it our mission to develop merchandise that provide all of those advantages, at one vacation spot, with the comfort of having the ability to subscribe.
Moreover, it’s so vital to make it possible for your advertising and marketing is an sincere reflection of what prospects can count on, so that you just by no means run the chance of setting the flawed expectations. Shoppers have gotten more and more savvy and might learn via the additional advertising and marketing “fluff,” so we deliberately talk with our prospects in a means that’s as “actual” as doable and are direct about what we’re bringing to the desk.
Producing natural word-of-mouth comes all the way down to creating an expertise that’s distinctive, related, and that resonates with shoppers on a deeper stage. Decide an actual drawback that must be solved, and do it in a means that enables your model to attach together with your prospects on an emotional stage—guaranteeing that you just stand out, and that they bear in mind you and what you probably did for them.
Past that, prioritize initiatives that empower prospects to champion your model. Referral has at all times been a robust channel for us, so we’re optimizing this system this quarter, specializing in wealthy incentives and a seamless move. We’re working with a brand new referral platform supplier in order that we will maximize our variety of consumer touchpoints, run useful A/B exams, and garner detailed learnings and insights into what sort of gives resonate essentially the most with our advocates and referred leads — however doing so in a means that enables us to pivot shortly and optimize for finest efficiency based mostly on the outcomes we see.
Did you ever have a tipping level in thoughts, the place you knew you’d spend cash on a nationwide marketing campaign? Like did you assume, “As soon as we attain X, we’ll make investments closely in promoting”?
Our Sequence A, which we closed in Could, has enabled us to check new, unproven channels for us and increase model bets. This spherical wasn’t a few huge retail roll out or throwing all the things into Fb. It was about introducing Athena Membership to new audiences with a robust model narrative, which suggests we get to do thrilling work like our new inventive marketing campaign and making an enormous wager on inventive and top-of-funnel progress.
What’s your course of for testing new, unproven channels and making greater model bets?
With the marketing campaign, we’re investing in OOH media in New York Metropolis, and linear TV and streaming platforms nationally for the primary time ever. We arrived at this combine as a result of we wished to make an enormous model consciousness push in one of many nation’s most influential markets (NYC) and leverage video to speak a narrative-driven message at scale. We’re activating all our confirmed channels as effectively, however taking the step into these bigger, extra conventional promoting channels establishes us as a severe competitor within the self-care market, and permits us to achieve a wider demographic of shoppers that we could not have been in a position to attain via different advertising and marketing channels. Past simply model consciousness, these channels permit us to inform a richer model story—we put numerous thought into the manufacturing, inventive, and storytelling of this marketing campaign, and by activating throughout all of those channels, we’re in a position to introduce shoppers to Athena Membership via a number of types of media .
So now you’re doing it — inform me why now was the proper second.
We’ve the capital. We’ve the momentum. We’ve the message. And we noticed an enormous alternative to usher in a brand new approach to promote private care merchandise. In our opinion, the standard tone in promoting celebrates a really slim (and misogynistic) normal of magnificence. There are additionally quite a lot of DTC class disruptors which can be difficult the way in which the P&Gs of the world marketed all the things, from shampoo to deodorant. Shoppers are positively resonating extra with this newer tone than conventional private care advertising and marketing, however to us, it feels performatively woke and is beginning to fall flat. We noticed a possibility to sit down someplace within the center. We consider that the majority shoppers additionally sit someplace within the center, and can determine with manufacturers that replicate their actuality with a relatable, easy, and inclusive message.
What have you ever discovered as you’ve ready to launch this marketing campaign that different entrepreneurs ought to know earlier than contemplating an analogous transfer?

It’s essential to have a robust message. All the advertising and marketing and artistic {dollars} on the earth can’t promote your model if there’s no story behind it that feels related to your viewers. The identical goes for merchandise. Don’t make an enormous wager on a model marketing campaign when you don’t have the product to again it up. And eventually, be ready for what comes after a significant consciousness play. Be certain your corporation is about as much as accommodate the brand new eyeballs in your web site and the brand new orders in your warehouse.
That’s a terrific level about ensuring your corporation is about as much as accommodate the brand new eyeballs. Are you able to share extra about what you probably did there?
To ensure we understood the potential affect of our marketing campaign, we carried out a model survey within the spring to get a baseline understanding of our aided consciousness amongst our audience. From there, we made some educated guesses based mostly on the place and the way a lot we must be spending. It’s not an actual science, nevertheless it helped us to arrange and venture what success seems like, and create some benchmarks to measure towards.
It’s additionally so vital to verify your channels have constantly partaking, purposeful content material to construct long run relationships together with your prospects. Forward of our marketing campaign launch, we optimized all of our owned and paid channels so we might put our greatest foot ahead when the marketing campaign debuted. An important issues to give attention to are capability and content material, and never simply within the rapid sense, but in addition for the long run enhance we’ll hopefully see in our enterprise. It’s essential to know what you’re going to say subsequent and the right way to welcome all the new people into your model. It’s essential to preserve the occasion going.