Stop Collecting Underpants and Start Making Money!

  • Brand owners typically are great at finding inspiration and ideas for new, interesting products. However, what sets the successful owners apart is their ability to develop a workable plan to market and grow their brand—and to stick to it.
  • Knowing how to focus your energy on what will work now versus what should be focused on later is invaluable.
  • Successful brands have active managers. Gaining loyal customers means getting out there yourself to make those connections.
  • Stay in control. Letting your brand derail because you got sidetracked with less important details can easily happen, so you have to pay attention.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. And, as expected, some of our ventures are more successful than others. A few years ago, after a lively family discussion about my parent’s newest venture, an alpaca farm, my youngest bother Morgan sent me a hysterical image of gnomes collecting underpants and signed it, “Mom and Dad need to stop collecting underpants!”

Okay, let me explain the tale of the underpants gnomes and what it has to do with beauty products.

In the town of South Park, Colorado, legend has it that underpants gnomes sneak into people’s houses during the middle of the night and steal their underpants. The gnomes have collected piles and piles of underpants. You see, they’re collecting underpants to build a big business … apparently. When the gnomes are questioned about why they collect underpants, they say, “Collecting underpants is just Phase 1!” However, when asked about Phase 2, not a single gnome knows what’s next. In the subsequent breakdown, you’ll see Phase 3 is “Profit,” which is awesome—but the gnomes have no clue how to get there. This means these gnomes spend all day and all night collecting underpants without having any clue how to move onto Phase 2, which is required to get to the real end goal—Phase 3 and profit.

Don’t Do the Wrong Things Right

Whether they realize it or not, many start-up beauty entrepreneurs spend most of their day in Phase 1: collecting underpants. You can spend all day every day collecting and collecting. In fact, you could be the best collector in the entire world. You know what that will get you? A big pile of underpants. In the case of those of us in beauty, it will get us piles of beauty research, overloaded product portfolios, tons of excessive marketing material and a boatload of unmoved products in a warehouse.

Phase 3 is what you hope to accomplish after starting to build your pile—profit. Which brings me to the point: Successful people dominate Phase 2.

Phase 2 is figuring out what to do with what you collected in Phase 1. People who dominate Phase 2 take action. People who dominate Phase 2 understand that trying and failing from previous mistakes is so much more valuable than spending more time researching and/or collecting without attempting anything. Further, knowing what to do so you can build profit from what you’ve collected is critical. “What do I do now?” is the number one asked question at The Beauty Company.

Here’s my advice: Success in Phase 3, which is profit, comes when you learn to take things you’ve learned, researched and collected and then successfully put them into practice.

All too often, in our rush to get started on whatever it is we are going to do in both our personal and professional lives, we find ourselves getting sidetracked doing the things that aren’t part of the process, that don’t add to our final outcome and that usually can’t be explained by anyone on our teams (or in our families, for that matter). Doing the wrong things, which I like to call collecting piles of underpants, really well is a real challenge to any business owner and, in my opinion, is particularly challenging to those attempting to build a beauty brand.

Do the Right Things Really Well

In order to avoid the seductive appeal of collecting underpants—and make no mistake, procrastinating with the wrong tasks in favor of the right ones is powerfully seductive—successful beauty brand owners and managers will lay down a plan that instead identifies all of the factors needed to get across the finish line. In other words, do the right things and do them really well.

Plan—The right concept and business plan, or why are we collecting underpants? Ask my team for a mantra and, undoubtedly, at the top of the list will be “Plan the work and work the plan.” And with good reason—it works. Nothing works without a plan, and not just any plan—a carefully crafted, well thought-out plan that makes sense to you and your team and that has clearly defined steps and goals that everyone is working toward achieving.

Why are you creating your beauty brand? What is your plan for it both in the near and far term? How do you see it thriving in the greater beauty marketplace once launched, and what processes and tools will you put into place to support this goal? All of these factors (and plenty more) need to be established and identified at the outset in your plan, and then the single most important step must happen: Follow the plan.

Deviations and recalibrations are normal and expected parts of this process, but complete 180s are not. Maybe your naming architecture just isn’t resonating with your target consumer, or perhaps the scent profile you intended for your launch collection still doesn’t meet your expectations after four rounds of benchmarking. Rather than changing gears completely, remember your plan and work to correct these issues within the bounds of this plan.

If your brand is a line of acne care products intended for women in their 30s, you can’t try and solve your initial issues with any other consumer base in mind or you will start to stray from the plan. Work the plan.

Make—The right products, or which underpants should we be collecting? Arguably, making the right products is a critical part of success for any brand, and yet, in the past eight years, I’ve seen more examples of brands derailing themselves during this phase than not. After all, beauty brands are typically helmed by intensely creative individuals who are blessed with an acute ability to create, create, create. But sometimes the creation gets in the way of actual product making.

In order to achieve success, the products your brand intends to sell actually have to get made, and that means keeping a hard eye on the bottom line of this process. Decide on your portfolio, delay SKUs that don’t make sense for your current phase, and then move forward with only those products that make sense for your brand now. Don’t get sidetracked with all of the other fun products you could to be making. There is plenty of time for that later. For now, create and develop the underpants that are part of the plan, and nothing else.

Share—Tell your story, or why are these underpants worth buying? Now that you have your plan and have made the right products, you need retailers and consumers to fall in love with your brand—which means, you need to tell an amazing story.

Why are your underpants better than your competitors? What is unique and compelling about your brand, and why should consumers care? Every brand has a story to tell, and as brand managers and owners, it’s our job to tell it, to tell it well, and to ensure all the elements support one another in a carefully calibrated sequence.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because it’s a creative endeavor that writing your story will necessarily be easy. As you begin to assemble the elements you do want to include in your story, you also will need to assemble the elements you do not want to include and then cut them out. All of the details of your brand can’t survive in your brand story, so think critically about what you really want consumers to remember, and then write about that.

Execute—Take action, or seriously go sell your underpants! Now that you’ve got your brand and have told your story, you are ready to execute your vision by going to market. But in today’s massive beauty marketplace, it’s no longer enough to simply tell consumers you have underpants for sale—you have to treat the execution step like a story all its own.

In addition to a robust website, it goes without saying that social media also must be a part of your execution strategy. Although new social media sites crop up on a regular basis, at the minimum, accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are vital to start out on. Consumers turn to these outlets for information, news, images, product information and, increasingly, interaction with the company itself. Whether this interaction means responses to negative comments or compliments, or simply photo likes, consumers want to feel an emotional connection to their favorite brands, and nothing helps forge this connection more strongly than intimate, personal images of the people behind the brand.

At this point, you will also want to start thinking about what industry awards you want your brand to try to win, as well as which (if any) peripheral events you can link up with, such as the Oscars, New York Fashion Week or the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. They can help raise your brand’s profile with both consumers and retailers, as well as to help drive awareness and purchase intent.

Control—Watch all of the decisions, investments and plans you’ve made, or profit because you sold all of the underpants! Control has gotten a bad rap through the years. In reality, not controlling what happens with your brand—after all of the work, time and money you’ve invested—is a surefire way of guaranteeing one result: failure. Controlling the business realities of owning a beauty brand may not be as exciting as writing a website or launching a new product, but without controlling them, your beautiful new brand has no foundation from which to thrive.

Keep an eagle eye on every dollar and where it is spent, maximize outputs where possible while minimizing inputs, and keep the bottom line front and center with every decision you financial decision. Five hundred dollars here or $1,500 there might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of your brand, but when taken in total, small deviations from your brand’s operating budget add up quickly.

However, by following the guidelines laid out here (i.e., making the very best underpants around), you are giving your brand the ideal opportunity to thrive among some pretty fierce competition. Learn from the gnomes’ mistake—and don’t get stuck with just a pile of underpants.

A proven entrepreneur and visionary, Alisa Marie Beyer has built and sold three companies, and is now the founder and creative director of both The Beauty Company (TBC) and Coastal Salt & Soul. The Beauty Company is a strategy firm that lives, works and dreams at the intersection of beauty, business and creativity. For TBC, beauty isn’t just a project, it’s a passion, and it uses an award-winning approach to create beauty and personal care products that deliver beautiful yet functional solutions carefully attuned to the realities of a particular business. Whether a new indie darling or established corporate visionary, TBC’s unique understanding of what consumers want, need and desire lets it secure both sell-in and sell-through at retail. TBC specializes in research, product and brand strategy. The company has worked with start-ups to 13 of the top 15 beauty companies globally and has a proven and award-winning track record in cosmetics, skin care, beauty devices, body care, hair care, nail care, fragrance and wellness/personal care.

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