Lisa Kovner will be blogging all month on beauty brand strategies, from Business Plan Dos and Don'ts to Distribution 101 to What Is Ops and Why Do I Care. You can read Kovner's "So, You Want to Build Your Own Beauty Brand" in our January issue, as well as her previous posts, "Creating Cool," "Who Needs a Business Plan? You." and "Beauty Distribution 101." -Editor
- Brands aren’t born all grown up!
- Don’t think it has to be perfect from the beginning. If you have a great idea, flesh it out.
- Set your strategy and make it happen! There’s plenty of opportunity to make it grow, but you must have a plan!
Operations, or ops, are essential to all successful businesses. Ops not only include tasks associated with profitably running a business, but they also help create a strong customer experience. For emerging brands, however, ops are frequently overlooked, which only makes growth more challenging.
This week, Patty Schmucker (PS), founder of American Made Beauty and a renowned expert on ops infrastructure development, shares her thoughts on why a thoughtful ops strategy is essential to emerging brands.
LK: Why are ops important for emerging brands?
PS: Ops include every touch point where a potential buyer or customer engages with a brand. It helps brands capitalize on opportunities faster and more effectively. The stronger a brand’s ops, the easier it is to do business with.
In order to create a sustainable, profitable brand, you have to solve more than a problem: you have to solve a market dilemma.
LK: How do you build an ops infrastructure?
PS: The first step is to create a customer experience map that outlines all the different touch points with your brand, including web, phone, email, storefront, sales, marketing, shipping, customer service and so forth.
Use the map to streamline the customer experience. Make it effortless. The map is different for wholesale and retail, but the experience is the same—awesome!
Effective brand strategy identifies up front what market pitfalls are on your path.
LK: What does the customer experience map entail?
PS: If it’s a phone call, what’s the script and skill set required of the person answering the call? What tools are in place to make them successful?
Warehouse, inventory control, customer service software, shipping, the ability to make-on-the-fly decisions to satisfy customers, free shipping, returns, etc.: this is the level of detail required for every touch point of a brand’s customer experience map.
“Me too” shampoo and skin care has no long-term viability.
LK: What is one thing emerging brands can do to improve ops infrastructure?
PS: Beauty isn’t a low barrier-to-entry business. It’s actually quite expensive. Most emerging brands don’t have an understanding of what it’s actually going to cost to build a brand. They put so much into product development and packaging, they tend to overlook or under-value brand strategy, which is just as important.
Investment in developing a strategic brand plan can pay off tremendously. It identifies a clear path for growth. So many emerging brands make expensive mistakes early on because they don’t have a strategy in place to act as a touchstone for decisions.
Effective brand strategy identifies up front what market pitfalls are on your path, what it will cost to build your brand, etc.
LK: Many emerging brands under-value strategy. What would you say to convince them otherwise?
PS: The beauty industry has evolved into a commodity business. “Me too” shampoo and skin care has no long-term viability. There are brands already solving dry hair, oily skin, skin aging, etc.
In order to create a sustainable, profitable brand, you have to solve more than a problem: you have to solve a market dilemma. A dilemma, by definition, requires difficult choices to be made.
The only way to have the foresight to understand the market dilemma is to have strategy in place that takes into account the alternatives or options presented by the dilemma.
LK: What are some resources available?
PS: There are excellent resources available to emerging brands or to entrepreneurs who want to start a beauty brand. Nationally, there’s the Beauty Industry Market Access Program (BIMA) and CEW. On the West Coast, there’s also Beauty Industry West (BIW). These events attract industry experts who you can connect with.
Lisa Kovner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Kovner & Company, which propels brands forward using influencer-based and non-traditional marketing strategies for consumer, retail and distribution channels.