Selling direct-to-consumer (DTC) is incredibly compelling. You get to speak directly to your target audience and see the impact as they become customers. Instead of going through some retail giant, you get to build relationships with your customers. It's more intimate and gratifying — and can be more challenging.

When you're in charge of the customer experience, you can control how your product is perceived. But you also have to be proactive in managing it. You need a solid customer service department, and every aspect of the customer journey has to be considered when marketing your products. And in today's competitive ecommerce landscape, everything you do on your marketing channels has to be top-notch to build brand awareness, engage your audience, and convert and retain customers.

In this DTC marketing guide, we'll unpack the essential marketing strategies used by successful DTC brands. Let's dig in.

What is DTC marketing?

DTC marketing is a type of marketing where businesses sell their products or services directly to consumers without going through traditional intermediaries such as brick-and-mortar retailers or online marketplaces.

There are several benefits to selling your products direct-to-consumer.

  • Increased control over the customer experience: When you sell directly to consumers, you have more control over how they interact with your brand and what kind of experience they have.

  • Greater ability to build customer relationships: DTC brands can build stronger relationships since they communicate directly with their customers. This allows for a more personalized and intimate level of engagement.

  • More data about your customers: Since DTC brands deal directly with their customers, they have access to a wealth of data that can be used to improve the customer experience and make better business decisions.

  • Increased profits: DTC brands don't have to share their profits with intermediaries, so they can keep more of the revenue generated from sales.

However, there are several challenges that are worth being aware of so you know what you're getting into as a DTC marketer.

  • The need for a larger marketing budget: Since DTC brands don't have the built-in awareness that comes with selling through retail channels, they often have to spend more on marketing and advertising to get their products in front of consumers.

  • Greater competition: With the rise of ecommerce, more DTC brands are now competing for attention online. This can make it difficult to stand out from the crowd.

  • Increased pressure to deliver a great customer experience: Since DTC brands are responsible for the entire customer experience, from start to finish, there is a lot of pressure to get it right. Any missteps can hurt your reputation and bottom line.

As you can see, selling DTC has both benefits and challenges. It's essential to be aware of these before deciding to go down this route to maximize your success.

13 DTC marketing strategies used by successful brands

You likely have a limited marketing budget, so you can't launch new strategies all at once. Review these 13 direct-to-consumer marketing strategies and choose one to three to get started with.

Double down on what works, adjust or trim what isn't working, and move on to other channels and tactics when you have the bandwidth to develop a solid strategy around new marketing efforts.

Connect to customers through SMS

SMS is a powerful tool to connect with customers on a personal level, improve your bottom line, and build long-term relationships.

Brands can use SMS to engage with customers in real-time. In fact, 90% of text messages are read within three minutes. This is great for sending time-sensitive messages like a campaign for a flash sale or shipping notifications.

When you sell directly to consumers, you have more control over how they interact with your brand and what kind of experience they have.

And SMS messages can be an integrated part of your marketing automation flows to promote products and special offers to customers, leading to increased sales.

With the right SMS platform, you can engage in two-way conversations with customers that help them find the right product, place an order, initiate a return, or chat with customer service.

Build a strong email marketing program

Email marketing is a powerful channel for reaching and engaging customers. It's a great transitionary step to getting a customer to purchase. While a shopper might not convert from an ad immediately, email allows you to continue nurturing the relationship.

The best email marketing programs use personalization and automation to create a seamless experience for the customer that considers what stage of the journey they're in.

You can use a welcome series to introduce new subscribers to your brand, an abandoned cart series to recover lost sales, or a post-purchase series to encourage customer loyalty.

Engage customers on social media

Social media is a great way to connect with customers, increase brand awareness, and create a community around your brand with little cost.

Consider that more than 90% of YouTube users discover new brands and products on the platform. Two-thirds of people on Facebook visit a business page every week. And 54% of Instagram users have purchased a product after seeing a brand on the platform.

When establishing your social media strategy, consider organic posts, paid ads, going live, and syncing your product feed to make your profiles shoppable.

Capitalize on the built audience of influencers

Influencer marketing is a kind of word-of-mouth marketing with a 5.78x return on investment (ROI) that uses partnerships with content creators to drive brand awareness and sales. These creators have built their personal brands and engaged followers who trust their opinion.

When done right, influencer marketing can be an incredibly effective way to reach new audiences and promote your products.

Partner with other brands

Collaborations with other brands can be a great way to reach new audiences and tap into markets you might not have been able to access before.

DTC brands often partner with other DTC brands to cross-promote products. That can be done through social media, email, giveaways, or even product samples added to each other's customer orders.

You can also consider partnering with businesses that over services in your industry. For example, if you sell protein powder, you could partner with a fitness streaming service for cross-promotion.

Try direct mail

Direct mail isn't dead, but it is an underutilized channel by many DTC brands. In a noisy digital world, postcards and mailers can stand out.

With the right direct mail strategy, you can target potential customers with personalized messages and offers that will encourage them to purchase from your brand.

Create an SEO strategy

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is important because it allows you to reach more potential customers who are actively searching for products like yours.

38% of website traffic to ecommerce brands comes from organic search, so it's an important channel to invest in.

Identify keyword opportunities using an SEO tool like Moz. Then optimize your store based on your findings.

Start a blog

A blog is another place to optimize for SEO and earn a ton of organic traffic that you can eventually convert to customers.

Your blog can be used to educate potential customers about your products or issues that your products solve. Creating helpful and engaging content builds trust and draws shoppers down the funnel to purchase.

Establish a customer loyalty program

When customers buy from you multiple times, they tend to have higher cart values.

Customer loyalty programs are a great way to keep more customers coming back with incentives. These can take many different forms, like points that can be redeemed for discounts or free products.

You can include other perks for loyal customers like exclusive access to sales and new product launches.

Collect product reviews

Product reviews help improve your product listing's SEO and offer social proof for shoppers browsing your site.

Make leaving a product review easy for customers by adding a link to your post-purchase emails or product pages. You can also offer an incentive, like loyalty points, in exchange for reviews.

Spread the word with PR

Public relations (PR) can be a great way to get your brand in front of new audiences and build credibility.

You can circulate press releases as part of new product launches or pitch unique stories to journalists. That might be your founder's story, a social initiative the brand is involved in, or a new technology the brand developed.

Getting your foot in the door can be challenging if you don't have established relationships, so consider working with a PR agency.

Launch a referral program

Friends and family are shoppers' #1 source for product recommendations. So your customers are already recommending your products. Encourage more of that behavior by starting a referral program.

This can be tied to your loyalty program to allow customers to earn rewards, like discounts, points, or free products, for referring other shoppers to your brand.

Use paid ads for brand awareness and retargeting

Paid advertising can be a great tactic for building brand awareness, especially if you're starting from scratch with zero audience. You can also use paid ads to retarget shoppers who have visited your site but didn't purchase anything.

Invest in social media ads, Google Shopping ads, and retargeting ads on platforms like AdRoll.

Paid ads can be a great way to jumpstart your sales, but they're not something to become reliant on. They can be expensive. Plus, with increased ad costs and third-party tracking going away, targeting could become less accurate, making your ads less efficient.

You should focus on other marketing channels to build a sustainable growth strategy.

But to make the most out of your ads here's how to plan for a cookieless future.

Get creative to stand out

Your DTC brand will never stand out to shoppers if you just do what your competitors are doing. So break away from the mold and consider what you can do to best relate to your audience. And consider doing things that you don't see other brands doing. There's a chance it could flop, but there's also a chance you could uncover a goldmine of opportunity.

Now that you know where you want to be, it's time to choose a channel to double down on. We recommend focusing on owned channels like email and SMS, where you have complete control over the customer experience and access to data for personalization. So consider getting started with a high-ROI SMS marketing strategy.

Emotive gives you all the tools and resources you need to establish a successful text message marketing program. The platform enables personalization and conversational SMS so you can connect to customers. It all adds up to a larger subscriber list, more purchases, and happier customers.

Learn more and book a demo with Emotive.