The Marketing Playbook from “The DTC Guy” Nik Sharma (2023)

If you are starting a direct-to-consumer company, Nik Sharma is your guy—“The DTC Guy,” that is.

Nik earned his nickname by growing and advising some of the biggest consumer brands, including Juneshine, Caraway, Feastables, Spritz Society, and more. He now runs three marketing-focused agencies and invests in startups. His email newsletter, which has more than 35,000 subscribers, is basically required reading for chief marketing officers everywhere.

Below—and in the latest episode of Shopify Masters—Nik shares the tenets of his marketing playbook for how owned and paid media can work in tandem.

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Build social proof before you start marketing

Social proof is reviews, articles, videos, or any type of evidence that other people have bought a product. Nik says founders tend to forget to gather social proof when they’re building a marketing strategy. Before you start trying to get more eyeballs on your product or website, you’ll need to establish some brand credibility. 

When potential customers search for your product on the web, you want something to come up besides the product page. Otherwise, customers might think they’re getting scammed. “You basically just need content to show up and validate somebody’s belief that this is a real brand,” Nik explains.

There are all sorts of ways to get social proof without breaking the bank. For example, you can send free products to bloggers, YouTubers, and TikTokers to make user-generated content or write reviews. You can even pitch news outlets for media coverage if your product has a unique story behind it.

Focus your messaging on your target audience

The saying goes, “If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.” Trying to appeal to everyone with your content probably won’t yield the results you’re looking for.

Nik says thinking about your target audience as specific customers can help you hone in on your message. He even uses this strategy when writing his weekly newsletter, aiming at specific personas with his prose. “I think of three people,” Nik says. “One is a founder who has no money, but needs to make moves in marketing. One is the CMO of a company that’s doing $50 million or more in revenue. And the third is an investor of an early stage company.”

Make your content easy to understand

The litmus test for the copy on your Shopify landing pages or ads is simple: Would your grandma get it? Nik’s agency uses the grandma test frequently to determine whether the language about a product or business is short and comprehensible. “Your grandma should be able to go to a product page and fully understand, ’What does the product do? Why does it exist? How’s it going to benefit me?’” Nik says.

The “why” is the most important aspect of this. One exercise that Nik recommends is to brain dump everything you want to say about the product and then challenge yourself to distill the “why” into one sentence.

Test content with an organic-to-paid pipeline

Make sure your “why” resonates with your audience before you start pumping money into paid media. “I think that you should try to get the first thousand customers without using paid methods,” Nik says. “And the reason is because you’re really trying to understand what is the messaging or the positioning or the reasons that somebody’s coming to buy this product.”

Find product-market fit first and then use paid media to boost the visibility of content that is already performing well. Set milestones for your paid media strategy, like $5,000 or $10,000 per day in revenue with paid channels that are acquiring customers efficiently. “That first $5,000 a day in sales really forces you to think about how you are understanding what the customer needs or wants from you,” Nik says.

Use advertising metrics to diagnose the problem

You might not get to $5,000 a day in revenue right away, but you can use clues from your online advertising campaigns to help you pinpoint the issue. For example, a low CPM means that the advertising platform doesn’t like your creative—if you’re not getting a lot of engagement, the platform isn’t serving the ad to a ton of people.

Click-through rate, on the other hand, tells you how much people on the platform like what you’re putting out. “Looking at these metrics helps basically understand and diagnose where you could be going wrong or what you need to fix,” Nik says.

Shopify offers reporting tools that can show you stats like average order value and conversion rate per page to help you continue the analysis once customers have successfully made it from organic or paid content to your Shopify store.

To learn more about Nik’s marketing strategies, listen to this episode of Shopify on Location in New York.

Join us each Thursday for Shopify On Location in New York, a special miniseries from the podcast team. For the new few months, tune in for conversations about making your business stand out. Listen to Shopify On Location here:

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