STARTUP

How Would You Sell Custom Board Shorts?

Four entrepreneurs offer marketing strategies to Shortomatic.com.

Courtesy company

A Work of Shorts Artist Greg Miller of Venice, California, designed this pair of Shortomatic board shorts, called Sun and Sand.

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At Shortomatic.com, customers can turn their personal photos and artwork into board shorts. Married founders William and Jennifer Cawley launched the service last year, after the success of their first venture, Yogamatic.com, which lets users design their own yoga mats. The $99 board shorts, available for men and women, are printed and handsewn in Los Angeles. In addition to customer creations, Shortomatic also offers about 500 board-short designs from 150 artists. Artists receive a $5 commission when customers buy one of their designs. So far, the Cawleys have relied mostly on search-engine optimization to drive traffic to the site. How can Shortomatic attract a new wave of customers? We asked four entrepreneurs to weigh in.

No. 1: Embrace the community
Cal McAllister, co-founder and creative director of Wexley School for Girls, an advertising agency in Seattle
Go where the culture is. To create brand awareness, Shortomatic could hold gallery shows at which board shorts are the canvas. Invite a couple hundred people, have a limited run of shorts designed by featured artists, and donate the proceeds to a local surf-based charity. Shortomatic could even open a pop-up store on the beach in Venice or Santa Monica. Thatwill show that the company is embracing the community.

No. 2: Focus on blogs
Lexy Funk, co-founder of Brooklyn Industries, a clothing retailer based in Brooklyn, New York
Blogs are a huge generator of free traffic and positive buzz. Shortomatic should find more ways to interact with bloggers. Let them try out the service, and give them a free pair of shorts if they post about Shortomatic. The company should target fashion blogs, surfing blogs—even design blogs. The founders should also focus more on their own blog. People like indie brands that are funky and cool and have a story to tell.

No. 3: Wow the customers
Jeff Beaver, co-founder of Zazzle.com, a Redwood City, California, company that sells custom products such as T-shirts and mugs online
This is a great product. The easiest, cheapest, and most authentic way to market it is to have a core group of happy, excited customers who will spread the word. Shortomatic can achieve this by over-delivering on expectations. For instance, after an order, throw a note in the package with a fun and personal message. Or maybe one of the founders could call the customer just to say, "Hey, I hope you like your shorts." When a customer posts on Twitter or Facebook about how awesome Shortomatic is, that's the best kind of endorsement.

No. 4: Change the name
Ryan Black, co-founder and CEO of Sambazon, a San Clemente, California, company that makes beverages and sorbet from açai berries
The concept and execution are great, but that's not coming across in the brand name. I'm a surfer, and in the surfing world, it's all about the cool factor. And the name Shortomatic isn't cool enough. Hard-core surfers have an attitude. If the company wants to get in with the surf crowd and get kids designing and buying the shorts, the brand name needs an attitude, too.

Feedback on the feedback:
William Cawley likes the idea of opening a pop-up store, something he wants to try later this year. The company has already held some events at galleries, with some success. Cawley agrees that blogs are important. Shortomatic's blog is updated regularly, and the company has sent free shorts to a few influential bloggers, including Perez Hilton. But Cawley doesn't see the benefit of giving freebies to bloggers who don't have a large following. Cawley is also against changing the brand name, which he says was strategically selected for search-engine optimization. Above all, says Cawley, the suggestions reaffirm his belief that customer service is a worthwhile investment.

Last updated: Mar 1, 2011




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