When you are a young company, you want to have one hero product.
Not five. Not 11.
The reason is because when you are building something new, you have limitations on time, energy, and resources--and minimal resources spread across a handful of products will never be as effective as all of those same resources invested into one hero product. And for many years, this one hero product will be your entire mission. You, your co-founders and partners, and your early employees and company collaborators should all be focused on getting that one product (or service) to work.
For us with ThirdLove, our hero product was, and still is, our 24/7 T-shirt bra.
Once your hero product is adopted and gaining traction, it's actually in your best interest to fight the urge to expand and diversify too quickly. Remember: Your hero product is what made you successful in the first place. So if and when you feel ready to expand, it must be done in the context of the product and the category you created.
Because when it is finally time to expand, in many ways you have to start from scratch all over again.
For example, ThirdLove now has a much wider number of SKUs than we've ever had in the past. Today, customers purchase everything from sleepwear and camis, to wireless bras and underwear. More importantly, each customer gets introduced to ThirdLove in a different way. Some fall in love with the 24/7 T-shirt bra first, and then explore our sleepwear. And others start with sleepwear and later discover our bras and underwear.
Conventional wisdom says that scaling and expanding a company with one successful hero product just means "selling customers more things," but that's just not true. In fact, I would go so far as to say that when it comes time to scale, in many ways, you are starting from scratch all over again.
Here are a few simple tips for how to launch new products as an established brand.
1. New products require new forms of communication.
Most DTC companies today have complicated automated email marketing sequences running all hours of the day: "If this, then this. When this happens, send this."
Each of these sequences is intended to provide the customer--current or prospective--with the information they need, the moment they need it. For example, after purchasing one of our bras, a week later we may send an email saying, "How is your bra feeling? Here's how to care for your new bra."
With one hero product, building out messaging (both automated and companywide) that caters to that particular customer experience is fairly straightforward. But as soon as you start introducing new products into the mix, suddenly a lot of your communications become outdated. Your messages start to lack context.
For example, imagine a customer doesn't buy a bra first, but some sleepwear. And then a week later they receive an email, "How is your fitted bra treating you?"
New products usually means you have to revamp much of your tactical communication.
2. New products can easily get buried, and require additional education from the company.
You can't assume your customers will know about the new products you launch unless you tell them.
Often we hear from customers that they didn't know we sold certain types of products--even though we had carried them for months. This usually means there is an education problem. Something about the digital experience isn't surfacing new categories and they are proceeding to checkout without knowing about these other products. And then there is likely different content or education you need to bring to the forefront--so your customer knows why your new product exists, what it does for them, and why they should care.
This is a point of improvement for any business, but especially DTC product companies. Sometimes, you're so ingrained in what you're doing on a day-to-day basis, you forget that your awareness of all the products available isn't always the same awareness the customer has.
3. Leverage your newest team members when testing and validating new products.
Legacy team members, especially the ones who help bring new products to market, are the most emotionally invested in the company's newest products.
Which means they are also the ones who have the hardest time seeing things with fresh eyes (myself included).
But that brand-new employee you just onboarded? Have them read your new product landing page, or have them go through your new email marketing sequence, and they will undoubtedly spot little things you and your team never considered. Why? Because they aren't attached to it. They are seeing it for the first time. And like a new customer, they are able to notice things with fresh eyes.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your new product, or for your company as a whole, is to dig out the foundation and rebuild it from scratch. Obviously your brand will remain intact. All the hard work you've done up to this point isn't for nothing. But as your company grows, you will need to change the way you present who you are, what you do, and what you sell.