When we launch an eco-responsible brand, we forget or refuse to believe that the basic rules of entrepreneurship apply to our model. Why do we do this? Probably because we're all deeply convinced that the power of our message and our commitment will be enough to drive the market. However, we have to admit that this is not the case... Because of the competition, because of the price positioning, because of the market, because it's so hard to make yourself known...
After just under a year in business, we decided to take stock of the "mistakes to avoid" and write our alternative scenario, which will serve as a guide for the future.
Mistake #1: failing to test your product market fit
Getting away from the classic pattern: style, create, make and sell. Unless you're a renowned designer, creating, manufacturing and selling means taking the risk of producing something nobody wants.
• Participatory financing: It doesn't cost much, except time. Why not launch several campaigns simultaneously? With different products, different identities, on different platforms? AB-testing also works with products, even if you don't need to manufacture them, but simply use a 3D visualization...
• ADS campaigns: If you've got a bit of a budget and your supposed target buys online, for a few hundred euros you can test your products and marketing before embarking on a more complete sales cycle.
• B2B2C pre-ordering: with a prototype, we can go around independent concept stores that correspond to our market segment.
• Focus groups: Nobody likes focus groups, least of all me, but they can provide invaluable insights if we manage to assemble a panel corresponding to our most "niche" market target.
Mistake #2: Not choosing your market
The mistake is to believe that there is always a market for a more ethical (and often more expensive) product. It's a very strong desire, but it doesn't always correspond to reality.
• Analyze the responsible fashion market(s): It's essential to understand the different segments of the responsible fashion market. This knowledge helps us to effectively direct our products to the most appropriate market.
• Identify market niches: A limited target may seem attractive, but it's important to understand that some niches may be too small to be profitable.
• Find comparables: If no brand exists in a target segment, it may be a sign that there is no market. It's therefore essential to look for comparable brands to assess the potential of an idea or product.
Mistake #3: Thinking marketing is worthless
It's common to downplay the importance of marketing, but whether in responsible or traditional fashion, marketing is a brand's only strategy.
• Ethical marketing: eco-responsible fashion has its own marketing lexicon. Concepts such as slow-fashion and labels can serve as valuable tools for conveying a message and a commitment.
• THE PRODUCT: Before acquiring brand awareness, marketing is all about the product. It's the foundation of all brand communication.
Mistake #4: Failing to study the different distribution channels
It's tempting to go 100% e-commerce. However, growing and prospering exclusively online is becoming increasingly difficult...
• Physical distribution: If our business model allows it, physical distribution is often the best way to grow as a brand. However, our margin structure must allow for this.
• Partnering with an influencer: If we have the desire and the opportunity, partnering with an influencer (a "distribution channel") can be an interesting option for increasing our online presence. It's a unique opportunity to reach a wider audience and improve our visibility.
Mistake n°5: Spending money on ancillary costs
It's easy to succumb to the temptation to spend money on overheads before you've even made your first sale. Registering your trademark, creating your logo, setting up a complex website... It's not a priority!
• Do-It-Yourself: In 2023, there's nothing easier than doing it yourself. Get trained and write content with ChatGPT, create visuals and an identity with Dall-e or Midjourney. No need to spend thousands of euros.
Mistake n°6: Not considering the viability of your business model
In the world of responsible fashion, where margins are lower, we're tempted to think that a gross margin of 50% is enough to live on. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case.
• Identify your flagship products: On the list of products to launch, it's essential to find the product or products that will be profitable and repeatable, and that can be easily distributed. These flagship products will help finance the development of other products.
Mistake n°7: Neglecting revenue opportunities
Eco-responsible brands by nature have CSR and/or industrial know-how. At times, it's crucial to know how to monetize this knowledge beyond your brand.
• Make white-label products: Many companies (brands and others) are looking for production capacity and eco-responsible know-how. When a "financial" opportunity presents itself, you have to seize it. From professional clothing to branded capsules, there are plenty of players looking to go green...
• Sell advice: You learn a lot every day when you set up a brand, and it can be very valuable: for start-ups or for manufacturers, for designers and for brands, there's no shortage of entry points.
In short, when you launch your brand, you have to do everything you can to buy yourself time, and that involves a simple mathematical rule: earn more and spend less...
Sofiane Bouhali for Azala