Marketing to B2C customers is tough enough, but tacking a whole new B2B business model onto an existing B2C business can present a mountain of challenges. Skiing and snowboarding premium outfitter Northwest Tech (NWT3K) discovered this firsthand when it began targeting teams, clubs, and companies in addition to its direct-to-consumer base. But through education, email, and lifecycle marketing, NWT3K is now able to guide prospects down the path-to-purchase.
A business on the bunny slope
Nick Marvik started his business the way many startups do: in his basement. An avid skier, he started creating customized jackets and built a website in college. After he graduated in 2012 he received the ultimate training by working for Amazon on one of the startup’s e-commerce products; however, he still managed to build NWT3K at night.
“I was getting to learn from one of the leaders in e-commerce and then do something really fun and innovative by night,” says Marvik, NWT3K founder and CEO.
While working at Amazon, Marvik partnered with a software engineer to build a direct-to-consumer customized e-commerce platform. He then left his job after roughly a year to fully dedicate his time to selling premium outerwear to members of the skiing and snowboarding communities.
As consumer demand grew, Marvik wondered if he could expand the business and start selling jackets in volume to teams, clubs, or companies. And the market’s desire for customized ski jackets suggested that he could. “The market validated this concept of B2B and volume demand before we could support it or even really initially thought of it,” Marvik says. “We turned away [orders] for roughly two seasons because we couldn’t handle [the volume].”
Because its B2C manufacturing facility was already getting so many orders, Marvik decided to connect with a second factory this past spring and began targeting B2B customers this past September.
An uphill climb
Of course, launching an entirely different business model is no easy feat. Having a background in SEO, Marvik built a highly targeted landing page on NWT3K’s website to attract teams, clubs, and organizations organically. The landing page includes a button that takes prospects to a page where they can design their custom jackets, fill out an information form (asking for their name, role, email address, phone number, and order size), and request a quote. The site began showing up in search rankings and driving traffic organically, Marvik says, and it became difficult for his two-person team to manage all of the incoming quotes and contacts.
To help solve this dilemma, NWT3K implemented Insightly, a CRM software for small businesses, about one month later.
An avalanche of data
Insightly is essentially the hub that holds all of NWT3K’s data. Any time a site visitor fills out the lead form on NWT3K’s website, his information goes into Insightly and the visitor is dropped into NWT3K’s B2B funnel as an opportunity, Marvik explains. He and his team can define the different statuses of that opportunity, such as an “interested” or “hot lead,” he says, and then track that prospect’s actions to determine where he is in the buying cycle. For instance, if a lead clicks on a link indicating that he’s interested in ordering, a reminder from the Insightly tool will alert NWT3K to follow up with that lead. Likewise, NWT3K can track which color combinations and designs visitors are selecting the most to help shape its inventory.
Another insight Marvik took action on relates to the apparel’s hefty price tag—B2B orders can range from about $5,000 to $75,000. And after seeing a lot of inquiries, but not a lot of conversion, Marvik determined that he had to educate prospective customers on his products and their value. “It’s a large purchase,” he acknowledges. “It’s not one that you’re probably going to make the day that you submitted your quote.”
As a result, he mapped out the different buying cycle phases based on what he as a skier would want to know about the startup and used email to educate leads and get them to convert.
A defined trail
The buying cycle begins after a visitor requests a quote and immediately receives an acknowledgment email. If the visitor doesn’t show intent to buy by clicking on a “next steps” link, NWT3K sends that visitor a follow-up email approximately 48 hours later. If the visitor still doesn’t convert, he enters NWT3K’s product educational phase and receives a message describing the product and its features five business days later. Next, about two weeks after the initial request, the company sends the lead a product comparison email that showcases how NWT3K outshines its competitors. If the visitor still hasn’t converted, the premium outfitter will send him a survey to learn what prevented the purchase.
If at any point during the buying cycle the prospect indicates that he does want to make a purchase (again, by clicking on a designated link), the Insightly tool will automatically send that person a sizing template email. The lead then moves into the closing and negotiating phase, which Marvik explains is less automated and more manual. All other emails are sent via NWT3K’s email client Mandrill from MailChimp.
Besides engaging with customers via email, NWT3K connects with its B2B customers via social media—mainly through incentivized offers. For example, the startup will post a picture of some of its less expensive items—like a T-shirt or a gift card—and give those items away to followers who tag two businesses in the comments section of the photo. Although the NWT3K team posts pictures on both Facebook and Instagram, Instagram drives higher engagement. “Facebook is basically pay-to-play in my eyes right now,” Marvik says. “It’s hard to get good metrics with your content unless you’re promoting it.”
Shoveling out the results
Since launching the B2B side of the business, NWT3K has generated more than $300,000 in leads and has closed a “handful” of them, Marvik says. He adds that the company is aiming to expand from being a fairly seasonal business in North America to more of a global company that drives business all year round.
However, there are still a few bumps in NWT3K’s strategy. For one, although it asks site visitors to list their role, such as coach or athlete, on the lead form, it’s currently unable to deliver targeted content to each audience. Marvik says that he plans to add that ability eventually. What’s more, because this is a new business model for NWT3K, it doesn’t have a lot of creative assets, like images of teams wearing the jackets, to use in its emails. But Marvik aims to gain more testimonials in the future.
The skier in Marvik is undeterred by the large marketing mountain he has in front of him. As he puts it, “We kind of think big and start small.”