Discover the perfect DTC Playbook with DTC veteran Mike Stevens (episode 390)

Mike Stevens is the author of the brand new book “The Direct to Consumer Playbook: The Stories and Strategies of the Brands that Wrote the DTC Rules”. And one could say he was one of the DTC pioneers with 8 years at Innocent Drinks back in the 2000s, and then founding good-for-you confectionery brand Peppersmith which over 10 years he scaled all the way to exit in 2018. 

Mike now helps start-ups and challenger brands scale through various mentoring schemes, as a consultant via Stevens.Earth and via his brand new book!

eMCP390 Landscape

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Mike’s DTC Journey

Working at Innocent Drinks, Mike considers himself lucky to have gotten the right start in business. Even back in 2001, the company already had a website where they were able to sell their products.

But wanting to have his own brand, Mike and his friend Dan Shrimpton set up Peppersmith, a confectionery business. They had a DTC offer right from the beginning because they knew distribution was not going to be easy, and Mike says this worked well for them.

In the last ten years, Mike has been investing in DTC for two reasons: because it was a great way to get their products to consumers who want them most, and because of the control it gave them over the business.

When Peppersmith was sold back in 2018, a third of its sales came from DTC.

Talking About DTC Case Studies

While Mike talks about his experience in DTC and Peppersmith in the book’s introduction, he focuses on sixteen case studies of businesses that are not his.

His mission was to talk to founders of the best DTC companies because he considers them as experts who live and breathe DTC. He wanted to know their strategies, what they’ve done that worked and didn’t work, and what their real story was.

He says that in finding the common themes among these business owners, there’s a good chance of replicating their success.

DTC Through the Years

One thing that hasn’t changed in DTC is that successful brands offer products that really solve a problem.

The difference lies in marketing. From 2010 until about 2016, digital marketing was inexpensive which was good for DTC brands. Add to that the fact that there wasn’t much competition back then and there were only a few people doing what these featured brands did.

But things have changed dramatically since then. There’s more competition, making it harder to have a successful DTC business and digital marketing costs keep getting higher. Still, Mike says that a brand can achieve success if it can offer a product that’s better than what’s currently out there.

Sustainability in DTC Brands

For Mike, having a sustainability angle will give any brand the chance to cut through the noise and stand out.

So make that emotional connection with your customers. When they see that you share the same values and believe in the same things in terms of caring for the planet, they’ll do business with you.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • It’s all about content, brand building, and having a strong mission and purpose.

Tool Top Tip

Growth Top Tip

  • Think about the first principles. If your product serves a need, put yourself out there. Figure out who you can best serve and find ways to enter into their conversation.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • 321 Expanding your DTC business to wholesale and into new product lines with Dan from Uther Supply
  • 301: DTC brand 0 to 7 figures in 3 years via content and email with Shivraj Bassi from Innermost
  • 241: 7 Principles of DTC eCommerce with BigCommerce Head of Europe Mark Adams

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