Tony Vontz has a unique perspective on brand building. “We play to the back of the room,” he says. In comedy, if you can make the comics sitting in the back of the room laugh, the rest of the audience will be won over as well. Tony’s audience is hardcore outdoorsmen who expect apparel to feel comfortable and look stylish but also to be durable and stand up to the elements.
Tony started his career in the apparel industry with Canterbury of New Zeland, the legendary rugby brand. He spent 8 years learning every facet of the business from design to sourcing and manufacture. He was also spending most of this free time in the rugged landscape of Northern California and found himself dissatisfied with the performance of outdoor apparel being sold by established brands.
He saw an underserved customer in the market and Shopify went mainstream around the same time. With all technology barriers removed from selling online, the time was right to found Edgevale—a brand that combines form and function to create the technical outdoor apparel Tony wanted in his own closet.
Zero to Validation
Edgevale’s first product (and still most popular) is Tony’s version of the classic pacific northwest shirt jacket.
In 2013 while still working full-time, Tony developed the first iteration and manufactured thirty jackets for a pop-up shop in San Francisco.
He sold every one of them in a single day.
“Like anyone starting up something new, I was a little bit scared to show people what we were working on. But the success at that pop-up validated the idea and gave us the courage to go for it full-time.”
Four years later, Edgevale has achieved rapid growth adhering to a simple philosophy: Combine high-performance fabrics with technical silhouettes, manufacture everything domestically, and guarantee garments for life.
“We put a lot of stock into making our products as durable and versatile as possible so that when someone spends their hard earned money on one of our products they know it’s going to get a lot of use and last a long time.”
This devotion to quality goes beyond manufacturing process. Tony and his team have invested the same level of craftsmanship in the visual look and feel of their Brand. Everything from the illustrations on their stickers to the typography used for email sends are thoughtfully considered.
Not surprisingly, larger commerce organizations have started to notice. In late 2013, Edgevale had their first feature on Huckberry, which Tony described as a major turning point for the company. That kind of exposure and amplification is really hard to come by when targeting this demographic. As a small brand, you pay for that amplification with slimmer margins and less control over pricing, but Tony believes this was a turning point for the company.
Building an Audience
Edgevale’s most effective audience-building tool has been co-branded partnerships. This enables the company to tap into the audiences of other brands serving a similar customer.
They have orchestrated or been a part of several giveaways where a group of brands team up, build a compelling giveaway for contest entrants, and require a customer to exchange their email address for the price of entry. It’s turned out to be a low-cost way to start a relationship with thousands of potential customers. The strategy has added over 40,000 engaged subscribers to Edgevale’s list.
Email Powered Presale
The company launches a new product every few months and uses a well-executed email strategy to presale a percentage of all new inventory.
They build desire by incorporating two action-inducing components in every presale email: exclusivity and urgency. For their most recent product launch, they offered a laddered discount of $30 off + 10% off + free shipping if the subscriber purchased before midnight on the day of the email send. The introduction of time-based urgency is a newer addition to the strategy, where before they were just sending out the presale offer without the additional expiring incentive.
“We noticed that 80% of our sales were coming within two weeks of the first presale email going out, so we wanted to capitalize on that by offering a bigger spiff within the 24 hour time window after the email launched.”
The presale strategy has another enormous benefit for the company. Preselling a percentage of inventory enables Edgevale to generate cash flow before new inventory hits the shelves. This injection of cash enables Tony to guarantee that his suppliers and factories get paid early and strengthens those relationships.
This strategy not only makes sense operationally, it enables Edgevale to recognize and reward its most loyal customers. The “comics” get an insider offer that’s only available by staying engaged. They were probably going to buy anyway, so why not make it a no brainer. This exclusivity, combined with the laddered expiring offer, induces action within that first 24-hour time window.
The most recent execution of this strategy resulted in the most successful presale in the company’s history.
Apply This to Your Business
- Consider partnering with brands the sell into similar demographics to run a contest or giveaway. This can be a low-cost way to effectively build your email list.
- Explore presale email marketing to drive cash flow, but also to show appreciation to your most loyal customers. Share an exclusive offer for those who buy early.
- Use time-based urgency, exclusivity, and expiring offers to encourage customers to take action.