In the Outdoor Industry, You Don't Have to Know What You Are Doing.... But You Have to Know Everything Else
By: Lisa Slagle, Founder & Creative Director
Across the nation, chairlifts are ceasing to spin for the winter and mountain bike tires are being inflated. In fact, if you sit outside and listen hard enough, you can actually hear the lifts creaking to a stop and air pushing into tubeless sidewalls. Seasons are changing. Stoke is getting reallocated from snow to dirt.
At my business, Wheelie Creative, we love seasons. We embrace them on a personal level. (Dan and Amanda are spending the day riding their road bikes up and down Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, and I’m about to take my puppy to the lake.) At my creative agency, we also embrace seasons from the perspective of fresh content creation for the brands we work with, and this is very exciting. (Content marketing is where it’s at. It allows brands to show their stories instead of telling them, and it works.)
The longer I’m in business and extremely active in the outdoor industry, the more I understand that the only constant is change, and you can either fight it, or you can adapt to it. Call me a Millennial. But one of my main strengths as a creative director and business owner is that I adapt quickly and gracefully, and this is important for brands in the outdoor industry.
I explain my belief in adaptability our clients a lot. Sometimes marketing managers or business owners admit that they feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. Just when they got the hang of Facebook, Instagram exploded in popularity, and now everyone is stoked on Snap Chat.
In situations like this, I smile and tell our clients something they are surprised to hear:
In the outdoor industry, you don’t have to know what you are doing… but you have to know everything else.
1.KNOW YOUR INDUSTRY.
Whether you’re starting a lifestyle brand or a technical outerwear company or custom bike building, you have to know what else is already out there. You have to know what exists, who makes it, why it works, and what void you can fill in the industry. You have to understand what niche you are entering or which problem you are solving and how that affects the industry as a whole. You owe it to yourself, your brand, and your customers to take this seriously because this foundation won’t need to adapt.
2. KNOW WHAT YOU STAND FOR.
This is the most important one. You have to know why you do what you do.Why you are leaving your job to start your own business. Why you believe what you do. You have to know the reason you will loose sleep at night and invest everything you have financially and emotionally just to make your business work. (Or if you’re a marketing manager, you have to know why you believe in your employer— what the brand stands for and how that aligns with your personal beliefs and causes.) This why is what will keep you going when things get difficult. This why is non-negotiable, and it won’t adapt either. Your why is your rock. Remember that.
3. KNOW YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER.
This goes way beyond saying you are creating skis specifically for women who ski aggressively. This means you understand how your customer spends her time and what she thinks about. You know what kind of terrain she likes, what she wears, what she eats, what she does on a Tuesday and what she does on a Saturday. It means you understand her background, which websites she visits, which magazines she reads, what scares her, what excites her, and what confidence and trust she will see in your brand and give your brand in return. This means doing research. This means asking her. Tons of her. And finding that common ground that unites your customer to your brand. Know her as well as you know yourself.
4. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT.
This one may seem obvious. You have to know everything about your product— where it comes from, who makes it, what it’s made out of, where its materials come from, and why it’s solving the problem or filling the niche from #1. You have to know why your ideal customer from #3 wants it, how it will make their life better or easier. And, you have to make sure your product and all the details that go into it align with your WHY from #2. Be able to answer these questions in your sleep.
5. FINALLY, KNOW HOW TO GET CREATIVE
At this point, you’re allowed to know everything except for what you are doing.You understand your role in the outdoor industry and where your customers interact online and in person. You know your gear and why you make it. You now have room to get creative. And if you’re not the creative type, call me, because that’s what we specialize in. How can you use Snap Chat to reach your customers? Instagram? Print ads? Brand Ambassador Programs? Contests? Events? There are a bazillion ways to reach your people with your product.
I used to have a “services” page on my website detailing everything we offer from brand strategy and development to video production to detailed marketing plans. I was sitting on a chairlift thinking about this one day, and I realized that I needed to delete that page. It felt too forced— too concrete in an ever-changing landscape. So I deleted it. No two brands are alike, so no brand deserves some stock product. We're better than that, and I think that’s what makes Wheelie unique. We keep things progressive, fun, and lively. We will hike, bike, sweat, and bleed to get the shot. We will even get a shot of us getting the shot. I like it that way. I like working creatively. We still have systems and a dialed creative process, but along the way, we are committed to the uniqueness of every brand. We are obsessed with getting results that align with our clients’ sense of humor or eliteness or adventure. I believe that that’s the way it should be, and that brands are allowed to be themselves. Marketing platforms change as quickly as seasons, and you have to embrace it.
I know that.
If you'd like to ride bikes In Glacier with Dan and Amanda, I'd love to hear it. If you're interested in hiring WheelieCreative to make wild, meaningful, irreverent, or hilarious content for your brand, I'd love to hear that, too. Just hit the orange button below:
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