Designing handbags for COACH and Banana Republic before founding her own label, Sarah’s bootstrapping Brooklyn-shaped mentality assured her that what she didn’t know, she’d learn.
Today, Sarah is a DTC solopreneur who’s selling out collections by understanding the benefits of giving consumers full access to herself and the brand. Below, you’ll learn how she uses face-to-face (and live chat) customer interactions to develop customer segments, improve product messaging and distinguish CREAGH in a congested category.
Q: Are you still using social PPC and what have you done about the increase in customer acquisition costs over time?
A: Social is definitely an important part of our business. We always boost our Instagram content to our defined audiences to keep them warmed up. That way, when we run ads, we can retarget them effectively.
For Facebook, we focus on running ads against any recent press. We rely on the credibility of those publications to drive down the cost of advertisement.
On Instagram, running ads on Stories is our focus. Video works well for us and I’ve learned it’s really about nailing the creative. It’s always about testing as much as possible. I don’t believe there’s a magical formula, but a strong creative vision is key. The more a brand knows their customer and audience, and they understand how to talk to them, the more effective everything is.
Q: After designing handbags for leading fashion companies including COACH, you started selling your own bags in New York on tables. At that stage, what questions should DTC founders be asking customers when they get precious facetime with customers?
A: Face to face is super insightful. When I’m with customers I try to make sure I'm listening more than talking. I want to find out who these people are. I want to know about their lifestyles, the type of job they have... Are they traveling for work? What’s their daily commute? I’m looking for patterns. Some call it psychographic research—I call it understanding people.
As our brand’s become more nuanced, our customers have become able to walk into our store and tell us why we exist, without us having to explain anything. That’s a testament of everything working together (product, social, store experience) and is a good indicator of clear messaging.
Q: When the customer feedback loop is done well, how do you take their comments into marketing?
A: One customer pointed out that the inside of our black bags are green. They said, “it’s like money green”. I knew we needed to get that on social ASAP. Also, people repeatedly tell us that our bags are “clean.” So, we worked that into our messaging. The next campaign is “clean bags for a noisy world.” We’re definitely having a conversation with our customer and that’s exciting.
Q: Could you tell us about CREAGH’s team and how things come together?
A: Almost everyone that I’ve worked with to bring CREAGH to life (our initial PR team, our photographers, and even my first hire) have all been Brooklynites. Everything has been very authentic in that sense. I love spotting young, emerging talent and empowering them. That’s really the whole motivation of building CREAGH: to build and nurture a creative team and bring more art into this world.
Q: Is it true that CREAGH-BK.com shoppers actually reach you via live chat? If so, how does that customer relationship impact your story and word of mouth?
A: It is me on the website chat. I wear my Apple watch, and when I get a ding, I hop on my phone. With shoppers, we chat about anything. We pick colors together, it’s very nuanced. I’ll tell them which bag is more dressy, casual, durable, any product detail they wish to know. And people will tell me which additional styles they’re wanting, which colors they’re looking for.
Whether on chat or Instagram DMs, the whole idea is to give people access so that we’re differentiated as a luxury brand. We’re approachable and inclusive. The more I can be personable, listen to people and bring them along the brand journey, the further we'll get as a company.
Q: We've spotted CREAGH in Elle and Cosmopolitan. How has public relations been and what tips can you pass on to others about expectations?
A: Press has been really important. The bags are designed specifically for women like the editors—professionals commuting with laptops. They understand the pain points and have really rallied behind us. As a young brand, it’s important to have that credibility. In fact, most of our online traffic has come from media coverage in our first year. I started working with a boutique PR firm after launch, and I regret it. I do wish we started working together earlier to have a true launch moment covered by the press.
I knew how to design bags, went to italy, got the luxury manufacturer to make the bags, and then I had them delivered. Then I had to sell them. I did everything one step at a time.
I met a PR firm, by chance, two months after I’d launched. I was told, “we need to be getting you press immediately. You needed to have already been doing this 6 months ago!”. And I said I thought I wasn’t ready. They replied, “People won’t want to write about you if you wait another six months. They’ll only want to write about you when you’re new.” So I listened and I’m happy I did.
Q: Many DTC entrepreneurs claim naivety and inexperience can be powerful. Do you agree?
A: We’re all naive sometimes. All you can do is keep going until you realize you need help to course correct. I’m drawing upon a lot because I did have the product expertise in this category and knew the nuances of the retail industry. But I was definitely naive to what it takes to operate a business. Everything outside of designing the product was new territory for me. I could’ve moved quicker, had I linked with strategic partners
Q: Exceptional customer experience is at the heart of any DTC brand. What's a lesson you've learned that early-stage consumer brands must keep in mind?
A: If you mess up, quickly send an apology to the customer and keep clear communication throughout the entire journey. It’s always best to bring the customer along with you. Tell them how you’ll fix an issue, where you want to go, and what’s coming next from your company. Always make them feel included. Without consumers, you don’t exist.
Q: What’s next for CREAGH?
A: Just in time for the holidays, we’re restocking our minibags and satchels that have been sold out for three months. Next up for the company is raising seed capital so we can expand our product line, hire, give consumers easier price points to buy into, and open a retail store in Williamsburg. Physical retail is really important for us. The combination of online and offline gets that groundswell going. We want to continue growing our community and having a store is a big part of our strategy.