About a month after the initial customer discovery concluded, DC Tree Delivery has launched! There's been plenty of progress to-date (with much more to come), but I wanted to share what we've learned so far and what's in store for us next. Three main points:
- Iterate on friends, family, and stranger feedback
- Logistics, website, more logistics
- Build a strong sales funnel ASAP
I say "we" because I decided to bring my friend, Koby Arthur, onboard for this project. Koby has a strong background in business development and online marketing that has already come in handy.
1) Iterate on friends, family, and stranger feedback
As mentioned in a previous post, we spent a serious amount of time on figuring out who our customer was, what products they wanted, and how to reach them. Many of our initial assumption turned out to be true: women were generally more interested than men, and that hassle + convenience are the main pain-points to purchasing a Christmas Tree in Washington DC. Though we had over a 50% response rate from our email blast, we wanted to get out and talk to strangers in trendier, more affluent neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and Columbia Heights.
We learned a lot about our two target customers groups: people who buy trees and people who don't. Surprisingly, most people who purchase trees every year aren't in love with picking out their own tree. Even folks who make a weekend out of cutting down their own tree are interested in having one delivered if it means removing the hassle of setup, clean up, and traveling. Almost universally, people who haven't purchased a tree in the past said it was because they didn't have space in their apartments. More interesting was that everyone was worried about how they'd remove the tree.
Overall, there was certainly enough interest in the idea for us to feel comfortable about moving forward.
Our main take aways were a) focus efforts on selling to women b) sell on service and hassle, not the tree itself c) offer different sized trees (even if it makes logistics more difficult) and d) explore tree removal as a service.
2) Logistics, website, more logistics
If we were going to sell trees, we'd need to get our hands on some trees. I spent 2 full days calling almost 50 tree farms in the area. Much to my surprise, wholesale trees are really hard to get. Most people who run tree lots purchase their trees almost 8 months in advance, and most tree farms stop taking orders in August. Yikes.
I thought we were ahead of schedule but it seemed like we were way behind. But, after a day or two of follow ups, I spoke with two tree farms who were willing to work with us. The smallest wholesale purchase is typically 50 trees. Even after a promising customer discovery session, I still don't know what type of response DC Tree Delivery is going to have, and I don't feel comfortable putting a significant amount of money into up front inventory. Instead, we worked out a deal with a local nursery where we'd sell out of their lot this season, paying slightly over wholesale, and next year we'd purchase ahead of time. No up front inventory cost. Bam!
Next up was updating the branding and website. We made slight, but significant changes to our tone. Rather than two scrappy entrepreneurs aspiring to deliver trees to your home, DC Tree Delivery became a holiday convenience service. "We're taking the hassle out of the holidays."
Setting up a tree, stand included, equipped with Dirt Devils to vacuum up the needles feels a lot different than simply "delivering a tree to your house." The brand is modern sophisticated without being pretentious, flirting with playful but always professional.
We updated the website and social media pages significantly. We simplified the website, and changed hosts from Wix to Shopify to better customize our pixel tracking and plugin options. Check out some comparisons here:
3) Build a strong sales funnel ASAP
While it might have been a little late to set up tree purchasing, it turns out we were right on time for developing a sales funnel. I spend every night for weeks developing a strategy for SEO, Facebook Ads, and other way to drive traffic to the site.
Since it was clear nobody was thinking about Christmas prior to Halloween, our goal was to spread awareness about DC Tree Delivery rather than drive sales at this point. We wrote two blog posts (3 Holiday Events Even Longtime Washingtonians Haven't Tried and a Launch Announcement), emailed our modest mailing list, and paid 10$ to boost the post on Facebook.
Social sharing was the number one priority and so far it was worked well. The blog post and launch notice got a fair amount of traction for just 10$. We are currently working on updating or SEO reach and working with advertising partnership including local blogs, podcasts, and community groups. More to come soon but it feels like we're on the right track.
Oh, and out of this early work we had 2 Christmas Tree orders already! Pretty exciting. DC Tree Delivery is up and running. The Washington DC Christmas Tree delivery scene may never be the same.