twinnks

Building and optimizing your website from an amateur’s point of view

Twinnks

By: Rachel Kassinger & Rebecca Britton, co-founders of Twinnks 

When we decided to start Twinnks, we knew it would be primarily sold online. Therefore, our website and online presence were very important. If you’ve seen our previous blog post, you know how we feel about preparing as well as you can before you launch your company. Since a lot of startups don’t have the capital to hire a web developer—at least we certainly did not—we had to turn to good ole fashion learning-and-doing-it-ourselves.

Building your website

Luckily, there are a ton of eCommerce-ready sites designed for beginners. As a full-time Marketing Manager, I’m most familiar with WordPress, so that’s what we used. The platform offers a ton of themes and tutorials to walk you through building your website. There are a few reasons why it's so important to start building a website early:

  1. You can secure your domain. Even if you aren’t ready for the website to launch, you can have at least have the domain in place and use a “draft” site until you’re ready to go for it.

  2. You’ll learn how to navigate the website. The last thing you want is to have a live eCommerce site and no idea how to change text, pictures or products. Don’t add the stress.

  3. You’ll start understanding what you really need out of the site. With WordPress, you’re not stuck with the theme you select. You can change it out if you start working with one and realize it's missing a functionality that you realize you need.

If you’re planning to sell your product primarily online, sites like WordPress and Shopify have a very user-friendly eCommerce integration. However, it may be smart to learn what you can about setting up your online store, then hire a freelance web designer to implement it. If there is one place to spend a little money on your website, I personally think it is on the eCommerce end. You want it to be as secure and customer-friendly as possible and while I’m pretty confident in my WordPress skills, that part makes me a little nervous. 

Optimizing your website

If you’ve done any preliminary research on building websites, you’ve probably seen the term “SEO” 100 times. In the most basic sense, SEO (search engine optimization) is a strategy to get your site to come up on search engines organically, increasing quality and quantity of website traffic. What good is having a website if Google can’t find it?

Below is advice to help your website come up through the ranks.

1.     Research Keywords

What keywords or search phrases best describe the product you’re offering? If someone Googles it, will you come up? The main purpose of SEO is to help those who are looking for you to find you. Therefore, your content needs to match the phrases people are searching for. Tools like Google Keyword Planner, which is free, allow you to type or upload various keywords and they’ll give you the trends based on actual Google searches. They also tell you how competitive the keywords are and give ideas for new ones. The goal is to find keywords that have:

●      High search volumes

●      Low competition

●      Relevance to your product

Depending on your product, it can be difficult to zero in on search terms that offer all three of those factors, especially high search volumes and low competition. If a lot of people are searching for it, chances are competition is high. So start focusing on “long tail” keywords. Long tail keywords are more specific, so they tend to have lower traffic, but collectively give you better results in the long run. For example, Twinnks is a comfortable t-shirt bra that doesn’t show lines under clothes.

When you type in “t-shirt bra” or even “comfortable t-shirt bra”, there are millions of other bra companies that come up. It’s going to be very hard to secure a good spot on Google against so many other options. However, “no bra lines” or “t-shirt bra that doesn’t show lines” is much more specific and even though it’s not a common search phrase, I definitely want those people to find my website because they’ll likely convert.

Great! You’ve identified the key search terms. Now, where do you use them?

2.   Incorporate Keywords

If you have a blog (Which you should. Read our thoughts on that in this post), use those terms and phrases throughout your posts and in your website’s product descriptions. Lastly, install an SEO plugin on your website. If you’re using WordPress, I recommend Yoast. It lets you put in title tags and focus keywords for each page. It also analyzes your content for readability and gives suggestions on how to improve it. They have an extremely helpful blog and SEO courses to help you understand this insane and every-changing optimization nonsense.

3.   Monitor your site

In order to see how your SEO is doing, you’ll need to monitor it. If you haven’t already, get Google Search Console. It’s a free service Google offers that monitors your site for search queries, page rank, impressions, and click-through rate. It also allows you to submit content to be crawled, shows you any errors and how to fix them and much more. It’s a great tool and again, it’s free.

4.   Patience is a Virtue

Once you optimize your site, let it run for a little bit. Don’t expect to incorporate your keywords and immediately see them on Google. As mentioned above, submit your site to be crawled through the Google Search Console and keep an eye on the traffic results, but be mindful that it may take a few months to see the results. Your page rank and queries should start improving within a week or two, but seeing real conversions tend to take a little longer, unfortunately.

5.  Keep Learning

Google also makes minor changes to its SEO algorithm 500-600 times a year, so every once in a while read SEO blogs and articles to make sure you’re all up to date. I recommend the following blogs/courses:

●      Yoast

●      Kissmetrics

●      Moz

As I wrap this up, I can hear a collective groan from website and SEO experts everywhere screaming “there’s more to it!” and they’re right. But from one broke entrepreneur to another, I hope these simple tips help you get ahead of the digital curb without having to pay someone else to do it. Enjoy!

Why You Need to Launch ​Your​ ​Brand​ ​Before​ ​Your​ ​Product

Why You Need to Launch Your Brand Before Your Product

By: Rebecca Britton and Rachel Kassinger

In today’s digital age, we dare to say that launching a product is harder now than ever before. Though there are perks to having everything we need at our fingertips—for instance, connecting with customers directly and the ability to reach thousands of people with one click—there are also downfalls.

Attention spans are shorter than ever and information overload has taken its toll on brand loyalty. Gone are the days of finalizing a product, issuing a press release when it's ready, and waiting for orders to come in. Now a launch has to be much more strategic and requires planning months before the product is actually ready.

As a startup in the extremely saturated bra industry, we were determined to build awareness prior to launching. If people get to know you, your brand and the product, they’ll be more inclined to try it once it's ready. Here are the steps we recommend to build hype about your brand.

Market research

You can’t market a product without knowing who your customer is. It’s easy to get trapped in a “my product is for everyone!” mindset, but fight it. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one, so it’s crucial to zero in on a demographic. There are a few ways to go about this:

1. Read reviews of similar products to determine what people like and don’t like about your competitors. Another great (and free) tool is social media. Go to your competitor's posts and look at who is commenting. This served two purposes for us: it confirmed that other people saw the problem we were trying to solve and gave us an idea of who our customers are.

2. Online survey - This approach is a little more black and white. Create your own survey using one of the thousands of websites like Survata. It’s quick, easy and straightforward.

Mark your territory

Buy your website domain and create your social media handles so nobody takes them. Domains are incredibly easy to buy and most cost less than $20/year, so it’s worth the small price to secure it. In addition, most business accounts on social media can be hidden until you’re ready to publish them.

Identify your brand and message

We aren’t going to lie, this is the hardest part because it drives every single thing you do from this moment forward (no pressure). Knowing your target market and researching what they’re drawn to help drive this, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own personal taste. Don’t base your brand solely on what you think people might like. You have to genuinely like what you’re putting out there, otherwise, people see right through it.

A few questions to ask yourself to get the ball rolling:

1. How do you want your brand perceived? If you need help, make a list of other brands you’re drawn to and why (it can be unrelated to your industry). This will determine the standard you set for other companies and clarify how you want your own brand to be positioned.

2. What is your voice or tone? This question can be intimidating but it’s to determine
your brand’s personality, which will likely be a reflection of your own.

3. Who is your community? This doesn't only include your customer but you’re entire
audience (potential partners, other brands you associate with). Think of the type of
people you want following you on Instagram, for example.

Again, it’s easy to fall on the “anyone and everyone” mindset but the same rule applies to business as it does in life: you are who you associate with so find like-minded people and develop a strategy to attract them.

Next, determine your aesthetic and visual identity. Make a good and bad mood board.
Instagram and Pinterest are great tools for this. Find posts that inspire you and make a brand book.

We were emotionally attached to the color mint (see blog post), hence our logo, and
initially thought our aesthetic should incorporate other pastels. However, individually we are more drawn to neutral (almost drab) colors which became very evident after making our brand-book. The”positive” mood board consisted a lot of grays, blacks, and whites with an accent of mint but overall it was very minimal; and our “negative” mood board was Lily Pulitzer. Throughout this process, your answers to the above questions and the brand identity may change a little and that’s OK (the joy of being in the “development stage”).

Start building content

One of the benefits (and frustrations) of pre-launch is it can be a waiting game so use the free time to your advantage and start building content. Now that you know your brand, constantly look for social media opportunities. You should also make your website live and begin blogging.

Not only is this a great way to let potential customers get to know you and learn about your product, but it also puts you ahead of the SEO game, so Google can find your site. Make sure to use resources like Google Keyword Planner to find good, searchable terms and incorporate them into your blog. Your homepage should have a short form to capture e-mail addresses from those who want to be kept up to date on your launch. You’ll hear time and time again how important building an e-mail list is, and some services, like MailChimp, have a free option for up to 2000 contacts.

Toast Champagne and GO!

Bottom line: pre-launch is the time for preparation but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right immediately. You’re in the beginning, and let's be honest, nobody knows who you are yet so if it changes over time, no big deal. Put yourself out there and roll with the punches.

Have fun and CONGRATS!

Q&A with Twin Sister Entrepreneurs, Rebecca & Rachel

Rachel & Rebecca

 

Twinnks, created by twin sisters Rebecca and Rachel, is a modernized t-shirt bra that solves all of the most common “brablems”. Not only does it have the molded, seamless cups for comfort and support, but it goes a step further and smooths out the edge of the cups, making it invisible under clothes. Eventually, they hope to expand into all things basic: t-shirts, undershirts, tank tops and more.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

We’re the youngest of four girls (I know...our poor dad), born and raised in Birmingham, AL. In 2015, after months of talking about this idea for a new bra, we finally decided to go for it.  We’re almost two years into development and plan to officially launch at the end of 2017. In the meantime, we both still have our full-time jobs (Rachel in marketing, Rebecca in insurance). In fact, up until this point, we have been keeping our identities on our website and social media pages under wraps because we didn’t want to risk having our work see it. But the opportunity to be on Fem Founder is worth it, so we’re throwing caution to the wind.

What inspired you to start your business?

Getting dressed. But really, it started with a mutual frustration for bras that claim to be “invisible under clothing” but after a short period of wear would show the visible cup lines (which we refer to as the “VCL”). We read countless articles as to why this happens: wrong size, you’re washing it too much or too little, you’re wearing it too much, you should get professionally measured every 6 months, the list goes on and it fueled us to start Twinnks. The reason it happens is simple: there’s an abrupt transition from the bra cup to the skin, so after the slightest wear, the line shows. We had a very clear vision of how a bra should be constructed to fix it and it didn’t exist.

Where is your business based?

Online, but we both live in North Carolina.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

In our initial research, we came across MakersRow.com, which is an online network that connects entrepreneurs with factories (very helpful, we highly recommend). From there, we contacted several manufacturers to see if they could make a prototype for us. We found one in San Francisco that really understood the idea and we’ve been with them ever since!

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Social media, hands down—especially Instagram. Not only is it a great way to build a brand and raise awareness, it also allows our potential market to get to know us and our personalities.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Coming into a very competitive industry with no experience in product development. In the beginning, we were overwhelmed because there’s so much to learn and we had no idea where to start. There is a ton of information out there about starting a company, but we realized that we’re never really going to learn until we do it. So we hired the factory, started on development and asked a lot of questions along the way (our designer can vouch for this). Now look at us, we’re product development geniuses.

How do you stay focused?

By constantly thinking about the end goal. We both have a really strong work ethic, so even though we still have full-time jobs, we’re extremely determined to make Twinnks a success.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

For starters, we’re women, which is a rare find in this industry. Most bra companies are run by men who seem to love lace, tiny bows and push up cups. That’s cute and all, but we’re not about the frill. Our focus is on functionality, comfort and, of course, making it flattering. Second, we’re committed to relating to our customers rather than talk down to them. There are a lot of brands that position themselves as experts and treat customers like students. That’s not our style. We’re extremely new to this world and we won’t pretend otherwise. Lastly, we’re actually building this company from the ground up. Everything is self-funded: no GoFundMe page (although, nothing against it) and no venture capitalist hurling money at us.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Social media without a doubt. We knew what we wanted our tone and aesthetic to be early on and started planning our posting-schedule four months before launching. We’re currently taking an Instagram marketing class through ilovecreatives.com. The creator, Jennifer Puno, grew her Instagram following from zero to 80,000 in one year so she’s good.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

  1. This is cliché, but patience is a virtue. It's so easy to get caught up in the eagerness to launch, but it's so important to focus on the product and get it to where you want it to be, rather than where it's “just passable”. In reality, it probably won't happen according to your timeline and that's usually for the best

  2. Use your support system and reciprocate. We were pleasantly surprised at how supportive everyone was, and not just our immediate friends and family. Our generation has the reputation of being entitled and unwilling to work, but we couldn't disagree more. Millennials have great work ethic, we just insist on working for something we actually care about. And what's even better, there's so much support from people (even strangers) in the same situation, so become a part of the comradery! There are a lot of startup communities out there that help connect like-minded people, whether it's for collaborations, feedback, advice, promotion, really anything. Groups like Rising Tide Society and SocietyGal are great places to start. Put yourself out there.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

This is hard because there are so many good ones for both business & personal use.

Blogs: Instagram’s Business Blog is a great source for content inspiration (they literally have “inspiration” as a category). Also, Buffer and Entrepreneur.com’s blogs are great for startups and strategy.

Apps- It’s lame to say out loud, but pretty much all social media apps (you have to stay in the know!). We also use Later to schedule posts and Google Drive.

Podcasts- you didn’t ask, but we are podcast fanatics so we’re throwing it in there.

●      How I Built This is amazing. It’s really inspiring to hear how some of the most successful companies got started.

●      The Art of Charm (both a blog & podcast) ties personal development and social skills into successful business relationships. Let’s be honest, incorporating human behavior into anything is so interesting. We are a crazy species.

●      My Favorite Murder- We can’t talk podcast without mentioning this. A great go-to when you need a break from reality. We love true crime and the hosts are hilarious.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

We’ve already mentioned it, but MakersRow.com is a great one. Also, since we work in separate places, Google Drive has been extremely useful. Peoplemap.co is an Instagram tool that we use daily. It lets you comment, filter, build lists and analyze Instagram from a desktop. 

Who is your business role model? Why?

It's hard to pinpoint one but we have serious admiration for Whitney Wolfe (founder of Bumble). After being sexually harassed and suspended as Co-Founder of Tinder, she walked away with her middle finger up and started a competing app that empowers women and she's killing it. It’s inspiring.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Perfecting and launching our product. We’ve worked so hard preparing for this moment and there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Following our own advice from question #10, we will not launch just to launch. Above all else is the quality of the product so the first batch will go to our test audience to ensure it successfully solves the problem before selling it. We’ve mapped out our marketing strategy so once we’re certain it’s ready, we will H-U-S-T-L-E.

How can our readers connect with you?

Website: www.twinnks.com (*make note of the two N’s, using only one will get you a pornographic surprise)

Email: info@twinnks.com

Instagram: @twinnks_co

Facebook: @twinnks

Twitter: @twinnks_co