Bringing Luxury Online – Finding Success with DTC Marketing Tactics

Companies like Gucci, Moncler and Louis Vuitton are reaching young shoppers with disruptive digital tactics.

Luxury retail as we’ve known is over. It’s ‘last season’ exclusivity and high barriers to entry are shifting toward online democratization. Critical to this redefined luxury is an effortless curation of content, community and commerce tactics to win the hearts and wallets of digitally and socially aware consumers.  

Let’s look at how successful luxury brands are using DTC marketing tactics to reach new audiences. 

Content: From Fashion House to Content House

the core of any direct-to-consumer model is the creation of content and the spurring of relevant discussions among loyal customer bases and beyond.

From curated city guides to an Instagram feed that gives Vogue a run for its money, Louis Vuitton’s Louis Vuitton City Guides has a firm grip on the digital content pulse.

These guides highlight must-visit sights, stores and snacks in major cities across the globe, offering customers a glimpse of the world and what it’s like as a Louis Vuitton jetsetter. With new cities added frequently, Louis Vuitton is keeping customers engaged with more insider guides and luxury travel accessories to outfit their journeys.

Additionally, brands like Moncler are vying for a Gen Z following on digital platforms such as TikTok, which has been steeped in DTC marketing since its inception. Through its #MonclerBubbleUp challenge, Moncler leveraged both paid and organic content marketing – including dynamic products, collections, and lead generations ads – to reach nearly 7 billion impressions including those from followers who used #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt when featuring Moncler products in their content.

Community: Access to Luxury Doesn’t Have to be an Alternate Reality

In the old days of luxury retail, tight-knit brand communities were often limited to those in the upper-echelon of customer spending. The feeling of exclusivity and access was often formed through limited in-person shopping experiences with customers donned from head-to-toe in the brands’ latest offerings. 

Today, brands are moving these communities and their associated status symbols online. In the digital world, consumers have a direct route for engagement with brands through their DTC marketing channels and content – and feel closer to brands beyond a purely aspirational intent to purchase their goods.  

Gamification is one such method brands are leveraging to redefine what it means to be a part of the luxury community. For example, in honor of its 100th anniversary, Gucci aimed to spur engagement among its online communities. To do so, they teamed up with Roblox to launch the Gucci Garden Experience, a digital experience experiment in the metaverse. Users were transported to ornate showrooms where they could browse and interact with digital versions of exclusive Gucci products. They also had the opportunity to ‘purchase’ luxury items to ‘guccify’ their metaverse. The event spurred visits from more than 1 million Roblox users.  

By departing from tradition and leaning into democratized innovation, Gucci led a luxury brand movement toward new ways of engagement through innovative spaces and online communities, ultimately creating a loyal customer base.  

Commerce: See Now, Buy Now

Fashion Weeks across the globe are known for their exclusive invite lists and designs. However, brands leading the way in the new era of luxury are challenging fashion week norms and creating increased access through a ‘see now, buy now’ approach. This allows viewers to purchase designs in real-time as they are revealed on the runway rather than waiting for exclusive commercial releases and has so far taken the latest New York Fashion Week by storm.

For example, the Dundas x Revolve show experienced a sold-out collection in lockstep when its pieces sauntered down the catwalk. Luxury stalwarts like Altuzarra, Oscar de la Renta and Rodarte also leveraged the see now, buy now commerce model and included live streams of their shows to increase access and encourage purchases among raving new fans.

What’s in ‘Store’ for Luxury Online

Using real-time engagement features – including live streams of product presentations – Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion of digital shops can connect brands and their customers together to spur more personalized digital shopping experiences. With over 100,000 monthly active users on the Luxury Pavilion accounting for nearly 45% of total spending on the Tmall site, the demand for bridging online and offline luxury retail experiences through DTC marketing tactics is strong.

“Direct-to-consumer principles are creating a lasting impression on luxury brands, and in turn, creating engaged.”


Through the optimization of digital channels, conversation amongst digital communities, and the online democratization of the elusive fashion week, direct-to-consumer principles are creating a lasting impression on luxury brands, and in turn, creating engaged current and future customers.

No matter your model, if you want to gain relentless relevance and digital prowess using DTC marketing tactics, brands need to consider the following questions:

  1. How might we create content that inspires interaction through owned and earned media in the age of mass media consumption?
  2. How and where can we extend and deepen our relationships with customers through community building and authentic engagement?
  3. How might we create more accessible, frictionless customer experiences that spur acquisition and retention?

Prophet is helping companies leverage direct-to-consumer practices around content, community, and commerce to drive growth and redefine industries. If you are interested in learning more about our direct-to-consumer expertise, contact us today.


Brand Migration in M&A: Seven Factors for Success

Amid record merger activity, companies continue to underestimate the complexity of integrating brands.

Global M&A activities have seen record levels this past year and are expected to grow even further in 2022. With this, Post Merger Integration (PMI) – the bringing together of two organizations, each with its own processes, structure, culture, and management – will be high on many organizations’ strategic agendas.

PMI is profoundly challenging and one of the most cited reasons for M&A failure is poor PMI. It demands massive executive attention and resources, both in terms of financial investments and people.

While most organizations have established robust processes for the integration of IT systems, HR policies, financial reporting and other vital business model elements, brand migration is a frequently underestimated factor in the PMI equation. And the results of this neglect could be devastating. Switching from a familiar brand to a new one is massively disrupting to customers, business partners, employees, and anyone else who has enjoyed positive experiences with a brand bound to be retired and replaced by a new one.

“PMI is profoundly challenging and one of the most cited reasons for M&A failure.”

Over the last three decades, Prophet has supported numerous organizations with post-merger brand integration. From this work, our teams have learned what works and what doesn’t. While every PMI scenario is unique and requires a bespoke approach, we’ve found that there are common ground rules regardless of industry, region, or market dynamics.

Before diving into the factors of successful brand migration, let’s start with a few of the most common mistakes made post-merger. They are:

  • Leaving brand migration to the marketing or comms teams
  • Positioning brand migration as a mere re-naming exercise
  • Waiting on brand migration planning until after deal closing
  • Developing the brand migration plan without detailed customer input
  • Defining a fixed end date for the brand migration without understanding the full range of implications

Make only one of the mistakes above, and brand migration will end in a disaster.

The Most Important Objectives and Key Success Factors

Successful brand migration starts with defining appropriate objectives. On top of company-specific objectives, these three generic brand migration objectives have proven to be very valuable for steering all related activities in the right direction.

Brand migration must:

  • Ensure the facilitation and enablement of the synergies expected from the merger
  • Unlock incremental growth
  • Happen in a way that avoids losing important customers, business partners or employees

After the appropriate objectives are established, it’s time to move forward with the seven key factors for successful brand migration. They are:

1. Prioritize the Brand Topic Early On

Make brand considerations a fixed topic from the beginning to the end of the M&A process, this includes:

  • Using brand fit already as a filter criterion during target screening
  • Understanding employee and customer concerns before moving on
  • Assessing brand equities and the ability to migrate during due diligence

2. Define Objectives and a Roadmap

Develop a brand migration plan early on, during or right after the due diligence. Define and agree on the target picture for the post-integration brand portfolio. Be sure to include that in the letter of intent as well as later in the contract.

3. Connect the PMI Workstreams of Brand Migration with HR and Culture

Marry the PMI’s brand migration project stream to the culture and people stream. Brand migration is nothing short of a business transformation for the acquired organization. Brand and culture are inseparable, and in terms of organizational migration need to be covered in conjunction.

4. Utilize Existing Values

Systematically transfer valuable equities of the brand that will be retired onto the surviving brand to enrich the customer experience. Make the final switch from the old to the new brand only after this has been accomplished.

5. Make the Necessary Investment

Before making the switch from the old to the new brand, invest sufficient time and resources to demonstrate the benefits of brand migration to all employees affected by it. Resolve any concerns they may have so they feel enabled and motivated to tell the migration story.

6. Define the KPIs

Define and track brand migration KPIs throughout the process. Make progression from one phase to the next dependent on hitting pre-defined KPI thresholds (e.g., the awareness level of the continued brand with customers of the to-be retired brand).

7. Go the Distance

Do not stop halfway. Dual branding can be a necessary interim step on the journey to full integration. It is tempting to get stuck with dual branding because it creates the least resistance internally and externally. But rarely is it the most effective long-term solution since it prevents the stronger of the two brands from unfolding its full potential.


Successful brand migration in M&A can have a disproportionate bearing on protecting and creating value for the entire integration. Taking into consideration these seven factors will create a solid foundation for effecting that impact.

Does your M&A approach require a new playbook? Our M&A strategy consultants can help you to drive growth while minimizing risk, get in touch.


Back to Brick and Mortar: 4 DTC Trends

The right experiences in physical stores help build community and brand loyalty.

If you walk around a trendy neighborhood in any big city these days, you’ll find it sprinkled with stores of DTC heavy-hitters – Parachute, Lunya, AllBirds and the like. Since these success stories made it through digital channels, why is turning to physical retail suddenly the new DTC trend?

Take DTC darling, Warby Parker, as an example. Warby Parker, the prescription glasses and sunglass retailer, came charging into the scene in 2010 and quickly disrupted the category with a digital-only strategy. However, it opened its first physical store in 2013.

One might think Warby’s stores could cannibalize its online sales – with higher overhead – but co-founder Dave Gilboa says that’s not true: “Once we open a store, we see a short-term slowdown in our e-commerce business in that market. But after nine or 12 months, we see e-commerce sales accelerate and grow faster than they had been before the store opened. We’ve seen that pattern in virtually every market.”

In September 2021, Warby Parker went public with a $3 billion valuation and pitched a growth strategy centered around stores (the brand currently has 145 in the U.S. and plans to open more).

How is Brick and Mortar Changing the DTC Ecosystem?

1. High Customer Acquisition Cost

One reason DTC companies go offline is because of rising digital customer acquisition costs (CAC). While acquiring customers through digital marketing was once a cost-effective model, as more retailers (including major brands with big budgets) have upped their digital marketing game, the price of digital advertising has skyrocketed. Over the last five years, CAC has risen by more than 60%, according to ProfitWell.

Believe it or not, even when opening physical stores in expensive and upscale locations like well-known New York City neighborhood SoHo, it’s often more cost-effective for DTC companies to gain customers through high foot traffic locations like these, rather than solely relying on digital marketing acquisition.

In part, this is because DTC companies aren’t opening big-box retail stores. To acquire customers, all they need is a well-designed, curated space. Many, including Casper, Bonobos and Framebridge, have even adopted an inventory-free showroom model.

2. Necessity of Omnichannel to Scale Growth

Many DTC brands reach a point when using an omnichannel strategy becomes necessary for growth. No DTC brand has achieved $1billion in annual revenue without stores. Customers shop through multiple channels, and brands need to meet them where they are. This becomes especially important when DTC companies approach the IPO stage. They need to show investors they can turn a profit, and that’s simply very hard to do exclusively through digital channels.

3. Brand Awareness

Physical footprints are a great way to increase brand awareness, which can boost sales through all channels. MeUndies, for example, partnered with Nordstrom to create a physical footprint. Additionally, some DTC brands, such as Naadam, report that while sales from the stores themselves may not be huge, they saw an increase in digital sales from customers in the markets where physical stores are located. In this way, stores essentially serve as strategically positioned advertisements in areas densely populated with target customers.

4. Using Experience to Build Community and Brand Loyalty

A physical store is also an opportunity to build community and increase brand loyalty. DTC brands can leverage deep customer knowledge acquired through their digital success to design engaging in-person experiences to complement other sales channels.

“Over the last five years, CAC has risen by more than 60%, according to ProfitWell.”

Yoga apparel brand, Alo Yoga, adapted to this DTC trend well. In 2007 the brand started selling ‘street fashion’ yoga apparel and opened its first store in Los Angeles in 2016. At its store location, in addition to browsing Alo’s activewear, customers can take workout classes, grab a coffee and even conduct a business meeting from one of its lounge areas – all in a beautifully designed space, centrally located to where they live, work and play. Alo has since opened a second flagship location in New York City, as well as with smaller locations in California, New York and Texas.

Since opening physical stores, Alo’s growth has accelerated, as demonstrated by:

  • Acquisition of yoga app Cody in 2018 which was rebranded to Alo Moves (on-demand classes)
  • Expansion into the beauty space in 2020 (The Glow System)
  • Inclusion on Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies” list in 2021

While they don’t officially disclose revenue, Alo reported it to be around $200 million annually as of 2020.


While many DTC brands achieve initial success through a digital-only strategy, there often comes a point when they need to turn to physical retail to reach the next wave of growth.  The need for in-person experiences is still an important channel for brands and shows no signs of going away.

Want to learn more about partnering with Prophet on driving growth for your DTC brand? Contact us today.


The Eight Essentials of a Successful Marketing Plan

The best plans aren’t overplanned. They’re living, breathing documents.

This is most certainly our favorite time of year. The heat of summer is over, the kids are back in school and we are graced with the beautiful, bright crisp fall days driving optimism for next year’s outlook.

It is, therefore, that time of year for business planning, forcing us to self-reflect and understand what worked, what did not work, and how we can continually grow and improve ourselves, our teams, and our work to help unlock uncommon growth.

We’ve composed the essentials that are common across successful marketing plans, as well as a few ideas for making the planning process run a bit smoother.

1. Reflection and Introspection

You might think to start your planning with a bit of retrospective from last year. Try and involve as much of the team as you can and also include wider business partners such as product, finance and sales. Run a classic agile retrospective with the three questions:

  1. What worked well last year?
  2. What didn’t go as well last year?
  3. What could we do differently next year?

You can then work with your leaders to filter through and incorporate your findings into the year ahead. Some organizations may even work with a summary of this as the front section of the plan and use it as a chance to share success.

2. Strategy as Your Guiding North Star

We get asked a lot “Is this our marketing strategy or our plan?” The answer is usually both, however, the distinction is important; you cannot have a good marketing plan without a strategy.

Your strategy needs to set your north star. It should be completely aligned to the business strategy and the key pillars for the year (we tend to call them big moves).

Your marketing strategy should therefore layout what marketing needs to do in order to support those moves next year. The plan articulates how you are going to get there, including the specific tactics you will deploy. Underlying the plan will be resources (who) and capability alignment (enablers) to show how you execute the plan. Lastly, you need to provide a budget, identify headcount needs and have a measurement approach. With some organizations, we also find it helpful to do scenario planning—i.e., what we will do anticipating market shifts or if we fall short— or surpass — expectations.

3. Planning for Your Audience

It’s important to anchor your plan in both customers and prospects, on two levels:

  1. Firstly, be clear to address how the businesses’ customers/markets are changing. Identify where specific changes in behavior or needs may impact how your organization thinks about the marketing tactics for the year ahead.
  2. Secondly, understand what key audiences/segments, both within customers and with prospects, will be the focus for the year. These needs must map to your corporate strategy and mission.

This work should help sequence activities based on where the priorities lie, and where the greatest opportunities are to achieve the organization’s marketing goals.

4. A Framework for Planning

One of the things that can slow down marketing planning as well as the integration of the plan with other teams (particularly sales) is language. We tend to find that teams use a multitude of terms for both defining the process and measures of success. There are two areas that are useful to align upon early in the planning process.

Within the process, be super clear on what you mean by the strategy and the plan, and how it all hangs together. The following is an example of how this might appear. Your business will have your own terminology, so it’s important to design a structure that will fit your internal language.

The second part is aligning to the sales funnel. How the different stages of the funnel are defined is critical to driving successful marketing performance.

If you are in the world of B2B marketing, the sales funnel becomes increasingly complex as you plan to align on leads and how they are defined. Make sure to define the process between marketing sales, and when sales accept a lead as qualified.

The planning cycle is a good time to review these with your sales team and see if the handover needs improvement for the coming year.

5. Hitting the Key Points and High Notes

Be pithy. Your marketing plan does not need to be a 250 slide PowerPoint deck; we all know what happens with those! However, it does need to include the following critical components to assure a comprehensive marketing plan is clear, tailored, and impactful.

  1. Plan Summary: Overview of the key objectives, metrics/numbers, and tactics for the year, and the key learning from last year
  2. Business Goals/Strategy: The objectives of the business for next year
  3. Customer Needs: How are we addressing the needs of customers and prospects
  4. Challenge: How marketing will be supporting the business goals
  5. Market: Direct and indirect competitive positioning, moves and SWOT
  6. Actions: 3 – 5 big moves/activities for the year – should be aspirational, inspirational
  7. How/Tactics: Details on how these will work (might break down by areas)
    • Segments and audiences
    • Customer marketing insights
    • Media planning
    • Messaging and content
    • Product marketing
    • Sales enablement
    • Pricing and value
  8. Measurement: How will we measure success through the year
  9.  Our people: Roles, responsibilities, skills, learning
  10. Interactions: How will the team interact and work within other functions
  11. Enablers: What capabilities/vendors/partners do we need to support its success
  12. Consolidated Plan: Detailed Q1 or 90 day – high level subsequent
  13. Budget Allocation

6. Plan, but Don’t Over Plan

We all know things don’t go to plan, and that’s okay! Markets change, competitors don’t stay static, and certainly, customers and prospects don’t always do what we think they will do. It’s what keeps life interesting.

Agility wins when it comes to developing a strong marketing plan. It’s key to plan by quarter, but with varying degrees of detail and anticipate shifts and adjustments along the way. We suggest having a very detailed plan to execute your first quarter, and then focusing on higher-level key objectives and tactics for the subsequent quarters. This will allow you to still plan for resourcing, budget and capacity while remaining flexible to inevitable changes along the way.

7. A Living, Breathing Plan

The easiest way to stay true and on track with goal setting is to break down the goals into smaller, actionable goals and achievements. The same resonates when creating a comprehensive marketing plan for the year. Create a structure for the plan that allows you to run mini-plans. Investing in mini planning in the upfront will further allow for progress, flexibility and little wins to motivate and drive your team’s success.

Create a quarterly and monthly version of your plan. We advocate for a quarterly plan that includes a two-week cycle and starts mid-way through the quarter to outline detailed planning for the next quarter. In addition, it is smart to plan for a monthly review process – just a day or two, during which teams share progress against the plan, and propose any short-term tactical changes necessary. This will help keep your teams on track, avoid over-planning and remain agile while focused on achieving your overall goals.

8. Have Dedicated Air Traffic Control

You should assign one member of your team (or possibly a 2-3-person team) to run the process end-to-end, manage meetings, facilitate working sessions, problem solve and produce the outputs. It can be hard to free up internal resources, especially when a plan needs someone to play multiple project management and cross-functional roles, and many use this as a side of the desk role. However, you ideally want someone as a full-time resource for the strategy and plan. An outside partner can be helpful here and you should resist using your current advertising agency partner to facilitate as this may drive conflict of interest. Day-to-day external partners may, however, be valuable contributors.

Typically, most of these are best in working sessions 2.5 – 3 hours long. The number of these sessions is dependent on the size and complexity of your teams, as well as how much work has already been completed in advance.

“You cannot have a good marketing plan without a strategy.”


Land a plan that will stick. It’s easy to write a plan that sits on the shelf and is ignored. Success is, of course, delivering the numbers and helping your organization grow. A successful marketing plan is one that everyone is aligned to, helps your people work more effectively, and still provides enough room to innovate, be creative and respond to whatever comes your way during the year.

Our Marketing & Sales practice can help you create the ideal marketing plan for your organization. Reach out today!


Is Your Healthcare Organization’s Content Strategy in Need of a Rapid Response Team?

Our research shows modular, agile content systems can increase engagement and build relevance.

In The 2021 State of Digital Content Report, Altimeter surveyed 375 top content executives at businesses around the world to understand the content challenges their organizations face. What did the research indicate? Companies are feeling the pressure to churn out high-quality, relevant digital content like never before.

While not all companies can keep up with the accelerated pace of content creation, Altimeter found that those that are successful in meeting this demand have implemented an “Agile Content System.”

What is an Agile Content System?

Though all industries failed to hit the mark perfectly on every capability of an Agile Content System, healthcare, specifically life sciences and pharmaceuticals that were surveyed, was found to be the biggest laggard. Due to legal limitations for data use and messaging, healthcare organizations need to manage strict oversight and time-consuming content reviews – making it increasingly difficult to personalize and approve content, decentralize content creation and measure the ROI of marketing investments.

“Real-time publishing is key to producing high-quality, digital content at scale.”

To put it into perspective, one pharmaceutical client told us that it would take their company over 80 days, with 40 handoffs and 12 people involved to get a single email approved. By contrast, a vacuum manufacturer switched from producing vacuum cleaners to ventilators in under a month as soon as COVID-19 hit!

But there is a prescription for improvement. Healthcare organizations can optimize their digital content strategy by leaning into three imperatives.

Imperative 1: Ensure Technology and Workflows Streamline Approval Processes

In an Agile Content Strategy, real-time publishing is key to producing high-quality, digital content at scale. However, this requires that the approval and compliance processes are structured in a way that optimizes fast, efficient publishing – as opposed to slowing it down.

With multiple reviews by multiple stakeholder groups – ethics boards, legal teams and subject matter experts – the entire end-to-end approval process can hold publishing timelines back. While healthcare companies cannot completely do away with these regulatory checks, they can:

  • Invest in better content approval software: Companies are increasingly investing in technology to improve the approval process, with 16% having reported using a dedicated compliance platform (Altimeter, 2021). Software, like Veeva Systems, that streamline the approval process and allow for quicker review, can help standardize and drive efficiency in the overall workflow.
  • Leverage a modular content creation approach: Creating smaller pieces of digital content (e.g., a paragraph of text) that can be sent for faster approval can help content teams accelerate their publishing speed. In addition, it allows bite-sized chunks of content to be combined in different ways based on consumer demographics, which improves audience targeting and personalization.
  • Clearly define content roles: With various content being created across the entire organization, it is important that roles are crystal clear in terms of who is owning what. For example, corporate marketing could own industry-wide content whereas business units could own their sector and/or regional themes, etc. When teams are aligned to their content roles and responsibilities, it makes it easier to create and approve content at a faster pace.

However, healthcare organizations cannot rely on improved technology or modular content alone. To address and improve the root cause of a slow approval process, the industry must move away from an archaic content team structure and toward a more autonomous, decentralized model.

Imperative 2: Restructure Content Teams for Greater Agility

Compared to other industries, healthcare organizations tend to centralize how to create and approve content. This process preserves the brand, ensures compliance and creates consistency across all touchpoints. But it also slows down content development and limits the potential impact content can have on strategic business objectives.

To move forward, healthcare organizations should consider restructuring their content teams to allow for greater agility while still meeting consistency needs. Here are two different strategies to consider based on where decentralization makes the most sense for the business:

  • For organizations that need to focus brand awareness (e.g., showcasing a new brand, launching a product), centralize the content strategy, but decentralize creation: Have a centralized entity develop a unified content strategy, and then allow for brand owners within the organization to execute it. This approach not only creates consistency but also allows for brand owners to create content at a speed that meets their business units’ needs.
  • For organizations that need to generate leads or revenue (e.g., moving into a new market), centralize the content creation, but decentralize strategy: Have a centralized entity continue to create content, but allow for leaders of various departments across the organization to drive the content strategy. This approach ensures that all content meets brand, legal and consistency requirements while empowering individual teams to own the strategy and ensure it ladders up to their established KPIs.

Imperative 3: Set Bolder, Clearer Goals That Go Beyond Brand

While other industries are finding ways to track how their content delivers on clear objectives (e.g., e-commerce conversion or account sales), the majority of healthcare companies (40%) chose brand awareness as their top content strategy goal (Altimeter, 2021).

Although some healthcare organizations have goals that are inherently difficult to track against content initiatives, like patient leads and health outcomes (looking at you, health systems), there are strategies your team can implement to make the most of your content:

  • Invest in more holistic measurement systems: Which overall business objectives could your content goals help advance? Having a clear answer to this question will help facilitate buy-in and investment, even if it’s simply what the content can achieve on its own. Remember that building a holistic measurement system won’t occur in a day. You’ll need to collect data and map out how metrics interact with one another. Then, you’ll be able to attribute the effects of content strategy actions to the business outcomes and outputs. As your organization develops the ability to track and measure more inputs, your measurement system will become more robust, and more useful to guide future content strategy decisions.
  • Create more intentional, measurable goals: If a holistic measurement system is out of reach, set clear, specific goals for content strategy. What does the organization want content to achieve at a strategic, not tactical, level? From a clear content strategy, teams are better prepared to create and measure KPIs that specifically deliver on the strategy. For example, if an organization decides that content should be used as a window into the organization and shows how the organization treats its employees and its policies toward suppliers/vendors, it’s the organization’s team can better measure how content is impacting perceptions of transparency and trust (via internal/external surveys, social listings, etc.).


Content isn’t easy, but with faster content creation systems, decentralized approval and broader content objectives, healthcare can take a leap towards greater agility and relevance. Today’s diagnosis isn’t good — but with the steps above, the prognosis is optimistic.

Ready to revamp your organization’s digital content strategy? Reach out to Prophet today.


Four Traits of Top-Performing B2B Digital Sellers

Understand the mindset and strategies of the most successful brands. Hint: Teamwork makes all the difference.

In our 2020 State of Digital Selling global research report, we found that top-performing digital sellers have four traits in common: Teamwork, they excel at cross-functional alignment around both strategy and operations; Strategy, from long-term strategy to short-term plans, these sellers align across functions to deliver results; Mindset, Companies that embrace a shift in culture and skillsets earn a competitive advantage; and Customer Focus, top B2B digital sellers use data and cross-functional teaming to deliver what the customer needs. Use our infographic, 4 Traits of Top-Performing B2B Digital Sellers to start conversations in your organization to transform sales.

The Traits of Top Performers


Sounds easy, but the reality is many sales and marketing organizations don’t work well together. Our 2020 State of Digital Selling research found that only 31% of sales reps view marketing as essential to their success. There are also digital cultural barriers: marketing uses analytics and automation at a much higher rate than sales, who focus more on direct relationships with prospects and customers. As digitization of both the sales/marketing funnels and customer experiences increases, handoffs between the two teams become more problematic.

In our research, we found two key gaps between average performers and the top 10% of performers: collaborative customer insight sharing and planning long-term digital strategy. 67% of top performers strongly agree that their marketing, sales, and service teams work well together to provide sellers with real-time data intelligence on prospect activity (vs. only 36% among average performers). As prospects move through the funnel, these teams excel at real-time sharing of new insights, sharing a more complete picture of the customer.  This could be as simple as marketing informing sales that a key account clicked on an ad to target sales’ best next move, to as complicated as knowing a prospect downloaded a white paper, how far they read and which topics they spent the most time reading.

Top sales performers collaborate closely with marketing on long-term technology roadmaps that lay the foundation for shared digital transformation of both internal enablement technology, as well as customer experience. Among top performers, 76% collaborate to put in place a technology roadmap for how digital tools and data will integrate over time, compared to only 38% of average performers.


A turning point in strategy collaboration started in 2007 with the introduction of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and Account-Based Sales (ABS).  Our research has found that B2B sellers who follow these strategies outperform their peers. Sixty-three percent of top performers use well-coordinated teams and unique sales planning with marketing, which persists through ongoing teamwork throughout the funnel (vs 43% of average performers).  We also found 47% of top performers focus on industry vertical, vs. only 27% among average performers.

ABM/ABS is a great starting point, but in this year’s research we’re seeing a trend towards more frequent planning, to the point of “always on” dynamic plans.


Companies that embrace a shift in culture and skill sets earn a competitive advantage. A key shift in mindset is needed around trusting data and analytics that form the foundation of sales automation. Sales teams need to develop trust in sales automation and the data that fuels it.

In our research, 63% of top performers strongly agree that sellers embrace the adoption of sales enablement tools, are certified as part of training, and managers are held accountable for tool adoption, vs. only 33% of average performers. Fifty-five percent of top sellers use of tools, AI and data analytics consistently identify best next moves that move forward prospects to conversion (vs. 32% of average performers). There’s a clear gap in mindset among top performers vs. the average.

Customer Focus

Top sales organizations prioritized customer satisfaction above metrics such as sales quota achievement and recognize the link between customer satisfaction and quota. Recognizing and addressing the diversity of buying committees typical in B2B needs is a key success factor, as well as customizing sales approaches by industry vertical. Today’s B2B buyers expect sellers to understand their industry to the point that they become a trusted partner in their own success.

Top performers focus on existing customers over acquisition. For B2B sellers, that means understanding their customer’s industry as a trusted advisor, and that they remain in close contact with both marketing and especially service to guide their sales plan by using those teams’ data insights.  Our research data found this area represents the largest gap between top performers and the average: 73% of top performers say their sales process is defined around the customer journey and informed by rich data analytics (vs. 39% among the average); and 75% of top performers (vs 55% index) said improving customer satisfaction was their top priority.

What You Can Do

For these 4 areas that separate the top 10% of performers vs. the average, consider these tips (and learn more in-depth strategies in our 2020 State of Digital Selling research report):


  • Use Slack or another enterprise social network to better connect team members among sales, marketing and customer success. Use hashtags to share customer success stories; surprising data analytics; and connect to your CRM to share key account information.
  • Create shared digital dashboards with key metrics for each team to illuminate handoffs between teams that need attention and to better understand where your partner teams are focused.


  • Form a joint sales and marketing digital transformation working group and steering committee to share baseline capabilities, objectives and to plan a shared digital transformation vision.
  • Ensure alignment between sales and marketing on industry vertical targets, buyer segments and customer journey(s).


  • Create a “digital sales champion” program to recognize sellers that have successfully made the digital selling shift. Embed these champions in teams as advocates for digital, especially by sharing specific sales results tied to it.
  • Find opportunities for joint digital skills classes among sales and marketing staff to both build relationships and offer mindset shift guidance. Marketing has gone through this transition, and personal stories of success will help sales teams get ready.

Customer Focus

  • Benchmark your data, that is, assess whether you have the right customer and prospect data to understand and deliver to customers what they need.
  • Make shared customer success metrics (such as Net Promotor Scores) part of compensation incentives among marketing, sales and service. Have customer satisfaction lead sales team objectives.

Please feel free to share our infographic with your colleagues to start conversations that can improve your digital transformation of sales.

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With less access to doctors, digital selling is the only choice. That leads to smarter strategies.


How the Digital Transformation of Sales Could Go Too Far

There are real and costly risks to an overly digitized sales process.

There have been hidden human costs in our drive towards efficiency and productivity using technology. As we approach the post-pandemic period, when businesses will decide which practices to continue and which to wind down, I foresee a rush to digitally transform B2B sales too quickly as harmful to human connections that build trust and long-lasting relationships.

The Cost of Efficiency

When I managed social media at a big bank in the early days of this technology disruption, I needed to understand and exploit its value for financial services. While looking back at the history of technology disruptions in banking, I found a pattern of automation in which to gain efficiencies the industry slowly chipped away at personal connections with their customers. Starting with telebanking, we at least had someone to talk to from home without driving to a branch, automation grew less personal.  ATMs gave customers quick access to basic banking functions, such as making a deposit or cash withdrawal. This culminated in smartphone apps, where many banking functions were accessible from the phone in our pocket.  Each step separated customers further from banks, slowly eroding personal relationships.  Luckily, as a “people-powered” digital platform, social media could address the trust gap.

It’s incredible how wide the gap between customers and businesses has grown.  Here’s an example, as told in Wells Fargo’s blog. After the 1906 San Francisco Great Earthquake and Fire, most of Wells Fargo’s ledgers were in a vault that survived the quake and fires but couldn’t be opened for weeks without exploding. To help the devastated city recover, the bank’s tellers relied on memory and personal relationships to get their customers the cash they needed to survive, let alone start to rebuild. These tellers knew their customers well and were able to disperse money based on their recollections of customer balances and creditworthiness. After recording these transactions in school children’s composition books, they found that these transactions were squared within a few dollars after the bank ledgers were finally retrieved weeks later.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, many banks that were already established in social media had built trust and better weathered the brand damage that other institutions suffered throughout the industry. They’d built social capital with their customers, which was much needed in the aftermath of the crisis.  While financial services have modernized and scaled through efficiencies that have harmed human connection, the financial services blogs rebuilt trust through stories employees told of how they’d helped their customers succeed and reduced the fear that was palpable then by recounting how the bank had helped their customers survive previous economic catastrophes, thus swinging the pendulum back a bit towards trusted relationships.

As we rush towards the digital transformation of sales, let’s not let the pendulum swing too far. Consider the shift post-pandemic in manufacturing from “just in time” to “just in case” supply chains and our collective desire to emerge from isolation with live events and shopping. We’re wired and ready to connect.

The Right Use of Sales Technology

Sales and customer success teams maintain relationships that can only be built and preserved by people over time. This is particularly true when buying expensive enterprise business products or services.

While conducting research for this year’s upcoming digital selling report, I’ve found a number of approaches that dial back automation in favor of genuine relationship-building.

For example, video meetings exploded during the pandemic as a way to continue face time with customers and prospects while in shut-down.  As more sales reps used video calls, we then saw growth in personalized videos sent via email.  As a consumer, this change was palpable and impactful.  Getting less, “Hi Ed, I thought you might like…” in an annoying automated email, I instead started receiving videos clearly meant for me. In one case, I received a personalized insurance briefing based on a request I’d made, which used my own and my husband’s name, presenting insurance plans that might be best for us and ending with a simple call to action (which I took, I’m now a customer of this broker).

Personalized video messages are a great example of how tech can be used not only to scale but also to build trust in essential long-term relationships.

Maintaining Relationships Post-Pandemic

Sales and customer success team managers know which of their team members have relationships that have grown the bottom line.  These reps need to be supported by digital, but not necessarily by building deep digital skills. A salesperson is much better at reading a customer’s body language, gestures, and so on than any AI I know of.  A data analyst is better at connecting data points to draw valuable insights than most sales reps. We need both of these skills, and that won’t change with the digital transformation of sales in front of us.

“Personalized video messages are a great example of how tech can be used not only to scale but also to build trust in essential long-term relationships.”

To scale and meet the demands of digitally savvy customers, many brands I’ve spoken to have told me that their return on investment in customer experience is diminishing—perhaps a sign that consumers are on to overly automated engagement.  In response, they’re investing in more personable tactics.


B2B businesses I’ve interviewed have built a virtuous circle by leveraging their customers’ digital reach to advocate for them once a trusted relationship is established.  One company I spoke to told me how during shut down, when most communication went digital, they discovered that they didn’t have the permissions needed to reach out on some digital platforms, like email. So, they built customer advisory boards to listen to feedback and build better products, which in turn were amplified by those customers in digital, such as sharing company content with colleagues. Valuable human connections with customers can build a businesses’ reach in digital.

The best digital transformation of selling strategy is one that invests in the digital domain but focuses on bettering the human domain. Tricky, but as the pandemic has demonstrated a realistic and achievable goal.


Four Traits of Top-Performing B2B Digital Sellers

Understand the mindset and strategies of the most successful brands. Hint: Teamwork makes all the difference.


Improve Your Digital Content Strategy: 3 Learnings for European Companies

Our new research shows firms benefit from tech that automates, personalizes and localizes content strategy.

Companies are well aware that quality content — engaging, personalized and distributed at scale — is an essential part of modern marketing. Whether it’s using light-hearted memes or in-depth reports, an agile content strategy builds relevance and brand awareness while also establishing companies as thought leaders in their industries.

Though businesses worldwide are developing increasingly sophisticated content strategies to generate leads, demand and revenue, our latest research – surveying 484 executives across the U.S. Europe and China – uncovered some powerful focus areas for companies, specifically in Europe, to hit those goals. Here, we outline the three digital content imperatives European companies should be actioning against now:

1. Optimize Your Organizational Structure

A slight majority — just over 50% — of all European companies in our research use a centralized creative team, which manages content across departments and geographies. That’s not surprising, since for many years, that’s been the go-to model.

In the past, there were good reasons to consolidate content production with a central creative team. This internal agency model allowed for better governance, more consistent quality and a quicker production time. As businesses became more digital, they moved away from creating awareness through brand-centric content and focused more on mid-funnel content, such as thought leadership or buying guides. These factors were instrumental in companies shifting content production away from external agencies.

But this model is only sustainable up to a point and as many companies transform for the digital age, conditions are rapidly changing. Badly judged centralization can constrain the ability to tailor content locally and add significant differentiated value. Our research showed that German companies are most likely to rely on a centralized approach, at 60 percent. That compares to 53% in the U.S. and 44% in China. The European companies we spoke to said that aligning multiple teams around a unified content strategy is their biggest challenge, at 27%, this compares to 23% in the U.S. and 15% in China.

A better way: Increasingly, more companies — and 32% of our global sample — have moved beyond centralization, setting up additional content-producing centers. Typically, they still have a central creative team, which sets much of the overall content strategy. This team creates and enforces editorial guidelines for quality and owns the visual and verbal identity for consistency. It can also hold the technology and provide training for data-based content creation and the measuring of content success.

The work with our clients in Europe has shown how helpful this organizational structure can be in meeting the unique content demands of different business units and geographies. It’s vital in European markets, which often face other regulatory guidelines.

2. Embrace Tech and Data to Create, Personalize and Measure Content

The biggest challenge for today’s content producers is to consistently produce personalized content at a large scale — and do it in a way that increases revenue. To do this, companies need more than the right content. They need to deliver it to the right person, at the right time and in the right channel – and that requires using more data and automation.

Yet companies in Europe are most likely to say that their solution is simply to hire more content creators, at 24%, compared to 18% in the U.S. and 13% in China. Producing content at scale isn’t something that can be solved by simply adding more employees.

“An agile content strategy builds relevance and brand awareness while also establishing companies as thought leaders in their industries.”

Only 11% of European respondents say they use AI to create and deliver personalized content at a large scale, based on AI-driven customer segments and analytics. That compares with 22% of those in the U.S. and 25% in China. (Germany presents the most extreme example of this at two percent, versus 10% in the U.K.)

And just 10% say they rely on AI-driven analysis of demographic, behavioral and psychographic data, enhanced with third-party data to create customer segments. That compares to 19% in the U.S. and 35% in China.

European companies are also noticeably more conservative about most uses of consumer data, citing more concerns about privacy than those in other regions. And for good reason, as data privacy legislation in Europe is more stringent than it is in the U.S. or China.

A better way: Our research shows that the best approach is investing in an innovative set of practices that make up an agile content system. These systems:

  • Use data to inform content creation
  • Produce content in modules for approval and recombination
  • Centralize and automate content storage
  • Upload a standard design system
  • Measure content effectiveness beyond awareness and engagement

European companies need to push harder to create clear guidelines on how data is used. What is acceptable, and why? What are the guidelines for content aimed at consumers versus B2B efforts? These conversations are increasingly important as companies face a cookie-less future.

3. Tune Campaigns for Different Regions

European countries have long understood that regional differences are significant and strategies that resonate in Portugal might be a total failure in Finland. But in a world of digitally-driven content and AI that can be finely tuned for each market, those differences are not what they used to be. And they can often become excuses for inconsistencies that limit the effectiveness of a content strategy.

These disparities can also be seen in channel effectiveness, with European countries less likely to say their audience engages with them on critical social-media channels. Just 37% of European companies say Facebook provides their highest engagement rate, compared to 55% of those in the U.S. Also, only 15% cite LinkedIn as their most effective, compared to 20% in the U.S. (Interestingly, more European companies say Instagram is their best source for engagement, at 31%, compared to 22% in the U.S.)

Companies in Europe are more likely to use reach as the primary metric of effectiveness than the more advanced engagement metrics used in the U.S. and China. But, companies in Germany (36%) and Spain (34%) are more likely to lock those metrics away in silos specific to individual channels.

A better way: In developing a company-wide digital content strategy, investigate differing standards and requirements in each geography. What changes can be made for greater consistencies within markets, especially regarding automation and success metrics?


European companies are well-aware of the importance of content in their overall business strategy, but to stay relevant and keep up with fast-moving digital audiences, it’s no longer enough to produce quality content. Content must be personalized, engaging and delivered at scale.

Our research shows that European companies have essential steps to take against some important measures, but by optimizing organizational structure, leveraging tech and digital data to create personalized content for varying consumer and regional segments, they will reap the full benefits of an effective and strategic approach to digital content. Watch those leads come in, that demand increase and that revenue rocket.

Prophet can assess your content strategy and help find alignment across business units and geographies. For more on how to scale your content, drive efficiency and maximize growth, contact our Marketing & Sales practice today.


Three Ways Financial Services Companies Can Help Advisors Win in the Meme-Stock Age

Who cares if it’s trendy? Meeting digitally-driven new investors in their favorite channels can help brands win fans.

Some people – including the co-founder of Reddit – say that the tsunami of new investors snapping up shares of GameStop, Clover Health and AMC amounts to a “bottom-up revolution.”

Maybe. We certainly agree that the meme-stock movement, the viral stock surge of GameStop, AMC, and others in the first part of 2021, means new and old types of consumers are looking for financial advice in new places.  The pandemic-induced shift to virtual interactions made consumers open to new channels for receiving advice. As we look beyond the pandemic, and advisors need to find ways to establish credibility and win trust.

These digitally-driven customers represent enormous growth possibilities if served in the right way. For companies and advisors, this requires agility in responding to market changes and commitment to cohesive omnichannel experiences, especially when it comes to onboarding clients.

Companies that don’t adapt fast enough or don’t support their financial advisors with the right tools are pushed out of consideration. A recent study of more than 250 financial planners finds that 77% of advisors have lost business because they did not have the right technology to interact with customers. In fact, these advisors reported losing an average of 20% of book value as a result.

Redefining Target Markets

First, it’s time to ditch the negative “Reddit bro” and “FinTok” stereotypes. Yes, there’s plenty of over-the-top gambling going on in social media and some genuinely terrible investing advice. However meme-stock investors aren’t just young kids investing pizza money. In fact, meme-stock investors represented a major slice of America. A Yahoo Finance-Harris Poll found that in January 2021 – the height of the GameStop saga – 28% of American adults had purchased shares of viral stock that month. Nearly half of those people invested more than $250 and almost 17% were more than 45 years old.

But even before that, we saw massive increases in the demand for digital financial advice. The pandemic served as a financial reset for many, and consumers began reaching out to advisors with greater urgency. One study found that 67% of people said the pandemic had been a wake-up call for them to examine their finances.

“A recent study of more than 250 financial planners finds that 77% of advisors have lost business because they did not have the right technology to interact with customers.”

Another study from  Nationwide Financial, which surveyed more than 2,000 people, found that by the first week in April of 2020, 24% said the pandemic had ­caused them to contact a financial adviser for the first time. It also reported that 80% of respondents felt they had lost control of their ability to manage their investments and finances.

Fast forward eight months to the GameStop frenzy. “How to invest in stocks” surged in Google search rankings, proving how quickly people moved from feeling helpless to digital derring-do. These people, who are adults, want answers, with 73% of viral-stock investors saying they have researched the U.S. financial system and 20% consulting a financial advisor before buying.

“Since then, some advisors and firms proactively publish content with a clear point-of-view on how to navigate meme-stock fluctuations. They adjust their content strategy to anticipate the flood of customer questions and to educate and prevent hasty decisions.

The best of both fintech and legacy companies are stepping up their tech investments. They understand the elevated consumer demands for frequency and channel of advisor interactions. Facet Wealth, for instance, makes its sign-up process straightforward. Once a prospect becomes a client, the dashboard makes it easy for them to engage with their finances from one place and schedule an appointment with their advisor.

It’s smart since 53% of millennials and 29% of baby boomers say they would switch advisors if they can’t use satisfactory technology.

Three Ways Financial Services Brands Can Gain Relevance in the Meme Stock Era

  1. Survey financial advisors to understand what support they need to proactively initiate conversations about topics like viral stock options and to explore different channels by which to interact with customers.
  2. Create a market sensing function to respond to market changes. And compile a centralized point-of-view on hot topics, offering a range of responses to support advisors.
  3. Incorporate a regular placeholder within the marketing content calendar for market commentary to proactively address market changes and reinforce brand credibility.


Firms that win in the market use digital-first thinking to create agile experiences and proactive communications. They’re stepping away from dated ideas about who invests and why. These innovators are working to establish trust and meet customers where they are right now. They’re striving to support remote customer-advisor relationships that meet and exceed technology table stakes. In doing so, they’re building trust and relevance in the era of digital-first finance.


Hill House Home: A Model for DTC Brands

This start-up’s fast moves, quick changes and hot drops offer lessons for much bigger brands.

Hill House Home (HHH) and its internet-famous Nap Dress have an impressive news presence for just a six-person company founded in 2016. So, how did the founder Nell Diamond generate so much publicity? The company has followed the right strategy playbook to leverage organic content from a community of loyal customers to spark demand for the brand.

Context is Key

Some companies found accidental success during the pandemic, while others capitalized on the new opportunities. Hill House Home did both. Though the brand launched the Nap Dresses in 2019 and trademarked the name in January 2020, the cutesy name became a masterstroke of branding when the divisions between work and home were erased. Rather than relying on the good fortune of newfound popularity, the brand doubled down on the production of dresses and embraced its new reputation as an apparel, not linen company, and it worked. The five-year-old brand had 275% growth in 2020, with the Nap Dress category increasing 1120%. The lesson here is in order for brands to stay relentlessly relevant, they need to capitalize on the quickly changing world around us.

Unafraid to Refocus 

Hill House Home started with bed linens as its primary product offering, but the founder always had a bigger vision for the company beyond bed sheets. When the Nap Dress quickly outpaced other categories, Diamond wasn’t afraid to lean into the organic PR customers enabled and spurred even more product demand. Although Diamond is quick to point out that all categories experienced triple-digit growth during the pandemic, the Nap Dress category quickly outpaced all others. It was so popular, likely due to its ruched design, that flatters many body types and professional yet comfortable look, perfect for working from home. HHH allowed the customer voice to guide which products sat at the forefront of the brand. Other DTC companies can learn from HHH’s example and avoid becoming too attached to their product vision to accelerate growth in products that show the most potential.

Drop It Like It’s Hot 

The other half of the production equation that has worked well for HHH is selling products using the “drop” model — an industry practice that goes against the usual model of releasing products on a rigid calendar 4-6 times a year. The brand produces limited runs of its products and drops them at random times throughout the year. This creates buzz and excitement more reminiscent of a streetwear brand than a Victorian-style dress brand. Online, women talk about their Nap Dresses the same way sneakerheads do about the latest Air Jordans.

“The cutesy name became a masterstroke of branding when the divisions between work and home were erased.”

Diamond’s vision from the start was to create luxury products at a non-luxury price point, and her production timeline helps boost the brand’s luxury feel. Although the dresses are not made of luxury materials, simply pulling the strings of supply and demand creates an exclusive aura. Other DTC brands similarly can capitalize on the scarcity effect, making limited edition products that are automatically associated with exclusivity.

Content is King

Hill House Home knows that sharing beautiful marketing images and user-generated content naturally gets people talking. The brand maintains an active blog filled with stories from the founder and has more than 100k followers on Instagram. The company shares a mix of photos with of-the-moment influencers, UGC and non-product photos that come together so seamlessly that it becomes difficult to tell which photos were taken by the company and which by its fans. The best CEOs know that loyal customers are their best marketers, and that content and community can fuel each other, generating more and more excitement around the brand.

The brand vision is aspirational and authentic. HHH describes itself as a “lifestyle brand that brings beauty and joy to everyday rituals” which it delivers through high-quality accoutrements such as sheets and bathrobes. Although customers may not attend an outdoor picnic complete with china and tea sandwiches, as many photos suggest, a customer may realistically wear a Nap Dress on a walk outside with friends. All of this is a credit to Nell Diamond’s strong conviction in her own personal aesthetic. The product line and color offerings are tightly curated and adhere to the brand’s ultra-feminine image. It would have been easy to create a Nap Dress in every color and try to appeal to everybody, but Diamond stuck to one unified creative vision.


Hill House Home is a model for any DTC brand looking to create the right mix of content, commerce, and community. Here are the four key takeaways for other DTC brands:

  • Content: Recruit customers to market your product for you and allow them to feel part of the brand by championing their content
  • Commerce: Adapt when necessary and let your customer guide you instead of trying to guide your customer
  • Community: Create buzz around product launches through innovative production models and the scarcity effect,
  • Purpose: No brand can be relentlessly relevant without having a strong sense of their own brand vision and purpose

Prophet helps companies establish a DTC business mindset and approach for customer-centric, performance-based growth activities, fostering direct consumer relationships to achieve the benefits that unfold. Prophet also helps digitally native companies reach next-level growth in brand and consumer engagement, with a focus on profitability and long-term sustainability.

Let’s chat how your brand can reach and engage potential customers directly to maximize growth.