Helm Boots Aims To Double Sales While Staying Under The Radar

Helm BootsHelm Boots sells $500 boots online and at its retail store in Austin, Texas. The six-year-old company’s attention to construction and design have made regular customers out of celebrities and local influencers, including an architect in Seattle and eye doctor in Oklahoma.

After receiving an investment in the business, Helm Boots founder and CEO Joshua Bingaman hired Austin-based ad agency nFusion. The agency is tasked with doubling ecommerce sales over the next year, which account for half of all sales now, while keeping the brand authentic.

That means focusing on organic engagement over paid media.

Although Bingaman had worked with PR agencies at Helm before, he found that those placements “haven’t moved the needle as much as our organic relationships, where a sports guy or movie star or musician buys it and has a story of how they personally found it.”

A huge, over-the-top advertising campaign wasn’t in the retailer’s budget, nor did it fit its ethos.

“We’re not looking to change our marketing strategy, but to make it more robust and more targeted,” Bingaman said.

The typical Helm customer is creative, high-income and most likely an influencer.

“People are buying Helm now because it’s not a well-known brand, “ said Matt Huser, managing director of nFusion. “The more we keep Helm a discoverable brand, the better position we’ll be in.”

Helm’s product doesn’t appeal to the masses, so it needed a tightly targeted approach to digital media. nFusion, which claims to use an “audience-first approach,” Huser explained, worked with Helm to create personas of the Helm customers.

Bingaman added precise loyalty data the company had gathered thanks to the foresight of a sales associate who used to work at Barney’s. He suggested that Helm send out thank-you notes to its top customers of the year, which revealed interesting patterns of locations and professions it used to create those personas – like architects and eye doctors.

Now that it’s created personas, nFusion is reaching potential customers through a mix of organic and paid media.

It made the brand more easily discoverable by optimizing the website and creating content via a blog. It’s also set up social media monitoring to keep track of the two key ways Helm customers find out about the brand: from people in the fashion industry and from enthusiastic wearers of Helm shoes.

nFusion is adding some paid social and product listings to that mix and will soon launch a retargeting campaign as well. The idea is to make small tests and adjust the plan quickly according to what works and what doesn’t, Huser said.

A big part of Helm’s strategy involves influencers but it’s not influencer marketing, where Helm pays for social media posts. Instead, it gifts boots to people who might fit with the brand and hope they become evangelists.

On social, the biggest focus for nFusion and Helm is Instagram, where the agency will tally up interactions.

“It tends to be more visual and more focused on peoples’ passions versus the junk you get on Facebook, and tends to be a more discerning audience than you get on Facebook,” Huser summed up.

By focusing on organic engagement and building on that with paid media, nFusion can cultivate Helms’ brand “from the bottom up,” Huser said.

“We believe that brands today are built from a collection of experiences people have, not a huge advertising campaign,” Huser said. “People see through paid advertising, but if they’re interacting with a brand through content on platforms where they’re already consuming content, it feels more authentic.”

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