DTC Dive #9: D2B strategies for global growth - Adnan Alicusic, Notabag

In the 9th episode of the DTC Dive Podcast, we welcome Adnan Alicusic, the founder behind Notabag, a distinguished lifestyle brand hailing from Frankfurt, known for its focus on creating high-quality, multifunctional bag solutions. 

Notabag's inception stems from Adnan's firsthand experience with the everyday challenge of cyclists struggling with conventional bags, leading to the innovative transformation of a simple day bag into a backpack, a solution previously unavailable in the market. 

This episode explores the nuanced world of Direct-to-Business (D2B) versus Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) sales strategies from Adnan's perspective. Through his insights, we uncover the strategic approaches that have propelled Notabag to global recognition, emphasizing the importance of viewing D2B clients as partners, the intricacies of managing B2B relationships, and the pivotal role of trade shows in expanding business outreach. Join us as we unfold the layers of D2B strategies that have shaped Notabag’s story, offering a treasure trove of strategies, challenges, and solutions for businesses looking to thrive in the dynamic landscape of D2B sales.


Strategies to Expand Globally with a Direct to Business Approach: Interview with Notabag

Markus Repetschnig, Admetrics’ CEO: Hello and welcome to the latest edition of DTC. Today, I'm here with Adnan from Notabag. Hello, Adnan, it's great to have you with us.

Adnan Alicusic, Notabag Founder: Hello, Markus. Thanks for having me.

Markus: Adnan, you're the founder of Notabag, a Frankfurt-based fashion accessory brand focusing primarily on bags, correct?

Adnan: Yes, exactly. Notabag is a Frankfurt lifestyle brand that specializes in high-quality, multifunctional products. We've been around for about 10 years, starting from a simple everyday problem where bags didn't quite work well with cycling. This led to the invention of a bag that transforms into a backpack, a product that was unique at the time. We secured a patent and launched via a Kickstarter campaign.

Markus: A significant portion of your sales is through B2B. Can you explain how B2B sales differ from DTC?

Adnan: The major difference is in treating B2B customers more as partners. It's crucial to convince them of the brand's potential and ensure they understand the values and advantages of our products for successful reselling. This fosters a long-term partnership. Also, B2B involves multiple decision-makers, potentially extending the sales process, and requires careful planning around collection launches and budgeting.

Markus: What strategies have proven most effective for boosting B2B sales?

Adnan: Trade shows have been our most successful strategy. We attend global fairs in cities like Frankfurt, Paris, London, and New York, which has been a great way to meet new clients and distributors.

Markus: How do you foster relationships with your B2B customers to encourage partnerships?

Adnan: It's a people-centric business. Regular contact and addressing customer needs are crucial. We often meet with our distribution partners to discuss goals, performance, and strategies, tailoring our services to different markets.

Markus: Any particular challenges you've faced and solved in B2B?

Adnan: Logistics was a major challenge due to worldwide operations. We resolved this by establishing warehouses on three continents to manage shipping costs, customs, and delivery times effectively. Inventory and production management are also critical to ensure sufficient stock across all warehouses.

Markus: How do you handle price policy in B2B?

Adnan: Monitoring and communication with partners are key. We haven't faced issues with partners undercutting prices. However, parallel importing, particularly in Asia, has been a problem, where unauthorized sellers import and sell our products below the recommended retail price. This requires significant effort to manage and rectify.

Markus: Can you share technologies that help organize your B2B sales pipeline?

Adnan: We use classic tools like newsletter services for communication and measuring campaign responses, CRM and ERP systems for sales and inventory management, and Shopify for our B2B online shop, which has been a great addition.

Markus: How do you adapt your products and packaging for the B2B market?

Adnan: It's crucial to ensure that products can sell themselves in a retail environment since detailed explanations aren't always possible. Packaging plays a vital role in communicating the unique selling points.

Markus: How do retail and DTC trends influence your B2B strategy?

Adnan: While we stay aware of trends, we primarily follow our own path and strategies to differentiate our brand.

Markus: Your flagship store in Frankfurt, how does it help gather customer feedback and influence your sales strategy?

Adnan: The flagship store is crucial for direct consumer interaction, providing valuable feedback for product development and service adjustments. It also helps us connect with the local community and build our brand.

Markus: Any tips for companies looking to expand their B2B footprint?

Adnan: Pricing strategy, cash flow management, logistics, and inventory management are crucial. Engaging with distribution partners for forecasts helps in production planning. Emphasizing packaging and displays to ensure products are appealing in the retail setting is also important.

Markus: The importance of brand consistency across DTC and B2B?

Adnan: It's vital. A consistent brand presence across all channels enhances recognition and performance.

Markus: Any specific tools or platforms you'd recommend for sales management?

Adnan: We use basic tools like Pipedrive for sales and ERP systems tailored to specific needs. Keeping an eye on digital tools, especially for newsletter management, is also important.

Markus: What is the future of B2B sales in your industry?

Adnan: Digitalization will continue to grow, with online B2B shops providing flexibility and efficiency. Trade shows will remain important, but digital marketing will be emphasized to stay competitive.

Markus: It's been great having you. Thanks for sharing your insights, Adnan.

Adnan: My pleasure, Markus. Thanks for having me.

What is the D2B - Direct 2 Business Model?

D2B, or Direct-to-Business, refers to a business model where companies sell their products or services directly to other businesses without intermediaries such as retailers, wholesalers, or agents. This model contrasts with B2B (Business-to-Business), where transactions typically occur between businesses in a more traditional supply chain environment, and DTC (Direct-to-Consumer), where businesses sell directly to the end consumer.

In a D2B model, the focus is on creating and nurturing direct relationships with business clients, understanding their specific needs, and providing tailored solutions that meet those needs effectively. This approach often involves personalized service, customized product offerings, and direct communication channels. The D2B model is particularly relevant in industries where businesses seek specialized products or services that require a deep understanding of the business client's operations, challenges, and goals.

The advantages of the D2B model include higher margins by cutting out the middleman, greater control over the brand experience, direct feedback from business customers, and the ability to adapt to their needs quickly. However, managing these direct relationships effectively requires significant investment in sales, marketing, and customer support infrastructure.

Direct-to-Business (D2B) Strategies for Global Expansion

Direct-to-Business (D2B) strategies have emerged as a critical approach for companies aiming to engage with other businesses as their primary customers directly. Unlike Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) models that target individual consumers, D2B strategies focus on selling products or services directly to other businesses. This approach necessitates a deeper understanding of the unique needs, challenges, and buying processes of business clients, emphasizing the importance of building strong relationships, offering tailored solutions, and leveraging technology to streamline operations and enhance customer experience.

Product Innovation and Patent Registration

Central to the success of D2B strategies is the emphasis on product innovation and the protection of these innovations through patent registration. By identifying common problems faced by businesses and offering innovative solutions, companies can create a unique value proposition. For example, developing a product that addresses a specific issue, such as a bag that can easily convert into a backpack for cyclists, and securing a patent for this invention, not only differentiates the product in the market but also provides a competitive edge. This approach not only meets the specific needs of business clients but also establishes the company as a leader in innovation within its industry.

Using Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Trade shows and exhibitions play a pivotal role in D2B strategies, offering a platform for businesses to showcase their products and services, network with potential B2B clients, and establish brand presence in the industry. These events provide an invaluable opportunity for direct interaction with business customers, understanding their needs firsthand, and presenting tailored solutions that resonate with their specific challenges. Successful participation in trade shows can significantly boost a company's visibility among business clients and open doors to new partnerships and sales opportunities.

Customer Relationship Management

Effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the backbone of any successful D2B strategy. Building and maintaining strong relationships with business clients requires a commitment to understanding their needs, challenges, and goals. Regular communication, personalized service, and a focus on delivering value are key to fostering long-term partnerships. By implementing robust CRM practices, companies can ensure they are not just vendors but trusted partners to their business clients, ultimately driving loyalty and repeat business.

Logistics and Inventory Management

Logistics and inventory management are critical components of D2B strategies, particularly for companies operating on a global scale. Challenges such as shipping costs, customs, and delivery times can significantly impact the efficiency of B2B operations. To overcome these challenges, companies may establish warehouses in strategic locations worldwide, ensuring timely delivery and reducing logistical hurdles. Effective inventory management ensures that products are available when and where they are needed, enhancing service levels and customer satisfaction.

Pricing Strategies and Market Adaptation

Adapting pricing strategies to suit the B2B market is crucial for the success of D2B operations. Companies must carefully consider the pricing levels at different stages of the distribution chain, ensuring that distributors and retailers can maintain healthy margins while offering competitive prices to the end customer. Addressing challenges such as parallel importing and ensuring compliance with agreed pricing policies are essential to maintaining market integrity and brand reputation.

Leveraging Technology for Sales and Inventory Management

In today's digital age, leveraging technology is indispensable for optimizing D2B sales and inventory management. Utilizing CRM and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can streamline the sales pipeline, manage customer relationships, and keep inventory levels in check. Additionally, offering an online B2B shop can provide business customers with the flexibility to place orders at their convenience, enhancing the buying experience and improving operational efficiency.

Emphasizing Product Packaging and Presentation

Product packaging and presentation are vital in the B2B context, where products must often sell themselves in a retail or exhibition setting. Effective packaging should clearly communicate the product's unique selling points (USPs) and value proposition, enabling it to stand out in a crowded market. Similarly, point-of-sale (POS) displays should be designed to capture the attention of business buyers and convey the product's benefits succinctly and effectively.

Brand Consistency and Marketing

Maintaining brand consistency across all channels and touchpoints is essential in reinforcing the company's image and value proposition in the minds of business clients. Consistent branding in digital communication, trade show appearances, and retail presence helps in building brand recognition and trust, which are crucial for long-term success in the B2B market.


FAQ Section on Direct 2 Business Approach

Q1: What is Direct-to-Business (D2B) strategy?

Direct-to-Business (D2B) strategy involves selling products or services directly from one business to another without intermediaries. It focuses on understanding and addressing the specific needs, challenges, and buying processes of business clients, emphasizing personalized solutions and strong relationship-building.

Q2: How does product innovation play a role in D2B strategies?

Product innovation is crucial in D2B strategies as it helps address specific problems faced by business clients with unique solutions. By developing innovative products or services and securing them with patents, businesses can offer a distinctive value proposition, setting themselves apart in the B2B marketplace.

Q3: Why are trade shows and exhibitions important for D2B strategies?

Trade shows and exhibitions provide a platform for businesses to showcase their offerings, directly engage with potential B2B clients, and network within their industry. These events are essential for building brand presence, understanding client needs, and forging new partnerships and sales opportunities.

Q4: How does Customer Relationship Management (CRM) support D2B strategies?

CRM is fundamental to D2B strategies as it focuses on building and maintaining strong, long-term relationships with business clients. Through regular communication, personalized service, and a deep understanding of their needs, CRM helps companies become trusted partners, enhancing customer loyalty and encouraging repeat business.

Q5: What challenges in logistics and inventory management can affect D2B operations?

Challenges such as shipping costs, customs, and delivery times can significantly impact D2B operations, especially on a global scale. Effective logistics and inventory management, including strategic warehouse placement and meticulous planning, are essential to ensure timely delivery and meet customer expectations.

Q6: How are pricing strategies adapted in a D2B context?

Pricing strategies in D2B need to consider various levels of the distribution chain, ensuring that all parties, including distributors and retailers, can maintain profitable margins. Challenges like parallel importing require vigilant management to uphold pricing integrity and protect brand reputation.

Q7: What role does technology play in enhancing D2B sales and inventory management?

Technology, through the use of CRM and ERP systems, plays a pivotal role in streamlining sales pipelines, managing customer relationships, and ensuring efficient inventory management. An online B2B shop can further enhance the buying experience by offering business clients the convenience of placing orders anytime, anywhere.

Q8: Why is product packaging and presentation critical in D2B sales?

In D2B sales, product packaging and presentation must effectively communicate the product's unique selling points and value proposition, as they often need to sell themselves in a retail or exhibition setting. Effective packaging and point-of-sale displays can significantly influence buying decisions by highlighting product benefits clearly and attractively.

Q9: How does brand consistency impact D2B strategy success?

Brand consistency across all communication channels and touchpoints reinforces the company's image and value proposition, building recognition and trust among business clients. Consistent branding is key to differentiating a company in the competitive B2B marketplace and fostering long-term client relationships.

Q10: What future trends might impact D2B strategies?

Future trends likely to impact D2B strategies include the increasing importance of digitalization in B2B sales, such as the use of AI for personalized customer experiences, the growing relevance of sustainability in product development, and the need for agile supply chains to respond to market changes quickly. Staying ahead of these trends will be crucial for businesses looking to succeed in D2B markets.