When Troika account executive Connor Swegle decided to make the move from entertainment marketer to Internet entrepreneur, he took a lot of the lessons he learned in promo with him.
Swegle had struck out on his own to consult when his friend, Dave Weiner, decided he wanted to leave his time-intensive job as CEO of a technology company and launch his own enterprise. Weiner had a long love of bicycling, and his first job was working as a bicycle mechanic. He developed a business plan and shared it with his close friend and former coworker Swegle. Swegle liked it enough to jump on board and eventually become chief marketing officer and co-founder of Priority Bicycles.
The company was initially funded through a Kickstarter campaign last June. The campaign quickly hit its initial benchmark of $30,000 and since then has grown to $565,000, with 1,500 bicycles sold worldwide. In under two years, the company has become successful enough to launch a second line of bicycles for kids, called the Priority Start.
The company’s business principles mesh with its marketing principles. Weiner wanted to bring a bicycle to market that was visually appealing but not overly technical, lightweight, comfortable, easy to ride, easy to maintain, hard to steal, and affordable. Customers can order bicycles in one of two models and one of two colors at the company Web site for $429.00. Diamond-frame bikes, typically for men, come in matte black and gloss blue, and step-through frames, typically for women, come in matte black and gloss white.
Following in the well-trod footsteps of companies such as Amazon or Zappos, customers order their bikes online, and the bikes are shipped to them—no retail outlets necessary.
“Our priority was to create a great product. For us, that meant a product that was super simple at a great price,” says Swegle. “Connecting that to our own personal story was that we both wanted to be connected to something we were passionate about.”
Just like its sales strategy, Priority has a light touch when it comes to marketing.
“The biggest thing for us was to focus on simplicity,” says Swegle. “What we have found with marketing and product development in general right now is that there’s such an overcrowded shelf space. People are always adding on features to products that no one needs, that aren’t making the products any better.”
Priority’s market research also revealed what both Weiner and Swegle anticipated: “Customers didn’t want more features, they didn’t want 21 speeds. Three speeds were enough. So we stripped everything back and made the bike super light and super durable. Consumers said they wanted a bike that was low maintenance, so we created a bike with just a belt drive, not a chain, an internal three-speed hub and a pedal brake instead of a hand brake. All of a sudden — just by focusing on simplicity and on what the customer needed — we took a step back and the bike had effectively designed itself.”
Swegle also feels that marketing has gotten a little heavy-handed: “People are always adding on features in marketing. Campaigns are often overdeveloped, overwritten and forced. It’s gotten to the point where it’s too much and it’s confusing for the consumer. We really stripped it back and asked what was the most important thing the consumer needs.”
To market the company and the bicycles, Swegle has embraced storytelling and taken a customer-focused approach. Instead of developing a mass-market advertising campaign, he’s stuck with grass-roots social media, with campaigns at places like Pinterest.
“For us as a company, Priority has been about doing what you love with people you love. Social media is a place for us to amplify what people love in their lives.”
“At Priority, entertainment has met consumer product and really been able to capture storytelling,” he says.
Swegle created “Priority Profiles,” which ask three questions: Who are you? Where do you ride? Why do you ride?
“That social aspect gave us the ability to share those stories in a way that isn’t sharing them in an ad. That’s fulfilling for us as a company.”
Swegle now is taking it to the next level with Priority Stories, videos that tell stories of people making an impact on their communities. The video below tells the story of Elena Mendis, who volunteers at a social agency called Art Start in New York City to help homeless youth gain job skills through creative projects.
“Elena rides into Brooklyn year-round. She took us on a journey of her day from her house to her work at this agency working with kids. We created a short film around that.”
“We have a passion about this category,” says Swegle. “By doing these types of projects and initiatives, we believe it will help our bottom line. It’s all about authenticity — being true to ourselves, our customers, our riders and our products.”