On Retention Chronicles, we connected with Paddlesmash co-founders Tim Swindle and Scott Brown about where they're taking the next great backyard game. Paddlesmash is where Pickleball meets Roundnet and yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.
Here’s a recap of what we discussed in the episode.
The state of retail manufacturing in 2022
In the days before Amazon—practically prehistoric times—game creators would launch a new product through mom-and-pop shops and hobby game stores. The product would gain some traction there, and once it produced a solid sales record, creators would meet with big-time brands like Target and Barnes and Noble.
In 2022, the playing field is a bit different.
Today, brands don’t need to break their backs selling into any stores—all you have to do is create your own Amazon or Shopify store and start selling. Shortening the retail distribution cycle is a great way to get your product out fast, quickly view what’s trending, and see how your product stacks up to the competition.
But how can you best find your target audience? Paddlesmash focuses on an omnichannel approach: a Shopify website, an Amazon storefront, and retail.
“We’re still building awareness for our brand as a whole, but it’s an exciting time for us. The world has been more willing to take chances on brand-new products, but even though our target market is willing to take the risk, they’re still protecting their downside. So we really are being cautious about this and trying to get enough awareness first to at least have some brand recognition when it goes into that”, Scott Brown, Paddlesmash co-founder.
Find your brand’s anchor
The two most important concepts with branding are understanding your brand’s messaging and positioning. Your brand should be so straightforward and confident that a customer will come to your website and understand what you do in just a few seconds.
Seconds. That’s all the time a brand gets for acquiring a new customer.
“Honestly, the pandemic certainly helped us gain traction. Everyone was searching for something to do. Our tipping point was cities and towns building their own pickleball courts, from there we were able to facilitate that growth. It’s amazing, the rapid growth we’ve seen over the last 4 years.” Scott Brown
One of Paddlesmash’s biggest advantages is the accessibility of the game. Where tennis is limited by needing a court to play on, Paddlesmash can be enjoyed across a broad range of locations and ages. Is pickleball giving tennis a run for its money? Maybe, but that’s not the goal for Paddlesmash, “It’s just a really great community experience. It's like playing pickup style, and you go and put your paddle on a wall you rotate in. It’s about bringing people together.”
Driving awareness in today’s DTC market
Regardless of your business type, brand awareness is a key building block to your marketing strategy. There are 4 best practices that Paddlesmash uses to fill out their brand awareness strategy:
Learning from pioneers: Appreciating and learning from innovators is how today’s brands can take their products to the next level. These relationships are important to Scott, “We’ve been incredibly lucky to make friendships with companies who have seen success in this industry. Being able to sit down with them and ask questions is incredibly valuable. A rising tide truly raises all ships.”
Affiliate programs: This strategy is nothing new in 2022, and we expect to see a lot more of it in the future. Paddlesmash uses a Shopify app called Social Snowball that provides customers with a QR code that works as an affiliate link. So when you're out playing Paddlesmash, you can offer anyone who’s interested $20 off, then you get $20 back. Pretty good system!
Giving away free product: Most founders are weary of giving away product, and that’s understandable, but Tim knows it can work with the right strategy, “To me, gifting product is just one of these tried and proven ways of getting the word out there. What we've learned is that you need to be selective with that and be targeted.”
Luck: Even with the best product in the world, you need a little bit of luck to succeed in today’s retail market. Scott knows it best, “I've tried hundreds of times to get products off the ground. Some of them have, and some haven't, and a lot of its luck.”
What’s next for the great backyard game?
There’s no doubt that today’s retail industry is a roller coaster of new trends, regulations, and behaviors, but Paddlesmash is driving forward. Listen to the full Retention Chronicles episode to learn more about manufacturing in the US, the virality potential of games, how to get your product on the shelf, and more.