Do Invite Only Marketing Strategies Work For Global Startups? Dance, German Mobility Startup Thinks So

22nd Dec 2020
Entre les lignes

If you haven’t heard of Dance, the Berlin-based e-bike subscription service yet, you’re in for a treat. Not too long ago, we gushed about Cowboy’s brilliant design-centered strategy for its trendy e-bike and their whole marketing approach. 

Well, Dance is getting in on that same micromobility trend. The difference? You don’t have to shell out a bunch of cash up front but get to enjoy a hassle-free all-in subscription plan instead.

Know what else should pique your curiosity (aside from raking in an impressive €15 in Series A funding)? Dance is going a somewhat less conventional invite-only route for their beta round. They’re limiting their launch to the streets of Berlin and a select number of riders to build a solid future-forward community

And curiouser and curiouser, we don’t even know what the bike looks like!

However, while Dance is holding its cards 🃏 close to its chest, it’s got its sights set on the international market. And with the way the mobility market is rapidly evolving, especially in urban centers, they seem poised for success.

Still, there’s competition on the horizon like the Dutch brand Swapfiets and there are always hurdles to getting your message across to a globally diverse audience. And that’s why we thought we’d take a look at their strategy so far and maybe get a glimpse of the bike path ahead…

At Entre les lignes, we handled the translation and multilingual aspects of global PR and marketing campaigns. Need to expand internationally? Get in touch with us today.

Bringing up baby…a.k.a. the Dance e-bike subscription

Dance only got started about three months ago, so is definitely a fledgling brand. That said, Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss, Alexander Ljung, and Christian Springub are no strangers to global startups or subscription services since both Quidenus-Wahlforss and Ljung co-founded the now famous SoundCloud, another German subscription-based startup, and Springub co-founded the website-builder and all-in hosting service Jimdo.

That experience gives them a leg-up on other start-ups less familiar with the trials and tribulations of bringing a brand-new brand into the world. However, taking the leap from the music industry, web design, and hosting into the wide world of mobility is a big switch.

Or is it? If anything, this new venture proves that the owners of Dance don’t just get the shifting mobility scene, they also know that tech – IoT specifically – is the future. 

Like the Cowboy bike, Dance’s e-bike will be connected, with a dedicated smartphone app, remote locking and unlocking features, concierge services, and the all-important GPS location tracking.

They also pack a double whammy by opting for a subscription service instead of straight up selling e-bikes. Double whammy? How so? I mean, the turnover from e-bike sales has skyrocketed, especially since the pandemic, and so far, Cowboy has proven that it can be a lucrative endeavor. To break it down:

  1. Subscriptions are inherently sustainable – on more than one front. They represent a steady source of revenue, don’t burn through fossil fuels, and can be recycled through users starting and canceling their subscriptions.

  2. Subscriptions are more accessible and inclusive. Not everyone can afford the down payment on an e-bike and a subscription makes it possible for a more diverse group of people to take advantage of this eco-friendly form of transportation.

Invite-only or the new grassroots

With a nice chunk of change 💰from their Series A funding round to get started, things are definitely looking up for Dance e-bike Berlin. But what are they really aiming for?

A quick glance at their website will have you humming Somewhere over the Rainbow under your breath because Dance looks like they have utopia in mind. In their own words, they’re looking to start a movement – together towards bike-friendly and livable cities. Being a part of that movement means building a world that’s:

  • Greener

  • Healthier

  • More livable

The thing is though, they’re just starting out, so Dance is taking a creative approach to growing their community. For their beta round, they’ve decided to go with an invite-only marketing approach.

Now, we just mentioned how subscriptions are more accessible and inclusive. Isn’t invite-only the opposite of that?

Maybe it would be if your company was well-established, but for a startup? We think they’ve gone with a smart strategy for creating a truly sustainable brand and micromobility movement. When you’re starting out, there are several undeniable perks to going invite-only.

First, there’s no better way to create a solid, close-knit community. Dance’s e-bike subscription service features prove that they aim to make their users feel special. It’s 100% clear that “joyful” is no empty pledge to their community. So, if you get an invite, what can you expect?

  • Delivery within 24 hours

  •  Instant repairs

  •  Theft protection

  •  Dance app with tons of features

The all-in quality of their offer, from the no up-front costs to concierge services, are all designed to give you a frictionless, joyful experience that’s bound to please. Trying to offer that experience with a broad-based launch would entail beaucoup risks. Invite-only, in contrast, gives them a host of opportunities to capitalize on. Because…

Troubleshooting as a team makes your movement stronger

It’s a well-known fact that involving your users in the development of your product can create greater and longer-lasting loyalty. Consumers like to know that their opinions and their experiences count. And when you involve them in troubleshooting, you give them exactly what they want.

And…it’s a fantastic hook for turning users into genuine ambassadors. Dance’s invite-only users will get the chance to rave about the bike’s awesome features and partner with Dance to tweak their product into something that becomes an essential part of their lives.

Like Cowboy, Dance isn’t just selling a service or a product, but a lifestyle and the experience of freedom.

Going global – the stakes are high, but the bikes lanes are ready

Dance is starting in Berlin, a world-class design city with 620 km of bike paths, making it a shoo-in for launching an e-bike subscription service. And while there’s plenty of public transport available in the city, commuters are increasingly frustrated with crowding and wait times, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface traffic jams on the roads.

They’re also capitalizing on the micromobility revolution that has seen an unprecedented surge since the pandemic, and Berlin is the perfect place to do it. That’s not just because the co-founders live there, but because the whole feel of Berlin – a city on the edge of tomorrow – lends the brand a cosmopolitan feel. It’s on-trend and well, people have had faith in German engineering for cars for generations, so why not bikes?

But obviously, Dance has got its sights set further than this 891 km metropolis. After they’ve successfully ramped up with their invite-only campaign, they’d like to penetrate the rest of Europe’s market, and with the right savvy – break into the U.S. market too. The boom in the micromobility industry is undeniably begging them to put their pedal to the metal.

The question is, aside from their invite-only strategy and knowledge of a booming market, how do they plan on doing it?

Design teasers – I’ll show you my handlebars if you show me yours…

Dance has been lying low on the social media front so if you were hoping to get a good look at their new e-bike or find a list of their specs you’re in for some disappointment. But don’t give up too soon. They’re more than happy to give you a sneak peek.

We mentioned earlier that there is competition on the e-bike subscription horizon, but… if the teaser images that caught our eye on Instagram and the Dance website are any indication, Dance is going to give them a serious run for their money.  Future users shouldn’t worry about a subscription to any run-of-the-mill electric bicycle.

The snippets we get look sleek and streamlined. They also look like the future. With white, three-spoke rims and a solid, matte black frame with clean angles and the Dance logo, the design oozes style.

The message? Maybe you can’t afford or don’t want to buy your own e-bike, but you can still totally ride fashion-forward. And what international city dweller wouldn’t want that?

We all want a brighter tomorrow & Dance does too

Aside from the convenience of an e-bike subscription service and what promises to be a handsomely designed product, Dance has swept us off our feet with its uplifting, breezy and hopeful message. And that has the potential to be one of their biggest selling points on an international market.

So, let’s start with what works and break down why it does. The first thing is how they use words that instantly evoke feelings of hope, positivity, and connection, words like:

  • Joy

  • Frictionless

  • Livable

  • Healthy

  • Sustainable

  • Connected

Combined, they don’t just sell a mode of transport, they market a lifestyle – life in the city where you feel free, safe, and like you’re contributing to a better world. It’s pretty much the antithesis of the stories we read in the papers about congestion, crime, and loads of lost time.

If anything is clear from their language, it’s that the movement they want to build is based on a better world, one that their service will contribute to.

It also involves a clear call to action, one that they hope will span the globe.

“Together, and with shared passion, our growing community will become a powerful voice demanding faster progress towards greener, more livable cities all over the world.”

The language here points to their users not just as passive consumers, but as agents of change. Their marketing appeals to the better angels of our nature, and it’s especially in the world’s metropolises where people are looking to move the future forward – at a faster pace.

Their language of hope, of making life simpler, healthier, and more sustainable is infectious and holds international appeal for a more environmentally conscious urban generation. 

Even better, there’s an invitation to togetherness, a united effort toward building a better future. Big cities, despite their huge populations, are often lonely places, and the language Dance uses makes you feel like you have a chance to be more than just another face in the crowd.

The Caveat

All well and good, but… Remember how we mentioned that translating a brand’s vibe isn’t always a cut-and-dry affair? Well, despite the universal appeal of Dance’s message, there are still some risks they’ll need to watch out for as a brand. Not all utopias are the same, even when there’s a broad consensus on, say, reducing our carbon footprint and noise pollution.

In some countries, for instance, Dance might want to highlight the “frictionless” aspect. Countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium all value a certain sense of independence, and that theme might resonate more strongly with that audience.

On the other hand, Scandinavian countries really value levelling the playing field and accessibility, so words like “together”, and “unity” could carry more weight in convincing potential users to subscribe. After all, Greta Thunberg’s passion for the planet didn’t evolve in a vacuum. She’s also the product of a society famous for making the good life accessible to all.

Essentially, while the Dance e-bike subscription service has a fantastic universal message, and a service and product that are undeniably the future of mobility – they’re still going to have to tweak their content for a launch in other languages.

And obviously, when they’re ready to roll out, we’ll be there to lend a hand. The movement has started, and we hope to see you there

We love future-forward brands at ELL that aim to make the world a better, more livable place. And we’re huge fans of clever marketing that is people and environment focused. We also can’t wait to see Dance’s e-bike because those teasers have got us stoked.

But what are we most impressed by? Dance’s invite-only approach has us intrigued. They get that grassroots is a great way to get a solid start, especially since they’re up for creating a transformative community. They’ve got a great shot at developing a community that believes in the brand and what it stands for.

We also can’t wait to see how they break onto the international scene and are convinced that language will play a pivotal role. If they manage French, German, or Italian copy that’s as inspiring as the English they may just revolutionize travel in the city. And we can’t wait!

At Entre les lignes, we handled the translation and multilingual aspects of global PR and marketing campaigns. Need to expand internationally? Get in touch with us today.