A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.
👋 Welcome to For The Love, so happy to have you all here!
Today we’ll be discussing:
How one brand gets value (more than just dollars) from their customers
A roundup of new launches this week, including a new sparkling water to help you “find your frequency,” which shockingly isn’t the most controversial thing about it.
A mysterious new pet product
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💣 For The Love of Startups
While most companies think of customers as just a revenue stream, they can be so much more — advocates, contributors, and even employees, at least in the case of Little Spoon.
Little Spoon started as a line of baby food and has now expanded to kids meals, vitamins, and lots more, in no small part thanks to the involved, passionate parents that make up their customer base.
Their purchases have obviously contributed to the growth of the business (to the tune of 9 million meals) — but their input and involvement have also been crucial to Little Spoon’s success.
Co-founder Lisa Barnett explained:
“Our customers are our center of gravity at Little Spoon and they've really become integrated into literally everything that we do from product innovation to product feedback to being a part of the team, to really driving the change in conversation that we want to drive as a brand.”
So how did they do it?
How do you turn someone from a customer into a contributor?
Well, here are a few things that worked for Lisa and the Little Spoon team.
Give Them a Clear Path to Getting Involved
“I really believe that your superfans, like your customers, are not created, they're cultivated,” Lisa explained.
“You have to give them small and big ways and little onramps to continue to get involved. And you gradually take them up this curve, wherefrom a business perspective, you can get them to really drive a lot of value as they get more and more integrated with the philosophy and the problem that you're solving and really believe in what you're doing. It's really a matter of creating these win-wins and gradual ways for people to participate that fit their lifestyles and what they want.”
Sometimes that’s as simple as encouraging an Instagram commenter to join Little Spoon’s community, the aptly named, Is This Normal, or to post on social media themselves.
“Another initial small onramp is just feedback. We send out a survey after the first delivery and just ask for any level of comments. We don't require anybody to answer all the questions, we let them pick what they want to answer — 95% of our customers volunteer their email and phone number to talk.”
Once they’ve started engaging in a small way, they are offered more opportunities.
“Then you start to take people up — we've gone as far as to engage people in co-authoring articles on Is This Normal, sharing a tip that they have and we give them ownership over that tip and distribute that to the community.”
Importantly, giving them visibility, and amplifying their voice in return, making them feel valued and part of the team.
Lisa’s approach was inspired by social movements:
“Think about a charity that wants you involved because of a certain effort — they're going after $1. Just the dollar...Then ‘do you want to sign up for this content?’ You learn more about an issue you might care about...all of a sudden you're fundraising for them and running a race. You know, it's really the same theory.”
Provide Various Ways to Get Involved
While they do have some defined paths for customers to engage with the brand, they also have a range of different options, so there’s a path for everyone.
They have an ambassador program, which is only open to existing customers to keep reviews and endorsements authentic.
“It’s really a natural permutation of this very basic idea that your customers are the best marketing channel that nobody thinks about — we think about Facebook ads, we think about emails, we think about all these traditional digital channels. But if you really just focus on this customer and making them happy, they will be the ones that tell everybody else.”
They used to (and will again) have in-person meetups, which were actually initiated by community members.
“Pre-COVID, we were doing a lot of local meetups that were actually organized by people part of the community themselves, and then all of a sudden, we realized they were happening”
Naturally, the Little Spoon team wanted to support the meetups and added more framework around them — sending experts to discuss topics of interest to the group, ranging from fertility to nutrition.
And of course, there’s also their content and community platform, Is This Normal, where people can comment, ask questions, and even join a more formal group of contributors.
“We created a whole collective...It's about 75 people today, who will answer your question whether it's written or in a video format, where it's just community members paying back to fellow parents, like our community has raised their hands, and said, ‘I want to help a fellow parent.’”
Not to mention the fact that Is This Normal was born from customer interactions. It “literally exists because we had so many of our prospective and current customers talking to our customer care team,” which “really opened up a lot broader conversation that far exceeded questions about our product. That was a big realization for us that there was this need for something greater to really connect parents together to understand what the realities of parenting are.”
Speaking of the customer care team, that’s actually another way for customers to get involved.
“Our care team started off because in the beginning of launching Little Spoon, we had a beta program, and one of our customers who is a part of this early access program had reached out wanting to get involved, loved our mission, loved what we did.”
She had customer experience and after having a baby was looking for more flexible, remote work.
“So we hired her and it was literally one of the best decisions we ever made. Because that started a whole approach to building our customer care team, with customers, with caretakers, people who live and breathe what our customers are living and breathing. And we look at our care team as a form of brand marketing, not as a cost center, they're really the people who are on the ground.”
Let Them Drive The Conversation
Creating a range of opportunities for customers to engage with the brand has led to a number of Little Spoon’s product development ideas, informed by conversations with customers — not because Little Spoon is asking, but because they’re listening.
“There are a lot of needs that you start to see in the market when you're talking to your customer, when they're explaining how they're using your product, when they're asking for things when they're sharing different problems that they're facing, that sometimes surface new opportunities...Many of them are not direct. It's not like can you make a product for this? It's very implicit.”
Little Spoon has built a number of ways for customers to share their thoughts, and make sure it’s known that they welcome all types of comments (whether it’s about their product or not).
“Our care team will handhold the whole experience, they'll get on the phone, they'll talk to you for an hour, it could be about the product, it could be about something else.”
Also, they know their customers are busy working parents, and so allow them to engage in whatever format they prefer.
“They will share their ideas and their insights, and they have the answers, it's just a matter of asking the right questions and providing various ways for people to provide that feedback. Some people like a quick phone call, some people prefer to just post in a group, some people prefer to take a survey and write it down...we even have a mechanism where people can record a video response to a question so that it's really quick...then we have really rich insights in the moment that they're experiencing a pain point.”
When customers see their pain points being addressed, it makes them brand loyal, but also brand advocates.
As Lisa told me:
“I talk a lot about building a brand like a social movement, they were activated in a way that a social movement would inspire people to come together and make change. And the idea was really to drive a sustainable, long-lasting business and a valuable community both because they're getting value and because we're getting business value as well, from having that relationship.”
🔥 For The Love of Newness
Soft Services, a newly launched skincare brand, “makes treatments for the skin on your body”.
Ami Colé is a new “clean beauty brand made to celebrate melanin-rich skin.”
Sow Good is a new line of plant-based and freeze-dried snacks.
Pepsi has entered the functional sparkling water market with Soulboost — including ingredients like ginger “for those days when you’re having trouble conjuring basic charms” (erm, okay). It launched into some controversy over how “inspired” it was by female-founded Droplet.
Paradox Popcorn just launched their Kickstarter — it’s “protein-packed vegan popcorn that actually tastes good.”
Adidas and Allbirds gave us a sneak peek at their *very* sustainable sneaker, for release in 2022.
Sky Ting Yoga and Boy Smells are here to elevate your at-home yoga practice with a candle collab.
Cuup, maker of undergarments that “support you” in 40 sizes, added swimwear to their lineup.
🌟 For The Love of Sponsors
As you may have noticed, I’ve added a new section here where I’ll occasionally include ads. I’ve been thinking about how to do this in a way that feels authentic because I want this newsletter to add value. With that in mind I’ve decided to only partner with companies that I believe in, and ones that are offering services, not products. That way you also know the consumer products I’m writing about are products (or strategies) that I believe are unique, interesting, and enlightening.
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce my first partner, Day One, who are helping founders find product-market fit.
They do this by embedding founders into a diverse, inclusive community of peers, mentors, and investors, where they receive 1:1 guidance from experienced startup builders, and leverage a venture-studio methodology for validating and accelerating startups.
Founders who join the Day One Fellowship shave months off their journey toward product-market fit and increase their odds of building a successful business. They gain clarity and direction. They find accountability and build momentum. They get advice and answers on-demand. They multiply their network (which pays dividends far down the road). Whether you're an experienced or first-time founder, if you're still searching for product-market fit, Day One is here to help.
Cohort 4 of the Day One Fellowship kicks off early June. Seats are filling up so head over to www.joindayone.com to learn more and apply today!
🔍 For The Love of the Details
Guaranteeing results with an offer of your money back is a bold move.
Not saying anything about what those results will be, save for an arrow pointed at a puppy’s privates — well, that takes…
One scoop is all your pandemic puppy needs to turn from its coat from gray color to light brown — which will clearly change his life and seriously confuse the hell out of him.
“Do you think they’re going to know what the product does?”
“Of course they will! Who wouldn’t understand what’s going on here?”
“Are you sure?”
“Fine, we’ll put an arrow. Are you happy?”
You may not know what it is, but you can trust it because it’s Made in America.
Thank you for being part of For The Love!
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Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.