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One of the first lessons I learned as founder and CEO of Truly Free is that meaning well does not guarantee success. Years ago, when we were a startup, I had it in my mind that all I needed to be successful was an unshakeable vision to make a positive social impact, a must-have product, not a nice-to-have product and an easy-to-use website. Reality dispelled that notion quickly.
Anyone new to ecommerce learns quickly that having a website doesn’t mean website traffic just appears. Basic logistics, however, forced us to reconsider everything — the cost to ship our natural laundry detergent costed as much as the product itself.
We went back to the beginning. This didn’t mean simply finding a solution to the immediate problem, although that was central to our effort. We started with our business’s core goal: providing a safe product for families, especially children and those with specific allergic reactions from chemicals and harsh ingredients. The outcome was us completely re-envisioning the modern laundry room and how we did business.
Four key elements emerged as we scaled our business into a successful social impact brand. These critical components required more than good intentions and a website, but the journey — and more importantly, the results have generated a positive social impact far beyond our original vision. Here are four ways social impact businesses can boost their brand’s purpose and bottom line
1. Make relationship building a core competency
To us, customers are family. This approach is more than simply a way of thinking — it is our way of doing business.
With every decision, we challenge ourselves to reflect on whether we would do this for our family. Would we want our family to use a product with these ingredients? Would this offer or price be fair and something we would recommend to our families?
Every detail matters. Attention to detail may be a well-worn idea. Still, when customers actually witness the attention and energy put into every detail — from their experience on the website to the ingredient list on the product — they begin to see your company not just for the products you generate but also for the values and mission you are putting out into the world. These efforts result in authentic transparency and trust, the foundation for a solid and long-lasting relationship.
For example, we put every ingredient on products, so our customers can research for themselves. Based on customers’ feedback, it has played a major role in creating the long-term relationships we aim to establish with them.
Relationship building may be a unilateral initiative, but it goes a long way with every customer. We understand transactions pay bills, but our experience proves that relationships build companies.
2. Connect humans to humans
Our non-toxic fabric softener dryer sheets are handmade by women rescued from poverty and trafficking. Our customers know this and resonate with this. Our customers also know the money they spend with us goes towards helping free women and children from trafficking, shelter and feed orphans and even a village in Haiti that is hearing impaired.
We make it a priority for our customers to know the power of their purchase and how it positively impacts other people’s lives.
Transparency combined with purpose makes for good business. Amplifying the human element of your business right out of the gate can rapidly communicate your mission statement and strengthen your position as a social impact business.
3. Prioritize convenience
Everyone’s busy. We don’t want hassles, and neither do our customers. We may have the best intentions, but people won’t subscribe to our offerings if we are hard to do business with.
Brands must always prioritize convenience for every customer interaction. For example, as an ecommerce, subscription-based business, we thrive on subscriptions. If brands can make a customer’s life easier by automating an offer, like a subscribe and save model, then they should integrate that into their website, promotions and upsells. At the same time, we also recognize that a new customer may not be ready to make a recurring commitment after the first brand interaction. To ensure you’re presenting options that will enable potential new subscribers to familiarize themselves with the brand, businesses should offer a way to buy single transactions at checkout and a compelling offer or bundle that will further entice them to try out the subscribe and save with no strings attached.
At first, some brands might think this model reduces subscriptions when it results in a “dating” opportunity, where a new customer can get to know the brand without the total commitment upfront. As a result, and if done correctly, your subscription base will likely continue to grow.
By prioritizing convenience in every customer interaction, you are empowered to reduce friction and ultimately meet every existing and potential customer’s unique and situational needs.
4. Reimagine the business model
As noted at the beginning, logistics forced us to reimagine our business model for the better. Shipping for laundry detergent costs as much as the product itself. Our original plan was a surefire way to go out of business fast.
What was the problem? Weight. What could be done about it? This question challenged us to approach laundry detergent in a whole new way.
Water makes up the bulk of detergent. Removing the water would solve the problem and help us fulfill our mission of eliminating millions of single-use plastics. This solution led us to pioneer an entirely new vision of the cleaning and laundry space for homes. Today, we sell refills, not giant plastic bottles that end up in landfills.
Business doesn’t have to be business as usual. Taking a closer look at operational challenges introduces opportunities to reconsider product development completely. And when you take a hard close look at the details, you can completely reimagine the direction of your business for the better.