Everything is up for reinvention.
An inventor reimagines the cooler and gets funded $13 million on Kickstarter; online retailers now thrive without physical stores; you call for cabs from your phone; magazines are being created in a time where print is supposedly dead—these are remarkable times for businesses and entrepreneurs.
When studying these new products, it becomes evident that creativity, empathy, connection, belonging, and a vigilant focus on the customer experience are the foundation to creating something exceptional. Gone are the days of the “General Store” and trying to create something that’s for everyone.
Here at Help Scout, we love studying businesses that are doing great work. We’re curious as to what values or mindsets they hold and how that plays a role in their process, product, marketing, and growth.
Below I’d like to share my experiences as a new customer who was ‘wowed’ by a company that gets it.
Every Search Starts with a Problem
This year I had some issues with shaving, and like any typical guy, I began walking up and down the aisles of my pharmacy to look for a solution. I tried nearly everything; I was getting excessive bumps and ingrown hairs, and I realized that regardless of if I was using a double or quadruple blade, I was getting horrible results.
Tired of being a guinea pig, a few searches on Google—like “How to reduce red bumps on my face”—landed me on a website called Bevel.
Right away, all of my problems were addressed, along with content on why their product was the right fit. Although the copywriting and design clearly stated that this product was tailored for African Americans, there were a multitude of factors that won me over.
When I received my shaving kit, I knew right away this company was doing something special. The attention to detail, from product to website, expressed the values of the company and the standard to which they abide.
Their rapid growth is no mystery. It’s a culmination of leveraging empathy, belonging, creativity, content, and a focus on solving a commonplace problem.
Design Is Empathy
The famed designer and author Debbie Millman once said, “The fundamental backbone of any good design solution is measured not only by what motivates an audience to think in a particular way, but what inspires them to feel a response.”
Websites are essentially about communicating and creating first impressions. First impressions matter and are hard to remove from our mind. When a customer lands on your site, how they feel will determine how the relationship will unfold. This is where great design closes the chasm between lead and customer.
When I landed on the site, the first thing I saw was a beautiful product, the right use of subtle colors, and an emphasis on what was essentially important—my problems. No other shaving kit looks like this. The design of the website was simple enough to pique my interest, and I started clicking around. Look at their tabs: why Bevel, proof that it works, and two tabs focused on content. Talk about using empathy as a first impression.
Like any customer, I wanted proof that it worked. When I clicked on the tab “Proof,” here is what I landed on.
This is an excellent way to leverage empathy and authority. First we have the “Dermatologist Approved” sign, which is of paramount importance when claiming to solve a pervasive problem (ingrown hairs and razor bumps).
What really won me over were the customers’ stories—and not just stories from the intended niche, but all ethnicities with all kinds of facial hair, which alleviated any doubts that I carried. Each story resonated with me because it was something I was dealing with. I also love that each video was user submitted—you can spot which ones were made on an iPhone because of that vertical video format.
Educating and Motivating with Content
A focus on creating great content expresses an important company value: a desire to not only sell the product, but to educate the customer on how to use it in order to improve their day-to-day. Put simply, if your customers have to go elsewhere for information on the product, you’re missing a great opportunity to build and earn trust.
No matter what kind of product you have, you can create content that provides helpful information. For a product like a shaving kit, it is ideal to educate your audience with research-based insight and helpful visuals—and Bevel does this fantastically.
Everything from the difference between razor bumps and acne to using different kinds of razors to how to clean your clippers—they focus on educating and empowering their customers (and they don’t even sell clippers).
Videos like the one below are simple, powerful, well-made, and show the product in action.
Using all different kinds of media—blog posts, videos, infographics, and images—shows the focus on understanding the customer’s fears, doubts, and needs.
Content can build trust—and even attract leads and turn them into customers—because when potential customers land on your site, they’re often landing with a lot of doubts.
Speaking directly to them shows that you’re empathizing with their frustrations and providing a solution. Whenever I need shaving advice, I go right to Bevel’s company blog instead of reading the link-bait headlines I find in my search results.
Values Are Like Magnets
After analyzing the website and product top to bottom, I was ready to purchase. I was convinced that the product would be the panacea to my problems, and at a price that I was happy to pay.
However, I’m also the type of customer who cares about the values of a company. It’s a learned appreciation. I believe companies that succeed do so because of their values and team culture.
When I scrolled down to the end of the site, I clicked the About tab, watched the video on CEO Tristian Walker, and heard his mission. Although it wasn’t about selling the product, it addressed something more powerful: why he was building this product.
This exemplifies Simon Sinek’s famous quote, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Hearing about Walker’s own personal frustrations in having razor bumps and the marketplace not providing a solution resonated with me. I was happy to see their values front and center on their About page.
By understanding their values, I know they’re focused on learning from feedback, paying attention to my needs, tinkering with what’s broken, and creating a product that is focused on the long haul.
This may not have been the biggest selling point, but it nudged my decision to buy. If it wasn’t there, I don’t think it would have hurt, but the fact that Bevel felt compelled to express their values lured me in because it’s something I personally hold in high regard.
On Tailored Products Competing with Popular Ones
Let’s take a quick look at all the products that are competing (and winning) against popular options.
- 50-cent temporary tattoos from vending machines versus Tattly.
- Hailing a cab in the city versus calling one from your phone using Uber
- Unable to get a hotel in the city for a few hours versus Breather—peace and quiet, on-demand, from your phone.
- Expensive university courses versus websites like Skillshare and CreativeLive.
- Smart and experienced (but inaccessible) business leaders versus Clarity, a service where you can get on the phone with some of the most respected leaders and entrepreneurs and pay for advice by the minute.
The story about the guy who reinvented the cooler—calling it the Coolest—and was funded $13 million, makes a lot of sense. Here is an old product, one that hadn’t changed much in over 50 years, but what had changed outside of the product was the culture and how people used a cooler. It was made during a time when products were built on the industrial mindset—mass produced, mass marketed, no other options, one size fits all.
And yet, over time, different demands arose, like making frozen margaritas on the beach or listening to music without draining a phone’s battery. The inventor of the Coolest understood how people spent time around a cooler and created solutions to their demands. And here we all are wondering why we didn’t think of it first.
Think back on when I landed on the Bevel site. The homepage addressed my concerns right away; they provided content to show why their product works, as well as how to use it efficiently; and they didn’t bombard me with all their different products but instead spoke to my concerns and doubts, educating me on best practices, showing me videos, and providing visuals that I hadn’t seen elsewhere.
As Seth Godin said in Linchpin:
“Our economy has reached a logical conclusion. The race to make average stuff for average people in huge quantities is almost over. We’re hitting an asymptote, a natural ceiling for how cheaply and how fast we can deliver uninspired work. Becoming more average, more quick, and more cheap is not as productive as it used to be.”
What’s working beautifully are the products that focus on a customer’s problems, being resourceful and educating with content, and keeping it simple with a website that uses empathy as a first impression.
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