It started during wedding season. Joe Fischer, holed up in the hospital recovering from a shoulder surgery, had nothing but gifts on the mind. Weddings present added pressure.
His train of thought followed thus: “you’re giving the most important gift of this relationship, and it’s just getting lost in this sea of envelopes.” What if you could make the greeting card more physical like a present? What if you could fold it up like a gift box?”
Joe met with about a dozen designers. “We instantly clicked,” says co-founder Zoe Scharf. “I thought okay, I’m obsessed with this. I have a background in letterpress and stationery and I love giving gifts. That’s always been an inherent need of mine. All of my friends are all over the place and I’m always thinking it would be great if there were a better way to connect to those people.”
From there, they built their brand, Greetabl. In three years, Greetabl has built itself into a rapidly growing e-commerce brand referred to by FastCompany as “an antidote to the Facebook Age.”
Here are the lessons we’ve gleaned from the story of their growth.
Incorporate Feedback from the Get-go
For its first year and half, Greetabl presented a few barriers to entry for the average consumer: everyone loved the concept but they couldn’t figure out how to fold it up, or what to fit inside, and they didn’t know how to send it in the mail. “Okay, says” Scharf. “That’s when we realized that this product will be completely e-commerce.”
Today, Greetabl folds up the box, sends it to your recipient with all with your customized photos and messages made beautiful, and curates thoughtful gift lists and dynamic print designs. All the customer has to do is pick and choose their personal components — not a small departure from the initial beta version.
“We really created the product from [customer] feedback and focused on filing the gifting gap,” says Scharf. “There aren’t many solutions out there for little gifts in the $10-$30 range,” not to mention the simplicity of delivery.
Having given their customer exactly what was asked for, Greetabl has since witnessed a consistent 30% month-to-month compound growth. Listening to your customers isn’t a matter of courtesy. It’s the shortest route to product improvement.
Positivity Wins the Day
Any seasoned marketer will tell you that there are at least four proven tactics they use to compel action: scarcity, loss aversion, timeliness, and retraction.
There’s only a few spots left! You wouldn’t want to miss out, would you? Only three days left. This offer will disappear if you don’t act now.
Each instills in us the same sentiment, a sense of urgency. It’s a savvy move for marketers as people are naturally driven by their emotions, but the undertones of each of these core tactics is inherently negative — and has an isolating effect. It works. But brands which lean too heavily on negativity are quick to come up against the following road block: when was the last time you forwarded an promotional email that played on the notion of scarcity? You never have! When an offer is limited, it makes you want to keep it all to yourself.
Today, shareablity is a necessary component to the success of any brand. What do we like to share? Positivity and inspiration. There are ten primary positive emotions which naturally provoke sharing. Fractl reports that amusement, interest, surprise, happiness, delight, pleasure, joy, hope, affection, and excitement are the top drivers of viral content.
Buffer makes a similar point in that one of the primary functions of social media (according to 68% of participants in a recent study) is to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about. 78% of people say they share because it helps them to stay connected to people.
Determine how your brand helps people stay connected, what feelings of positivity does your brand evoke? That positive vibes contribute to the natural share-worthy quotient of your brand.
“It’s a really fun company to get feedback on because you’re part of a gifting experiences and that is always positive,” says Scharf. "We never get people who send one to be mean. We get a lot of posts tagging us on Instagram like ‘I was having a really bad day and this came in the nick of time.’”
If you don’t think that your brand carries with it an inherently positive message, think again. Find a way to put a positive spin on a common problem. If all else fails, ask your customers.
Greetabl, for instance, receives a fairly regular stream of messages from people who have a friend who has recently lost parent or knows someone recently diagnosed with cancer.
“We realized that this was the only way they could figure out to send something uplifting that wasn’t awkward or trying too hard. It was authentic because it has their pictures. It’s a personal, meaningful thing but it’s not overdoing it. It’s not not enough,” says Scharf. “We’ve had amazing stories from people who have used us in amazing ways.”
Ground Yourself in a Simple Mission
Great products don’t sell themselves. Greetabl knew that their gift boxes needed to be properly packaged to reach the right audience. In other words, it put a lot of work into developing its brand. “Our mission is helping you to be the best friend that you can be,” says Scharf. With that in mind, the company has plans to expand beyond their core product into “more tech features and physical products in different price ranges.” Imagine if there were a way to schedule orders on the sly so that you never a miss a birthday. Scharf says that her team is working to make it as seamless as possible to get all of your friends addresses at once without raising suspicion.
Every product, every feature of their offering, every value proposition or what-have-you, all boils down the core mission of their brand.
Know Your Marketing Channels
It’s easier said than done. Knowing your audience is one cornerstone of a successful brand, but with that knowledge of who they are, you also have to fold in where they are, how they behave and how to reach them effectively with time and budget constraints—all which often takes several attempts.
Greetabl, for instance, knew immediately that their audience was active on social media. Says Scharf:
Our audience follow blogs. They’re close with their friends and family. They’re active on social media. The older version of them is at this point, used to being part from friends and family and they are looking to stay connected to their friends who are far away, who may had a bad day but they don’t want to send a greeting card because it’s a little awkward and the alternate is $50 flowers. They need something that’s in that “gift and get” zone and easy to send.
Reaching them, however, presents a totally different initiative altogether. At first, Greetabl reached out to influencers on Instagram manually. They found the Greetabl product met with a welcome reception but an unattainable price point. “Influencer promotion would range in costs from $1000 or $500 and that is just how it worked and we were totally confused by it.”
Influencer platforms proved to be no less cheaper at a time when Greetabl didn’t have a marketing budget. Rather, they worked with whoever was willing to work with Greetabl in exchange for little to no money to begin.
“Of course that was a disaster. No one was seeing it as a priority and everybody was totally confused and disorganized. We had this big spreadsheet of all these influencers we really loved and they weren’t prioritizing us because we weren’t a paying customer,” says Scharf. “It wasn’t like a, ‘hey good bye forever.’ It was like we need to pause this until we figure out how to make it work.”
Exactly. At the time of Greetabl’s first foray into influencer marketing there was no clear structure or industry-wide standards for influencers to adhere to in order to conduct an organized campaign. Market price points varied and fluctuated at random. Exchange-oriented collaborations, such as those facilitated by Muses, had yet to emerge as a popular form of conducting work.
Today, however, Greetabl has found its stride through paid social promotions and leveraging recipient activation, one of their main drivers of new customers. Friends who receive Greetabl are more likely turn around and send to their friends.
Today is our 1st birthday since launching our site! Since then, we have sent 20,000 little packages of happiness. We love helping people connect with each other, but also have been lucky to connect with so many of *you*! We've heard the most incredible stories – ones involving tears and a lot involving smiles. It's been a wild ride that has taught us a lot... and we're just getting started. As we grow the company, we also want to grow our tiny team of 3! We've got job desciptions posted at greetabl.workable.com. If you might be a fit, we want to hear from you! 👋 #deliverhappiness
Maybe Greetabl has it easy. Their product is the ultimate embodiment of its company mission to “make it easier to be a better friend,” the final outcome of which is connectedness. After all, friends who grow together, stay together—and that includes your brand.