We’re thinking out of the box today. More specifically, the Laurelbox.
When we focus on the inner workings of our business 24/7, we can get so caught up in the day-to-day, the data, strategy, and planning that we forget to tell our story…or even lose sight of what our story is.
Today we’re talking about inspiring our customers and reaching them in new ways. You’ll hear the story of how one company goes above and beyond to reach out to their customers.
I interviewed the owners of Laurelbox, Johanna Mutz and Denise Wolfe, about their box company, which specifically targets people who’ve experienced a loss and are in deep grief.
You’ll learn how they started Laurelbox, who their typical customer is, and how they get an understanding of their customer needs so they can curate this box in a way that really speaks to the people who are in this place of pain.
And no surprise here — we also talk about how they use Pinterest in their marketing strategy!
Pinterest analytics play a prominent role in this story. They know all the numbers when it pertains to their Pinterest customers and how they are engaging with them.
Their story is truly inspirational!
Before we dive in and hear their story, I want to let you know we just completed our free 5-day Pinterest challenge last week. If you missed it this time, you can sign-up for our next round of the challenge here.
If you are new to Pinterest and struggling with how to get started, we have many great resources that you can discover under the FREE RESOURCES tab on our site. We keep everything updated so the information you find will be exactly what you need to market your business effectively on Pinterest.
And of course, we would love to have you join us in the Simple Pin Collective any time.
Let’s dive into Denise and Johanna’s story.
Laurel Box: A Business Success Story
The Inspiration for the Business
About 6 years ago, when Denise’s friend had a baby and shortly thereafter he passed away, she found herself in a position of not really knowing the right thing to do for her. She had never experienced such a deep loss.
Around the same time, Johanna had a good friend who had lost a child as well. The two cousins started brainstorming what they could do for their friends. They just couldn’t find what they were looking for to send to their grieving friends. It just wasn’t out there.
Filling A Need: How Laurelbox was born
One evening, Denise’s husband looked at her and said,
You need to create this company that you’re out there looking for.
She remembers feeling very overwhelmed and inadequate, but she knew there had to be other people out there wanting to send something to a grieving friend but unable to find something that would be perfect and appropriate.
So as her husband suggested, she decided to create it.
Johanna came on board with Denise. For several months they met with many people who had experienced different types of loss. They focused primarily on mothers who had lost children, had a miscarriage, or were experiencing infertility.
They started brainstorming ideas from those meetings and writing them down. They began creating a line over about seven months which became Laurelbox.
Appropriately, Laurelbox launched on Mother’s Day of 2015.
The Early Days of Laurelbox
Johanna and Denise are best friends and cousins. The relationship between the two is really strong and unique. They give each other a lot of grace, but they also hold each other to a high bar.
Their roles within the company were established very early. Denise had a background in product sales so she started creating the products and Johanna quickly jumped in to help. Johanna previously worked as a museum fundraiser and the two realized her expertise aligned with the business side (website, marketing, and customer service).
They shared a vision for how the box should look. They wanted it to be very intimate and detailed. When a woman opened her box they wanted everything she could touch and see to be aesthetically stunning to her.
That was their goal from the beginning.
In 2015, there was nothing out there that matched their vision. There were products that were more trinket-like. The customized, personalized piece of it and the attention to detail simply did not exist.
In the beginning stages of Laurelbox, Johanna and Denise worked with had a lot of volunteers to bring their product to market. They were blown away by how many steps go into each detail of the product and the final packaging of each box. It’s very intricate — and that’s how the cousins wanted it.
The Laurelbox Customer
Most of our customers are women.
Sometimes they are the woman who has lost a child and is grieving. She wants to buy something for herself to honor her loved one.
Other times it’s a friend who doesn’t know what to say or do to help. They are looking for a gift that’s unique, special and intentional. They want to have confidence that what they send has been carefully thought-out and is going to nourish their loved one’s heart.
The team at Laurelbox supports the customer in making choices. They make sure their message is appropriate, that the gifts are high quality, affordable, and that they serve as treasured memorials and keepsakes.
Determining The Exact Need
Denise and Johanna had the vision of what they wanted their product to be from the beginning. But the product has evolved and changed through the years.
When they started out, the box contained handmade burlap envelopes. Now the boxes have a more classic modern look.
The team listens to what their customers want, but tries to stay a step ahead to provide that gift that will have them saying, “Oh my gosh! I didn’t even know that I wanted that.”
When they first launched, Laurelbox offered only 14 products. Some of those are no longer available, some are exactly the same and some have evolved. Currently, they offer approximately 85 products! Design aesthetics have changed over the last five or six years.
One of the great things about Denise and Johanna as a team is that they have been able to stay true to the heart of what they are doing, while not being afraid to tweak things and always have it be something that’s special.
The Importance of Focus
Denise and Johanna both have this clear vision of what they do. The “why” of their business is still clear.
When they first started Laurelbox, people would ask if they could create different kinds of boxes (e.g., birthday gift boxes or celebration gift boxes).
In the beginning, when they were trying to grow and expand revenue sources, it was especially tempting to stray from their vision. But maintaining their niche focus is what has made their products and packaging so powerful. They have stayed fully focused on their original goal the entire time.
As a result, Laurelbox has become something beautiful that they are really proud of.
At Laurelbox, they have a customer-first culture. They work to make sure they fully understand what their customers desire.
They ask for product reviews via email after a customer has placed an order. Oftentimes our actual customer isn’t the recipient of our product, but they tell us how their loved one responded. They often receive responses like,
She told me she cried when she opened it and she felt so loved and that she’s a customer forever.
About once a year, they send out a customer survey. They use this tool to gather valuable such as demographic data, what products the customer is looking for, and a price point that works for them.
They also have a really involved social media community and they lean on them pretty heavily. They communicate to their audience about future products that are in the works and how they’re working to develop them. They show their followers a few different versions. Then they ask them to weigh in on what design they like, what words resonate with them, what scents they like, etc.
Through the years, they have used that information gathered via their social media followers to slowly tailor their product lines to be exactly what the customer wants. They take customer feedback and analytics very seriously when creating new product lines.
Laurelbox and Pinterest Marketing
Denis and Johanna have loved watching their Pinterest following grow. When they worked with Simple Pin Media a year ago, they had pinned maybe three times the year before. So it has been quite a change for the team to evolve from never pinning to pinning every day.
We have found so many customers on Pinterest and we have noticed that our traffic is increasing. It’s so exciting when someone says, “I found you on Pinterest!” – Johanna
One of the first things they remember from their initial consultation with SPM is that Pinterest is a long game — it does not typically produce immediate results. Denise and Johanna have experienced this with Laurelbox. By early 2021, they have already made more revenue on Pinterest than they did in all of 2021.
It’s exciting to see how Pinterest marketing builds on itself. What they did in 2020 is still paying off in 2021 — so rewarding!
The Laurelbox Pinterest Customer
The team has found that that people who come to them through Pinterest are looking for support in reaching out to a grieving friend.
Johanna shared that some great advice they received from Simple Pin was to make sure their pins are specific to the different kinds of losses that people are going through.
Some of their pins that perform best are about topics like Gifts that are Great for Someone Who Has Lost Their Dad or Gifts That are Great When You are Grieving a Miscarriage. Many new customers have come to the Laurelbox site because of those pins. They have found that the more specific the pins are the better they perform.
The Value of Analytics
Denise and Johanna have learned a lot about their business through Pinterest analytics.
One of their favorite stats is that the average order they receive through Pinterest is actually $7 higher than the average order they receive through Facebook or Instagram.
They’ve also learned that customers who come to Laurelbox through Pinterest are almost always new customers. They love getting customers through Pinterest because they are so often someone they haven’t connected with yet.
Laurelbox has a return customer rate of 29%. Seventeen percent of return customers come from Instagram. That percentage is only 2.7% for Pinterest.
Pinterest is just a great platform to get a huge volume of new customers. That’s been so valuable for their business.
Advice for Business Owners
Reach Out to People You Respect
Early in their journey, Johanna and Denise reached out to people who they respected. One of the very first things they were told by a friend who became a mentor was so important:
You aren’t the first one with this idea and you won’t be the last. You just have to be the best.
They clung to that and I think that made a difference in our success.
Have a Guiding Purpose
Denise and Johanna have this mantra: “Start how you want to finish.”
When they were tempted to stray, they remembered what their mentor told them:
Just do this one thing really well and your audience will trust you. Then you can open up your umbrella and do other types of loss boxes, but first do this one thing really well.
For them, the one thing was grieving bereaved mothers and they have remained true to that purpose.
It’s hard sometimes, but they have chosen excellence from everything from their packaging to their products, as well as taking care of their customers.
If we have a customer who isn’t happy, I am known to pick up the phone and call them. I listen to them, I ask their child’s name, and I say their child’s name. They often just can’t believe I took the time to call them. – Denise
Each interaction and each order for a box is met with an excellence mindset. They don’t treat their responsibility lightly.
Johanna and Denise want to change the grief industry market when it comes to gifts to send to loved ones who are grieving.
They want everyone to experience the excellence in care that they offer. They believe Laurelbox is the best. With their products, they’ve aspired to create a really beautiful bridge between the grieving one and the loved one who is trying to support the grieving one.
Create a Healthy Company Culture
Denise and Johanna are really fortunate to have a really unique relationship. Having a partnership with someone who you trust completely has been key. It’s really a powerful thing. It’s like a microcosm of what they want to see happen with others.
They try to keep their relationship healthy and vibrant – built on mutual trust, admiration, and grace.
When they began hiring employees, they talked a lot about the company culture they wanted.
I love that as we grow we see the values we place on our partnership trickling down to our employees. It really feels like a community.
Know Your Analytics
Both women believe that taking a deep dive into their analytics has helped them a lot.
When you realize that what you are doing in your business has a direct result on the other end, it does help you know where to spend your energy. Analytics can steer you in the right direction.
They hired a consultant in 2019 who really encouraged them to rely heavily on their analytics and helped guide them in how to do it. According to Johanna, without the laser focus on analytics information, they would not have been able to stop spinning their wheels and find a space to create what they are passionate about.
It just goes to show you that analytics may not be exciting, but the data is really valuable.
We had a few people in the beginning who said this dream wasn’t going to work. But that was not our mindset ever. Our mindset was always this will work.
Not every day has been easy but it is a really beautiful thing we’ve created. We lean into that.
The Future of Laurelbox
I really believe that we will be in more spaces like hospitals and funeral homes. We will be more accessible to people who want to support those who are grieving. We aim to be that place for “in lieu of sending flowers.”
We often hear “Oh my goodness yes! I would have loved something personalized. I got so many flowers.”
Oftentimes, friends just don’t know what to do or say and so they do nothing. That doesn’t nourish anyone in the situation.
Community and friendship are what drive us.
I believe friendships are really what you need when you’re going through something really difficult.
A lot of times it’s not that your friends don’t want to be there or that they aren’t wonderfully intentioned. They just need somebody to help support them in that goal.
Through Laurelbox, friends feel like they can send something super beautiful to their grieving loved one and it will just strengthen their relationship even more. The ultimate goal would be to have more people experience that.
That’s where we’re headed. Becoming a household name for how to support others in their time of grief.
Wow! I love this story!
I think it is amazing and it’s so encouraging to me. I hope you are inspired to go and look at your stats because they are going to tell a story.
Denise and Johanna’s analytics for Laurelbox told them that Pinterest is where they are going to find their new people.
Pinterest is a platform that has its own purpose and its own connection point which bears out in the ways people come into your business’s ecosystem.
The owners of Laurelbox learned that new customers were coming through the pathways of pins that relate to specific types of loss. The pins lead them to this great blog post about how to support somebody who’s going through a particular type of grief. Through that blog post, they get connected to Laurelbox, where they discover a pathway to help them support their loved one in the right away.
As business owners, we can get all emotional about our product and our customers and end up spending time in unproductive places or in unproductive ways. The owners of Laurelbox learned where to focus different efforts from closely examining their data. They were able to determine that it made sense to invest in Pinterest because the numbers were telling them they find new customers there.
I love that focusing on analytics was one piece of their advice to other business owners.
We can create a ton of different models and great core values for our business, but if nobody is buying, nobody’s buying! You don’t have a business at that point.
I think business success goes hand-in-hand with knowing your analytics. Analytics can tell you what’s working and not working.
I hope this story inspires you to dig deeper into your business and to continue to go after what you want, remembering why you started your business in the first place.
Related Podcast Episodes:
- Origins of the Tailwind App: A Business Success Story
- Overcoming Fear in Your Business: Learning to Do It Scared
- Simple Pin Story Update: Lessons Learned over Eight Years
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