In a few short months, Jon Bostock’s latest venture, Truman’s, is upending the cleaning market. Launched on February 27, 2019, Truman’s is a direct-to-consumer cleaning subscription service that aims to deliver simple-to-use sustainable cleaning products while still providing effective solutions for real families and their cleaning needs.
The brand uses a patented concentrate and cartridge system. Users fill one of Truman’s stylish and sturdy spray bottles with water and pop in a cleaning concentrate cartridge that delivers pre-measured solution while preventing contact with the users’ skin or eyes while the solution is strongly concentrated. The company says that each cartridge is fully recyclable and uses far less plastic than comparable cleaning products in traditional formats.
The brand launched with 10,000 customers and continues to experience strong growth. “We’re adding hundreds of new customers every day,” Bostock remarks, with the company reporting month-over-month sales growth coming in between 30% and 40%.
Part of the brand’s success comes from the knowledge and experience its co-founders, Bostock and Alex Reed, bring to the brand.
Finance your brand promise
That knowledge and experience include insights that Bostock developed as a business, marketing and consumer-ventures leader at GE in addition to learnings from his time as COO and then president of Big Ass Fans. His approach is both philosophical and practical.
“Branding and the brand experience extend to every aspect of the business,” Bostock explains. “This extends to the supply chain, to package design, and to the very way you financially structure the business.”
He adds, “What I’m saying is that this commitment must be aligned to the entire business. Let me give you an example of the opposite of my philosophy: If a customer service rep is told to treat the customer like your friend and do everything you can to solve problems. But that rep is then told, ‘You can only spend $150 a week on customer issues.’ Then that rep is going to be fine for a while, but once they hit the $150 threshold, they won’t be able to adhere to that customer-service philosophy. That’s where you start to see the issues with some brands today.
“As we look at our spend plan for the next 12 months, we allocate funds to solving customer issues,” Bostock explains. “This is a financial decision that is part of the brand experience. If you believe in customer centricity, then you have to have dollars allocated to resources and to processes that support customer-centric practices.
Aim to befriend your customers
Bostock’s example hints at another aspect of Bostock’s customer-centric approach to branding. “It is easy to forget that a brand takes on a personality that is very similar to an individual’s,” Bostock says. “What brand leaders have to remember is that they have context that relates to where the brand came from, ‘who’ the brand is and how the brand responds in certain situations. This relationship is very similar to how friends interact with each other on a day-to-day basis.
“In friendships, you have an appropriate level of what we would call, in business, ‘a service promise,’” he adds. “You’re not going to sign over the mortgage to your home to a friend, but you certainly are going to help out a friend when you can.
“Because of our ‘friendly’ approach to customer service,” Bostock explains, “we are choosing to provide arguably the best level of customer service that we can provide. There are other brand leaders who say we’ve taken this friendship promise a step too far. For example, when we sent a refund to a customer via Venmo because they needed the money in seconds. We made that decision because we believe going that extra step best aligns to our brand.
“We just had a new individual start in customer service, and we explained the customer service philosophy to her like this, ‘Treat our customers like they’re your best friend,’” Bostock says.
Conversations versus message broadcasting
This friendly approach also applies to Truman’s social marketing practices. “Social marketing is a brilliant way to get our story across,” Bostock explains, “but what we really like about social media is how it provides a venue where our customers and people interested in our brand can interact with us.”
He adds, “One thing about social media that we didn’t anticipate is how much people want to interact with me personally as a co-founder. If you had talked to me before the company launched, I would have said, ‘We’ll just use Truman’s branded handle.’ But through my personal handle on Twitter, I can respond to people’s questions in fun ways. Recently on Twitter, some people were asking about the efficacy of our products. In one reply, I wrote, ‘I think it works extraordinarily well. Full disclosure, I started the company,’ and I ended the tweet with a smiley face. This has been an excellent way to get feedback, good or bad.”
Personal relationships created between Bostock and customers via social media are also helping inform Truman’s future product development. “People are really loving the core products we have today,” Bostock remarks, “but we are hearing loud and clear that customers want us to hurry up and get disinfectants. All of our formulas now are nontoxic, and they work extraordinarily well. But sometimes you need a toxic cleaner like during flu season.
“Part of being a human-centric company is understanding that there are sometimes some very human problems that need to be solved,” he adds. “And if I’m a transparent person and honest, I would have to admit to you that nontoxic cleaners are not going to help you during flu season. I can’t tell you that you only need nontoxic cleaner if you keep your home clean because that’s not true all the time. So answering customers’ demand for a disinfecting cleaner is our No. 1 goal for future development. No. 2 is developing solutions to use with laundry and dishwashing machines. Three is developing cleaners specialized for use in homes with pets.”
Bostock ended our conversation with a very sage piece of advice: The market is very clear on what it wants from brands, and today that feedback is instant.
We know that Bostock will be treating that feedback as if it was advice from a good friend.