Building everything but the product


Lo Mills

Brand & Community Manager @ Homethings

We’ve all witnessed the long lines outside Apple stores when a new iPhone hits the market, and we’ve heard about how Sony’s PS5 sold out globally before it was even released. But for most people bringing a new product to market, launch day doesn’t look quite like that. We spoke with Lo Mills, Brand & Community Manager at Homethings, to hear about how to get your community excited about your product before it even hits the shelves.

Homethings is a UK-based company dedicated to creating environmentally-friendly cleaning products that keep your home, dishes, and laundry clean without using any single-use plastic or selling you a product that is actually just 95% water. Although the product is both genius and effective, like everything great, it started as an idea.

Homethings packet being poured into a bottle.

Before the product

Lo gave us a quick rundown of the history of the company. “Homethings was founded in the summer of 2019 by Tim Keaveney and Matthew Aubrey. By October, there was an amazing idea and a name, but there was still no final product,” Lo recalls. “At that point, I was brought on to build the brand, develop content, and start to create a community around our idea. So, before we even had a physical product, we had a solid team making sure that everything else around our product was being built right.”

Black and white picture of homethings teams sitting on a couch.

While some companies begin with the product and work from there, Lo believes that, in a lot of ways, this method makes more sense. “Defining our brand early gave us so much clarity when developing our product,” she explained, “It was clear who we were, how we behaved, what we believed in, and who our ideal customers would be. These are the guiding principles we use when making decisions even today, years later.”

“Defining our brand early gave us so much clarity when developing our product.”

Building hype and providing value

Once Homethings had completed developing their first product, tabletised cleaning sprays,it was time to grow the business. As part of the Antler accelerator community, the founders got the funds they needed to get off the ground and the feedback, support, and expertise of influential individuals who understood the space. “We held a big demo day, which got Homethings a lot of exposure,” Lo recalls, “but then we realized we needed to ride that wave and keep the momentum going.”

Homethings team holding a box showing off their product.

According to Lo, one of the most important things you can do as a brand is invest in your community. Homethings started a podcast on sustainability, together with Daze Aghaji, a climate activist, and Ryan Kohn, founder of Proper and a dedicated environmentalist. “We knew this would be a good way to identify, understand, and reach people who would be interested in our product,” Lo said, “We built long-term relationships with our potential customers, promising to send them products and keep them in the loop once the product was officially launched. But our relationships were always human first and transactional second.”

“But our relationships were always human first and transactional second.”

“Our original launch date was supposed to be March 2020, but we were forced to delay until the summer because that’s exactly when Covid hit,” Lo remembered. “We took those extra few months to really build up the hype around our products and get people excited. As part of a successful Kickstarter campaign, we recorded an amazing promo video and spent a lot of energy engaging with our community and helping them feel like they were part of something big. We wrote about the product on LinkedIn and other social platforms, and we all also just spoke about it to our friends, family, and basically anyone that would listen!”

However, in order to build a community where your members actually want to engage, it's important to provide them with value, even before your product is completely ready. “Our Newsletter, The Tap, is a really important tool for our brand,” Lo explained, “People sometimes overlook newsletters, because other forms of social media are so quick, and newsletters are usually just focused on getting people to buy something. Our approach was a little bit different. Our community is made up of people who are really trying to learn about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, so we just wanted to give them tons of tips and information, without expecting anything in return. Of course, we hoped that, through the newsletter, we would build relationships, and that when the time came, they’d want to give back.”

A man holding a Homethings bottle and sponge with his are behind his back.

When making a newsletter, Lo spoke about the importance of thinking of creative ways to incentivise your readers. “People want to get something in return for giving you access to your inbox,” she said matter-of-factly, “and even more so if you want them to share your pre-launch campaign with their network as well.” This principle goes beyond the newsletter as well. “You need to know and own your sector,” Lo explained, “Make sure that your website’s FAQs really answer peoples’ questions.”

Ready for takeoff

When Homethings was finally ready to launch, they paid attention to every aspect of the user journey. “When you’re D2C, touchpoints are extremely important,” Lo emphasized. “From embedding the tone of voice in every aspect of communication, to making sure the website was perfect, the checkout was smooth, and the unboxing experience was in line with the brand.”

For example, Homethings includes a “bonkers fact” in every touch point. “Something quirky and unexpected, like ‘Did you know that otters fall asleep holding hands?’” Lo elaborated, “We know our target market, and this is the kind of thing they love. We want to give them this experience at every touch point.

A collection of Homethings products sitting on a shelf.

Thanks to all of the thoughtful steps Homethings took far before the product was ready, their launch day was a huge success, and their business has been growing steadily since then. “Our community members were so excited to post and share our products on their social networks with all their friends and followers,” Lo recalled, “By providing them with so much value and investing in our relationships with them far before they were actual consumers, we were able to build a solid community around something that we all really believe in.”

“By providing them with so much value and investing in our relationships with them far before they were actual consumers, we were able to build a solid community around something that we all really believe in.”