When everyone is talking about , it’s hard to imagine anyone might develop a company around paper products. However, digital transformation Erin Condren has done just that with the LifePlanner, starting the company in 2005 with personalized note cards and stationery.
The company, which includes an array of lifestyle and organizational products, has sold over 2 million LifePlanners worldwide, both online and through their flagship retail store in Austin, Texas, which opened in 2017. Her paper products have been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Ellen, and The New York Times. Also, the brand has over one million social media followers across multiple platforms. Now, Condren has added key brand partnerships, including Amazon, Oh Joy!, and Joss & Main.
Her success with paper in an age where so many people are moving away from this medium and toward digital communication is perplexing until you hear what she has to say about why her product focus still works.
The Power of Paper
Convincing anyone that paper is still important in the age of smartphones and mobile devices may seem like an impossible task, especially when LifePlanner first launched the same year as the first version of the iPhone. Yet, Condren truly believed in the power of paper and writing things down. “I have always been a lover of lists. And, I truly think there is value in physically putting pen to paper. There’s research that shows it increases productivity.”
For Condren, the gamble on paper has paid off. It turns out that Millennials with “scroll fatigue” are getting tired of the glass screens. Now, they are reaching for a pen and paper to do their planning. Even digital mainstay companies like Amazon recognized the potential of this brand. Also, companies like Oh Joy! have realized how to leverage a brand partnership for the mutual benefit of both companies.
Condren explained, “We’ve printed some of her whimsical and stylish designs on our signature products and been able to interact with and discover new kinds of customers. It’s really exciting to look for new ways to collaborate with like-minded, positive brands.”
Looking at the Demographics
The brand’s passionate and engaged community of devoted analog planners consists of 99% women, with the majority also being moms. Many of the women are also teachers and healthcare professionals. Their busy lives, which include work and hobbies, lead them to look for ways to stay organized and maximize their time. Condren noted, “As a businesswoman, it’s empowering to not only run a female-dominated company internally, but it also is important to me that I can serve and create products for busy women who aim to get the most out of life.”
Digital Isn’t Everything
The demographic data also shows that the digital age isn’t everything. While there is so much to love about the digital environment, including e-commerce, there is still a clear need for analog-based products and brick-and-mortar locations. Condren saw that today’s consumer really wants both worlds. “They really love being able to touch and feel as well as write and explore our products. It’s an exciting time to be able to straddle the line and really optimize both spaces.”
Condren added that the tactile nature of planning on paper cannot be underestimated. “There is something so satisfying about crossing off a task on a to-do list that just isn’t achievable digitally. I think the popularity of paper products is a reflection of the times we live in. Sending a handwritten thank you note is so superior to shooting a quick text. Planning on paper is more than just organizing. It’s like real-time scrapbooking where you can record memories, too.”
Lessons That Cross All Environments
In going against the grain with an analog product business model , Condren learned some key lessons. “The first few years of this business, I printed, packed, and shipped every package myself, including a handwritten note to each customer. While I’m not able to physically do that any longer, engaging with my customers is a huge priority. Knowing how these women are using my products and why it’s important to them and what role planning plays in their day-to-day lives helps inform me of how best to provide them a rich experience.”
Other lessons for Condren have also come from growing this business from her children’s playroom to a global operation. First, she would have thought more about naming the company after herself, including the use of her own name as the domain name for her business. She hadn’t considered the repercussions of using her personal name, something she might have done differently. Now that Condren has a better understanding of branding, including separating personal branding from product branding.
Then, there was the rapid expansion the company experienced, including a 100% growth rate for several consecutive years. This made scalability incredibly challenging. “While I wished I had known the answers to some of those operational issues, those growing pains have actually helped lead to the implementation of some amazing workflow and production processes.”
Relevance and Experience in the Digital Age
However, Condren believes that all these lessons were necessary for her and any other entrepreneurs and CMOs out there. She also proves that there is still potential for companies with traditional products to thrive in the digital age. It’s just a matter of understanding what an audience wants, filling that, and working across channels to satisfy those service experience expectations.
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