Neil Blumenthal and his friends found that the experience of purchasing sunglasses and eyeglasses was not a great one: it was tedious, lacking transparency and it was expensive. Plus, the choices were often bland.

Like other entrepreneurs, when he saw a problem, Blumenthal provided a solution, and the idea of the e-commerce eyewear brand Warby Parker was born.

According to 99U’s interview with the now CO-CEO Blumenthal, the approach for messaging for the brand was to focus on “fashion first, price second, and social mission third.”

Simple enough. I heard about Warby Parker through a blog first, and then Twitter. When I shared the website at the time with a colleague, they were impressed with the fashion, and sold on the price. His exact words: “Not bad.”

The Warby Parker site now reads: “Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to create boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at a revolutionary price point.” (Warby Parker glasses are just less than $100, which compares to other eyeglasses that run from about $250-$400 a pair.)

So what was the secret behind their social media marketing success? And how exactly do you change the mindset of a consumer who might just be suspicious of buying glasses online?

“You build trust by giving it away” is what Blumenthal says.

“Brands can do better than sitting in the Ivory Tower,” he continues. “…If you want to build deep relationships you have to show some warts.”

The idea that you build trust best by giving it away first is true with customers and it’s also true on remote teams.

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Part of what enables trust is selecting self-managing professionals for your team. Once you’ve selected those team members, leaders then provide people discretion to handle their responsibilities as best they can.

When helping people move from a traditional work setup, to a setting that’s virtual, one of the things we have to help people with is this very idea of putting trust in others.

Trusting someone else first can be hard because of the unknowns, and quite frankly, because there’s some risk involved. 

When Warby Parker lets people orders five pairs of glasses, and they ship them to customers for free, they are showing that kind of trust. Customers then have 5 days to return the frames they do not want.

They clearly made these strategic choices putting trust in their customer first.

How else do they trust their customers? They listen…to all aspects the customer is sharing with them. They see their customers as their allies, and they take their feedback to heart. This commitment extends from the product to the website experience.

The company also enables their customer service department to use discretion to keep customers happy—and yes, that requires putting trust in customers first!

It’s fine to know the risks involved when trusting others first. The potential upside and gains you can see from taking that risk are limitless.

With that in mind, my question is this: can you think of at time you were on a high performing team with sustainable success where there wasn’t trust?

High performing teams have one thing in common: an overwhelming sense of trust.

Trust shapes how our team works together, and people have a great sense of when you have trust (or distrust) in them.

That same kind of trust is present with Warby Parker customers who go on to gladly act as advocates for the brand as they share where they got their glasses with friends and family. If a customer is telling their family or a friend about the positive experience they had with a brand, they trust that this same positive experience will happen for the other person as well.

It is those referrals from brand enthusiasts that have helped propel Warby Parker to now be seen as a disruptor in the eyewear industry.

Kim Sykes Edoc

READ MORE: If you liked this post, you might like “5 Ways to Build Your Brand Authentically

Kim Sykes is a marketer and content creator at Edoc Service, Inc., a total virtual company.