In case no one has told you, marketing has changed since the Mad Men days. People don’t want the businesses they interact with to push propaganda about their product. Customers today want to know the deep stuff about what matters to your brand. People want to do business with brands who are committed to making a difference.
The internet has put information at people’s fingertips and made the business world smaller. Your customer can research what they are looking for, all the places to find it, make payment, and be ready for service in the time it takes to finish a cup of coffee. Cost difference can be a big influence but customers are also interested in who they do business with. The desire to support a local business, or at least a regional one, can be seen in the success of Small Business Saturday. Besides helping stimulate the local economy, people enjoy being able to have their needs met with products and services that are locally sourced. Even more important is that people enjoy the connection with the business. They want to ask the business owner about a product, greet the receptionist with a lively conversation about their mutual support of the same university, and other seemingly little things that add up to make the customer feel their contribution to the company’s bottom line is worthwhile.
The catch 22 here is that when you are introducing yourself to clients in the virtual environment of social media, your website, or a blog, it is more difficult to demonstrate places for your clients to connect with you. Brands which revert to the outdated method of trying to gain customers by touting business achievements are finding they are losing out to competitors who are committed to making a difference. A recent article in Co. Exist reports that in North America, 42% of “people are willing to pay extra for products and services that they believe come from companies committed to making positive social and environmental change”. This is where you can use your virtual spaces to share how your brand is helping. Share a link to the local newspaper’s story about your company’s gift (of time and/or money) to a local non-profit organization. Blog about your brand’s giving goals for the year and tell why the organization(s) you designate giving to matter to you. These are the places that people will connect with you and make them want to help you fulfill your social commitments. Even if they never step foot inside your business, they can feel good about contributing to your success.
Customers don’t care about your business goals, in fact, those kinds of figures make them cynical. They want to see that your brand is genuinely interested in making a difference with any profit you make from them. Share the contributions you’re proud of in your online spaces. This is what makes customers want to do business with you. Be sure you are showing them how your brand is committed to making positive changes, not your bottom line.
Of note: This is not an endorsement of corporate giving as a marketing strategy. I choose to do business with brands who are truly interested in embracing the kind of responsibility that online marketing has encouraged.