What does your company stand for?

If your objective is to make more money than Bill Gates and pay your executives outrageous salaries, don’t count on customers, prospects, or employees believing in you. Companies driven solely by quarterly sales figures and stock-price increases demonstrate that they’re in business largely for themselves and little else.   A company with a cause greater than itself, however, often creates emotional connections with its customers. These customers in turn tend to become the company’s evangelists — that volunteer force of customers and prospects who spread the word and convince friends, family, and colleagues that your products and services are the best.  Business Coaching can help you explore your companies connection to its clients.

What is a Cause?

A cause gets people talking on a deeper level. It’s not something marketing departments dream up. A cause embodies the principles and values of an organization’s leaders and employees. From the receptionist to the CEO, employees demonstrate their belief in the cause with their actions every day. The marketing department communicates the cause everywhere, and company strategies are devised around it.

A cause should be simple yet meaningful. It is something to believe in and rally around. A well-defined cause usually:

  •  Defines a company’s vision
  •  Inspires people to be better
  •  Generates big effects
  •  Catalyzes selfless actions
  •  Brings people together

There are two simple ways to build emotional attachment underneath the umbrella of a cause:

  •  Adopt a charitable cause
  •  Sell dreams instead of products

Let’s look at the differences between these two concepts.

 Adopt a Charitable Cause

American Express is credited with coining the term “cause-related marketing.”  Business in the Community, a London-based organization focused on corporate social responsibility, defines the term as “a commercial activity by which businesses and charities form a partnership with each other to market an image, product or service for mutual benefit.”

The Cone/Roper Cause Related Trends Report shows that American consumers consistently support cause-related programs. Given a choice between two products of equivalent price and quality:

  •  78% of adults said they’d be more likely to buy a product associated with a cause they care about
  •  66% said they’d switch brands to support a cause
  •  61% said they’d switch retailers to support a cause
  •  54% would pay more for a product that supported a cause they care about
  •  The report also found that 80% of Americans prefer companies that commit to a specific cause for a long time period rather than those who opt for multiple, short-period causes.

 Companies that support causes for the long haul win the hearts of customers. For example:

  •  Avon: breast cancer research and treatment
  •  Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream: environmental and social issues
  •  The Body Shop: environmental issues and human and animal rights

Sell Dreams Instead of Products

In a world of marketing smog, how can you make your company stand out?

Sell something bigger than a product. Sell a dream. Attract customers by demonstrating that you want to help people live better lives.

This does not mean slapping a dreamy slogan on a product and announcing that it will change the customer’s life forever. Plenty of late-night TV infomercials already sell crap that is too good to be true. Prospects are skeptical of contrived marketing.

The following are a few examples of how companies sell dreams instead of products: 

  • Southwest Airlines: Ask an employee the company’s cause and she’ll tell you it’s freedom: freedom to be an individual, freedom from the complications other airlines introduce, and freedom from the years of legal maneuvering that nearly prevented the company from starting decades ago in Texas.
  •  Starbucks: Each Starbucks location is a meeting point for neighborhoods and communities. Starbucks’ cause is strengthening the threads of community.
  •  Apple: This was the first company to define a personal computer as part of a larger cause. The famous “1984” commercial introducing the Macintosh set new standards in advertising and defined its precedent-setting technology as the antidote to tyranny (in this case, IBM).

What’s your company’s cause?  More importantly, how do customers say you’re changing the world? Let business coaching help you define the societal issues that affect your customers and prospects. Then build plans to demonstrably and systematically support those issues. 

When it comes to a cause, challenge yourself and your organization to think big.