making a profit and making a difference: part 2


marketing with meaning

I learned my first lessons about entrepreneurship, community and marketing when I was nine years old. Like many kids, my novice enterprise was a lemonade stand. However, unlike my competitors down the street who stuck to selling sugary lemon water, I expanded my horizons quickly. In all fairness, I cannot take full credit ”” which is part of the story and what left a lasting impression on me.

I had a loyal first customer in my neighbor, Mr. Sperry. He was a big fan of my personal twist on lemonade ”” I added fizzy water. He soon mentioned that he enjoyed cookies with his lemonade. No problem. I started selling mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Profits increased with word of mouth. But I achieved my greatest success because I continued to listen to Mr. Sperry, who quietly commented how he loved walnuts in his chocolate chip cookies. This was my first “listening to the customer” experience and a valuable lesson that continues to serve me today.

In my previous artile, we explored Practices one through five of Marketing That Matters. As you’ll see, Practices six through 10 are not so far from that lemonade stand.

Practice Six:

What’s Driving the Customer Decision?
Communicate Value and Values

Your value proposition is the clear statement of tangible results a customer will get from using your product or service. Your values proposition is the message you convey to express your core values and provide a clear differentiator with the competition. This also gives your customer an opportunity to express his/her own values.

A new company that gets this right is gDiapers. Their environmentally friendly value proposition is summarized on the company website: “Imagine taking your baby’s soiled diaper and simply flushing it down the toilet. No more smell. No more diaper. No more diaper pail. You’re putting waste right where it belongs, in the toilet, not in a landfill.” Through a genuine “voice” that is sympathetic to the needs of all parents, they deliver their core message: that gDiapers are great for your baby (value), and great for the planet (values). They could have chosen to lead with their environmental statement. But, the reality is that almost all parents ”” whether they’re eco-focused or not ”” are extremely focused on their baby’s well-being first.

Practice 7: 

Emotions Trump Data
Connect with the Heart First, Mind Second

Building a relationship with a customer isn’t all that different from dating.  When we meet someone we find attractive, most of us don’t begin by analyzing why we have a magnetic pull in his/her direction. No doubt in our personal lives, our emotions influence our actions. The same goes for marketing.

In a world full of multinational chain hotels with no authentic voice, I really wanted to personally connect with the guests at our new Hotel Vitale, but clearly I don’t have the time to meet each one. So, we publish a colorful magazine that shares the best places guests should seek out in the San Francisco waterfront neighborhood.  And, at the front of the magazine is my photo with a personal message: “What’s truly important in life? Is it the fact that you’ve traded up to the BMW 7 Series from the 3 Series, or is it the collection of memories and experiences that you’ve treated yourself to over the course of your lifetime? Many of us have come to recognize that our material possessions aren’t what sustain us. Instead, what’s significant are the daily little vignettes we create in our lives.” It goes on to say that the magazine is an “instruction manual for creating memories”, and just how important the hotel and its guests are to me personally. I include my e-mail address and encourage guests to be in touch. Each month, I get dozens of e-mails from happy guests.  And when I receive the occasional complaint, I’m able to make that emotional connection, too ”” hopefully finding a solution.

Practice 8: 

Building a Community
Empower People as Messengers

It’s one thing to hear people talk about a great product ”” it’s another to hear someone share a love affair they’re having with a company or how they feel about belonging to a community. One good story from a friend far outweighs the potential of an expensive ad. Every person who comes into contact with your yoga business is a potential storyteller for your brand. And people that are most likely to share an opinion are the true believers who feel part of a brand’s community or “cult”.

The popular British company, Innocent Drinks, was launched with this in mind. Three young blokes decided they wanted to quit their boring jobs in advertising and management consulting and start a smoothie business. They set up a stand at a small music festival in London and put up a big sign saying “Do you think we should give up our jobs to make these smoothies?” They put out one trash bin that said, “YES” and one that said “NO” and asked people to discard their empty bottles into the right bin.  They got very quick and detailed customer feedback and now, just a few years later, they’ve built their company into one of the UK’s best-known socially responsible cult brands.

Practice 9: 

Walk the Talk
Be Authentic and Transparent

Authenticity is the foundation upon which the marketing program for a socially responsible business is built. Transparency is the insurance policy that creates trust and drives accountability. Being authentic to your values and utilizing transparency are practices that will hold you accountable and differentiate your marketing.

Seventh Generation voluntarily discloses all of the ingredients used in their “green” cleaning products. The company provides customers with information that helps them to make informed choices ”” establishing important trust by only making authentic claims. When products contain ingredients that are not sustainably produced, they say so. In essence, Seventh Generation is telling its customers, “While we have removed many harmful substances compared to conventional brands, we are still striving to find alternatives.”  They post this information on their website, further demonstrating a commitment to operate their business transparently.

Practice 10: 

Use the Power of Your Voice to Change the World
Leverage Marketing for Social Impact

The power of business is not new, but the use of business voice to advance a more just and sustainable world is now being pioneered by more socially responsible enterprises. While there are many examples of this, it is perhaps best exemplified through the simple act of making a phone call.

Working Assets empowers customers to easily advocate with their elected officials by directing a portion of the company’s revenues to the causes and policy issues they care about, serving as both a unique value proposition and a compelling values proposition.  Before Working Assets, who could imagine that reading and paying your phone bill could better connect you with issues, give you the ability to vote with your pocketbook every time you make a call and radically simplify telling your elected officials what you think ”” by virtue of a basic long distance call? They have amplified the power of their customers’ voices.

Socially responsible businesses by their nature are forces for change. Your business has the opportunity to make marketing matter ”¦ and to change the world.

read part one

Read next >> david greenspan from the chopra center