The customer you have is the most important, because they’ve already linked themselves to you by purchasing your product. Like the proverb says, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” But, the marketplace, whether it be for ideas, services, or goods, is tumultuous. There are always new competitors emerging on the scene, trying to pilfer that hard-won customer away from you.
So what’s a savvy company to do?
First, we all know it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than recruit a new one. In an environment where consumers are ready, even eager, to jump ship for something new — whether because it’s cheaper, more exciting, or easier to access — it’s easy to find yourself racing to the bottom, just to maintain your status quo.
That’s why inspiring loyalty should become one of your top priorities, if it isn’t already. Because a truly loyal customer isn’t just a consumer. A truly loyal customer becomes an evangelist. They don’t just buy your products, they encourage others to as well. Evangelists are why the sponsored post industry rakes in billions of dollars per year, and Kylie Jenner commands more than a million dollars for a sponsored post.
So, assuming you don’t have the money to buy your own Kardashian, how do you create loyalty?
It starts with reminding your customers, over and over, why your product is special to them. If you don’t already know, find out what leads them to purchase your product over your competitors. What are your customers’ demographics saying about their interests and the causes they care about? Does your company already have a compelling or inspiring story? A cause it champions? Do people know that, or are you just doing it out of the goodness of your heart?
Great news: you can be both philanthropic and make a profit! You are not undermining the value of your contributions to your community by being successful. There’s a certain mindset that says altruism can only be acknowledged externally, by others, or it’s not true altruism. Sort of like the argument that champagne can only come from a certain region in France. Well, champagne and not-quite-champagne taste remarkably the same going down, and the same is true of altruism and not-quite altruism.
The largest purchasing group, millennials, love cause-based purchases. They purchase products that align with their moral code. A few hot-button issues to connect your company with might be:
- Language and inclusivity
- Affordable housing
- Food insecurity
- Animal rights
- Environmental and sustainability issues
- Racial injustice, or
- Climate change
Taking a stance on these types of issues is much more likely to increase your company’s bottom line than pumping extra dollars into generalized social media campaigns or commercials. Think of other companies who inspire this type of loyalty: Patagonia, Apple, JetBlue, Microsoft, Dr Bronners, and even smaller companies like Cupanion.
A few simple ways to take a stance are:
- Move towards one of the 17 UN goals
- Financially support or volunteer at local food banks or soup kitchens
- Adopt and promote policies that support any of the causes listed above
- Form connections with local charities
- Adopt recyclable materials into your supply chain
- Publicize what you’re already doing
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of competitors trying to push you out of your customers’ minds with flashy doodads, 24 hour customer service, bargain basement prices, and other things. Even if you push your company to its absolute limits in one of these areas, someone, somewhere is beating you on one or more aspects that will inevitably undercut even your hardest-fought efforts.
So that’s where the concept of conspicuous philanthropy comes in. You don’t just have a product anymore; now, you have a story. Storytelling is an incredibly powerful device for companies of every size. Not only does it establish your brand’s values and voice, but you have the added benefit of contributing some good to the world as well. Even better, the costs of your philanthropy are offset by the increased consumption of your product.
Make no mistake; philanthropy can be detrimental if you don’t do your research. You don’t want to donate to an organization that’s ineffective in accomplishing its stated goals, and you want to work with one that’s poorly governed. But once you find a cause that fits the bill, you’re going from the two-dimensional bloodbath of the quality/price marketplace to three-dimensional chess. After that, it’s just as simple as finding a way to tell people about it, without looking like you’re tooting your own horn too hard.
So what are some ways you can show your customers what you’re up to?
Social Media: Share details about the causes that you support on social media and tag relevant organizations. Doing this allows customers to learn more about what’s important to you.
Sponsor Events: Put your philanthropic investments on display by sponsoring events in your community, and blast it on your channels. You’ll be able to showcase your generosity, but it also gives you a great opportunity to network and build relationships with other like-minded people in the area.
Public Relations Firm: Tried and true, there’s a reason these experts stay in business. It’s not just about crisis management; PR firms can also help you spread the word in relevant spaces. Remember, the cost of doing something poorly can be greater than the cost of paying an expert to do it well!
Brand your Products: Consider putting QR codes and messaging on your products that describe your philanthropic efforts. Bonus points if you use your digital platform to encourage your customers to contribute as well!
Host a Live Stream: Youtube, Twitch, and even the dreaded Facebook all offer opportunities to connect directly with your customer community. You can host benefits in a digital space at a fraction of the cost, encourage direct, easy contributions, and be the face of your cause.
Encourage Participation: You can do this physically, or digitally. Encourage some of your top customers to participate by having a contest, drawing, or other consumption-based entry, where the prize is getting to spend time with your company working on your philanthropic efforts. They care, you care, and sharing the activity and outcomes will show just how much effort your organization is willing to put in.
So get out there! Use your influence to make the world a better place and share what you’re doing as loudly and often as you can. As you make these moves, you may find that you need some assistance or inspiration. If you do, Liiingo will be here to help you share your story with the valuable customers you already have, and let others know about what you are doing and who you are.