Archive for the ‘Giving Back’ Category
This post has nothing to do with business issues. It has to do with kids who lit up an arena today with sunshine that rivals the brightness of a midmorning in June.
I offered to take pictures of kids today who are learning to ride bicycles. Some traveled quite a distance to the Palmer Arena in Danville to learn this new skill. They used special bikes because they are special kids. Now I am not using the term “special” in a patronizing way; I sincerely mean that they are special, the way a piece of Dove chocolate found on your pillow is special, the way getting flowers from a secret admirer is special. Special equals extraordinary, unusual, not commonplace. Special here soars, is beautiful, is radiant. These kids are radiant.
Each child at the Lose the Training Wheels camp has a disability that makes bike riding more difficult. A few examples: Some have autism; others have cerebral palsy; still others have Down Syndrome. The program even services kids who have had a traumatic experience and are now terrified of learning to ride in the conventional way.
Lose the Training Wheels is an organization of bike techs, therapists, and all-around good hearted, well-trained people who believe in the power of meaningful accomplishment and the freedom of two-wheeled travel. They bring in bicycles with a sort of rolling pin back wheel mechanism and a variety of learning aids for the students. The kids go through an incremental program that eases them into the feeling of balance and speed. They have spotters and runners who provide encouragement and protection. The one-on-one attention, the expertise of the LTTW staff, and the specialized bikes add up to a winning formula: about 80% of the kids who participate in a LTTW camp are able to ride balance a bike on their own for at least 90 feet. This statistic is, to my mind, significant.
(Funny, though — you can’t measure the smiles and tears of the onlooking parents with a statistic. There is no ruler to measure that kind of pride and delight.)
Imagine what a gift this is to the students’ cognition, to their self esteem, to their confidence, to their sense of independence, to their connection to the world.
Interacting with kids who sit a little taller with their chin a little higher, smiling from ear to ear, makes the program worth every effort, every second.
Today was day one, and I’m pretty sure that this is going to be a great week. Thanks for the sunshine, kids.
Most of us in central Illinois have graced the inside of a Walmart at some point. You might find yourself there weekly — maybe more often — for groceries, fishing gear, baby medicine, a replacement headlight . . . you get the picture.
You won’t find much in the way of customer service at Walmart. Obviously, it’s all about price and convenience. Everything’s under one roof.
If you’re reading this, my guess is that your business model is different. You probably don’t want to compete on price and survive on volume. Few small businesses are successful doing that.
Your success will come from one key ingredient: Relationships.
Walmart doesn’t care whether you like them. They don’t care whether you approve of their tactics. You probably don’t know many of the employees by name. And you certainly don’t have to worry about anyone in a navy blue shirt asking if you need help finding anything. You’re on your own in Walmart. People go to Walmart because they know they’ll save on their groceries and other needs. Few people take the time to consider why Walmart’s prices are so low.
Walmart is hated, reviled, made fun of . . . by many of its patrons!
You: On the other hand, you know that your customers are your lifeblood. They keep your lights on. You surely know that you should treat them like gold.
But “treat them like gold” goes well beyond just being friendly and kind when they come to visit. If you want to really build deep relationships with the people who matter most to your success, consider these ideas:
1. Join local charitable and civic organizations.
Giving back to your community builds a relationship with those in that community. People who see your involvement will come to trust you more. Trust is key. Earn it with some sweat equity. (Ideas: Habitat for Humanity, Ambucs, literacy programs, hospital fundraisers.)
Can you do just one project this year for a local non-profit? What goes around comes around — your business will benefit in unexpected ways if you use your business’s resources to help those who help others. I would bet that you’ll end up ahead on the deal in the end.
3. Treat everyone like your best customer.
Imagine that a car cuts you off in traffic. Perhaps you succumb to road rage, yelling and shaking a fist. You get up next to the offending car at the next light . . . and it’s a client! Not good.
You never know who will buy from you in the future. That high school punk might be an up-and-coming business owner in ten years; are you sure you want to insult him?
Furthermore, today’s tiny account could be tomorrow’s biggest money-maker. You have no idea what tomorrow brings for you or your current customers. It’s best not to make assumptions about anyone who crosses your path.
So smile at people. Hold your tongue. Be polite. Pass on the gossip. This is good advice for daily life, but it’s really good for business. People want to do business with people who are pleasant. Are you pleasant? What adjustments do you have to make to get to that point?
Attention 501(c)3 organizations!
If your tax year ends on December 31st, your taxes must be postmarked by tomorrow, May 17th. (The 2 extra days stems from May 15th falling on a Saturday this year.)
If you have questions about filing your organization’s taxes, you can contact Tessa Hile, finance consultant at Laurus.
On Facebook this week, a post caught my eye. I’m going to paraphrase here to protect the innocent. The poster said, “Whatever happened to humility? Is it necessary to tell the whole world about your charitable contributions by putting it on a billboard? Are people really that narcissistic?”
This was a reaction to a billboard in Champaign, Illinois. It was apparently put up for a Realtor who wanted to alert home buyers that she supports a local charity with a percentage of each sale.
From the conversation that ensued on Facebook, this clearly offended more than one person in Champaign.
I’m quite certain that the marketing minds behind that billboard were looking at the situation from another angle entirely. My guess is that they thought that people would want to choose a Realtor who supports the community, and that heck, if you’re going to buy a house and pay a commission anyway, why not choose a real estate agent who is going to take some of your hard earned cash and use it to help the needy?
The approach obviously backfired.
Supporting charities with profits is really an excellent way to get some positive press, capture clients, and do some good in your community. In fact, one business I consult for donates 10% of each new sale to the charity of the customer’s choice. They provide a list of 5 charities to each new customer and ask them to choose+. Then, when the customer pays the bill, 10% of the labor paid goes directly to that charity. The company makes a copy of the check to the charity and sends it to the customer in a thank you card. This practice is working for him: The business owner has gotten great feedback, repeat business, referrals, and other good “buzz.”
The billboard is a bit different. First, it’s a pretty public (not to mention impersonal) statement of your company’s policy. That certainly can smell of narcissism to a portion of the audience. (Whether it is the intended audience or not is a different story.) Also, the way this was phrased on the billboard somehow managed to disconnect the homebuyer from the charity.
A marketing tactic that involves charitable contributions can only work if the buyer feels invested in the action of giving. In this case, there is a major fail here — many that saw the billboard didn’t immediately equate doing business with the Realtor with helping a worthy cause. Instead, it came off as a gimmick, a cheap ploy.
Another lesson: Don’t doubt the power of social media, especially when it comes to negative press. You never know who is Facebook friends with whom; nor should you underestimate the reach that annoyed tweeters might have. Retweeting bad impressions about your business is easy; picking up the pieces of your reputation, not so much.
And yet another lesson to be learned is that of testing. A lot of entrepreneurial marketing consists of, “Hey, that sounds like a good idea — let’s try it!”
Yikes. Don’t do that.
This Realtor could have saved herself some embarrassment by planning, investigating, and testing her idea before putting it up for 100,000 people to observe. One Champaign resident saw the billboard and put it this way: “So you give to charity. Good for you. Do you want a cookie?”
You can avoid ever having anyone react to your marketing efforts that way. Research. Plan. Test. Hire someone to do those things for you if you don’t have time. It pays to avoid looking like a narcissist.