A spectre is haunting the boardrooms — the spectre of idealism.
The times of utopian thinking in business are truly upon us. More and more companies are putting intangibles — fresh ideas, sustainability, social justice — first in making business decisions.
Doing Good Is No Longer a Corporate Afterthought
Good works have ceased to be strictly a matter or philanthropy or image control. Whole companies are being created to right a wrong or to sustain and promote a viable alternative. Two quick examples to give you an idea.
Dean Cycon of Orange, Mass-based Dean’s Beans started his career as an environmental attorney. His cause: protecting the indigenous people and the land in the Amazon Basin. Dean worked first through policy groups, then through a charity he co-founded with an advocate for the rights of Brazilian coffee farmers. But it wasn’t until Dean opened his organically grown, above-fairly-traded coffee beanery in 1993, that he felt he made a lasting change in the businesses practices affecting the region.
Jules Pieri, an industrial designer and the apostle of Citizen Commerce, started Daily Grommet to give good-for-you great new products a place to market and sell.
Convergence of the Old and the New
It was Jules who pointed out something exciting happening in business and society today: the closing of the generational gap. Just as baby-boomer entrepreneurs and consumers are setting higher moral standards in business, the kids seem to accept the for-profit businesses as the backbone of free society. They just expect them to… have a heart.
“When the Way Prevails in the State, Speak and Act with Perilous High-Mindedness”
So, what kinds of marketing practices measure up to the lofty ideals of socially responsible commerce?
If Dean and Jules are any indication, once you’ve set up a business you feel passionate about to fill a true need and serve a worthy cause, all that is necessary to promote it is honesty, respect, and staying connected to your market.
Say what you know to be true. Be specific. Unique: how? Indispensable: why? Resist the temptation to tell the customer how they should feel about your product. Tell real stories of what the business means to you and what the product means to those who have used it. The message can only resonate if others have felt the same. And for that to happen, it must be true.
There is very little reason to spam anymore. Today’s search engines, aggregator sites (like shopping.com or our friends Daily Grommet), and social media subscription and sharing devices make it easy for the like-minded customers to find you.
Once you’ve made a connection, the web also makes it easier than ever to stay in touch. Facebook, Linked-In, and Twitter are simply ways to be at many places at once. Use them as you would a face-to-face visit. Don’t go where you are not welcome & don’t waste other people’s time. But do put in an honest effort to tell your friends, your fans, and your business contacts what might be of benefit to them and, likewise, keep up with their goings-on.