Who doesn’t love something for nothing? Your customers adore freebies: Samples and Buy-One-Get-One deals get people through the door and help you sell merchandise and services. But if you really want to improve public perception of your business and encourage people to spend money with you, you might want to spread the wealth through another channel: Charitable contributions.
The key is to contribute your charity dollars to organizations that your customers support, in ways that do not appear self-serving. Research shows that, done correctly, your investment in social responsibility can enhance customer value.
By aligning your business with your customers’ values, you create a connection that’s even stronger than one forged by free cookies or half-priced clothing. You create the perception that you stand for the same ethical principles as your customers, that you are one of the “good guys” and worthy of their business.
When you connect yourself to a cause your customers support, they think less about how much money they are spending with you. Especially with Christmas right around the corner, this is useful information for local businesses competing for their share of customers’ gift dollars.
Some companies employ cause-related marketing, pegging their donations to sales. This can help boost the opinion of a business whose reputation is not generally positive, and is not harmful to one with a neutral reputation. However, if the public already has a high opinion of your ethics, this can appear self-serving and actually harm your reputation. Similarly, a business running its own charity can backfire, but the process may improve the reputation of a group with a less impressive record of social responsibility.
Choose a charity that makes sense for you and your business, while still appealing to a good percentage of your customers. For instance, TicketPrinting.com supports the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, whose mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, and their habitats. It’s a good match for my company, which is based inMontana. I know that many of my customers feel strongly about wildlife conservation, and appreciate these efforts.
If you’re not certain where you’d like your money to go, you can ask customers about worthwhile local groups. Be sure to research any charities you’re considering; and check out the resources available on http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/ for helpling you evaluate potential recipients. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, for instance, recommends only donating to charities that allocate 65 percent or more of the money they collect to their programs.