Making a difference is the new Buy-One-Get-One-Free

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This week, I gave a rare talk on the subject of Social Responsiblity at a convention for credit union executives and board members.  The talk is based on my third book: Saving The World At Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do To Move From Making A Profit To Making A Difference

For the credit union industry, this is a natural.  The Credit Union Movement in North America started when a Canadian reporter named Alphonses Desjardines found out about a man in Quebec who was being charged $5000 against a paltry loan of $150.  The “Just-For-Profit” banking system, he reasoned, wasn’t working for people.  Within a decade, St. Mary’s Credit Union was founded in New Hamphire and by 1934, the Credit Union National Association was founded in Estes Park Colorado.  Many of you benefit from this socially responsible structure of banking services: By and for the members.  Not Just-For-Profit. 

I challenged my audience to extend the vision from fairness in banking to complete social responsiblity.  This includes community and cause projects as well as environmental sustainability programs.  Most of all, I encouraged them to talk the walk – sharing the cause with members. 

Some might argue that you should just do-the-right-thing and not make a fuss about it.  Some are put off by cause marketing, so they get involved with local community projects or global concerns…and neglect to offer the giving opportunity to customers and/or employees. 

This is missing the purpose of marketing.  In his classic book, The End Of Marketing As We Know It, former Coke CMO Sergio Zyman declares that good marketing is “a service, that adds value when you purchase, own or consume the product.” Example: Coke is refreshing!  

He’s right too.  Think of Tom’s Shoes and it’s compelling one-for-one value proposition: When you buy a pair of them, a pair is given to a needy child in the developing world.  By making the choice to wear these (lower quality) shoes, you have a chance to help someone far away.  In our new-reality where conscipuous consumption is uncool – this is a way to spend and enjoy.  

Making a difference with your purchase dollars is the new Buy One Get One Free.  So, whether you are reducing environmental impact by eliminating paper (receipts, printed bank statements, etc.) or supporting the local food bank with a portion of profits – make sure the customer knows about the program!  They will garner more satisfaction this way, and it may also drive loyalty and incremental purchases of your products and services. 

One caviat: Be very transparent about the difference you make.  If it’s cause marketing, communicate exactly what percentage of profits flows through.  If it’s environment, provide a metric that everyone can understand (for each year you go paperless, you save a tree).  This way, the customer (or in the credit union case, the member) can make an informed decision about what they are supporting – and whether it’s just better to give straight to the cause.