How to Use Customization to Gain Customers

Coca-Cola is a brand built on scenes of enjoying life together.

Coke has worked tirelessly to promote not only its product, but the message behind it: that sharing, or gathering family and friends together, brings happiness. “Enjoying a coke” is the message in every ad, every culture, and every medium Coke communicates through.

The company’s 2014 "Share a Coke" campaign was one of its memorable marketing initiatives in history. That summer, Coca-Cola removed its iconic logo on 20-ounce bottles and replaced them with 250 of the country’s most popular names. Consumers were encouraged to find bottles with names that held personal meaning and to share them with others or post photos online with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. Within the first year, more than 500,000 photos were posted. Consumers ordered over six million virtual Coke bottles, and Coca-Cola gained roughly 25 million Facebook followers.

A Distinctly Personal Experience

What did Coke tap into that prompted this momentous reaction?

In part, it was the desire for a personal experience. For teens and millennials, personalization is not just a fad, but a way of life. Today’s consumers place a high value on self-expression, individual storytelling, and staying connected. Coke powerfully aligned playfulness, fun handheld products, and customization in a campaign for the ages.

In today’s global economy, consumers are more aware of product options and of what other people are buying. Subsequently, they’ve become more demanding about the products they purchase. Deloitte Global found that 36 percent of consumers expressed interest in purchasing personalized products or services and one in five were willing to pay 20 percent more for these options. Customization gives companies an edge in cosmetics, clothing, food prep, and toys, to name a few.

Personalized offerings add costs to the manufacturer but frequently result in higher profits because of:

  • A price premium associated with the benefits
  • More loyal, satisfied customers
  • Greater word of mouth because of the increased satisfaction and the “surprise factor” associated with an unexpected range of options
  • Enhanced customer experience via creativity and individual expression
  • Precise taste matching and less need to compromise

How About You?

Do your customers value experience and self-expression? How could you offer this more in your products or services?

It may be as simple as engraving someone’s name in a glasses case or upgrading products with matching accessories. French cosmetics brand Guerlain started offering customizable lipsticks by allowing clients to choose their own combination of case and lipstick color. Customization allows brands to grow consumer engagement and solidify brand loyalty, which is especially powerful in younger markets.

Forbes offers several talking points for firms considering customization:

  • What are the incremental costs associated with the customization options and how will they impact profitability?
  • How many options are necessary and what’s the incremental benefit as the number increases? What price premium will consumers be willing to pay?
  • Which customization options will be the most incremental to maximize sales? A research tool called a TURF (Test of Unduplicated Reach & Frequency) Analysis can help you assess.
  • What level of logistical, operational, and labor complexity will this involve? How often should customization options be updated?

Charlie Gu, CEO and co-founder of marketing agency Kollective Influence, says one budget-friendly customization strategy is the “module” approach. Instead of creating a product from scratch, businesses can offer several component options that can be mass-produced and easily assembled:

“Give customers choices, and then let them choose—customization within a framework,” he advises. “It doesn’t actually require any customization of the actual product. The consumers are essentially just picking their own color, but to them, it feels totally customized.”

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How to Use a Clear Call to Action to Convert Customers

"The maxim ‘Nothing avails but perfection’ may be spelt shorter: ‘Paralysis.’"

(Winston Churchill)

Have you ever wondered how lion tamers keep wild cats nearly three times their size at bay?

While methods have evolved over the years, traditionally lions were subdued by three tools: a whip, a stool, and a handful of tasty snacks. While the whip or snacks make sense, perhaps you wonder why a stool was used (instead of a sword or a flame, for example)?

How can a small piece of furniture intimidate the king of all cats?

The truth is, the lion is not afraid of the chair, he’s confused by the multiple points on its legs. Cats are single-minded creatures, and the bobbing points of the chair legs confuse the lion into a less focused state. When the lion loses its train of thought, it is distracted from the instinct to pounce on a weaker opponent.

Muddled Communication Can Paralyze Your Prospects

Ever try to rush your kids through breakfast and get stuck at the cereal cupboard?

As they browse a shelf of eight boxes, they slump and groan: “There’s nothing to eat!” What started as a hurry-up turns into a traffic jam. You vow that next time, you’ll only offer toast and Cheerios.

When we don’t give customers a simple, singular call to action, they may also fall into decision fatigue.

Does your website or your print materials overwhelm customers with possibilities?

Psychologist Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, co-authored a study that showed significantly more conversions happened when shoppers had fewer options. In her example, shoppers had to choose from a display with six different flavors of jam versus a display with 24 different flavors of jam. How did they compare? The conversion rate for the six-flavor table was 30%, while the 24-flavor table was only 3%.

Analysis can lead to paralysis!

What about your method for calling prospects to action? Does your advertisement ask them to commit to a 30-day trial AND use a customer discount code DURING a selected 14-day window? Does your podcast ask people to share with a friend, AND subscribe, AND download previous episodes (all in one breath)?

Perhaps you need to take a step back and use these three evaluation tools:

1. Know Your Main Goal

When you ask people to do several tasks at once (like visiting your website and joining your e-mail list), you’ve probably overshadowed your main goal with several smaller goals.

Focus on one main goal for customer conversion, and use customer loyalty programs down the road to call customers to greater steps of engagement or loyalty.

2. Test Action Statements in Advance

If your communication is a mist in the office, it’s probably a fog on the streets. To determine which CTAs are crystal clear, run some A/B tests with sample customers and find out which ones are generating momentum.

3. Pack Some Punch

Start call to action statements with a strong command verb, like buy, shop, order, subscribe, or win.

Use concise phrases that build enthusiasm. Which of these CTA statements excites you more?

“Consider many of our 200 exciting destination possibilities,” or

“Plan your dream vacation today!”

Keep things sweet, simple, and customer-focused. Once they take the bait you can always present them with more!

Print: Use Faces to Command Viewer Attention

Did you know that humans are the only primates with eyes that contain a white sclera around the dark iris and the pupil?

Consequently, unlike our animal counterparts, we have the ability and tendency to follow each other’s eye gaze, to pinpoint precisely what someone is focusing on, and even to read into the emotion behind a viewer’s eye. This also gives us an innate ability to sense when we’re being looked at or to hastily avert our gaze in awkward moments.

Eye contact plays a crucial role in human communication, and faces have an incredible ability to command a viewer’s attention.

Imagine yourself walking down a busy street in a large city where you don’t know anyone. Suddenly, among a sea of faces, you spy a family member. Among hundreds of people, you can immediately recognize one individual and you have a strong emotional response.

Why is this experience so powerful?

Scientist Nancy Kanwisher identified a special part of the brain called the fusiform face area (FFA). The FFA allows faces to bypass the brain’s usual interpretive channels and helps us identify faces more quickly than objects. Because the FFA is so close to the brain’s emotional center (called the amygdala), the time lapse between recognition and response is nearly non-existent.

Faces Add Impact in Marketing

How does this play into marketing and print? First, it’s important to recognize the impact of faces so we can prioritize them in design.

Research by Catherine Mondloch (1999) shows that newborn babies less than an hour old prefer looking at something that has facial features. Humans prefer humans, and people buy from people! It would be careless to overlook these statistics while continually deferring to inanimate objects. When you’re looking to add that personal touch to your marketing mix, remember faces can help you to:

Connect With People

Large, faceless corporations feel cold and manipulative.

Putting faces on your brand allows people to connect with your audience in a way they can relate to. As you position faces in your ads, remember eyes looking right at people will have the greatest emotional impact, because the eyes are the most significant part of the face.

Create Curiosity

If a face on your poster is gazing toward another spot or product in the margin, people will also tend to track toward that area.

Emotions can be carried from a subject to a viewer as you set a tone within your design. The emotion in the faces you display can draw people to linger at your design or to be drawn deeper into the message.

Cultivate Trust

People react to a photo on a page faster than any other design element, and seeing the people behind a business can establish credibility very quickly.

You can use faces to cultivate trust by using staff profiles on your website, facial photos in welcome displays or high traffic areas, or by utilizing brochures that include testimonials and photos from real customers. If viewers can relate to the people enjoying your product they will automatically build positive associations.

When used properly, the use of people and faces can help you connect with people, create curiosity, and cultivate trust. Bypass resistance and build connections through the magnetic power of people!

How to Use Your Competition for Strategic Expansion

In 2006, Aviva Weiss was struggling to help her daughter cope with a sensory-processing disorder.

As an occupational therapist who worked with children on the autism spectrum, Weiss knew how overwhelming life could be for families like hers. When she ordered her daughter a weighted vest (an item that helps overstimulated children stay focused), she was horrified when it arrived. “It was super ugly,” she said. “I thought, ‘there’s no reason that special-needs products should make kids stand out even more.’”

Weiss sensed a market opportunity and seized it, founding Fun and Function to create more attractive versions of existing products like chewable necklaces, noise-reduction headphones, or clothing that soothes children with sensory issues. Items were showcased in the company’s catalog, which was designed to put parents at ease, cutting through technical jargon to connect with families on a more authentic level.

By 2010, the company had grown sevenfold and was considering a major market expansion: targeting institutions like schools and hospitals. While these clients accounted for about 38 percent of existing sales, executive Ilana Danneman believed the number could be much higher, especially as institutional clients place recurring orders in larger quantities. Weiss was uneasy about shifting from a colloquial to a more clinical focus but she trusted Danneman’s expertise, especially since Danneman had previously worked for one of the company’s chief competitors. "We never saw a need to change anything," Weiss says. "But we could not in good conscience ignore her."

The shift brought incredible expansion ($6.2 million in six years) and a 50 percent growth spurt between 2015 and 2016. Weiss went on to launch the Active Mind School Partnership, a program geared to empower and educate teachers who work with neurologically distressed kids. This partnership brought the largest growth to date, reminding its founders that the company mission was never about building profits but about helping people.

Competition Fuels Innovation

Competition is healthy for businesses – forcing you to innovate and consider opportunities or markets you might otherwise ignore.

Success comes from examining the marketplace, doing something in a unique or superior way, and from crafting a plan to better serve customers.

Whether you’ve plateaued or continue to expand, it’s important to keep an eye on the competition. What are they doing that’s different? How could you serve part of their client base in a better way? Does it make sense to expand your target area?

Healthy leaders take time to plan for expansion several strategic ways:

Understanding the Competition

Take a hard look at the market.

What opportunities are your competitors filling that you may be ignoring? What do they do well that you could do better? What aren’t they doing that you could do instead?

Highlighting the Difference

Do you have cheaper prices? Customizable service options? A local connection or more ethical sourcing for products?

Find an angle in your company’s story and communicate it like crazy.

Targeting New Markets

When you have one market locked down, push to grow your boundaries.

As Fun and Function discovered, new markets lead to faster and better growth. Initially, Weiss thought a market expansion might alienate existing customers but instead she found that equipping teachers and therapists contributed to better quality of life for every sensory-challenged child.

Using Branding to Reinforces the Message

Accurate branding contributes to a clearer message and builds stability with customers.

As you adapt or expand, be sure your motive and message remains distinct. When Fun and Function expanded its market, the ethos of the brand never wavered:

“The message,” said Weiss, “is that being different is normal.”

Four Reasons Great Promotional Products Work

Branded products are everywhere: featured in movies, professional sports, and even on your favorite jacket or thumb drive.

These products bring pleasure and familiarity while sending a message of brand support to friends and casual observers. And these ideas carry substantial weight.

Another Washington First

The first known example of distributing promotional products was in 1789.

Commemorative buttons, created to celebrate George Washington’s inauguration, featured a crisp, stamped profile of Washington and the Latin phrase “Pater Patriæ,” meaning “Father of his Country.”

Sported by patriotic Americans, the buttons celebrated American democracy and support for the first president. The passion behind this message continues to live on: in February of 2018, one of the inaugural buttons was auctioned for $225,000!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Washington’s buttons fueled momentum, and your customers are wired to respond to promotional products too.

Eight out of 10 U.S. consumers own at least one giveaway item, and 60 percent of people who receive a promotional gift keep it for up to two years! If those stats don’t speak for themselves, here are four reasons that branded merchandise will work for businesses of any size:

1. Free Stuff Grabs Attention.

Like candy at a parade, free stuff draws people.

Promotional gifts catch their eye and make them wonder what the hype is about. When you give gifts, people are attracted to you. Whether its curiosity, playful interest, or eye-catching designs, giveaways generate interest and ignite conversation.

2. Product Giveaways Pave Pathways for Loyalty.

Once you have their attention, you open the door for further interaction.

This happens, in part, as new customers warm in their perception of your brand. According to Tourism Consumer Insights, 52% of those who receive your product are more likely to think highly of both you and your business. As affinity increases, so does their interest in your business, because it’s human nature to want to give back to someone who has given to us.

In a Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) study, 85% of consumers who received a promo product said they ultimately did business with the advertiser.

3. Brand Recognition Peaks Through Repeat Exposure.

What is the ultimate goal of branded products? To engage and influence buyers.

Tangible, useful products offer your business endless opportunities to distinguish itself and to do it repeatedly! According to PPAI, 73 percent of those who receive a promo product said they used it at least once a week.

Offering free items to consumers is an incredible marketing tactic that will keep your company on their minds anytime your product is in use.

4. Giveaways Extend the Life of your Message.

How long does it take you to forget a text message or delete an e-mail? Seconds.

But tangible products (especially stylish or fun items) are much harder to toss aside. As you weigh your best product option, consider the interests and needs of your target customers and create the kind of products they’ll actually want. If 75% of your prospects use public transportation, tasteful branded umbrellas might become a constant companion during their morning commute.

People love stuff. It’s just a fact. And while only 28 percent of people are able to recall a TV ad, 57 percent are typically able to recall an advertiser on a mug.

While promotional pieces bring upfront expense, the longevity and brand recognition they create is an investment that keeps on giving.

Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership

Replace Chaos with Focus

Lost productivity costs companies millions each year.

While it is hard to quantify exactly how much is lost, certainly distraction alone prevents daily peak performance. Besides hunger, sleepiness, bodily functions, and simple brain fatigue, productivity research shows that 48% of employees waste time surfing the web (including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), 33% lose work time socializing with co-workers, and 49% are managing personal calls, texts, and e-mails.

It’s true: time is money. But time is more easily lost than dollars, so how can you push yourself or your team to be more focused? Maybe you want to spend your time wisely, but find yourself running in circles or falling short each day. How can you shift from being “busy” to being more effective?

By re-focusing on one thing: purpose.

Your purpose is more than what you do while you’re checking e-mail. It’s more than what you do while compiling reports or sitting in meetings. These activities may be part of your job, but they don’t define your role or your unique identity. Every person is driven by something. Often, we are driven by deadline pressure, interruptions from co-workers, or by an unexpected project delay. But what would it look like to focus on a more purposeful vision?

Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership

Purposeful leadership requires we take a step back, focusing on our unique identity and skill set so these aren’t drowned out by the frantic activity of the day.

Do you long to overcome chaos? Here are three steps to organizing your outlook in a way that maximizes your time, priorities, and productivity:

1. Develop goals around your purpose.

If you were to define your top work priority, what would it be? To give vision? To provide team leadership? To design or create?

Before you can effectively use your time, you need to clarify the most important role you play. Start with your unique purpose and draft at least three goals that would help you fulfill your primary purpose. If your job is to work with people but you spend most of your time answering e-mails, maybe a change is needed. Set goals that are specific, measurable, and that put feet to your purpose.

2. Sharpen focus around your goals.

How well do these goals match your weekly tasks? Many people have goals, but do these goals translate into functional realities?

To strategize your time, make a master list of tasks that need accomplishing, then group together tasks in specific categories and rank these categories by importance. Low-level categories could be delegated, dropped, or restructured. As you brainstorm, involve your spouse, mentor, or co-workers. Sometimes it’s hard to see life through an honest, critical lens without encouragement from others.

3. Build your schedule around these priorities.

Intentional scheduling is like budgeting: it means telling your time where you want it to go (instead of asking your time where it went!).

Now that you’ve ranked your categories, assign the top activities to your most productive, interrupted blocks of time. Use your less productive times (late day, “filler” slots between meetings) to address lower priority categories.

Scheduling is where the rubber meets the road – where you close doors and ask for zero interruptions, where you stop doing one task and go on to another (even when it hurts), and where you refuse to let other people determine what is important every day. Your schedule is ground zero for living up to your purpose, so take it seriously and you’ll experience greater satisfaction in the way you spend time each week.

Start Mouth-Watering Conversations Through Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Karen Weber-Mendham was a part-time librarian and mother of three when she turned her family’s propensity for garlic cheesy bread into a cool million.

This northern Wisconsin family often ordered cheesy bread while waiting on pizza. Weber-Mendham said the kids’ appetizer passion was so strong “they would arm-wrestle each other for a piece!”

Cheesy fever inspired the family to enter the 2013 Lay’s potato chip competition, “Do Us a Flavor,” challenging customers to create a new chip flavor to hit store shelves that year. Lays was swamped with 3.8 million submissions as the contest winner was given the better of two options: $1 million or 1% of the flavor’s net sales over a year. Beyond fame and fortune, Weber-Mendham was given the opportunity to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and was flown to Los Angeles for the big reveal with Lay’s endorsement celebrity Eva Longoria.

“Eva was so genuine and happy for me when I won,” Weber-Mendham said. And yes, “She’s as beautiful in person as she looks on TV.”

Catalysts for a Great Conversation

What was Lays up to in this fun-loving campaign?

Were they desperate for creative ideas? Hungry for the inspiration only average citizens could bring? Or did they strike gold by tapping into a conversation with everyday Americans?

Word-of-mouth promotion has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing, tagged “the original social media.” According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, and trusted referrals are most likely to drive sales for your company. But in an American Marketing Association survey, 64% of marketing executives say that, though they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, only 6% have mastered it.

As you seek to generate good gossip about your company, here are three action points to keep in mind:

Engage

Make a commitment to listen.

What would that truly look like in your context? Allow your customers’ space to be heard and to contribute to the company as a whole. Engage with clients through e-mail surveys, online question and answer boards, social media service options, or by highlighting customer success in your printed newsletters. When customers are heard, they feel connected and valued.

Encourage

Allow people reasons or avenues to talk to each other or to talk about you.

Like a common chalkboard with a fun question in your favorite coffee shop, invite clients into the conversation and give them tools to chat. Encourage people to talk about your services and products with you and with others by creating helpful, shareable content, including icons to your favorite apps that will make it easy for your fans to spread your name around!

Equip

Give your fan base tools to become brand advocates.

Let them know their opinions are important and look for fun ways to spread the word. To create buzz around the Ford Fiesta, Ford gave away a number of cars and asked ambassador “influencers” to test drive and share their experiences.

During “Do Us a Flavor,” Lays received over 1.4 million Facebook and Twitter votes, one of its biggest marketing campaigns ever. While you may not give away a car, give away tools to get your fans advocating: ask clients to pass coupons to five of their friends, to give you an online review, or be part of a fun selfie or Snapchat contest to boost your reputation.

Get the conversation started and pave the way for new growth!

How Typeface Affects Your Brand Expression

Flavors have tangible effects on your body and your mood.

When you eat spicy food, your heart rate increases or your face may sweat. When you taste your favorite ice cream, reality seems to fade to slow motion as you prolong each morsel of delight. Is food really that powerful, or is there something more at play? More than likely, the foods you eat conjure whole streams of past experiences in your mind. The context or culture an individual brings to their experience will significantly affect their interpretation.

The same is true in design.

Whether it’s colors, photo filters, or layouts, every choice plays into a viewer’s experience with your brand. Often, we overlook typeface as an important design attribute but font is hugely expressive and making the right choice is critical. In fact, in 1923, when Poffenberger & Franken conducted research into how readers perceive different typefaces, people responded quite uniformly to typeface and product pairings and used similar adjectives about the fonts they observed. Fonts can give a sense of timeless style, of purity and simplicity, or a friendly human touch. The contrast of the strokes, how a letter is finished, or its proportionality can determine whether a design seems warm and friendly or cold and mechanical. Let’s examine a few fonts and the effect they have on viewers.

Serif or Sans Serif

Serifs originated from Roman Imperial carved inscriptions and this deep-rooted history brings an inescapable association with academic, thoughtful communication.

The internal density of serif fonts creates a straightforward, highly-efficient text row, but sans-serif fonts have a reputation for being more casual, informal and friendly. Although serif fonts dominate the world of print, the boom in screen-based technology has made the more legible sans serif a popular choice, especially for brands that are seeking a rational, industrial, or no-nonsense quality to their message.

Script Fonts

Script fonts are those that mimic cursive handwriting.

Formal scripts embody the ornate flair of old-school calligraphy, while casual scripts have a more home-spun friendly feel. Formal scripts are ideal for invitations, book covers, wall art, or anything with a vintage theme. Casual scripts can be modified to fit anything from logos, posters, pamphlets, or anything with an intimate, informal vibe.

Handwritten Fonts

Handwritten fonts have evolved over the last ten years, and embody the name they possess with scrawling, looped, or free-flow characters that people use when they put pen to paper.

These fonts are ideals for cards, book covers, posters, freebies and swag, or logo design as they bring an imaginative touch that sets your products apart.

Mix and Match

Can you pair different kinds of fonts in a project?

Of course!

Like all facets of design, contrast is key. A handwritten bold logo paired with a scripted tagline can make your welcome sign sing. Or an all-caps serif with an italicized sans serif may bring a subtle sophistication. Even if you use the same font through an entire piece, making a headline bold and condensed but the copy light with greater vertical space (or “leading”) can make a smart statement. Just remember to proof samples before you get too deep into a project. Some fonts look great in headlines but terrible on screen. Others are fun to read but fatigue the eye quickly. Test your font choices and pairings on a few willing volunteers or gather feedback from a design consultant.

While there are thousands of fonts, the right combination is essential to set the tone for your brand. If you want to brainstorm with our creative team, give us a call today!

The Power of Store Ambiance and Sensory Cues

Unmistakable Ambiance

As viewers enter the Richard Mille watch boutique in Paris, their senses are inundated with beauty. Large glass panels are etched with details of the emblematic RM tourbillon, giving viewers the sensation that they might be entering the heart of the watch itself. Extreme elegance buoys buyers through the store, with black leather chairs, Macassar ebony, and brushed steel accents. The impact is palpable.

As a primary showcase of the watches, these interior design elements are vital. The Paris boutique offers a theatrical look with a touch of femininity. “I wanted to go against the traditional macho design, with its dark materials, cold metals, and dark atmosphere,” said Mélanie Treton-Monceyron, the watchmaker’s creative director. “I thought we needed to open the shops, give light and add lighter colors.”

Treton-Monceyron says she’s stirred by functional spaces like hotels, airports, and factories, rather than drawing inspiration from typical retail designs. The space itself is her muse: “I was a choreographer and dancer before,” she said, “so I look at a shop from a stage design vantage point and move inside the space — using my own body to sense the space left and right and position everything from the watch displays to sofas to walls.”

Increased Personalization Through Sensory Impact

As today’s merchants seek to grow online sales, businesses are also showcasing more personalized experiences in their stores.

The ambiance is imperative: 1 in 5 consumers said they choose to shop in person because of an enjoyable atmosphere. From convenience stores to car showrooms, merchants hope to connect their product with its people through environmental elements that generate sales. Sensory impact plays a principal role:

"Advertisers are increasingly aware of the influence sensory cues can play," said Ryan Elder, associate professor of marketing at Bringham Young University. "Our research dives into which specific sensory experiences will be most effective in an advertisement, and why." Data found that people caught in sensory experiences (like taste or touch) were more likely to buy at an earlier time, and suggested consumer behavior can be influenced by both actual and imagined sensory experiences like sounds and smells. Even online reviews that articulated these features were ranked higher in terms of how useful they were to others.

Drive Sales for Ambivalent Customers

With 37% of U.S. consumers saying that being in the "right mood" spurs impulse purchases, here are some elements that can drive sales for ambivalent customers:

Music and Scent: What are the first things people hear or smell when they enter your establishment? Does the “first impression” profile you display match the brand message you want to project? Like songs or smells adjusted to the holidays or festive events, details create emotional connections with clients, giving brick-and-mortar shops an advantage e-tailers simply can’t match.

Décor: From colorful artwork to oversized custom posters, match your décor with your target patrons. Build an ambiance that will encourage customers to linger. And don’t underestimate an uncluttered, tidy environment: a 1997 study showed customer satisfaction was greater in “pleasant” (versus disorganized) furniture stores. Customers in pleasant stores spontaneously spent more money on articles they simply “liked.”

Spacial Layouts: What does your store blueprint or interior signage communicate? Are you looking for a consistent, orderly flow or a casual, flexible feel? For Richard Mille, directional (yet conversational) spaces were key. Trenton-Monceyron says she designs open spaces to admire and dialogue because the brand believes watch shops are about more than just sales:

“They are like the salon of conversation of Marguerite de Navarre during the 16th century; a place where you can come just for visit, discuss and exchange a point of view.”

Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact (Part 2)

Connor’s Collision Center of Richmond, Virginia, was looking for a way to build a charitable culture in their business, so they launched the “Recycled Rides” program and began donating rehabbed vehicles to individuals nominated by the community.

In part 1 of this series, we explored the story of one changed life (Georgette Carter) and the way businesses are strengthened through innovative corporate giving.

What about your business?

Maybe you can’t rehab cars, but every company can give back in some way! That starts with a desire to grow in generosity and a plan to carry that out. Unfortunately, some business owners pull back from giving because they find themselves strained by the number of needs or a plethora of last-minute requests. To grow in giving, they need a narrowed support focus to help them move ahead.

Identify Brand-Extending Areas of Support

Smaller companies may find it helpful to develop target giving priorities that relate to their mission or their brand.

These funding priorities can be publicized through an application process which sifts out casual candidates and allows employees managing requests to process them in a scheduled, thoughtful manner. As you narrow your giving focus (i.e. schools, sustainable community solutions), key in on priorities that are close at heart and well-suited for both your brand and your community.

Greg O’Neill, co-owner of four Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine shops in Chicago, said this strategic giving shift was key for their company:

“Small businesses get inundated [with requests] and it’s really hard to say no. We’re a bulls-eye for anyone and everyone looking for donation, sponsorship, philanthropy and giving of any kind. A lot of businesses say yes, yes, yes and give until it hurts.”

O’Neill’s team implemented an application process, identified sustainable agriculture and feeding programs as a funding priority, and scheduled key deadlines for recipients. As a result, the number of requests declined and the number of meaningful partnerships increased.

“We tend to do fewer one-off donations now,” O’Neill says, “and instead we create more relationships.”

If your company chooses to donate to causes outside key funding priorities, there are additional strategies to make your contribution stretch farther than the gift itself:

  • Offer coupons for high-dollar products or services that don’t cost much to your company
  • Consider in-kind gifts and allow employees to use workday hours to participate
  • Rather than just giving cash, reach out to your best sales rep. Buy a case of one good item from them and donate it to the event or cause
  • Host a yearly contest where your community or employees can submit nominations for someone needing a hand. Document the results and include them in your newsletter or company Christmas card to spread the holiday cheer!

As you seek to give strategically, here are four questions to consider:

1. What brand extending areas will you support?

2. How can you publicize your giving priorities in a way that structures the giving process and streamlines requests?

3. How can you affirm employees who go the extra mile to give beyond the walls of your office?

4. How can your compassion be print-recognized (i.e. banners or photo murals) to make it a more mutually beneficial partnership?

Your charitable efforts may be humble, but they are unique to you and they make a tangible difference in your community. While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative community support begins with your business!