Giving is an integral part of just about all successful businesses. In fact, according to Mark Feldman, founder of Cause Consulting, “[Giving is] great for company morale, productivity, brand awareness, and it helps define your corporate culture.”
For businesses, giving is also a powerful marketing tool. A survey by Cone Communications in 2007 found that 92 percent of Americans have a more positive image of—and are more likely to do business with—a company that gives to worthy causes.
However, giving does not always mean giving money or giving away products. It can also mean helping people or companies by helping them solve problems. This is essentially what content marketing/brand journalism is all about. As a company, you are giving visitors through your web site or a related site valuable, credible, helpful information—and invariably, this information will lead to brand loyalty and sales.
I can verify how effective this is through my own personal experiences. After 25 years in the cleaning business, I decided to write two books on the contract cleaning industry. This was during the late 1990s and no publishers were interested in books on the cleaning industry. So I did the only thing I could think of doing: I turned to the then-new phenomenon called the Internet.
I had a web site built to provide a marketing platform for my books, which allowed me to sell them online. However, as we all know, just because you build it does not mean anyone will see it. So I set out to work the earliest social media sites, then known as message boards. People asked me all kinds of questions, from how to bid on cleaning a building (the most often asked question), when to bill customers, hiring independent contractors, how to strip and wax floors, to how to remove candle wax from carpets.
I had lived the industry for 25 years and encountered all of these issues at one time or another, so invariably I was able to offer reliable advice that actually helped these individuals. And significantly, I did this without ever once advertising my books or “plugging” them in my responses. My answers to these questions were always focused on helping the other person, not selling my books or myself.
So what eventually happened?
One day, a company I had never heard of called me from New York (I was then living in Atlanta) and flew me to the Big Apple, saying they just wanted to meet me. Then they flew me back a second time and offered me a position as their company spokesperson with a generous salary.
About two years later, I contacted ISSA looking for another position. To my surprise, they were well aware of who I was. This time, I was flown to Chicago twice to meet with ISSA managers, and was offered a job during my second visit.
These turned out to be two of the biggest experiences of my professional life—and without even being aware of it, I had learned the fine art of marketing myself by giving.
By Robert Kravitz