The generous spirit and effective marketing

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GGLO giving by design
Generosity Adam Grant
This discussion of academic Adam Grant’s research puts some science behind the generosity principle.

You’ve heard the corny cliché, I’m sure. “Success isn’t defined by what you take, but by what you give.” However, in architectural, engineering and construction marketing, I think this simple concept is one of the biggest hidden keys to marketing and business development success. If you spend less time selling and pushing, and more time-sharing and giving, you’ll reap the rewards — if you are sincere.

Most of us can tell a phony a mile away, of course. You know, the person who pretends to be generous but has a not-so-hidden business development agenda. We run for the hills. And, while there are circumstances where breaking this rule can work, I don’t know many of us who welcome intrusive marketing such as pushy advertising, telemarketing calls or (worse) direct canvassing.

Lets redirect things however. Say you really contribute your knowledge, skills and even money to a worthy cause, one which you truly support and (ideally) also reflects your employees’ and clients’ values. You can even break the rules I described above with some intrusive marketing in support of the cause — it is harder to say “no” for example to a good client seeking support for a charitable cause, than his own business.  You raise your profile in the community in a positive way — and often have great one-on-one time with people who may be able to refer/recommend your services. You win in the magic trust category. And, if you know much about marketing/branding, when you win trust, you win a successful brand.

There are two rules in generosity.

One, you need to be sincere — you cannot do this stuff expecting results for your own business. The generosity must be from your own values and success should be measured in the results of the cause you support

Second, you must otherwise obey all the other rules of good business and relationships. Humility, respect, fulfilling commitments, and so on. You don’t want to be the person who says one thing and does another when it comes down to generosity and community support.

How can you get started?

First, I think some focus is helpful, but also some freedom. You might set a simple policy allocating a certain number of hours or percentage of work time that employees can allocate to good causes of their choice. (You can set some boundaries. I imagine, for example in the U.S. that the owners of Hobby Lobby would not really want their employees to be rallying in abortion-rights events.) In our case, we’ve mandated that sales employees are expected to spend at least 25 per cent of their time in voluntary community service and non-sales employees can suggest and request time for worthy causes.

You may find the causes you support can best be defined by your major clients and associations, if you truly support them. Here, you’ll win though your existing relationships and build new ones. Sometimes the results are even better than you might expect. In my case, a major client asked me to support his cause — a fund-raising bicycle ride for cancer research at the local hospital. I have — and have gained in fitness as I train for the event.

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