Giving is the new selling

I was recently reading an excerpt from Paul Collier’s book The Future of Capitalism, which states capitalism has the power to change the world for the better however it is “morally bankrupt”. Personally, I haven’t ever thought the system is the problem, but rather the humans in it.

Nevertheless, slowly but surely, I think that is changing. While the world has been transformed into a hyper-funded, always-connected, “as a service” fight to stand out, the goal remains the same. It’s the expectations of the customer that have been adjusted. As the book Stuffocation by James Wallman brilliantly describes it, the world is no longer saying “look at my Rolex”, they’re saying “look at the experiences I’m having”.

The outdated model of thinking about how you can make the most money out of who’s buying your product or service has been swiftly replaced with a new way of thinking; one that focuses on serving the customer, asking lots of questions, and actively listening to their needs. Transactions cannot be thought of as just an exchange of money when buying or selling – they are now experiences.

The modern-day customer has too much choice for companies to stick to the tired and typical tactics of the past. With the rapid expansion of the internet, customers now have more information than ever at their fingertips. With information comes autonomy, most notably the autonomy to make informed decisions and shop around if desired.

Not only must organisations big and small shift the way they interact with who their buying audience is; they need to fundamentally alter the way they do business. Simply put, the material is making way for the experience. Collier’s book highlighted an eye-opening statistic: studies show that companies with “a purpose” gave four times more TSR (total shareholder return) than the S&P 500.

This finding vindicates why most corporates

now have a charity program, which is often seen as a key incentive when attracting the best new talent. People want to work within an environment they feel is giving back to the world and making a difference. Corporate social responsibility cannot be ignored or attempted half-heartedly – it’s something that companies have to live and breathe.

A recent report from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia found over 70 per cent of the public thought companies, especially those at the larger end of town, should focus just as much on their ‘environmental’ and “social” performance as they should on their economic one. Interestingly, over three-quarters of the respondents supported business leaders having a voice and speaking out on various social issues.

I believe a key factor in how the conversation about social issues has become mainstream stems from the emerging generation of future leaders – often with trust fund in tow – who are more concerned about their impact on society than their ever-increasing Ferrari collection. Unlike past generations, they have not had to grapple with post-war hardships. Self-preservation (from a financial viewpoint) is a foreign concept. They have what many not from their generation would consider the “luxury” to think and act on issues which may not personally affect them.

So, if businesses want to reach this increasingly world-aware generation, it’s going to take an adjustment in mindset. Adopting a more holistic model of service that places the customer at the heart of every interaction whilst also focusing more on “giving”, as opposed to”selling”, are but two ways that companies can make sure they stay relevant in an ever-changing world.

Lee Atkinson, GM Small Business and Channel Partners, MNF Group

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