"Life's a game of give and take", sang Marvin Gaye. It's one of those things that we're taught early on as kids and encouraged to adhere to throughout our lives. It's a sound and fundamental principle which I fully support. Many businesses are fantastic at giving, although I have to say, the way business is often portrayed by many in the media, it seems it's only about take, take, take.
As we get near Christmas and the New Year, I want to focus on the give, give, give. I don't just mean the donations to charities like OXFAM, NSPCC, Shelter and all the others doing brilliant work around the world for which I would fully applaud any business for doing - and I'm glad they do.
I'm also not advocating the giving of discounts on your products and services at the drop of a hat – anyone can give stuff away. It just doesn't always make sound, commercial sense.
The 'give, give, give' things I want to discuss are typically easier and simpler than donations or discounts, usually cheaper and can often be far more beneficial (to you and to others).
Here are some things you may want to consider giving:
Give HELP and ADVICE
Help your customers and network contacts do their jobs better, improve their competitiveness, make their lives easier. Offer ways to solve the problems and challenges that they may be facing, provide ideas to make better use of your products and services. Consider 'How to...'guides, podcasts, seminars, one to one problem solving sessions, case studies and 'real-life' examples.
It's not about pushing products and services. It's about relevance and added value. Hey, you could give them the details of the Management Issues website – you know there's lots of great stuff on here!
Give LEADS and REFERRALS
Business is about relationships and it's clear that those who are good at building these are not the ones who simply go around handing out loads of business cards to anyone who looks at them at network meetings. They link people, they help their network, and they proactively build their relationships.
This can involve spotting opportunities for others, passing leads and enquiries and providing relevant referrals for their friends. Who could you give leads and referrals to? I'm talking about your customers, your network contacts, even your suppliers.
Let people know when they've done something well, (and point out constructively when they haven't). How do you feel when a customer emails or rings to say you've done a great job? Do you find yourself doing even more next time that customer wants something? Why not be that customer? Spot people doing things well and tell them! You know it makes sense.
Give A DAMN!
Frighteningly, sometimes all this means is returning calls, acknowledging and smiling at customers, hitting deadlines and doing what you said you were going to do. The best businesses do more than this, and find ways of demonstrating that.
Proactively demonstrate to your own customers that you care, and please make sure that all your people do the same. Just one individual who doesn't do this undermines everyone else's actions.
Give ENCOURAGEMENT and SUPPORT:
As well as encouraging the people in your team (tip: you probably don't do it as much as you actually think you do), what about encouraging others outside your business? It could be people with less experience than you, students, or school kids - individuals who really could benefit from your knowledge and experience.
I was at an event recently to see a bunch of school children, who with the support of many local business people, had set up and run their own businesses, and won prizes for themselves and their schools. Everyone who was there could see the enthusiasm, passion and excitement created – and that was just in the business people. The kids were absolutely amazing!
In these tougher times, 'Giving' might not always be the first thing that people think about as a competitive strategy. I'm not suggesting that simply 'giving' is the answer, or is a competitive strategy on its own, but it can be a significant 'ingredient' in that strategy.
So, in the spirit of 'giving', here are a couple of links to things that I think could add real value to you and your organisation that I'd like to give you (for free!):
The first is a link to a podcast I did on Maximising Your Profitability. It's a simple pragmatic guide I developed that helps you take a proactive approach to improving your bottom line (It's ironic, I feel, as I'm giving it away for nothing!).
Secondly, here's a link to a great free ebook put together by Seth Godin called What Matters Now. It's got stimulating thoughts and ideas from some of the world's leading business thinkers all in aid of 'Room To Read' which is a charity aimed at improving education for disadvantaged kids around the world.
They're simple things, but that's the point! Feel free to take them, use them and perhaps give them on to others too.
Finally, 'Giving' is not a marketing gimmick – it's a principle or philosophy which will produce the results for you and your business. So, go on, GIVE it a go!
In the meantime, 'Happy Holidays' and here's to a successful 2010 for us all!