As small businesses become more technologically savvy, many think that all manner of money maladies can be resolved by tuning in to the latest social-media trend, search-engine-finding revelation and other high-tech options. By getting more wired in, business owners assert, they can solve at least some of their biggest problems. Not enough business? Just ramp up a social-media campaign — and voila — people will beat down the door to give you money.
In the rush to revolutionize business with technological fixes, we often dispense with old-fashioned, feel-good types of personal perks designed to put a smile on the faces of overworked employees, overstressed customers and overburdened suppliers.
Here are several paths to consider to build business the traditional way — by making people feel good, and want to work with you because they like you.
Fill the room with cookies and other good-smelling, good-tasting treats. It worked for years for Midwest Airlines, so why can’t it work for you? How many times have you heard someone praise this airline for serving those cookies? If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you have the ability to fill the air with the wonderful smells of fresh-baked cookies or other tantalizing treats. While this obviously can be a benefit for the workforce, it’s also going to attract anyone else walking in the place — or that you invite to come by to take a break from workday rigors.
Host a potluck for employees, key customers and others you’re supposed to care about. It’s possible that the last thing many company owners want to do is throw money at their problems. What they forget is that there are many ways to show your people — both those who work for you and those that support you, either as customers, suppliers or strategic partners — that they deserve a break. Throw a potluck, or some other relatively low-cost fete where attendees can contribute to both food and drink. It doesn’t take a lot of money to show people you care. It just takes the willingness to express some tangible form of acknowledgement.
Give substantive presents to reward loyalty and longevity — both to workers and customers. These words instill fear in the hearts and minds of bean counters, who stand ready to argue that, “You barely made payroll; why would you spend money on something frivolous like this?” A surprising amount of stuff and goodwill can be found with a bit of creative negotiation. Almost universally, businesses have something of value to other businesses. Negotiate a trade that gives access to low-cost or no-cost goodies that, in turn, can be given as presents out of the blue. Examples of how to do this are as varied as your imagination. For starters, approach a restaurant that your office frequents regularly for coupons that provide deep discounts or freebies. The restaurant likely will be happy to comply, knowing that this also is a way to ramp up their popularity and revenue. People may come in for a free drink, then stay for a meal and maybe more drinks. Everybody wins.
For professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants, financial planners and the like, look at ways to trade services. For instance, a law firm and accounting organization could offer each other’s employees and/or clients a certain number of free service hours. While some never will become paying clients, others will — and often, this type of business development can be less costly than other, more formal, new business campaigns.
Make people laugh and smile. Why do you think Geico has been so wildly successful with its ad campaigns? It entertains and offers a bit of the lighter side of life. While Geico obviously spends a lot of money to promote the gecko, a bit of affordable American ingenuity in your business can provide some of the same benefits. This could be as basic as underwriting a night at the local comedy club (negotiating some type of group rate, of course) to developing a fun and fanciful on-site promotion.
Bottom line: It’s not the size or cost of the feel-good effort that matters as much as it’s showing those who support your business that you care and are willing to get creative to help demonstrate that sentiment.
Mark Lusky, President, Mark Lusky Communications (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. READ BIO