The emotional sell: Why sharing your business values is a smart move
May 16, 2016
I’ve never worked for a company that plastered its business values up on the wall. Some people who have think it’s a woo-woo move.
Others think it’s phony. I read their snark-filled book excerpts and all that criticism lights a fire in my chest. They see these signs as tooting horns, but I see the founders that created them—and man oh man, do I get where they were coming from.
It’s absurdly easy to forget where you come from. It doesn’t matter if you’re swimming in greenbacks or struggling to pay your wifi bill—when you’re busy with anything, the foundation upon which you built you business fades into the background.
If that’s the destiny, then why do we create business values in the first place?
We establish business values because asking a Magic Eight Ball to make business decisions for us isn’t a productive strategy.
Business values are our compasses. They tell us what direction to move toward, regardless of where we currently are. They’re what we consult when we’re not instinctively sure if we should say yes or no to a certain opportunity.
If Hansel and Gretel had had a north star—or a compass—they wouldn’t have needed breadcrumbs because they could always have found their way home, no matter how far away they wandered. That’s true for entrepreneurs, too.
Straying from your path happens. Sometimes you look up and realize it almost immediately. Other times, months fly by before it dawns on you that you’re not at all where you want to be. When you check in regularly with your business values, though, you can quickly gauge how your decisions are stacking up against your goals. Then, you can adjust your actions accordingly.
How does that work in reality? Let’s take a gander at a hypothetical situation.
Guys, meet Sonya.
Sonya is a graphic designer. Most of her work is one-on-one services for other businesses, but she’s also dreamed of producing and selling products baring her designs. One of her core values is sustainability. Sonya composts, recycles, and carefully researches every item she brings into her home, so this is a big sticking point for her.
Fast forward a few months. Sonya just finished creating a series of postcard and notepad designs for her dream e-store when a guy she used to work with asks her if she’s ever thought about manufacturing her own products. If she is, he’s got a deal with a factory she can get in on, but only if she gets in on the deal this week.
It’s kismet! This is meant to be, Sonya tells herself, so she signs on the dotted line. The exhilaration keeps her sailing through the process. She gets her first box of samples in the mail—they’re perfect! Exactly what she had in mind! She puts in the order, starts working on her e-store…and then she comes across a Post article on factory conditions in Eastern Europe. Funny, she thinks, that’s where her products are being produced.
Sonya tries to push it the thoughts to the side, but she can’t shake that niggling fear that something isn’t quite right. So, she asks her colleague for more information about the factory. He forwards over the details. It’s pretty standard stuff, not unusual for the manufacturing industry at all.
But the more Sonya reads, the more aghast she is. As a consumer, she wouldn’t buy anything produced there because it goes against her core value of sustainability. Then, she realizes how far she’s strayed from her path. Yes, her dream is close—she can hold those postcards in her hands! But will she be satisfied to achieve her dream while compromising her values?
Sonya decides that she wouldn’t. She cancels the order, eats the cost, and looks for a different manufacturer.
What would you do?
You’d be right to weigh the pluses and minuses; values aren’t the be-all, end-all of business decisions. But they can help make the right choices clear to you.
When you live and work and make decisions by your values, you have two choices: You can keep quiet about them, or you can announce them to the world.
I think you should speak up about them, and this is why.
Consider the companies you give business to, and then think about why. Sure, they sell a great product, but what sets them apart from their competitors? In many cases, it’s the values on which they do business that makes you decide to give them your business.
Think about it: Toms sends shoes to kids in Africa. Trader Joe’s offers healthcare to all of its employees. Target promotes inclusivity.
Could these companies waffle on their values to make more money or to win more customers? Definitely—others do it every day. But they stick with—and stick up for—their values because they believe in they are essential to their companies’ successes and continued existence.
This works because our economy is becoming increasingly social. Here’s what I mean by that.
When a market is awash with competition, it’s not enough to sell a good product and it’s not enough to sell a good product once. You need to win over repeat customers who are so in love with your product (or service), that you’re the only one they’ll buy from and the only one they’ll refer their friends to.
To do that, you need to make an emotional connection with them.
That’s exactly what great copywriting in marketing and advertising campaigns does: it plays on peoples’ emotions and persuades them to take the desired action.
There’s another way for businesses to do this now, a new way: you can appeal to their personal values. When our hypothetical graphic designer Sonya markets her postcards to an environmentally savvy customer, that customer realizes that she’s not just getting a product she loves; she’s also getting feel-good vibes because she realizes that the business she’s supporting shares her values.
The pleasure we feel from doing something good also lasts longer and makes a more lasting impression on the human brain than a shopping high does. That means that we’re far more likely to remember and return to that source of pleasure.
You can do a combination of these, all of them, or even just one—it’s up to you. But I do think it’s time to consider what your business values are (if you haven’t already) and start talking them up to your customers.
Will you lose some people? Yeah. But those people aren’t your ideal audience; it’s OK to let them go. Work hard for the customers who really get what it is that you do and why you do it. They’ll be customers for life.