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Why Be Cause Driven? Because Customers Buy Better Versions of Themselves

Be Cause Driven!

Why? Customers don’t buy products and services; they buy better versions of themselves. 

Blake Mycoskie, founder of the now famous TOMS Shoes, chose the name TOMS to signify “Shoes For Tomorrow,” because with every pair of shoes you buy, the company will donate a pair to a child in need. Mycoskie came up with the idea during a trip to Argentina where he noticed that many of the children he met did not have shoes—a problem in developing countries where one of the leading causes of disease is soil-transmitted parasites that penetrate bare feet.

He also learned that many of these children could not go to school if they did not have shoes. Now, why do we pay an average $55 and as much as $100 for a pair of TOMS? It is because every time we buy a pair of TOMS we feel a part of something bigger, a part of doing something good in the world.

And when we look in the mirror, we see a better version of us.

Why are people in India and around the world so fond of buying Tata products? It is because the Tata Group, known as one of the most ethical conglomerates in the world, has been giving back to the communities from which it takes, for more than 140 years.

We visited a village in Sanand where Tata Motors was building an automobile plant. The entire corporate social responsibility intervention was impressive. The Tatas do not go into a village as a “big corporate” and tell the people what they need. Tata companies go in and ask: “What do you think you need and how can we partner with you to make it happen?” No one questions the fact that the Tatas have raised the tide for the entire nation of India. This is one of the reasons people feel good about buying their products.

My purchases are a statement about me. People seek self-expression and self-identity through what they buy. When we buy products that enrich lives from companies that are doing good, we create a better version of ourselves. A better version of me feels, well…better!

Apple created an entire ecosystem of products and services that have made our lives better. In health care alone, would Steve Jobs have even guessed that today, there are more than 13,000 health apps available for download in Apple’s AppStore?

As its retail stores opened, Jobs told the people at Apple: Your customers don’t care about your products. Your customers dream of a happier and better life. Don’t move products. Instead, enrich lives.

When you sell WHY you do what you do, you are inviting people to join a movement that gives them an opportunity to express themselves. It gives them a platform to tell their story, to make a statement about who they are, what they believe, and what they stand for. It also gives them a sense of belonging, a place where they can join like-minded people who share the same concerns and aspirations.

This is what people are buying. WHY distinguishes companies such as Southwest Airlines, TOMS Shoes, and the Tata Group from everyone else. It is not WHAT they do; it is WHY they do it that capture people’s attention. In the case of Southwest, there are a lot of companies that will put you in a seat and move you from point A to point B. But there is only one that set out to fight for the little person. There is only one that initially got into business to democratize the skies. This is their WHY, and their WHY is why people buy.

Research validates that consumer preferences are shifting. It is no longer enough just to sell a product or service that works. Consumers expect meaningful social impact. In the future, if you cannot demonstrate that you are legitimately doing something to make the world better you would not have a business.

There will always be some market segment that religiously buys goods from socially responsible companies. But if you think they are out on the fringe, think again. More and more of these socially conscious buyers are occupying center stage. These trends represent a springboard for growing your company. The soil is fertile, the story is powerful, and the market is hungry for something genuine to believe in. Do not miss this opportunity.

And now, in CAUSE we highlight the people of National Life. They have developed a direct line-of-sight between their individual contribution and the larger CAUSE for which the company fights. The result is unprecedented growth from a company that competes in a sea of sameness.

Experience the culture of National Life and you quickly discover that something beyond selling insurance drives these people. You quickly get the sense that employees are caught up in a cause that touches them at a deeply emotional level— something that transcends profitability and the bottom line. The emotional connection they have with a larger cause releases a powerful flow of passion, pride, perseverance, and productivity.

And guess what? They are blowing the doors off business-as-usual when it comes to loyalty, profitability and customer value.

Jackie Freiberg is an independent business consultant and a best-selling author. National Life is grateful for her contribution of this article to our Main Street Blog, and her insights into our company, and other companies with a cause.