Business often gets a bad reputation among those who don't love it quite like you and I do. Many people think companies are only out to maximize their profits while squeezing their customers out of every possible penny.
While plenty of businesses operate that way, there's a new wave of entrepreneurship that's changing the game. And they're doing it by being generous.
These companies aren't just doing kind deeds as one-offs or during the holidays. They are building generosity into their business models. As a result, they are thriving.
Research backs this approach. In Give and Take, Wharton professor and bestselling author Adam Grant shares data that showcased how and why givers dominate the top of the success ladder. Here's how he explains one of the primary reasons why this occurs:
Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You'll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value instead of just claiming it.
Being generous reaps many rewards. Many of them compound over time as your reputation and the impact of your giving grows.
Author Keith Ferrazzi put it this way in his bestseller Never Eat Alone:
I'll sum up the key to success in one word: generosity. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.
Here are three ways million-dollar businesses profitably bake generosity into their DNA.
1. Sharing knowledge
Lots of companies have discovered they can win business by giving valuable information away for free.
Mint.com used this strategy early on while preparing for the launch of their product. They launched MintLife, a personal finance blog which educated their target customers on various aspects of money management.
By regularly publishing useful articles, infographics, and even having company leaders share openly about how they managed their finances, Mint.com built an engaged audience of more than 20,000 people by the time their product was ready.
When you generously publish relevant content that educates, entertains, and helps people solve pressing problems, you can demonstrate your expertise while building a relationship with your ideal customers.
Mint.com did this daily, and eventually sold to Intuit for $170 million.
These trust-based relationships have enabled Mint.com and others following a content-first approach, to build loyal customers that evangelize about them, and buy from them again and again.
2. Disseminating a portion of profits
Another way businesses are growing more generous is by donating some of their earnings to help those in need.
Toms does this through their one-for-one giving philosophy. Whenever someone buys a pair of their shoes, they donate a pair to a child in need. With over $300 million in annual revenues, Toms has since expanded their one-for-one approach into other product lines.
Companies with social missions like Toms, differentiate themselves in a way that makes customers interested in making an impact flock to support them.
Consider tying a portion of your sales to a social cause that is meaningful to you. But be sure to make it easy and obvious for your customers to see how the purchase they are making will solve their own issue while simultaneously contributing to a greater good.
3. Delighting with perks
Companies who recognize their customers are their most valuable asset, often go to great lengths to ensure they can keep them.
Zappos is radically generous with their customer service. And it has paid dividends for them.
From their no questions asked free returns policy, to encouraging service representatives to spend more rather than less time on the line with their customers, to the random acts of kindness they show to customers and non-customers alike, Zappos spreads joy and happiness to those that cross their path.
Customers respond with excitement, gratitude, and an even greater level of loyalty. And the company, which Amazon bought for nearly a billion dollars, continues to grow.
You can delight your customers without giving away the farm. Find ways to brighten their day, take the time to pay attention to detail and make their experience simpler. Empower your team to take the extra step in ensuring your customers feel like VIPs.
Over time, your effort won't go unnoticed.
If you're looking for a way to grow, don't do it by cutting corners and squeezing everything you possibly can out of your customers.
Take a different, smarter, more impactful approach. Give. Be generous. It's good for your customers. It's good for the communities you serve. And it's definitely good for business.