In today's political climate, it's not enough to sell a good product to attract and retain customers. You also need to prove your tech business's authenticity. It needs to have a soul.
"There is an assumption that business should be about business, personal interests should remain personal, and the two have no overlap," says
Strive Technology Consulting
(@striveit). "This narrow view of business is rapidly being replaced by people who want to stop leaving their lives and passions at the office's front door."
For proof, look no further than the news. The Denver Post details how Uber recently caught a lot of heat when users thought the company was trying to profit from a taxi strike related to President Trump's controversial travel ban. Meanwhile, TechCrunch reports, rival ride-sharing company Lyft announced it would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Lyft's popularity swelled.
Even Starbucks is putting its business practices where its beliefs are. NPR reports that the company pledged to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide over the next five years.
Now it's your turn. Here's how your tech business can showcase its values and win loyal customers.
Market with Soul
Before you promote your business's soul, you need to figure out what that soul consists of. Consider what matters to you and how you want others to perceive your business. Then communicate those beliefs to current and potential customers.
"You know your values," says
Lauri Moyle (@laurimoyle),
a consultancy that helps business leaders better align their ethical core with their business practices. "But perhaps they are unarticulated? Put them on your website. Make them the DNA of how you operate your business. This will communicate both directly and indirectly what you stand for as a person and as a business."
Kristy Dickerson (@kristydickerson),
CEO and cofounder of
(@startplanner), adds, "It is important to be sure that your branding is cohesive with your company's messaging. Consider how you want to talk to your clients. Is your company serious? Fun? Upbeat? Silly? Carry it through all aspects of communication, from marketing to emails to phone calls."
For marketing tips, check out "Help Your Dream Clients Find You: The Power of Online Marketing."
Genuinely Connect with Your Customers
How you discuss and market your business will only take you so far. The real test of a business's soul is whether its actions align with its messaging. That's especially evident in client interactions.
"Bryan Kramer said it best: 'There is no more B2B or B2C,'" says
Road Warrior Creative
(@roadwarriorwp). "It's H2H: human to human. Consumers increasingly want to know who a business is. The most important thing is to be authentic in your actions and statements. Ultimately, businesses that show their human side will attract more humans to do business with them."
But what does that look like in practice? GreenPal (@YourGreenPal), the app that helps people book lawn care professionals, has a steal-worthy strategy.
"When a homeowner signs up for our service, we gather information on their pets and their names," says
Bryan Clayton (@bryanMclayton),
cofounder of GreenPal.
"We do this so our lawn vendors know to be careful when entering the lawn, but also to send a personalized gift to our customers' pet. This really wowed our customers. We received personal thank-you notes, videos of their dog chewing the bone we sent posted to Facebook, and thank-you tweets. It worked really well for the time and money we invested."
Sending toys addressed to customers' pets? Now that's some soul.
Handle Customer Complaints in a Way that Shows You Care
The way your business handles customer complaints also shows its values. It's the perfect opportunity to put empathy and compassion into practice.
"Go above and beyond customer expectations and empower your staff to do so as well," says Moyle. "Every client, whether it's a large business or a sole proprietor, behind that entity is a person with a story. Life happens, and when you can make the life of that person more valuable and recognize their dignity, you are not only honoring the client, but you actually become a better person."
Just make sure you're sincere when handling customer complaints. Otherwise customers will sense that you aren't being authentic.
"Soul isn't a marketing trick – it's a way of existing for a business," says Singleton. "If a company really does care about customer disputes, that will be apparent in the resolution process. If the company doesn't care and is using a facsimile of soul to fake caring, that will be apparent as well."
Give Back to Your Community
Demonstrate your commitment to your community by donating your time, product, or cash. Your contribution gets your business's name out there and supports causes you believe in.
"The more companies are a part of events and causes in the local community – both in sponsorship and participation – the more that community will see the company's soul and respond to it and support it," says Singleton.
For example, Singleton says his company donates a portion of its revenue and services each year to local nonprofits that align with its mission and values.
Hinds adds, "Road Warrior Creative gives away a free website to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit annually. We let the community vote for the nonprofit that they feel is the most deserving, which builds engagement with all of the nonprofits that apply and also engagement with our own brand. For us, it's a great way to give back and to build general awareness of our business in the community."
For more ideas on how your tech business can give back, read "7 Ways Small IT Businesses Can Give Back, Whether You’re Crunched for Time, Money, or Both."
About the Contributors
Bryan Clayton is a serial entrepreneur. He founded a landscape construction company Peach Tree Landscaping in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew it to more than 125 employees before being acquired. Currently, he is CEO of GreenPal, an online marketplace connecting homeowners with lawn care professionals in their town via the web and a mobile app – kind of like Uber for lawn care.
Kristy Dickerson, keynote speaker, businesswoman, and active CEO and cofounder of STARTplanner, has devoted her life to providing hope for individuals who are looking to achieve balance, success, and happiness within their own lives. Dickerson has been sought after for keynote speaking because of her relatable story, no excuses tone, valuable advice, and upbeat personality that she entrenches in all aspects of her brands.
As COO and co-owner of Road Warrior Creative, Chris Hinds spends most of his time connecting new clients with intelligent digital solutions that will help them achieve their goals. In addition to holding degrees in business and culinary arts, Chris has over 10 years of experience as a professional chef. He's a unique resource for food-based businesses that want to effectively market their products online because of his success in both the food world and in digital marketing.
Lauri Moyle is a consultant with Thankful Gleaner where he helps business owners better align their ethical core with their business practices to build a better world together. He has a background in shaping policy at the national and international level and has pivoted to come alongside business owners. Lauri believes that business shapes culture and society faster and more effectively than most any other institution in the world. His specialism is the ethics of technology.
Tim Singleton has worked in the computer and technology industry since 1999, doing everything from entry-level help desk work to designing business networks and advising large IT organizations. He currently owns and operates Strive Technology Consulting, a managed service provider in Boulder, Colorado, that provides enterprise-class support and guidance to small businesses.