Here in Sonoma County, we are having, well, quite a month. A county full of empathic and caring people have become anxious and on edge. October kicked off with us worried about those suffering from hurricanes, knowing storms still loomed. Flyers and FB posts seeking help for storm victims were not uncommon. Then the Las Vegas shooting came. We were stunned. How could this possibly be happening in our world, we wondered.
FB discussions went up a notch: should we act? If so, how? Then came the unthinkable. Instead of waking up to a day off—whether that be to celebrate Columbus or Indigenous People’s Day depending on your point of view—we had to flee our homes as whole areas of our county burned to the ground. The devastation and scale of loss are beyond anything I’ve seen in my life.
Of course, we all started taking action in whatever ways we could—with urgency. The moment you were somewhat assured that your own life was not in immediate danger, you turned to see if you could help someone else. Food, water, money, and time poured from each of us for seven straight days. It. Was. A. Long. Week.
By week two, Tubbs, Pocket and Atlas firestorms were getting under control. The shock was wearing off. Time spent checking the emergency web pages or scouring FB for news has gone down now. Broken hearts are beginning to grieve. Most of us are back in our homes, or sifting through the ruins to begin the long road of rebuilding. So what’s next, and what does this have to do with marketing? For me it boils down to a key question: how can you best serve?
The truth is that there is always some way you can support others. Whether it’s serving meals at a shelter or donating money, if it speaks to you and it’s in your means to do, then go ahead and take action. But here’s the trick: you have to express your support in a way that’s sustainable for you if you want to make a real difference. It’s the same in marketing, you can only do what is a good fit for you if you want it to work. I see so many folks trying to market in ways that don’t fit them, like an introvert marketing her business through networking and being public. Then they wonder why they don’t get the results they hoped for or they find they can’t keep up.
To be of best service to others, consider these questions. Whether it’s causes you want to support or a new marketing approach for your business, answering these will help you get clear and take useful action. How awesome is that?!
Who are you best suited to serve?
If you want to support a certain group of people or a particular cause but don’t know how to find them, it won’t work. You end up not serving anyone. So, identify who you want to help and look for where they are in your circles. You need to find the right person or organization, but that comes only after knowing exactly who you are looking for.
In marketing this is called your ideal client. You get the best results when you work with others who not only need what you can give, but make you feel good too. It could be their growth, their gratitude, or just that they are fun to be with, but the people you are best suited to serve are those you have, or can create, a connection with.
What works for you to give?
For your contribution to be meaningful you need to factor in yourself and your life. You need to consider your personal preferences, stage of life, financial needs, and commitments to others when deciding what causes—or types of marketing—you engage in. During this disaster in my community, because of my commitments to my children, our finances, and my personality, I can’t spend all day helping in a shelter. But I can donate my expertise for a few hours a week to people who need it during this time. I can attend fundraisers and give money. These are things I can continue to do without burning myself out. It’s what I have to give; it’s how I can best serve right now.
It’s the same in marketing, you can only do what is good fit for you and your life. I often see solopreneurs taking on marketing tasks that don’t fit their budget, their life stage or their personalities, which ends up not being sustainable, or enjoyable. Likewise, I see purpose-driven entrepreneurs giving more than they can afford to in supporting causes but not creating enough billable time in their businesses, leaving them with not enough to keep going in their personal lives.
Can you combine tasks to serve more?
Marketing already addresses this issue and it’s called cause marketing. Cause marketing is the act of linking your business to a charitable cause. You can do this by having your business host fundraisers for the cause, donating a portion of your proceeds, or creating products or services for the benefit of the charity. They get some or all the funds and your business gets the recognition and visibility for helping.
It doesn’t always have to be a formal thing though. In a time of need, how about deciding that a portion of your next event will be earmarked for a charity or making your office a point of collection for donations? Combine fundraising with your normal business activities for a double win. You may even find doing your marketing is easier for you when you know it’s serving a cause.
Can you change your beliefs about money to serve more?
Here’s another overlooked way to serve. Make more money so you can afford to give some of it to others! Holding the belief that only your time or efforts makes a difference simply isn’t a spiritual truth. The more money you receive, the more you can give. And guess what is the most under-given resource to charities and disasters? It’s not toiletries and clothing; it’s cash!
On the marketing front, it’s the same. If everyone tries to do every aspect of their business on their own, there’s no flow. Instead, focus on selling enough of your valuable product or service to clients so that you can hire accounting, marketing, and other help in your business. That’s what keeps the world going ‘round—the relations we create with others. Money is just a tangible representation of those relations.
It is my sincere hope that pointing out the crossover between marketing and supporting causes we care about lands with you in the spirit that I mean it to—one of hope and love. I want each of you to know that your actions count. I want you to feel sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing what you can, and that helps everyone. And carrying on with your work—even while so many of our loved ones are still reeling—serves our community. Running a thriving business sustains you—and the causes you want to support.
My heartfelt condolences to everyone who’s experienced loss in this time. Sending you blessings and light. If I can be of help in any way, please just let me know.
Linda believes that small business owners can step into a better version of their business when they embrace authenticity and become more fully themselves. Her 25-year marketing career has included Kimpton Hotels, Jamba Juice, and Disney helping her clients win awards and placements in publications like The Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine, as well as on the front cover of WIRED magazine. You can visit her website here: lindabasso.com or join her FB conversation.