By Frank J. Rich
It is said that generosity is the ultimate healing. It would appear that the world and its people are indeed wounded, so healing may be in order. And, no better time than now, which is the season of giving. But what makes us givers and when and where does it manifest.
The topic may be especially useful in a recovering economy that courts disaster for some and opportunity for others. It’s a common experience, played out daily across the commercial landscape. Somehow, we get through it on both sides – often the result of good luck.
A closer look at the first sentence reveals the ethic in giving. Largely good, giving is a virtuous act that has substantial effects on both giver and recipient. It makes us feel good to give, even, at times, proud of having done “good.”
The science behind it confirms the conclusion that giving causes a spirit lift in us, a measure of well-being that makes us whole, at least in the moment. A logical extension may be that continuous giving produces an attitude adjustment. At issue is the balance between the emotional costs and benefits.
How does this all figure in the equation that informs growth of commercial enterprise? The strategic alternatives of giving vary, but the giving dynamic reaches deep into the emotional viscera of consumers, and the growing population of “presumers,” those who prepare the purchase before the purchase. It’s the place we find a partnership with the most fundamental buyers’ motivation – “the most amount of product for the least amount of money.” In their efforts to satisfy the notion, consumers know that “how they feel” matters most when deciding what to buy and where.
Marketing tradition is rife with “giving” models. The “deal” is the most apparent of them, but giving to the customer until he “feels” compelled to accept is fundamental to the success of most enterprises. As we survey the commercial landscape, it is easy to identify those who are succeeding and those who are not. Giving is the difference.
Walk into a bar and enjoy one on the house; a restaurant that delivers a dessert to the table even when not ordered; an auto shop that changes the wipers (not just alerting you to the need) after a major repair on your car; a clothing store that packages a colorful scarf with your purchase as a gift; a contractor who takes an alternative approach to solving a problem and saves you a lot of money in the process; a salesman who calls to thank you for the opportunity to serve you; a donut shop that delivers a baker’s dozen with every order of twelve, and a free hot chocolate for all the kids; a banker who offers himself and his time in addition to the current promotion. Get the picture?
George Zimmer founded Men’s Warehouse in 1973, and has made a success around the offer: “Buy one, get one free, because you’re going to like the way you look; I guarantee it.”
Giving may be the sine qua non of life – and of enterprise. So why don’t more employ the method? Much like customer service, which is free, giving only works when used. It’s natural to the human condition, so causes a human response – we feel good. And one more thing: it works!