Connecting on cause is easier than connecting on brand

A former client of mine is a well-known coffee shop in Seattle. They have had Food Network, Travel Channel, and other network shows recorded on location. They are in many travel books as one of the best coffee shops in Seattle, and as a result, they get a lot of people that go to the area and plan specifically to visit.

Given all of that, you would think they would rest on their laurels and just let people come to them. But, they don’t.

They use Twitter searches for phrases like just landed in Seattle and “on my way to SEA” to find people coming to town. Then, they respond with advice on what to see, where to go, and more. They also use a listening station to find people saying similar things in forums, blogs, and other media.

And, you know what they get out of it?

For every 5 minutes they spend searching for and responding to engagement opportunities, they get either a person exclaiming how great it is that someone is helping them without shilling a product, or a person that walks through the door and buys something as a result, or – even better – BOTH.

Would it be worth 5 minutes of your time to get people talking about you, responding to you, telling their friends how much they appreciate you, and maybe even donating to you?

Now, before you start pointing out how you’re a nonprofit, in a small town, no one knows about you, and your situation is different, I want you to go out on the street and ask a random set of people these two questions:

  1. Do you care about the Atlanta Union Mission? (For the sake of argument, let’s just say that is where you work.)
  2. Do you care about helping homeless men, women, and children?

I guarantee that less than 30% of people say yes to the first question, while 90% say yes to the second. It’s not that your organization doesn’t do great work.

But, your name does not always tell someone what you do. And, trying to force your brand in front of people is less effective at driving response than answering questions and offering advice.

This holds true no matter what organization you are. Think about it. How much do you care about Starbucks, or Chrysler, or the local animal shelter? Probably not much, but you do care about good coffee, cars that get you from points A to B in a manner you like, and saving animals. And, when you post online that you’re looking for places to visit in a new area or that you’re concerned about homelessness in your town, you welcome advice and information much more often than, “You’re coming to town? Buy some coffee from us!” and “Did you say homelessness? We take donations for that!”

Would it really take much for you to adjust a small part of your marketing strategy to focus on providing value, building trust, and being an information resource instead of focusing on how to just tell more people about you?
Post by Eric Pratum.