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Ethics and Values

There's a fringe benefit that comes from a genuine commitment to your Corporate Values: customer loyalty. If your market identifies with your company's guiding values, all things being equal, they will be more inclined to do business with you than your competitors. Why? Because your values allow your market to identify with your company on a more personal level, humanizing your company. When you're true to your Corporate Values, you attract others with similar values, including staff, business associates, and of course, customers.

A values-based market position can be extremely effective but, remember, while people are often more willing to support a company built on honest values, they can be equally suspicious of the motives of business. Convincing people you're genuine is even more difficult if your industry has a reputation that runs contrary to your values.

For example, some people, rightly or wrongly, associate the used car industry with deception and manipulation. They approach the buying of a used car with caution. As a result, if you own a used car lot, convincing your prospects that your values run contrary to this stereotype may take some work. Successfully breaking through negative stereotypes, however, can be highly rewarding. In fact, more and more used car dealers are discovering that the results are more than worth the effort.

Re-read your Corporate Values. How well is your company living up to them? Customers will forgive your company falling short on occasion as long as they know your efforts to live up to your values are genuine. Your customers' perceptions are their realities, so if people believe something is true, they will act accordingly. If your Corporate Values are more than skin deep, as they undoubtedly are, it's your responsibility to make sure the market knows it.

When you make an honest commitment to operate your business in accordance with your Corporate Values, your sincerity comes through in the details. Like any worthwhile relationship, “values-based marketing” takes time to develop, but the customer loyalty it fosters is worth the effort.

The difference between a good business and a great business is less than you might imagine. A good business usually treats customers well. A great business always treats their customers well. A good business usually follows through with commitments. A great business always follows through with commitments. At any given moment, both businesses can look fairly similar, but over time the difference between “usually” and “always” becomes undeniably apparent to people. If you want your customers to know you're sincere, you've got to prove it to them time and time again. Following are some of the ways you can demonstrate your commitment to your Corporate Values to your customers.

  1. Guarantees and Warranties
  2. Customer Relations
  3. Support a worthwhile cause
  4. Advertising and other promotions
  5. Lead your industry

The difference between a good business and a great business is consistency in the details.

Guarantees and Warranties

Guarantees and Warranties demonstrate to your customers that you are committed to dealing in good faith and that you stand firmly behind your business and your products.

They are so common these days, however, that simply having one may not be enough to convince your prospects of your sincerity. In many industries, a basic money-back guarantee is now practically an expectation. So get a little creative and design your guarantee to meet your customers' specific needs. The hotel industry, for example, has had to learn to compete with multiple discount reseller websites that all claim to offer rooms at the best rates. Revenue Managers for hotels have seen their Target Market become increasingly price aware. Research shows that over 60% of hotel customers would rather book directly with the hotel, but 85% of customers will book with whoever offers a "Best Price" guarantee. Since, in the case of hotels, the customers primary concern is to know they're getting the best price, a Best Price guarantee is the most direct route to customer loyalty.

What kind of a guarantee might you (or do you) offer your prospects?

Customer Service

If your customers are important to you, be sure to let them know. The way you treat your customers, influences their opinion of your business as a whole, so make sure your Corporate Values come through in every interaction.

This is where your Code of Conduct becomes so valuable. Your Code of Conduct sets the ground rules for behaviour in your business and ensures that your business lives up to its Values. For example, if your Code of Conduct states that any employee receiving a complaint owns that complaint until the customer is satisfied, you'll send a clear message to your customer that their satisfaction is important not just to one or two employees in your company, but to your company as a whole.

Review and update your Code of Conduct, identifying any policies you might put in place to ensure your Corporate Values are reflected in your customer relationships.

For example, you might decide that customers who call will never be left on hold for more than 30 seconds, or that customers who arrive for an appointment will be offered a complimentary beverage.

If necessary, write your updated Code of Conduct in the space below.

Support a Cause

If your Corporate Values support the philosophy of philanthropy or “giving back to humanity,” this can be a powerful marketing tool as well. Many consumers appreciate when supporting your business, they're also supporting a worthwhile cause. This approach can offer tremendous value to your business and the cause or organization you're supporting.

An environmental conservation policy, for example, isn't just good for the planet, it's also good for business. These days, consumers are more inclined to buy environmentally-friendly products and packaging when given the choice. Consider using less packaging, recycled materials, reusable products and so forth. You might find that helping the environment helps your business as well.

If there's a cause you would like to support through your business, briefly outline it below, along with some of the ways you might choose to do so.

Advertising and other Promotions

Let your values come through in your marketing campaigns. If something is important to you, let people know about it. For example, you might donate part of the proceeds from the sale of a particular product to a worthwhile cause.

Be careful, however, never to use this strictly as a marketing tool. If it is not accompanied by a strong desire to support the cause independently of its marketing benefits, it will absolutely backfire. If people don't believe you are genuine in your support, you risk being viewed as conniving.

List some ideas for incorporating your Corporate Values into your advertising and promotional campaigns in the space below. We’ll be covering promotions later on, but it's still a good time to begin thinking about it.

“At Danone, humanism, openness, proximity and enthusiasm (HOPE) provide the foundation for a unique corporate vision that projects our strength and our identity around the world.”

- Danone’s 2012 Statement of Values

Lead Your Industry

To really have an impact, be proactive with your efforts. Forge your own path by going beyond government regulations and industry standards.

Patagonia clothing are a rugged outdoor clothing brand and retailer. In 2013, they ran an advertising campaign with their new line of jackets that said, "Don't buy this jacket, unless you really need to." The values page of their website states, "For us at Patagonia, a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet. We donate our time, services and at least 1% of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide." Patagonia's adherence and publication of their corporate values have won them a devoted and loyal following of exactly the people they market to. Their "Don't buy this jacket" campaign actually increased jacket sales.

In what ways might your Corporate Values support your position as an industry leader?