Become more than just a business.

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So, I have this client. Great little company. Enthusiastic owner. The most engaged, talented, fun staff you'll ever meet. A great market presence. Good numbers. Good prospects. A bright future ahead. Seriously. Things aren't perfect, but they're definitely better than average.

Anyway. This morning, I walk into the big Kahuna's office, and he's having a conversation with one of his managers about a problem he's having. One of his promotions isn't working. It isn't bringing in the volume of customers he expected. He's frowning. He's shaking his head. He leans back in his chair and sighs. "I'm at a loss with this one," he says.

So... I throw an idea at him. Just... you know, my usual speak-before-you-think type deal. Total improv. And, luckily, it turns out to be pure genius. (Whew.)

I really expected him to give me that look that says "how can I politely tell this guy to shut up and go bother someone else," but instead, the look is more akin to a shocked stare, and maybe for the first time since I've known him, the look on his face is starting to whisper "damn, that's actually a really good idea."

He says to me "Damn, that's actually a really good idea!"

Somebody pinch me.

Without getting into details, the solution involves inspiring his customers to earn good karma points by trading in something old that they aren't using anymore for something new that they will use.

Yeah. I know. It isn't rocket science... but as simple as it is, it's never been done in this market, and it will work. There is absolutely no way that it won't. By its very nature, the industry that the client is in lends itself to this so well that it's amazing no one ever thought of doing this in Greenville until now.

They simply bring in their old product, buy a new one, and get 30% off. The old product will then be sent to non-profits and charities that help underpriviledged athletes, soldiers, and the homeless. Clean out your closet or garage, save some major cash on your next purchase, and earn good karma points by helping somebody out.

It's painless, fast, fun, and rewarding both financially and spiritually. It's a no-brainer. Even if only 5% of the client's customers decide to participate, the campaign will be a success, but we expect well over 30% right from the start.

Incidentally, word-of-mouth will play a big part in spreading the good word, so we'll be monitoring that, which should be interesting.

On the client's side, the financial benefits are clear, but there's also this: From a PR standpoint, this is a newsworthy program, so they can expect to get some great exposure out of it. Positive exposure. Probably for years to come. This is the kind of program that can help them bring other local and regional organizations together to help.

It will also make shopping at his stores more than just a shopping experience. We're talking about strengthening a community which is already enjoying a deepening sense of purpose.

What we're talking about here is a movement. A small and very targeted movement, sure, but a movement nonetheless, with extraordinary potential for growth.

Perhaps the most rewarding thing to come out of our meeting wasn't so much that the client loved the idea and that we're going to be doing something very cool for people who could use our help and that the business will be strengthened as a result. Those are all great, and it's why I get paid the big bucks, but there's more. Once we hashed out the basis for a plan, the client looked at me and said "you know, I've always wanted to do something like this. After all these years, I'm finally going to get to do it."

I didn't get all choked up, but I wasn't far from it.

Whenever you can get a business owner to suddenly feel engaged in his business the way he used to be when he first started, you know you've done your job. To see the excitement in his eye and to hear the emotion in his voice when he said that was more rewarding than everything else.

If only every meeting could be that way... Wow. Wouldn't that be great.

Every company can find its salvation in good-karma projects. Every organization can inspire its members, clients and customers to see them as more than a business if they step up and become more than just a business.

You already know the ABC of selling: "Always Be Closing." There's nothing wrong with that... but I think that we can probably retire that one and replace it with a simpler, less formulaic, and infinitely more effective and rewarding little motto:

Always be inspiring.

I've never, ever, ever seen it fail.

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