While in the airport yesterday perusing a variety of marketing materials (aka billboards as I walked to my gate), I saw a bunch of different advertisements by companies about how much they care, from facility maintenance to oil to the airlines themselves. This inspired a late afternoon tweet:

If all your marketing materials insist that you care, you probably don’t.

Within a few minutes, Sophia asked the very on-point question:

brightwings: @cspenn curious. what would demonstrate “caring” to your way of thinking & satisfaction?

Caring is one of those terms that falls under the same category as cool. Saying that you care is far less impactful than actually caring.

What is caring? It’s hard to define but easy to spot. Take your pick of any of the things that people at companies do, from your local favorite restaurant server remembering the way you like your martini to an airline flight attendant doing the mandatory preflight announcement slightly differently:

Not caring is even easier to see. It’s business as usual, paying lip service to the idea that the people giving you money as customers might actually matter, and putting yourself before your customers. I worked for a company once where I watched as a customer service representative was told – in all seriousness – to care less, answer the phones more quickly, get the customer off the phone more quickly and get them to buy something online, and avoid helping them in order to maintain call volume, because phone calls cost money.

Caring isn’t a corporate directive that marketing can create from thin air, much as we might try or want to. Caring comes from a company’s corporate culture at every level, from the CEO to the janitor.

Maybe you’re in charge of a company, a department, a workgroup, and you want to evolutionize (note the missing letter R) the culture into one that cares. How do you do that? Take whatever it is you’re doing and reframe it as a mission. Not a B-school mission statement, but a real mission, a holy cause, a calling. Find or create a noble aspect to whatever it is you do, something that you can truly be passionate, even zealous about, and recenter your focus on that.

Sales will get easier because you will exude the subtle, powerful confidence that comes from speaking about something you believe in. Customer service will get easier because your customers will align to your beliefs or choose a different company to work with. Marketing will get much easier because you will rarely have to question whether the work you are doing is effective or not – you just have to determine if it is in line with your mission. Running the company itself will get easier because you won’t have to browbeat workers into coming to work or doing good work. The cause and the passion it fuels will do that for you; you need to maintain, encourage, and foster that faith, remaining true to your mission.

What demonstrates caring? When you have something to believe in and something worth fighting for, caring demonstrates itself.

What’s your mission?


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