Caring is our core business, not web design

Yesterday, I attended the Engaging Digital Comms Conference in London, and I was really fascinated by a talk from Andrea Daniels, Director of Strategic Marketing & Digital at the British Council.

In particular, I was struck by this statistic as to why audiences vanish:

  • 1% die
  • 5% make other friends (find a competitor that they prefer)
  • 14% no longer like what you do (maybe they changed, maybe you did)
  • 68% feel that you no longer care about them

This statistic is specifically relating to online engagement and why people disengage from organisations that they interact with or follow, but I believe that it’s true about relationships with organisations in a more general sense.

For years, I’ve told people that the main reason that our clients hire us is because we genuinely care about them.  Most companies claim that they care, but in practice they care about keeping the customer happy because it is in their own commercial interest to do so, not because they truly care about the client’s best interests.  Our clients hire us because we don’t pretend to care, we actually do.

I’m often told that this cannot be the real reason and get asked to provide a more tangible and scientific answer to why clients hire us. Of course, there are other factors, but I think that we too often underestimate the value of the softer, more intangible elements of business relationships.

In our case, I have no doubt that the way that we care about our clients’ best interests is essential to our success as an agency. It might sometimes mean that we lose out commercially in the short term by under-selling and over-servicing in order to help a client to meet their goals, and I will be the first to admit that we do sometimes go too far beyond the call of duty, but on balance it is this genuine care for our clients as organisations and as individuals that has been the foundation of our success for the past 11 years.

One of the challenges has been maintaining this culture of caring as we have grown as a team. Here are a few principles that we follow to achieve this:

#1 – We hire genuinely good people

As we grow as a team, it’s important that our whole team care as much as Vineeta and I do. We cannot force our team to care about our clients, so we need to ensure that we hire people to whom it comes naturally.  That is why in our recruitment process we look for people who not only have the relevant skills, but also have the right nature.   They need to be naturally caring people whose personal values are aligned with our mission. This does mean that we take longer to find the right people when we are recruiting, but it is worth it in the long run.  This is the foundation of our business, and without this, we would lose our culture and identity as a team.

#2 – We care about our team

If we want our team to care about our clients, then it’s essential that we lead by example and care about our team members and treat them as we would wish to be treated, and how we wish them to treat our clients. There’s no doubt an element of karma that when people look out for each other, they’re more likely to treat others well and create a ripple of positive behaviour.  That doesn’t just work from the top down, but in all directions. By hiring good people it naturally creates an environment in which all team members care about each other.

#3 – We align our work with our mission and culture

It’s hard to care about things that you don’t believe in or that you are just not interested in. This is one of the reasons that we’re so selective about the projects that we work on. When projects align with the things that our team love and believe in, there’s an intrinsic motivation to ensure that the project is a success.  Our project screening process helps to ensure that as far as possible, we spend our time working on projects that mean something to us and that we can therefore put our hearts into.

#4 – We work with clients who are nice human beings

As nice or caring as anyone in our team might be, it can be hard to care about people that are rude or disrespectful others. This is why we don’t just look at the projects to see if we are aligned, but we also assess whether we feel that the clients are nice people to work with before we take them on.  When we like someone, we can’t help but care for their best interests and do our best to help them achieve their goals, creating a positive and fruitful working relationship.

#5 – We put purpose before profit

Even with a team of genuinely caring people and a client base of like-minded positive organisations and individuals, it would be easy for the best interest of the client to get pushed down the priority list in the quest to maximise profit. I’ve seen it happen in other agencies, and I’m always careful to ensure that we aren’t letting this happen. We strive to create a culture in which the mission is always the primary objective, with profits simply a means to that end. Playing the long game and truly caring about our clients may not be as profitable in the short term, but it fosters stronger long term relationships and goodwill that help us and our clients to achieve sustainable success.

In addition to all of this, our mission is to be a model for how businesses can help create a genuinely more sustainable and equitable world.  Why? Because we care.

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