Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away now. Will your company leverage this prime opportunity to cultivate and nurture relationships?
We don’t see a lot of B2B or B2C companies doing a great deal during Thanksgiving. As we collectively rush toward the December holidays, it’s understandable that we all have to prioritize internal and external touch points. But if you’re worried your organization is getting lost in the rush, strive to stand out by making Thansgiving a day of gratifying focus.
As relationships are a primary driver of most businesses, think about partners, alliances, customers and employees. Who deserves a hearty handshake, a warm hug or a little something extra? Delivering added value at an unexpected time can underscore the sincerity of your sentiments and create stronger bonds.
- Get social – As well as offering your heartfelt appreciation, find ways of engaging your community around their own traditions, recipes and remembrances.
- Connect – Internal promotions and gatherings inspire and motivate. What about a contest for employees to compete for the most creative way to reward customers or partners? Or celebrate individual accomplishments with an awards luncheon?
- Surprise and delight – A personal thank you call from your CEO to high value customers, a service award to a vendor, a special contribution to the personal cause of a alliance partner… You can be selective and strategic in your giving of thanks.
Create impactful memories this Thanksgiving for everyone who is a vital part of your community. Acknowledgement doesn’t have to cost a lot, and meaningful outreach pays big brand dividends.
It’s almost fall, the beginning of the season of traditions. Millions of us will be tromping out to the pumpkin farm to pick out the perfect jack-o-lantern in the crisp autumn air. It’s a romantic image, to be sure. What could this tradition have to do with optimizing your corporate sustainability practice? Read on!
As of the 2010 Census, about 81 percent of the U.S. population lived in urban areas. We’re far away from the sources of our food and goods…farther still from the visible consequences of our hunger for more. Our daily environments provide little or no exposure to spaces that have not been rigidly adapted for our convenience. But in our flat screen existences, we know we’ve lost something…many recent studies point to our collective yearning to return to the simple and real. We’re suffering from nature deficit disorder!
For many, annual jaunts to the pumpkin patch provide a bit of rejuvenation. But nowadays, there are more year-round opportunities for these experiences. Struggling family farmers have been turning their homesteads into tourist attractions in an effort to turn a profit. It turns out that agri-tainment (or agritourism) is fertile ground for the rich, values-based back-to-simple experiences urbanites crave. Pick your own produce, meander through a corn maze, commune with the cows and sample some fresh apple cider…this industry has shown that occasional trips to the farm helps visitors stay in touch with family, agrarian, spiritual and ethical values. These are some of the ideals that help us to take personal actions to promote sustainability.
Family farms have become popular school field-trip destinations to help kids understand where milk and eggs and vegetables come from. At farms like these, tourists can actually pay for the privilege of working on a real farm for a day or two. And the adventurous ones can even rent a cow for a while. This all boils down to tangible experiences of exercising values that lay somewhat dormant in our urban and suburban environments. Necessary and beneficial as these once-in-awhile experiences can be, how can corporate entities harness these insights?
Help employees plant some seeds!
In the New York Times, Kim Severson reported that corporate gardens are springing up at major companies like PepsiCo, Google, Yahoo, Aveda, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Intel, Toyota and Target, among others. Onsite organic gardens are becoming a valued new employee benefit at a time when health care, pensions and holiday bonuses wane. They are therapeutic, morale-boosting spaces for both gardeners and non-gardeners and an unmistakable demonstration of a committed culture of sustainability.
Many corporate sustainability initiatives are tightly-controlled top-down programs. Few day-to-day employees help to design them and, therefore, few participate in them with real enthusiasm. Employees don’t burst with pride about the personal difference they made by simply working for a company that reduced their carbon footprint by 17.5 percent last year. But innovators are realizing the value of giving employees very personal experiences…traditions to celebrate nature and memories of building something meaningfully and tangibly sustainable together.
Maybe we can learn more about innovative business practices from the agri-tainment industry. This local farm is certainly building a lot a buzz this week with the world’s largest QR-code corn maze!
By-the-by, it’s time to plant Fall bulbs. I’m planting Fritillaria imperialis this year!
Last year, Valentine’s Day merchandise was in stores by December 15. This year, Hobby Lobby partially stocked its holiday merchandise the week after July 4, and Halloween City pop-up stores opened doors weeks before Labor Day.
Retailers are trying to entice consumers earlier to combat lackluster seasonal and holiday spending, but this early-bird tactic results in consumers being a bit ”over it” when the holidays finally arrive. Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that U.S. retailers and consumers need a few more buying-occasion holidays. I’m surprised that the economists have overlooked such an obvious opportunity.
I can think of few things more economically stimulating than a good holiday, especially if it’s coupled with a day or two off work. As it is, most of us enjoy a paltry nine holidays every year that are suitable as giving or buying occasions. (Okay, nine if you count St. Patrick’s Day.)
Consumers spending habits are still conservative; however, there are still motivations that inspire us to buy. The solution isn’t in adding redundant celebrations like Sweetest Day. The trick is to find new National holiday concepts that galvanize, inpire and reward us. Here are some holidays that would get me into a store:
- National Beautification Day: Just imagine the elasticity of this idea. From fashion to home improvement to gardening… National Beautification Day can give businesses another opportunity to help customers reach their own unique beautification goals. A Tuesday in May would be the perfect day, but I’m seriously going to need the day off.
- National Day of Giving: This is a terrific opportunity for us to turn our attention to those who have suffered from benign neglect over the last year. Think about that neighbor, teacher, mechanic or business colleague—the people you take for granted. How would you celebrate such a day?
- National Picnic Day: What could be better than a day totally reserved for celebrating the American outdoor dining experience? Sure, we’ve got July 4th, Labor Day and Memorial Day, but these overscheduled holidays lack focus. Let’s just pick a day to stop work, gather a crowd and cop a squat on the turf with our Smokey Joes.
Need a new holiday? Tell us your ideas!
Humanizing the energy sector appears to be the latest bandwagon, and NRG Energy is climbing aboard. This week, NRG filed to add the trade name “Compassion Energy” to their REP certificate. Specifically, NRG’s subsidiary, US Retailers LLC, which now markets as Pennywise Power, is looking to add the Compassion name. It’s unclear if this is a rebrand or a new niche spinoff. Based on this brief post on Energy Choice Matters, a little Compassion comes in the form of “competitive rates and flexible plans.”
If Pennywise is changing names and adding value to their offering, then I applaud. The messaging on the current Pennywise Power site is all about commodity: “Come on, it’s electricity! It’s all the same, no matter where you get it.” Their mission reinforces the inconsequential nature of their service: “…to offer the most competitive prices on electricity, so you’ll have enough money left for the little joys in life.”
Whether they are changing the Pennywise name, or adding a niche sister company, NRG appears to be ceding to the truth that offering savings is just not enough to compete in a mature deregulated market. Maybe demonstrating a little compassion – if it can be done in a differentiated way – will help.
I admit to having a bit of fun while pondering how electricity consumers will perceive a company by the name of “Compassion Energy.” Will they really seek out empathy for their suffering? It’s a somewhat impotent emotion, after all. REPs have little if any impact on electric service satisfaction. At least when the lights go out and customers mistakenly call Compassion to complain, the folks at the call center can say “Yes, that’s truly terrible. I understand exactly how you feel.”
The Atlantic/Aspen Institute released the results of their 2012 American Values Survey this week. It’s worth a peek if you’ve got a minute or two.
Amid the results, you’ll find the expected: a profound decline in optimism, family trumps everything else, and a widespread view that only the values of the very wealthy are respresented in the political system. Plus first generation immigrants and the wealthy believe the economic system to be fair, while about half of the rest of us do not.
The big takeaway for me is the finding that younger generations may hold the view that what’s good for business is not good for America. This could be profound for major consumer goods manufacturers and financial institutions…unlike their elders, younger generations have shown much more of a predilection for voting with their feet and their dollar.
You can view the results of the study here.
It’s one of the most intriguing entrants into retail energy… iPowerPlay. This start-up is purportedly bringing electricity consumer engagement into the realm of social and mobile media through a proprietary technology platform that they will also license to other electricity providers.
[Just in case your next move is to go look for their website, keep in mind that iPowerPlay is also the name of an iTunes app you can purchase for ¢.99, as well as the moniker of an Xbox gamer.]
Based on their website, iPowerPlay seeks to be (yet) another “Power to the People” provider who “Makes Energy Easy.” How they will do this is a bit murky at this point. But it’s early days for this new entrant. This June, iPowerPlay filed for an aggregator’s license in Texas, so we may see a nonmunicipal, bulk energy buying model emerge.
Presently, they are conducting an interesting, limited pilot program in California and Texas. By signing up, and giving iPowerPlay access to their smart meter account, homeowners and businesses in select areas can receive social media, email, text, and app alerts every month about their energy usage, and a cash reward for voluntarily (and manually) turning down their air conditioners during peak periods.
Utilities offer this type of program to customers who have to install a special thermostat and allow the utility to automatically turn their air conditioning up during peak usage periods. In exchange, customers earn bill credits. This “big brother” approach is distasteful to many consumers. iPowerPlay’s take may be a more palatable model; however, it’s unclear how and if iPowerPlay can make it profitable.
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