7 Reasons why giving drives success in business

helping photo by jsorbieus

Can generosity – giving stuff away, helping others really help you win at business?

This came up the other day during a workshop I was doing on Guerrilla Marketing – one of the characteristics of a successful Guerrilla Marketer is Generosity (contact me if you’d like to get an evaluation for all 16 characteristics).

I was talking about the importance of generosity when it comes to business and marketing success in front of 25 people and one of them interrupted and said quite brusquely:

“I totally disagree with the generosity point – I’ve given free things away for years and I’ve never…ever…gotten any business out of it!”

Nothing’s more fun than having a heckler when you’re giving a presentation!  😉  However to be fair, I know lots of people who disagree with giving things away or helping others out when it comes to business.

A big part of my approach with Aspire since I started over 3 years ago is a focus on the concept of generosity, paying it forward, karma, etc.  Not just as a philosophical idea, but because it’s good business!  However the heckling did get me to thinking about WHY this concept of generosity is important.  I came up with seven practical reasons you would want to develop a give first, give more approach with your business.

This was also timely because I had just finished reading the best-selling book “The Go-Giver” which totally aligns with this idea.  If you’re not familiar with the book – here’s a quick review that gives  you the basics on the book – Video Review of the Go-Giver

Let’s start with a clear definition of what I’m talking about:  The first law of stratospheric success from The Go-Giver is The Law of ValueYour true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.

I would stretch the concept to include the idea that you add value into every interaction with others.  That value could be as tangible as tools, samples, educational materials, etc. or it could be intangible – things like referrals, introductions, ideas or just listening.

The other caveat that I would add into this definition is that it has to be giving without a clear expectation of getting something in return.  I suspect that was the issue with the person from my workshop.  They were giving away ‘free’ stuff, but with an expectation it was in exchange for something (a purchase, a referral, etc.)  Intent matters and I believe you have to authentically be trying to help someone for it to be considered ‘giving’ and not some sort of  complicated strategy.

But why would you want to help other people out in the first place?  Let’s ignore the obvious answer that it might be the ‘right’ thing to do and let’s look at clear benefits.

1. Demonstrate Value

Think about this in terms of giving away a ‘free sample’ – it’s a great way to let people know what you do.  In fact that’s what Content Marketing is all about – share valuable information to help educate your target market, demonstrate your expertise and position yourself as a resource when they’re ready to buy.

Along the same lines, you could offer a tangible sample – that’s the only kind of marketing that Burt’s Bees did for a long time.  You could also offer free or low cost workshops or seminars – all of these ideas leverage generating more value than you receive in payment.

2. Build Influence

One of the 6 Principles (or weapons) of Influence as laid out by Dr. Robert Cialdini is the Law of Reciprocation.  People are hardwired to feel indebted for receiving a gift and are more likely to respond favorably to future requests.

As an example, a study was done that showed waiters received an increase in their tips if they left a mint or two with the check as a gift.  We’ve all felt pressure to say yes to someone who’s done us a favor…even if it’s not something we want to do.

3.  Build Relationships

There’s a catch-22 when you are trying to sell your product or service to someone who doesn’t know you.  People buy from someone that they know, like and trust, but because they haven’t yet bought from you, they can’t build up that Know, Like and Trust relationship with you.

Offering them a free sample, or giving them value up front before they buy anything (at no obligation) allows them to know you and decide if they like and trust you.  And…it may be obvious, but people are much more likely to like and trust you if you’ve given them something of value.

4. Establish yourself as a good partner

I’ve met several people through networking who have shared that they don’t really believe in giving out referrals or helping others get introduced to potential prospects.  In one case, the person was very clear that he didn’t have time and didn’t see the value in helping other people reach their goals – he had to focus on his stuff!

How likely are you to offer a referral or to help someone who demonstrates that they will not be helping you?  You’re certainly not going to go out of your way for them.

Conversely, I also know several people who I consider ‘connectors’ – people who are always trying to help me with introductions, referrals and resources.  These are the people who have moved to the top of my list of people that I want to help and hang out with.

5.  Be Authentic – Why you got started in the first place

Most of the people I know who got into their own business did so because they were good at something and they legitimately want to help people.  Yes, they also want to make money, but that’s a secondary thing.  If they were suddenly independently wealthy they would still use their skills to solve the problems and issues they address with their business.

By giving away value above and beyond what someone paid for it, you have the chance to really do what  you’d like to be doing anyway…and for all of the right reasons!  It’s not about money for most people, it’s about helping people and adding value.  You can legitimately do that and make money – they’re not mutually exclusive.

6.  Drive Word Of Mouth

Word of Mouth is like gold for small business owners that can get it…and the biggest driver of positive word of mouth are happy customers who are getting more than they expected!  Put another way, it’s a customer who received more value than they paid for (sound familiar?).

As an example, my wife loves going to Nell Hills in Atchison, partially because she likes the store and what’s sold there, but the reason that she really loves going and why she tell a lot of people about it is because of the overall experience of shopping there.  How the employees treat her, how helpful they are…all of the value they add whether she actually buys anything or not on that trip.

and finally…

7.  Life’s too short

You’ve basically got two choices – you can choose to believe that resources and customers and money are scarce and really hard to come by.  That you need to sweat over every nickel and obsess that people are taking things from you every chance they get.  With that kind of mentality, you clearly wouldn’t be likely to give anything away…it’s too precious.

Alternatively you can believe in abundance.  There are more customers in your niche than you could possibly service on your own, that although life isn’t easy there are always new opportunities and great things just around the corner.

Is the glass half full or half empty?  Either choice is technically correct, but I will tell you as someone who has spent time on both sides of that equation it’s much more satisfying to look at the positive side of things.

Life is too short to cynically dwell on the negatives and you will drive people away if that’s how you look at the world (and you’ll be miserable doing it).

What do you think?

I believe that if you focus on giving value first and foremost to everyone you meet, that you will benefit in the long run.  Am I naive?  Crazy?  Spot on?

What do you think?  How do you conduct your business?  Are you proactively giving things away?  Helping people even if they aren’t currently paying you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – please share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

9 thoughts on “7 Reasons why giving drives success in business”

  1. John Steinmetz says:

    This makes perfect sense to me. I want to help those that have helped me. So doing something to help me makes me desire to help you when I have the chance. My way of helping may be to purchase your product or service, or by doing something else that is of value to you.

  2. David Mehrer says:

    The best reason of all is number 7: it's just the best way to live. If your generosity is genuine, you will attract people who appreciate it, and those are the best people to know and with whom to do business. I believe if you seek happiness, it will elude you, but if you focus on the needs of others you will find happiness for yourself. That will be its own reward, but I think it's also good business.

  3. skinkade says:

    John and David,

    Thanks for the comments. In some ways, the whole topic is counter-intuitive (give to receive), but in other ways it's the only alternative that really makes sense (why would you choose to be unhappy?).


  4. Reggie Chandra says:

    Excellent post, Shawn! You should add the Zig Ziglar quote: “You can have anything in life if you hep (help) enough people get what they want.” The law of sowing and reaping (karma) also is real. You can say that you don't believe in any of this; regardless like the law of gravity, the law exists. 🙂

  5. jdmann says:

    Hi Shawn —

    Sine both John and David have weighed in, I figured, time for John David!

    Thanks so much for your essay here — I love what you wrote, and appreciate immensely your comments about our little book. Authenticity, word of mouth, partnering … all your points are so well taken.

    I would add just one more thought: to me, the glass is neither half full nor half empty — it's 100% full! It's just that it's full of wine below and air above. 🙂

  6. Bob Burg says:

    Shawn, you rock, my friend. Thank you so much for your article and kind mention of John's and my book. Great points, and your giving spirit is obvious throughout the article. And, yes, shifting one's “focus” from getting to giving – meaning constantly and consistently providing value to people's lives, is not only a nice way to live life…but a very profitable way, as well. Thank you again!!


  7. Deb Hamacher says:

    Thanks for the link to my review of The Go Giver. It's a great little read and I received a nice note back from the author after my post.

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