Look for the helpers

I have always loved the story that Mr. Rogers is credited with:

When I was a boy, and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping”. To this day, especially in times of crisis, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

We’ve been talking about shifting your selling focus to a helping focus. Hardcore sales messages are not only going to fall flat right now, but they’re going to be perceived as tone-deaf, given what everyone is going through. There will be a time when we can go back to our usual marketing tactics, but right now is not the time.

You should be shifting your focus to being of service. The first audience that you need to be caring for is your internal team. Elevating the frequency and humanity of your internal communications is critical right now.

Make no mistake – this is marketing. But it is emotionally intelligent marketing. It’s brilliant PR, and it’s demonstrating to your audience that you actually live out your corporate values when life gets complicated.

It’s easy to espouse your values when profits are healthy, and your marketplace is hungry for the work you do or the products you sell. It’s a whole different ballgame when you really don’t have anything to gain in the short run. That’s when we truly show our corporate character.

The other shift you should be asking yourself is how you can help your prospects, customers, and community. Coming up, I’m going to spotlight local businesses who are exemplifying this strategy.

The Foundry at Valley Junction converted an 1890s railcar barn and iron foundry into a distillery, food & beverage hall, and commissary kitchen. News of distilleries using some of the by-products of their normal output to create hand sanitizer hit the internet recently. The owners of the Foundry decided to do the same. Last week, hundreds of cars lined the streets outside The Foundry and handed staff and volunteers empty bottles only to have them filled with free hand sanitizer.

By the time the weekend was done, hundreds of gallons of free sanitizer were distributed to families who had been frantically searching the city for what has been an impossible item to find on store shelves. Even Amazon is sold out.

Thanks to the innovative thinking and kindness of the team at The Foundry, thousands of Des Moines area families are resting a little easier and feeling a little safer.

Your business may not be in a position to give away something as essential as hand sanitizer. But I know that there is something you can do to make surviving this storm easier for someone. This isn’t about the size of the group you’re caring for; it’s about the act of caring.

I want to shine the spotlight on local businesses that are embracing this idea of being a helper. But to do that, I’m going to need your help.

Be on the lookout for the organizations that are shifting from marketing and selling to helping. Send me an email (drew@mclellanmarketing.com) and tell me what they’re doing.

Together we’ll celebrate the helpers, and together we will survive this storm as a community of business owners and leaders. How we show up right now will define who we are long after this crisis is nothing more than an unpleasant memory.

Let’s do all that we can to get each other through this with as few casualties as possible.

Originally published in The Des Moines Business Record as part of Drew’s weekly column series.

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