Should businesses care about more than just the bottom line?
Business is all about making profit. A fairly uncontroversial statement in a capitalist (or more accurately mixed) economy. Even those with a community / public / charitable focus often look to make a ‘surplus’ to reinvest into doing good.
But should businesses of all kinds care about things other than profit?
For a number of reasons, the answer is a very certain yes.
If customers can’t trust or like you, why will they buy?
I remember being told by a utilities company CEO that branding wasn’t important to him. You see, customers don’t have a choice. How things have changed now in that industry. But even if you did hold a monopoly, you would sensibly sill want some kind of positive relationship with your market. Reasons for this range from staff morale to future proofing to potential additional opportunities to meet customer needs in new ways.
Even those who don’t have direct competition (or think they don’t), will have some level of indirect alternative to what they do or what they offer.
If you can’t keep customers you might run out of new ones to target
And if you get a bad reputation, you may find that it follows you around. That’s not to say that you can please everyone; no-one can. But you can try not to unduly limit your target audience.
If you get a reputation as a bad employer you will run out of new people to hire
Same principle as the above. In any case, managing people can’t be a money only exercise. Motivation, productivity and retention are long term issues. They can be hugely undermined in an instant by pettiness or by lack of attention. This stuff won’t show up in your budget spreadsheet. Like many aspects of marketing, you have to rely upon sound judgement.
Customers have morals too
Of course these moral values vary from person to person and from group to group. It is therefore very tricky territory. Best way to navigate? Start with you own genuine values and then look to match these with your target market. But only if you can do so in a genuine manner.
Is there still room to differentiate on moral values? I’d say very much so. On any UK high street you can still buy products made by staff working in dubious conditions. Or from companies that have abused their power in the supply chain. You can still buy food from abused animals. Could a competitor outperform these companies by matching them on the important factors and bettering them on standards and on business model? Absolutely they could.
It was once considered perfectly fine to smoke in the office, to drink and drive and to fill up multiple plastic bags at the supermarket then throw them in the bin. Times change.