It is a well known fact among dog trainers: Dogs do not soil the places they eat and sleep.
When house training a dog, you limit them to a small space in your house at first. They eat there, they sleep there. Soon they accept that space as their own, they will do their best to keep it clean and do their “business” when you take them outside.
As they mature, you gradually increase their space. At some point, you find your dog now has run of the whole house – and treats it respectfully, as their own.
But it takes time and it takes patience. Try to rush the process and you’ll be cleaning up those “business” messes for a long time. But done right, you and your dog develop a respectful bond and your reward is years of unconditional love. And that’s a good trade if you ask me.
Many real businesses tend to focus too much on fast growth and the quick sale. Its hard not too – especially in the case of startups, anxious to show a return on investment and get the books from red to black.
Yes, CSR has put a big dent in the number of pure-profit oriented organizations. But for many companies, there is a limit to how far principles and CSR will go when it comes to the bottom line. And consumers are still skeptical of some CSR claims as mere PR gimmicks.
All businesses start local. They all have their small space to grow and earn respect from consumers. As they demonstrate responsibility and respect, they earn growth opportunities from their consumers. Their small space grows, their market expands slightly and they are offered a chance to prove their trust all over again.
This process continues until the business reaches its full potential or it fails to deliver on that bond of trust with the consumer – in which case expansion usually stops, and there are messes to be cleaned up. Real ones.
The lesson for PR practitioners and small businesses who can’t yet afford their counsel:
The process is the process.
You can’t rush it. You can’t establish instant trust and credibility with your customers just as you can’t successfully housebreak a dog overnight. (Those infomercials are wrong, trust me.)
Consumers want first-rate customer service from point of sale through product lifetime. They are committing to you; they want an equal commitment in return. They want to be happy with and proud of the products and services you provide. They want to tell their friends and neighbors.
But there are no shortcuts. Just like the dog who diligently serves their owner, you have to earn that pat on the head.
No amount of viral social media, branding gimmicks or advertising will accelerate the process in a healthy way. In the end you and your product stand alone before your customers. Focus on your small space. Do what is expected. Develop a relationship. Earn trust. Stay the course and hopefully you will bask in that unconditional love/consumer loyalty that has taken hold.