The Phycology of giving and why it should matter to startups and agencies alike.

2018 is nearly upon us! I hope you all had a festive Christmas break, filling your boots and emptying your stockings. I wanted to write a short post to fill that twilight period between Christmas and New Year.

If you work either agency or client side, whether a startup or global brand, this should be relevant to you.

I wanted to talk about what the religious holidays say about you and the way you and your business thinks. Now I know that sounds cryptic. I don’t want to act like I’m giving a sermon by using a religious holiday to draw comparisons to the modern world to make it more relevant. However, in this case I thought it was fitting.

We all get the odd rotten present each year. Not surprising since each year our families multiply. There’s a lot of pressure on keeping up with everyone’s hobbies and interests, even if we only see them once or twice a year. More nieces and nephews means investment in presents that we won’t begin seeing a return on, until they stop getting paid pocket money and become adults with real jobs. Even then it’s a slim chance you’ll get a good present back for all your years of forking out. But that’s not what Christmas is all about, shame on you! It’s about making others happy, right? It’s the season of good will, we catch the generosity bug and for this one month in the year we seem to be the one at the bar buying a round for friends and strangers.

That’s what I want to discuss. This putting the needs of others first. What does that present you buy for your aunty say about you? How much thought did you put into the gift? What was your process? How did you know she would like that pink embroidered dish cloth?

The art of being thoughtful.

Well you gotta do your research. You want to avoid asking the person you’re buying for as there’s no satisfaction in that. Of course we also live in the age of Amazon wish lists, but again that’s too simple. The next process down from asking them to their face is asking others behind their back. If it’s for your sister then ask your brother in law, if it’s for your 12 year old nephew then you can probably google the latest playground fad. If you can’t get any good ideas from friends and family or you simply left it too late then you need to think. Think about what they do as a job, what they find funny, what sports they get involved in, what clothes do they usually wear? Yup that’s right, become a stalker. Now yea of course this all sounds pretty tongue in cheek obvious, I know. But that being said, it can still be a huge challenge. The better you know someone, logically the easier it is to buy a present for them. So now apply that same logic to getting new business, reaching customers and pleasing your clients.

How does this relate to my business and buying presents?

Now you’re probably wondering what AM I talking about? How does this relate to giving someone a present at Christmas or how I handle clients? Well it comes back to the same principle, being sympathetic to others; being thoughtful.

Christmas made me think of all the presents we exchange and the care and attention to detail some people often put into the act of giving gifts. Of course some go way further than others. As either an agency or brand, when you produce an ad campaign you design it to speak to your target audience. Your months spent researching your audience’s habits and interests should pay you dividends. A successful ad campaign will increase ROI ten fold, just like the smile on that special person’s face when they receive the present they’ve always wanted; you’ll be in their good books until you inevitably slip up! It’s about getting someone on your side by understanding their side.

Business usually works by a mutually beneficial transaction taking place between two people. Company A produces something that benefits Company B. So surely next time you want to offer a service or product to a new customer you should really think long and hard about who they are. Think of it like you’re buying a Christmas present; do the research. What do they do for a living? What makes them tick? What’s their favourite dish? If you can truly understand who you’re speaking to and get to know them, just like your friends and family, then you’ll know how to please them. You’ll also get valuable insights on whether or not what you’re offering is a good fit for them buy asking them questions about what they like. Go the extra nine yards and build a rapport with your prospective customer or client. This will allow you to be confident about selling whatever it is you sell.

The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy was on the TV over the holidays. For those of you who haven’t seen it, do go and watch it or read the book as it’s amazing. In part of the film they go in search of a weapon. It’s a special weapon because when pointed at someone and fired it makes them see your point of view… What a great invention! If only we could make one for real. It would solve any dispute. Imagine if Trump and Kim Jong-Un fired this weapon at each other? It would save us all!

After all that effort hunting for insights, how do you know if someone really liked their gift?

We can easily disillusion ourselves into thinking we know what people like. We might take a fake smile for a genuine smile. Our own confidence might take the better of us as we peer through rose tinted glasses. We think that just because we hit the mark last year that we’ll continue to do it again and again. Quite frankly you won’t always know for sure if your gift went down well, at least not straight away. However, if you nailed it you can be sure of one thing, word will travel. You’ll know if someone really liked your present as you’ll no doubt hear it from someone else. When you do something truly memorable, it will be shared.

You can see where I’m going with this… The same principle applies to businesses that create incredible products. Just look at all the success Elon Musk is having with all his ventures. If you’ve got a truly unique and memorable product people will talk about it. You will receive glowing feedback if it’s successful and if not then be prepared for the thumbs down.

A book about the art of being thoughtful.

I’ve been reading a brilliant book recently, which many of you will probably have heard of. It’s called ‘How to make friends and influence people‘. This book should be the number one go-to for account execs and CEOs. If you handle clients and deal with business then you completely and utterly have to read it. It slaps you in the face with how simple it’s lessons are yet we often don’t practice what it preaches. Just like I mentioned, we all like to think we’re thoughtful, after all we’re emotional beings. We all have facial expressions so we can communicate with one another and sense each others emotions and reactions. This is something that sets us apart from most animals.

Emotions are great, but they can also be a bit of a pain, quite literally. When we get emotional we tend to become less logical, which leads to becoming irrational. The book makes many compelling examples but I’m going to bastardise one for myself; Just imagine it’s Christmas Eve and you’re going 35mph in a 40mph zone on your way home. The driver behind you is beeping at you and making rude gestures. I imagine that most of you would likely get annoyed and react to this, myself included. After all who gives him the right to be so rude? Anger sets in and we become just as irritated making the same gestures in the rear view mirror.

Now if you take a step back and analyse the situation, both of you being angry isn’t a good thing. Stress hormones are released; dopamine, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and especially cortisol. So it literally isn’t healthy for you. We all know that being angry and emotional doesn’t achieve or solve anything but it’s hard to stop ourselves getting wound up. We often get embarrassed after the heat of the moment passes because our logical side of the brain kicks in again and we regret our actions. Well this book teaches you to be the bigger man/ woman, so you don’t get that feeling. It teaches us to always put ourselves in the shoes of the other person first.

Lets take the angry driver for example. Imagine why he was so angry; perhaps he had had a bad day at work, maybe he was fired, his girlfriend could have left him… There are a multitude of reasons but if you give him the benefit of the doubt and apply this to anyone you encounter who does something disagreeable with you then you’ll likely rise above it. This will have a positive affect on them as well. When someone is angry at you they often do it to get a response. However, if in return you are calm and reasonable it throws them off balance. It’s so unusual for someone to defy emotion that the antagonist becomes dazed and confused, not knowing how to react. This leads to something great – reasoning. Now apply this to any situation or occasion, whether someone is sad, nervous or even at Christmas and birthdays.

The book in essence teaches us how to get the desired outcome from each situation by thinking of the other person first, only by fulfilling their needs can we get our own across. So in business it might be to please a client and agree on a budget, at Christmas it’s to get the right present for that special someone. That can easily be misconstrued into ‘How to always get your own way’ – buy someone a nice gift and no more washing up for the week. Well yes of course but try and use your powers for good, not evil.

So if you made the right choices this Christmas and bought everyone the presents they wanted then you likely know how to think about others. Or you’re very bad at gauging their reactions! If you genuinely went the extra mile to find something they would really appreciate then their reaction obviously meant a lot to you. This says a lot about you as a person and how much you listen. It’s the same if you’re a brand with an ad campaign or an agency with a new client. If you go that extra stroke to understanding your customer, client, friend or relative then you’ll likely, on the whole, maintain a great relationship.

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