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Businesses Launched for Charitable Causes Combine a Great Marketing Story and a Superior Benefit to the Paying Customer.

Do you remember what you were doing on December 26, 2004? I do. Like many people–on what should have been a relaxing day after Christmas–my family was instead riveted to the international news channels as we watched the devastation in Sumatra (Indonesia) following a 9.2 magnitude earthquake. One of the deadliest natural disasters in history, the quake shook the greater Indian Ocean region for nearly 10 minutes. Over 230,000 people were killed as the earthquake demolished entire towns and triggered a series of tsunamis that inundated the coastline with waves up to 98 feet high (30 meters).

Fourteen countries along the Indian Ocean suffered damage, but Indonesia was the hardest hit. In many cases, entire families were lost. Thousands of women–whose husbands were killed–emerged to find themselves as single mothers with no means of support.

In the midst of the worldwide humanitarian response that followed, California daytrader Roy van Broekhuizen got a call from his church, asking if he would lead a team to Indonesia to help with relief efforts.

That trip changed his life.

Today, Roy is the founder of Laga Handbags, a thriving enterprise he started that helps to provide earthquake victims with employment, entrepreneurial skills and a way to rebuild their lives. Roy and his wife Louise, both of Indonesian descent, do not take a salary from Laga Handbags. Rather, it’s a labor of love that gives Indonesian women an income and livelihood crafting beautiful handbags featuring traditional Indonesian embroidery.

The handbags have been featured on Oprah and are carried by celebrities like Kim Coles and Zooey Deschanel (www.laga-handbags.com).

The company is a super-successful example of the growing number of businesses that generate profits for charitable causes–or create livelihoods for workers in distressed situations.

Though I’ve been involved in marketing for charitable causes frequently in the past, Laga’s story is not only an especially compelling one to me, but it can also teach an important lesson about marketing any business.

How can Laga’s story help YOU become a better marketer?

Tell the Story of How Unique, Special and Different You Are

Whenever you craft a marketing message that speaks to your ideal prospect, you must always establish the superior customer benefit to doing business with you instead of your competitors–and communicate that benefit to prospects in every marketing and prospecting vehicle you distribute.

Tell the story of your company’s uniqueness… a specialty that customers will respond to, but that none of your competitors is delivering. Find the one benefit in your industry that no one else has discovered or successfully communicated.

In Laga Handbags’ situation, their compelling story is that their handcrafted purses and travel bags are made with care by talented women artisans who are gaining dignity, earning a livable wage, and supporting their families in the aftermath of a severe disaster that took away their safety, their security–and, in many cases, their husband–who was the sole breadwinner in their household.

What’s unique about your business and how does the superior customer benefit apply to you?

Let’s take a look:

When you sell a common item or service–dry cleaning, gift baskets, hardware or handbags–you compete with every other dry cleaner, basketmaker, hardware store or handbag shop in town on just two things: product and price. You have to keep track of what your competitors offer. You have to match what they charge. You have to maintain your inventory to match theirs. And, sometimes, you even have to honor the coupons they distribute.

Sound difficult?

It is. But sadly, no matter how good you are at keeping up with your competitors, you actually stand to lose this product-and-price war virtually on a daily basis. Every time a competitor runs a special that you can’t afford to match…you run the risk your customers will go elsewhere–permanently. Every time the competition buys a new piece of equipment that you can’t afford to buy, you risk losing customers and future customers to his or her technical capabilities. And every time a competitor adds staff you can’t support, you risk losing business that, suddenly, he or she can do more quickly and you can’t deliver on time.

It’s a vicious circle.

But, by establishing the story of your superior customer benefit and becoming known for it in your niche market, you can position yourself as better, more desirable, more capable, more professional and more talented than every one of your competitors…regardless of your expertise. Regardless of the equipment you have. Regardless of your price, inventory, selection or terms. With your superior customer benefit statement, you can tell the world–in one sentence or less–how you can better solve their problems and fill their needs.

Whether You Sell Products, Services or Handbags Crafted in Indonesia, the Benefits of a Compelling “Story” Will Help You Succeed in this Economy

One reason that “story” is so critical in your marketing message is that it typically includes the Rationale of why you’re selling the product or service you are. In direct-response copywriting circles, the Rationale is one of the most critical of the 16 components that make up a well-crafted sales or marketing message.

The Rationale really answers the question “Why are you offering this product or service?… Why are you giving away this information?… Why are you selling this product at this price?” It’s the reason you’re making the offer.

Your Rationale has to be real and truthful. In fact, you should never make it up. The good news is you don’t have to. Laga Handbags has a compelling rationale (which you can read at www.laga-handbags.com/about.html). Look around your own business and determine what you do that’s unique, special and different.

Until next time,

Instant Income
Janet Switzer

Creative Commons License photo credit: USAID Indonesia