We don’t often think about how charitable activities of a company affect the perceptions of its customers.  In the B-to-C world, several companies have taken this notion of “doing well by doing good” to a new level.  In the meantime, they have created very successful business models (some may describe them as “disruptive”) and rabidly loyal customers.

In 2006, Blake Mycoskie started TOMS Shoes with an innovative business model; for every pair of shoes sold, one pair is donated to charity.  This would become the basis of the “One for One” charitable business model.  Since 2006 several other B-to-C companies have started with a similar business model , most notably Warby Parker.

Warby Parker was launched in February 2010 on two principles.  First is that great glasses shouldn’t cost $300 plus dollars.  All of the vintage inspired frames on their website cost $95 dollars, which includes the prescription lenses, frames, and shipping.  The second is that everyone deserves to have good eyesight.  Warby Parker employs a one-for-one model similar to TOMS.  For every pair of glasses bought, they donate a pair to nonprofits like Restoring Vision.

Because of Warby Parker’s charitable business model that offers a great product at a great value, as well as a customer-centric culture, they have already benefited from an incredibly loyal customer base.  Two days after launching they ran out of inventory.  A year after the company’s launch, they have sold 30,000 glasses, have 24 employees, and continue to expand as the customer following grows.

Like many others (just look at Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, etc.), my daughter tells everyone about this company after having a wonderful customer service experience.  Guess how she found out about this relatively new company?  Through a friend telling her about it.  Word of mouth from loyal customers, not advertising, has quickly spread the word about Warby Parker.

There are some facts to show the benefits of a business of displaying a charitable focus.  Eighty percent of 1,057 US adults surveyed in July 2010 said they’d favor a brand that’s associated with a good cause over another that’s similar in price and quality, and 19% said they would switch to a more expensive brand to support a cause.

While I have only found examples of the one-for-one model in B-to-C companies, it would be interesting to see if this model could be reworked to benefit a B-to-B company.  Whether or not the one for one model could work for B-to-B, the bottom line is these companies are showing how valuable customer loyalty really is.  Something to ponder!

Lynn

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