For Miraculous Purpose-Finding and Marketing Inspiration, See Trader Joe’s Tissues

Most people really want their work to be purposeful.  But beyond a vague, generic “I want to help people,” most can’t define what that means.  This makes it darned impossible to land the right helping-people job, perfect clients for your meaningful business, or donors for your non-profit agency.

Fortunately, you can learn much of what you need to know about purpose-finding and marketing strategy from a 99 cent box of Trader Joe’s tissue.

Every Aspect of the Trader Joe’s Tissue Box is a Purpose and Marketing Role Model

If you don’t have a box of Trader Joe’s Tissues in front of you, click here for pictures of everything but the bottom panel.

Notice the quirky, fun design. Notice how you feel as you read each side panel message. “I’m here for you when you need to pick up icky things … you’re sick, …you’re sad … run out of toilet paper,” followed by Tissue’s signature, like “you’re welcome, Tissue.”

Notice the friendly reminder at the top of the box (like something Mama would have said when you still listened) not to leave Tissue in your pocket when you do the laundry.

Purposeful Marketing (Not Advertising) Makes Trader Joe’s a “Firm of Endearment”

“You know me better than most of my relatives do.  You care about what matters to me and the world we live in.”  That’s how I feel every time I walk into Trader Joe’s.  So many others concur and love spreading the word about how cool it is to shop there.

You can’t buy authentic endorsements like that.  But you can develop happy customers who are happy to spread your good word, according to the book Firms of Endearment, you start by caring not just about stockholder returns and CEO pay but also about all stakeholders.  Or as Firms of Endearment authors David B. Wolfe, Jagdish N. Sheth, Rajendra S. Sisodia call it , SPICE:  Society (including the earth), Partners, Investors, Customers, and Employees.

As a Firm of Endearment, you’ll undoubtedly pay your CEO’s and upper managers way less than the norm while paying employees and lower managers way more. You’ll spend little on advertising, lots on community and customer service. Not surprisingly, you’ll have astounding employee and vendor loyalty, so they’ll stick with you in hard times and help create much more profit than the norm.

Trader Joe Tissues Tips for Becoming a Firm (or Nonprofit Agency) of Endearment

Here are some tips my business planning clients and I have created:

1.    Enlist customers, donors, employees, future employees, and others to help you brainstorm all the ways you can truly say, “We’re here for you when…”

2.    Be authentic. My husband, who provides personal services for busy people, is there for you when you when you want to free up time for more important things … you want to be better organized … you want your animals cared for when you are away.

John’s also there for you when you want something translated into and out of Latin.  He doesn’t get many Latin gigs, but this service tells others that he’s intelligent, he’s willing to study things well, and he’s got a sense of humor.

3.    Be specific and focused. If we’re not careful, we overload a message with “this is how I do it” statements” or “this is the story of how I discovered this” or just too many sentences, all loaded with clause after clause after clause.  Boring!

4.     Know What Matters Most to People You Want to Serve. In business, it’s called marketing research.  Miss Manners might call it getting to know someone.  So, meet with current or potential clients.  Discover what matters to them, how they express what matters, where they hang out, and so on.  Listen at least 6 times as much as you speak.  Then listen some more.

5.      Walk your Values Talk; Talk the Values You Walk Without Proselytizing. On the bottom of the Trader Joe’s box (not pictured on the link above) an 1890’s woman tells her man how she can make him feel better by accepting her offer of a Trader Joe’s tissue.  The statement that the product is 100% recycled, and no chlorine bleach was use in making the tissues simply states values that are important to the Trader Joe’s crowd.

What Can You Learn from the Trader Joe’s Tissue Box?

Over the next few weeks, discover how some friends and colleagues are being inspired to clarify their purpose and do better marketing. Now, here’s a challenge:  how much more clear could your purpose be, how much more juicy and fun could your marketing be if you let the Trader Joe’s Tissue Box inspire you?

As always, many blessings, and please add your comments below,

Pat McHenry Sullivan