Is there a fast, simple, instant way for operators to appear more relevant and likable in their communities? Yes. It's called "going social" -- but it's not about Facebook. We're talking about making a public virtue of the community activism that you already engage in. Operators might also consider adding a few more "we care" items to their company's agenda ... and image. Here are 10 ways coin machine operators can climb aboard the socially responsible bandwagon known as "cause marketing" ... and get in step with today's socially conscious consumers.
1. Go green on the move. Does your company operate fuel-efficient route and tech vehicles? Then brag about it. Put signage on the side of each truck or car (and notices on your business cards and company literature) that proudly proclaim, "Supporting a clean environment with low-emission vehicles."
2. Go green on the route. Growing numbers of state and federal regulations require non-hazardous and biodegradable materials to be used in anything the public touches. If that applies to your business, make a virtue of it. Put stickers on your new machines that say "Environmentally friendly" or "LEED compliant" or "Sustainability supporters." Put stickers on your old machines that announce, "Jones Amusements is environmentally friendly! This is a RECYCLED machine." Again, make sure business cards and company literature repeat these points.
3. Make your employees go green (at least while they're at work). Disney recently made it into Fortune magazine's Top 10 most socially responsible companies. One reason: they have a "green standard" for all employees.
4. Go healthy. If your company vends prizes or food, choose healthy or green items when possible. Buy and vend products that come in recyclable containers. In many cases, you probably have no choice, so make sure you brag about healthy prizes and food (or recyclables) when you are forced to supply them.
5. Go loud. Many operators of amusement and vending machines are already quiet supporters of local, state and national charities, among other socially positive causes. The time for reticence on this score is over. Do you donate money to worthy causes? Publicize it shamelessly and consistently on your website, your emails, your brochures and PR materials, and on the sides of your truck, and anywhere your company logo appears. Make those charitable and socially positive activities part of your corporate brand identity.
6. Ask for money. Believe it or not, you can look like a hero in the eyes of the world by asking everybody in sight for money. How? If you solicit others to chip in and support charitable causes, then you are no longer bragging about your own charitable giving ... you're fundraising. Set up a simple program in your office to help collect and bundle contributions from locations, game players, vendibles buyers, etc. Then publicize the heck out of it.
7. Ask manufacturers to get with the program. When are amusement and vending manufacturers going to add a button on their touchscreens that says, "Click here to donate $1 to (fill in the operator's favorite charity)"? Vending and amusements could be raising millions a year for anything from "Feed The Children" to the AMOA Hesch Scholarship program or AAMA's charitable foundation.
8. Keep out of trouble. Remember, there are stringent (but reasonably simple) regulations about fundraising that industry members must follow. Issuing straightforward guidelines for operators to follow in this area would be an excellent project for industry trade associations.
9. Buy from socially responsible and/or patriotic suppliers. Your company may purchase some redemption prizes and pool cues from Asia. But when you buy American, or from countries that adhere to global labor rights conventions, fair trade agreements and the like, let the world know. You are putting your resources behind creating and sustaining jobs for Americans and supporting decent living conditions for workers everywhere.
10. Keep your promises. According to Mashable.com, "More than 90% of consumers are prepared to boycott a company for an inauthentic cause marketing campaign, and more than half already are boycotting for this very reason. When it comes to cause marketing, you can't just talk the talk -- you have to walk the walk."
Good advice. But if you really are walking the walk, then never be shy about saying so, especially when it comes to socially positive causes. This is called "doing well by doing good." When someone criticized 25-year-old Winston Churchill for being an over-eager self-promoter, he offered this classic reply: "We live in a pushing age, and I intend to get out there and push with the best of them."