There was a heartbreaking post over on the Care2 blog yesterday. Care2 is an organization focused on sustainable living and making the world a better place. The heartbreak? CEO Randy Paynter turns down $100k advertising contracts because they don't fit the values of the company. They don't feel morally right to him. But he sure could use $100k for the organization.
The thing is, Randy isn't making a moral choice in a vacuum. He understands his customers, and (perhaps unconsciously) knows how much he could lose if he does something that his customers would be uncomfortable with. While, as he points out, the likelyhood is low that anyone would notice, it's not impossible. And if they did, that would be potentially fatal for his brand. This isn't a lovely-dovey “make your customers happy because you should” matter, this is straightforward ROI: having your business fail to make $100k is not. worth. it.
Of course, there's still the matter of the $100k and what it could do to help Care2 do good things for the world. How to solve this predicament? Randy is being transparent and asking his customers for feedback; at the bottom of his blog post, a poll asks “If you ran Care2, would you have run the campaign?”. While Randy clearly knows in his gut what his customers believe, he's backing it up by getting some actual data. So far? The majority of his readers agree with him.
Randy knows that understanding your customers is a never-ending quest, and that the rewards of acting in their best interests will be worth well more in the end than a one-time $100k.
Have your own conundrum of morals? Try posting a confession like Randy did and see what kind of feedback you get.