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by Michael Sansolo

It’s said that doing a good deed is usually it’s own reward. However, the American Red Cross recently showed me that there are ways to make a good deed feel even more important. And I think it’s a lesson that can help us understand how to make even stronger connections with shoppers even in today’s cynical times.

First some background: Thanks to simple genetics, I was born with the most rare of all the common blood types: AB negative. Less than one percent of the population has my type and it’s so rare that I have no one in my immediate or extended family with the same type.

The upside is I’ve always been very popular with the local blood donation center, no matter my age or where I have lived. I am regularly courted to make donations and at the donation center my blood is always given a special tag and rushed off somewhere. The importance of my rare type is repeatedly told to me and my best estimate is that I have donated somewhere around 100 times through the years.

Frankly, it’s a pleasure. Yes the process can drag on a little and the paperwork can be annoying. Thanks to technology everything has gotten easier and luckily I possess a wonderful vein for donations so the discomfort is minimal. Plus, I always appreciate my serving of cookies and juice that follows the process.

Oh, and I truly believe I am doing something good even though I only vaguely understand why. (And I cannot overstate the importance of everybody doing this. Even the most common blood types are constantly in short supply and this is one simple way we can all help each other.)

Here’s why I feel so differently now and why I am sharing this story. Last week I received an e-mail from the Red Cross center where I donated early in January with an eye-opening update. My donation, I was told, was sent to Johns Hopkins’ Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore to help a patient in need. I don’t know anything else about it, but somehow that small update made a difference.

It made my good deed feel especially important in a way that never occurred to me for all those previous donations even though nothing changed in the process. By telling me how my blood went someplace specific, I suddenly felt a new sense of connection.

As all businesses look for new ways to build loyalty and connection to shoppers, I think we need to consider what the Red Cross did here. That short note was a tiny recognition that I took 90 minutes out of a day to help. Rather than just asking me to come back again and again, they helped remind me why blood donation is so important.

For the first time, the blood center justified why they need my e-mail address and offered a compelling motivation for me to come back. That’s what retailers need to do.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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