Commercial Karma

Commercial Karma: Beyond COVID-19

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I am a big believer in the idea that we reap what we sow. In fact, this is my main guiding principle when it comes to doing business: What goes around comes around.

This mantra has seemed particularly true working in a small-ish city such as Adelaide, where there appears to be just one degree of separation and everybody knows everybody.  Because of that, I’ve been incredibly lucky to be on the receiving end of some fantastic referrals.  But I was delighted recently when I heard an expression that sums up the way so many of us do business: Commercial Karma. It’s not a term I’ve come across before and it makes so much sense (plus it’s got a much better ring to it than ‘business karma’). If you do right by someone, they will (usually) do the same back.

What’s even more interesting is the amount of commercial karma I’ve seen going on recently during the COVID-19 crisis.  It’s been absolutely empowering to be alongside so many business people – all with the aim of pulling each other through these troubled times. Here are just a few examples:

  • Products and services have been offered for free or with discounts
  • Increased value has been created by bundling additional products, services or even resources with each other, for no additional cost
  • Payment terms have been extended – often without being asked
  • People have been ‘checking in’ with each other in ways they’ve never done before. I know I’ve been having heartfelt conversations with suppliers, clients and business contacts that I never thought I’d have. But I’ve greatly enjoyed the ‘realness’ of these conversations, despite the troubling times.

The amount of goodwill floating around at the moment is fantastic. And I’d hate to see all that disappear when things get back to ‘normal’.

Where does commercial karma fit into marketing?

Successful marketing can often seem to have just one goal: to get more and more people to notice you.  We used to be a lot more ‘shouty’ in our marketing activities, but with increasingly clever digital tools at our disposal now, we talk more in terms of two-way communications and ‘engagement’.  But what about the even more subtle way of leaving an impression – that of commercial karma?  Leaving an impression on someone is not about what you do or what you say – it’s about how you make them feel.  That’s the memorable thing.

Think about how you treat people in business. I don’t necessarily mean just your clients or employees, because this idea extends to everyone. For example, unsuccessful job applicants, people who enquired but didn’t buy, competitors, and suppliers who tendered for your business but didn’t get it.  The indirect links to your business can be equally powerful.  As I mentioned above, Adelaide is extremely connected, and I’ve lost count of the number of times that someone I encountered (but didn’t necessarily work with) has been instrumental in providing opportunities for me and my business.  The power of commercial karma is real!

I know there will be lots of learning points from COVID-19 (including things like employers realising that no, they don’t have to drag all their employees into the same building every day to do the same work they can now do from home!). I really hope that one of the more subtle learning points will be around the subject of commercial karma – and that it must continue!  I’m not talking about continuing to offer discounts or extended payment terms as clearly that’s not sustainable, but I am talking about always doing right by each other. Going above and beyond – especially in a non-transactional sense – creates a lasting impression on someone.  I’m not even seeing this as a form of marketing, because that implies it’s some sort of ‘strategy’ to get a sale or gain.  But I do see the benefit – rather like the ‘pay it forward’ movement that I also subscribe to – and believe that if we had more commercial karma, the business world would certainly be a better place.

Want to share your own thoughts about this concept? Wondering how your business should market and present itself as we move forward? Contact Breathe Marketing today.


Anna Nixon-Smith

All stories by: Anna Nixon-Smith