What Airbnb taught me about values and marketing

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A lesson in values from Airbnb

Recent political turmoil in the UK, US and around the world has once again highlighted for me the importance of values. Values define us as individuals and as businesses, and it’s in this business context that I want to focus for this article.

A few weeks ago I wrote specifically on the importance of values as the building blocks of your business culture and how you can identify your business’ core values. You can check it out here. The benefits of knowing who you are as a business are huge in terms of attracting and retaining the right staff and clients.

As readers of these posts know, my wife Deb and I rented out our home in London in June 2015 and started living as global nomads. We return to the UK for one month each quarter for our face-to-face work, but the rest of the time we can be based anywhere. As a consequence, our home away from home has usually been an Airbnb accommodation.

For those who don’t know Airbnb is an online marketplace which lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. We’ve rented places for between two and six weeks in Amsterdam, London, New York, Park City, Fernie, Seville, Ibiza, and Antibes during the last 12 months.

The thing we’ve noticed in all of our Airbnb experiences is how aligned the values of the hosts are with those renting their places. Everyone we’ve met seems to be openminded and a fellow traveller at heart.

So when I received an email from Airbnb this week, called The Airbnb Community Commitment, I wasn’t surprised at all. It’s a fantastic example of strong and clear values.


Here’s what it said.

Hi,
Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.

What is the Community Commitment?
You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgement or bias.

How do I accept the commitment?
On or after November 1, we’ll show you the commitment when you log in to or open the Airbnb website, mobile or tablet app and we’ll automatically ask you to accept.

What if I decline the commitment?
If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is cancelled, future booked trips will be cancelled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.

What if I have feedback about the commitment?
We welcome your feedback about the Community Commitment and all of our nondiscrimination efforts. Feel free to read more about the commitment. You can also reach out to us at allbelong@airbnb.com.

The Airbnb Team
Sent with ♥ from Airbnb Ireland.


A few things jump out at me from this communication:

  • I believe strongly in treating people “with respect, and without judgement or bias.” If we could all live this way the world would be a better place. So I’ll be enthusiastically signing up to this commitment.
  • Seeing these values in print confirms that our personal experience of values alignment with our many hosts was not a fluke. There was something amazing going on with the Airbnb community around the world and we were part of it. Now it’s been crystalised in writing.
  • I feel even more committed to the Airbnb brand and can’t wait to use it again.
  • It gives me confidence that people who don’t share these values will be weeded out of the Airbnb community. That removes some of the fear of turning up to a less-than-welcoming reception at any new destinations.
  • I am dealing with a company that not only provides a great service, makes profits and employs people, but one that wants to be a positive agent for change in the world. I love that shit. Most advisers I know feel this way about the work they do too.
  • Most importantly, by enforcing the commitment, rather than just spouting it as a platitude, they are putting their money where their mouth is; even if it costs them some business from those that disagree with their values. This is authenticity in action.

What do you value?

What are your core values? And where do you let your audience know what you stand for? This communication from Airbnb, making their values public, sets a great example for businesses to follow.

Showing what’s important to you and your business is a powerful way to attract more of the people that you would like to do business with. 


Are you a business that wants to be a positive agent for change in the world? 

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