Honor What Customers Care About

CustomInk is a $70 million T-shirt shop that prints custom T-shirts for family reunions and group and business events. Because actual people at CustomInk personally review every single order, they know what events their products are being printed for. The company saw so many shirts being created for charities that they decided to become personally invested in these causes.

So whenever a T-shirt gets printed by CustomInk for a charity event, the company also sends a donation. Initially, this started as a casual gesture by Lori Mayfield, a CustomInk order analyst. Now, Mayfield says, “We try to donate to every charity event that our customers hold close to their hearts.”

Honor What Customers Care About

Giving Back to the Customer’s Cause

CustomInk wouldn’t feel right printing T-shirts for a charitable organization without giving back to their cause. With this one gesture they let their customers know they back their efforts. What’s most important about this gesture is that CustomInk did not take this action as a marketing effort. It began as a personal expression by an order analyst who wanted to give back to companies that trusted CustomInk.

In the end, like many other noble decisions, doing something good returns to the sender. CustomInk’s genuine gesture to contribute to what their customers care about separates them from other T-shirt suppliers. It draws customers back to do business with a company that thinks this way.

Growing Business by Connecting With Customers

CustomInk has delivered over 15 million shirts, with 98.9 percent of their customers saying they will purchase from the company again. Though their donation to charity customers is small in amount (as little as $30), this gesture connects the company personally with what their customers care about. And it shows customers that CustomInk’s service is not just about getting and filling orders.

With this gesture, CustomInk figuratively sticks their hand out of the shipping box and warmly embraces customers. And customers embrace CustomInk in return. Says one:

“I definitely was not expecting an email asking if CustomInk could give a donation to our organization. This makes me proud to have picked this company to do our printing for us.”

And as you can see from the increase in CustomInk’s growth in donations, charities are rewarding CustomInk because they care. The percent of CustomInk’s charitable donations is directly related to the growth rate they are experiencing in charities flocking to them.

How do you connect in that personal manner with your customers? What selfless acts tell your customers and employees about what matters to you on a personal level?


Jeanne Bliss Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS; a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. Her best-selling books are; Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions for Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

12 Reactions
  1. I am glad to hear that businesses are taking the time to get involved in what they produce. CustomInk T-shirt company has grained respect from me.

    Stacy Ayiers
    Green Blogger

  2. Jeanne,

    Thanks for the information about a cool t-shirt company.

    I love it!

    “CustomInk’s genuine gesture to contribute to what their customers care about separates them from other T-shirt suppliers.”

    The small businesses that think of ways to stand out, will be the successful ones in this century.

    The Franchise King®

  3. Hi Jeanne,

    I think this was such a noble act from the company. Contributing to donations not only build their brand image as a company that cares, I believe it shows that the company’s profits are being utilized to help others in need, no wonder they are doing so well. I wish more companies would think in those lines and it would automatically enhance their image and result in higher sales. Thanks for sharing!

    Riya Sam
    Training for Entrepreneurs.com

  4. Customers care about what’s in it for them, primarily, or they would not be engaging with any specific business. This internal desire could include the want to give back to a greater cause. Customers are looking for a trusting relationship, value, solutions to their problems, and a good excuse to tell their friends about their newfound treasure or novelty.


  5. Hi Stacy,
    I love that you use the word “respect.” This is how it is with what I call the beloved companies. When you give customers respect and care about what’s important to them, you will earn their respect…and eventually love.

    All of these companies act from their core values and give their folks the ability to make these decisions. This action was begun as a personal decision by someone who was reviewing orders. It has now become a part of the folklore that they are proud of!

  6. Joel,
    It is true, what you say. Buying printed T-shirts feels like a commodity. So when given the choice between suppliers who all do it well, the magnetic pull of customers is to the place where their actions are congruent with your own.

    Thanks so much for pointing this out.

  7. Riya,
    What’s so interesting about this decision is that it was made by a single person who didn’t ask or need permission – she did what was right. It’s the genuine, unplanned action of this gesture that makes this “brand” unique and compelling.

    So many companies come up with big ideas about what their brand slogan is or what they should stand for – but then don’t live those characteristics in their decision making. So glad you pointed this out!


  8. Hi Ryan,
    I love that you pointed out that customers want to be a part of something greater than themselves – to give back to a great cause. Couldn’t agree more.

    The thing to really figure out how to do in an organization is to make decisions that live to your values, to let people know examples so that they are given “permission” to make them. It’s the energy that comes from a company of many people making decisions in this manner that creates the spirit and build the kind of place employees want to be in, and customers want to return to.


  9. Jeanne thanks so much for sharing this part of the CustomInk story in this article and in your latest book. The book has great examples throughout that have inspired (and challenged) the CustomInk to do even more for our customers.

    I think your point about ideas like this rising from a company’s core values is critical. In CustomInk’s case, our core values are centered on the Golden Rule, Ownership and Innovation. Lori combined the three to create something truly meaningful and in the process has helped define what it means to be an “Inker” (what we call ourselves.)

    For the interested, there’s more on our core values on the “Our Story” page at http://www.customink.com/our_story and from time to time also on our blog and Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/customink

  10. Sean,
    Thanks so much for jumping on to this thread. And for pointing out what is becoming increasingly the common denominator for how the “beloved” companies make decisions – from the Golden Rule, personal ownership at all levels of the organization and innovation.

    Like CustomInk, these companies are filled with folks who are real…not afraid to show their humanity. Of course you are proud to call yourselves “Inkers!” Love it.


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    Thank you for sharing