Though social enterprise brings both profit and a greater good for society, it isn’t an easy job to juggle the two-pronged approach to business. Here are three suggestions that can help a social enterprise avoid the pitfalls that have thrown other social companies off track and better promote its work.
- Don’t Forget to Stress the Value of the Product Itself
So many social entrepreneurs get so caught up in their cause that they forget that they’re selling a product or service, says brand developer Anne Miltenburg, in a recent Forbes article. If the product isn’t up to snuff—or isn’t advertised as such—potential customers will turn away and donate to a charity instead.
Don’t let this happen. Make sure that the products and services offered are competitive with similar offerings in the market. Take professional-quality photos and write descriptions that catch potential buyers’ eyes. If the company doesn’t have a skilled photographer or writer on staff, hire a professional. Let the customer know s/he’s getting great value for the money.
Market the company’s wares as aggressively as any other online store would. This includes social media posts, promotions, attractive labeling, and blog posts that show potential buyers how to use the company’s product or service. Use the Internet to take advantage of the global market, as Canadian social enterprise expert Sarah Keith advises.
Though it’s not wise to ignore the story behind the products, an even-handed approach to marketing that includes both the cause and the product itself will win the day.
- Don’t Go Off-Course When Promoting the Mission
A social enterprise company wants to do good. That’s why it started in the first place. Don’t, then, get side-tracked into projects that don’t directly relate to the mission–even if they help others. Resources are hard to come by. A social enterprise can’t help anyone if it runs out of funding.
Remember that the company’s mission, too, is equally worthy as those that pop up from time to time and pull on one’s heartstrings. Focus resources on helping those people the company originally set out to help. That especially applies to marketing. Keep the brand on point and focused on its goals.
Even though it may seem like a good idea to branch out into other projects, the company will have a more profound impact by sticking to its initial goals.
As 1,001 Dreams founder Christie Garton puts it, “Do one thing—and do it really well.” Promote the main thrust of the company’s mission and that alone.
- Don’t Neglect Branding
Starting from the name on down, a company needs to stamp a distinct brand on its organization, says Miltenburg. Choose a name that reflects both the mission and the products. Research the name, so the company won’t run into legal hassles or a cultural faux pas later. Make the logo, the labels, the advertising copy voice—every bit of communication the company puts out—reflect its brand image.
Part of the branding process is to identify the company’s target customer base. Successful inbound marketing depends on messaging that targets a company’s key demographic. With social enterprises, Miltenburg points out, a social enterprise’s target customer base doesn’t only include those who buy its products and services. It also includes its funders. If they don’t get the message that this brand—this cause—is one worth their money, they’ll go elsewhere. Bring them along for the ride.
When a social enterprise company avoids these risky marketing mistakes, it will be well on its way to success for both itself and those whom it benefits.