Making a Social Enterprise Stand Out from the Crowd
18 September 2013 at 11:56 am
Social enterprise start ups need to distinguish themselves in a competitive market. Bridie Ritchie, Young Social Pioneer and founder of HalfGlassFull, a marketing agency specialising in social causes, offers her tips on how to stand out from the crowd.
Something pretty special has inspired me to move away from my planned text-bookesque article on marketing Not for Profits and social enterprises.
Recently I was lucky enough to attend the Foundation for Young Australians’ Young Social Pioneers program, a 12-month mentoring and skills development program for young people leading social change. Here I met an amazing group of inspired young change makers working across a variety of causes in new and exciting ways. I believe these people are the best qualified to give useful, relevant and up to date tips on how to market businesses and organisations that have a social impact.
I’m going to mix things up a bit and draw on my personal experience over the weekend and conversations with some fellow pioneers to give insights on how to get ideas, products and projects that have purpose, out there.
Leading with social impact
A key thing to decide early on is your selling point. Is it the social element? Or, in the case of social enterprises, is it just because you have a damn good product or service offering? What is most likely to convince people to purchase from you, use your service or donate to your organisation? Sometimes it is not as obvious as we think…
If you are going to lead with the social impact then find your value offering and what makes you different. Really get to the bottom of why your organisation or business exists. What are your changing? Why are you changing this? Why does this matter? What key values do you work into your products and services? How do you ‘do business’ or ‘operate your organisation’ that makes you different? Why is your impact important? Put simple, engaging, powerful words to these values.
Once you’ve got a few power-punching words in your messaging-arsenal, use them wisely. Don’t drown them in descriptions of ‘how’ you achieve your impact. Start with the motivating and empowering energy of “the why” (Thanks Simon Sinek). Follow up with the impact, what you achieve, then sum it up with another ‘why’, why this impact counts.
Studies in the US have shown that people are willing to spend up to 20 per cent more on ethical products, so leading with social impact can be a great strategy, but if you are in a somewhat competitive social field, perhaps a different strategy is needed.
Unfortunately even the most worthy cause can get tired to the public or lost in a sea of competing organisations or businesses. Consumer fatigue and fickleness is a harsh but true reality in the social sector too. So standing out from the crowd is imperative for the success, and hence impact achievement, of your organisation or social enterprise.
A great tip from Jamie Green is to redefine the ‘ugly’ and make it ‘sexy’. The messaging he uses for his social enterprise sleepwear label One Night Stand sums this up perfectly. He uses the witty and brand appropriate “keep sleep off the streets” tagline instead of another of the all too common variations of ‘stop homelessness’. Not only does this offer a refreshing, more positive message but it absolutely nails his target market. So don’t be afraid to redefine an issue or cause in a new language that aligns with your brand and organisation’s ‘personality’.
Content really is king
A key point to marketing social impact is content, content, content. Collect, collate and communicate your key stories using great content. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from my weekend at Young Social Pioneers it is that people connect to stories and always take some part of it away with them. Stories have this amazing ability to personalise a message or meaning. They have the power to inspire and motivate.
Keep (well sorted) archives of videos, photo and testimonials, measure your impact and distribute this to customers and stakeholder in different and creative ways. Think infographics, animations, blogs or podcasts! Give people tangible examples of impact as well as emotive connections to your brand, and do this in ways other than just using the written word.
Find out what makes your target market tick
Study your real niche; it might not be who you think. Ash Grogan’s magazine, Young Vagabond, is a great example. While the magazine is written for young women, they really cracked the market when they recognised it was the mums, aunties and older role models that where the actual product purchasers.
Look around your most obvious target market and discover the influencing factors and enablers that surround them. Use this information to discover or unpack more information about your real niche and be sure to target your messaging around the values and characteristics of this group, too.
Social media: use it or lose it
Social media has huge potential if used to engage and respond to your audience. Talk to them, listen to them and, if you can, leverage them. Find out what influences them and influence that. But better yet, influence them to influence each other. By engaging in compelling conversation and showing a bit of love and gratitude, you will turn supporters into customers, and customers into brand advocates.
There is not a clear cut, one size fits all, 10 step solution for social enterprise and Not for Profit sector marketing. The key to forming an effective and stand out strategy is research and creativity; the key to executing this strategy is consistency and adaptability; and the key to understanding outcome and impact is measurement systems, data, data, more data and analysis!
If you found these Young Social Pioneers’ techniques inspiring, head over here to meet the rest of the group and see what amazing things they are up to and how they are getting the word out there.
About the author: Bridie Ritchie is the co-founder of Halfglassfull, a creative marketing agency that champions cause-related businesses, social enterprises and Not for Profits. She was recently named a Young Social Pioneer by the Foundation for Young Australians. Visit HalfGlassFull here.