Social enterprises can be defined as businesses with a vision to orchestrate societal and environmental good. In their mission to impact the lives of millions, they accept slow growth rates, and a long wait for success is part of the deal. There is no overnight glory story for them. Even the most exemplary social businesses the world has seen has taken decades to be successful, the intrinsic factors that lay the foundation of a social enterprise are the main reason behind it. In contrast to conventional businesses where the measure of success is terms of revenues and profits, social enterprises are weighed on a scale calibrating social impact, sustainability and the capacity to be scale.
Marketing, among others, is a major driver of revenues, and hence success, for any business. It is given special attention and budgets in conventional businesses. The snapshot below shows a will give you an idea about how important marketing is (Matt Powel is an industry leader in sporting goods research and analysis)
Social enterprises often don’t have enough resources to be allocated to marketing and neglect it as a glorious step child of big corporations. They don’t need to take care of it. Thinking that the purpose of your business, the good-will around your mission and the heart melting facts or shocking figures will market themselves is delusional.
The world has seen no movement and no mission bringing in participation unless and until it is spoken about and the purpose of it is communicated well to the participants. Similarly, no markets will respond unless the consumers know that you exist, are clear about why you exist, connect with your purpose, are aware of the value they will be getting (or the value they can add and feel good about it) and are willing to pay a price for it (not necessarily in currency). Social enterprises should not shy away from marketing but must embrace it as a tool to amplify the impact they are trying to create.
Unlike conventional businesses where budgets are flexible, social businesses must leverage innovation and ingenuity to make a bang with their marketing initiatives. Marketing defines an organization’s purpose to the public and helps get support from them to carry it forward. It is not a choice but a necessity. The scope is not limited to the exchange value in markets, contribution in form of capital, time or services and spreading societal good. The customers to whom marketing strategies are targeted also differ when it comes to social enterprises. Many times, you don’t only need to convince the contributors to the mission but also the segment of people benefiting from it to use it. This is the curse as well as the beauty of marketing for social enterprises. It is simple and complex at the same time.
Over coming weeks, we will be exploring some social enterprises which have done a brilliant job with their marketing efforts and highlight some interesting & intriguing approaches to marketing for social enterprises. We will be looking at various aspects of marketing for social enterprises, some common mistakes and blunders, successful marketing campaigns and why they worked, social businesses who have got their marketing right and some whose messaging just does not call for action.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for any suggestions, feedback or if there is a social enterprise marketing campaign or strategy you love or hate.