Five steps for marketing your social enterprise

Five steps for marketing your social enterprise

20 Nov 2014

Make no mistake, marketing is hard work. It's time consuming, it takes planning, and it takes tenacity. In the social sector, you've got twice as much to shout about but which do you put first, your products and services or your social value?

The answer is: it depends. The first step is to understand who your audiences are and what they most value. Only then will you be able to tailor your messages to hit the right note, with the right people.

1.   Involve your target audience

Work out who your key audiences are. For social enterprises it's most likely they'll be your paying customers, beneficiaries, funders and supporters. Ask yourself who you need to reach most and why? At Poached, we love to bring in the type of people who will receive the message to create the message. Co-creation provides insight and builds authenticity. You can also find out more about your target audience quickly and cheaply through online surveys, stakeholder telephone questionnaires or engaging with them on Twitter.

2.   Build compelling stories

People are touched by other people’s stories. Behind every brand, project and organisation lies a story, and it’s the way you present this that is important. A powerful story told in the right way with the right link to your organisation will make for effective marketing. Think about the stories going on in your organisation every day and commit to finding some resource to capturing them in written case studies, photography and film.

3.   Flex your USP

How many times have you been told to find your USP? It's standard business advice but it's far from simple if you're social. The truth is, what's unique about you may not be a selling point! You're going to need to talk to a range of stakeholders to truly understand what they value that's unique about you - and it may or may not be your social value. Once you find it, use it. But be flexible - you may need different messages for different audiences and channels (see next point).

4.   Plan your communications channels

It seems obvious but many organisations just aren't making the most of the various marketing channels available to them. Map out all the communications channels you have access to - these will include those you own, like your newsletter and website, and loads of channels owned by others that are open to you. Submit your news to Social Enterprise UK, Community Newswire and your local press and trade press. Use your networks and social networks to cross promote. Channel planning is an essential part of your communications and marketing plans.

5.   Empower people to spread your messages

The best advocates for your organisation will be your customers, beneficiaries and stakeholders. Give them the tools to promote you and watch your reach spread! You'll need to be prepared to relinquish some control, but if you make it easy for people to share your key messages, they will. Take a look at the recent snowballing effect of online campaigning tools and social media for the residents of New Era Housing Estate and how many people (and influencers) they have mobilised in their fight to keep their rents affordable. 

Jess is in Plymouth this week for Plymouth Enterprise Week, sharing the story of the #BuySocial campaign and expanding on these points in the  ‘Future Business: Marketing for the social sector’ on Friday 21 November.

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