Social responsibility is a powerful marketing tool, one that can set your business apart from the one down the street and increase customer loyalty. Stand out by standing up for your community, your workers, and your planet.
The quickest means to this end is cause marketing with a community cause; the most difficult in the short-term but meaningful in the long-term is top-to-bottom attention to how your purchases, sales, policies and actions affect people and planet as well as profits.
- Cause Marketing: Every business, no matter how small, can find a cause. It may be sponsoring a local sports team or providing refreshments, volunteers or a venue for nonprofit events. In fact, the smaller the business, the more important such a partnership can be. If you sponsor the team or serve as drop-off point for donations to the PTA’s yard sale, you drive traffic to your business. And your relationship to these potential customers starts off with a positive vibe.
Pizza parlors that donate part of their profits on a given night to a team, free clinic or service club are awfully crowded that night.
Of course, you have to do some leg-work: Put a posters in your window and next to the cash register, advertising the event, and make sure your nonprofit partner publicizes the event in its newsletter, with hand-outs for clients or students, and in the local media.
If you are strapped for cash, give in-kind services or provide volunteers (wearing t-shirts with your company’s logo). The goal is to get your name out there.
- Go Green: Consumers want to feel good about where they shop and what they buy. And going green can save you money. The discount you give to the customer who brings in their own shopping bag saves you the price of a bag and the customer feels good about it.
Cutting energy use and printing on recycled paper also save money and give customers a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Help customers meet their own green goals: Offer products that can be recycled or composted or come from sustainable, environmentally mindful sources.
- Treat Employees Well: How many times have I said this? Lots, I know, but it bears repeating: happy employees give better customer service, reduce turnover, and lower training costs. Besides, fair treatment of employees is just the right thing to do.
Employees who like their work and are paid well have a vested interest in the business, just like you do. They’ll work to make it better, just like you do. Companies with good employee policies prosper.
Employee turnover means training new employees; that cost money, time and, very likely, customer satisfaction as new employees try to get up to speed.
- Source Wisely: Customers are now holding business owners responsible for their supply lines, whether its where food products come from or how workers are treated back at the factory. Customers want organic, they want products that are made in co-ops rather than sweatshops, they want to buy locally produced when possible.
- Collaborate and Communicate: Join associations and networking groups that are promote small business, local businesses and social responsibility in your community or sector. BALLE is one such group. It provides support and resources to local businesses throughout the US and Canada.
Networking increases B2B sales and can be a source of new ideas and joint projects that boost your visibility.
Talk to customers about what’s important to them as individuals, as members of the community, and as consumers. Listen with the idea of learning: This is market research.
These strategies don’t take a lot of money but you do want to make sure they’re noticed. Whether your budget only allows posters or a full-scale media campaign, get the word out about who you are and what you stand for. Small businesses, even start-up businesses, can meet the needs of socially conscious consumers and expand their customer base. This is marketing 101: Tell the customer how you meet their needs.
How have you used people and planet to increase profit? Are there ways I’ve missed? Let me know!