Cosmic

Social Enterprises: Own Your Purpose-Driven Differentiator

Purpose-driven social enterprises must use that differentiator in their marketing communications. Lead with your impact story to connect with your audience.

Eric Ressler
February 24, 2021
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Your social impact story is a strategic differentiator in today’s competitive business landscape. If you communicate your brand is one that walks the walk, you prove to the marketplace exactly how and why you are different.

For your business, operating as a purpose-driven brand has allowed you to build loyal followers while working toward creating meaningful change.

It’s frustrating, then, when companies like Budweiser jump on the social good bandwagon in the hopes that their shift will lead to brand loyalty and improved market perception.

So how do you stand out as a true-blue purpose-driven brand?

It’s still possible to make a real connection with your potential customers and brand loyalists alike despite the market being saturated with inauthentic cause marketing. It starts by knowing your target audience, learning how to prioritize your social impact story in your messaging, and showing your impact in compelling ways.

Leverage Your Message of Change to Reach Your Target Audience

Your social enterprise has a purpose that drives change through the products or services you sell. Your target audience thrives on that purpose, connection with your cause, and knowing that they’re making a difference through supporting your business.

When your social enterprise’s purpose speaks to your audience’s values and motivations, a deeper connection with your brand takes shape. In your messaging, regularly expressing your social enterprise’s purpose, mission, and vision emphasizes exactly where you stand.

Outdoor apparel company Patagonia knows this, and it has shaped their brand. They started off making climbing gear but always had a foot in activism. The California company frequently leads the conversation in environmental and humanitarian activism — compelling their consumers to learn more and get involved with every scroll-stopping marketing campaign.

A visit to their website shows the pursuit of environmental and humanitarian activism before advertising any apparel. Patagonia’s messaging resonates deeply with its target audience. It leads with causes first, products second.

Patagonia has outdoor gear worthy of outfitting any record-setting trek. But the true driver of brand loyalty for their target consumers is found in their messaging: the planet and people come before profit.

To build on a loyal brand following, know that your target audience is invested in your mission and the actions taken to achieve it. In the end, it’s a deciding factor in whether or not they buy your product or service.

While some brands are just trying to reach consumers by talking the talk, your differentiator lies in your authenticity. And that authenticity is palpable to the conscious consumer.

Telling stories about your cause as well as leading the conversation fuse deeper brand loyalty and engagement with your target audience. It doesn’t just check a box on your marketing to-do list.

Employ the Right Hierarchy of Information for Your Purpose-Driven Brand

Social enterprises with good baked into their core being — practically in their DNA — are not always the same as Certified B Corporations. Certified B Corporations take care of business in a conscientious way toward the planet and people, which is certainly something to talk about. But a purpose-driven brand they are not.

When your supporters visit your website, what do you want them to know about you first: that you sell sustainably sourced tote bags? Or that when one of your tote bags is purchased, it goes to supporting humanitarian efforts in the region where those bags were sourced? Think about your differentiator and lead with it.

As a purpose-driven social enterprise, crafting your hierarchy of information (the prioritization of messaging in your communications) helps you determine what information to lead with based on your target audience. If you know your target audience cares first and foremost about your humanitarian efforts, lead with a vibrant, positive story about how your company’s efforts created change, made possible by the supporters of your brand.

If you determine that the social impact portion of your company does not have a direct impact on sales, you should not lead with it as a differentiator. It is still a marketable asset but should live lower down in the information hierarchy on your website and your marketing endeavors.

There are many different models for social enterprises. Your social enterprise may be focused on a give-back model. Or you may decide to donate profits to a group of non-profit organizations. Either way, your social enterprise component should clearly relate to what you sell. Otherwise, such a disjointed effort could come off as disingenuous and borderline causewashing.

Show Proof of Impact to Differentiate Your Enterprise

How do you know if your business is succeeding in its mission for social good? You track sales and inventory. But how do you track the social impact of your business?

These metrics aren’t just for your own edification. When done right, your social enterprise’s proof of impact solidifies a spot in your consumer’s mind as a brand worth supporting. It further drives home the fact that you’re a business that exists for good. As such, your customers have another reason to believe you are worth supporting.

By turning your statistics into compelling storytelling on your digital platforms, you amplify your proof of impact and breakthrough today’s attention economy at the same time. Effective, scroll-stopping content engages your audiences and connects them to your cause. Not only that, compelling content shows proof of the work you've done, building credibility and furthering your business — and the good it does in the world.

To show your audience you’re the real deal, share your successes — and even lessons learned from mistakes. It’s all part of your impact story. And that impact leads to the value that grows your supporters, who will continue to follow along and thus further your impact. It’s a benevolent cycle.

The focus on social purpose and sustainable brands is a welcome change for consumers who have a choice — and a voice. But all these choices make it harder to separate the real social enterprises that are doing the work and making a difference from the businesses that aren’t doing the real work.

Your differentiator is inherent in your brand’s fight for change and the impact stories behind it. Leverage your message of change to influence champions of your brand and the cause you’re fighting for.

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