Profit and purpose. They can be polarizing topics even for a tight-knit group of startups founder. There are those who believe that purpose should be at the center of what businesses do. It is integral to profits and growth as Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter put forth in the Harvard Business Review. Then there are those who think it can distract companies from their core activities.
Recent changes in digital technologies are helping build a case for the former. Social media lets brands connect with customers on a deeper level. It also enables people to criticize or affirm business goods and practices directly. Many consumers have become more picky or careful or socially aware than ever, too. According to a Nielsen survey in 2015, 66 percent of global respondents would pay more for products and services if they came from companies creating social and environmental impact.
For founders, integrating a corporate social responsibility strategy into your business plan doesn't have to be expensive. You can manage it with a few marketing tactics. Here are three ways to get started:
Flowers for Dreams, a startup founded in Chicago, serves as a good case study. The online flower shop promises two things to customers: it will deliver bouquets of locally-crafted flowers to recipients by hand and give 25 percent of its profits to its Charity of the Month.
In evolving as a college project to a summer business to a full-fledged small enterprise, Flowers for Dreams has always been sure about its model where each purchase benefits a local charity. That is on top of offering organic bouquets and fair and honest prices. You may be wondering: is it working? Let the numbers talk. Since launching in 2012, the company has donated nearly $200,000. Recently, it has also expanded its delivery services in Milwaukee.
Take a page from the sustainability playbook of an established global brand from Sweden. Fast-fashion company H&M Group uses content marketing effectively with sustainability as its theme. It has a dedicated website detailing its approach, promoting its advocacy, and raising awareness among its customers. It uses clear-cut messaging to target the right audience. For instance, website visitors can check out its Working Conditions subpage. There, they will find out that the H&M Group does not own any factories and works with independent suppliers mostly from developing countries.
At the same time, the H&M brand ramps up its email marketing by sending out newsletters, a good tactic for touching base with customers wherever they may be in the buyer’s journey. You may be thinking: H&M has the budget to launch large-scale campaigns, you don’t. Here’s an idea: start with a blog and a newsletter to gain support for your social or environmental campaign. You can ask for membership sign-ups, donations, or participation. The only upfront cost here is the price of the software you will use to manage your CSR.
Pay attention to those offering actionable advice on employee advocacy. It is tied up to content marketing in that you empower people who work for you to share your content to their social networks. Include the CSR agenda in your content strategy. Usually, you will have to promise your employees some benefit in exchange for the organic promotion. It won’t be a hard sell if they’re already loyal to your cause. The beauty of knowing where you want to make a difference socially or environmentally from the get-go is that you can attract like-minded employees to work for you.
Read more about socially conscious startups around the country at TechCo