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Sell Your Product First and Your Story Second

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Sell Your Product First and Your Story Second

by Shanley Knox

 Nowhere has business become more purposeful than in the world of social enterprise. New businesses are constantly cropping up with world-changing missions, messages of empowerment, and products to address even the worst of society's issues.

In a world where nearly half of global consumers are willing to pay extra for socially responsible products and services, it's becoming a growing challenge for social enterprises to stand out against other cause-oriented products and services. 

In his recent piece, “Social Enterprises Must Move Beyond Purpose,” Heath Shackelford writes that, “your customers only allow your purpose to be a factor if you meet other criteria, including price, quality and value.”

To differentiate your social enterprise, begin by providing the best possible product or service. Then, market it like a successful business would - through effective research, market differentiation, and smart brand messaging. Afterward, tell a social story that illustrates the power of what a successful social business can do.

Here are some steps to get you started:  

Learn Your Market
Before you plan for marketing to your market, you’re going to need to know who they are. Begin by determining factors such as what kind of customer is going to pay for your product or service, and where you can find them.

Some key questions:

  • Approximately how many people out there are willing to pay for your product?
  • What amount are they willing to pay for your product or service?
  • Where are these people located?
  • What are these people interested in?
  • Who is already marketing a similar product to them, and how do you measure up against them?

Find Your Unique Selling Point 
Many social enterprises focus on the social benefits of their product, rather than focusing on the value and quality of their product itself. Now that you know who your customer is, and who else is selling to them, it’s time to identify your unique selling point... in other words, what makes your product or service more attractive than anyone else’s? 

  • Research your customer’s satisfaction with their current products or services: What do they love? What would they want to change? Why?
  • Are there certain messages that are a “no-go”? For instance, your customers may associate terms such as “nonprofit,” “fair trade” or “green” with a product that is subpar. By identifying and removing these “trigger” phrases, you remove potential purchasing barriers.

Craft Your Voice
Once you've decided how to effectively market your product, its time to integrate your social mission back into your branding, and create a voice that will consistently tell your story to current and potential customers:

  • What is the type of message that resonates most with your customers - is it people or numbers? emotional stories or statistics? formal or casual?
  • What are the facets of your social story that appeal most to the customer sector you have identified? 
  • Who are the influencers (voices that effectively influence others' purchasing decisions) in your customer groups? Wow can you reach them and convince them to share your product?
  • Which social platforms are your customers currently using, and how must you adjust your voice to meet the parameters of that particular platform? 

Looking for more support in building an effective marketing strategy for your social enterprise? Check out these helpful resources:

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5 Ways Twitter Will Grow Your Social Enterprise

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5 Ways Twitter Will Grow Your Social Enterprise

As a social entrepreneur, you're likely accustomed to wearing many hatsfounder, sales executive, HR director, public speaker, and marketerjust to name a few.

In each of these roles, Twitter can be an incredibly useful toolbut in the midst of doing a million things at once, its easy to lose sight of its value. How can you utilize the platform to further your career, your cause, and your story?

Here are five ideas to get you started: 

  1. Identify and Engage Your Target
    Are you looking for buyers? Users? Early adopters? Whatever your target, you can find them on Twitter. Follow the accounts interacting with your competitors. Search related industry hashtags (e.g. #socent) and join the conversation. Share compelling stories that are relevant to your audience. Once you've established a relationship, ask for email addresses and be sure to reference your Twitter conversations when sending out your pitches. 
     
  2. Differentiate From Your Competitors
    We know how time-consuming  (and important) it is to put together a comprehensive business and marketing plan on a budget. Well, researching the competitive landscape is an essential component of such a plan. Use your social channels to find the companies, organizations, and individuals who are active in your field. Identify what they're doing to support their endeavors, as well as what they could do better. This will give you great insight into how to structure your own marketing initiatives, and how to differentiate your product. 
     
  3. Become a Trusted Resource
    While you and I may know the amazing value of your product or service, others have yet to find out. This means that the majority of the population is not going to come to you out of instant admiration. They will, however, come for the purpose of learning something valuable. Curate content from others, share resources, provide insight, and engage in conversation. When you demonstrate your expertise in a useful and humble manner, the demand for your product will follow.
     
  4. Meet your network
    Looking for experts to advise you? New friends to support you?  Use Twitter bios to identify your prospects. Respond to a relevant article they wrote, congratulate them on a recent accomplishment, or ask them a burning question. Also, don't be afraid to RSVP to events they’re attending via Meetup and Eventbrite or ask them to meet in person. 
     
  5. Strut Your Stuff
    Social networks are one of the best ways to share your current and prior work. Did you write a blog post? Participate on a panel? Receive an award? Post it. All of it. You never know the opportunities that may surface because you were displaying a valuable skill set. 

Have other ideas for Twitter that could be useful to social entrepreneurs? Note them in the comments below! We're working to provide valuable resources to social entrepreneursthe more material, the better!

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