Socially Responsible Marketing in Your Community
by Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
- Created: March 10, 2010, 1:35 pm
Although the economy is slowly turning aroun;at least according to official report-consumer- budgets continue to be tight. But although consumers are still holding onto their purse strings, one area where they are willing to spend is on socially responsible products and services. In a recent study by Burst Media, for example, more than 50 percent of consumers surveyed said they are willing to pay more for'gree' products and services, despite tough economic times.
Green is still a relatively new focus, so here are some additional resources for you:
Green is just one example of how products and services can be socially responsible. Your product or service can also be socially responsible if a percentage of proceeds from its sale support a cause (such as'pink ribbo' products sold to support breast cancer research) or if it is made by a certain group of people (such as fair-trade coffee grown by indigenous tribes). Your business itself can be socially responsible if you align with a cause and let your customers know about it.
For many small businesses, the best way to be socially responsible is to be active in your community. If your business relies on local customers, they are more likely to support you if they know that you are'giving bac' to the community. Here are some ideas for doing so.
Create community. If your business is a retail store, coffeehouse, restaurant or other physical place where people gather, you have a natural edge at creating a sense of community. Think about ways you can create connections among customers. Start by making sure that people feel comfortable hanging out. Hire employees who are friendly and relaxed. A sporting goods store could create a bulletin board where customers can post notices for each other. Or you could take it further and start a'running club or biking club for customers.
Go online. These days, the online community you create can be just as important as the real-world one. Extend your business's community involvement by continuing it on your Web site, your Facebook fan page or your Twitter page. The more ways you offer for your customers to get involved with your cause, both online and offline, the better.
Find a cause. To be socially responsible, you'll need to support a cause. Choose one that is relevant for your business. For instance, if you own a pet supply store, your cause might be an organization that helps abused and abandoned pets. If you own a women's clothing boutique, choose a women-themed cause such as breast cancer research or a local homeless shelter for women and children. The cause should not only be relevant to your business, but also something that you and your staff can genuinely feel passionate about. It should also be something that your customers feel passionately about. Last, but not least, it should be a cause that is active in your local community.
Do your homework. Your cause might be a general one; for instance, if you own a fitness center, you might support the cause of healthy families. But if you are choosing one or more particular organizations to support, make sure you check them out thoroughly to make sure they are legitimate. If it's a local organization, make sure the people in charge are people you can work with on an ongoing basis.
Decide what type of support you will offer. Your support for this cause can vary. You might contribute a percentage of your business's overall sales to the organization, or a percentage of sales from particular items. You might sponsor a fund-raiser or event for the cause (I'll discuss this more in a future blog post). You and your employees might volunteer your time to the organization. Or you could donate products (such as a restaurant donating to a local food bank). There are many different ways your business can contribute, depending on your financial resources, your goal and your available time.
Investigate tax issues. If you are contributing portions of proceeds to a cause, talk to your accountant about deductibility and tax liability issues to make sure you are handling the money correctly.
Promote your involvement. Make sure your marketing efforts let your clients and customers know about your involvement in your chosen cause. There are many ways to do this. Depending on your type of business, you may want to mention the cause in your in-store signage; in local ads; on product packaging or hang tags; or in your online marketing methods such as e-mails, e-newsletters or print newsletters, on your Web site or on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Use public relations. Local newspapers, Web sites and industry Web sites are always looking for news about socially responsible businesses. Let the press know about your socially responsible activities, and make yourself available as an expert source to discuss the causes you're involved in.
Network. Being involved in a cause not only helps the organization and the community, but is also a great way to make new business contacts. Who knows? You could meet new customers, suppliers or business partners through your involvement in social responsibility. That makes it a real win-win.
Rieva Lesonsky is founder and president of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva. Visit SmallBizDaily.com to read more of Rieva's insights. You can buy her newest e-book, 23 Hot Businesses to Start Right Now! at StartupNation.com/hot-business.
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