This point is often overlooked. Your do-gooding and good deeding aren’t a substitute for marketing. Customers can’t love you for what you do if they don’t know you. At this point you might be thinking:
But Wait! One of the benefits of a social mission is the visibility it brings to my company. I’ve even heard–from this very site–that social responsiblity programs can be funded with the marketing budget because they’ll bring publicity.
The whole truth is that a social mission helps, but doesn’t cover it. Even Stonyfield Farm, a virtuoso of guerilla marketing tactics, put effort into its marketing to build its brand 17 years ago. Here are some ideas you can use to brand your company without robbing your social programs.
Put a face on it
Choose a spokesperson from your company who cultivates his or her expertise in the field. World of Good did this well. Co-founder Priya Haji speaks* on social enterprise and fair trade and has become the public face of the company. Zappos’ Tony Hsieh is another great example; while turning Zappos into a marvelous company, Tony talked about how he was doing it, creating an ethos around Zappos that MBA students, employees and customers love.
It doesn’t start with conference keynotes or articles for Inc. Connect with a community on Twitter that cares about your issue–free trade, landfill diversion, employee empowerment or cupcakes. Solicit people’s opinions, share what you’re doing and promote their work and thoughts. This (just basic networking) shapes you as a connector and leader in the space. Set up search terms that help you flag conversations like ‘recycled paper’ For New Leaf Paper, for example.
Blog (there’s a reason I’m not the first person to tell you that blogging is effective)
Whether you commit to blogging three days per week, once a week or twice monthly, be consistent. You don’t need to fill your blog with grand ideas. Sharing how you are building your company and talking about other people, companies, tools or trends in your sector is enough. 37signals’ blog Signal vs. Noise covers design, business, experience, simplicity, the web and culture. It’s a daily read for the tech community.
Tap your community
Richard Seireeni calls this the Gort Cloud–an abstract network of trendspotters, advocacy groups, business alliances, certifying organizations and social networks. Seventh Generation, Tesla Motors and Stonyfield Farm used the Gort Cloud as a partial replacement for traditional marketing.
This list is far from complete. What other tactics have you used or seen other businesses use successfully?
* An excellent podcast from Priya Haji from Stanford Social Innovations.