How to Develop a Unique Selling Prop for a Social Enterprise
We recently had the pleasure of speaking to a group of up and coming social enterprises who are on the verge of graduating from an accelerator program in Nashville. As part of a panel discussing how social businesses can develop a unique selling proposition, we shared our thoughts on winning strategies for positioning a socially conscious brand in today’s marketplace.
Below is a recap of what we shared. Hopefully it will be useful to you as well. For some of our more loyal readers, some of this might be review. But it never hurts to hear something twice!
1. Your value proposition must be about value. Purpose alone is not enough, even for a social enterprise.
Research shows that if price, quality and value are all equal, consumers will choose based on a company’s mission or purpose. But you have to compete on the merits of what you offer first. Read more
2. You don’t get a free pass from skepticism just because you are socially oriented.
In fact, you might want to get ready for the microscope. A Harvard Business Review article by Paul Carttar points out that there is “an astonishing dearth of reliable evidence on the performance of different programs, practices and approaches for solving social problems.” Add to that the rash of companies who see “having a purpose” as a great marketing ploy for their organization, and you have a community of consumers who bring with them a heavy dose of skepticism when they hear claims of positive social impact. As a result, your value proposition must clearly communicate your intent as an organization, as well as your impact, in a way that is compelling and defendable.
3. There is a hero in the story you have to tell, and it IS NOT YOU.
Our research shows that individuals view themselves as the most likely catalyst for positive change. Not nonprofits. Not the government. Not even your social enterprise. You have to position your product or service in a way that illustrates how your customer can save the day by supporting you.
4. Consumers are still consumers.
As mentioned above, you have to first compete on the merits of your product or service. In addition to delivering on things such as price and quality, you also have to first speak to basic consumer wants and needs, including the direct benefit they will receive from your product or service, as well as how it delivers against desires such as social status or prestige. A great piece on this can be found here.
5. Don’t follow the leader. Be brave enough to do it your way!
It’s completely fine to identify best practices and to seek out organizations who can be role models for your efforts. After all, it’s very smart to learn from others who have had success. But its a fine line between learning from best practices and just being a copycat. A me too. Another organization that sort of looks like something else. What sells generally, and specifically in the social marketplace, is authenticity. You can’t be you if you’re striving to be someone else.
So pay attention to trends and best practices, but in the end, tell your story, your way. If you are genuine in your approach to sharing what your organization is about, people will respond. This requires some faith in your story and the courage to tell it. As Sara Bareilles says in her recent hit song, you can be amazing, if you, “Say what you want to say and let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave!”
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