For long-time Prosper blog readers, you know we’re passionate about the quest to balance love and money; or creating a successful business that also allows us to make a meaningful impact, not just for our clients, but for the world at large. As with any social enterprise business, this starts with making a profit. The more profit we make, the more good we can do. And doing good is also important to today’s consumers.
Trust in business is declining and people of every age are reassessing the way they make purchasing decisions. This is particularly true of millennials and women. According to a report by PWC, buying decisions are no longer made purely on the basis of price and quality, “This changing business context and, in particular, the differing needs and values of all stakeholders, demands that [business] management take a broader view of growth…” This goes beyond looking at profits only and toward the bigger picture of measuring profit and impact.Go beyond looking at profits only and toward the bigger picture of measuring profit and impact. Click To Tweet
This is especially important when it comes to impact investing. There are several organizations and efforts – IRIS, the Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS), and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), to name a few – dedicated to standardizing impact measurement. However, despite many discussions about impact measurement, methods for doing so still vary.
Why is impact measurement important for successful communication?
In our work at Prosper, our social enterprise clients are using for-profit business models to address significant social and environmental challenges. An important step in communicating their mission and appealing to consumers’ purpose-driven preferences comes in their ability to not only measure, but effectively talk about their impact. As I always remark, “show, don’t tell.”
It’s not enough to say, “Our organization transforms the lives of students by improving reading skills.” Whether I’m a potential customer, investor or reporter, this only spurs more questions:
- How long has your organization been around?
- How many schools, teachers and students have you worked with?
- Give me a concrete example of how you’ve “transformed lives.”
- Where is the proof your product helps students improve reading skills?
It’s much more engaging and resonant to say, “We’ve worked with millions of students in schools in all 50 states and many of our classrooms are experiencing significant growth on their test scores, with some classes going from the 40th to as high as the 87th percentile nationally.”
Good measurement helps you demonstrate progress, build credibility and communicate your impact more effectively to your stakeholders.
How can you demonstrate impact in your communication?
Before you can communicate your impact, you need to determine what you measure, how you measure it and what you share publicly. From a business perspective, these key performance indicators (KPIs) are usually straightforward. They include things like:
- Revenue growth
- Product/service growth
- Employee growth
- Geographical expansion
- Customer growth
- Investment, financial backing
While most businesses closely track these KPIs, many don’t use them well in their communications. This kind of information should be shared on your website, in company award submissions and correspondence with reporters to demonstrate credibility and industry leadership. (And note, that while some companies shy away from sharing revenue or investment figures publicly, if you want coverage in a major business publication, it’s often necessary.) Couple these things with less tangible indicators that show success like well-known clients, big-name partners or key team members with demonstrable expertise, and you’re well on the way to helping people understand just how great your company really is.
Fellow B Corporation, Happy Family, does an amazing job communicating company success. Under the “Our Story” tab of their website, they share their company roots, mission, promise, team, partners, social goodness and the experts they work with. Packed within these pages is indicator after indicator of a company well built.
On the website, I learned Happy Family was launched on Mother’s Day – what better nod is there to their primary target audience? They were featured in an Amex Small Business commercial, and have received many awards: their founder won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year New York Award; they made the Inc. 500 list as “Fastest-Growing Organic Food Company;” and were recognized as one of the “Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led” companies. They list their partnerships with organizations ranging from Feeding America to Autism Speaks. And their company narrative is laced with information about innovative products launched and grown over more than 10 years in business.
As a consumer, based on what I’m reading on their website, this is a successful company I can get behind. But there’s more…
Before we get to demonstrating impact, let’s explore measurement and communication beyond business growth and success. Just like you have KPIs that help you understand your inputs and outputs, you should identify KPIs to measure your impact and outcomes.
As discussed, methods for impact measurement vary, but for the purposes of communication, if you don’t have a mission statement, or even if you do, that mission statement is a good place to start. Your mission should be tangible enough that it can be used as a company-wide benchmark for deciding what your impact-related activities look like. If it’s not measurable, it might be time to re-evaluate.
Then, think through how you measure and communicate about the activities that move your mission forward. This often includes things like:
- Impact program involvement
- Impact program growth
- Individuals and communities served
- Program partners
- Number of events
- Economic impact
- Third party recognition
So, back to Happy Family. Beyond communicating its business successes, the company also powerfully communicates its impact. Happy Family’s mission is to change the trajectory of children’s health through nutrition. They are meeting it through their brand and products and also their impact both internally and externally. This is all outlined in an impact report that shares qualitative and quantitative information about the company’s progress. Their report covers everything from employee satisfaction to social impact and company sustainability. For example, in 2016 (their 10th year in business), they partnered with 10 nonprofit organizations to support hunger relief, nutrition research, the creation of a children’s village in Tanzania and so much more.
By showing their business growth and impact, not just telling their audience about it, it’s easy to understand how Happy Family is moving the needle in tangible ways.
What will you measure and how will you communicate your company’s business growth and purpose to reach your next socially-conscious customer?
Before you can measure and communicate your impact, you need to nail down your social enterprise’s mission statement. Our ebook, Communicate With Impact: A Crash Course in Building a Results-Driven Marketing Program for Your Changemaking Organization can provide the actionable insights you need to develop or redevelop your mission-driven company’s mission statement to guide all of your marketing and communications.