Can Marketing Have a Bigger Impact At Your Social Enterprise?

6 min read

As a person who actively seeks to support mission-focused organizations and social enterprises, it can frankly sometimes be a little overwhelming to know where I should direct my attention. It seems like every day there’s a new social impact-driven company selling shoes, clothes, food or some other product, and they’re all just trying to get my attention.

But according to studies, awareness marketing doesn’t actually drive any action. Simply making a widespread audience aware of an issue with a viral marketing campaign isn’t a promise that people will buy your product, use your service or ultimately, help you further the impact you’re seeking to have. You have to market through consideration and decision tactics as well, which get your audience further engaged with your brand and encourage them to support you. We call this sequence of tactics the “marketing funnel.”

  • Awareness marketing gets your brand in front of an audience that might not have heard of you or your cause otherwise. These tactics include social media campaigns, blogging, media relations and general advertising.
  • Consideration marketing is intended to build stronger relationships with the people who are aware of your brand and further educate them about your cause. A possible consideration tactic is gated website content or another offer for which a website visitor will provide their contact information.
  • Decision marketing pushes those relationships to the finish line: getting people to buy your product or use your service. Decision tactics include a series of emails to encourage a desired action with special offers and retargeting digital ads.

a successful social enterprise touches all levels of the marketing funnel

When marketing their products and services, too many social enterprises focus on awareness-building activities and expect their cause to produce sales. However, awareness just isn’t enough. To realize its purpose, a successful social enterprise also has to generate profits, and that means it needs to work stakeholders through the entire funnel, not just the awareness phase.

Awareness #marketing doesn’t actually drive any action. You have to market through consideration and decision tactics as well. Click To Tweet

As a social enterprise, you can use similar outreach tactics as other companies to drive your audience to a specific action. But you can also use your mission to drive engagement and sales. That’s because your audience can gain two immediate benefits when they invest in your company: receiving a good or service and contributing to your mission. That’s why you should strive to take your marketing a step further –– and lead with your impact.

How can you get past awareness marketing and get started moving your audience through the “marketing funnel”?

Don’t just “spray and pray” with your messaging.

Identify and focus on the specific stakeholders you want to hit with your awareness messaging based on their wants, needs and likely sources of information. These are the people mostly like to take action –– as long as you first address them in a way that will pique their interest.

A couple years ago, a new social enterprise called the Girlfriend Collective ran a campaign using Facebook advertising targeted toward young women. The campaign asked users to simply share the Girlfriend Collective’s website with another person on Facebook in order to qualify for a free pair of leggings. All you had to do was pay for shipping, which was important because the company wanted to remain sustainable while supporting their workshop and its employees with fair wages. Also, as it turns out, the leggings are made out of completely recycled materials, but are still very high quality.

Identify and focus on the specific #stakeholders you want to hit with your awareness #messaging based on their wants, needs and likely sources of information. Click To Tweet

I was the target audience, and the Girlfriend Collective got my attention.

Provide the opportunity for your stakeholders to “opt in” to hear more from you.

As a social enterprise, even if you can’t provide a free product to your audience, you can still offer relevant, engaging resources that your audience is willing to provide their contact information to receive. For example, you can host engaging blog content on your website that will make readers want to sign up for updates to read regularly.

I’m a living example. I participated in the Girlfriend Collective’s promotion and I got something in return for giving away my information: free leggings. And when the official product line launched a few months later, they got to keep sending me promotional emails over time. New color of leggings? Email. Now selling sports bras? Email. More colors and new tops? Email. I’m in their funnel. And I’m considering.

Keep your audience aware of your impact as a successful social enterprise.

I didn’t just receive emails about the Girlfriend Collective’s new products. I also received this plain text email message when the free leggings campaign came to an end:

Hey girlfriend,

In April of last year we launched our little website wondering if there were people out there who cared about where their clothes come from and wanted to make a change.

We’ve been blown away by how many did. In the past nine months we’ve diverted over 6,000,000 water bottles from the landfill and gotten to know countless new girlfriends all over the world.

And we know this is only our starting point. We wanted to reach out personally to let you know that we quite literally could not have done this without you.

Girlfriend Collective wants to be about more than just clothes – we are a way to connect women who are actively working to make the world better. And so far, our growing collective of girlfriends is doing just that.

Today is the last day of our campaign. Our full line is launching this spring, and we think you’ll be as excited as we are about it. You’ll see that we’ll be offering even more sizes and lengths, because everybody deserves to feel like their buns are being cradled by a cloud.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get the latest news. From all of us – thank you.


All of us at Girlfriend Collective

Ellie, Quang, Dorian, Tori, Kathleen, and Jimmy

When I was eventually ready to get some more workout clothes for my wardrobe, I knew exactly who I wanted to buy from. And when I received my order, the tags on the products included stats about how many water bottles were recycled to make a pair of leggings or a sports bra. Leveraging every opportunity to quantify that impact really makes a difference. So, the lesson here is that you can model a successful social enterprise by not just giving vague ideas of what you’re doing to help the world, but telling your audience exactly how, encouraging them to make that final decision to support you.

Even if you can’t provide a free product to your audience, you can still offer relevant, engaging resources that your audience is willing to provide their contact information to receive. Click To Tweet

Through marketing, the Girlfriend Collective makes me feel like I’m supporting a cause greater than just having cute workout clothes –– I’m supporting environmental and social sustainability. So, I tell everyone about my athleisure brand of choice whenever I get the chance, with the hopes that I can help them be even a little more impactful.

What consideration and decision tactics will you include in your social enterprise marketing plan?

Access our Essential Social Enterprise Marketing Plan Template workbook to build a plan that will not only make your audience aware of your existence, but encourage them to help you further your impact.

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