How do you build brand awareness for a social enterprise startup? What’s the best way to leverage social media to enhance your marketing efforts? How do you reach your target audience?

For social enterprise startups—organizations with a business model that has a significant social impact—finding the right marketing mix can be a challenge. Not only do you have to focus on growing your bottom line, but also producing significant social returns on investment.

When New Sun Rising, a local 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on building vibrant communities through culture, sustainability, and opportunity, asks us to share marketing and branding tips with social enterprise startups participating in their Launch community incubator program, we always jump at the chance. We’ve been working with New Sun Rising for past few years and couldn’t wait to learn about the latest batch of organizations as part of their Launch Sto-Rox cohort.

Branding Strategies for Social Enterprises

We kicked off the session by talking about building a successful social enterprise brand. Although a logo is obviously the most visible element of any brand, it’s only a small piece of the overall package.

From the name you choose for your organization, to your logo, to the emotional response you want your brand to elicit, to crafting a story that inspires and resonates with your target audience, your brand should capture the essence of your organization, your purpose, and what makes you unique.

You want your branding and your brand to give people a reason to believe—and to support your social enterprise startup.

Once you’re able to craft your brand story, you need to tell that story consistently at every point of contact with your target audience.

Identifying the Right Marketing Mix

Everything starts with your target audience—who are they? How will your social enterprise startup help fulfill their needs? Which marketing channels give you the best chance at reaching them?

  1. Don’t assume. Whenever possible, get out there and talk to the people you are trying to reach. Learn more about what they need and want. Take advantage of the opportunity to create a meaningful dialogue/connection.

  2. Establish clearly defined marketing goals Facebook likes are great but they don’t mean anything if you’re not growing. Align every aspect of your marketing strategy with your top-level organizational goals. If it’s not immediately clear how a tactic aligns with those goals, think twice. Do you want to generate more phone calls? Donations? Event attendance? Something else? What action does your marketing need to activate and inspire to help you move the needle?

  3. Carve out time for marketing. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, you need to find time to work on marketing your social enterprise startup. When you’re wearing multiple hats, we always find it helpful to set a regular schedule (ex. Tues. & Thurs. Facebook, Friday blog, etc.)

  4. Don’t try to be all things to all people. If you’re like most social enterprise startups, you don’t have a dedicated marketing staff. You need to focus all your marketing efforts on the highest and best use of your time, resources, and budget. Twitter might sound like a great idea but 1) if you can’t manage it and/or 2) you’re unsure if your target audience is even on the platform, you’re better off focusing your efforts elsewhere.

  5. Measure, adjust, refine. Track marketing campaign performance based on your desired outcomes. Leverage simple reporting tools (ex. Google Analytics, MS Excel, etc.) to quickly and easily capture conversions and analyze which tactics are generating the best results. Make refinements as necessary.

Next Steps

If you’re an early-stage social enterprise startup and you’re still building out your brand, revisit your naming, branding, and story to make sure it captures the essence of your organization, differentiates you from others in your space, and elicits an emotional response from your target audience.

If you have an existing brand, name, and web presence, revisit your top-level organizational objectives and then map out marketing strategies based on those desired outcomes. For example, if you want to generate more donations—really flesh out why someone should donate to your organization. How would their contribution help? Share stories. Show the potential impact. Incorporate photos.

Have questions about marketing your social enterprise startup? Send us a note.