When the double bottom line of impact and profit are on your mind as a social entrepreneur, it’s easy to overlook (or even hide from) marketing. However, to achieve both, effective marketing is an essential thing to have in your operational toolbox.
We know first hand that a marketing budget can be hard to come by, which is why we’ve come up with 7 shoestring strategies for marketing your social enterprise.
1. Determine a Budget
You might be laughing at the suggestion that you even have a budget that can go towards your marketing campaign, and that’s okay! If you do have any funds for promotional work, however, it’s a good idea to come up with a budget.
Especially if money is tight, you don’t want to risk overspending. While there’s no magical number here, a marketing budget will give you something to aim for and will allow you to determine your return on investment (ROI). If you don’t have any funding for marketing, these tips are all well-suited for you or your team to spend minimal time doing.
2. Clearly Define Your Audience
Imagine creating a product or service and having no idea of who would want to buy your product. To avoid your marketing efforts being all for naught, it’s essential that you put some thought and a little bit of research into your marketing before you start, well, marketing.
Who will be following you on social media? Who’s most likely to open any emails from you? Who would benefit most from your blog posts? Who’s a supporter of organisations like yours? Who’s a potential volunteer, partner, or funder?
With these questions in mind, you’ll need to develop some audience ‘personas.’ Yes, this will take time—but it can also be a fun exercise for you and your board, team, or even on your own.
Take some time to write out some semi-fictional representations of who would fit into your ideal target audience. You’ll want to flesh out demographic information, interests, and behavioural traits. You can even give them a clever name and choose a stock photo for them!
The more descriptive, the better. You’ll end up tailoring your marketing efforts around who your ideal audience is. So, the more you understand your audience, the easier everything else will be.
Also, don’t worry if this evolves over time, because it most likely will (and you’ll continue to get better at it, too).
3. Get on Social Media
There are two key reasons why every social enterprise should be on social media:
- It’s free.
- It works.
Even on a shoestring (or non-existent) budget, you can get a lot accomplished on social media. Nearly 50% of the world is on social media and most of us spend three hours liking, tagging, sharing, and scrolling every single day.
Our seemingly uncontrollable attachment to our phones and social media has meant that more than 72% of businesses agree that social media has been somewhat effective or very effective for their marketing efforts.
So, take some time to set up a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or Instagram account. You can use your audience persona to determine which of these is best to reach your target audience. Start with just one social media account so that you don’t spread yourself too thin.
Then, once the account is established, engage with your audience by re-sharing, commenting, and responding to messages.
4. Wrap Your Head Around Content Marketing
Even as a marketing neophyte, you’ll be able to learn a great deal about content marketing (and do so for free). This will help to ensure that your marketing efforts are effective and well-planned.
Spend a weekend completing a content marketing course, like this free one from Hubspot. You’ll learn the ins and outs of how to effectively share content with your audience, including how to develop a content creation framework, how to create search engine- and human-friendly content, and how to strategically share your content.
Essentially, you’ll learn the art of quality storytelling and how you can use it to effectively reach your target audience. Storytelling is key when it comes to quality content that resonates with your audience. If you’re unsure where to start, we recommend grabbing a cuppa and curling up with Luke Faccini’s new book: Impact Brand Storytelling: A how-to guide for businesses hell-bent on changing the world.
5. Study Your Competitors
Once you’re online, follow all of the similar organisations in your area. It’s likely that your target audiences will be similar and while you’re in the early stages of your own marketing efforts, you can use their posts and blog articles as inspiration for your own.
Also, when you’re looking at similar organisations, you’re likely seeing the results of a similar budget, so it’s great to see what shoestring marketing looks like in real-time.
6. Develop Partnerships
Speaking of similar organisations, use them to develop partnerships. This is one of the best low-cost ways to extend your marketing efforts to reach a similar audience base. It might take some time to find similar organisations, but once you do you’ll be able to share each other’s campaigns, promote events, and even develop partnerships outside of the marketing realm.
Don’t be afraid to ask them for help! Even if it’s just a one-off post, it will be a good way to reach new “likes” or followers. Plus, as a fellow social enterprise, it’s likely that they’ve been through a similar journey and are likely to provide genuine support.
7. Make Sure You’re Consistent
Once you get your footing in the marketing world, develop a consistent voice. This means that you have a consistent brand image in all of the market channels you operate in (email marketing, online content, and social media).
This is another way your audience persona will come in handy. What type of content and tone best suits them and their interests? Stick to that, add your own special twist, and in no time you’ll become highly recognisable in your sector.