It’s safe to say that the social enterprise world is gaining momentum. In Australia, for example, there are more than 20,000 social enterprises—an amount that has grown 37% over the past five years. The growth of the social sector, and its significant contribution to GDP, appears to be more than just a trend.
With the majority of global social enterprises still in their infancy (i.e. less than 15-20 years old), we can think of the social sphere as “merely a child, or a teenager at best.” So, whether you’re a budding social entrepreneur just starting out, or you’ve been in the game for several years, chances are that you’ve got some competition – and will continue to have more in the years to come.
In a world that’s becoming increasingly concerned with social impact, just how do you and your organisation stand out from the crowd? Here are some of our top tips for how to differentiate your social enterprise.
5 Tips for How to Differentiate Your Social Enterprise
1. Share Your Impact
What’s one of the best ways to stand out in the social enterprise crowd? Share why you matter.
To your community and audience, you may be just another organisation until they realize the impact you have on people or the planet.
That said, effective storytelling should be a big priority. Whether it’s through your social media marketing or as a dedicated website landing page that demonstrates your mission and how you’re achieving it, you should use a combination of data, photos, and narratives to let people in on your impact and how it’s making the world a better place.
2. Do Your Research
Whether you’re in the early stages and haven’t even launched your social enterprise, or you’re several years in but are in need of a refresh, doing some research is always helpful.
With a lack of resources, it’s easy to get stagnant by being stuck in your own organisation’s bubble. That said, it’s a good idea to take a peek outside every once in a while. Here are a few things to consider:
- What are some recent changes within your community?
- Are there new organisations offering similar services or products?
- Has your local government implemented any changes that affect your offerings?
- Are there any environmental, societal, or global conditions that have impacted your mission, products, or services?
The social enterprise game is one that is constantly evolving, and if you’re not keeping up with changes then you’re going to have a hard time differentiating your organisation from the other ones out there.
3. Connect with Your Consumer
If you’re not resonating with your customers, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to keep your organisation relevant. Just as important as research is when it comes to your community, niche, and environment, it’s equally as important to take some time to understand what your target audience cares about—and the causes that they’re willing to support.
If your social good efforts are those that align with your customers, can you have a better chance of garnering their support and standing out from the social enterprise crowd.
4. Bring Your Customers Onboard
Let’s take the last tip to the next level. It’s important to not only be aware of the needs and values of your customers but to also include them in some of your efforts. People in your community are more likely to be engaged with your organisation if they can feel like they’re a part of it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to recruit everyone as a volunteer or take people with you on a humanitarian trip, but it is a good idea to connect with customers on a deeper level by asking them for feedback and encouraging them to share stories about their personal engagement with your organisation.
Turn customers into ambassadors by engaging with them on social media and encouraging them to do the same. Let them in on details of board meetings and include them in making operational decisions. You never know, your customers could be the stakeholder that truly sets you apart from the competition.
5. Produce a Good Product
This should go without saying, but you could have the best social enterprise in the world and the greatest ideas for how to create a positive impact, but if your product isn’t stellar and doesn’t meet the needs of your market, you’re not going to stand out from the crowd.
This is another way customer feedback comes in handy—the more connected you are with your customers, the better able you’ll be in providing them with products or services that meet their needs.