People tend to assimilate sales and marketing with generic commercial, for-profit organisations. After all, sales and marketing are profit drivers for a business. Social impact organisations tend to be mission-focused, not profit-focused. However, social impact organisations cannot effectively address societal issues without money. Simply put, with more money, social impact organisations can acquire more resources and thereby create more impact. Therefore, a solid sales and marketing focus is vital for the success of social impact organisations. Observing the two departments as it pertains to social impact, first separately and then conjoined, it is clear why a strong sales and marketing focus is necessary for the success of social entrepreneurs.

Marketing is a necessary force for good for the success of social impact organisations. Human beings are simple creatures. We are attracted to flashy, shiny, outrageous, and in our faces. The unfortunate reality is that commercial organisations tend to have the largest marketing spend and therefore are always at the forefront of people’s minds. Case and point: Super Bowl ads, which American companies pay large sums of money for, are hilarious, flashy and outrageous. Imagine all of the success that social impact organisations would have if they marketed themselves as flashily as the Apples and Teslas of the world.

So, what is the key to a successful marketing strategy for social impact organisations? In my opinion, it is to focus on your mission, your work and the lives that you positively impact. Your mission is the core of your social impact organisations, and it is beautiful! Your mission will naturally attract people who are interested in your work. Take advantage of it… market it! The same may be said for the work you do and the lives you impact. People are generally interested in work that is supportive and impactful. Whether through social media, blogging, videos, TV advertisements, or a mix of all forms of marketing, spreading your organisations’ message is vital to its success. 

What’s the most critical part of a marketing campaign? Starting. It’s not rocket science. Get out there and give voice to your organisations. Start with something that you enjoy doing. Whatever it is, just start.

While sales, by definition, is a profit-driving force, it is also a force for good. Sales are more than the sale of a product or service. Sales is a mindset. It is a method of identifying, connecting and growing with potential partners. It is a way to gain buy-in from key stakeholders who may positively impact your social impact organisations. Even if you offer products or services for free, sales are necessary to establish relationships with complementary companies, groups and individuals. Therefore, no matter what type of organisation you operate, a sales mindset is essential. Don’t like the word ‘sales’? Call it ‘relationship development’. Regardless of what you refer to it as, a social impact organisation must conduct sales outreach in some capacity to succeed. Every organisation needs relationships to survive and thrive. No one can do it on their own. Sales is essentially about developing a relationship through a transfer of feelings; it is about making a human connection; it is about empathy and taking the time to find out what people actually want.

Sales and marketing are complementary business levers that together are a force to be reckoned with, especially for social impact organisations. From a business perspective, marketing provides the introduction and sales is what creates the buy-in from key stakeholders. Marketing and sales are dependent on each other. Without marketing, gaining traction during the sales process may be an uphill battle. Without sales, marketing efforts are meaningless. It is almost impossible to sell your products, services or mission without marketing.

By focusing on both sales and marketing, social impact organisations can boost their effectiveness, efficiency and bottom lines, accelerate progress towards their core purpose and ultimately have a greater impact on the world.

Ian Shepardson is a social entrepreneur who, through his organisations, Global Grassroots Consulting, is utilising his skills in marketing and sales to improve the business of social impact organisations. Ian is passionate about social impact topics involving sustainability, diversity, equity, wealth creation and more. In his free time, Ian enjoys travelling, hiking, biking, exploring new areas and walking. Currently residing in the North Carolina city of Charlotte, Ian has lived in the eastern half of America for his entire life, but has an affinity for the west. In 2020, Ian embarked on a 6 week long, solo road trip. He visited 8 National Parks in the American states of South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Ian loves international travel and hopes to one day visit Australia, among many other distant countries.

Sales and Marketing for Social Impact Organisations