The Dos and Don'ts of Starting a Purpose-Driven Business
Starting a business entails many strategic decisions that will ultimately determine the business' success. One of the ways to increase that success and form close relationships with consumers is to support a philanthropic cause.
According to Emma Leggat, head of corporate social responsibility for Stubhub, 89 percent of consumers surveyed have said that, given similar price and quality, they would switch brands to one that supports a cause over one that doesn't. Ninety percent have said that a brand with a cause would make them more loyal.
Given these facts, think about making your own business a "purpose-driven" one. To do that and reach your target consumers, here are some dos and don'ts:
- Be genuine. Nothing creates emotional distance between the consumer and a business as much as the consumer feeling that a business is being disingenuous and supporting a cause merely for marketing purposes. In addition, when a business supports a cause that dovetails its ideals and principles, employees are more likely to invest themselves in that mission.
- Choose a cause you care about. At David Fin, we help American vets find a meaningful job through the organization Hiring Our Heroes. It’s been a cause close to my heart since a good friend experienced the harsh reality of returning home from Afghanistan and being unable to find work after bravely serving our country. Our brand is founded on the belief that every veteran deserves a job and a reason to put on a tie each day.
- Set philanthropic targets. Having goals and expectations, like reaching a specific monetary amount, motivates and helps create innovative business strategies. Having goals also demonstrates to the consumer the mission of the business and its impact on the specific cause.
- Become an expert on your cause. Know the ins and outs of your cause and the impact you’re making. Consumers are naturally curious when it comes to learning about purpose-driven businesses, and you want to be able to educate them as much as possible.
- Have a give-back strategy. Have a plan in place to "give back" to your cause. Whether you’re teaming up with an organization that supports the cause or have a relationship with the donors personally -- know whom you’re donating to.
- Tell your consumers about the impact they’ve made. Letting customers know how they have made an impact on a cause leaves them with positive feelings toward purchasing your product or service and facilitates a relationship in which they are likely to do business with you again.
- Find ways to remind consumers about the cause they've helped. Our company includes a notecard in every tie box explaining our mission and how consumers have helped by purchasing a tie. Every tie also has a camouflage tipping so that whenever a customer is wearing it, he can flip it over to remind himself of the impact he's making.
- Don’t confuse the consumer. As important as your cause is, your customer still needs to understand your product. Make sure that your business model is clear and that you’re not merely showcasing your cause (as hard as that may be). Remind customers that you are not just a charity, but a business they are purchasing a great product from.
- Don’t pitch your customers rather than teach them. It’s important that they learn about your cause -- not just that they see it as part of the pitch to buy your product. You should support a cause you are passionate about; in order to effect change, you will need your customers to take an active role in helping you reach your target goals.
- Don’t do it alone. One great way to enhance your purpose-driven business is to bring in a philanthropy expert, an advisory board, an attorney, etc. Experts add not only legitimacy to your purpose-driven business from the consumers' prospective, but also a wealth of knowledge your business can use in its strategic planning and goal-setting. Keep in mind that wanting to support a cause isn’t enough; you've got to to actually do it.
- Don’t cut corners. Production and materials may cost more in the beginning, but go with the best and produce the best product or service, because you only have one chance to make an impression. It's important to remember that the quality and experience of your product is the most important aspect of your business model -- because, in the end, your customers have to love your product, not just the cause.
- Don’t end your relationship at checkout. It’s extremely important that your customers provide feedback -- and that alternately, you inform them about the impact they’ve just made. Customer feedback allows you to make improvements, to more effectively fulfill their needs. Building a two-way communication stream between your consumers and your business is imperative for a long-standing relationship.
Running a purpose-driven business can promote financial success and have a positive impact on society. Supporting a cause creates a positive connotation that consumers will associate with your product, and helps effect change. Our company has combined our two biggest passions into one singular goal: producing high-fashion men's neckwear, while also supporting the hiring of American veterans.