One of the most encouraging trends in today’s social business marketplace is the demonstration of greater social responsibility by brands. At one extreme you see large brands showing a greater commitment to their purpose, and at the other a growing number of in social enterprises and entrepreneurs are emerging with responsibility baked into their business models. That said, no amount of good intentions will suffice if you overlook three key drivers of business success:
1. Brand Singularity: Too often brands (and many non-profits) mistake the cause for their brand. As a result, they get lost in a crowded marketplace because their brand distinction or competitive advantage is not sufficiently defined. Instead, brands of all sizes must define their purpose in a way that is authentic and unique to them and then communicate that consistently. One need only look at the number of companies that claim they are “green” to see how easy is can be to get lost in the noise of good intentions.
2. Services/Products: Too often many young companies throw well-intended energy and resources at a cause and overlook a clear articulation of their service and product offerings. It’s almost as if their service to the cause is their selling proposition, yet that is perilous from a business model point of view. Instead, the company must define it’s business model, articulate its products and services, identify it’s target audience, and plan its sales strategies, and build social contribution into its marketing.
3. Long-term Vision: The solution to a cause issue is often so large and complicated, it’s easy to think your company vision is simply the elimination of that problem. Yet thinking this way avoids making the necessary long-term strategic decisions for your business that will ensure your survival and growth. Instead, every company must identify specific goals within the content of that cause, and articulate a long-term vision that is shared with employees and customers.
In short, while good intentions are critical, a commitment to a cause can hurt your business if it distracts you from the core requirements for business success:
Who is your brand? What does it stand for? What is your business model? What services and products do you offer? What makes you different? What is your long-term vision?
Only by answering these questions can your business succeed and provide the financial success that will allow your to transform our world for the better.