When I've written about social responsibility in the past, I've received a good number of Tweets that essentially say that businesses should want to give to charity because it's the right thing to do, not simply because it's good for business. I wholeheartedly agree.
But when the subject comes up, you'll still hear a number of business owners say "I run a company, not a charity. What's in it for me?" And, of course, the rest of us roll our eyes and give them an array of answers, including building trust and customer appreciation, increasing marketing and PR opportunities, helping to attract top millennial talent, and building strong teams. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Then we throw a slew of stats to prove it.
Such as the fact that a Nielsen survey found that 55 percent of global respondents would pay top dollar for products and services from companies that support a specific cause. Or the one about how 70 percent of millennials say that a major factor in choosing their job was their company's commitment to their community...
Yes, in an effort to get the masses to jump on the socially responsible bandwagon, I too have thrown these stats around. So much so, in fact, that I even sometimes forget the point. And the point is that businesses have the power and privilege of making the world a better place.
Let's all assume that we all agree with that sentiment.
In order to achieve the desired results (both from a personal and business perspective) leaders should be very meticulous about how they weave social responsibility into their business plan. Throwing a charity into your marketing efforts as an afterthought isn't going to cut it.
We know that millennials respond more positively to socially responsible brands. We also know that millennials consume a vast amount of content on social media and call out BS when they see it. In order to have them respond the right way to your social betterment efforts, you truly have to weave charitable giving into the fabric of your company.
One recent example of this is what Fam Mirza did with 1Face, a timepiece company whose slogan is "the watch that changes the world." 1Face allows its customers to pick a cause to support based on the color of the watch they buy. With each purchase, customers get a stylish watch, but more importantly, they get the chance to make a contribution towards an important cause, helping to improve the lives of others. And that makes them feel good about their purchase.
When companies position their customers as part of the solution, rather than their business as the solution, that adds an important layer of value to their product or service.By giving customers this sense of ownership and feeling of "doing good" themselves, they are more likely to share your product on social media and buy more from their friends and family to get the same "high."
Because the truth is, most customers don't care about your company. The won't linger on your "About Us" page to read up on your story. But they do care about causes and the value your business truly offers.
Here are some key ways you can position your company to achieve this:
Millennials are smart and also known for being a little skeptical. Which means they'll see right through companies that simply slap social good into their branding as an afterthought. They want to make informed decisions, especially when it comes to their hard-earned cash. That's why transparency should be a huge priority. Let them know where their money is really going. Don't hide any information or bend the truth. Will their purchase actually help the cause or just cause more problems like other brands have done in the past?
Promote the cause, not the company or product
If your business supports a larger cause, make sure you promote that above your company or product. 85 percent of Millennials use social media to research products and services before buying. So try using social media to promote ways to contribute, build awareness and update your fans about the cause. Use it to tell stories, share photos and feature people who have benefited. Show them exactly what their money helps to achieve. Millennial customers want to tap into the cause at an emotional level, and using social media can be the perfect vehicle for that.
Empower your customers to "do good"
Your product gives your customers the opportunity to do something good for the world with their purchases. And that's pretty powerful. They're more likely to feel proud of what they bought if they know their money helped to make a positive difference in the world. Celebrate and highlight your customers' dedication to the cause your company is supporting by shouting out to them on social media.
Align the charitable act with your brand
The cause that customers can support through a product should align with your company's overall values. For example, Warby Parker works with a nonprofit that trains people in developing countries to perform eye exams and provide glasses at affordable prices to their communities. Since they are a company that sells glasses, this initiative makes total sense. So, if you sell a product like hiking boots, or sports clothing, it would make sense to support an environmental cause, for example.
Millennials are certainly an interesting dynamic to sell to. Inspired by some of the greatest entrepreneurs and industry disrupters of their generation, they like to see their own ambitious spirit reflected in your business. So, if you can combine transparency, empowerment and alignment into your business model, while appealing to their entrepreneurial spirit, you're bound to do more good for yourself and for the rest of the world.