These days, consumers are looking for more than just a good deal: They're looking for companies that are actually doing good in the world. And while it's wonderful to dedicate a section of your webpage to the causes your company cares about, customers need to see that you're going a step further to really make a difference.
Below, six entrepreneurs share the ways they've made social causes integral parts of their businesses -- and how they communicate these commitments to their customers.
Make it personal.
"I have helped brands with this issue for nearly a decade, and the one thing I swear by is making your giving personal," says Beth Doane, managing partner at strategic branding firm Main & Rose. After all, customers want to know why they should be invested in the causes you're championing.
"Why would you give to something that you don't understand, have a connection to or feel incredibly passionate about? It's important to show why giving to a certain cause matters to you and your team -- and that story will both impact and inspire your consumers," adds Doane.
Host fundraisers or donate.
Kristopher Jones, founder and CEO of search engine optimization service LSEO.com, recommends putting your money where your mouth is. It's not enough to tell customers you care about a cause; you need to show you're making a tangible effort to help.
"Personally investing in a cause you believe in will show your brand's authenticity and commitment," Jones say. "Host company events for the public and donate the proceeds. You can also get involved in your local community through other awareness efforts, including sponsorships."
Impact in multiple ways.
If you are personally invested in a cause, doesn't it make sense to put it at the root of every part of your business? Travis Nagle, founder of eco-friendly furniture builder Stem, says: "Instead of just layering one element to your business, integrate the focus in multiple ways. For example, we really value sustainability and health."
"This informs how we make our products, what they are made with, what we donate money to, our hiring practices, our blog content, our office, etc.," notes Nagle. "It's not just adding one thing but rather a value that determines all facets of how we do business."
Marc Lobliner, owner and CEO of health supplement retailer TigerFitness.com and MTS Nutrition, notes that too many people talk the talk without walking the walk. It's great to show customers that you're not afraid to get some dirt under your nails in order to make a difference.
"A lot of people can talk game about helping or even donate money," Lobliner notes. "This year, TigerFitness.com put on 'Real Weights For Real Heroes' and raised $60,000 for the Semper Fi Fund. On a personal level, I went to Houston and helped with Hurricane Harvey cleanup instead of going to our industry's top consumer trade show. By doing this, we showed that people are more than just a number to us."
Design your business model around your social values.
Making social values the very core of what your business does is a powerful way to show consumers how serious you are about the issue. In some cases, that may even mean directly modeling your whole company around a cause.
"My company is a mission-driven venture that lets alcohol brands sponsor Uber rides from bars, turning their mandated 'drink responsibly' programs into profit centers," says Andrew Pietra, founder and CEO of bar discount and services app Qorum Inc. "To keep our focus on tackling drunk driving, we've designed our own business model so we only get paid for delivering safe rides. When fulfilling your social mission is the way you get paid, people take it very seriously."
Management-mandated involvement isn't the best way to ensure a strong message from your team. Instead, give employees the power to choose their cause and spread the word so consumers will see that you genuinely care.
Dan Golden, president and chief search artist at marketing solutions firm BFO (Be Found Online), says: "In an effort to connect with those who care about what they buy and the values of who they buy from, brands often overdo the effort of sharing their values. Instead, let employees tell the story. Empowering employees to get personal about social and charitable initiatives communicates brand values in a personal and relatable way."