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Doing Good Through Business

Social entrepreneurs create impact beyond the bottom line

Sharing economy, food security, social impact, community building, climate resilience – these are topics that I’ve seen trending in my network and into daily conversations. I learned from a visionary, risk-taking entrepreneur that when he heard people talk about a trend at least three times, he had to act on it. Are you an aspiring entrepreneur based in the Sea to Sky who is looking for a way to seize a trend and turn it into a business opportunity? Then attend the 2016 Social Venture Challenge kick off event in Whistler: Doing Good Through Business on Friday, March 18.

The essence of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability’s Social Venture Challenge is to get business ideas off the ground, particularly those that provide solutions to social and environmental challenges unique to the Sea to Sky corridor. The Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation describes what sets these ventures apart: “Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals.”

Why are a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to create social ventures? There is plenty of evidence toward the shift in attitudes toward traditional, pure-capitalism based reasons for starting businesses. In the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, the most comprehensive snapshot of how Millennials engage with Corporate Social Responsibility efforts in the U.S., revealed more than nine-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average). The research also showed that 80% of young workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. They also are willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work.

Investments for start-ups and supporting growing businesses to scale up is also shifting. With a huge spike in the amount of crowdfunding capital in North America, along with new hybrid capital organizations and social impact bonds, this trend is likely to change the playing field in favour of social ventures over the three to five years, according to social finance experts writing for the Harvard Business Review.

Social Venture Challenge 2016

In British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor, the Social Venture Challenge is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to encourage, support and grow new social ventures in the region. This Friday’s session will feature talk from Vancity’s Community Foundation, the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild, Clean Start and Gibson-based Persephone Brewing Co., a Certified B-Corporation. The full day includes an Ideas Jam, Angel Den case study (where I’ll be part of a panel to help social ventures grow), plus lunch + beer tasting, and more. Tickets are still available but going fast.

Following the full-day session, budding social entrepreneurs can submit a one-page application by March 31 to participate in the 2016 Social Venture Challenge. The shortlisted entrepreneurs will learn how to flush out business ideas, get mentorship from experts in their field and receive coaching on how to pitch their venture idea to potential investors.

The final pitch in the Social Venture Challenge will be organized as a fun, fast-paced Dragons’ Den style event where participants will pitch their burgeoning business ideas to a panel of judges who will be award the winning social venture with $5,000 start up cash, courtesy of Squamish Savings. Learn more at www.whistlercentre.ca

The entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one. Embedding a social or environmental problem in the business model is even more challenging. Being able to tell the story of that journey and how the business can make a difference in the world is often the best way to market the brand and build your tribe. Need some help packaging that story to share with the world? Contact me to get started. I love working with purpose-driven brands that are ready to build a movement.

SeedsConsulting_MarketingPlanOnPage

A year’s worth of planning on one page

How to summarize your marketing vision into a tool you will use

Having a great product or innovative service will help to stand out in a crowded space. Growing your business and becoming an industry leader is the next step. Entrepreneurs often get caught up in the busy-ness of running their business instead of setting time aside to set goals and plan ahead. Marketing might get pushed to the side of the desk or even worse, happen in a haphazard way – dabbling here, spending a bit of time there, not understanding what is generating the best value for their time. This reactive pattern continues, then at year-end, all they have is anecdotal evidence or someone’s gut ideas as to what marketing has achieved for the business that year. Sound familiar? What if you could boil down an entire marketing plan for the year onto one single page? Would you make time for this?

What if you could boil down an entire marketing plan for the year onto one single page? Would you make time for this?

Much like planning and managing inventory levels, hiring, training and scheduling staff or evaluating an optimal product mix, business owners need to invest time to identify and plan for their marketing needs. Setting aside at least a few days per year can make help to make solid marketing decisions that will drive business goals and contribute to the bottom line.

What’s the best way to build a marketing plan? Start with the end in mind. Stephen Covey had the right idea when he coined this management principal. Looking out 12 months from now, ask yourself what your business will look like – what’s an ideal evolution over the year?

Questions for a marketing strategy

Invest some time in answering these types of questions and conducting some simple research on the market. This information can then be pulled together into a basic framework that fits on one page.

  • What is the playing field like and how is it evolving? What is the competition up to?
  • Who is an ideal customer and how what are the best ways to reach them?
  • What is the optimal product or service mix? Which ones make you money and which ones drain resources?
  • What is the best way to describe your unique value proposition and what voice and tone should be used on all marketing channels?
  • Does your brand show up consistently on all touch points? How well known is it known and how is it perceived in the market?

Marketing Plan on a Page

At the top of your page, outline 3 to 5 marketing objectives for the year. Objectives are aspirational, broad-based and are aligned with the organization’s overall business goals. These are attainable, but will require a bit of a stretch to achieve success. Example: Overall brand awareness and recognition for product x and y are strengthened by year end.

Next, create strategies that are outline how to reach the marketing objectives. Group these into a few themes so that they can be easily remembered and understood. Strategies are designed to become a set of guiding principals that help staff manage resources and make appropriate decisions to move the business forward. Example: Strengthen, build templates and ensure consistent use of voice, language, visual brand elements for each touch point.

Below each strategy, add a brief description of promotional campaigns and and related tactical priorities. Tactics are specific actions designed to keep focus on moving the strategies forward. Tactics are intended to drive results within a set timeframe with measurable results. Example: Refine visual brand identity and build a toolkit with images and design standards.

Outline the resources that might be required to implement tactics and get things done. Need design support? Thought about hiring a PR expert or content marketing manager? Are your digital tools getting stale? Think ahead and find out what it will take to be successful.

Lastly, choose unique metrics for each strategy. At the end of the year, how will improvements be measured to quantify return on investment? Metrics should highlight what worked and what did not so that actions can be adjusted for next year.

Companies that develop a strategic approach to marketing will see the benefits not only in their day-to-day operations but also in the long term. Having a plan with ways to measure return on investment can save precious marketing dollars and ensure the biggest bang for your buck. Start planning today and use my free template to get started. Fill out this form to receive your marketing plan on a page.

Confident Communications Tools

Confidence-Building Tools that Move Ideas into Action

Game-changing communications skills

Brands created with purpose have inspiring stories to tell. Beyond selling a product or service, these types of brands may have a purpose focused on improving society, making lives easier and healthier, or tackling an environmental problem. Often, it’s easy to frame an elevator pitch around what you do, but this misses the chance to connect with people at an emotional level. Strategic marketer Simon Sinek’s research shows how companies that ‘start with why’ instead of ‘what’ are more likely to succeed and build strong, trusted brands. With the right confidence-building tools, business leaders can reframe how they communicate purpose, moving their ideas forward into action.

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”  Simon Sinek, Start With Why

Sharing brand purpose confidently helps attract and connect with the ideal target audience. Once they learn about the brand’s purpose and connect with it, consumers are more likely to engage and trust these brands. Effective communication skills and the ability to speak with confidence are also essential for business success. Communicating confidently can build loyalty, strengthen reputation, gain exposure, and attract the right partners to increase profit.

How would your business change if you could confidently share your brand purpose during meetings, one-on-ones, sales presentations, or even informal conversations?

On February 24, join Communications Trainer and Professional Coach Lucas Mattiello at the Whistler Open Forum Event for a presentation and hands-on workshop to learn:

  • What causes fear around public speaking + how to remove it
  • How to think less + connect more
  • Top 3 mistakes speakers make that destroy trust + how to avoid them
  • Self-awareness triggers to manage nervous feelings + negative thoughts
  • What you MUST focus on to address your client’s pain points

Event Details – SOLD OUT!

Date/Time:  Wednesday, February 24 from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. (Check-in from 5:30 p.m., speaker starts at 6 p.m.)
Location:  Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, Whistler, BC
Tickets: $35 + GST, includes: inspiring speaker, fun networking opportunities, tasty appetizers, fabulous door prizes, cash bar and more!
Event Hosts: Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Local Whistler, Seeds Consulting.

Check back for the next Whistler Forum Event. Date TBD

Game-changing communications skills

More about Lucas

Lucas is a Vancouver-based Communications Trainer and Certified Professional Coach who educates business professionals on techniques and strategies to become confident communicators. Using his personal experiences of living with anxiety and panic disorder, Lucas has empowered clients and corporations with proven self-management tools that eliminate stress, build confidence and elevate your message. He has been featured in Forbes Magazine and numerous news shows, is a best selling author, and his corporate clients include Vancouver Coastal Health, the City of Burnaby and others.

B Corporation Community

Why Become A Certified B Corporation?

Building a global economy that uses business as a force for good

In 2015, Seeds Consulting became a Certified B Corporation. A growing network of businesses across the globe, ‘B Corps’ are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. It’s a standard that will not only guide the company forward as it grows, it is a beacon that pulls like-minded businesses together and sends a signal to target customers that we’re serious about using business as a force for good.

‘Whistler-based Seeds Consulting is now a Certified B Corporation, joining 150 Canadian brands Click To Tweet

As a curious kid who asked lots of questions, my aunt thought I would become a lawyer as I had a deep sense of what was just and fair. At my first job, I learned that business was not always what it appeared. The delicious aromas from this bakery masked a stink from behind the scenes: the immigrant bakers, refugees from Cambodia, were told to log their extra hours on two punch cards so the owner could avoid paying them overtime. They knew it was wrong, but did not want to risk losing their jobs so they kept quiet.

As a young professional, I went to grad school to study an MBA. I continued to ask lots of questions since many of our case studies included businesses that put profits before people and the planet, though there was no good reason for trade-offs. Many of my classmates thought the course on Business Ethics was fruitless. In hindsight, it was likely added to the curriculum ahead of its time, taught as a required course pre-Enron, pre-mortgage crisis, and pre-VW scandal.

As my career advanced, I took on some challenging roles as a marketing director for some global brands. The shift toward more transparent business practices became a big part of my job, whether it was implementing new accounting standards to protect shareholders (Sarbanes Oxley), introducing new reporting tools to inform communities and stakeholders (corporate sustainability reports), or creating company values and codes of conduct to guide business practices. I am still learning to navigate the unexpected shift in power from business to the consumer, who are now using social media as a very public forum to get their questions answered.

For Conscious Businesses that want to stand out

As my consulting business grew and I was looking for a way to stand out, the B Corp Certification made a lot of sense for Seeds Consulting. Our mission is to plant ideas for positive change. We do this by advising purpose-driven leaders how to grow their business consciously. By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.

B Corp Declaration of Interdependence

Together, companies that are B Corp Certified take on a Declaration of Interdependence with the following shared beliefs:
  • That we must be the change we seek in the world.
  • That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
  • That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
  • To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

Small actions that create a ripple effect

What are some of the things that set Seeds Consulting apart to get certified?
  • We choose two wheels instead of four… except when the snow flies.
  • We’ve chosen to operate out of Whistler’s greenest community and work virtually with clients whenever possible to reduce our footprint.
  • We give back to environmental causes through our commitment to 1% for the Planet.
  • If we print, it’s on paper made of straw instead of virgin forests.
  • We volunteer in our community.
  • We aim to create value for society, not just shareholders.
  • We work with clients that aren’t afraid to take on environmental and social challenges.
Interested in joining the B Corporation movement? Connect with Seeds Consulting and learn how you can design marketing and communications strategies to grow your organization. Read our ideas, share what conscious growth means to you.
1 Percent For the Planet

Whistler-based Seeds Consulting Announces Partnership with 1% for the Planet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       

For more information, contact:
Barbara Friedsam 1% for the Planet
barbara@onepercentfortheplanet.org
+1 (802) 496-5408

Whistler, British Columbia, December 16, 2015 — Seeds Consulting, a marketing and communications consultancy, has joined 1% for the Planet (1%), pledging to donate 1% of annual sales to support non-profit organizations focused on sustainability.

”Signing on to 1% for the Planet shows that Seeds Consulting has a strong commitment to investing in sustainability efforts,” says John Tashiro, Interim CEO. “They’re using business as a tool to engage and motivate their stakeholders while partnering with environmental organizations that complement their brand. We’re excited to welcome Seeds Consulting to our global network.”

“At Seeds Consulting, we work with many passionate business leaders who play as hard as they work in British Columbia’s beautiful outdoors. Focusing our charitable giving through 1% for the Planet on environmental causes that are close to home not only aligns with our values and goals, it helps to build the movement for businesses to drive positive change.”

Members of 1% for the Planet contribute one percent of annual sales directly to any of the approved non-profit environmental organizations in the network.  Non-profits are approved based on referrals, track record and sustainability focus. Over 3,600 non-profits worldwide are currently approved.

“In our 10th year we’re celebrating that our members contributed $100 million of critically needed funds and it’s just the beginning,” comments Tashiro. “We see that brands benefit too by financially investing in the environment; consumer demand drives much of this success. There’s a paradigm shift happening and we’re thrilled that so many innovative businesses are sling-shotting the movement into high gear.”

About 1% for the Planet

1% for the Planet is a global network of businesses that donate one percent of annual sales directly to approved environmental and sustainability nonprofit organizations. Over 1200 member companies in 48 countries give back to this big blue planet through over 3600 nonprofit partners.  Started in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, 1% for the Planet helps people buy better products and protect the planet we play on.  To date, our network has given over $100 million back to blue. To learn more go to: www.onepercentfortheplanet.org.

About Seeds Consulting

Seeds Consulting is a BC-based strategic marketing and communications firm that advises purpose-driven enterprises that are ready to grow.  Started in 2008 by Diana Mulvey, a seasoned marketing director who has worked with well-known Canadian brands, Seeds Consulting develops measurable strategic and tactical plans for organizations that have become embedded in the way they do business, setting them on a path toward their goals.
www.seedsconsulting.ca.

http://optoutside.rei.com

Build Authentic Holiday Experiences

How to live your brand this holiday season

On the busiest day in the American retail calendar, over a million of REI’s most loyal brand advocates are choosing to #optoutside and play in the outdoors instead of shopping on Black Friday. The outdoor retailer has closed every one of its 143 stores on Friday, so that the co-op’s employees can have a paid day off to head outside. This move may cost them millions in lost revenue for the short term, but members will take notice that it put purpose before profit, and that will really resonate with REI’s core customer. While tweaking seasonal campaigns to grab a piece of the holiday spirit, how about adding a dash of your brand’s authentic purpose and personality? What will make the giving season a little warmer and fuzzier, while creating a buzz with your target audience?

Share Authentic Stories

When people put conscious thought into their gift giving, they love to share stories. Does your company have products that are Fair Trade, made by women-owned co-ops or produced by a local artisan? Is there a deep green angle or tree-saving feature to your product line? Selling a special-edition or seasonal item that is locally made? When your company takes time to carefully source products with meaning, make it easy for customers to help tell the story. Think of using point of purchase displays, stickers, holiday packaging, gift receipts, bag inserts, online pop-ups or images on social media to share this unique information. The story behind the gift will also be appreciated by the lucky person getting the present!

Create Community

Imagine the dreaded weekend run to the big box store to get that last item on your list… Is that how you would want to spend your precious holiday time? Instead, think of ways to build a community haven that is a festive, fun and efficient experience for your customers. Partner with the corner grocery store to serve healthy treats at the cash, serve hot cups of tea on the blustery days, invite a local musician to play in store. Online and through social media channels: ask your community to share photos of their special moments over the holiday season. Invite customers to comment and share their ideas of how to create calm through the holidays. Commit to surprising and delighting all customers to create a memorable and easy shopping experience.

Reduce Waste

The holidays create a mountain of waste from excessive packaging and gift wrapping. If your organization tries to tread lightly with a small footprint, make it easy for your customers to do the same. Ask vendors to send holiday shipments in reusable boxes and crates – chances are, it won’t be stored for long! Find packaging that does double-duty and does not need to be pitched. Share creative ways to wrap and reuse gifts, and ask customers for their crafty ideas. Could scraps and remnants be upcycled as one-of-a-kind gift tags or ornaments? Offer a discount to customers who don’t need a bag for their purchase. Invite customers to invest in special-edition packaging that becomes a keepsake for the lucky recipient.

Spread the Love

Already giving back through employee volunteerism or corporate donations? Why not invite customers to join in? Create a feature offer where a dollar amount for each purchase is donated to the charity of choice. Take it a step further by welcoming the charity to set up a retail or online store display. Cross-promote the charity on social channels to build awareness. Encourage partners and vendors to join staff on their volunteer days at the food bank or the toy drive. Build relationships between employees, customers, vendors and charities to spread the giving far and wide.

Acknowledge Employees

While everyone works hard to serve customers during the busiest time of year, don’t forget the employees who make it all happen. Promote staff picks for seasonal merchandise to help customers choose the right gift. Empower employees to make spot decisions and keep client satisfaction a top priority. Find ways to publicly acknowledge these rock stars who go above and beyond to keep things together and keep a stash of small rewards on hand for spontaneous thank you’s. A happy front line always means better service and satisfaction for customers while an efficient back office will make everyone else look good.

The holiday season is a great time to let customers get to know your organization, its purpose and values. It is also a golden opportunity to reach new customers and deepen customer relationships. Don’t forget… these customers may come to you to find something unique to give to the special people in their lives. The impact will be exponentially larger if it’s an authentic and memorable experience.

Seeds Consulting has designed marketing and communications strategies for some of Canada’s best known brands, including that fast-growing retailer that’s now a $7 billion dollar global brand. Contact us today to know more about our approach and our track record.

Image: http://optoutside.rei.com Photo © 2015, VisitTheUSA.com

Crystal Brown Photography

Lean on Me: Support for Small Business Owners to Navigate the Road Ahead

Lessons from the Whistler Open Forum

Getting an enterprise off the ground is a great accomplishment. Once a business venture gets traction to grow or become a market leader, entrepreneurs are often faced with a crossroad. When business owners are uncertain which path to choose, advice and mentorship can break down barriers and offer clarity.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are cornerstones of the Canadian economy. According to a BDC study, successful SMEs have a few things in common: these businesses innovate, ask for outside advice and have a plan to measure progress. The entrepreneurs behind the most successful SMEs don’t figure everything out on their own, they often reach outside of their core team, circle of friends and family to find unbiased and industry-specific support for the next phase of their business.

During Small Business Week, the Whistler Open Forum showcased these local leaders to share personal stories of how mentorship and partnership helped them dream bigger and accomplish more than they ever thought possible.

The power of partners and mentors

A few years ago, Louise and Bob Van Engelsdorp had a vision to bring Epsom salt float pods to Whistler. A new trend at the time, this sensory deprivation experience required a large capital investment but was a tough sell for a typical lending institution. After hearing about non-profit Community Futures Howe Sound, Louise called to pitch her idea. They coached her to a stronger business plan and soon after, a deal was struck and West Coast Float opened its doors in December 2013. For Louise, the road to becoming an entrepreneur has been full of twists and turns, but Community Futures has continued to provide invaluable mentorship and guidance along the way.

When Nicolette Richer made the leap from policy developer to entrepreneur, she did so with a clear vision, solid business plan and an incredible amount of energy fueled by green juice. The Green Moustache moved forward using her own savings, creative bootstrapping, a retail partnership with 3 Singing Birds and an investment from Futurpreneur. Over the last two decades, non-profit Futurpreneur has provided financing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18 through 39 across Canada. With their advice, Nicolette expanded to a second location in Vancouver and is collaborating with an expert to accelerate growth across North America through a franchise model.

Co-Founders Joe Facciolo and Skai Dalziel already had a successful business, Whistler Tasting Tours, when they decided to pivot from hospitality into the tech sector with Guusto, a mobile platform that sends food or beverage gifts to your contacts at restaurants in over 250 Canadian cities. Starting with investment and mentorship from Futurpreneur and additional coaching from a tech accelerator, the entrepreneurs then became the first BC-based company to successfully raise funds through equity crowdfunding. Unlike traditional crowdfunding that solicits donations, equity crowdfunding involves startups selling shares directly to investors so Guusto’s early adopters and loyal customers can have a stake in the game. Next up for Joe and Skai: making a pitch for further investment on CBC’s Dragon’s Den November 11.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs need another set of eyes to see the road ahead. These made-in-Whistler successes are textbook examples of how small businesses can launch and thrive with the right level of partnership, investment and mentorship.

Have an idea for a business networking event we should host in Whistler? Contact us and we’ll see if we can line it up at the next Whistler Open Forum.

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BEYOND BOOTSTRAPPING: ENTREPRENEURIAL LESSONS FOR LAUNCHING AND REACHING NEW HEIGHTS

Leveraging The power of partners and mentors

Launching an enterprise and getting it off the ground is a great accomplishment. Laying a foundation to grow or become a market leader is the next step. Owners often get side-swiped with operational tasks and day-to-day challenges, and by year-end, the plan for next year or the road ahead might be an afterthought. Once a business is off the ground, almost every entrepreneur is faced with a crossroad. When you’re stuck and don’t know which path is the way forward, outside advice and mentorship can break down barriers and offer clarity.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the cornerstone of the Canadian economy. Those SMEs that are successful have a few things in common according to a BDC study of small business. The top three predictors of success: innovate, ask for outside advice and have a plan to measure your progress.

Top 3 predictors of SME success: innovate, ask for outside advice, have a plan to measure… Click To Tweet

At the next Whistler Open Forum during Small Business Week, hear personal stories of how partnerships helped local business owners dream bigger, aim higher and accomplish more than they ever thought was possible.

Get inspiration from our panel of entrepreneurs who have leveraged partnerships and investment to gain recognition, create opportunities and achieve excellence in their industries.

After this event, walk away with practical ideas and tips to:

  • Attract the right partners to move forward and achieve business objectives;
  • Harvest your potential through mentorship on best practices, shared knowledge and meaningful connections;
  • Better understand options for financial support, whether through traditional institutions or alternative investors.

Join Seeds Consulting, Lighthouse Visionary Strategies and Local Whistler as we get the inside track on the power of partnerships, mentoring and investment from these Whistler-based business owners:

The panel will share their lessons learned from opening a new flotation therapy experience in Whistler, launching a juice bar that is expanding through with franchisees, and advancing growth of a gift-giving app through a unique crowdfunding model.

Over the past five years, the Open Forum Speaker Series has offered the business community something a little different. Our mission is to offer intimate, compelling and authentic events that inspire, support and connect entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneurial leader who attends walks away with tangible tools they can apply to their business venture. These tools don’t just sit on the corner of someone’s desk since Open Forum events are enhanced with meaningful connections and networking opportunities to create support and build confidence propel their business forward.

Space is limited so reserve your seat today!

Date/Time:  Wednesday, October 21 / 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Location:  Nita Lake Lodge Library

Tickets: Don’t miss out. Click here to purchase.

B SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

Creating impact beyond the bottom line

Social EntrepreneurshipA growing number of entrepreneurs are starting ventures designed to create a positive social impact. They are looking for authentic ways for their businesses to become the best for the world, not just the best in the world. These are for-profit enterprises that solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, often with a relatively simple solution. It’s a movement that’s worth watching in your own community and across the world.

In British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor, the Social Venture Challenge is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to encourage, support and grow new social ventures in the region. After submitting a one-page application, shortlisted entrepreneurs learned how to flush out business ideas, were mentored from experts in their field and were coached how to pitch their venture idea.

Around the world, businesses are not only looking for bottom line financial success, but bigger picture impact. A study at the recent New Metrics Conference hosted by Sustainable Brands revealed six types of capital that can drive the success (or failure) of a business: Financial, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Human and Natural. If any one of these areas is weak (e.g. high turnover at a company that does not invest in its human capital), the whole enterprise can suffer.

Big banks, investors and global brands are also paying attention to the social venture movement. Speaking at the World Economic Forum this year, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, stated that

“Social entrepreneurs are role models, not only for young entrepreneurs, but, more importantly, for businesses like us. We can’t address in our business model many important societal issues if we don’t link up firmly with the creativity and passion and purpose-driven models of social entrepreneurs.”

More and more, we’re seeing that a company’s higher purpose is what gets people fired up to become loyal advocates for certain brands. This is evident not only for core customers, but a growing workforce that is looking for more than a paycheque. Research conducted by the Cone Millennial Cause group showed that 80% of young workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. They also are willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work.

young workers willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work Click To Tweet

But passion and purpose are just some of the many elements that make up a successful venture. As a judge at a recent ‘Angel Den’ for the Social Venture Challenge in Whistler, I was able to help the cohort test their plan and perfect their pitch. Their enthusiasm makes it easy to love these ideas, but the business fundamentals surrounding the value proposition, revenue model and marketing approach are all essential to build a sound foundation and platform for a successful launch.

Their big event, the final pitch in the challenge, is coming up September 30 in Whistler. It’s being organized as a fun, fast-paced Dragons’ Den style event where participants in The Social Venture Challenge will pitch their burgeoning business ideas. Judges will be awarding the winning social venture with $3,000 start up cash, courtesy of Squamish Savings. Learn more at www.whistlercentre.ca

The entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one. Embedding a social or environmental problem in the business model is even more challenging. Being able to tell the story of that journey and how the business can make a difference in the world is often the best way to market the brand and build your tribe. Need some help packaging that story to share with the world? Contact us to get started. We love working with purpose-driven brands that are ready to build a movement.

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Creative Commons

How to Act on Marketing Lessons Learned from a European Vacation

GOT THE POST-VACATION BLUES? THOSE FRESH IDEAS NEED ACTION.

Some down time along with change in scenery is a fabulous way to recharge and get the creative juices flowing. As a business owner or marketer on vacation, do you look for those trends, unique ideas and experiences that might cross over to your market? Have you taken some of these ideas and put them into practice? After a spring vacation in Europe, here are some ideas and lessons learned, fresh perspective that can only come from some time away from it all.

IDEA: PULL, DON’T PUSH YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER.

Service standards are quite different in European restaurants. They often pride themselves on exceptionally professional service that isn’t pushy or invasive. They keep a low profile but just seem to show up at the right time to let you know they are there to serve.

Lesson learned: Thoughtful, timely customer service is appreciated. Having a professional approach to each customer interaction goes a long way to creating a memorable experience. In the marketing world, this approach could be effectively delivered with the help of marketing automation tools that are strategically timed at different phases to move prospects into action.

IDEA: GO LOCAL. THIS TREND IS NOT GOING AWAY; IT’S ONLY GETTING STRONGER.

Wherever we went, our hosts were proud to feature local ingredients, give the insider’s scoop or make a special connection that took our vacation to the next level. They understand the importance of sharing their insider’s tips and they took care to highlight unique aspects of the region to give visitors plenty of experiences and reasons to return.

Lessons: What aspects of your product or service are home grown or only found in a specific place in the world? Can this cachet can be inserted into the brand story? If you do partner with makers from abroad, have you shared insight on why you chose to work with them and how you work together to deliver a one-of-a-kind product?

IDEA: ADD LITTLE TOUCHES THAT COMPLEMENT THE FEATURE PRODUCT OR SERVICE YOU’RE SELLING.

At the nicer restaurants, glasses of house-made limoncello and honey grappa appeared at our table after a big meal. These little shots of deliciousness also helped us digest and fondly remember the tasty nuances of the local cuisine.

Lessons: Being generous goes a long way. To help word-of-mouth promotion or customer loyalty, are there any small extras that might surprise & delight your customers? Without straying away from the core of your brand, where could you add a little touch to say thank you? A recent purchase I made for a photo album came with a pretty card from Artifact Uprising to express their gratitude and remind me of their satisfaction guarantee: a brand extension that strengthens their promise.

IDEA: SLOW DOWN TO ENJOY THE MOMENT.

Cobblestones and pedestrian-only streets forced us to chill, take in the ambiance and enjoy the scenery just a little bit longer. Meals were was savoured since servers bring courses at the right moment and never offer the bill unless the customer asks for it. Before making a purchase, we mulled things over and enjoyed the friendly, no pressure service.

Lessons: Don’t rush the sales cycle or customer service delivery unnecessarily. For many products and services, business owners underestimate the cost and time for the customer acquisition process. When customers have a chance to figure out their wants and needs or make a few comparisons, they’ll be more satisfied with their purchase. If a business is consistent with customer service and follow up, this will help to build a more loyal following and vocal brand advocates.

IDEA: PRIDE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Boutique hotels and apartments were spotless, decor was authentic, service was delivered by local staff who were proud of their heritage and keen to assist us. Instead of cluttered stores, retailers used effective merchandising to ensure a select group of products stood out. Clerks are trained to genuinely help customers meet their needs so they can avoid having to rummage through the racks.

Lessons: Does your brand stand behind your products or services with a guarantee? Do your employees exude pride when interacting with customers? Is there pride coming through in your voice through marketing campaigns and branding? Don’t be shy, give your targets plenty of reasons why your company is head and shoulders above the rest.

Still planning to hit the road this summer for some time away? Keep your eyes open and see where the trends, ideas and experiences might help to refresh a tired approach to marketing. Need some assistance to breathe new life into your company marketing plan? Contact Seeds Consulting and let’s cultivate new ideas to grow your business. While you’re at it, sign up for our newsletter to receive a free template for a marketing plan on a page.

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