How social ventures can build a movement

According to Social Enterprise Canada, social enterprises are businesses that create positive community impacts and social value. They do not have a distribution of profits and assets to individuals or shareholders. These are companies that want to be the best for the world; businesses that have a positive impact on society or the environment, where their bottom line is a combination of financial return and a social return on investment. But how can social ventures stand out from the competition and stay relevant? With effective marketing to the right audience, they can build a movement with momentum to grow.

A wave of new entrepreneurs are creating a flood of awesome, buzz-worthy businesses. Social ventures designed around sustainable food systems, knowledge sharing, waste minimization, affordable housing and sustainable transportation which may have been niche co-operative models back in the day are now becoming mainstream.

These entrepreneurs are evolving traditional modes of capitalism where the only purpose was to make profit for shareholders. In the world of social ventures, the stakeholders might include community members, collaborative partners, cooperative suppliers, and investors; a more holistic group who all have a stake in the success of the venture.


Entrepreneurs who create a social venture see a future where consumers can get behind a change for the better. They see evidence of a rising movement of conscious consumers. They know there is market potential and that there are like-minded consumers out there who will support a business with a cause they believe in. According to the Edelman 2015 Trust Barometer, 81% of 33,000 consumers surveyed believe that a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the social conditions in the community where it operates. Further, a recent survey from CONE Communications showed that 74% of Americans want brands to explain how purchases impact the environment.

81% of 33,000 consumers surveyed believe that a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the social conditions in the community where it operates


Even the best ideas might have a hard time getting off the ground. Successful social ventures don’t just hide behind product features and benefits when marketing their brand; they are proud of and vocal about their higher purpose and vision for a better future. They understand how to package their story and use an emotive approach to communicate with targets, aiming to reach and build a strong tribe. HAVAS Media & Accenture conducted a survey of 30,000 people arose twenty countries in five continents and learned that a strong brand proposition linked to purpose can reach influential consumer demographics. Their study shared: “Communication is critical and should be integrated into the brand proposition to influence this high value audience: 70% of mothers say they would buy more of a specific brand if they were aware of its positive impacts.”

70% of mothers say they would buy more of a brand if they were aware of its positive impacts Click To Tweet


An effective marketing strategy and carefully thought out plan will ensure that the right influencers are engaged and advocates are nurtured as the social venture launches and grows. To amplify marketing goals, consider the target market carefully to generate word-of-mouth promotion. A joint study conducted by BBMG & Globe Scan & SustainAbility explains further: “Driven by young, optimistic consumers in emerging markets and amplified by technology and social media’s influence, Aspirationals represent a powerful shift in sustainable consumption from obligation to desire. Aspirationals are influencers – 95% encourage others to buy from socially and environmentally responsible companies.”

95% of Aspirationals encourage others to buy from socially and enviro responsible companies. Click To Tweet


The Edelman Trust Barometer also revealed that in 2015, trust across government, business, media and NGOs have all declined, evaporating the gains that had been made post recession. Social ventures have a unique obligation and opportunity to communicate openly and transparently with their customers and stakeholders. Whether the enterprise creates jobs with fair wages, diverts waste out of landfills, improves air quality or keeps chemicals out of the soil, these metrics are as important as profits and may even be more relevant to stakeholder. Being able to quantify and measure outcomes will be important to build meaningful messages that engage their community and give them something to talk about.

Could your business learn more and gain inspiration from these social ventures? Looking for ideas to implement these lessons learned to grow your business consciously? Contact Seeds Consulting to get started.


Brands that aim to create social good

Propelling Social Ventures is a one day event hosted by UBC’s Sauder School of Business that uncovers innovative ways to combine business with positive impact. The 2015 conference put the spotlight on social ventures that are re-imagining business for impact and mature businesses that are redefining models and strategies to integrate positive change on a large scale into their organizations.

The event featured start up social entrepreneurs along with more seasoned experts and business leaders, each of whom have found a niche where their business can make a positive impact in the world. While there was plenty of food for thought packed throughout the day, these were the five key marketing lessons that could apply to any type of business:


Brands for the Heart, an online branding and graphic design agency that brings together a virtual team, chose to focus only on a small niche of entrepreneurs and changemakers that are bootstrapping to build a business that makes a positive impact in the world. While the founders have experience working with global brands, they have developed a platform to help only new social ventures access talented branding and design professionals at a fraction of the agency rate.


Janie Hoffman, founder of Mamma Chia vitality drinks and snacks, started her business by building authentic relationships that had the potential to grow even before she had a product. When she wanted to bring energy-packed chia seeds to the mainstream and when she realized that the supply of chia seeds were only conventionally grown, she met directly with farmers in central America and enrolled them in the opportunity to switch to organic. She then surrounded herself with like-minded people who choose healthy lifestyles and believe in organic agriculture; a tribe who then became her first loyal customers and vocal brand advocates.


The entrepreneurs behind Wize Monkey identified a big gap in the coffee and tea industries. While most coffee plantations only operate a few months of the year to harvest ripe beans, they saw some low hanging fruit that would help keep employees working year-round. Instead of just harvesting the beans, they introduced a revolutionary new tea brand that is actually made by the coffee leaf itself. Not only does the tea have less caffeine, it is tasty, full of antioxidants, and it helps farmers operate more profitable plantations while providing stable job opportunities for pickers.


Social venture entrepreneurs are not just looking to build followers, generate likes or sell trendy widgets. 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 businesses that solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, often with a relatively simple solution. Arbutus Medical developed a $400 alternative to $30,000 surgical drills to enable safe and effective treatments of patients in the developing world. Time Auction designed a website portal that allows you to trade volunteer hours to meet inspiring people. Wize Monkey and Mamma Chia are helping farmers in some of the poorest countries to build more profitable and sustainable businesses.


Each of the businesses featured at Propelling Social Ventures shared great stories about their challenges to scale up. Finding the right partners who share your core values is essential for any social venture to grow and thrive. Janie Hoffman of Mamma Chia summed it up by sharing that “money is energy”; cautioning business founders to be conscious of the partners they attract, who will ultimately shape the future of the business.

Finding partners who share your core values is essential for any social venture to grow + thrive. Click To Tweet

Could your business learn more and gain inspiration from these social ventures? Looking for ideas to implement these lessons learned to grow your business consciously?  Contact Seeds Consulting to get started.


Why you should find and recognize brand advocates

It’s never easy… getting up the courage to make a public declaration of love. When it comes to loving a brand, it’s often made through a spontaneous shout out or these days, a quick click of a button to share feedback. Business owners need to pay attention: ignoring customer accolades and shout out’s may risk alienating a brand’s biggest fans and the valuable word-of-mouth marketing that follows.

Why pay attention to what advocates say about your brand? Aside from the fact that word-of-mouth marketing is essentially free promotion, there is evidence that these fans are big contributors to the bottom line. Advocates are typically 5x more valuable than an average customer in terms of their own spending and the referrals they generate, Zuberance. According to McKinsey, a relevant recommendation from a trusted friend is 50x more likely to influence a purchase.

Advocates are typically 5X more valuable than an average customer in terms of their own spending and the referrals they generate

A relevant recommendation from a trusted friend is 50x more likely to influence a purchase Click To Tweet


Who is sharing your content regularly? Do they cross promote offers and incentives with their networks? Are they Pinning images, retweeting tweets or forwarding your newsletter?

Who are the most influential advocates? How large is their network and are they considered authorities in their circles of influence?

Who is taking the time to create original content about your brand and which channels are they using to spread the word? Above and beyond sharing, original content is even more valuable when a fan sings your praises in their blog or in other articles.

What is the response to content that is shared? Are any themes emerging? What is being talked about the most? Check the comments in forums and read what others are saying and learn from this unsolicited feedback.

Are customers evaluating your product in public forums? Look at online discussions like Yelp reviews or Trip Advisor ranking along with mentions on your own digital platforms. These can be easy ways to find fans along with customers that need more convincing.


“Why not allow happy customers to speak on your behalf, and use the opportunity to create a dialogue that can improve your customer service, your product, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction?” Forbes

There are plenty of ways to reach out and give a high-five to brand advocates.

At a bare minimum, recognize their contribution:

  • Write a simple thank you and send it via email or right where they will see it
  • Share a shout out to highlight their comments / accolades
  • Send an invitation to provide feedback, fill out a survey or join a focus group

To deepen engagement, give them a special invitation:

  • Offer membership in a loyalty program
  • Send them special access to curated or unique content

Reward them or pull out the stops to surprise and delight:

  • Provide product samples or gifts
  • Ask them to test a beta version of a product or service
  • Send them branded product or swag

There are ways to estimate how an advocate helped the bottom line. Whether it be repeat purchases or product recommendations to a wide network, consider how the impact of an advocate’s endorsement could be measured. After adding this up, a bigger thank you might be due!

Remember, your customers are not: page views, click rates, email addresses or twitter handles. They are people – just like you and me. Chances are, they will appreciate the recognition for their efforts and be more inclined to share again in the future. Learn more about how to connect with brand advocates at a deeper level. Contact us today to capture new customers and grow a network of advocates.