I was at a conference last week and had a few people tell me about how the odds are stacked against social enterprises. Supposedly, their potential customers say it’s great that these companies are doing something good for the world but the same customers don’t follow through on their initial intent to buy green products.

In other words, their green marketing suffers from a lack of effective data and a big say-do gap.

At the conference I met the founder of an organic cotton t-shirt manufacturing company. She employs underprivileged women and pays them a fair wage. On her website, she has a section where she mentions she has organic cotton in her products, a certification, and mentions her employment practices.

But are people actually reading through that information? What is more, this business owner was echoing the same issue: high interest and kudos when she mentions her responsible practices, followed by website visits, but no jump in actual purchases.


The Social Enterprise Marketing Advantage

So this got me thinking, if you don’t like the game as it is, why play it?

Here’s what I mean. Every social enterprise has a marketing advantage: the values of the customer.

Everyone wants to have a positive impact on the world with the choices they make. When a customer chooses a green or socially responsible product, he or she is choosing to have a positive impact on the world.

Why don’t green businesses show this impact to their customers in real numbers?

Customers make choices based on the information they’re presented. If you’re a green company and you’re showing potential customers the same information that non-green companies show at the point of sale (i.e. price, materials, and where the product is from), you’re not giving your customers what they need to see.

You need to put information about your impact where customers can see it and in a way they can understand.

Don’t add steps to your customer’s journey! Don’t create a separate page for them to search through walls of text. Show your impact at the point of sale.

Companies like Nike spend a lot of money showing how they’re helping communities. If you’re a social enterprise, helping society and the environment is built into your DNA. Every product you manufacture has a positive effect.

By not showing your positive social and environmental impact to your customers or by making it difficult for them to understand what your impact means, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.

You’re not playing your game, you’re playing someone else’s.

**A note of caution. If your primary narrative is not supported by sustainability or your target audience really doesn’t care, then this is not the optimal path to take. But that’s a topic for another time.