Selling and marketing your social enterprise
by David McGlashan, Sales and Marketing Manager, SSE London
Mention the word ‘sales’ and for many people visions of used car salesmen and Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses come to mind. It’s the aspect of running a social enterprise that a lot of people feel most uncomfortable about, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to help get your sales and marketing for your social enterprise up and running.
If your product is good enough, sales isn’t a dirty word
Think of sales as you offering a solution to a customer’s problem. If your product is good enough, you won’t have to hoodwink people into paying for it. (If you don’t believe in what you are selling, why should anyone else?) If you have confidence in what you are selling and know that you will make your customers happy then shout about it loud and clear! Create a story for your organisation and use it in your marketing, it will help your social enterprise to stand out.
Know who your customers are
Or in marketing speak, ‘define your target market’. You need to know who the people are that are most likely to buy from you. If you don’t, you can waste a lot of time trying to sell to people who are never likely make a purchase. By understanding the needs of your target market you can make sure that your marketing speaks directly to the people who are most likely to be customers.
It’s worth doing (or even essential to do) some market research to begin building up the profile of who your customers are.
Understanding who your customers are will also help you to decide how and where you do your marketing. Are your potential customers on social media, or will you need to arrange meetings and do presentations to make a sale? Get to know your customers’ businesses and the problems and challenges that they face and how you can work with them to help them.
Get your pricing right
It sounds obvious but a lot of social entrepreneurs (in fact a lot of entrepreneurs) struggle with pricing. The first thing to work out is your costs, so that you are not selling something for less than it costs you to produce. Then think about how you want to position yourself; too cheap and you are going to have to sell a lot to generate a profit, too expensive and you may price yourself out of the market.
Read Getting Your Pricing Right
Sell benefits, not features
This can be a little bit difficult to get your head around and it is dependent on you understanding the needs of your customers.
When someone buys something, they are buying it because it will help to improve their life in some way. They are buying the impact of the product, rather than the product itself. It’s this impact, or the benefit, that you need to focus on.
For example, if you were selling a camera you wouldn’t focus on fact that it had 15 megapixels (the feature) but would instead highlight how the camera will enable the buyer to take better photos allowing them to capture their precious memories (the benefit).
Always remember that people buy for their reasons, not yours.
Referrals, referrals, referrals!
Your existing customers can be an excellent source of leads. Ask who they know like them that would benefit from what you are selling. Ask for a testimonial that you can use when approaching anyone that they have suggested. People are more likely to buy from you if you have been recommended by someone that they know.
Learn from rejection
Sadly, not everyone will become a customer! If someone didn’t buy from you, try and find out why not and learn from the experience. It could just be a matter of timing, or they could have an objection which will provide useful feedback to help you shape your future marketing or sales.
Don’t give up
The hardest sales to make are the first sales that you make. It can be easy to get disheartened, but if you are confident that you are selling something that people will want to buy, you will get there. Go out of your way to give your initial customers truly excellent service and they will start talking about you; before you know it you’ll have enquiries coming to you.