Key Takeaways: Marketing Strategy Workshop for Social Entrepreneurs

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

On the TRANSFORM Support Hub, social entrepreneurs can access the resources, support, and connections needed to improve all aspects of their business. Our monthly thematic learning groups connect these elements in a time-bound way: giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to deep-dive into a specific scale-up area with a diverse group of peers, work through associated learning guides together, and then get feedback on the progress they have made with an exclusive workshop from an expert in the field. 

Our April learning group was on the theme of “Marketing Strategy,” and below, we’ll share an overview of its key takeaways along with insights shared during the closing Industry Leader webinar with marketing activist and creator of the Open Lines marketing framework, Lindsay LaShell

Building a Foundation for Successful Marketing

To scale your social enterprise, you need to be able to reach new customers, build your brand, and generate new sales and partnerships. And in order to do that effectively, you need a solid marketing strategy.

Over the past month, our group worked together to build the foundations of a successful marketing strategy in 3 steps:

  1. Defining the marketing and sales funnel, and the stages potential customers will move through from the time they learn about your offering to making the decision to purchase it
  2. Implementing tools and systems to track and qualify leads, so you can reach the right people with the right messages
  3. Identifying places to find new leads, and building a presence on those channels
Stages of the sales funnel, from the TRANSFORM Support Hub marketing strategy guide for social entrepreneurs

Our learning journey together culminated in the closing Industry Leader webinar with Lindasy LaShell, where participants had an opportunity to learn from her experience and get direct feedback on the strategies they had put together over the course of the month. 

Key Takeaways from a Marketing Expert

In her role as a marketing activist and consultant, Lindsay has helped thousands of purpose-driven people and organizations do better marketing so they can focus on the real work of making the world a more equitable and sustainable place. During the workshop, Lindsay challenged our entrepreneurs to think about marketing in a way that creates maximum impact from the fewest resources, using her Open Lines Marketing Framework as a guide.

Image of Lindsay LaShell's Open Lines Marketing Framework
Image of the Open Lines marketing framework – a simple but powerful tool that is well-informed by accepted methods, and business model neutral

In working through the framework, Lindsay shared these important tips to keep in mind:

Understand who you’re talking to, and design from their perspective (not yours!)

Building a good marketing strategy is like designing a path through a garden, with clear stepping stones that guide people from one step to the next. One of the most important mindset shifts to make at the outset is understanding that you’re not constructing the path to get people to do what you want them to do; you’re constructing the path to ensure they are getting what they want and expect at each step to reach the answers they are looking for. 

The only way to do that is with a deep and thoughtful understanding of who your target audience(s) are. What makes them your target audience? What do they care about? Why should they care about you? Remember: the general public is NOT an audience! If you are planning a marketing strategy around the general public, you are missing a big opportunity to be more effective. Be as precise as possible, and paint a picture of their characteristics, frustrations, and goals. Be sure to do this from the potential customer’s point of view – use “I” statements, like “How do I get started?” 

Share the right messages at the right time

What your target audience cares about changes over time – for example, the information they are looking for at the awareness stage is different from the information they are looking for at the decision making stage. Different messages are going to resonate with them at different parts of the user journey. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of overloading them with information by sharing everything you want them to know right away. For example, imagine your product is a craft beer. In the interest and research stage, your audience wants to know that it’s a quality product and learn more about the values of your brewery. But by the time they get to the decision stage, your audience will want more concrete information about where they can purchase it. 

Instead of providing all of the information right away and expecting your audience to parse through it to find the most relevant parts, space out the information and messaging you’re serving your audience to give them only what they care about most based on the journey stage they are currently in. 

Meet your audience where they are

There are many different channels to reach your audience, but not every channel belongs in every journey stage. Your website, for example, belongs in the interest & research stage because by the time they land on your site they already know who you are and are there to learn more. But in the ignorance/problem stage, your audience doesn’t know about your company yet – they are more likely to come across it via google search, or a hashtag on social media. Knowing what channels your audience will use at different stages helps you tailor your messaging for each based on where the potential customer is in their journey. 

Lay out one clear call to action (CTA) for each journey stage

Going back to the garden path analogy, you can think of CTAs as the stepping stones moving the potential customer from one step to the next. For each journey stage, ask yourself, “now that they have gotten this far, what do we want them to do next?” It can be tempting to provide multiple CTAs (Subscribe to our newsletter! Download our case study!) at a time, but Lindsay advises that this is a mistake. The more CTAs you give, the less likely your potential customer is to take any of them because it’s unclear what they should do next. Instead, provide one – and only one – clear CTA per journey stage. 

For example, the CTA at the awareness stage could be following your company on social media. At the interest & research stage, it could be visiting your website. Then at the decision stage, it could be viewing the product finder. The added benefit of this approach is that it makes it much easier for you to measure how effective your messaging is at each stage of the journey, and pinpoint areas that need improvement based on the metrics. 

Work backwards to make sure it gets done

Once you’ve aligned on key messaging, channels, CTAs, and measurement for each journey stage, ask yourself “what would success look like 12 months from now?” Try to quantify that for each stage, for example, with the number of social media followers or website visits. With those targets set, you can work backwards to determine how many additional followers or website visits you will need per month to reach your goal, and what needs to happen this month to make that happen. 

We’re so grateful to the inspiring social entrepreneurs who brought this marketing strategy learning group to life, and to Lindsay for sharing her time and insights with us. Want more from Lindsay? Find her on LinkedIn here, and you can also check out this short course she created specifically for purpose-driven organizations.

We look forward to launching the next thematic learning group in May on the topic of “Improving Your Sales” – if your social enterprise could benefit from this kind of targeted support, capacity-building, and networking, we invite you to join us by applying to the TRANSFORM Support Hub!