How to increase the social impact of your social enterprise
You made a good decision.
You’ve decided that the primary metric of success for your business is the impact it has on the lives of the individuals in the community your product or service, serves.
That’s not only noble, its smart.
We’re all looking for authenticity in the marketing, production and pitching of business ideas nowadays. Focusing on the impact gives you the freedom to be a life saver and a profit maker all at the same time.
To do that effectively, you're going need to have 2 masters or ideal "customers". So things don't get confusing, we'll call the commercial one, the customer, and the social impact based one, the service user.
The customer is the one that's going to buy your product and pay your bills.
The service user is the one that you create products and services for, with the aim of moving the needle closer towards your vision for the future of the community you're helping.
For example, think about Tom’s shoes.
They get their customers to buy one pair of shoes on the promise that they're giving another pair of shoes to their service user. This is now the classic social entrepreneurship model.
Tom's started a revolution in social entrepreneurship that not a lot of people were expecting. It built on the back of wildlife campaigns like “adopt a tiger” for chirstmas, or “give a family a goat”, and elevated it by sinking in to consumer culture and giving individuals something to signify their “wokeness”, specifically a product.
So why don't we hear so much about Tom's anymore, by the founder's own admission, the company lost its way because they didn't have a vision they were driving towards. They became customer focused instead of impact focused. They didn't put their impact goals at their centre.
But you don't have to make the same mistake.
All you need is a product or service that you can sell effectively.
You also need a way to create impact that is actively beneficial to your service users, and directly ties into the vision you're driving towards.
Tom's gives a fish. For lasting impact, you should be teaching people how to fish (if you catch my drift).
If you’re running a classic social enterprise revenue model, the people that gain the most impact from your business are not the people that have a financial relationship with your service or product.
For example, Give me Tap! has the most common social enterprise model. You can call it the Robin Hood (without the theft element).
They sell products to the wealthier people in the global economy and use the profit they make from those sales to pay their staff, develop new products and partnerships, and provide clean drinking water to thousands of children in Ghana.
More often, companies that are reasonably or even very well established choose to create a dedicated product line within their company that follows a similar format.
They’re all making the money they need to keep their business going, but the money they’re making on those products is not the primary reason for creating them.
The product is a means to an end. It’s a way to financially provide for the business so that they can support the development of African communities without relying on grants and international aid funders.
If the above rings true in your business, then your goals should focus entirely on the individuals your business will help (service users), and we’ve created a framework that will help you determine exactly what those goals should be.
Before you begin the impact goal setting exercise, I have 2 key questions.
The first question is, do you know who your ideal service user is?
It’s the same premise we use when we create an ideal customer profile.
We created the ideal customer profile workbook to help you think in really broad terms about your ideal customer/service user.
I found that most of my clients could only describe their ideal customer in 3 or 4 demographic terms, and they were pretty shallow. For example, Female, 18-24, works at ShakeShack, loves pink.
The workbook gives you 30 ways to approach your ideal customer and a lot of key cheats so that you can use the profile you create in the day to day running of your business.
The only difference here is instead of thinking of the ideal person you'd like to buy your product, you're thinking of the ideal person you would like to be the beneficiary of your social impact. Your ideal service user.
Knowing the answer to that question is going to be really important for the future growth of your social impact.
When you know the answer to that question, you’ll know who to form strategic partnerships with, you’ll know how to structure your impact service/product and you’ll know how to approach your ideal service user so that they use your product or service, and adhere to any behavioural change that determines the success of your social impact.
My second question is this; what stage of social entrepreneurship are you in?
Think of the production of social impact like the production of a physical product. Its a supply chain.
Your job is to create impact in a community of people and you require certain elements to be in place for that to happen effectively.
How many moving parts are there and how self-reliant are your operations?
Your social enterprise goal, as it differs from your commercial goal, should focus on claiming as much of that impact-focused supply chain as possible.
Your impact supply chain can be divided into 3 categories, each of which has a fundamental effect on your ability to deliver the impact you want your social enterprise to have.
CATEGORY 1: YOUR PIPELINE
For your social enterprise to be successful, you need access to the people that you’re trying to impact positively.
How are you gaining that access?
Access requires forming solid strategic partnerships with organisations that already have a community that you can supply your impactful product or service to.
For example, if your social enterprise is championing child health, and uses its profits to supply footballs to kids aged 6-10, you’ll need to form strategic partnerships with primary schools so that you have easy access to your service user.
When setting your pipeline goal, consider how you can both widen and deepen your access.
What can you do to ensure that you are strengthening your pipeline and gaining easier access to more of your ideal service users?
To widen your access, you may need more strategic partners, and to deepen your access you many decide to start a weekend and school-holiday football program so that you can form a stronger relationship with the children you’re impacting (sticking with the football example from above).
CATEGORY 2: YOUR LOGISTICS
Do you have everything you need to supply your impact?
Since the ultimate goal for your social enterprise should be to have all the elements of your impact supply chain in your control, what should the goal be for your business in the coming year?
If you haven’t yet started giving footballs to kids in Zambia, building schools in Nigeria, digging wells in Ghana or giving children bicycles in Zimbabwe, what should be the first step you make to ensure that as much of your impact supply chain is under your control logistically?
If you’ve been providing your impactful service or product to your ideal service user, and you’re happy with the result of your work, what can you do over the next year to elevate your logistics so that you can provide your impactful product or service more often and to more people?
CATEGORY 3: YOUR IMPLEMENTATION
What does it take for you to properly implement your impactful product or service?
To properly implement your impactful service or product, you’ll need to have a plan that ensures that the product or service will be well used and well maintained.
What’s the best way to do that?
If we stick with the football example, what is the best way to make sure that the kids actually use the footballs when they get them?
You can do anything from use strategic partnerships to encourage the kids to play football, or you can start your own football academy that runs on weekends and school holidays.
What are you currently doing to implement your impactful service or product and how can you elevate it?
Remember the point of impact goals are to take back every step in the supply chain. The more of the supply chain you own, the better for your business and the more reliable your impact supply will be.
Now that you have a good idea about what your key social enterprise goals should be for the next year of your business, use this framework to format them properly so that you can track your progress and organise your success.
That’s all folks.
Thanks for reading,
PS. If you have any questions about anything I’ve suggested here, you can catch me on my daily podcast.