Social enterprises have both the advantage and disadvantage of having a lot to talk about. There’s the product, the mission, the impact, the… list goes on. So in order to effectively, and often times quickly, communicate the value of your product, you must first understand what it is that your audience actually values. Once you know this you can tailor your message accordingly. What you’re selling remains constant, but the way you sell it depends on who you are selling it to. A national chain store will have different interests than that of an independent fair trade shop, for example. As such, a one-size-fits-all sales pitch won’t be effective.
An effective sales pitch is not simply the correct combination of points to include or not include. Instead, it is an exercise in emphasis. When pitching a social enterprise’s goods, you will likely cover both your product and your mission. The question is, then, which do you lead with? Which do you emphasize more? And this depends wholly on your audience. Below we explore four common types of customers and share some tips on how to tailor your pitch to accordingly. For each we provide real life examples from Bright Endeavors, a social enterprise candle maker and part of REDF’s portfolio.
Independent stores are often the primary customers for smaller, growth-stage social enterprises. With independently owned stores, you may be more able to tell the long form of your story. Share who founded the social enterprise and why. If applicable, emphasize the local impact of your enterprise.
“Bright Endeavors is a social enterprise in Chicago that produces premium scented soy candles, all made by young moms gaining job skills.”
Fair Trade Retailer
Fair Trade retailers (and by this we mean any socially conscious shops) will likely be similar to small retailers. However, they will by definition care more about the social mission of your product, so be sure to lead with your mission and your impact. But don’t forget that these shops are still businesses and need to buy products that they can sell. So while you can lead with the social impact, be sure to close with the quality of the product.
“Bright Endeavors is a social enterprise in Chicago that employs young moms to create premium scented soy candles in order to gain job skills.”
Chain Store / Wholesale
Sales to large chain stores are often the hardest to achieve, but are also the most rewarding and can be pivotal to the growth of your business. When pitching to large chain stores, be sure to lead with the product and share any metrics of success you have. The mission should play a supporting role to this business case for your product. Use it as a tie-breaker; not only does your product rival its competition in terms of quality, but is also having this great impact. Often individual stores have their own buyer, each with his or her own perspective, so try to capture their imagination with the story.
“Bright Endeavors produces premium scented soy candles, all made by young moms gaining job skills. Our candles have achieved x sales in the last 12 months in similarly competitive retail environments.”
Unlike the previous three, when selling online you have the opportunity to sell directly to your customer. This means you are uniquely able to tell the long form version of your story and value proposition. But don’t forget, the pitch should still primarily emphasize the product. As always, the mission acts as a tie-breaker. With e-commerce there also is the opportunity to use online analytics to better understand who your customer is and what it is they are looking for. In turn, this means you can tailor your pitch to speak most effectively to your prospective customers.
“Bright Endeavors is a social enterprise that produces premium scented soy candles. Operated by the nonprofit New Moms, Bright Endeavors provides paid, transitional jobs, workforce development training, and job placement services to young moms facing myriad barriers to employment.”
For more on this topic, we encourage you to check out our Social Enterprise Messaging Guidelines based on the results of our recent messaging study. These guidelines aim to normalize the term “social enterprise” and help communicate a more unified message. It also provides recommendations on how to effectively communicate to different audiences – from business, to government, to funders.