4 lessons from supporting 5 social enterprises – simultaneously

As my work supporting five social enterprises to become more adept at marketing and business development comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt.

It’s been a brilliant experience. And I feel proud to have played a part in growing the impact these grass-roots organisations are making in locations across the country from Cornwall to Newcastle, and three stops in between.

The project was commissioned through the Enterprise Development Programme and ably managed by Groundwork UK. The programme winds up this month, so I’ll have some availability from April and am actively looking for other projects to get involved with.

I led these organisations through creating their marketing strategy (check out my workbook here) and then implementing it. And what a fascinating study in psychology it’s been: they all started working with me at pretty much the same time last year and have ended up in different places according to their product or service, target market, organisational structures, individual personalities and many other factors.

Here are four things I’ve learnt along the way:

  1. None of them had expected to spend quite so long working on their marketing strategies before getting started on tactics. It took at least six weeks and in some cases more. But they all ended up with a solid commercial approach, rooted in the needs of their target buyers and in the skillsets, budgets and time available to the organisation. My learning point is to be clearer, at the very start, about how long it’s going to take to develop a solid strategy and plan.
  2. All of them told me how much they valued meeting me weekly. Marketing is important (I would say that…) but it’s often not seen as urgent and can get deprioritised below day-to-day busyness. This is a mistake: it’s a long-term game; you need to keep on cranking the handle even if it feels like nothing’s happening. Agreeing tasks and being kept accountable for delivering them each week really got the momentum up and kept it going.
  3. And of course you need to do the right marketing, and do it well: it’s often more subtle and nuanced than it appears and it can get complicated quickly. Keeping a firm hand on the tiller with weekly course-correction is by far the best way to make progress and do stuff to a high standard.
  4. Finally, I know I bang on about buyer personas but they really are the most powerful device in a marketer’s toolbox. It was remarkable to see how, in every case, once we had developed solid personas the right marketing tactics became apparent.

As I said, I’ll have some time on my hands from April. If you’re uncertain whether you’re getting the most out of your marketing, or you’re not sure how to fully support your marketing staff, then please get in touch. I’d love to help.