In an earlier post I was discussing the Shop for Change campaign started by iSE to encourage more social enterprises and trading voluntary organisations to do more business with each other. That the potential for inter-trading within the sector was largely under-utilised was identified by market analysis carried out by iSE as part of its WNF-funded Market Makers project. There’s a really useful summary of this analysis here — Shop for Change: An Analysis of Trends in Social Enterprise Markets.
But talking to Andy Beaton at iSE this morning I was reminded of another trend which is worthy of mention.
Four or five years ago it was evident that the sector’s adoption of marketing in its widest sense was dramatically lagging behind that of its private sector competitors. But there has been a significant shift in this and many social enterprises are now successfully using all kinds of market research, market feedback and broader marketing and promotion techniques to promote their businesses, make contact with new customers and identify or create market opportunities. One of the largely unsung developments has been the adoption of online networking and social media as marketing tools. Indeed, some social enterprises — I was told recently about a counselling enterprise — are using social media as their primary means of generating business.
Of course, to some degree this new emphasis on marketing is a response to the increasingly difficult economic climate we all find ourselves operating in. But nonetheless, as far as the social enterprise sector is concerned, this inventive approach to marketing is really heartening.
And if you want more evidence of this sea-change in the sector, then consider this. Four years or so back, when BSSEC wanted to contract with a PR and marketing agency that not only had experience of the sector but was itself a social enterprise, we ended up engaging a co-operative business from Durham.
Maybe there are others too. If you know of a social enterprise providing marketing, comms & PR then let us know.