Product quality and customer service are the greatest power behind B2B brands, right? Actually, corporate reputation or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming an increasingly important factor when it comes to attracting and retaining consumers.
In consumer marketing, nearly 90% of consumers are prepared to choose who they shop with based on which brand stands up for an issue they care about.
Increasingly, CSR is just as important for B2B too. 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs as a way to support their employees in the causes that matter to them.
Even better, CSR has the potential to boost customer loyalty.
We all know how important loyal customers are. In the consumer world, loyal buyers are willing to spend more per transaction, make frequent purchases, resist the marketing efforts of rivals, and recommend you to others.
But in business, maintaining ethical standards can make the difference between winning a sale and it going elsewhere. More than 100 companies boycotted Facebook, pulling back paid advertising last July, in protest of hate speech and misinformation.
This new attitude towards business isn’t going anywhere. B2Bs are increasingly setting “Sustainability and Ethical Procurement Standards” and if you don’t meet these, you won’t be able to do business with them.
Getting this communication right is VITAL. After all, you are expressing your company values, and it’s easy enough to get wrong.
Warning: the perils of ‘greenwashing’
Consumers are increasingly sceptical and have the tools to call out brands that paint themselves as ‘green’ for their hypocrisy. The miscommunication of a genuine and well-intentioned initiative can have the adverse effect in how it is perceived.
Most famously, oil and gas giant Shell asked their Twitter followers “What are you willing to change to help reduce emissions?”. Let’s just say it didn’t exactly thrill the environmental community, the tweet was publicly shamed by its greatest activists AOC and Greta Thunberg.
This is part of a broader phenomenon of “voicewashing” – brands dipping their toes into social issues with no real engagement.
Any crass attempt to co-opt a movement is glaringly noticeable. You only need to take a trip down memory lane and look at the now infamous Pepsi ad. Truly, the epitome of saying the right thing in the wrong way.
Or perhaps, many companies are not in the position to say the ‘right thing’ however communicated. Fast food companies expressing concern at childhood obesity, or fast fashion low-wage labour clothing brands showing off their ‘I’m a feminist’ T-shirts. You get the gist.
So, tone of voice is just as important as stance. Your company’s voice is at its most authentic when it’s consistent with action. What is your business doing to protect the interests of current and future generations? Research from Achilles showed that one in five companies have no information about their tier-two suppliers across the world. Issues like employee rights, charitable work, education activities and environmental conservation are increasingly more important for your business than advertising.
Ultimately, you can only express values that are genuinely authentic to your brand. Don’t confuse brand values for real human values.
You need a consolidated strategy to talk AND walk. It can’t just be a one-off.
Turn isolated initiatives into real change
Just as talking about something signals your concern with an issue, it is your action that reinforces trust. So, as well as having a stance, you need it to communicate this within the context of your customers and your overall business strategy. Many brands have impressive CSR initiatives, but without a coherent overall narrative, these stories can seem isolated.
Large companies are often the product of merger after merger, meaning they end up with a big portfolio of CSR initiative and information spread across multiple sites. In this case, customers can’t be expected to understand what the business actually stands for or is doing about it.
This was the case with Dell Technologies. The company is a global sustainability leader, with a wide range of recycling services in over 75 countries and territories. But on their web site these initiatives were scattered amongst other content, across a range of pages.
For Dell, we helped them work out how to split their initiatives up across their CSR site, what to call them, and how to present complex information – like how to recycle their products – in a way that would be easy for users to navigate.
Our UX team re-engineered the whole process, creating a simple, future-proof tool that finds users the recycling option they need in just four clicks. The tool is dynamically populated with the appropriate options, creating a quick, easy experience for businesses and consumers in over 75 countries.
The redesigned site was a simple and intuitive, giving users a coherent understanding of Dell’s sustainability aims, achievements and services.
Are you going to take a stance?
Corporate social investment can help you to build a reputation as a responsible business, which can, in turn, lead to competitive advantage. Investors are more likely to back reputable businesses, and you may even identify new business opportunities like the development of new services along the way. Organisational growth, increased sales and customer loyalty, and better financial performance make CSR the next best step for your business.
Doing good is good for business, provided you communicate it in the right way.
If you would like to explore how your business can bring more focus to its CSR story, get in touch today.