Looking up at trees in the forest

Over the last several years, customers’ expectations of businesses both large and small have shifted. Today, they are interested in supporting companies they believe are making a positive change in the world and aren’t solely focused on making a quick buck. This is the idea of shared value.

The question that remains is, how do you show this to potential customers? How can you use your online presence to demonstrate that your small business goes beyond the usual run around of trying to get people to buy your product? How do you create meaningful and lasting relationships with your target audience? This is what we will be taking a look at in today’s post, as well as a few ideas for implementing your own strategies.

Shared Value and Corporate Social Responsibility

Shared value in recent years has become closely associated with the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Business News Daily defines CSR as “a type of business self-regulation with the aim of being socially accountable.”

Companies who practice corporate social responsibility do so by being sustainable, taking part in community outreach programs, and making their values known by acting on them. Different companies do CSR in different ways. It can’t be done “correctly.” However, being conscious of it will benefit your business in a number of ways.

From a communication perspective, this can be very helpful for bringing customers to your business. In an article by Business 2 Community, 53% of customers said they believed all businesses should be involved in one social issue that is not directly related to their brand. RetailMeNot found that 61% of millennial consumers would recommend a brand that shares their values.

Practicing CSR should not be a marketing stunt, however. It’s not a matter of gaining new customers by showing that your business takes part in certain volunteer activities. It’s more about using your company’s voice and reach to make a positive difference. You want your customers to see these values and make them feel welcome in the community you have created. Then, your positive impact on the world can be even larger.

Finding the Shared Value Balance

While CSR is extremely important, it’s also not the only path for creating shared value. Rather, it’s one important subset. Making a societal impact is important as a business. It should be one of your biggest driving factors for owning a company in the first place.

However, meeting the needs of society cannot be the sole element at play when creating shared value. There are also internal business aspects that need to be explored. For example, how will resources, employees, and products be used differently in order to add value for the customers?

This might include taking a look at the production chain in order to eliminate errors or increase efficiency. Maybe it means refining your messaging on social media and on your website. Is your company presenting itself in a way that is meaningful for customers? Are you delivering on the services promised?

In this way, it’s a balancing act between doing what you can for customers and always seeking to improve. If you take time to find areas of improvement, your customers will more clearly see the value in your services.

Creating Shared Value Through Change

The values you built your company on should be stead-fast, no matter the political or economic climate. In fact, you must reemphasize them time and again as you move forward with CSR. However, there may be times when you will need to innovate in order to meet the needs of your customers.

Small businesses with loyal customers often see a sort of give and take in this area. Sure, you’re not going to change your core beliefs and practices just because they may not line up with one segment of your audience’s. However, there may be times when you have to change techniques in order to meet the needs of your customers.

For example, if you are taking action on a cause that is very near and dear to the company, and you want to tell others how to get involved, you need to know the right platform to target. If you are doing an online fundraising campaign, it would be important to know the best way to get people involved and determine the easiest way possible for people to donate.

The basic sense of this is to let your audience be your guide. You are in business to help them, and they want to create an ongoing relationship with you. If there is some part of their experience you can improve, that is an undertaking too important to ignore.

In Summary

Creating shared value with your customers is an abstract concept and will look different for every business. However, it’s incredibly important for the health of the company, the community, and for helping members within your target audience. It creates a sense of camaraderie around your brand and shows you care about what your customers think in regard to social issues. If you haven’t already, make sure to take steps so you can wear your values on your sleeve. Customers will appreciate the transparency, you will fulfill your corporate duty of putting positivity out into the world, and your community will be better for it.