social entrepreneurship mission and customersSocial Entrepreneurship: No One Cares About Your Mission as Much As You Do Video

Social Entrepreneurship: No One Cares About Your Mission as Much As You Do Transcript

Customers are the lifeblood of any business – including social enterprises.  A business without customers is just a hobby.  I don’t know who first said that but it’s totally true.  We thought we’d share some behind the scenes of how we think about our customers as a social enterprise.  The goal is to inspire you in your own thinking about your customers.

Social Entrepreneurship Customer Profiles: Business Plan Phase

There’s a part of your business plan when you write about your target customers.  Initially, I had a hokey listing of customers who I knew would love Overflow Coffee Bar.  This is actually quite embarrassing to share.  It’s so hokey.  But it was a good starting point in falling in love with the people we knew would love our social enterprise.  Here’s the full disclosure.  Just remember that we changed this fairly quickly after the initial writing.

Our top customers were Earthly Emma, Artsy Andy, Giving Gertrude, and Studious Sally.  Second customers included Mommy Mary, Business Barney, Dog-Walking Dan, Espresso Edward, and Caffeine Carla.  We also has people who were likely not our customers – Penny-Pinching Patty, Skeptical Sam, and Elderly Esmeralda.  Each of these fictional people were followed with a couple sentence description.

I totally admit, this is not our best work but it was a starting point.  Remember, you have to start somewhere.  Having hokey, silly, unnecessary customer profiles is better than having no idea who your customers are.  Writing these obnoxious profiles into a business plan is better than not having a business plan at all.  So, I hope you find this encouraging.  Start with what you can do and you’ll learn and perfect from there.

Social Entrepreneurship Customers: After You’re In Operation

What surprised me is that a lot of our customers simply came and continue to come because it’s convenient.  They didn’t exactly fit the profiles – some not even close.  They live next door and like our product.  They go by our place on their way to work.  They are tourists who are visiting attractions close by.

I’m a recovering perfectionist and deep down I secretly want everyone to support the mission.  So, after a couple years of noticing this and it bugging me a little, I decided to do something about it.

Clearly and definitely, I didn’t want to deter any customers.  I do want to make money.  Plus, I understood those who don’t come because of the mission still and most definitely support the mission with their purchases.  Moreover, we get the opportunity to share the mission with them – especially when they join our email list.

I went from thinking about it to talking it over with some really smart people.  After a time, I came to think of my customers in terms of concentric circles.  Here’s how it goes:

  • largest circle – everyone who lives or comes within 1 mile of Overflow
  • 2nd largest circle – customers – anyone who has made at least 1 purchase
  • smaller circle – frequent customers – come at least a few times per month
  • smallest circle – insiders – spend a good amount of money with us and highly believe in our mission

It’s a little more complicated than that.  For example, there are people who believe in our mission but have only been a customer once.  There are also people who spend a good amount of money with us but are still skeptical of our mission.

The major lesson here is that that larger the outer circles become the greater the probability that the inner circles will grow larger too.  This has really influenced my marketing and advertising decisions.  If I can get someone to come once, the are more likely they are to come weekly.  If I can get someone to come weekly, the more likely they are to become insiders who deeply understand and support the mission.

It really boiled down to this mindset shift from linear thinking to thinking in circles.  It’s very Millennial of me.

Social Entrepreneurship Customers: Other Topics of Consideration

From here, there are a lot of places we could do.  We could discuss customer service, customer education/indoctrination, how to get more customers, how to build loyalty, etc. 

Comment and let us know what you’d like for us to address in a future post.