Would you like to grow your revenues by 20%? Is your business caught in a price war that is killing your profit margins? Evidence continues to grow that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and sustainability are the paths to selling more at higher prices! Your customers, armed with their smart phones, are demanding that you win their business by offering products and services that cost less and mean more. This is an unbelievable opportunity to win market share and customer loyalty for those businesses that can deliver price competitive “in me, on me and around me” customer solutions.
New evidence from Project ROI
Verizon and the Campbell Soup Company launched Project ROI to measure and enhance their environmental, social and governance programs. They funded a research effort by IO Sustainability and Babson College to assess the business case for Corporate Responsibility. This research investigated 300 case studies.
Project ROI research provides further evidence that corporate responsibility is smart business. They found that companies strongly invested in CSR actions that align with their customer’s expectations achieved up to a 20% increase in revenues. It gets even better! Companies strongly aligned with their customer’s CSR expectations win extremely high levels of customer loyalty. This enables these companies to sell on value rather than price. Project ROI found that companies with strong CSR programs that align with their customers’ expectations can charge up to 20% more for their products because their customer see the added value.
Four CSR and sustainability best practices that grow sales
CSR and sustainability best practices are breakout paths away from endless price wars with your competitors. These best practices will win customer loyalty and revenue growth. There are four steps to getting started on a sustainable sales strategy.
1. The first step is to recognize that your customers are looking for solutions. Is your business providing the type of economic, societal, human health and environmental solutions your customers are thirsting for or does your business just supply a competitive product or service? If your business is just competitive then your revenues are at risk. If you are just competitive then a competitor’s price promotion can cripple your sales until you match on price. A competitor blasting out Facebook ads will steal your customers’ attention if you are just competitive. The first step to growing sustained sale success is to shape your business, and what you sell, around being the solution that your customers really value.
2. Implementation of this sales strategy requires alignment between your business and your customers’ definition of a solution. If you sell to moms then your company and products must align value with values. Unilver is a great example of a company winning revenues with moms by providing solutions through a sustainable living product line that has grown to 50% of the company’s total revenues. If you sell to the millennial generation then your solution has to be cool with a purpose. Patagonia is the class leader on how to sell to the millennial generation. And if you sell to Corporate American then your business must deliver price competitive green results. Solar companies like SunEdison and SolarCity are winning Corporate America B2B contracts from Apple to Walmart by delivering electricity that is competitive with grid prices and can be produced with zero onsite greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Most importantly, your solution must be authentic and transparent. You and your products are authentic when your customers are posting on social media that you are walking your talk. Your operations and products are transparent because you and your customers are posting pictures and evidence that hides nothing and leaves nothing to the imagination. You are naked and the great news is that you are buff because of your company’s commitment to CSR and sustainability best practices.
4. Finally, your business is engaging. The adoption of sustainable and CSR best practices is a team sport. It involves your work associates. Most especially it involves your current and targeted customers. Engagement leads to conversation which leads to trust which results in a loyal customer. CSR and sustainability best practices enable a rich and highly credible communication platform with the customer. While advertising will win awareness it is the engagement with customers on their quest for finding both value and values that creates the type of brand equity that keeps customers coming back to your store, website or Facebook page. It is the path to being able to charge more than your competitors because your customers think you are worth it.
Increase sales in 90 days
These four steps may appear daunting but they are not. I have worked with business leaders and owners who began this process and achieved milestone sales results within 90 days. That is evidence of how hungry customers are for solutions.
This sales path is a process, not a destination. It is a process for your customers as they educate themselves on what CSR and sustainability really means to them. It is a process for your company as each successful step builds momentum for the adoption of an even more ambitious, but proven, sustainability best practice.
Start this revenue growth path by focusing on what you think is your most important customer market segment. Figure out their top three CSR and sustainability issues (the best way of doing so is to ask them). Then work with your associates and key stakeholders on how to become the superior solution for at least one of the three key customer issues. Doing so will increase your current customers’ loyalty. Doing so will win new customers. And this will be achieved even if you have to raise your prices a little because the solution you are solving is that valuable to your customers. Try it and enjoy winning new customers, growing revenues and protecting your profit margins from competitors’ price wars.
About the author
Bill Roth was the First Green Business Coach for Entrepreneur.com. He is the founder of EARTH 2017, a website posting economic analysis on disruptive trends impacting communities and businesses. Roth is President of NCCT, a consulting company that coaches CEOs and business owners on pricing and marketing best practices proven to win the millennial generation, and their moms, as customers. Follow Bill on Twitter @earth2017