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Joining the dots between CSR and Marketing

After the recent Amendment in the Indian Companies Act, it became mandatory to spend a certain percentage of the average net profits on CSR projects. It isn’t as bad as it sounds. CSR should not be just seen as spends in the name of societal charity, it could rather turn out to be good for your business.

A range of surveys and researches reveal that companies that spend on CSR receive wider visibility and faster market growth than competitors who don’t. This is the age of consumer consciousness and consumers are getting increasingly conscious about what the brands and companies that they spend on preach and stand for. More people are willing to spend on products and services that are socially responsible.

Moreover, these CSR projects put the brand in a positive light bringing in more market activity, and in turn actually creating a positive difference in the society.

Here are some tips to connect the dots between CSR and Marketing:

1. Building an effective CSR Strategy

Brainstorm a good CSR strategy for your business. If you are going to put effort and time into something, make it worthwhile. Your CSR project should be related to your business so that you can make the most out of it. For example: If you have a goods business, learn which goods can be used for charity. if you have a garment business, find out how many of them can be donated. if you have an estate business, see if you can give away one of the properties.

If nothing else, you can just tie-up with a reputable trust or NGO and donate cash for charity. If you have a super profitable business, you can rather establish and register a trust of your own.

2. Utilizing your USP for your CSR project

More people easily give in to invest in responsible brands that work on a system of values, such as saving water, eco-friendly processing or manufacturing, using organic products, providing employment to the poor, encouraging sustainability, serving underprivileged, engaging in social activities, etc. If these are your USP, you can highlight them while campaigning to add some weight to your CSR.

Second, see how you can use your USPs to amplify your CSR, for example, if you have a franchise or outlets in various cities, you can call for action in various locations; if you have a huge team or an active customer base, you can ask people to volunteer for some social cause. To properly utilise the power of your USPs for your CSR, you need to first identify your real USP, not what you promote but what actually makes your products or ideas sell.

3. Do what you promise

Remember that your CSR should not be just for namesake. Your CSR should be an asset to your business, not a liability. Make sure your CSR is actually making a difference and the money invested in it is not getting wasted on worthless expenditures.

When you achieve significant results from your CSR, share it with your audience. Don’t show off, but inform. Make the information easily readable, an infographic, chart or tabular form.

4. Make CSR your USP

Collect some official accreditation for your CSRs and take advantage of the government CSR programs, CSR related charities, seminars, conferences, etc. Make appearances and promote your CSR agenda wherever you can. All of this will make a positive impact on your marketing strategy. It will also ensure customer loyalty and build customer confidence in your brand. This will prove to be a good thing for your business in the long term.

5. Mind the gap between highlighting and showing off

While presenting your CSR results to the public, make sure you don’t come out to be too strong. Those figures should be figures of gratitude and not pride or show off. For your message to reach a wider public, you need to get selfless. Doing good can actually be good for your business.

6. Choose your marketing agency wisely

Once you have finished formulating your CSR strategy and you have a complete action plan in your hand, another important thing is choosing the perfect marketing agency for your CSR. It is important to market your target. But it is more important how you market it. Are you utilizing enough media outlets? Have you experienced the power of digital networks to spread the word? Examine what mediums a certain marketing agency includes in your package before you finalize a deal with one.

How CSR brings more customers

CSR plays an important role in branding. Customers look forward to spending for a cause, brands that promise to donate a part of each spend are perceived as positive influences and are often preferred over other similar brands.

People are increasingly empathetic towards the underprivileged and the suffering, hence everyone wants to contribute to making a better world. But it’s also true that most people don’t even make any efforts for the same. Spending on brands that have impressive CSRs works like guilt-free passes for them when it comes to social responsibility.

Attending various charity events, conferences and sponsoring charity related activities often highlight the brand and helps in building a brand image as a sensitive, inspiring and socially responsible brand, grabbing more eyeballs than ever.

Social responsibility is one of the core values any brand should consider, any brands that go against humanitarian norms for their production, marketing or any other processes sooner or later come out as negative influences and often face protests and backlashes from the public. Socially Responsibility is fundamentally an asset for a brand, and not a liability; it makes the brand as well as brand image more powerful.

Don’t confuse CSR with Marketing Campaign

No matter how much we try to combine marketing and CSR onto one single entity, it should not be forgotten that a CSR is essentially meant for the goodwill, bonus points for a business. And CSRs should not be confused with ‘marketing strategies’. Yes, a certain amount of marketing is okay, you should take credit for what you do, but full-fledged marketing campaigns in the name of CSR Projects should not be encouraged in any case.

Remember: we are required to join the dots, not overlap them.

Let us see an example of The Fern Hotels to understand this better: The Fern Hotels & Resorts

Sabhi Digital as a tech partner for The Fern Hotels CSR

Sabhi Digital, a tech partner for The Fern Hotels, has used a blend of 360° Virtual Tours and the Mapping Platform to create an interactive platform that provides the Fern Hotels with a perfect tool to showcase their franchise power along with running their CSR Project Fern Saves Water in the support of water conservation campaign.

In brief, the website allows the users to avail of free plumbing services from The Fern Hotels by reporting the leaking taps on the aforementioned website. While doing so, they are supposed to search the Fern Hotels in their city, select the one closest to them and drop in their requests to the hotel through query forms.

What is interesting here is that while doing all this, on the same page, the visitors can also find details about the Hotels they select, their pictures, videos and also a 360° Virtual Tour. It also displays information like the Hotel’s precise location, its distance from the railway station and the airport. Through an ‘explore’ button, people can be redirected to the primary hotel website, browse through the rooms and other categories and also request bookings.

From the CSR perspective, the Website has amazing back-end tools such as admin accounts for each hotel manager to manage, update and respond to the queries and as a single ‘super admin’ account to manage all the hotel admin accounts. The back-end also provides automatic one-click data generation tools to create data-charts of the amount of water saved depending on the number of leaking taps fixed by the Fern Hotels.

This website, facilitated by Sabhi Digital, enabled The Fern Hotels to add a commercial angle to their CSR project while not publicizing or overwhelmingly showing off their business credentials.