I want to feature a story to answer this question of: How do you choose the right social mission for your business? This story will take us right into the heat of Houston, Texas (insert bad Texan accent imitation here 😹) to learn about Burcheyes, a company with a pretty awesome social mission. This story provides us with five social mission secrets that will help you answer the question:
How do I know what the right social mission is for my company?
2nd blog in series: Your business needs a social mission
Before you read: The first blog in this series details why you should have a social mission in business and how to lead your marketing with the social value you create. If you missed that one, you might want to check it out before reading this one!
We've spent months researching the power of a social mission in business by talking first hand with companies of all different sizes, across all different industries, about their challenges, successes, and tips for better reaching their customers.
The resounding answer from our research has been surprisingly simple: Don’t just market your product. Market your social value.
After looking back at my notes, I figured, why not share my all my learnings with the people out there who need help getting started with a great cause for their business to better reach their customer and shorten their sales cycle?
That’s you 😁
So, I decided to start a blog series that will feature some of the most interesting stories I have heard, and of course, the different learnings and takeaways from each. I hope this series begins a much-needed conversation among us all to share more stories, ideas, challenges, and learnings, and start creating social value everywhere.
The first story I want to feature will take us right into the heat of Houston, Texas (insert bad Texan accent imitation here 😹) to learn about Burcheyes, a company with a pretty awesome social mission. This story provides us with five social mission secrets that will help you answer the question:
How do I know what the right social mission is for my company?
My chat with Jason Burch, CEO & Founder of Burcheyes, was to say the least, unconventional- and, utterly inspiring. Jason and I first connected when Jason commented on one of my past blogs about How to make a social impact AND get more sales meetings.
After a few exchanges back and forth through LinkedIn comments (you know, the new “hip” place to be 💁), I asked Jason to hop on the phone and learn more about his company.
Jason's career of service actually started at sixteen years old when he joined his local volunteer fire department. He then continued to begin his career in healthcare as an EMT in the late 1990's. After consulting, sales, and leadership roles with multiple companies Jason decided to start something new.
As he explains it,
"I thought we could do better. I thought we could be better. Better as salespeople, better as companies, and by doing those better, we could better our communities and our country."
Based out of the Houston suburbs from inception in 2016, Jason's company, Burcheyes, looks to find innovative technology solutions and apply their sales methodology to generate revenue quickly. A few of their featured solutions include reputation management, LED technology, network monitoring, and endpoint security.
But those are just part of their equation for success.
Burcheyes is deeply focused on their social impact on their community. They donate a portion of all their profits to Project Meet Me Halfway, a 501 c3 charitable organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the plight of at-risk children “aging out” of the foster care program.
In my conversation with Jason, he explained,
"Every month, regardless of any other factors, I write that check to Project meet me Halfway. It’ s arguably the most important mission of our business."
Project Meet Me Halfway builds transitional homes for young teens who too often age out of the foster care system without a place to go in the world. This is a cause that has been close to Jason’s heart ever since he saw Jimmy Wayne deliver a keynote at a convention in Las Vegas.
Jimmy Wayne is a former foster kid turned award-winning country recording artist 👨🎤whose songs and story highlight his mission to raise awareness for children in foster care. Jason recalls the convention when he decided this would be his company’s social mission,
"Jimmy started speaking about what he’s been doing to make the world a better place for kids in the foster care system who are aging out. I wasn’t familiar with the issue at the time but it immediately captured my attention and I was sure I’d found the cause I wanted us to support."
Jason was looking for a social mission for his company to support, just like you are (or might be soon!). But the big takeaway here is that you need to
1) Let your social mission come naturally. Don’t force the wrong one.
When Jason heard about Project met Me Halfway’s cause, he just had a feeling it was the right one for his company. He admitted he wasn’t even aware this was such a big issue before hearing about it that day at the convention, but after hearing some shocking statistics, it quickly pulled on his heart strings.
"Too often today, teens find themselves alone, without a home, no family, and no support system. What happens to the more than 30,000 young adults transitioning out of the foster care system each year? For those that don’t get help, the statistics are tragic ( learn more here)
25% will become homeless after age 18
25% will not receive their high school diploma or GED, compared with only 7% of the general population
50% will be unemployed"
Even though Jason wasn’t necessarily an expert on this cause, he felt a real passion for it. And that brings us to the second tip:
2) You don’t have to be an expert yet on the mission you choose. Just be super passionate about it!
So, Jason posted his mission clear on his website for his whole community to see.
Burcheyes recognizes its responsibility as a company to actively be part of the communities in which we live. Project Meet Me Halfway represents a way we can support youth that need a little extra help with housing, job training, and adult mentoring.
One of the most important aspects that makes Burcheyes’ social mission so powerful is how ingrained it is in their company culture. Bringing us to my third tip...
3) Your mission has to be something your team can get behind.
If this isn’t currently possible with your team, then you either have chosen the wrong cause, or you will need to build up a new company culture around your cause.
This isn’t hard to do, but it definitely starts with the hiring process. Make sure you are hiring team members who understand your social mission and the value you are setting out to create as a company.
Jason and his team are all deeply involved in their cause; it is more than just a place where they give their money.
"You’re here for the kids or you aren’t here. We bring on folks who we know will be givers down the road and who have been successful selling in the past so that their success raises money for PMMH.
We also hope that our team will then do good works with the money they receive in our community. If a potential team member can’t get themselves excited about helping children, then they just won’t fit in with our company culture."
Well said Jason.
Not only does Burcheyes’ company culture encourage ongoing support for their cause among their team, but they also have clearly defined company values that guide their hiring process to ensure they bring on future team members who are also aligned with their social mission.
Company culture is super important. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cause and most importantly, make sure its consistent with your cause. For example, if your social mission is all about diversity, make sure your company culture reflects and promotes that.
Lastly, the final key to Burcheyes’ successful social mission is the support of their customers.
4. Your mission has to feel authentic to your customers. But, the best way to start is to first make sure it feels authentic to you 👵.
^had to insert the cute grandma emoji here because what’s more authentic than a grandma? 😂
Really though. This is so so so important. If your customers don’t care about your cause, and you urge them to care through great storytelling and consistent brand messaging, then you haven’t found the right social mission yet!
Your cause can be related to your industry, the social value your product creates, the demographic of your customers, an issue in your geographic region, or something completely unexpected, but make sure it naturally relates to your brand and feels authentic to your company and your customers.
If you’re not sure whether or not your cause will feel authentic to your customers, the best way to test it out is to talk to them about it. Weave it into your sales conversations, perhaps as small talk, to see how they respond. You’ll quickly get a sense if it’s something that interests your customers.
If your cause doesn’t immediately interest your customers, but you feel super passionate about it, I'd recommend connecting it to a personal story to evoke more of a personal connection to it.
Jason said he tries to do this in almost all of their customer conversations. He explained that they are very upfront with their customers about their costs, their % contribution to their cause, and how important their cause is to them.
This honest messaging is what makes their cause connect so well with Burcheyes’ customers. Their cause isn’t just something they mention at the end of the sales cycle to close the deal; they lead with it.
"I tell customers all the time that this won’t be a normal sales cycle, because in a typical negotiation, both sides have to take to make--- but we live to give. I demonstrate that to them by saying here’s what I’ll make on this- and this is the % that will go to our charities at the end of each month.
We put our value where our mouth is – we just tell the truth."
This complete transparency with their customers has yielded Burcheyes incredible results, including a drastically shortened sales cycle, increased customer retention & loyalty (they actually have 100% customer retention!), increased customer contribution to their cause, and 0% employee turnover.
"It’s funny because we’re just trying to be real with our customers, but our transparency actually often shortens our sales cycle. We don’t have to do as much “objection handling” and “wall-breaking” as a typical sales team might have to do. Our customers want to buy from us because we are real with them."
Just be real. Simple, but incredible advice!
In order to uphold tip #4, Jason actually gets his clients involved in their cause- in order to first, make it feel as authentic as possible to them, and second, use their added support to make a bigger impact together.
"I encourage each Executive team of the companies we bring on board that we expect our client partners to donate either financially or practically to Project Meet Me Halfway. We hope that all of our clients will be willing to be a part of providing mentor-ship and/or job training and opportunities for these kids.Customer relationships are everything to Jason and his team."
Thus, why they recently increased their social efforts to also include donations and support to the relief efforts in Texas after the hurricane, and in California, after the wildfires, both causes close to their customers hearts especially given their physical proximity.
Jason explained that their support to these relief efforts clearly demonstrates their ongoing care for their customers and community, both of which are core to their company social mission.
This is an important lesson to keep in mind:
5) See your mission in the long term and progress it forward with your customers’ changing needs.
If your social mission can't change and adapt over time in relation to current events and your changing customer needs, then it will eventually lose its authenticity and its impact. You don't have to plan your long term vision for your mission from day one, but it’s important to keep it in mind over time.
In addition to the many amazing takeaways from Jason’s story, I want to focus on a few action steps that will help you get started with your own social mission at your business.
When you’re getting started, don’t worry about your social mission being perfect or the biggest yet. Your mission can start small. And, it doesn’t have to be directly tied to a charity at first, or ever.
I’d recommend taking these two actions steps to get started.
1) Identify issues on which you’d like to see change.
To start your social mission, or take a current mission to the next level, look deep into your business or other businesses and try to recognize a few (try to start with 1 or 2, and if you can, find 5) issues on which you’d love to see change.
Jason did this to start before he found his Project Meet Me Halfway social mission. He originally started with a few internal issues he cared about solving in his business, one of the most important being the fundamentally flawed sales compensation model that often favors the company over the individual.
You can start out as big or small as you’d like. Write down a few issues in this or a similar format.
1. I’d like to see more diversity on my team.
2. I’d like better company lunches that are healthy and sourced locally.
3. I think we can do a better job giving individuals recognition for their work.
Great, these are examples of what your possible causes might look like. Now...
2) Identify possible solutions for your list of causes. For example:
1. Issue: I’d like to see more diversity on my team.
Create a referral program that encourages customers and team members to provide recommendations for new additions to the team. That way everyone feels like they have a hand in who they work with.
2. Issue: I’d like better company lunches that are healthy and sourced locally.
Start an initiative that encourages colleagues to give recommendations each week for local places that could provide healthier company lunches. Make it fun and assign each person a week for them to choose a place. Then, take it to the next level and occasionally invite customers to come join.
3. Issue: I think we can do a better job giving individuals recognition for their work.
Propose a weekly or monthly ritual of “show n’ tell” or spotlights for teams or individuals to show what they’ve been working on.
Starting with internal causes is a great place to begin. Especially if your company doesn’t have a formal social mission yet. The best part is there’s always room to grow your impact. Take the first example I used above about diversity on your team.
You may start your social mission of increasing diversity within just your own team.
Then, you may try to move from just increasing diversity to celebrating diversity on your team. Next thing you know it, you may adopt a social mission that reaches the whole company, your customers, and then your whole community.
Then, you may formally partner with a charity or cause that promotes diversity around the whole world through actionable initiatives.
The point is, whether you start with a small social mission like solving an internal team issue, or a big social mission like a formal partnership with a specific cause, it doesn’t matter.
Focus on authenticity first. Measuring your impact comes later.
And once you do start with a social mission, you can start to align your brand around it like Jason did, by telling your customers what you care about. And then eventually, you can show them through a cause marketing strategy that continuously and authentically incorporates your mission.
But the most important note to keep in mind for now as you think about adopting a social mission and marketing for a cause is this:
Don't create value for a price tag. Create value because you love and believe in the value you are creating.
The most lucrative cause is authentic.
About the author
Ashland is the founder and CEO of Because. Her passion is to make CSR as standard for any business as a financial report, but she knows in order to do that, we have to prove that CSR is not only good business, but it's good for business.
Share your story!
If you are interested in sharing your company’s story and social mission, Ashland would love to set up an interview to further the research on this topic and perhaps feature you in an upcoming blog! Your story could help inspire many others who are looking to pave the path in cause marketing/CSR. You can DM her or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the team!
If you are passionate about the same or similar concepts described in this blog and think you have a unique skill-set to bring to the table (perhaps tech, marketing, philanthropy, etc.), reach out to Ashland to talk about joining the team!
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