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As a result of the increasing importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR), many businesses consider only B2B partners that share their values and demonstrate a positive impact on society.

Because the perception of a brand is paramount, implementing CSR marketing tactics can encourage potential clients to think more favorably of your brand while also creating a better work environment for your employees.

A socially responsible marketing plan also helps differentiate yourself from competitors—especially those that may be larger or more well-known than you.

As a CSR marketing expert, I recommend the following steps for creating an effective CSR marketing campaign for B2B businesses.

1. Consider possible corporate social responsibility values

First, it's important to understand the CSR values of the businesses you serve. What are they interested in and passionate about?

There's only one way to answer that question: research, research, and more research. Uncovering important pieces of data takes the guesswork out of your marketing plan and enables you to make decisions based on real evidence.

Next, to strengthen the bond between your company and theirs, your and their CSR missions should align. For example, your B2B business might be focused on reducing carbon footprints. However, the businesses you serve are more concerned with improving labor policies or fair trade. In such a case, keep looking for an aspect of CSR that both sides value.

Once you have found the CSR value that you and your customers share, customize your plan and strategy around that element. If diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to all, for example, then that area of alignment suggests a way of moving forward.

2. Using values to define appropriate goals

Shared CSR values provide a starting point and direction, but appropriate and specific goals need to be defined for the marketing campaign. Consider not only what is important to your company and customers but also what is realistic and actionable. What is going to help you grow and put your team in the best position for success?

For example, making charitable contributions might help empower the team. That could give everyone within the company a feeling of purpose, which would boost productivity while growing the company's reputation within the community in an organic way.

Be careful not to take on too many goals at once, however. You can't boil the whole ocean, but you can boil one cup at a time. When considering possible CSR goals to pursue, pick the best one or two. Those should dovetail with your organization's culture and point toward areas where you can help make the biggest impact.

3. Align the message with your goals

The next step is to tailor the marketing campaign. In other words, develop a clear, concise message that communicates the purpose of the campaign and how it aligns with the company's CSR values.

Keep in mind that new processes and initiatives can make some people feel uncomfortable, both in your own company and in those of your customers. As a result, you need to make your reasons clear to everyone involved. Why is your business doing this? Why is this campaign going to make the company or the world a better place? How will their companies benefit as well?

Don't be afraid to explain yourself and the mission. In my experience, CSR marketing campaigns entail an entire education process. It's OK for people not to understand at first.

As marketers, it's our job to educate them and give them another point of view. Sometimes, you will need to explain the rationale multiple times. In those cases, exercise patience and stay the course.

4. Deploy, measure, evaluate

The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan famously stated. To choose the right channels for reaching your audience and delivering the message, consider where those people already spend their time.

social media, for instance, isn't just for the younger generations anymore. Marketers can connect with more and more types of people on certain platforms, and different Social media sites reach different demographics. For younger audiences, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram are good choices. For older users, go to Facebook and LinkedIn.

After launching your marketing campaign, measure its impact and evaluate its success. Track online metrics, such as the number of views, reactions, and comments that posts receive. Sales figures can also be used to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign.

If you want to go even further, you might consider using periodic surveys or polls to measure how people feel about your brand, products, and services, including how much they trust you or value what you stand for.

Don't worry if your first campaign doesn't make an enormous splash. It's always helpful to start somewhere and establish a baseline. Marketing can involve a learning curve like anything else. With continued effort and more attempts, you will gradually come to understand how best to draw attention to your business's CSR efforts.

Finally, communicating transparently about the impact of the CSR campaign can also help your company build trust and loyalty. So report back to your business partners, clients, and the community.

5. Get real

When creating and deploying a CSR marketing plan for your B2B business, you have to make it authentic. Many brands try to create such a campaign purely to check a box. But people, in general, and corporate executives, in particular, are smarter than that—and they can see right through marketing campaigns that try to create the appearance of CSR without substance.

Whatever CSR approach your company chooses to take, be passionate about it. CSR is about creating positive change, so this is your business's chance to highlight how you make the world a better place.

Social responsibility can be a powerful tool for building trust with customers, which is why it's important for B2B businesses to incorporate CSR into their marketing strategies.

Indeed, in today's world, businesses that don't take CSR seriously risk being left behind by their competition.

More Resources on Corporate Social Responsibility

A Guide to Business Ethics and Social Responsibility [Infographic]

How to Integrate Purpose Into Your B2B Content Strategy

Not Everything Has an ROI (And That's OK): Virginie Glaenzer on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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image of Ray Sheehan

Ray Sheehan is the owner of Old City Media, a national sponsorship marketing agency.

LinkedIn: Ray Sheehan