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Making the Inclusive Business Case
With more knowledge and momentum, making the IB case is easier than ever

Finding and articulating your purpose to make the case to your customers

Finding and articulating your purpose to make the case to your customers
Interview with Lisa Hyman (goodDog) by iBAN staff

Tell us about the work you do at goodDog.

goodDog is a brand consultancy that helps mostly mid-stage, founder-built, mission-driven companies grow by locating and articulating an emotive, resonant singular storyline, then building corporate consensus and focus around it. I am a co-founder of goodDog, and I lead our strategy and ideas practice. First, this means that I’m responsible for finding this “singular storyline” based on both research and intuition. Then, I must build an unimpeachable case for it that will make it easy and exciting for leadership teams, boards, and employees to drive all of their resources towards living it every single day. We believe that it is this laser focus on a single framework for the brand—a framework built on fundamental brand truths, consumer desires, and cultural relevancy—that drives growth. We have seen this happen dozens of times over the last decade.

You are focused on working with brands that are building meaning. What does that mean? Is your process different when working with purpose-driven companies rather than “traditional” companies?

Our process would not be different for purpose-driven companies versus “traditional” companies. We could find a storyline for any company if we do the hard work of listening, observing, and processing all we learn about them, their consumer target, the category in which they operate, and the cultural mores that drive behaviour.

That said, goodDog has decided not to work with companies that are focused solely on driving profit. That is part of our ethos. The companies we choose to help are ones that know what they want to do and change in the world but have not yet been able to communicate that deep intent to consumers (and sometimes to their internal teams) in a way that makes them feel something when they interact with the brand. It is this feeling, this relationship that is built between consumer and company, that drives brand loyalty. If you don’t make consumers feel something about your brand, you don’t mean anything to them. If you don’t mean anything to them, they don’t stay with you. Our work helps build that meaning. And when you’re working with companies that are truly built with deep intent, it’s not that hard to find meaning that will resonate with people!

So, if companies who understand their purpose are good at driving growth, then wouldn’t it follow that social ventures have a leg up…

Absolutely. The stats don’t lie: According to a recent study by Wunderman, 80% of American consumers said that they are loyal to companies that share their values. And doing business according to one’s values isn’t just an American thing: 63% of consumers globally told Accenture that they prefer to purchase goods and services from companies that stand for a purpose that aligns to their own values and beliefs and will avoid companies that don’t. It’s good business to be good. But more importantly, if consumers are choosing to do business with values-driven, socially-responsible companies, eventually, the cumulative power of those choices should eventually mean a greener, safer, more compassionate planet.

Personally, I have been so inspired of late by companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods choosing to abandon the lucrative sale of guns, Laurence Fink’s letter to the CEOs of the world’s largest public companies asserting BlackRock’s intent to do business with only socially responsible companies going forward, despite potential impact on profitability, or even Nike’s alignment with Colin Kaepernick despite the diverse viewpoints of its consumers. We have only started to see companies donning White Hats and doing what they think is the right thing, having determined that the societal benefits outweigh the corporate risks. I can’t wait to see who will be next to join the party.

So, it sounds like you have witnessed more companies thinking about having a positive impact these days.  

Yes! goodDog is a B Corp (a private certification issued to for-profit companies legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment), and our community has grown to include more than 2,500 companies in over 50 countries. And the movement’s growth to include publically traded companies worth billions indicates that the momentum towards shifting the balance between purpose and profit is here to stay. In just this last year, Danone North America and Athleta (owned by Gap, Inc.), for instance, have earned B Corp status, which isn’t easy. This says to me that even the largest companies on Earth are doing the hard work to make a positive impact on the planet we share. In a messy world where governments can’t seem to get their acts together to make things better for most, it seems businesses are picking up the slack more and more. This gives me much needed hope.

Do you have any advice for how inclusive business entrepreneurs can differentiate their companies and build trust with their customers?

Differentiation has three manifestations: product, consumer target, and message. So, first, don’t make a “me too” product. Look for a problem that needs solving, that no one is already solving or is being solved insufficiently, and address it by making a product or service that’s inherently unique. Secondly, talk to someone that no one is talking to, that no one is even thinking about. In fact, isn’t this what inclusive business is all about? Find the underserved population and serve them, making something that resonates with them. And lastly, check out your competitors’ messages. Don’t say what they’re saying! Be relatable, relevant, respectful and most importantly, real. If what you’re saying isn’t 100% true, people will smell it.

From your experience, what is essential when it comes to making a pitch and why?

When you’re a business built on ethos—on doing the right thing—there’s nothing more important than showing your heart to the people you’re pitching. Help your audience believe you. Make the case for why working with you, buying what you’re selling, is a win for the good guys. A win for the world, not just the bottom line. It’s hard to say no to that.

Lisa Hyman

Lisa is a co-founder and head of strategy/ideas for goodDog, a brand and business consultancy headquartered in New York. She and her team counsel mid-stage, high velocity, mission-driven companies, helping them find and reach their targets through differentiated positioning, resonant messaging, and meaningful innovative integrated campaigns that accelerate growth and generate brand love. Prior to goodDog, Lisa was a partner at integrated marketing agency LeadDog Marketing Group, a literary agent and an incubator of digital sports and entertainment businesses at IMG, and a member of the WNBA's launch team. In her various roles, she's won a Gracie Award for women-focused content innovation; a b Corp B Economy Leadership Award for dedication to building the Business for Good movement; written for screen, print, and President Clinton; and had a photo of a bank robber published in The New York Times.

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Table of contents

graphic summary

GRAPHIC SUMMARY

A visual summary of the key challenges entrepreneurs need to consider when it comes to making the inclusive business case. Learn more about these aspects by reading this fourth edition of the newly developed online magazine on inclusive business! The…

editorial

UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF INCLUSIVE BUSINESS REQUIRES COLLECTIVE ACTION: LEARNING FROM OUR SUCCESSES AND FAILURES TO MAKE THE CASE AND DRIVE SCALE

Through her experience developing an agricultural inclusive business in Nigeria, Nwuneli has seen how her company’s commitment to “doing well and doing good” creates a competitive advantage and drives impact. She offers four key insights for making the case for inclusion.

Ndidi O. Nwuneli

featured story

As inclusive business trends towards mainstream, we must move the target

While inclusive business might not yet be at a tipping point, making the business case certainly has gotten easier—so, let’s use that momentum to strategize, collaborate, and scale for impact.

Dana Gulley

Planetary boundaries among reasons we need inclusive business, says former Unilever CEO

Polman is clear-sighted that the world needs inclusive growth, and it needs it now. Citing widespread damage to our environment and gross inequality, Polman describes the business success Unilever has seen over the past ten years using a purpose-driven, multi-stakeholder model.

Inclusive business creates opportunity at every level

Kahlmann shares insights on how the inclusive business case has evolved over time—from social responsibility and mitigating risk to the opportunity for growing profitability. She offers specific advice for social entrepreneurs, like the importance of focusing on small pilots to start.

Finding and articulating your purpose to make the case to your customers

Hyman’s marketing firm helps mission-driven companies drive growth by focusing their story-line on a single framework for their brand. Her advice for entrepreneurs who are pitching their businesses? Among other things, show your heart.

Embedding sustainability through purpose, transparency, and commitment

Meezan shares the story of Interface, a company whose purpose-led journey has driven them to be leaders in sustainability across their industry. She offers inspiration and wise words for intrapreneurs who want to effect change in their own organizations.

Policy changes have big impact on inclusive business in the Philippines

Through Asec. Fe’s work with the Board of Investments, the Philippines has prioritised inclusive business, making it a “pioneer in the region.” Governments can create the enabling environment for inclusive business, but as Asec. Fe explains, policy change takes patience and perseverance.

Companies are proving business growth alongside increased value for stakeholders

Turner discusses DSM´s purpose-led strategy, which places sustainability and inclusivity at its core. Without such an approach, in the next ten years, Turner argues that businesses will lose their license to operate.

Value generation and competitive advantage are key to making the case

Social entrepreneur Kamal Quadir launched bKash—a mobile money platform—just under a decade ago. Its impact on Bangladesh has been dramatic, with 31 million customers utilising the service today. Quadir offers advice to other social entrepreneurs looking to make an impact on society.

Scaling best practices to sustainably lift the livelihoods of the poor

Blumenthal often has to explain what makes the Social Ventures Foundation’s EndPoverty Fund different from other social impact funds. He details his foundation’s unique approach, like focusing on scale through social and micro-franchising and offers his perspective on the inclusive business space.

Beyond the Business Case - From the Why to the How

Kakar and Beard share important lessons learned on how to implement inclusive business ideas—from identifying a need to adjusting your business model and identifying key partners for success.