Are SMEs hiding their light under a bushel?

In the latest of a succession of occasional guest blogs written ~ dint of. Kieron Hayes, friend of Nicholas Hythe Kitchen Design Studio, he looks at the universal of 'Community' rather than 'Corporate' Social Responsibility and shows in what condition small businesses can turn what they're even now doing into a way of growing business.

It's been around as the 60s and goes under a contain of guises, but Corporate Social Responsibility has to all appearance never had a more tarnished representation of an object than it has today. From Union Carbide, from one side Enron and all the way up to BP and the Bankers it's ended little to prevent a shoddy chronicle of corporate irresponsibility that, in person way or another, we've wholly ended up paying for.

For the final decade I've talked to duty owners about CSR, written reams of corporate literature that referenced it and seen the exponential shooting of web pages on corporate sites dedicated to it. But lmost free from exception, from a small business vista, it's been off the radar or in the words of one business owner I met, "it's got in no degree to do with me, I'm not a in~d."

I think that he's erroneously, however, and I see a positive opportunity for small business owners in exact, to take ownership of the concept - with a slight tweak! In truth I think many of them are even now doing it, even if they slip on't think that they are.

So which's the tweak? One word and a vary of focus is the answer.

I regard that SME owners need to institute thinking in terms of Community Social Responsibility and reasoning faculty just how significant reputation is at the time that it comes to the bottom short letter. After all, the reputational stock of inflated business is as low as a snake's belly button at the point of time. And what little trust the medium Joe had in corporations has been regularly eroded over the lifetime of the CSR universal by a succession of business scandals, not to cursory reference the unedifying conspicuous consumption of the 'Feral Elite'.

I determine that current consumer dissatisfaction with 'full' business is a fertile furrow during smaller firms to plough - and person that can make a real stroke on the success or otherwise of some business venture. To truly appeal to today's hawk-eyed consumer - who are often in tenure of an acute environmental awareness - businesses should have ~ing actively seeking to promote their Community Social Responsibilities to customers at every opportunity.

And, of course, there are manifold ways in which they can consummate this. As with most business concepts individual size certainly doesn't fit total, so I think it's trying that SME owners give some positive thought to how they get their CSR certificates across to existing and potential customers.

Some firms take a sincerely holistic approach to embedding their CSR awareness athwart all of their communications activities. Nicholas Hythe, a Kitchen Design Studio that I've been acting with recently, is one firm that certainly gets the whole CSR thing. It realised at the opening that reputation and what its grade represented were crucial elements when it came to fabric customer trust and growing the employment.

Take a look at the blog that Ross, the resolute's boss, recently published (found in the father's bio).

As the blog acknowledges, in that place's much to value in in the same manner-called Communities of Interest and it moreover clearly recognises that in the arising from traffic world no man is an island and every business is inter-conditioned upon the companies that it collaborates through to achieve success, and customer reparation.

But it's by no shift the only way that the established highlights its CSR credentials. Its website is packed by information about environmental policies, recycling opportunities, the 'topical' focus of the company, and of run after, plenty of testimonials from satisfied customers. Now I'm not suggesting that each company has the inclination, or indeed the time and resources, to communicate such a clearly defined fixed of CSR principles as a radical element of how it does office, but I would advise other SMEs to become up and take notice.

Even incorporating human being or two of the elements that Nicholas Hythe uses in its implied and real world activities can better other businesses to strengthen the customer perception that 'this is an equipment that I'd be happy to carry into practice business with.'

Take this section of the Airco Bathrooms situation for instance;

It's frank stuff, but it's the issue of stuff that will help other customers to constitute an informed choice about where they self-reliance spend their hard-earned cash. It puts a human stand over against on the company. Like everyone else, I would prefer to deal with a real person rather than a faceless organisation, thus I'd venture that this pattern of web presence can have a truly positive impact on customer perceptions.

And they're not alone, of round. I particularly like this page attached the Purelybeds site:

It takes 'personalisation' to the nth quality and makes a virtue of the individual behind the business. It does a sum up of things to help win the commit of the customer. It's obviously a kindred business, always a good selling state. The people behind it are clearly passionate about what they do, and given Mike's Dad's ample experience, knowledgeable as well. And ultimately, it does so with a understanding of humour - even managing to go a 'brand virtue' out of a regional stereotype!

But let's not be fooled into reflecting this is only something you be possible to do on the 'corporate' web. It would have existence ridiculous to overlook the significance of Social Media whenever it comes to communicating brand values and the firms I've mentioned overhead cleverly exploit the medium to their acknowledge business ends.

Through blogging, Twitter updates and facebook pages smart companies exploit every opportunity to secure their message across and bolster what their brand and business methods are founded on the subject of.

I've seen plenty of other mean firms using facebook to do the similar. A friend of mine who has his allow computer repair business uses facebook well-nigh exclusively to promote his services. He concentrates up~ the 'personal' service he provides from head to foot his facebook activities, highlighting the deed that he's local, offering discounts to Students and OAPs and, of race, capitalising on the messages posted through satisfied customers on his profile. All of which, I would venture, contribute massively to the confide in his customers place in him.

And suffer's not forget the real earth. I know a builder, for solicitation, that's been in business in favor of more than 14 years and always has a full appointments book. He does calling purely on recommendation and in everything of his years trading has in no degree once had to advertise for vocation. He's solid, trustworthy and flexile when it comes to giving the customer exactly what they want, and over all he's a terrific guy who people warm to, something that should at no time be underestimated!

So how can you bed Community Social Responsibility into your activities? I cogitate the 5 points below are a lofty starting point:
•Actively promote your CSR credentials - make it plain to customers that you're committed to doing that which you do responsibly
•Talk about positive people - personalise your business and permit your satisfied customers promote your employment
•Be flexible - give the customer what they want and take account of the things they rely upon are important; customer-led change is having a occult impact on the retail landscape
•Get a local focus - highlight the fact that you give to the local economy. Where potential use local suppliers and try to subsist a good citizen
•Never underestimate environmental impulse - socially conscious customers (who are many times well-heeled to boot) are increasingly workmanship choices based on minimising that drive firmly together.

Today's customers really do care who they're expenditure their money with and will think informed decisions about which company they destitution to do business with.

As my mother used to say, "there's nought new under the sun," and I suppose it's the same with Community Social Responsibility. Successful businesses wish been quietly doing it for years exclusively of necessarily realising it. So if you scarcity to increase your chances of prosperous issue as a business, get with the Community Social Responsibility plan, but more importantly tell your customers around it - it might just be the holdfast!

Read Kieron's musings on Twitter @kieronah