Lessons in building a brand that exists for social good
Rewind to 2014. I was leading Responsible Business marketing at Deloitte and From Babies with Love had just been accepted onto the ‘Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers’ programme, which offered a package of support to a hand-picked selection of the UK’s most exciting social enterprises.
It was at this time I was lucky enough to be introduced to the From Babies with Love founder and CEO – Cecilia Crossley. Over the coming years I was able to help her become a parental leave supplier at Deloitte and even volunteer some time to support her fast-growing business during a career break.
Fast forward to 2019, and Cecilia has built a successful business selling a growing range of desirable baby gifts, working with 75 corporate clients to provide a parental leave gifting service, and supporting over 6000 children to date by distributing profits to two partner charities. So who better to chat to for the first instalment of my new blog series? Through interviews with inspirational social leaders, I’m aiming to share the lessons learned and marketing secrets driving the success of some of our most admired brands.
Lesson 1: You can do anything but not everything
From Babies with Love has a large customer base spanning both the highly competitive consumer baby gifting market as well as corporate clients. In the early days of the business Cecilia was faced with the difficult task of choosing the most valuable marketing activities to invest in. There was a risk that she could spread her time and budgets too thinly across multiple routes to market, with the result being a limited ultimate impact on the children she’d set out to support.
When we spoke the first learning Cecilia shared with me was the quote: ‘You can do anything but not everything’ – for marketing to be successful it must be both strategic and focused. It took Cecilia time to build up the evidence needed to focus her marketing efforts, and now invests mostly in the corporate market, where From Babies with Love is uniquely positioned.
None of From Babies with Love’s competitors offer the added value of a compelling parental leave gift service, which connects people and corporate responsibility strategies in a new and innovative way. So whilst Cecilia still invests sparingly in consumer marketing, a focused approach targeted directly to HR professionals is helping to build a loyal, high value client base for the business.
Lesson 2: Know your weaknesses
Cecilia has a background in accountancy, having started her career at KPMG before moving on to work with International Development charities, and then realising her ambition to set up a social enterprise.
With limited marketing knowledge, the last few years have been a steep learning curve for Cecilia. She told me about a direct selling experience at a ‘trendy’ new Christmas fair in Greenwich where the organisers had hugely mis-forecast projected footfall and nobody turned up. An expensive mistake but a lesson learned to always demand evidence of success before getting involved in new and untested initiatives.
Cecilia also candidly shared with me her struggles with social media, initially trying to manage multiple channels herself – ‘losing evening upon evening in a pointless game’ that made her hugely uncomfortable. She astutely told me ‘there’s something in conflict with the Britishness of humility and the shoutiness of social media marketing’. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and it can be tricky setting the right tone to promote a brand in an open and authentic way. Brand integrity is critical to customer loyalty – something that can take years to build and seconds to destroy on social media.
Lesson 3: Be authentic in your storytelling
Having realised social media was neither a strength nor a good use of her time, Cecilia now employs a part-time team member to manage the From Babies with Love channels. As both a social media expert and a mother of three, this new addition to the team has a brilliant grasp of the brand and is able to tell an authentic story that resonates with other socially conscious mums.
Cecilia has become savvy to the power of storytelling – having recently read the book ‘Story brand’ by Donald Miller, which promotes the ‘hero’s journey’ method of storytelling. She firmly believes her customers should be central to all her brand messaging, and this now underpins all From Babies with Love communications. Making little copy changes such as ‘you are helping..’ rather than ‘we are helping..’ can make a huge difference to consumer purchase decisions and loyalty. Ultimately the business should be positioned as a facilitator enabling empowered customers to help children in need.
So, Cecilia’s advice to other social leaders is to spend £10 at your local bookshop and buy the ‘Story brand’ book. For leaders with limited marketing knowledge it may just be the guidance needed to communicate your brand to customers in the most engaging way.
So what’s next in the From Babies with Love story? Exciting plans are afoot to support Musahar children in Nepal, who suffer extreme exclusion. Born trapped into bonded labour (a modern form of slave labour), literacy levels are a mere 3.8% for girls who are often married and already mothers in their early teens.
No doubt with Cecilia at the helm the business will continue to grow and thrive, providing vital support to even more children so urgently in need.
To find out more about From Babies with Love contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website.
Victoria Maltby is the founder of Dexter May, a strategic marketing consultancy for businesses with a social purpose.