The Demand for Ethical Marketing
More and more customers in today’s world want to properly know a business before they make any sort of purchase. Effective marketing shouldn’t only talk about your product or service because customers often want more than the final outcome—how was the item produced? Is it recyclable or does it use recycled products? Is the product ethically sourced?
In a lovely dovetailing of the situation, small business owners and startups do care about the perceived ‘humanity’ of their brand. While profit may be a goal for an up-and-coming entrepreneur; it is rarely the only goal. The business was started to help solve a problem or offer a possible solution. In this way, the owners and the customers have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Ethical Marketing Practices
Building a business begins with a foundation of ethical values and personality in the same way that a barista making a drink has more hidden depths than can be discovered simply by buying a coffee. Effective marketing should help introduce customers to a business in the same way someone gets to know another person—Not only that, but it ensures that the business and customer interaction concludes in a way that encourages a further and friendly relationship between the two. Customer satisfaction means so much more when your business benefits from that satisfaction as well.
Principles of Ethical Marketing
Below are some key principles and a few examples for any business owner or solopreneur wanting to follow ethical marketing practices and keep their marketing strategies efficient. The best case is to use every principle, but each is an ethical choice on its own and embracing any single one makes the marketing ecosystem better as a whole.
One of the most important aspects of any relationship is honesty. A genuine connection and shared interest will keep people friends for a long time past the initial encounter. Ideally, your company and your customers can have a similar relationship.
Perhaps a friendship seems unlikely, but even a working relationship needs trust. If a business pretends to hold a certain value but the customer discovers that business doesn’t follow through on that value, that will damage how the business is viewed.
Honesty in marketing means that the images, descriptions, reviews, and any other content for your product or service is True. You want to keep this in mind for things like, pricing strategies, marketing campaigns, and it is easy enough to say what everyone wants to hear, to make promises, or to photoshop a picture–but these shortcuts cannot establish a relationship. It may foster a short-term interest, but customers see through these tactics; people see through them.
Speaking of seeing through things: transparency ties into a relationship in a similar way to honesty. You can think of transparency as a deeper level of honesty. For example, our company–Sentient Marketing– brands itself as an ethical marketing agency that supports the environment. And that is exactly what we believe and try to do. That is honesty. Our transparency comes from the effort we spend to become a part of 1% for the Planet or when we release an impact report about our company’s carbon footprint and the methods, we’re taking to offset it.
Saying what your company stands for is honesty, backing it up with the information is transparency. This information can be as much about the future goals of your brand as it is about the current issues it may be facing. Knowing the impact your business has on the local community and the world in general is the first step to being transparent about that impact.
Transparency is a tool by which a business can measure itself; whether the goal is to be carbon-neutral, to limit the end-of-life waste from products, or to donate more to the local or worldwide community. This is another long-term factor that allows a customer to see your brand history; where you started, what you have accomplished already, and where you mean to grow in the future.
It can be a challenge to set aside time to talk to customers through reviews or social media. Some businesses may utilize a simple emoticon or rote message to accomplish the task of responding to boost SEO. However, in the same way that a person can tell when a friend is distracted or not taking their problem seriously, customers might see these hasty, superficial answers or comments as the brand ‘waving off’ their issue as unimportant. Any person, particularly after taking the time to begin a conversation, wants to be heard. Your marketing communications can be a direct, positive link to an increase of customer loyalty.
Customers are a great resource; they can tell you what specifically made them buy a certain item, or what they’re seeing from other businesses that they like. Talking to customers genuinely will make them feel recognized and help keep you, the business owner, connected to the needs of your current and potential buyers. From there, it’s a simple matter of creating a marketing campaign that will show that your brand is listening.
Sympathize with Emotions and Problems
Each business begins with a problem they want to solve. Whether that’s a new and improved product or a helpful service, customers will be interested in purchasing that product to solve their problems. However, there is a thin line between sympathizing with and capitalizing on emotions in marketing.
Some people do want to commiserate about a problem they’re having, but they’re not likely to want to do that with a business. Negative marketing campaigns have become commonplace in today’s world but they’re not necessary. Your customers are aware of their problems and are looking to you for help. Instead of emphasizing how terrible the problem is, why not jump right into your solution and why it works?
That positivity and implicit understanding can be the difference between your brand and the competition; it’s easy enough to see with which the customer would rather partner. People truly want to do business with an authentic and genuine brand, it may as well be yours!
Be Intentional with your Content
When creating content for your brand, it’s easy to get caught up in the rapid flow of trends and want to put out TikTok’s or stories just to get it out into the world. We encourage you to be intentional with your content. This may mean slowing down your content calendar, but it will ensure that the media you put out will be adding value.
It is fun to see the creativity of a friend on Pinterest or Instagram, but if every day it’s the same sort of insubstantial thing, then it becomes easier to scroll on past to find something new. Your customers don’t just want a pretty filter on their screen, popular music, and bright colors–they want you and what your business brings to their lives through your marketing campaigns. If you can do that with a pretty filter and bright colors, all the more power to you: Just make sure you’re doing it on purpose.
Protect Consumer Data and Privacy
This point may feel a little silly, but privacy is an important issue for businesses and a growing concern for customers. With many websites tracking information for personalized or localized advertisements, potential buyers need to be able to trust your brand when they do business. In building a relationship with your customers, it is necessary to be clear about any future intent you may have with their proprietary or private information.
A great example of this internet can be found on every website in the form of a ‘cookie banner’. Letting customers choose to give the information is important but the method matters. When a business website offers the options of “No, I don’t want to share cookies” and “Open my settings”, they’re often betting on the fact that people would rather just click yes than get off the website to manually change which sites to allow or deny. Especially when that banner blocks access to the rest of the websites.
Keep your customers and their experience in mind when asking for permissions. Let them choose what they want to share and then do your utmost to protect that information. No company wants to be the bad friend who was entrusted with an important secret and spilled the beans. Especially when they promised not to tell
Focus on Your Own Product
It is a common marketing tactic to focus on the negative aspects of a competing product in order to make another look better by comparison—This sort of negative marketing can work in the short term but is likely to leave customers with a poor taste in their mouth.
However, it is important to get to know your competitors in order to find your ‘Unique Value Proposition.’ A Unique Value Proposition is the factor that makes your business special, the specialization that sets you apart from the rest. In researching–or even simply talking with–your competition, you have a better understanding of your own niche, and it may even be possible to collaborate if your competitors have complimentary values.
For Sentient, our unique value proposition within the circle of other ethical marketing agencies is our status as a 1% for the Planet Member. We focus on giving to environmental causes. Looking wider, Sentient is a marketing agency that is intentionally built to be a client’s marketing team. When clients come to us, we learn what they need and then bring those people into the fold. That’s what makes us unique.
Ethical marketing methods ask that you trust in the customer to choose the best product for themselves based on the information you provide. Coming to a friend to ask what they like about their new phone and getting a lecture on why the competition is garbage only serves to make the buyer less excited about any future purchases.
Overall Positive Impact
The simplest and perhaps most comprehensive point to remember when marketing is to make sure your lasting impact is a positive one. Look at each area of your company, your brand, your production and see if any part of it is costing something other than money. You can look into environmentally sustainable processes, or other eco- conscious practices like recycling and fair-trade products. Consider your personal ethics for the basis of your brand value and marketing ethics. Just be sure that in no place, in no way, is your business causing harm. This is likely easier said than done but the end goal is to minimize risks and maximize the numerous benefits for everyone involved.
The important aspect of this is that you are trying to practice ethical marketing. There are few startup businesses that are going to be able to donate the base membership amount for 1% for the Planet, and even fewer that will be eligible for a B Corp certification straight out of the gate. So, start small, start local, and do what you can while sustaining your business. A positive impact doesn’t have to be monetary.
Keep in touch with your community with posts or blogs about your future goals or current commitments. Talk about local fundraisers that you support and encourage your customers to get involved as well. You will be amazed at the difference you can make.
The Importance of Ethical Marketing
Though practicing ethical marketing may sound overly complicated or unnecessary, what it really comes down to is treating people well. Whether those people are your customers, your employees, your competition, or even yourself. Ethical marketing just means being honest, positive, and helpful.
At Sentient, we want to help you reach those goals in any way we can. Looking for more tips and information? Check out our website and Instagram. If all of this sounds great but you’re not sure where to start, send us a message! We specialize in branding and ethical marketing strategy aimed at conscious consumers and we’d love to help grow your business.