01 Jun How to create an ethical marketing strategy
As an impact business, you need an ethical marketing strategy to raise awareness, drive sales and make the income and impact you need to bring your vision to life.
You’re working hard in your impact business to protect the environment, invest in communities and support inspiring causes – because you care about our home and you want to see people and planet thrive.
You’ve built ethical supply chains, reduced as much negative environmental impact as you can and found ways to give back to good causes.
Now it’s time to tell the world about your offer so you can attract your ideal customers and make the positive impact you dream of.
To truly bring change to life, ethical brand owners need to break out of their echo chamber and become leaders for their cause. An ethical marketing strategy will do that for you.
Selling more ethical and sustainable products into the mainstream will help us change the tide of mass consumption and encourage more businesses to operate with a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
With an ethical marketing strategy driving your business, you will:
- Attract your ideal customers and turn them into raving fans
- Increase your social media engagement, extend your reach and get your message into the mainstream
- Enjoy attention from journalists and the press who will market your business for free
- Bring a constant stream of income into your business which pays the bills, increases your impact and allows you to sleep soundly at night without worry
- Spend more time doing the work you enjoy and giving back to the causes close to your heart
What is an ethical marketing strategy?
Think of your marketing strategy as a roadmap to your customers.
There are many different marketing tools, channels and techniques you could use to reach your customers and make sales. A marketing strategy will help identify the most effective ones for your business.
An ethical marketing strategy covers two things:
What you market (ethical and sustainable products and services) and how you market (sales techniques without the sleaze!)
Ethical marketing focuses not only on how your offer benefits your customers, but also how it benefits the social or environmental causes you support.
An ethical marketing strategy will also consider how you can market your offer in an ethical way. In other words, using honest techniques to attract people who could genuinely benefit from your offer – not relying on spammy or sleazy techniques to make a quick sale.
Ethical marketing strategies treat customers with respect and focus on long term growth – working with our customers to create a better world by selling responsibly made products and services that have a positive impact for good causes.
This might include avoiding manipulative techniques like creating false scarcity, or only choosing to work with advertising outlets that align to your values.
Why do you need an ethical marketing strategy?
Traditionally, to sell more stuff and make more profit, companies have relied on advertising to convince consumers that the latest product or trend is the key to our happiness.
That’s led to a lot of unethical marketing practices!
Imagine how many companies would go out of business, for example, if women were able to love their bodies just as they are – instead of stocking up on “anti aging”, “low fat”, “cellulite busting” beauty products in the never ending search for the “perfect” bikini body.
Deep down we know that material goods aren’t the key to happiness, but advertising messages are carefully tailored to human psychology – so even the most resilient shoppers can’t resist.
And all that consumption is creating more demand for faster, cheaper production which is harming people, animals and the planet.
As a responsible brand, you’re already operating in line with your values, with an ethical and sustainable supply chain and more respect for your customers.
You’ve got a vision for a better world. To make that a reality, we need to change our buying habits.
As an ethical business owner, you can lead the way by changing the way you market your offer.
It is entirely possible to promote the “buy less, buy better, make it last” mentality at the heart of sustainable living and make a profit.
That’s what an ethical marketing strategy can do for you.
A new way of marketing for a new market
The statistics speak for themselves. According to Ethical Consumer Magazine, the UK ethical clothing market increased by 19.9% and ethical food & drink was up 16.3% as more people switched to vegetarian products.
This incredible growth comes at a time of falling retail sales — a clear sign that consumers are eager to switch to products with a social and environmental purpose!
The question is: are they switching to yours?
Big brands like Adidas, Unilever and Iceland Foods are waking up and coming to play in our space.
As the September issue of Elle UK shows, “ethical and sustainable” is no longer niche.
According to Trendwatching, “it’s now simply assumed your organisation is working to reduce its impact. For example, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced in October 2018 that over 250 organisations, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever and H&M, had signed its pledge to eliminate single-use non-recycled plastics by 2025.”
Whether your brand will survive in this wave of change depends on your marketing. Inc. reports on an international 2017 survey in which more than one in five said they’d “actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing.”
It’s important that your brand is set up to thrive.
Because if you don’t make the change you long to see, who will?
How to create an ethical marketing strategy for your impact brand
Ethical marketing strategies aren’t about creating a false sense of demand for your products or services and making customers want more things – they’re about noticing what demand is already there and making things your customers need.
As an ethical brand, you’ve already got that covered by your offer – so how can you find and reach the right customers?
Identify your ideal customer
Understanding your ideal customer is the foundation to any successful marketing strategy.
When you know who your ideal customer is, you can:
- Show up in the right places, online and in person, to attract their attention
- Know what topics will start a conversation and keep them engaged
- Understand what they’re looking for and help them solve their problems
- Analyse why they buy from you and stop second guessing yourself
- Build a relationship with them and turn them into repeat purchasers and raving fans
How much easier would it be if you knew what your customer is thinking?
You could tailor your marketing directly to them to make sure their experience with your brand is spot on, every time.
You’d keep them coming back for future purchases because you’d know exactly how to make them happy.
Your sales would increase and your impact would soar.
The right ethical marketing strategy can’t make you clairvoyant, but it can connect you with your customers in a way that still achieves these results.
Customer profiling is about more than just demographic information.
Understanding someone’s age range, income level and geographical location might not be as helpful as you think – because your customers come in all shapes and sizes.
What unites them goes deeper than demographic profiling.
If you really want to understand and reach your customers, you need to know their motivation and the desired outcome they’re looking for.
A 75 year old grandmother might buy the same zero waste shampoo bar as her 16 year old granddaughter if they both care about reducing plastic in the ocean.
Understanding their age (demographic information) will help you tailor the language, cultural references and visuals you use in your campaign, but understanding their motivations and values will help you build a connection on a much deeper, more emotional level.
The greater clarity you have about who your ideal customer is and what they care about, the more focused, targeted and effective your marketing efforts will be.
Building an ethical marketing strategy isn’t a one time task. You’ll be learning more about your ideal customer as long as you’re in business, and every interaction with them is an opportunity for further information gathering.
The more information you have, the easier it will be to delight your customer, turn them into raving fans and keep them coming back for more.
Understand what problem you solve
For the grandmother and her granddaughter buying plastic free shampoo, the core problem is the same.
They’re heartbroken to see the amount of plastic in the ocean and, instead of feeling powerless, they want to make a positive change and reduce the waste in their day to day lives.
It’s a compelling message, but it won’t sell your product alone.
There’s still an attitude/behaviour gap when it comes to ethical purchases – people say they want ethical and sustainable products (and xx% say they’re willing to pay more for them) – but most consumers still aren’t putting their money where their mouth is.
Your ethical and sustainable credentials won’t sell your offer alone.
Your ethical marketing strategy still needs to identify what problem you solve for your customer – beyond the feel good factor.
If they don’t trust that your plastic free shampoo can give them strong, shiny, beautiful hair, then they’re not going to buy it – no matter how environmentally friendly it is.
In fact, your customers might not be motivated by your ethical and eco credentials at all! Perhaps you’re going after a more mainstream market in the hopes of helping them switch to more planet friendly options.
In which case it’s even more important to understand what kind of results they’re looking for.
The most powerful way to do this is to examine how your customer wants to feel.
If they’re buying a new outfit, a beauty product or even an eco friendly holiday from you – how are they hoping that your offer will transform them, solve their problem and shift their emotional state?
Building an ethical marketing strategy is all about understanding, reaching and connecting with your ideal customer.
Start by answering these questions:
- Why would someone buy your product or service? What results does it achieve for them?
- What are the added benefits – i.e. the good causes you support or the values you align with?
- Who is struggling with the problem that your offer solves?
- Where are they hanging out, online and offline?
- What do they need to know about you, your offer, your business and your cause before they can be ready to buy?
Tell your story to create connection
There are hundreds of stories within your business that you can use to create connection with your ideal customers.
You might tell your founder story – the personal journey you’ve been on to start this business. How you saw a problem, found inspiration and overcame obstacles to get to where you are today.
People buy from people, so sharing your story openly, honestly, including the highs and lows is a great way to build trust and gain support.
You could tell the story of the people in your supply chain, or the people who benefit when you give back to good causes. If potential customers feel like part of your impact journey, they are more likely to want to support you.
You might even tell the story of your customer. The problems they’re currently battling and how your product or service can help them overcome these obstacles. You could do this through case studies of people you’ve worked with in the past, or by highlighting the benefits of your offer. Paint an inspiring picture of life after they’ve made a purchase if you want to encourage them to buy!
I first discovered the world of social enterprise when I spent the summer of 2011 volunteering in Sierra Leone, working on community development and microfinance projects. It was an incredible experience, a beautiful country and I met some amazing people.
But the trauma of the country’s past was still very much present in everyday life, and people were facing so many challenges to achieve things that at home we take for granted.
When I came back to the UK I felt powerless and overwhelmed. All around me it felt like consumption was raging out of control, making things worse for people and the planet.
There are major problems in the world and as one small person, how would I ever be able to help?
The overwhelm left me burying my head in the sand, quickly becoming swept back up into the ever-changing trends of fast fashion, and following a corporate career in marketing.
Without meaning to, I lost sight of my desire to create change, because I didn’t see how it was possible.
That all changed in 2015. I went to Cambodia – another beautiful and eye opening destination – and it was there that I had a lightbulb moment.
As I was getting dressed one morning, I noticed the label on my trousers read ‘Made in Cambodia’, and it made me pause.
Somewhere in the world – in the country I was currently in, someone was making these clothes. Not a robot, but a real person.
That’s when it hit home – if I was paying less than the cost of a coffee for my clothes, what was the woman making them being paid?
When I came home and started to research, I became increasingly aware of the exploitation in the fashion industry, of issues like modern slavery, the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,134 people – many of them low paid garment workers for high street brands, and the damaging environmental impact of my choices.
I decided that I would no longer be part of the exploitation by continuing to purchase in this way. Instead, I would vote with my wallet and align my spending to my values, becoming an advocate for the women working in the garment factories by using my purchasing power.
Through small changes to my fashion habits, I began to feel empowered as an ethical consumer, but I knew I still had much to learn. On social media, I connected with others who offered advice about ethical living, and I felt less alone.
By starting an online community as a welcoming place for people to learn more about ethical living, I also began connecting with ethically-focused small business owners who were encouraging responsible consumption, upholding ethical and sustainable standards and representing my vision for how business could be.
My corporate career in marketing, which was focused on selling products and services for as much profit as possible, had begun to make me feel uneasy, but through conversations with my new online connections, I came to realize that I could offer valuable skills to these ethical businesses – to help them share their story and encourage others to adopt more responsible lifestyles.
As a digital marketing strategist, I knew I could find the people making positive change happen, and the businesses doing good, and help them get seen and heard.
I never want anyone to feel the powerlessness and overwhelm that I did – in their business, or for the causes they care about. Now I help changemakers release that fear, embrace their voice for change and create ethical marketing strategies that turn them into thought leaders for their cause.
How does this help me market my business?
When I first started telling my story, I worried that I wasn’t “ethical enough”, or that people wouldn’t trust me as an expert because I was new to the space.
So I began talking about all the things I was learning and connections I was making. Over time, as my knowledge grew, I became more confident sharing the information I was gathering on my blog and social media.
In 2017, a journalist from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme called me, inviting me to appear on the show to debate ethical living, against a professor from London School of Economics. At first, I was filled with imposter syndrome and told myself I couldn’t do it, but I knew it was a fantastic opportunity to attract new people to the #EthicalHour community, and a way to show people like me – feeling overwhelmed and powerless – that the small steps you can take are important.
As my audience on social media grew, so did the press opportunities. I was invited to add expert comment to articles on plastic pollution, recycling and various topics that I was learning about. I began writing about my ethical living journey for publications like Causeartist, Huffington Post and Thrive Global, and Natural Mumma Magazine invited me to be a monthly columnist for them.
Ethical Consumer Magazine, the British Association of Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS) and Social Enterprise Mark CIC invited me to speak at their annual conferences, Blue Patch invited me to present their Sustainable Brand Award, and I even started winning awards of my own – like Green & Eco Influencer of the Year 2018.
In 2019, the UK Government invited me to be an ambassador for their Year of Green Action campaign.
These opportunities were all helping to establish me as a trusted expert in the ethical and sustainable space. People were discovering me in articles, at events and on the radio, and coming back to my website to find out more.
My ideal customer is an ethical business owner, but that means they’re also trying to live more ethically and sustainably too – so by talking about the topics they’re interested in, I could attract them into my world and show them how I can help.
On my website and social channels they found a combination of lifestyle advice and marketing tips, and when new clients began reaching out to me, they would always say how glad they were to find a marketer who “totally gets” the ethical side of their business and the struggles their customers are going through on their journey to live in an ethical way – as well as the ethical marketing strategy.
Telling my story in an open and authentic way built trust with my audience, showed them that I understand them and positioned me as the right person to support with their ethical marketing strategy.
You might worry that you don’t know enough about a subject to be the “go to” expert – but you can still share your journey and the things you’re learning along the way.
It’s not about having 20 years of experience – even if you’ve got 2 years of experience, there will be people behind you on the journey who could benefit from the knowledge you have and understanding the mistakes you made, so they can avoid them.
Build a sales funnel
You can have the most inspiring story in the world, but it won’t do anything for your business if nobody hears it!
There’s a lot of hype in the online world about sales funnel, and I wouldn’t blame you if you rolled your eyes or felt confused at the thought.
Simply put, a sales funnel is the journey someone goes on – from being a complete stranger with no prior knowledge of your brand, to becoming a paying customer and raving fan.
In the ethical and sustainable space, where conscious consumers carefully consider every purchase, it can take a long time for people to complete this journey.
An ethical marketing strategy enables you to guide them through, step by step, giving them the information and support they need at each stage to help with their purchase decision.
For example, it’s not enough to rely on social media to sell your offer. Thanks to the algorithms, organic reach has declined – which means your posts get seen by less people unless you pay. You can’t guarantee that someone will see everything you post in the order you post it – even if they’ve chosen to follow you.
Social media is great for raising awareness of your brand, but you should see it as the initial handshake in your introduction – not the crux of the entire customer journey or the place to sell directly to them.
Likewise, you might make lots of new contacts at networking events or trade fairs, but if you don’t have a way to keep in touch with the people you meet, then you’ve got no way of turning them into paying customers unless they’re ready to buy from you on the day – and most people won’t be.
An effective ethical marketing strategy will span several platforms to raise as much awareness as possible, and funnel people onto a mailing list so you can contact them regularly, keep in touch and give them the information they need at each stage.
Whether you do this by direct mail or email will depend on who your ideal customer is and how they prefer to hear from you.
Other marketing channels like your blog, videos, podcast, press appearances etc will support the customer journey as a way of delivering the information your potential customer needs – but it’s your job to make sure they see it.
Often when building ethical marketing strategies, brand owners focus too much on what content they’re going to create and where they’re going to post it – and not enough on how they’re going to get their ideal customer to see it. Don’t make this mistake!
Mailing lists are another area of hype in the digital marketing world – with some “gurus” saying you can’t make sales with less than 10,000 subscribers.
As an ethical marketing strategist I’m here to tell you that’s not true. I’ve build marketing strategies that have generated sales revenue for brands with less than 300 followers and subscribers – the key to a successful ethical marketing strategy is to understand who your ideal customer is and what they need.
Track your success
Marketing strategies are part science, part art. They require a lot of creativity and trial and error to get things right. Which means that tracking your progress is essential.
You can’t improve what you’re not measuring.
Thankfully there’s a lot of data available – especially on digital channels like social media, your website and email marketing – to help you understand what’s working and how to do more of it.
By monitoring which blog posts are read the most, which social posts get the most engagement, which websites send the most traffic your way and which emails get the most opens, you can spot patterns that will help you improve your future content creation.
Pay attention to who engages with your posts and opens your emails the most – these are your warmest leads and it’s a sign that they might be ready to buy.
Watch which topics perform well for you and experiment with different formats and styles for your content to increase reach and engagement.
By digging into my Facebook Page insights recently, I learnt that my best performing posts are written opinion pieces about ethical and sustainable news and current affairs.
For example, my post about Primark coming under investigation by the UK parliamentary review for their environmental impact reached 3,000 people. And my post exposing the little green dot recycling symbol reached 17,000! But a post about my own impact only reached 200 people in comparison.
This means that whenever a news story breaks in my sector, I look for an angle I can use to share it on my page and expand my reach, because I know it’s the type of content which engages my Facebook audience the most.
I’ve then tailored other parts of my page (like my cover photo, about information and action button) to lead visitors on to the next stage in my funnel once I’ve caught their attention.
Don’t forget to talk to your customers regularly too! Use tools like Typeform or Survey Monkey to find out why people purchased and why they didn’t, what they love about your product and what they’re still struggling with – so you can better serve them.
Make the most of social media polls on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram Stories to get a feel for what your audience needs from you and how you can help with their buying decision.
Your ethical marketing strategy in action
An ethical marketing strategy won’t make you an overnight success. Impactful, ethical marketing is all about consistent action for long term results. It doesn’t sound as sexy as all those “gurus” promising you a ‘6 figure launch’, but it’s the key to building a sustainable business with world changing impact.
Investing your time in the planning, consistency and tracking behind an ethical marketing strategy will help attract your ideal customer and nurture relationships with them that lead to sales, word of mouth marketing and a bigger collective impact.
You can make your ethical marketing strategy even more effective by:
- Setting goals with soul, that focus on the important metrics in your business – your finances, your audience and your impact
- Consistently creating content that tells your story, connects with your audience and establishes you as the trusted expert
- Celebrating your impact journey and using it to inspire customers and collaborators to support you
You have a big, beautiful vision for how the world could be, and your business is the tool to bring that to life.
But to make that happen, you need a community of loyal customers ready to support you, and a strategy to grow your income so you can maximise your impact.
You’re driven by values, so you’ve already got a powerful impact story to tell. When you turn your story into an ethical marketing strategy, you can connect with like-minded people, generate sales and maximise your positive impact on people, planet and profit.
Need help with your ethical marketing strategy?
As an ethical marketing strategist I’ve worked with over 600 small business owners and social entrepreneurs, helping them find their purpose, define their vision and apply proven ethical marketing strategies to grow their business.
There is a particular mindset that exists across thriving ethical businesses — and you’ve got it: you already know that investing into your marketing is critical to the success of your business and your mission.
I’ve developed my strategic, ethical approach for people just like you.
It has the power to:
- Generate simple, practical ideas for your marketing activity as a small business owner
- Make it easy to for you to see how to take an idea and apply it to your own business
- Fast-track your growth with plenty of sensible information and sound, implementable advice — jargon-free and easy to make sense of
- Take your ethical and sustainable products mainstream, and position you as a trusted industry leader
… all delivered in a personable, intelligent and authentic style, infused with a whole lot of empathy and humanity.
I run my own successful social impact marketing business, so I know what it takes to build a purpose-driven brand from the ground up.
I support entrepreneurs that want to make a dent in the universe: for example by reducing waste, bringing financial support to disadvantaged communities and helping families reduce their environmental footprint. Through my guidance, they find successful ways to express their purpose, embed their values and enhance their positive impact.
My clients are celebrating amazing results…
- making their first sales to strangers within days of launching their brands
- travelling around the world to showcase their work
- appearing in major press publications
- winning awards
- getting their products featured by influential celebrities for free
- increasing sales by 78%, and
- making an incredible impact for the causes they care about.
“I truly feel like I’m building my community”
“Before working with Sian, I was creating all this content without any idea how to make it all work together. I had lead magnets, email sequences, social media posts, and blog content – but none of it was connected in a way that converted to clients or sponsors. Everyone I spoke to kept recommending I create more content!
I was exhausted and feeling burnt out. I knew I was missing the big picture but being a solopreneur I was in the weeds unable to figure out why all this content wasn’t working. I needed a break from creating new content and a system to repurpose what I already had.
Now I have a very tidy sales funnel that I love. It doesn’t feel spammy or pushy. It feels like me having a conversation with another human being. My brand is all about relationships and community, so this is very important! Engagement is up on my podcast-guest-to-client funnel. More of my Instagram followers convert to listeners, too.
One unexpected win was the relief I feel knowing I have a system in place.
Setting clear goals and putting the proper content in place made the biggest difference for me — rather than creating “because you have to”. It’s a major shift. Thanks to Sian, I’m not feeling the stress of creating ALL the time.
Instead, I feel good knowing I have the tools in place to promote my services to my ideal clients.”
— Katie Jones, Founder of K80Jones Copywriting and the Food Heroes Podcast
Your ethical marketing strategy is just a short call away
Whether you want it “done for you” or “done with you”, your impact-driven marketing strategy will make a big positive difference for your business.
- You’ll find your ideal customers
- Make strong connections with them
- And you’ll be able to sell more products — all in an honest and ethical way
When that happens, you can bring in more income and use it to maximise your impact.
But unlike other marketing strategists, I don’t want you to wait 4 or 5 weeks before you “maybe, sort of” feel that working with me was a good investment.
Book your free Discovery Call now, ask your questions, and make plans to celebrate your first “aha!” moment during our 20-minute conversation.
If you don’t feel like I can help you multiply your investment after our call, there’s absolutely zero risk for you.
“Sian is great! She is warm, welcoming, concise and really knows what she is talking about. That discovery call alone was well worth it! Sian is generous with information and her time so if you’re thinking about it, book a discovery call!”
– Kaite Milicich, Take The Tote