7 Marketing Lessons to Help Socially Conscious Brands to Stand Out
“I love your bag!” I exclaimed in the Starbucks at the Lihue Airport. It was a handwoven duffel bag with colorful embroidery.
She smiled wide. “Thanks!” She replied, “It’s by this amazing brand that does a lot of work with indigenous women, particularly in Peru. They’re fantastic.”
New brands appear in the socially conscious business space every week, but not all of them are talked about with this level of excitement.
It was more than just “buzz” for the business. It was buzz backed by genuine enthusiasm.
When I work with clients, that’s the level of buzz I want to reach for them. I want their audience members to forward emails, strike up conversations, and send links of their Instagram profiles on the spot.
I want them to be so excited about this person or this brand that they can’t stop talking about it.
But the marketing strategies and tactics to reach that level of buzz are often at odds with the values of socially conscious business leaders.
They don’t want to feel sleazy, clickbaity, or gross, so many of them shrink from the spotlight and share less of the cool thing they have to offer.
What they would prefer is a marketing framework that adds instead of depletes and that gives instead of takes. In short, they’re interested in subscribing to a kinder, more generous way of marketing their products and services.
If you fall squarely in that camp, then here are 7 fundamentals that I think every CEO and employee of a socially conscious business should know.
7 Must-Know Marketing Fundamentals for Socially Conscious Brands
1) Choose your marketing message based on attractiveness.
“But couldn’t the message be this, too?” I asked Kelly* over Zoom, exasperated by the feeling of being pigeonholed into having to choose one message to represent my client.
“It could,” Kelly calmly explained, “But which message would be most attractive to her ideal client?”
Bullseye. Marketing 101 strikes again.
When you have so many values that you hold dear and you’re the kind of leader who likes to dive into rabbit holes of research, one marketing message that encompasses everything can feel like it’s not enough or that it doesn’t represent everything you stand for -- especially when you’re tackling big social issues, like poverty or sex trafficking.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to.
What Kelly reminded me that day was that your marketing message -- the words you weave through everything you share -- exists to attract people.
Its goal is not to immediately educate them, to ask them for anything, or to entertain them.
It’s a targeted message that invites the right people to learn more about what you do.
Everything else: the education, the humor, the inspiration, the giving -- it can all be done with the rest of your content.
Be clear, concise, and targeted with your core marketing message.
2) Everything you say or create is infused with the energy in which you do it.
I’m not religious, but I believe in the power of prayer, which you can think of as setting an intention or seeking guidance. That’s why I do my best to remember to pray before I:
Send a Cold Hard Pitch
Write a blog post
Attend a client meeting
Compose social media posts
I must pray 20+ times a day as I go about my work because I think that everything I say or create will be infused with the energy in which I do it.
When I’m anxious, I write hurried, mindless content. When I’m stressed, my strategy has gaping holes. When I want to be anywhere other than where I am, my clients aren’t getting what they paid for.
And that, my friends, is not cool with me.
When I pray, I notice my insights have more soul, that I have more fun, and that everything I create is integrated with the overall goal of what we’re trying to accomplish.
And in the very least, pausing and breathing is never a bad idea.
3) Show up for your people.
“Whenever I miss a meeting with you, I can tell because I don’t know what to do next and I feel so disoriented,” my client confessed, “I appreciate this time with you every week so much.”
There are moments when I’m not sure if I’m doing a good job or impacting my client’s lives, and moments like these remind me that what is most important is that I keep showing up for my people.
I take the time to remember what’s happening in their lives, I thank them for working hard, and I connect them with the resources and people they need to move forward.
I don’t let them wonder if what we’re doing marketing-wise is working because I tell them what is and isn’t working every week, every month, every quarter. Obsessively.
And you know what happens? They show up for me, too. They work harder. They’re more present. They tell their friends about me.
So keep writing blog posts, keep posting on Facebook, keep creating excellent products, and keep delivering incredible service.
It all matters.
4) Create kindness.
I read an article that mentioned how, in her early days, Diane Von Furstenberg would send one email per day to support someone else. It’s a practice that she attributes to the success of her business, and I can see why.
Taking care of people works.
After I read that, I decided that I was going to do one kind, supportive thing per day. (Since I love structure, I scheduled it into my calendar for 1pm every single day.)
Some examples of kind things I did:
Wrote iTunes, Yelp, and Amazon reviews for podcasts I loved, positive experiences I’ve had, and books that have changed my life
Contributed to an entrepreneur’s ongoing Patreon campaign for between $1-$10 per month
Sent “hey, thanks for the work you’re doing!” emails
Shared about a stranger’s Kickstarter campaign
Took a nap
Sent “hey, just thinking of you -- how are you doing?” texts
Wrote this client / friend spotlight piece
Gave so many compliments
Let someone talk and really listened
Wrote “hey, here are four reasons you’re awesome and I’m glad you’re in my life” Christmas emails
I didn’t do them for any kind of return, but almost all of them had one. More than one gratitude email turned into direct revenue through establishing a collaboration. Others turned into new friendships and connections.
The more you help people feel appreciated and loved, the more you’ll feel appreciated and loved in return. And it’s damn good for business.
5) Share in real time.
It took me a loooong time to jump on the social media train because it seemed to me that people were using social just as another “hoo-ra, I made six figures, and I can show you how too and trust me because look at my fabulous life” marketing tactic.
I also thought it was a lot of white noise and that it would never convert as well as email.
While that might be true (email marketing still converts more favorably), it doesn’t mean that a more conscious alternative to using social media didn’t exist.
Now, more than ever, I see the significance of social media because it offers the creator, the business owner, or the employee to give life to their company. They can step away from the transactional or manufactured posts and share in real time.
Social media, particularly Instagram and Snapchat stories, offers brands a way to stay top of mind with their people.
If you allow it, this mentality allows you to shift away from lifeless, heavily edited, manufactured “sharing”.
6) To stand out with social, go where it’s quiet.
Who is the last person who followed you on Instagram? Was it a friend from college? Or was it “Brenda the Brand Strategist” whose feed is full of stock photos, motivational quotes, and opportunities for conversion?
I’m not putting “Brenda the Brand Strategist” down exactly, but I am trying to illustrate that her character is a dime a dozen on Instagram. She’s created a profile that’s clearly about attracting the most followers possible instead of the right followers. Sure, maybe she leaves comments like “Great feed!” or “Awesome 🙌, more content like this”, but she’s not actually engaging with anyone.
If you want to stand out on social media, you have to go where it’s quiet so you have a chance to create a real connection with someone. Instead of merely liking posts from an influencer you want to connect with, create a story with a quote of theirs that you love and tag them. Post a thoughtful comment on a post that you actually care about. Send a gratitude email. Share a link on your Facebook page to a podcast interview they did and tag them. Comment on their Facebook posts.
Where it’s quiet is always going to be changing, but use them to connect when you find them.
7) Gather meaningful metrics.
In a talk with Brian Clark and Scott Stratten, Ryan Deiss, the head of DigitalMarketer.com, talks about how he made conversions king over everything else in the early days of Internet marketing. He says, “Then one day I looked up and I took a step back and I went, ‘Wow, I’m kind of an asshole.’ I didn’t know how I got there. It was kind of that slow…”
There are some metrics that are given more weight than others because they directly demonstrate growth. But focusing just on those metrics can also make you an asshole.
I get how that might have happened. I love watching a conversion on a landing page tick upwards. And what I love even more is seeing how many of my past customers email me on Sundays, after I send an email, and start a conversation with me.
I adore getting my metric reports from my assistant extraordinaire on how much traffic came in this month, and what I think is even more interesting is counting how many acts of generosity I did that week.
Not everything we measure has to be transactional to make a difference, so why do we focus on those metrics?
Gather meaningful metrics, and watch the magic that happens.
*This is Kelly Diels, one of my marketing mentors.