Updated: Oct 31, 2020
Marketing sucks. There, I said it.
Marketing gets a bad rap for good reason: everywhere we look, we're being sold to. It's not just magazine ads and commercials. It's product placements on TV shows, YouTube ads you have to watch before you can see the cute puppy video, and sponsored Instagram posts masquerading as genuine content. Navigating it is exhausting.
Because of that, good humans—aka those running impact-driven businesses, humans like you—are reluctant to market. You don't want to drop down to the level of your less conscious competitors, but you also need to get yourself out there.
Marketing is a necessary piece of running a business. So how do you do it?
Well, I’ll tell ya. Here's my guide to marketing for good humans.
#1: Stick to your gut
First off, you stick to your gut. Always. Intuition is your best friend. It will tell you when you’re slipping towards the icky tactics you’re trying to avoid and when you’re getting excited because you’re doing something right. Get used to listening to your gut, because you’re going to need it in this marketing journey.
Marketing doesn’t have to be gross and slimy. It doesn’t have to be transactional, feeling like you’re using people for their money and then abandoning them. When you’re running an impact-driven business, the growth of your business translates to more impact. In that lens, growing your business actually becomes a revolutionary, benevolent act.
Take Newman’s Own, for example. I recently bought a package of their Hint-O-Mint sandwich cookies (which are bomb, by the way) and saw “100% Profits to Charity” on the package. I thought, “100%? There’s no way,” so I looked it up.
Guess what: yup. Newman’s Own created a foundation called the Newman’s Own Foundation. After expenses, salaries, taxes, etc, 100% of their profits go into that foundation, which is then donated to nonprofits and charitable programs around the world. They’ve donated over $550 million in the past 28 years. $550 million!
I’m sure they aren’t perfect or squeaky clean, but who cares?! They’ve donated $550 million to charities and nonprofits. Ya know how much Nabisco (owners of Oreos) donated in the past 28 years? I don’t, because I can’t find the information online. Which tells me it’s nothing to write home about.
By choosing one product over another, we as consumers are empowered to contribute to those charitable donations. Your business provides people the same opportunity.
Let me say that again for you: Your business (yes, yours!) gives people a chance to create a world they want to live in. They’re looking for opportunities to support impact-driven businesses. Your impact-driven business provides that opportunity.
Give people a chance to make that decision. Give people an opportunity to support a business that gives a damn. Tell them you’re out there and you’re getting to work.
#2: Go inward before you go outward
You know how saturated the internet is with content; you don’t need me to tell you. We’re all pretty damn tired of self-serving ads that are trying to make us feel shitty in order to buy something.
You’re not that person, and your marketing doesn’t have to follow suit. What inspires you? What are you curious about? What do you want to spend your time in inquiry about?
Those are the things that your audience wants to hear about.
Make a list of answers to those questions and you’ll have a list of content marketing pieces. When writing a blog, instead of telling people about something you did, tell them what you’re learning. Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers, that you’re in inquiry. Invite people to join you on your journey. Point them towards the source or person who’s teaching you.
Ready to get meta? I’m learning that translating my curiosities into blog posts is a great way to create content. That’s why I’m writing this post. And now I’m telling you that I don’t have all the answers and I’m still very much in inquiry. I’m inviting you to join me and learn with me. And now I’m going to point you towards someone who’s teaching me.
My communications icon Pattie Gonia provides examples of this concept all the time. Just today I saw a post examining a controversial conversation between Wyn (the owner of the account) and a Black woman claiming he stole ideas from her. Rather than backing away from the conversation, Wyn—who is an outspoken ally for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folx—dug into the conversation, acknowledging both where he was wrong and where he wants to stand up for himself.
That is hard to do. And I’m sure he’s receiving a TON of flack for it, especially in the community he’s curated of progressive folx who are both BIPOC and allies.
But him doing this is only increasing my interest in this account: it shows he’s here for the conversation. It shows he’s doing the exploration and showing up with what he’s learned. You can do the same.
#3: Capture rather than create
I completely get how daunting content marketing feels. I have the same blocks. I think the key is to capture rather than create from scratch. You’re already doing cool things, you’re already having interesting conversations with people. Capture that, polish it up a tiny bit, and use that as your content. There’s no need to take yourself out of the conversations you’re having in order to share content with your audience. (Again, this is exactly what I’m doing with this blog post.)
Integrate this practice into your routine by choosing a medium that you naturally enjoy and connect to. If you like talking, post Instagram stories, Facebook live videos, or YouTube videos. The benefit of things like Instagram stories is that they can be super raw and honest—no need to spend a ton of time editing. Take a snapshot of what you’re doing, explain what’s exciting to you right now in this moment, and throw it up on your profile. Done.
If you communicate better through writing, you can do the same thing with a newsletter, social media caption, or blog post. Apply the same principles: do it in the moment when you’re inspired, don’t worry too much about it being perfect, post, and move on.
Gasmoney Studios does a great job of this. They have a gorgeous photography studio in the old dry ice factory (it’s just underneath the Moxie shared studio space) that they rent out for photo and video shoots. Their Instagram is full of photos of the space and images from client shoots. Most of it is stuff taken for other purposes, then recycled for Instagram. They’re using their medium of choice (photography) and an endless supply of images from their everyday business practices to showcase their work.
If you have great ideas but get stopped at the implementation stage, collaborate. Form partnerships. Trade.
I’ve been collaborating with Kite + Dart, a business consulting group for Entrepreneurial Activists, on this very thing. The founder of Kite + Dart, Nate, is engaging and lively when talking, but he’s too busy to write blogs. We wanted to get his ideas out there because they’re brilliant and revolutionary, but knew he wouldn’t sit down to do it on his own. So we found a way to collaborate and bring his ideas to life.
First, we brainstorm topics. When it comes time to create a blog, I pick a topic and write a list of questions for Nate that dig into the meat of it. I know his ideas well enough by now to be able to ask the right questions, but if I didn’t, we might have a follow-up conversation to fill in the blanks.
Then he starts recording himself on video answering my questions by speaking “to me.” He sends me the video, which I turn into a blog post. I share it with him for us to review, exchange feedback, and make edits. Then BAM. Blog is done. All he had to do was talk about the things he’s excited to talk about anyway. And all I had to do was write, the thing I love to do anyway.
If you’re curious about trying this process out for yourself, contact me! I’d love to set up a time to chat with you about how we can collaborate or even provide tips so you can make it happen in your own community.
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Until next time, be well and be bold.