Before I could put a name to Ethical Marketing, I launched into business with daydreams of sharing my values and making an impact in the world. When I started working for myself, I had inspired visions of combining yoga and wellness with wine and travel. I felt a synergistic duality between my careers as a fitness instructor and sommelier and dreamt of helping others find a mind-body connection with wine. Events with wine and yoga were easy enough to understand, though most people doubted the relationship between the two had a real market.
When Professionals Pull Away from Their Values
Like many new entrepreneurs, I didn’t know what the F* I was doing. I let voices of doubt get into my head, which weakened my confidence. My first event had three attendees—my husband, my best friend, and her boyfriend. There was a market for wine & yoga, but I gave up quickly with a sinking feeling in my gut. I could have changed my presentation to incentivize wineries to co-promote, found new partners, and shout from the rooftops of social media about my business. Instead, I shifted my skills in social media and events to a marketing business.
Knowing when to pivot is an essential skill for any business owner or any professional for that matter. I don’t regret the skills and teams I built from this shift, but I lost sight of my values through misplaced partnerships and the hunger to grow. Marketing helps good ideas reach the people who can benefit from them, but when I stopped pushing myself to connect wellness with the beverage world, I felt hallow.
Many years later, I touched base with my values and framed the parameters for Ethical Marketing. If you’re just catching up on the series, please look back to Pt 1 & 2: Generosity and Presence. The final framework, Holding to Your Values, is an essential piece of any business that wants to grow revenue and create positive change.
How Your Values Help You Grow
Ethical Marketing is a framework that helps business leaders feel positive when they create their growth strategy. More importantly, having a clear set of values and a mindset to provide value leads to better customer engagement and loyalty. According to Marketing Drive and Accenture, (63%) of global consumers opt to purchase from brands with values similar to their own beliefs.
People buy based on emotion. With 100s of competing brands, customers reach towards brands they feel like part of their tribe. If values are unclear or shaky, there is little that separates that brand from its competitors. People will often stay loyal to a competitor of a company that customers feel contradicts their beliefs (look at Uber vs. Lyft, for example).
Your values could indeed turn away some customers, but those who purchase stay are much more likely to remain loyal, leading to higher LTV and community engagement.
Identify Your Values
To stick to your values, you first have to identify them. The exercise can be compelling, as it anchors your identity. When something feels off for me, I return to my core values to remind myself who I am and what matters to me. Most business coaches have exercises that can help you discover yours (I like this one from Gary Keller), but you can take it a step further by tying it to your mission.
What problem were you trying to solve when you got into your business? Reflect on how you wanted to make lives better and how that ties into your core values. When you can connect your mission to your core values, you have a North Star for any pivot you might take in your professional life.
Examples of Core Values
The list goes on. Find 3-4 with which you most identify. Ask a close friend who knows you well to review whichever list you’re working from and get their input, too—sometimes others know us better than we know ourselves!
Applying Your Values
How you apply your values in your communication is the difference between engaging with your customers positively vs. being selfish or damaging. That’s not to say you shouldn’t sell. Actually, sales and marketing are essential if you want to grow your business.
But when you operate from your values, you’re sharing a solution. You feel better about your outreach, and your audience can feel that. When I began to pivot away from my original mission of helping others find balance in their lives, I never felt right about sales. I avoided cold calls and public announcements because I wanted to avoid that slimy feeling.
During that time, my services were helping people, and my business did grow. It wasn’t the pivot from wine and yoga that threw me off—it was a gut feeling that I was making business decisions from a place of want, and in turn, was attracting the wrong type of customer.
When I was finally able to tie marketing back to my mission of improving lives, I was happy to make content and make those cold calls that I always dreaded (ok, these are always hard, but much better when you have something helpful to share!).
How to Hold Your Values with Strategic Marketing
As an impact-driven business, sticking to your values goes beyond an internal gut feeling that helps you navigate business decisions. When you plan your marketing strategy, consider how each partnership ties reflects on your mission. When planning any strategy, consider the following:
- Does this partner share my values?
- Does this strategy hinder my mission?
- How will this feel for my customers?
- As I grow, how can I still keep my values in hand?
- Do my employees share these values?
- Does the solution I’m offering reflect my values?
Example: Let’s say your company is a sustainable packaging service. One of your core values are kindness and honesty, and your mission is to reduce carbon emissions in the beverage industry.
You come across a partnership opportunity with a supplier with significant reach and can influence many brands. However, they tend to exaggerate their numbers to position themselves more strongly when signing new brands. You also noticed that higher-level managers tend to talk down to their employees and publicly humiliate them when they make mistakes.
On the one hand, your company can reach more brands, which accelerates your mission, but on the other hand, they violate your values. How would your loyal customers view this partnership? Do you feel optimistic about it? Put yourself in these shoes. These choices are difficult to make, but leaning into your values will create more brand loyalty and a grounded workspace.
Ethical Marketing and Your Business
By applying generosity, presence, and a foundation of values to your business practices and communication, you create a better experience for both yourself and your customer. Many clients express doubt about “bugging” their customers, but it’s not a concern when you share a message worth hearing. Sales and marketing are essential to growing your business, but you can do it with integrity. When you operate with your values and mission at hand, your communications serve your purpose.