How to market your business with integrity...
Every business needs marketing. Marketing is:
the activity or business of promoting and selling products or services
Marketing helps new people know your business exists, and learn to trust it as a source of solving their problems.
It may surprise you to know, that all new customers come into your business through one type of marketing or another, even if they are referred to your business by someone. In this case, the customer finds out about your business via "referral marketing," which is one of 7 common kinds of marketing.
So, at its simplest, marketing is just communication.
But what about when marketing feels wrong?
Unfortunately, like all communication, there are healthy and unhealthy forms of marketing communication.
We've all experienced being marketed or sold to in a way that didn't feel good to us. Unfortunately, this discomfort of being sold to in a way that doesn't "sit well", can cause small business owners to lose confidence in marketing their own business, to avoid coming across as slimy or sleazy themselves.
I'd hate for the thought of coming across that way to hold you back from telling people about your business!
So, it is my hope, that by exploring health marketing communication practices, this article will give you confidence to create a marketing plan, and market your business with confidence.
Here are 9 ways to ensure you're marketing with integrity:
1. Decide on your company values and ensure your marketing practices are aligned with them
Did you know that 89% of customers choose to stay loyal to a brand that shares their values and that 77% of people refer to certain items by brand names?
(Bandaid, Xerox, Hoover, Chapstick, Jacuzzi or Velcro anyone?)
That's why it's helpful to have defined brand values, and use these in your marketing to strengthen your brand.
But how do you decide what your brand values are?
You can explore what your values are by asking yourself questions like:
- What do you stand for?
- How do you want people to feel when they deal with your business?
If you’re finding it hard, then start with what you don’t stand for:
- What do you find unacceptable, gross, icky or sleazy?
- Now reverse that and you’ll slowly uncover what you stand for.
Once you’ve decided what you stand for, you can start to consider how you are living those values in your business:
- Are there any changes you need to make to how your business operates so that you can ensure you’re living those values?
- How could you make those changes? (e.g. does it require you to do some extra education or training)
- How can you communicate your brand values in your marketing communications?
You don't need to spend a long time considering your brand values, especially as they are something that you can add to over time. But it helps to write them down somewhere you and your team can refer to them, because if you're clear in what your brand values are, it's much easier to communicate them to your customers and embody them as a business!
2. Consider your customer and make your marketing about them, not you
One of the most widely taught marketing techniques around today is a marketing or sales funnel.
This is a way of doing business that works to push people down a funnel.
People enter the wide mouth of the funnel when they learn about your business, and they move down toward the narrow part of the funnel through a variety of techniques and tactics, all designed to get them to make the first purchase.
A sales funnel looks like:
There’s a reason I teach how to create a customer pathway instead of marketing/sales funnels. This is because the language we use is important...
When we create marketing funnels, it becomes easy for the customer to lose their face, and become a number.
But, the difference between a funnel and a customer pathway is right there in the name. When we make it about the customer, it's easier us to continue to marketing our business in integrity.
Many people fear that making things all about the customer can dilute the sales results. But, because it takes fewer resources to sell again to a happy customer, than it is to find a new customer, a business who delights its customers is one with greater potential for profit...
This can be visualised when we see what a Customer Pathway looks like.
A Customer Pathway looks like an hourglass:
Did you notice how the sales funnel stopped at the first purchase, but that in a Customer Pathway the first purchase is only the middle of the journey?
That's because a Customer Pathway is designed so that your business has a a long and happy relationship with your customers.
You can read more about the various stages of a Customer Pathway which enable that to happen in this article. But, in the meantime, let's move on to number 3...
3. Do not sell your customers stuff they don’t need
There is a wildly popular, funnel software guru out there, who I’ve seen teach people to use funnels to sell people things they don’t need (or, at least not need in that quantity).
One specific example that comes to mind in the teaching is that of some kind of herbal supplement.
The mentality of this specific funnel is that if someone is buying something, they’re primed to buy more. So, on the thank you page, let’s offer them a limited time offer to buy like 5 more of the same supplement at a discounted price.
Here’s the thing: no one needs 6 bottles of the same supplement at the same time!
At this point the customer doesn’t even necessarily know that the supplement works for them and their body. And this funnel doesn’t take that into consideration, it's just about creating maximum sales for the business.
But, this “funnel” is effective because it uses an impulse buying mentality to get people to make a quick decision.
Sure, it’s good for the business in the short-term to get someone to upgrade their order to 6 bottles, because it maximises the average transaction value. But I am more about creating a successful business for the long-haul...
Here are some ways to use things like order bumps and upsell strategies to boost sales, in a way which will leaved the customer feel looked after not used:
- Offer them to upgrade to a bigger bottle, in case they haven't seen that is available to them
- Feature a bundle offer in the "other items you might like" section of your product page or as an upsell, which is designed to enhance their results
- Show other products that "frequently purchased together"
- Send them some well-time email marketing, at around the time someone would usually run out of their product, with easy links to reorder.
Each of these examples are effective at helping you both retain the customer, and communicate other ways you can help them solve their problem. But in a way that will help you increase your average order value, and lifetime value of a customer.
4. Give true representations of your products and services
I’m usually pretty careful when buying online and I always look up reviews first. But, I have been caught out by ordering something that was absolutely not as described. I'm sure we all have.
The most recent example I can recall is an item of clothing which came up on my Facebook feed. Prior to purchasing I looked at all the reviews (which seemed legit) and these gave me the confidence to buy.
The company made me a limited time offer on the next page to purchase another one at 50% off.
I took the offer.
They arrived and oops -
They were not as described, the quality is the worst I’ve bought online in a long time and I wanted to send them back.
I’ve tried emailing the company 4 times and not heard back. So now I’m stuck with my good for nothing purchase.
I googled to find the company again and realised that I can’t leave a review. I now realise all those reviews I was reading are fake.
Now, I know, because you're reading this, that you're never going to do this.
But, how can you ensure you are giving true representations of the quality of your products and services?
- Be clear and thorough when it comes to listing materials and ingredients in the product page
- Explain what is/isn't included in your services
- Ensure you have easy to find privacy, refund/exchange, and terms of service policies in the footer of your website
- Make it easy for people to contact you - for example by having a contact us page linked in your header or footer.
Statistically its inevitable that you'll have an unhappy customer at some point, because all businesses do. But at least if you have covered the bases above, you'll have done everything in your power to provide clear communication.
5. Be really clear in the results people can expect with your products or services
When you’re marketing your product, it’s good to make a “transformational promise”.
The transformation or solution can people expect to see when they purchase your product/service?
I encourage all my clients and students to think about this when they’re creating their product or service, because it can help communicate the value of your offer. But it's important to be mindful with how we do that...
Let’s look at the subtle differences between two possible promises using a one of my courses as an example:
“This course will teach you how to create a Promotion Plan for your business. I’ve used this same method to help my clients and myself 2x - 10x our sales results”
That’s true. I will teach someone how to create a Promotion Plan.
And I have used that method to help people get those levels of results.
What’s not true is if I said this:
“This course will teach you how to create a Promotion Plan for your business. This method will help you 5x - 10x your sales results”.
Nope. Not true.
Just because something has worked well for others, doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.
I can’t guarantee it’ll work for them.
I can only guarantee I’ll teach them a system that has worked for other people.
Subtle difference but BIG difference.
So, make sure that when you're communicating the value or promise of a service, that you not over-inflating any results, so that you've done everything in your control to set people up with realistic expectations.
6. Do not over inflate the value of something to give people a false sense of discount
Whenever I am teaching clients how to create a Promotion Plan, I also explain to them how to create a compelling offer. I love using compelling offers in marketing, because they can really help people boost their sales results.
something that the value is so clear it’s a no brainer for people to buy.
One of my favourite ways to achieve a compelling offer is to create a table of value where you show everything in the table of value with its own value against.
But, just like all forms of marketing communications, we've all seen people over-inflate the value of parts of their offer to make it look more valuable. Most of us see straight through this, but unfortunately it's still very common.
Experiencing dodgy tables of value as a consumer, stops many small business owners from wanting to use them in their business. Or, it causes them to err on the side of undervaluing the items in their table of value to their own detriment.
This is such a shame because they really are an excellent way to list out what is and isn't included in your offer, and see the true value of what your offer includes.
And, in my experience, most of the small business owners I know undervalue their offers rather than overvalue them!
So, how can you have confidence in the value you are communicating?
The biggest issue which causes anxiety is that value is very subjective. That's why some paperclips sell in a pack of 100 for less than $1, while some are sold by Tiffany's for in the thousands.
Your gut usually knows whether a value is true or not. So I recommend going with your gut.
But, some other ways to identify value are to:
- Consider what you sell items in the bundle for individually
- Look at what other people are selling similar items for (not ideal, but can give you a gauge).
- Work out how many hours it will save the person
- Work out how many hours it will take you to deliver
- Consider the value the item will help them bring to their life
- Consider how your brand sits in the market compared to the value of other brands.
7. Do not gaslight / manipulate your customers into buying something
Gaslighting is possibly one of the very worst types of unhealthy marketing out there.
I'm sure you won't do it yourself, but maybe now when you see something that makes you feel yucky, you might be able to pinpoint it as gaslighting...
manipulate (someone) using psychological methods into questioning their own sanity or powers of reasoning
In business, gaslighting shows up like making an audience feel compelled to buy a product/service because if they don’t something bad might happen to them.
If we go back and think about our customer promises for a minute, a gaslighting version of the Promote Like a Boss promise might be:
“This course will teach you how to create a Promotion Plan for your business. This method will help you 5x - 10x your sales results. Your business will be useless and fail if you don’t follow this specific process”.
Obviously this is an extreme example.
But it's shocking how many people use various versions of gaslighting promises, even in subtle ways, to get people to purchase from their business.
8. Be inclusive with your marketing
One thing that marketing teaches, is to niche down.
talk to someone specific in your marketing rather than trying to appeal to a mass market
This is because if you try to appeal to everyone, your message will end up so watered down that it will appeal to no-one.
But, there’s a difference (sometimes a very fine difference) between niching down and being exclusive.
excluding certain people or groups from being able to access your solutions. Or, making people feel unwelcome to use your business.
This is a huge topic which (coming from my place of privilege) I’m not going to even remotely proclaim that I’m an expert in. But it’s important to consider the topic of inclusivity and diversity.
I know I'm not perfect at this and I'm already aware of certain areas I am actively trying to improve upon!
But, here are some ways we try to be inclusive at The Helpful Academy spark your thoughts about what you as a business might do:
- We consciously use a variety of people in our images.
- We use simple language and ways of communicating.
- We release a wide range of high-quality free resources and strive to keep things affordable.
- We try to include captions wherever possible.
This is very personal, because everyone has different beliefs when it comes to inclusivity and diversity. That's why this is one way that can help you attract customers that share your same values.
So, I encourage you now to think about your values when it comes to inclusivity and diversity, and how you will bring those values into your marketing/business.
9. Do not slander other brands / businesses (or groups of people) you don’t agree with in your marketing or message
It's one thing to market your business to elevate your brand above your competitors. But, it's another thing to put down someone's brand to make oneself look good.
It can be difficult to live this one out when we feel passionately about something and see others acting in ways which don't match our values. But, it can reflect badly on our brand if we speak badly about other businesses.
In contrast, it only strengthens our brand when we focus on demonstrating our own values.
We can illustrate our values by:
- the way we show up
- the behaviour we demonstrate
- the way we talk about others
- and the actions we take.
Marketing is the act of communicating how your business can help people. But, just like all types of communication, there can be both unhealthy and healthy types of marketing communications.
When we've experienced unhealthy marketing as a consumer, it's easy to lose confidence in marketing our own businesses.
But, marketing is essential for all businesses. So, we shouldn't let other people's bad example put us off from getting our message out there.
I hope that by outlining some of the unhealthy marketing practices in this article, that it has given you confidence that you don't actually do any of them, as well as some tips for strengthening the value of your brand.
About the author:
Kat Soper is the Founder and Head Trainer of The Helpful Academy Online Business School.
Kat is passionate about helping start-ups and small businesses succeed and achieve their business goals so that they can achieve the lifestyle they desire (and deserve).