If your small business is working hard to do the right thing for people and the planet, you should be able to let people know. But the worry of not doing enough or being accused of insincerity is enough to make many business owners remain in the shadows. Ethical marketing can help you grow your business, its relationships and your community’s trust.
What is ethical marketing?
At its heart, ethical marketing is about ensuring your words and actions align and that they both reflect the values of your business. For small business owners, these values are usually tied to their personal principles. Integrity, inclusion, and respect for the environment are great examples.
Ethical marketing should not be confused with sustainable marketing. Sustainable marketing promotes the sustainable and socially responsible aspects of a business or product, and may be included in an ethical marketing approach. Ethical marketing is how the brand operates its marketing activity. It will reflect responsibility to the community, society and the planet along with how marketing reaches customers.
What’s the benefit of ethical marketing?
The case for ethical marketing is compelling. It’s a way to improve life for your business, your customers, and the world. If you’ve got a good product or service, spreading the word about it allows more people to enjoy the benefit. Some people still feel uncomfortable about promotion, but ethical marketing can change this.
More than ever, the values of businesses are influencing consumers’ buying choices. Last year, a global sustainability study found more than a third of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainability as demand grows for environmentally friendly products.
Businesses should prepare for sustainability to become the expectation and not the exception in the future. Importantly, today’s buyers have easy access to information and expect brands to be able to back up any claims.
Customer loyalty can be deepened through ethical marketing. A recent study found positive correction between ethical marketing and customers' perception of a brand and product quality. It makes ethical marketing a sound long-term play rather than a one-off effort to capitalise on fickle trends. So, where can you start?
How can you get started with ethical marketing?
Your ethical marketing approach should start by defining your strategy and goals within an ethical framework. Traditionally, marketing considered the ‘Four Ps’ – product, price, place and promotion. The ethical marketing mix is concerned with product responsibility, price transparency, place fairness and promotion with honesty. You can find best practice approaches in each of these areas.
Honesty is essential to ethical marketing. Too often, marketing hypes, exaggerates, and overstates facts. In contrast, trust comes with a commitment to transparency and fair representation of facts. Plain, accurate language is a great starting place.
Organisations can make a public commitment to ethical marketing on their website. An example is, ‘In reflection of our values, we commit to absolute honesty in our marketing messages and activities.’ Credibility is added by making it easy for consumers to ask questions or raise concerns.
Some marketing activities demand special consideration of ethics. These include handling customer data and use of online tools. For example, businesses should always get explicit permission before adding people to an email distribution list. Pop-ups, undisclosed incentives and negative search engine tactics can be ethically dubious. Usually, focusing on creating value for customers and sharing helpful information is a great approach.
How can you balance it with everything else?
Ethical marketing is an area of business that is evolving fast, and as it gains visibility, customer expectations are increasing. Keeping pace can become just one more thing to add to a business owner’s overwhelm. And this is where the support of a Business Mentor can be a game changer.
When you’re matched with a Business Mentor, you can seek out someone with skills that suit your business's needs. Our Mentors bring experience, and they've learned how to balance things themselves. They're ready to share their knowledge with you, simply to give back. At Business Mentors, it’s easy for us to take an ethical approach to marketing; the generosity and altruism of our mentors mean we don’t need to exaggerate at all.