Ethical marketing tip #2:
Be honest and transparent.
Can I be honest with you?
I don’t want to help you sell, sell and sell some more.
Let me rephrase that.
I want to help you raise your revenue so that you can make a greater impact.
So that you can lead the way in your industry and inspire other brands to produce ethically.
I want to help you sell your ethical products to the mass market.
So that you can foster a healthy shopping mentality to reduce excessive consumption that is extremely dangerous for us, all species and our planet.
I want to help you change the way people shop.
How you market matters.
Ethical marketing is becoming more popular as consumers are realizing how much the production of products is harming our planet.
In November 2018, I wrote seven things to implement in your ethical marketing strategy.
The first one was about price manipulation and now I want to talk about being honest and transparent.
Honesty really is the best policy.
Is honesty all that important?
To increase revenue and be able to report success to their managers, many marketers feel they have to manipulate consumers because if people knew the truth, they wouldn‘t sell enough and that’s not good for business.
A study from SurveyMonkey showed that trust in a brand matters „a great deal“ or „a lot“ to 65% and only „some“ for another 27% of those surveyed.
For the conscious consumer, I bet “a great deal” would be at 100%, but I’m still very happy with 65% in the mass market.
Although what people fill out in surveys when consciously thinking about any particular topic is usually not what happens at the point of sale.
Many times, personal values get thrown to the wind if your trusted brands aren’t there when you need them.
Regardless, we know that trust is very important for all consumers. And that’s one advantage you have over your competition as a social entrepreneur.
You now have the chance to become a leader in this area.
The difference between honesty and transparency.
Before diving into the tips, let’s get clear on the terms. I was inspired by Flemming Fuch’s definitions of honesty and transparency here.
Basically, honesty is when you share what you perceive to be the truth.
Transparency is what others see as the truth. The truth they feel they need to know.
While it’s important to be honest, it’s not enough because it’s not always what your customers want or need to know.
And if you’re only transparent, you may not succeed in educating your customers on what they really need to learn.
For instance, if you want to make positive changes in your industry to reduce harm being done, the most efficient way is to reach the mass market, a large group who may not be aware of the harm.
So, if you’re a sustainable fashion brand and you were only honest and wrote that you have a clean supply chain because that’s what you believe to be the truth, you wouldn’t be serving them well because they wouldn’t know what that means exactly.
And ‘clean’ is relative as there is always some environmental harm when producing anything.
To explain what a clean supply chain means, from A to Z, you could:
- Show them the materials used, from seedlings to harvest and how and where the plants (for cotton, hemp, etc.) are grown.
- Give a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the factory where your clothes are made.
- Explain what chemicals are used for processing your clothes at each stage.
- Show the faces of the people who make them.
- Provide information of how everything is transported; from harvest to factory to clean and prepare the materials, to any further processing plants to the individual stores.
If you’re fully transparent, you would say what you’re doing to reduce the harm (the examples above), and if you’re completely honest, you’d not only say your supply chain is clean, but you’d also admit that you’re not 100% sustainable (as is no one) and write about the areas which you are improving or plan to improve (for even more transparency).
Ideally, you want to answer all questions before they get asked and have both honesty and transparency work interactively.
That way, you’d be helping consumers make a more conscious choice while teaching them what they need to look out for in the future and gaining their loyalty. Win-win!
How to incorporate honesty and transparency in your marketing.
So, now that you know how important honesty and transparency are, how can you be both without sounding just like everyone else?
How much should you reveal?
How can you write it in a way that sounds authentic and not greenwashy?
So that your voice is heard and trusted?
Things to do before you spread your message:
Every message you send out to the world should be set with ONE specific intention in mind.
Whether it’s a blog or social media post, script for an image film, ‘meet the makers’ video or a FB live, press release, report for investors or your impact page, set one intention and one intention only.
Before writing anything, ask yourself: What do I want my readers to do at the end of your message? This is your intention. Your call-to-action (CTA).
Do you want your customers to learn more about your company by reading your mission statement on your About page?
Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter?
Or buy this one product featured?
Once you set your intention, make sure you keep it in mind throughout your entire message.
This will keep you focused to avoid babbling and going off in all different directions.
So that your voice is one of authority, it’s best to outline the rest of your message so that you stay focused and your words are crystal clear to your audience.
If you can write effectively without outlining your message, great. If you have writer’s block, get stuck while writing or tend to go off in tangents, then it’s best to outline your message first.
Outlining will help you save time in the long-run.
Have you ever tried being someone you’re not? It doesn’t work well, does it?
Same with your messaging. If you’re an introvert and would rather curl up like a pangolin to hide than hop on a FB live and reveal everything about yourself and your company just because you heard that you have to be honest and transparent, you’re going to do yourself – and your business – a disservice.
My advice here is to reveal how much you want to reveal. If you’re strategic about it, you’ll never have to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation like that.
Below, I give you tips on what you can reveal that won’t put you in an awkward position.
If you have any questions or would like my honest opinion, please, just ask me. I’d rather you ask than publish something you’re not sure about.
Readers know when you’re being your authentic self.
Since you’re a social entrepreneur, you care. We need more compassionate leaders in this world, so thank you for that!
When emotions come into play though – especially in the heat of the moment – your tone is extremely important as you want to inspire, not upset or turn people off.
If I hadn’t learned how to respectfully communicate in an inspiring way, I’d be the worst marketer in the world.
I constantly have to keep this in mind before I open my mouth or write, but I also know I’m not alone as respectful communication is a challenge for many humans in our modern world.
So, when you write your message, please remember that you want to keep your tone kind, understanding and respectful because every person is different and may not be of the same opinion.
This doesn’t mean you have to always be happy and cheerful and positive. Animal cruelty and the destruction of our environment are not happy topics, so if the tone requires a little bit of spunk to get your message across, then so be it. Just remember to not personally attack people because that will not help you gain credibility.
Think of Dr. Jane Goodall, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi who excelled in this kind of compassionate leadership.
A few honest and transparent things you can do.
- Fully disclose how your products were made, what materials were used and how you sourced them such as Ethiqana Ltd.
- Make customer service a top priority as often advocated by From Scratch Communications.
- Trace every step of your supply chain like the sustainable clothing brand, Where does it come from?
- Live by and breathe your core values in your business; with everything you do and everyone you collaborate with. Take a look at this example from Earth Changers.
- Showcase your partners, suppliers and the people who made your products.
- Explain your pricing structure like I wrote about in my article on price manipulation.
- Define less common ingredients found in your products.
- Explain your giving back strategy in detail.
- Involve employees, for example, in your decision-making process and other parts of your business.
Since these things are only done by a very small percentage of companies today, you have the chance to be a leader in your industry.