Ethical & effective online marketing
In this episode, I'm going to be discussing key considerations when it comes to building an ethical marketing and sales strategy in your online business and how I personally approach this in my own business. So let's dive in.
Before I get started, I actually want to give credit where it's due that this episode was highly influenced and inspired by another podcast that I've been listening to called Duped: The Dark Side of Online Business.
It's hosted by Maggie Peterson and Dr. Michelle Mazur and this podcast for me, even as someone who's been a longtime marketer, has been simultaneously eye-opening, validating, and, in many ways, gag-inducing. It's incredible work by both of them. It's highly researched and there's a lot of humor & truth throughout.
But it's also very real and will definitely have you considering how you market your business. It's very empowering and, at the same time, as a warning: It's not for the faint of heart. Especially if you've been in marketing and online marketing for a while, especially if you're a spiritual entrepreneur.
If you've been listening to me for a little while you must know that I am for most of my career as a marketer, digital marketer, and online marketer, and I've always had to walk this tightrope between being that professional marketer and being just a straight-up normal human being trying to exist in this very data-focused digital world.
Why? Because many of the commonly held marketing best practices (practices that have been taught for years and decades) exploit the Human in favor of the Business and its bottom line. And as an entrepreneur myself, I am both selling my services while also being sold to, so this balancing act has truly taken on a whole new meaning as I navigate balancing the human with the business.
Many of the clients I work with, have to navigate the perceived tightrope or fine line between what they have been told is effective marketing and what feels ethical in their hearts and souls. What commonly happens is that you might begin to believe that marketing can either be effective OR it can be ethical, but it can’t be both.
A lot of common beliefs that pop up are:
Prioritizing the human (our clients) means your business won’t be as successful as it can be
Or prioritizing your business’s success means that you’ll inevitably have to hurt or trick people along the way
And those beliefs are what cause many soulpreneur & entrepreneurs to opt out of this industry prematurely or develop a love-hate relationship with their business & how they promote it. This happens to the point where it just feels like you never quite find your footing because you don't know how to find that balance between ethical and effective.
Today, as someone who has been walking this tightrope for a very long time, I’m here to help you by giving you some things to think about
So what is effective AND ethical when it comes to performance marketing?
Effectiveness- It is something that can be measured and it's pretty black and white. For example: what was your conversion rate? How much revenue did you make? How many clients did you have working with you?
Effectiveness is very black and white, and as a lifelong marketer, that was a very easy concept to grasp and a very easy thing to do, where you can just look at metrics and data going back and see if your marketing is effective or not.
Ethicality- It is something that depends solely on the perspective of the person who is contemplating it, it’s through their perspective. My ethics and values are different than your ethics and values. And yes, there might be a lot of overlap. But in the end, we might see things differently when it comes to what is ethical and what our values are for me and you or someone else.
I'm not here today to tell you what is ethical and what is not ethical. That is not the point of this conversation.
Today I am going to share- What my north stars or guiding pillars when it comes to how I effectively AND ethically promote me and my business so you can take it as inspiration in your own journey walking this tightrope.
So I have 3 north stars or guiding pillars when it comes to making ethical and effective marketing decisions in my business. I'm going to share what they are and what they mean, along with examples of how I am practically implementing them into my own marketing and sales.
Consent-Based Marketing & Sales is my first guiding pillar of doing business ethically & effectively
What is consent-based marketing or business? It means is that at each step, in the marketing and sales funnel or even with your existing clients within the customer journey, there is an event that requires the person that you're speaking to give some form of consent or to opt-in to the next step of the funnel or journey.
Think of the simplified customer journey as going from your audience being unaware of you, to being aware of you, then engaged with you and then purchasing from you.
Early in the customer journey, getting consent is relatively easy - someone chooses to follow your social media account, or opt-in to your freebie or your lead magnet.
In the early stages, consent is someone following you or taking that step to get to know you better or to bring their awareness of you forward.
But when you get further down the funnel or journey that comes to making a sale that is where this becomes especially important.
Broadcasting your offers via social media or your email list is completely ethical. People are on that list because they chose to follow you or opted into it. They want to learn more about you and how you know you intrigue them in some way.
A lot of people feel guilty or bad about sharing and promoting themselves through whatever channels they use.
And I am here to draw a line in the sand. From my perspective, it’s ethical to share with the broader world out there what you're doing and how you're doing it and how people can work with you. Even sending information about your offer to people who have expressed an interest explicitly just to make sure that they see it is fine.
I've had conversations in my DMs where someone has said, "Hey, let me know the next time you launch this or when you have a new offer around this or you know." This is an expression of interest & so I feel good about following up again when the offer opens up.
But on the flip side of this, someone out of the blue or repeatedly followed up with by someone when you haven’t shown any interest or any response to your broadcasts? That, to me, is crossing the line.
I've personally experienced this lack of consent a lot on sales calls where the person selling something places a lot of pressure on you to invest while on the call or bullies you into taking the next step before you’ve had an opportunity to decide if you want to do it at all.
On my own sales calls, I do my best to answer questions and explain the offer at hand, but I do my best to remove pressure and even ask for consent or permission to follow up with them as a next step.
My intention going into the call is that there is an equal power dynamic where a consensual & mutually beneficial decision can be made. A dynamic where I and the person I’m talking to come together to have a genuine discussion, where we both can ask questions to determine if the partnership is right for each of us.
And the most important thing that helps me step into that equal energetic dynamic is to release the result & the decision that’s made is to just trust in the divine timing and celebrate the decision that is made no matter what result is made.
As long as I'm celebrating the decision that's been made, no matter what the result is, as long as it is an aligned decision and that goes both ways, so on any calls that I do, I'm asking questions to assess if that person is going to be a good match for me.
To me, it's not only ethical but it's also based on abundance to just trust that no matter what the outcome of the conversation is, I always set the intention that we leave the call knowing what is best or what is best for both of us when we leave the call and that it happens every now and then.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal - I usually wrap up my calls with something like, so the next step of this process is that I will send you a proposal. Is that something you’re interested in? Because when you get that consent, there is no question mark about you being pushy or whatnot because the person on the other end has given you express permission to reach out
Transparent Authority is the second guiding pillar of ethical & effective online business
What this means is that a clear picture is painted at each step or stage of the customer journey that includes setting expectations on both sides of the table. This applies to everything from how you visibly and strategically present yourself as an authority to what testimonials you display to having a clear promise & outcome on your offers with clear pricing structures.
It’s important to ask yourself: Is what you are putting out into the world presented in a fair and complete way?
Here are some additional questions to ask yourself-
a) Are you promising the world to your clients because you know that will sell better than what you are actually guiding them through?
b) Are you only cherry-picking the best testimonials to give your audience an inaccurate view of your offers & containers?
c) Are you honest in what you put out there about yourself? You don’t have to share your entire life details. But are you putting a balanced representation out there?
Is there transparency or congruence between who you are and your private life?
Yes, through copywriting and marketing finesse you can put things in a better light, but that doesn’t mean it's okay to lie or omit important things for the sake of promoting & selling your offer.
When I first started my business, I felt like I had to come off as an expert in every way possible because I thought that was the only way people would invest in me - I couldn’t make mistakes, I couldn’t admit fault, that it was shameful to answer the question with something like “I don’t know the answer YET”
Despite the fact that it was a lot of pressure and even though it was behind the scenes, I was stressed out about being seen for who I actually was and I almost felt many times I felt like a huge fraud claiming to be an expert about something when I didn't know everything.
No one knows everything, but it felt like I couldn't admit fault or admit that I didn't know anything because I felt like I had to be seen as an expert, so there was an incongruence between that and, I'm someone on a personal level okay with admitting fault.
But when it came to my business, I felt like I couldn't and so that incongruence just felt very, unethical, but it just felt like it wasn't a transparent authority and so that to me just didn't feel right.
I've studied human design and gene keys and habing been in marketing, I'm forever going to say that I'm still a student in many ways and will forever be like I could study this for decades and I'd still be a student. All of that felt so freeing to change my perspective of needing to be the expert or the authority or just being a student who knows a lot and wants to bring whoever wants to learn with me like I'll bring you with me.
That change in perspective and mindset was so freeing and to me, that felt so much more ethical. Even though it was scary as hell to admit it and to be public about this shift in perspective, it feels so much more transparent and more aligned and congruent.
As I mentioned in a recent episode, Episode #52 - The Current: Summer Wrap up & Behind the Scenes of my Business - I recently went through a complete website copy refresh and one of the things I did was take a critical eye to my copy and the promise/outcome of my offers.
I had to ask myself hard questions about my offers - “Is this something that my clients will actually walk away with or is this just what I think will sell more offers?”
Yes, now my program promise is less sexy in some ways but I am 110% confident that if someone signs up then the container will meet and exceed their expectations and what they see is what they will get, and that, to me, is very important when it comes to transparent authority.
My last example of Transparent Authority is in regard to pricing and having your pricing visible for others to see on their own time.
I personally put my pricing on my website so that someone can see it, and this is for offers of all price points, even my highest investment offers containers. So at least someone can assess that. If it's even worth looking at it, maybe it's worth just putting it on a wish list for a later date when they have the funds available.
I’ve been on sales calls where you have no idea of the price until you are on the phone with someone, and then you’re trying to assess if you have the budget while also being pressured to make a decision on the phone to receive a "Fast Action discount." If this has happened to you, you know how unpleasant it is.
So if you’re like me, you might be thinking - well what about if my pricing varies because my services are customized? I have customized offers too and in that case, I just say that the package starts at $10, or $1000 or $10,000 that is my price baseline for that offers so that the potential customer has an idea where on the pricing spectrum your services fall and if it’s in their budget to proceed.
You might think or have been told that putting your pricing online will scare people away but you also don’t want to waste your time trying to get people on a call or to sign up for your offers when there is no way they can afford to work with you right now because they leave the call super unhappy and tell all of their friends, you want to avoid that.
Being Of Service is the third guiding pillar in ethical & effective online marketing
Whether you identify as a spiritual entrepreneur or not, most of us get into business to help others. We are driven to be a force of positive change in the world.
Then we get all caught up in the pressure of revenue and sales and big flashy numbers or just making enough to cover your expenses. It’s very easy to forget why we started doing this in the first place. I have circled back to this ah-ha moment & realization COUNTLESS times on my own entrepreneurial journey.
Yes, revenue & clients & growing “enough” are important but one of the best marketing strategies you can have is serving the people who already know and trust you, even if it doesn’t always make sense from a revenue standpoint.
What being Of Service means is making business decisions that are not only good for you and good for the business but also centering on what will be the best experience & most impactful for the people you serve.
As I talked about in a previous podcast, Episode #50 Intuiting the pressure to scale at the right time, there is a lot of pressure to create offers that you can scale and to create passive income in your business, and to overcharge so that you can make enough to establish firm boundaries in your business.
In every piece of marketing content that I create, whether it’s free or something that is part of a paid offer, I ask myself how my community will be SERVED by this piece of content. And am I offering it in a way that is efficient & impactful and complete in its own way?
I’m not saying you need to put all your best ideas in your free content. What I am saying is that make sure that whatever you are teaching or sharing is “complete” on its own in a way that is still of value to the person consuming it. That piece of content can point to another paid offering but it can also stand alone in a way that gives the person a quick win all by itself.
When I create content, I always try to put myself in the shoes of the people on the other end of it and what they will experience from it and take away from it too, because if you think about it, have you ever signed up for a class or program or webinar where you feel like you're just being sold to the entire time? And you feel like you've walked away without learning or experiencing anything new. It is such a bummer and it feels like such a waste of time.
You don't have to give everything away for free. But when you think about what your outline is for that particular piece of content, whether free or paid, how can you make sure that you have some sort of complete thought or complete transformation that will be a quick win or something that will help that person without leaving them with the impression that they didn't learn anything or get anything out of it.
Again, it doesn’t have to be giving away all your best stuff for free, it’s just how you select & sort through what is of service in the appropriately-sized container it’s delivered in.
Here’s my final example of what I've done in my own business to be Of Service, even from a revenue perspective, it didn’t make sense. This is not necessarily related to marketing but I think it's worth hearing and understanding what this can mean in a very practical way.
One of my most intimate containers is my program, Radiant on Purpose. I opened it earlier this year and there were 2 versions of it.
There is a self-study version of the content and a Mentorship version of it where I do 1:1 coaching. Initially, I imagined that it would be a 3-month coaching container. But as I took my first batch of clients through it, 2 months in I realized that 3 months was not going to be enough for the depth of the content, and even more so the depth of the transformation in the program.
So I decided to extend the container to a 6-month 1:1 coaching container. And I did it free of charge to the people in it.
On paper, this seems like a TERRIBLE idea, especially because I have a limit on how many people I will work with on a 1:1 basis, and extending this container meant that I couldn’t bring more people into it.
But I KNEW it was the right decision for my clients because it was what was in the most service to them and the intended transformation of the container itself. And I choose to believe that doing what is best for my clients, my community, and my audience will always work out best for me & my business in the long run as well.
Ethical online marketing and ethical online business are complex topics. There is no way I could ever fully cover it in one podcast episode, blog post, or even a series of podcast episodes.
I am definitely not an expert on the subject but I know this can get confusing and overwhelming and so I wanted to share my own approach to this topic that I carry with me in every decision I make in my business and I hope this will help you too.
Just to recap, my 3 guiding pillars are:
2. Transparent Authority
3. Of Service
And if I’m being honest, ethical and effective online marketing is a topic that I have really become obsessed with in 2022. And not just talking about it but exploring it and living it through the actions I take.
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