Getting the right messaging across to the right people is crucial when building your ethical brand.
Today, I’m sharing my first guest blog post to let the expert tell you all about it! Please enjoy these words of wisdom from copywriter Clare Crossan:…
This is an incredible time to be the owner of an ethical brand. Forget selling to the folks on the margins that ‘get’ what you’re all about — ethical purchasing has gone mainstream!
Today’s customers don’t just want to know about your products and services, they want to know about the people they’re buying from, about what drives them as business owners, and about what they’re doing to make the world a better place.
They want to know that they’re supporting businesses whose values match their own.
Now, you would think that would put you at an advantage, what with you being an ethically-driven entrepreneur and all.
But, gone are the days when you’re the only vegan bakery, plastic-free shop, or eco-innovator in the village, with the ethical market cornered. If you’ve been trading for yonks, you’ve suddenly found a whole bunch of competitors opening up. And if you’re just starting out, you’re entering a fierce marketplace.
And aside from the volume of genuine values-driven businesses, you’re also now competing with a slew of not-entirely-legit organisations jumping on the ethical bandwagon, greenwashing all over the place. Which sucks for you AND your potential (and increasingly sceptical) customers.
So how do ensure that you stand out as one of the genuine good guys?
It’s all down to your messaging.
When it comes to marketing your ethical business, whether you’re writing your website or creating marketing content, there are certain pitfalls to avoid as well as specific, non-sleazy tactics that’ll help you communicate your message, connect with the right kind of customers, and make an even bigger difference to the cause(s) you want to support.
Let’s dive in:
Okay, so as an actual ethical brand, you’re not at any risk of greenwashing. But how do you convince your potential customers that you’re not just ‘talking the talk’ when it comes to your values?
The answer is to be specific. Vague but admirable sentiments don’t work anymore — people need details.
So if, for example, you only make products with sustainable fabrics or organic ingredients, share the story of how that came about. What research did you have to do? Have you developed these products yourself? Have you seen how they’re produced, visited the production site? What makes them so sustainable?
Have you received any credentials/certifications/awards that can back up your ethical claims? If yes, shout about them. If not, investigate how you can get some and prove that you’re walking the walk.
Go beyond the obvious.
While you’re at it, it’s also worth talking up the less obvious ways in which you’re living your values as a business owner.
Say you’re a vegan food business. Naturally your messaging will focus on kindness towards animals but I’m sure your ethics don’t stop at our furry friends. Are you also determined to use plastic-free packaging? To source fair trade ingredients? Or pay your staff a living wage?
Yes? Then don’t forget to talk about that stuff either. As an ethical business owner you’re unlikely to support just one cause — and the same goes for your customers so show them all of the ways in which you’re working to make the world a fluffier, kinder, better place to be.
As devoted as you are to the cause that inspired your business in the first place, I’m sure you’ve already realised that there are different ways to get people on board.
When you feel strongly about something — whether it’s human rights, animal rights, or the health of the planet — it can be super hard not to get just the teensiest bit…preachy.
And while, your friends and family might forgive a bit of preachiness, it will DEFINITELY backfire if there’s even a hint of it in your sales copy marketing.
Because guilt and anxiety are major turn offs.
I know putting this into practice can be hard. Take climate change. It feels that we’re never going to make any progress unless people realise just how scared they should be.
But here’s the thing: anxious people just don’t buy stuff.
When you feel anxious, your prefrontal cortex (that’s the bit of your brain involved in decision making, including decision-making related to purchasing) struggles to function. Inducing eco-anxiety in your potential customers is going to make them feel like the problem is too big for them to even begin to tackle and they’re going to click off your website and onto something that may be far less worthy but that will make them feel far less freaked out.
So what to do instead?
Instead of focusing on the problem, show your customer how to become part of the solution. Touch on the issues, sure, but then lead your reader to the positives, to the ways you’ve already made a difference, to the success you/your cause has already enjoyed, to the very real and very important part they have to play in making a difference.
Make them feel like part of a community of caring individuals, give them hope, and lead the way towards something better.
Remember: it’s not just about ethics.
Your ethical credentials are vital, it’s true. But they aren’t enough.
With ethical issues such as veganism and climate change having gone more mainstream over the past few years, you’re likely appealing to a much wider audience, as well as a potentially less-committed one.
For example, 20, 10, or even 5 years ago vegan businesses would likely have appealed predominantly to those who considered themselves 100% committed to veganism. That the products fit their ethics was, for many, the only priority.
Today, however, your products will likely appeal to a wider range of people including those taking part in Veganuary, flexitarians, and those who are ‘plant-curious’. They care about the ethics, sure, but they also care just as much about the quality of what they’re buying, particularly because so many ethical products come with a higher price tag than their non-sustainable counterparts.
And, your 100% committed crowd are spoilt for choice these days too — with so many ethical options on the market, they’re no longer in an ‘I’ll just have to take what I can get’ scenario. They want to know what makes your offering better than anything else they can find on the market.
So when you’re writing the sales copy for your business, be sure to talk up the other benefits of your products or services and don’t just rely on your ethical credentials to seal the deal.
Ignore the tactics that make you feel icky.
Plenty of marketers and copywriters will advise you to try a number of marketing tactics to help push your sales.
Scarcity is one that you’ll hear about fairly often: offer things for a limited time only to encourage more sales, reduce the number of products you’ll sell to any one customer, or open up your course or membership site only at certain points of the year so people have to rush into buying before they miss the opportunity.
Now, none of these things are bad IF there is a genuine reason for them. Maybe your product is limited and it seems fair not to let a handful of people buy your entire stock. Maybe it makes sense for you to only offer your products or services at set points throughout the year. That’s cool, go for it.
It’s only when you take these decisions with the sole intention of creating false scarcity that it becomes questionable. Not only does it make you feel a bit icky, but your customers will see right through it.
So if you come across any sales or marketing tactic that just feels a bit…off…to you, give it a swerve. You don’t need them, I promise.
Make your peace with selling.
That said, if you want to market your business successfully, you absolutely have to make peace with the idea of selling.
I know this can be tricky — generating profit probably wasn’t the driving factor behind the creation of your business. You may even feel a bit gross at the thought of having to sit down and write sales or marketing content for your business.
The problem there, though, is that unless you have a massive lottery win nestling in your bank account, you need to run a profitable business if you want to continue doing what you’re doing.
And what you’re doing is so very important.
So forget everything you think you know about sales and marketing, forget the image of the sleazy salesman who only cares about profit, and look at it this way:
To paraphrase Zig Ziglar, you’re not just selling; you’re helping. You’re giving people the chance to live by their own ethics while allowing you to live by yours. Nothing sleazy about that!
Want to know more about reframing how you look at sales? https://www.clarecrossan.co.uk/why-you-need-to-change-how-you-look-at-sales/
Yes, the ethical marketplace has never been so competitive but equally, there’s never been so much interest in ethical businesses from consumers. As long as you hit the right note with your messaging, you’ll have no problem reaching the people whose values match your own and making a huge success of your ethical entrepreneurship.
As an Aberdonian, some of my first copywriting jobs were related to the oil-industry. Cue a huge icky feeling and the realisation that I must only use my copywriting skills for good!
Now I concentrate on helping values-driven businesses create, connect, and convert with the right sales copy and marketing content. Whether they’re fighting climate change, waging a war on plastic, or determined to end the stigma of mental health struggles, I’m happy to help.
If you need me to work on anything from your website copy and sales page to your blog posts and emails, I’m on board! Give me a shout.