Are you sending a clear brand message?
I have attended many networking meetings in my time and one thing I notice is that many business owners don't know how to portray a clear brand message about their business. It's not just about saying who you would like as a customer, it's also how people perceive you and your actions as this reflects, good or bad, on your business.
It's about being proud of your core values. It's about having a clear vision of the direction your business is going in, but above all, it's about keeping all decision in line with these and not being afraid to turn away from opportunities that do not fit. Let me give you an example of something we personally experienced.
When I regularly attended meetings myself, one question that often came up was 'What makes you more ethical than other marketing agencies?' This has not always been an easy question to answer because to us, ethics is a way of life and not a marketing gimmick. Our vision is clear 'Helping ethical businesses to increase brand awareness and profit with Google AdWords and Facebook', however, this doesn't answer their question. It took a long time before my response was clear and eventually became our core values:-
We ensure that any marketing activities that are carried out on behalf of our clients follow the rules below:-
- We are transparent, honest & trustworthy
- We evaluate and make decisions both on Return on Investment AND moral grounding
- All activites are aligned with both our clients and our core values
- We focus on people, not just profit
- We treat our clients' customers as people and not just consumers
Then, a while ago, I received a call from a connection asking us to help a client of his to build their social media presence. When we started talking, he gave me some basic details about what they wanted to achieve and how much their monthly budget was etc and all seemed fine. It wasn't until about ten minutes into the conversation that I realised I hadn't asked what industry they were in, so I did so. He responded with 'Meat distribution!'
Immediately, I responded saying 'I'm sorry but we can't help this client'. I then explained that we are both, personally, and professionally passionate about the environment and as such, we cannot actively promote a company that is involved in one of the most environmentally detrimental industries around. For those that might be confused about this let me explain....
At the Bangkok Climate Change Negotiations in 2012, The Wageningen University and Research Centre published that, “Agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide.” In addition, the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations reported that Methane emissions from livestock are estimated at about 2.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, accounting for about 35% of the total methane emissions resulting from human activity. Also in a paper prepared for the Water Education Foundation, Marcia Kreith stated that 'It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat and only 25 gallons to produce one pound of wheat' and that's before we even think about the animal welfare issues within the industry!
To take on this client, just because it would increase our bank balance, would not have sat right with us ethically, even if no-one knew that we were representing them - The important thing is that WE would have known!
This doesn't mean you have to be a 'Tree Hugger' for us to manage your marketing, but what this DOES mean, is that we would not be willing to represent a client that, we feel, is environmentally detrimental to our planet. In our opinion, the only industries my connection could have introduced us to that would be worse, would have been fossil fuels, animal testing laboratories or manufacturers that use slave labour!
I kindly recommended a colleague that could help them and we ended the call.....on a good note of course.
Now some people would say that we were mad to turn down guaranteed work, but I can honestly say that I felt great that we had stuck to our own ethics and represented our brand professionally and without waiver. There was never the slightest moment of 'Oooh did we do right saying no?' especially as it was a generous monthly management fee that we were being offered.
It actually had the opposite effect! Since talking about this declined opportunity to a couple of networking connections, we have been introduced to THREE new clients who provide environmentally focused products and services, as they know this is a genuine passion of ours.
We have a strong brand identification based on our personal passion and beliefs, but not all businesses are this lucky. Knowing who and what you are is crucial for any business to be successful. Do you know what you stand for? Can you see clearly how you would like your company to be viewed by others and openly share this vision? If not, then take the time to identify this and make sure that everyone within your organisation knows your vision and lives by it every day when representing your brand. Otherwise, how can you expect potential customers to know what you stand for?
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