Category Customer journey

Ethical marketing (part IV): honest and empathic campaigning 

Any conversation about ethical marketing is incomplete without the topic of stakeholder engagement. Having talked about core elements like
values, collective promise and transparency, let’s now dive into the subject of stakeholder interactions and four questions that can help us design more ethical campaigns.

How can you help?

The topic of customer-centricity is on everyone’s lips, with some even talking about customer obsession. We know that for an organisation to survive in today’s hyper-connected world in which customers’ expectations are higher than ever before, a great customer experience is key.

A recent Qualtrics XM Institute report shows that customers who rate a company’s customer experience as good (compared to poor) are:
• 33% more likely to trust that the company will take care of their needs
• 34% more likely to purchase more
38% more likely to recommend the company to a friend or relative. 

Another Qualtrics report highlighted the strong connection between experience management (XM) performance and business results: “Of the respondents who rate their company’s XM as ‘significantly above average’, 89% report better revenue growth than competitors in the previous year.”

Yes, customer focus is paramount. And at the same time, I’d like to argue that the customer-centricity paradigm is limited. It implies a narrow focus most often on profit only while overlooking the other equally important stakeholders operating in an organisation’s ecosystem and beyond.

In a world facing a climate crisis, increasing poverty and growing inequality, organisations need to move from customer to stakeholder-centricity and develop stronger forms of cooperation models that are more compatible with the complex issues that need to be addressed.

In this context, what if at the core of every organisation lay the question: how can we help? How can we help our customers, partners, distributors, suppliers, employees how can we help our stakeholders and the planet thrive? 

Or to quote Thomas Kolster: “‘Who can you help me become?’ is the one essential question you need to be asking and acting on to chart a new course for your organisation, changing behaviours at scale and unlocking sustainable growth that benefits all.” (The Hero Trap)

Being a bridge between the internal world of our organisations and the external world of the people we’re serving, marketing can play a crucial role in ensuring a genuine stakeholder focus and in building partnerships that drive meaningful change.

With the question ‘How can we help?’ at the heart of the business, a wide range of marketing practices can start being questioned, challenged and transformed:
• Strengthening stakeholder cooperation: investing resources in truly understanding the needs and aspirations of all stakeholders and ensuring an empathic and collaborative way of doing business.
• Remembering that leads are people looking to solve a problem: lead generation numbers are important but not without being underpinned by a human-centered approach that’s focused on helping audiences address a challenge and meet a goal.
Providing value at every interaction: each touch point in the stakeholder journey is an opportunity to help customers, partners, suppliers etc solve a problem and cultivate meaningful relationships that last.
Developing content, products and services with the users’ needs in mind: think about the content you publish and the functionalities you develop as an answer to the needs previously expressed by your users.
Ensuring transparent messaging in all offerings: we’ve all seen bait and switch tactics like ‘freebies’ that turn out to be product brochures, webinars that turn out to be sales pitches, headlines that lead to vaguely related articles or newsletters that only try to sell. Being honest and clear about what’s in an offering or content piece is crucial for ethical brands that are here to stay.
Asking for permission to communicate: respecting data privacy and informing your audience about what they can expect to receive from you is not only about regulations but also about building a community of people who trust you and want to hear from you.  

You mean it’s really free?

Lead magnets like whitepapers, ebooks, trial subscriptions, product demos and free consultations are essential for building email lists of qualified leads that can be nurtured into customers and partners. In exchange for the so-called ‘freebies’, many companies make the sign-up to their lists mandatory instead of offering a separate opt-in for other communications. But we need to remember that these ‘freebies’ are not actually free considering that data is one of the biggest currencies of our society. 

Plus, gathering contacts who aren’t actually interested in anything else than the offer at hand and who’ll most likely unsubscribe from the list quickly after is great for short-term vanity metrics, not for building a valuable database that drives long-term meaningful results. 

My suggestion is: create content that solves your audience’s problems, give the resources without mandatory sign-up, provide consistent value, and trust that people will come back and want to hear more from you because of the amazing content you offer. 

Why the rush?

Scarcity and urgency campaigns are widely used marketing tactics. The scarcity principle refers to consumers placing a higher value on products or services that are scarce than on the ones that are abundant. Perceived limited supply and urgent deadlines tend to increase appeal and consequently sales. 

‘Buy now or cry later’ 🤨, ‘3 seats left’, ‘1 item left in stock’, ‘5 people looking at it right now’, ‘50% only for today’ are statements we’ve all seen. The problem is that the language is unnecessarily pressing, with statements often not being entirely true, only taking advantage of consumers’ FOMO and loss aversion. 

It’s true that we all tend to sign up for events right before the deadline or postpone the decision of an acquisition until we desperately need it. However, using this knowledge to create campaigns that push consumers into making rushed, uncalculated decisions based on fake information or ‘now or never’ language is not only unethical but also damaging for the brand. If the next day, the event registration that was supposed to be closed by midnight is still open, the trust will break and the word will spread. 

So if you do make any urgency or scarcity statements, make sure they’re based on real data, placed in context and unchanging. Check out the Ethical Move for some great ways to ‘flip’ such tactics into fully transparent ones. 

Is it for real?

The environmental degradation, social inequities and political instability around the world make consumers think more and more about their choices, which in turn raises expectations from organisations across the board. As a result, companies experience increasing pressure to prove their commitment to a purpose that goes beyond profit. For example, Deloitte’s 2022 Global Marketing Trends report mentions purpose as a beacon for growth and states that “globally, 57% [of consumers] indicated that, in general, they are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities.”

And while many companies take the meaning of purpose seriously and make it an integral part of everything they do, many only take advantage of the ‘purpose trend’ to increase their profits while continuing business as usual.

Hence the question: Is it for real?
• Is the proclaimed ethical purpose manifested in every action and every interaction?
• Is sustainability just a buzzword or is it truly embedded in the organisation’s DNA?
• Are promises grounded in reality and being kept along the way?
• Is there an accountability framework in place to keep track of the real progress?
• Are mistakes openly shared, owned up to and used to learn from them?
• Is impact shared as it is: no exaggerated benefits and inflated results; no data and stories taken out of context, no overly doctored testimonials?
• Are all products and services delivering on the promise?
• Is any offer presented like one of a kind when in reality it’s only packaged that way?

At the core of all these questions lies a commitment to transparency, accountability and authenticity; a genuine dedication to not only talking the talk but also walking the walk, to having a set of values rooted in a higher goal and to manifesting those values at every single step of the way.

For more on the topic of transparency and values, check out these two blog posts: ‘Ethical marketing (part III): the transparency trifecta’ and ‘Ethical marketing (part I): driven by values, rooted in a higher goal’.

What else do you do to ensure ethical campaigning? Leave your comments below.

Download the Cause Canvas

Published on 29 June 2022 by Laura Tufis. Updated on 27 September 2022.  

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Automating your marketing processes – where to start?


Marketing automations

If this blog post piqued your interest, you’ve probably reached a point in which you spend more time managing data files and troubleshooting errors than marketing the cause you love. You may need to gain a better understanding of your audiences, tailor your campaigns more effectively, bring more qualified leads, and ideally save time while at it. Your data might even be scattered in various systems or Excel files created by different teams. And your creativity is stifled by the limitations of your current system and the repetitive tasks required by each campaign.  

If some of the statements above or all of them sound familiar, it’s time to switch to a marketing automation system. But where do you start?

Below you’ll find a series of steps that will walk you through the prep work and the set-up of a system. But before going through these steps, make sure you:

• Revisit or establish your marketing objectives
• Define your audience segments and buyer personas
• Craft a content strategy that addresses the goals and challenges of your personas
• Design the customer journey for each persona 

In doing so, you will ease the implementation process of your marketing automation system and reduce the chance of having to make difficult database adjustments on the long term. 

1. Analyse and structure the data you already have

Analysing the existing data is generally part of the segmentation and buyer persona exercise or can feed back into and improve your persona profiles. 

As mentioned above, chances are that you already have some contact data from previous events and other business interactions. With the knowledge gained from defining your segments and persons, you can now identify the data that will be key in tailoring conversations with your target audience (eg job title, industry, organisation type, organisation size, challenges, topics of interest, events attended). Make sure you bring all of this data together and look for patterns and commonalities that will help you cluster your contacts. 

Later on, this step will help you build user-friendly lead generation forms (eg with dropdowns instead of open fields), which in turn will segment your database. In addition, the amount and nature of your existing data you will have an impact on the type of system you will choose. 

2. Figure out what data you need at each stage of the customer journey

When designing the customer journey for your personas, the following questions will arise: 

• How will you know that you’ve attracted the right persona?
• How will you know that your persona is moving along the customer journey? 

Thus, knowing the type of data that indicates an effective customer journey will help you collect the right (amount of) data, structure your database and build your processes accordingly. 

3. Define the criteria for choosing the system that works for your organisation

Because there are a plethora of systems out there, it helps to define your criteria and set boundaries for your research. Examples of criteria include: 

• Monthly/yearly budget you can allocate
• Number of contacts you already have
Database growth rate you’re aiming for and expect
Number and type of users who will need access in your organisation
Type of support the software company provides (and how much you estimate you’ll need depending on the staff that is available on your end)
Functionalities for data privacy regulations like European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
Integration with other software you use
Automation options
Reporting functionalities
Scaling options (pricing tiers for different contact bundles and functionalities; proof that it can adapt to organisational growth so that you don’t need to switch systems too soon)

More functionalities doesn’t necessarily mean that the system is better for your organisation. Having a list of needs and objectives and looking at the system’s scaling opportunities will help you make a cost-effective choice. 

4. Test and pick your system

Now that you have your research criteria in mind, this step will become more accessible. Make test accounts for the most promising systems, watch demos, talk to sales and look at scores on websites like G2, Capterra and GetApp

I also recommend creating an Excel file in which you can list pricing, key functionalities, pros and cons and review scores so you can easily filter and compare the systems you’re testing. To make the testing more practical and ensure all the functionalities you need are available, you can also prepare a dummy list of contacts and a few scenarios for the automations you wish to have in the future. 

5. Align the system framework with your strategy

Now that you’ve got your new system, it’s time to build its backbone. Having clarity about your organisation’s strategy, objectives and customer journey will help you prepare your system’s framework for the data import. Here are some elements to think of at this stage:

• Create the contact fields and tags identified in steps 1 and 2 so you can easily identify your segments and personas
• Define your funnel stages
• Design the bridge between marketing and sales (aka at which point is a lead ready for sales communications?)
Define your pipeline stages (if applicable)
Structure your lists based on communication types like events, newsletter subscribers, blog subscribers
Create your email templates
Figure out how you will integrate the functionalities and processes for data privacy compliance

6. Import the data and structure it accordingly

Considering that you have already prepared the system framework, the data import should now go without a hitch. When preparing your files, make sure you know the data formatting requirements so that it’s all imported without errors. I also recommend clearly marking each file and the contacts associated with it so that you can keep track of the import sources (eg. system through which the data was initially collected; the team who initially collected the data; event/date attended). This will make your search, identification and tailoring easier in the future. 

7. Integrate your marketing system with other software

To avoid any manual syncing between your marketing system and other software, you can integrate them and ensure the data is shared seamlessly back and forth. Most of the marketing automation systems out there provide native integrations through an API (Application Programming Interface). Plus, you will already know from step 3 whether your system provides native integrations with your other applications. In some cases, the integration only requires following a few intuitive steps and filling out the API keys from your other systems, while for others, you might need to hire a developer. 

If a native integration is not available, you could choose to use a third party connector like Zapier, which requires a paid subscription above a certain number of workflows (called zaps). Zapier helps connect thousands of apps in a wide range of ways but it is advised to check beforehand if the exact workflows you need are available between your systems of choice. 

Software you might want to integrate with your marketing system are: content management system, sales system, online calendar (eg Calendly), event registration system, learning management system etc.

8. Build your lead generation forms

With the insights from step 2 ‘Figure out what data you need at each stage of the customer journey’, you can now start creating your lead generation forms – most likely by just having to drag and drop the fields already created in step 5 – and then embed them into your landing pages. 

Generally, at the top of the funnel you can deliver shorter forms (eg email, first name, last name) and as leads move down the funnel and you build a relationship of trust, you can progressively ask for more data and ensure an increasingly tailored experience. 

9. Ask for consent to: store and process data; send marketing and sales emails 

You are most likely familiar with regulations like GDPR or CCPA – these are key for your marketing processes. It is recommended that you consult a legal adviser to ensure that your data collection, storing and processing comply with all the regulations of the countries in which you operate. 

I believe that asking for your contacts’ explicit consent for all of the above is not only a legal matter but also one of trust and integrity. Telling people how their data will be used, what content they can expect from you and how they can request for access to, modifications or removal of their data is key to building lasting relationships of respect. 

Plus, I personally prefer to have a small database of people who really want to hear from me rather than a large list of people who remove or unsubscribe from my emails upon receipt. 

10. Design your automated workflows

With your system in place, you’re now ready to start creating your automations. Below are a few examples you might want to consider:

System set-up automations: the workflows that will ensure your database gets segmented and your processes keep running without you having to constantly check them.

• Mark leads with the corresponding persona tag depending on demographics and behaviour
• Assign your contacts to a certain list or segment when they’ve signed up to your newsletters, downloaded a resource or attended an event
Change the lifecycle stage to marketing qualified lead or sales qualified lead based on the persona tag and activity recorded (downloaded certain resources, attended certain events, asked for a demo or a chat with sales, read case studies, checked the pricing page multiple times)
Change the lifecycle stage to customer when a deal is won or a purchase has been registered through the integration with your ecommerce or event registration app
Assign leads to a sales rep or team when a certain form (with a certain field) is submitted
Define lead scoring: the relative points associated with the actions taken by your leads and what the cumulative scores will mean for your organisation at different funnel stages
Remove hard bounces and unsubscribes once they are marked as such by your system.

Nurturing automations: the workflows that actively help you move your leads along the customer journey. Make sure you set clear goals for them (eg. contacts exit the workflow once a ‘talk to sales’ form is submitted) and only send emails to people who’ve given explicit consent to receive emails from you. Here are a few examples:

• Send an automatic email with the resource for which a form has been submitted and follow up with related or more in-depth content
• Send confirmation and reminder emails to webinar subscribers and follow up with a whitepaper that explores the topic in more detail
Create email series per persona or segment, providing useful and inspiring resources (blogs, whitepapers, ebooks) that address their specific goals and challenges
Based on combined activities such as multiple downloads of resources, attendance of several events, high engagement with marketing emails or multiple views of pricing and product pages, create an email series that nurtures potential sales qualified leads with content that explains how your product/service solves their problems, case studies, testimonials, content that addresses common objections and concerns etc
Send an email inquiring if you can help answer any questions when someone has abandoned the registration or purchase process
Create a series of emails for new customers (thank you for your purchase; resources on how to maximise the use of a product; inspiring content to help them in their jobs; feedback forms on the product experience or customer service).

Need support in implementing a marketing automation system or setting up your workflows? Get in touch now.

Published on 31 March 2021 by Laura Tufis.

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