Ethical professional services for ethical businesses part 2: Branding, Marketing & Copy
This is the second part of a two-part series on how ethical brands can outsource business tasks to professional services who share similar values such as fair pay, sustainability, transparency, and honesty. Take a look at part one here, where I explore how ethical brands can outsource to web designers, virtual assistants, and printing services.
The advantages of working with an ‘ethical’ professional services provider: a brief recap
First off, why would a business need to outsource to a professional service provider? The answer is two-fold: time and expertise.
In the beginning, it’s often a necessity to carry out tasks such as web design, branding, and marketing yourself. But as you get busier, it’s no longer sustainable to spend your time on tasks which take you away from the core part of your business.
When you outsource to a professional, you tap into the skills and expertise they have honed over the years. It might take you months to work out what does and doesn’t work for social media marketing. But a marketer with social media expertise can provide strategic solutions that removes the guessing and gets results.
Ethical brands may not realise there is an option of outsourcing work to professionals who share their values. But they exist, as I am about to show you.
There are a number of reasons why working with an ethical professional services provider might be the best fit for ethical brands:
- Ethical pledges and promises. Look for these on their websites or ask them about it. For example, The Ethical Move encourages businesses to move away from misleading charm prices (e.g. £297 instead of £300).
- Self-identified ethical professional services providers are usually committed to really understanding this marketplace. A generalist may not quite ‘get’ the ethical aspects of your brand, breeding fertile ground for misunderstanding and poor targeting.
- Often, ethical professional services providers ensure their own supply chains are sustainable or ethical, such as using green energy, webhosting, or sustainable materials. I recently explored this in a blogpost about my quest to make my freelance business more zero waste.
That’s why I’ve decided to put together this post with some recommendations on professional services that might help relieve some of the stress of trying to do everything yourself.
So, what ethical outsourcing options are there for ethical brands?
Why outsource your branding?
Branding and design communicate the professionality of your brand. Yes, you can get someone on Fiverr to sort you out a cheap logo for said fiver. But chances are you’ll be Googling a real designer when you realise it doesn’t quite project the image you want.
And yes, this is an area I still need to invest in!
Why work with an ethical branding designer?
For a long time, green logos incorporating leaves and trees have been the calling card of sustainable brands. To the extent it’s become a tired cliché.
But there is so much more to ethical and sustainable brands than that. A designer who lives and breathes this (quickly growing) niche is better placed to know what connects with different customer profiles, and avoid lumping everyone into the green cliché.
Charlotte of Creative Wilderness works with forward-thinking small businesses to provide fresh and energising branding. She explores their ethos and values so she can express the brand personality – I particularly love her branding for the Ginspiration event. She is also approved by The Ethical Move, and her first pledge is to provide fair pricing and transparency.
Hannah of BLOD design works with educational, sustainable, and social ventures, through which she draws on her experience in the outdoor learning sector. She has pledged to avoid the aforementioned cliched imagery, instead creating designs which are a breath of fresh air.
Why outsource your copywriting?
Copywriting is the art of using words to get readers to take action. Whether you want them to buy, sign up to your email list, or pledge for your Kickstarter campaign, you will need copy that does the job. Check out my first blogpost, What Is Copywriting, for a more in-depth explanation.
Many copywriters also offer content writing services. Although strictly a separate discipline, is another area where you can use the written word to connect with potential customers.
While some business owners love this side of their business, for others it’s a headache. They might know what they want to say, but can’t find the right words. Or they struggle to get any results from it. These days, our attention is so divided, that you need someone who can help you cut through the clutter.
Using a professional copywriter can also project a more professional vibe and provide an element of consistency – just like branding.
Why work with an ethical copywriter?
Let’s face it, copywriting is not generally held up as a beacon of ethical business. After all, copywriting is what kickstarted mass-consumption in the first place, manipulating buyers into acquiring left, right, and centre.
But copywriting techniques can also be used for good. Copywriting has moved on since the 1960s, and styles have changed. It’s no longer about mass-appeal and ‘manipulating’. Instead, it’s about getting to know your ideal customers and understanding how you can best communicate with them.
But still, unethical tactics abound. Some copywriters or SEOs still use black hat SEO tricks to build ranking in Google. These ‘techniques’ spread viruses in their wake and often result in the site being banned from Google. Big brands jump on the green movement with greenwashed messages. And I’ve even heard of copywriters who click on client’s competitors’ AdWords campaigns so they waste their carefully-invested advertising budget.
I’m a believer that honesty is the best policy and endeavour to be transparent from the start about results. I was once advised to become more ‘Machiavellian’. Instead, I turned the other way. If I don’t have the expertise to helpon a particular project, I will happily refer them to someone more suited to the job.
For example, Sabine of From Scratch – who is bilingual – can help you make an impact in both the English-speaking and German-speaking markets with your written communications. She also offers training and coaching to help organisations and entrepreneurs use their writing skills more strategically, so they can create their own copy more efficiently.
Another copywriter with ethical credentials is Naomi Ziewe Palmer of The Uncorrupted Copywriter, who works with companies with an ethical streak such as B-corps, social enterprises, and ethical consumer brands. Like me, she uses Ecosia for online searches, green web hosting, and keeps printing to a minimum. I also admire her for her transparency about her rates, something which is a contentious issue in the copywriting world, and one I have to pluck up the courage to follow suit.
Why outsource your marketing?
Marketing is hard. There are so many possibilities and it’s easy to get excited by one approach and then ditch it a few weeks later if the results don’t roll in. But marketing is the combined effect of little, interconnected efforts to reach out to people – your customers.
Without a strategy – we can think of it as a roadmap – you can easily get lost and be lured into uncharted territory. Sometimes it pays to keep plodding along. Other times, it works to course-correct.
Often we are too close to the action to really understand the best way to move forward. Marketers have a wealth of knowledge built up from experience about what does and doesn’t work – and it’s different for every business. They possess the ability to take a bird’s eye view and understand the best way to get from A to B.
Why work with an ethical marketer?
Like copywriting, it can be easy to feel suspicious about outsourcing your marketing. Results of individual tactics can be difficult to measure, and there are never any guarantees. So, working with someone who is comfortable being honest about the expected results is a breath of fresh air.
I couldn’t write this article without mentioning the Ethical Hour, a community of like-minded ethical and sustainable businesses who help each other out. Behind the Ethical Hour is ethical marketing expert Sian Conway. Sian draws on her experience working in mainstream marketing to provide marketing strategy, social media strategy, mentoring, sponsorship opportunities, and training courses (such as the Instagram Academy) tailored for ethical businesses. And the success of Ethical Hour is a testament to her expertise.
Often, ethical brands begin life as a passion project, perhaps initially gaining traction through word of mouth. But while you are in the thick of it, it can be easy to put off creating a marketing strategy. Compare Ethics found this when the founders were looking for ethical brands as consumers. They struggled to find the types of brands they wanted to buy from – not necessarily because they didn’t exist, but because they were not visible enough. This led to them setting up a consultancy offering brand audits, strategy & planning development, and content creation specifically tailored to brands targeting the ethical segment.
Ethical Brand Marketing, founded by Jessica Lohmann, works with ethical brands to create watertight marketing effects that connect with conscious consumers. With a particular focus on working with brands interested in protecting the natural world, Ethical Brand Marketing offers a range of marketing services, including consultation, website optimisation, and copywriting. As a US native, she can also help you target the US market.
Do you know any other ethical professional services to recommend? Let me know in the comment below! I was also looking for accountants, legal advisers and tax advisers, but haven’t been able to find any so far.