The Ethical Marketing Strategy Guide

for Sustainable Brands

Social enterprise. Mission-driven business. B Corp. Triple bottom line. However you describe your company, you’re doing more than just making a profit. You’re making a positive impact in the world, too. 

This guide is meant to help you develop a sustainable marketing strategy to spread your message and engage new supporters. It’s based on the Open Source Marketing project, and was created to support mission-driven businesses. 

My name is Cassi Lowe, founder of Be Good, and I’m a design & marketing professional with 15 years of experience. I’ve worked with a wide range of businesses, large and small, throughout my career. Over time I realized I most enjoy working with businesses that focus on people and planet as much as profit.

I would love to see a world where triple bottom line is the standard way of doing business.  That’s why I’m publishing this guide for free. I want to make sure ethical businesses have the resources they need to thrive. 

Please reach out with any questions. Let’s get started!

Let’s Connect

Feel free to reach out with any questions:

Deep Dive

In order to move forward, we have to know where we are right now. 

The first step to implementing any marketing strategy is to have a solid grasp of your brand, message, and target market. Your brand, what you’re offering, and what you stand for are easy for you to understand, but it may be confusing to someone who is unfamiliar with you. 

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is your ultimate vision for the company and/or the world?
  • What is utterly unique about your business? What can no competitor ever claim?
  • What makes your product / service unique?
  • List all the benefits to the customer that this delivers. How can the benefits be demonstrated, or otherwise proven?
  • How easy or quick will it be for somebody to understand what you offer?
  • What is the target market’s level of awareness about the problem and your proposition?
  • Are there areas of your brand that need more attention? 
  • Does everything fit together?
  • Is everything in alignment?
  • Can anything be improved?

Take some time to think through these questions. It will often lead to a new level of insight into your brand and messaging. 

Quick Wins

Based on your work in the Deep Dive, what needs to change? 

Look over your website, social media, advertisements, and any other assets to determine if your messaging makes sense based on what you learned in the previous section. Try to be objective, and put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes. 

  • What can you change to make your message more clear? 
  • Are you articulating the benefits of your product fully? 
  • Can your customer identify and align themself with your mission easily? 

The 3 Second Rule

Try this simple exercise to find out what improvements need to be made. Ask a few friends or acquaintances to look at your website and give their honest first impressions. 

  • Are they able to quickly understand what you offer?
  • Is it immediately obvious what your mission is? 

A person who is unfamiliar with your business should be able to understand what you do within 3 seconds of looking at your website. To achieve this, your message needs to be simple and direct. 

Common Quick Wins

Your website is your most important digital asset for communicating your message. But there are other areas that often need some improvement, too. 

Social Media

  • Are all of your profiles filled out with complete information?
  • Does that information match what’s on your website?
  • Are you profile and header images up-to-date and relevant?
  • When was the last time you posted to this channel? 

System Testing

  • Test all of your contact forms or other methods of contact to make sure you’re receiving inquiries.
  • If you sell products online, place a test order to check for any confusing or non-functioning areas. 
  • Check your email newsletter sign up forms to verify that they’re working properly. 
  • Test any other communication or fulfillment systems. Customers lose trust in brands when they run into tech issues. 

Search Engine Optimization

  • Search Google for your brand name and see what comes up. Is it easy to find you and/or your products via search?
  • What keywords and phrases do people use to find you? Are you using those keywords throughout your website? 
  • SEO can be a complex, ongoing process. In the Quick Wins section we want to start becoming aware of how people find you through search engines. 

Timely & Relevant Information

  • Review your website and all communication channels for outdated information. 
  • Is your News/Blog section stale or outdated? Are you able to post new information to make it more current?
  • Do you have announcements on your website or social media that are no longer relevant?

Keep it Simple

When something is complex and overwhelming, it won’t get done.

Marketing can be stressful for a lot of business owners because it’s never ending. Many entrepreneurs rely on referrals and word of mouth. This is natural at first, but it’s not sustainable if your goal is to grow faster. 

There are too many “experts” who want you to believe that marketing is complex and confusing. They make business owners believe that they have to be on every social media platform, spend a fortune on ads, and spend all day writing blog posts in order to succeed. This is a quick way to burn out and give up on marketing all together. 

Big businesses, with entire marketing departments, are able to do everything and get in front of everyone. But that’s not necessary, or possible, for small businesses. It’s better to have a plan that is doable, that you can actually implement, than a complex plan that is impossible to keep up with. 

There are 5 main areas to focus on to build your marketing system. Don’t feel pressured to work on all of these at once. Choose one area that needs improvement, then keep building on your system from there.

Awareness > Capture > Nurture > Close > Continuity 

We’ll go deeper into each area in the following sections. When all 5 of these areas are working together, you’ll be able to attract and retain new customers, and turn them into supporters of your cause.

Follow along with the Workbook to brainstorm ideas.

Download the Workbook >


How do you get in front of new people?

This is usually the area that people think of when it comes to marketing. Many business owners feel that if they could just get in front of more people then they could make more sales. This is true to an extent. You’ll see how the other areas of the system are equally important. 

The most important thing to keep in mind when focusing on awareness is to be specific. Go back to your Questionnaire + Review – who is your target market? Brainstorm all of the places you can find them online. Keep this list in mind as you go into the next 2 sections. 

Big brands like McDonald’s and Nike are able to run “brand awareness” campaigns because the public is already familiar with those brands. Keep in mind as you go through the next sections that your goal is always to get someone to take action. Brand awareness doesn’t drive sales for small businesses.

Create Awareness: Outreach

Outreach is any type of marketing activity where you are putting yourself in front of prospective clients. This could include networking, cold calling/emailing, advertising, or any method to directly reach out to new people.

Outreach is the fastest way to start getting in front of new customers, especially if your business is newer and not as established yet. In general, most outbound marketing techniques are free or low cost, but require more of your time and effort. 

Several common outreach techniques are listed below. Some of these will work better than others, depending on your market, and whether your business is B2B or B2C.


Networking can take on many different forms ranging from in-person or virtual events to connecting with prospects on LinkedIn or other social platforms. Usually this is considered a B2B tactic, but if you’re in the B2C space, consider networking with people in your target market. 

Cold Calling/Cold Emailing

Cold calling is usually seen as scammy and rude, but it doesn’t need to be. If you reach out to prospects in a personal and authentic way, you’ll often be received warmly. People receive spam calls and emails every day, so if you reach out with a personal message it will cut through the clutter of spam. 


Advertising is essentially an automated form of outreach. You’re inserting your message into a person’s web and social media browsing. Advertising can be very effective if you have a strong message and fulfillment systems. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend refining these areas by focusing on the other two outreach methods first.

Create Awareness: Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing strategies help you attract new potential customers through content creation.

Inbound marketing is a long-term, on-going strategy. You’re likely to see quick wins with outreach, but generally patience is required for inbound marketing. When done correctly and consistently, inbound marketing can be a powerful way to attract new customers. 

Essentially, it works like this: 

  1. Create content that your audience is interested in. 
  2. People find your content and become aware of your products and/or services. 
  3. You convert your audience into customers. 

It sounds simple, but there are many aspects to consider to be successful with inbound marketing. First, what type of content will you create? Second, how will people find it?

Content Creation

There are numerous mediums for publishing content. Writing blogs/articles, podcasting, and creating videos are the most common. If you’re not sure which type of content to produce, go back to your Questionnaire and consider which type of content is most relevant to your audience. 

Next, create a publishing schedule. It’s important to release new content continuously. It can help to create an editorial calendar with topic ideas or themes. 

Be sure to infuse your message and story into your content to make it unique. When your content resonates with your audience they will help spread the message even further. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One way people will find your content is through search engines, like Google. The process of making your content easier to find through search engines is SEO. SEO can be a complex topic, so if you’re just getting started, you can think about SEO in its most simple form: 

  1. Brainstorm or research the types of words someone will type into Google that would lead them to your website. 
  2. Create content using those keywords. 

Social Media
Social media is a great way to spread your message and engage new potential customers. You can share your content, and create new content specifically for your social channels. Not sure what to post? Click here to download the 2-Week Social Media Planner.

Be a Guest

Don’t limit your content creation to your own channels. You can reach more people faster by borrowing other audiences. Go on podcasts as a guest, or offer to write guest articles for other publications. There are many creative ways to get in front of new audiences, so be open to collaborative ideas with other businesses. 


Media outlets are always looking for interesting stories to share. Reach out to journalists and editors of publications that your target audience consumes.

Email Marketing

Building your email list is the best way to share your content and stay in front of your prospects and customers. Social media platforms can fall out of favor or disappear, but your email list is an asset you own. In the next section, Capture Leads, you’ll learn about the importance of growing an engaged email list. 

Capture Leads

Once you have a person’s attention through creating awareness, what’s the next step?

Most people won’t be ready to purchase from you immediately. It’s human nature. Your potential customers want to make sure they can trust you before purchasing. A good intermediate step is to ask for the person’s email address. This will allow you to continue to follow up, make a good impression, and build trust. 

This probably sounds good in theory, but in reality it can be tough to convince someone to give you their email address. You’ll be able to gather far more email addresses by offering an incentive. It’s important to give something of value in exchange for an email address. This could be in the form of a discount coupon, a free ebook, exclusive content, or anything else that could be desirable to your target audience.

Get creative with this. Asking someone to “subscribe to our newsletter” isn’t enough. No one wants to subscribe to your newsletter unless it contains highly valuable information. Try a few ideas to see what generates the most interest.

Nurture Your Audience

Now that you have leads, how do you convert them into paying customers?

In the nurturing phase, the main goal is to help your new audience get to know you better. This step is especially important for mission-driven businesses. This is your chance to tell your story and connect with people on a personal and emotional level. 

Email Welcome Sequence

After you capture a lead through your email opt-in incentive, what happens next? An easy way to help your new leads learn more about your business is to send them a series of emails. Depending on your business model, this might include anywhere from 2 to 20 (or more) emails. A longer, B2B buying cycle might require more emails, while a retail, B2C business may only need 2 or 3. 

Your welcome sequence should include topics such as your backstory, why your mission is important, what kind of impact you’re making, what sets your products apart, case studies, testimonials, and more. 

Social Media

Allow people to get to know you better through personal or behind-the-scenes posts. Your social media posts don’t need to be cold and “professional” all of the time. Show your personality, and even vulnerability, and you’ll create deeper connections with your audience. 

Personal Messages

In some cases, you may want to consider sending a personal email to your new leads. Thank them for their interest and find out if you can help them with anything. This is a great way to learn more about the type of people who are interested in your product or service. It could lead to new ideas for products or content marketing. A personal touch can set you apart from your competitors.

Close the Sale

Make your buying process as easy as possible. 

You’ve done the hard work of creating awareness and capturing & nurturing your leads. Converting a lead to a first-time customer can be the hardest part. Make saying “yes” to your product or service as simple as possible. Try these suggestions to convert more new customers.

  • Introductory Offer: Can you offer a special discount or bonus for new customers? This could be a free sample, a coupon, or a special product bundle for first-time buyers.
  • Seamless Technology: Test your buying process for any technical issues that could make purchasing difficult.
  • Remove Confusion: A person who is confused won’t buy. Is there any part of your buying process that isn’t perfectly clear?



It’s cheaper and easier to generate repeat sales than it is to find new customers. 

Continuity is an important, and often overlooked, step in the process. Business owners always want to get in front of more new people, but it’s equally important to focus on your current customers. 

Marketing campaigns that create awareness with new prospects is much more expensive and time consuming. You can maximize your marketing budget by increasing sales from repeat buyers. There are numerous creative ways to encourage repeat purchases. A few ideas are listed below. 

  • Community: Does your business lends itself to building a community of your customers? You can create a user forum or Facebook group to bring people together.
  • Loyalty Programs: Incentivize repeat purchases by offering discounts for buying multiple times.
  • Subscriptions: If your product is something that is replenished on an ongoing basis, offer a discount for subscribing to a purchase schedule. 
  • Email marketing: Send emails to your list of prospects and buyers on a regular schedule. Make the emails entertaining and relevant to encourage higher engagement.
  • Referrals: Many businesses thrive on referrals. Put systems in place to generate even more referrals instead of waiting for them to come in naturally.
  • Retargeting: Ad systems such as Google & Facebook (and others) offer technology to retarget your website visitors and customers. You can show ads to people who have visited your site and/or purchased from you, so you can remind them to visit again.  
  • Seasonal/Limited availability: Creating a deadline for purchasing certain products creates extra motivation to buy now instead of waiting until later. 
  • Customer spotlights: Share pictures, videos, or stories with real customers using your product. They’ll feel excited about the recognition, and other potential customers will want to get involved, too. 
  • Solicit Feedback: Asking customers for feedback shows you care about their opinions. This can help you improve your products, processes, and communications, while also creating goodwill and trust.

Put It All Together 

How do these pieces fit together in your business?

It’s important to remember to focus on the big picture. A single marketing tactic will only take you so far. Use the workbook to see a high-level overview of how everything flows together. Each section feeds on the rest of the sections. They’re all necessary components in creating a healthy marketing system. 

Brainstorm ideas for each section of your marketing system in the workbook. Here are a few questions to think about as you fill out the workbook:

  • Which areas need the most attention from you right now? 
  • Is there low hanging fruit you can implement right away?
  • How can you continue to improve your system over time?
  • Which tactics make sense in the context of the big picture?

If you’re not sure where to start, think about the stage of business you’re in. If you’re new and bootstrapping, it might make sense to start with Outreach. It can be a fast and inexpensive way to start creating awareness. If you’ve been in business for a little while, you may want to focus on improving Continuity. 

Don’t let indecision paralyze you. Building a marketing system can feel overwhelming, but even small steps will put you on the right path to creating a sustainable system.

Track What Matters

How do you know if your marketing is working?

Tracking and optimizing your efforts will help you improve your campaigns and reduce costs over time. It’s important to track metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter to your goals. Usually, these are things like measuring impact, total new customers, number of repeat customers, and revenue & profit. 

It’s easy to get caught up in vanity metrics, such as number of “likes” on a social media post or total number of followers. Those numbers don’t directly correlate to your end goal. 

Pick a metric to track that correlates to each step in your marketing system. A few examples are given below. Your own KPIs may vary, but these are a good starting point. 

  • Create Awareness: Track visits to your website.
  • Capture Leads: Track number of email sign-ups.
  • Nurture: Track opens and clicks of your welcome series emails.
  • Close: Track total revenue.
  • Continuity: Track purchases from repeat buyers.
  • Impact: Track your social and/or environmental impact. (Tracking impact could be an entire guide in itself. I recommend Sopact as a resource for impact measurement.)

Review your KPIs on a regular schedule, either monthly or weekly. They’ll give you a good indication of what is working and what isn’t. If you notice a particular metric is slipping, you can put more attention into that area. 

An easy way to track your metrics is with a KPI dashboard. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet in which you manually input your metrics. Or programs like Google Data Studio can pull in different types of data automatically.

© Be Good Marketing