Marketing Isn’t Dirty. Here’s How to Make Your Marketing Soulful Instead of Sleazy

by David · 2 comments

Marketing is a dirty word. Many small business owners I speak to feel guilty about marketing. There’s a good reason for this.

Being marketed too is annoying, right? Cold calls disturb your supper, commercials break apart your favorite TV show, Internet pop-ups interrupt your browsing. No wonder Bill Hicks saw marketers as the wretched of the earth.

Marketers are parasites, bloodsuckers, leeches. They take what we have – our time, our attention – without asking if we’re willing to give it. And worse, they want more: they want us to open our wallets and hand over our hard-earned cash.

They create false desires and sell us things we don’t need. Then, once we’ve bought from them, they’re gone as quick as they came. They leave us feeling used and abused and move on to the next schmuk who’ll fall for their patter.

I earn my bread as a marketer, and though the above caricature of marketers is, sadly, often true, I want nothing to do with it.

Marketing doesn’t have to be this way.

Truth is, everyone works in marketing. We all persuade others to do things every day. We all share the things we love. We recommend a book to a friend. We share our holiday snaps on Facebook, marketing the places we visited. We talk about last night’s TV shows around the water cooler at work.

Marketing with soul is about helping people find the things that will improve their life. You’re showing them exciting opportunities for themselves or their business that, without you, they wouldn’t know exist.

Ways to Market with Soul

Care for your customers

Your current customers are the core of your business – without them, your business would fold. Marketing with soul means taking good care of them, and giving them the customer service they deserve.

If they no longer like what you’re doing, they can go elsewhere. Because of this, customer service is marketing.

And if people know you’ll look after them once they’ve bought from you, they’re more likely to choose you in the first place.

Some friends of mine recently tried out two ice-cream parlours. One had fantastic ice-cream, but it was self-service on a busy road. At the other, the ice cream wasn’t so great, and it was nearly twice as expensive. But you got waiter service, and the parlor faced the beach.

They preferred the more expensive ice cream, even though it didn’t taste as good. And that’s down to one thing: their experience as customers.

Listen, Don’t Preach

Much soulless marketing is like shouting through a megaphone. You have a product to sell, and you go out and yell about it, whether or not people want to listen.

Soulful marketing is more like a conversation. Rather than shouting at everyone (and alienating most of them), you sit down and talk with people who are interested in what you have to say. And you take an interest in what they have to say, too.

Get to know your customers – this is especially important for small business. People don’t only come to you to buy your product or service. Most likely, they could get a similar product cheaper somewhere else. They come for the full experience you offer them.

Tell stories

We all live by stories. We understand our lives as a story. We immerse ourselves in stories, whether that’s a movie, a novel, the story of our business, or the story of our local community. We all want to be part of a story, and we all want to be heroes in our own lives.

Because of this, people connect with stories. Whenever we hear a story beginning, we pause for a moment to listen in. We want to know more.

Stories make sense, and excite your customers, in a way that a list of your product’s features or benefits don’t.

Stories don’t force themselves onto people. Instead, they seep into people’s mind. And if the story you tell captures someone’s imagination, they’ll choose your product.

Share the things you love

Are you invested in your product or service? How much do you believe in your offering?

Soulful marketers will only sell products they believe in, products they know will improve their customer’s lives. When they know, they can market their products gently, not forcing it down the throats of customers, but sharing it with them as an exciting opportunity.

All these soulful marketing strategies dovetail neatly together. If you care for your product, you’ll feel inspired to care for your customers, the people who buy your product. As you care for your customers, you’re more likely to listen to them. And as you listen to your customers, you can begin to tell your story in a way that matters to them, and to future customers. And as you become a better storyteller, you’ll discover new purpose and meaning in the products you sell.

Over to You

What do you do to make sure your marketing is soulful rather than sleazy?

David is Social Caffeine’s acting editor. He’s British, but we don’t hold that against him.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Spong October 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm

My POV: marketing is indeed a dirty word, and trying to recuperate it just isn’t worth the bother. What do marketing’s ‘principles’, forged around the idea of selling to archetypes in the last century, have to do with the era of social business?

We are living and working in a postmarketing age, but have yet to fully interrogate what that means for the way that we structure, resource, and present our businesses. The concepts you are describing are great, but let’s have the courage to call them something else.


Suchismita Pai October 25, 2012 at 6:16 am

No school taught you how to really market anything. Having a degree in business administration , at least some time ago, never meant you had the right skills. Most marketers belong to the category you describe first. But you are very right about caring for your customers. In the long run it is what counts. These days though there is so much noise, it is hard to look beyond it. Maybe as more people say it, it will mean more.


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