Did you know women entrepreneurs were more likely to be purpose-driven than men in nearly 70 percent of countries studied by business experts?
Women entrepreneurs are on the front lines of forging a more eco-friendly, socially just, and sustainable world. But even for purpose-driven businesses, standing out from the competition takes grit and hustle—and persuasive marketing.
That’s why we tapped three marketing leaders to share their favorite campaigns. Get inspired by these case studies in creativity.
Promote What You’re Already Doing
McGuffin believes that people like to work with good people, explains Betsy Fiden, partner at McGuffin Creative Group, a Chicago-based marketing and advertising agency.
The McGuffin Group’s purpose: to help financial, insurance, and healthcare organizations empower people to make better decisions around pivotal moments in their lives.
The company had long put its purpose to work by donating services pro-bono to worthy organizations. But a marketing “ah-ha” moment led them to formalize their pro-bono commitment by creating an annual grant program. Each year, one non-profit wins $30,000 worth of creative strategies and design solutions. In 2022, they chose the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group working to reform the criminal justice system to be more fair, humane, and effective, to receive the grant. Past years’ winners have included organizations working in renewable energy, sustainable farming, and childhood nutrition.
The program supports McGuffin’s purpose and feeds multiple marketing channels. “We promote our grant every year using email, a press release, and social media,” says Fiden. “The messages we send get in front of our clients. They get in front of our prospects. And they really help people understand the kind of people we are. We’re marketing our firm by marketing the grant.” One big learning? McGuffin’s pro-bono commitment had always been there. By simply reframing it as an award program, a great marketing campaign was born. “It wasn’t intentional, but it’s really turned out to be a great program for us.”
Thrilled grant recipients bring more attention to McGuffin as a mission-driven agency through social media engagement with agency posts. They also often go a step further by creating their own videos thanking McGuffin and sharing how the grant helps them reach their organizational goals. Fiden says those videos and social activations are marketing gold. “We publish those videos on social media, and that spreads like crazy.” The lesson for entrepreneurs? Sometimes the smartest marketing ideas are based on things you’re already doing; they just need to be repackaged, reframed, and creatively promoted.
Creativity Can Capture the “Wow” Effect
Especially for purpose-driven companies, highly creative thinking is the key to distinctive marketing. By making your mission a core part of your marketing and thinking outside the box, you’ll get the attention of potential customers.
“One of the coolest things we’ve done was our disappearing sand billboard,” says Leslie Nuccio, social media group manager at Bank of the West. For a bank with a strong commitment to sustainability and the world’s first checking account designed for climate action, an eco-conscious approach to advertising was a no-brainer.
The key ingredients: California’s coastal kelp forests, which absorb huge amounts of C02 but are threatened by climate change; Sustainable Surf, the bank’s non-profit ally working to protect them; and a local earthscape artist with unique talents.
The result? An enormous “billboard” drawn into the sands of a Northern California beach, complete with kelp imagery, the bank’s logo, and the words, “Investing in Kelp Forests Before They Disappear.” Drone-shot video captured the billboard’s creation. It also shows the rising tide erasing the words, metaphorically highlighting the danger our ocean ecosystems face from inaction on the climate crisis—an environmental message with powerful brand resonance.
The project produced a highly-visual marketing asset for social, PR, content marketing, and digital ad campaigns. It was all sparked by a single question: “What if we just got rid of manufacturing all together?” says Ben Stuart, Head of Growth and Transformation. “So we did a zero-impact billboard that didn’t have any impact of any kind but was still an impactful message.” For a brand that stands for sustainability, the marketing had truly become inseparable from the message.
Entrepreneurs can ask: Does this message, campaign, or initiative, reflect my company’s core purpose? What creative idea would reinforce it more strongly in a distinctive way?
Bring the Online Offline To Gain IRL Benefits
Sometimes marketing that “pops” is simply about finding new ways to nurture authentic relationships with your customer base.
For Erika Rodriguez, founder of Nadi Marketing, community is foundational to her sustainable business mission and her marketing. It’s her driving force behind growth.
But after leaving the corporate world to bootstrap her own entrepreneurial venture, her search for an online community of sustainability-minded entrepreneurs disappointed her. She wanted more than a Facebook group. She wanted to create a distraction-free space where ecopreneurs could foster truly meaningful connections, share ideas, and resources and inspire each other. As its own online destination, it would be separate from Nadi Marketing.
So, she created The Ecosystem—a dedicated, membership-based online community for eco-conscious and impact-driven entrepreneurs looking to elevate their businesses and create a positive impact on the planet. It quickly thrived, and because the community formed her natural client base, they converted into customers for Nadi Marketing in an organic way. In the wake of the pandemic’s deprivations, Rodriguez wondered if she could translate its online power as a collaboration space and new business pipeline into an offline, in-person sustainable business retreat.
Against the stunning backdrop of a sustainable winery in Portugal, she tried it with eight intrepid ecopreneurs. “I finally got to meet people from my online community and Instagram who I’d been talking to since before the pandemic started. And it was an amazing experience of relaxation, connections, sustainability, and just being fully present in person.”
The mix of business and pleasure naturally sparked organic conversations. Connections bloomed amidst bonding activities like surfing classes and yoga interspersed with co-working “power hours” when the laptops came out. The trip was so successful as an authentic community-building experience that Rodriguez is now planning to make her offline retreat an annual event and expects a dozen sustainable business owners next year.
Strike Up a Conversation With a Relationship Manager and Discover Our Differences
After years of in-person activities being canceled or fraught with anxiety, taking more marketing activities offline may be 2023’s most underrated growth strategy. In fact, 95 percent of respondents to a Harvard Business Review survey said face-to-face meetings are critical for building and maintaining long-term relationships. Plus, 88 percent said successful sales depend on it. If you’re like many entrepreneurs who prioritized online interaction in the wake of the pandemic, making up for lost face-to-face time may drive unexpected new business.
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