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How Do You Do Ethical, Spiritually Grounded Marketing Practices in Today’s World?

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Marketing is one of the biggest challenges for businesses, especially for those on a smaller scale. It’s at the intersection of what you do so well, and the money that will support what you do. That almost ensures that it becomes tangled in ethically dubious tactics, because financial survival, and all the dreams that go along with it, is at stake. 

Mark Silver has been helping businesses do marketing from an ethical, heart-centered perspective for more than two decades, and he says there are some key understandings that are needed to make it really work for you and your business. As the author of Heart Centered Business, the following is what Silver has to say about this.  

Let me share three of the biggest understandings that will help you do effective marketing, without losing your ethical or spiritual center.

One: It takes time for someone to make a significant purchasing decision.

There’s a myth out there that with the right language, or the right “magic”, someone will go from a stranger to a client or customer instantly. The only way that really happens is with manipulative, unethical marketing.

If you are willing to allow someone to get to know you, your business, your values, and your offer, then the right people can step forward.

To do this, you must think about your marketing in “Journeys” as I talk about it. The First Journey is the marketing you do to strangers, and the intention here is to help them know two things: 1) that their values and your values are aligned, and so they can trust you, 2) that your business, your offer, is relevant to them.

Then, a different kind of marketing happens in the Second Journey, which is being genuinely helpful, supportive, connecting to the folks who are interested, but not quite ready to buy. You continue to make your offer, you continue to show up with their consent, but you are also helpful. Whether it’s email, or social media, or another way of being in touch, people feel trust when they can feel that you care.

The Third Journey of marketing is referral marketing, where your raving fans, colleagues, and others in your network who are willing to refer folks are educated and supported by you in sending new people into your first and second journey marketing.

Two: Speaking to the pain should be separated from the invitation to purchase.

Most marketing education says, “speak to the pain.” This is important, because when people have a struggle, they need help, and your offer needs to speak to their struggle.

Unfortunately, a lot of sales techniques advise pushing the pain points, which activate legitimate trauma responses. Then, that activation finds relief in the purchase. This, to be clear, is unethical, manipulative marketing.

However, you can speak to the pain in a way that people feel witnessed and cared-for, and still sees them as whole. There’s a world of difference between seeing someone as broken who *needs* what you’re offering or they’re doomed, versus seeing someone as whole, who happens to have a struggle, but who is not fundamentally broken.

To do this means that you are seeing your customers as adults, with the sovereignty to make choices according to their own needs and desires. They don’t need to be pushed; they are already aware of how important the problem is. They don’t need to be scared; they already have emotions around what’s going on. 

If you can witness them, bring caring, and an invitation to consider what you’re offering, it creates a spaciousness that allows them to step forward.

You won’t get as many adrenaline-spurred purchases, but you also won’t get as many refund requests, or people who regret purchasing and then give you poor reviews.

Instead, you’ll gain clients and customers who respect your work, trust your presence in their lives, and who are happier to buy again, and to send others to you.

Three: Be willing to be vulnerable.

In marketing, especially, it can feel safer to hide your heart, to hide your deeper beliefs, values, perspectives, and what you care about.

It feels risky because rejection comes with it. If there are people who really resonate with your values and perspectives, it means there are also people who don’t.

This is another aspect of niche, of not trying to reach “everyone.” Everyone tries to word-edit their marketing into something powerful or attractive, but rarely does that actually work. It usually just creates language that feels more distant or artificial. 

Vulnerability means saying something real. That realness is connecting. It stands out without needing to be clever or loud.

It doesn’t mean without humor, and it doesn’t mean all dry and serious. You can be vulnerable and real and funny. You can be vulnerable and powerful, and soft and gentle at the same time. It all depends on what’s true for you.

This also means that if you have a larger company, you have to give the folks doing marketing leeway, to take some risks. You can get clear, all together, of the values and perspectives in the organization. And then an individual can say something real from that perspective.

Of course there’s more.

A short article can’t give you the comprehensive how-to on ethical, heart-centered marketing. However, if you can take a look at your marketing now and see if you have an assumption built in that people need to buy quickly, that pain needs to drive their purchase, and if you’re hiding what you cherish most, then you might have some insight into why your marketing feels so terrible. 

On the other hand, if you are treating your clients like adults, and not trying to push them. If you’re speaking to pain points without making people feel broken, and if you’re willing to speak honestly and vulnerably, maybe your marketing, by being ethical and heart-centered, can be fun, enlivening and effective.

What do you see in your marketing?

About Mark Silver: Since 1999, Mark Silver has worked with heart-centered entrepreneurs to help them realize that every act of business can be an act of love. One of the pioneers in integrating real spirituality with the nitty-gritty of small business, Mark founded Heart of Business, Inc in 2001. As a designated Master Teacher within his Sufi lineage, and a coach, teacher and spiritual healer, he has facilitated thousands of individual sessions with entrepreneurs and has led hundreds of classes, seminars, groups and retreats. His weekly writings and teachings are followed by thousands of people around the globe. 

A fourth-generation entrepreneur, prior to Heart of Business Mark ran a distribution business, turned around a struggling non-profit magazine, and worked as a paramedic in Oakland, CA. He is the author of 7 books, including his latest, Heart Centered Business: Healing from Toxic Business Culture so Your Small Business Can Thrive.


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