Last month, our blogs covered the basics of launching your business, looking at the elements of a business plan, how to determine your product-market fit, how to use design thinking to develop your product or service, how to incorporate storytelling to convey who you are, and how to develop your team.
These were all elements that you think about when getting your business initially off the ground.
This month, we’re going to talk about marketing, specifically how you connect with people in your community to successfully promote your business. And a lot of what we’ll explore is high-touch marketing.
Introduction to High-touch Marketing
High-touch marketing simply means the marketing that you do in-person, in real time, connecting with real individuals face to face. It does not include things that are passive things, such as social media, which well might be very rapid are not quite real-time.
High touch marketing does not include email newsletters, websites, online ads, billboards, newspaper print, or any of what you would consider your standard paid marketing. However, it includes things such as online events that are being conducted live, where you’re able to interact with your audience.
Big disclaimer before we start exploring any of these is that it’s important to learn what kind of marketing will be most effective for your business.
What’s the Effective Marketing Strategy For You?
Quite often, this is running a lot of different trials and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re Coca-Cola and you’re selling a consumer product, going door-to-door and talking with people is probably not the most effective way to reach a wide audience.
However, for many of the social entrepreneurs that I come in contact with, we are working with small local communities selling our products and services in our own hometown, where things such as referrals and word of mouth will really make up a large part of our business.
And let’s be honest. Most social entrepreneurs work directly with their community where they are making an impact. They’re out there talking to people, working with them, possibly employing them, or providing them services.
So you’re already out there talking to people, and we’re going to explore how to make this the most effective for growing your business.
An Example of High-touch Marketing on Social Entrepreneurship
I always thought that this might not apply if you’re an environmental business. But 3tree.me is a startup that is helping people develop sustainable habits and very focused on the environmental impact that we have as individuals and helping people make a better impact.
They just hosted their first-ever CBUS clean crawl, but they got over 35 people out on the streets of Columbus picking up trash.
It was a fabulous way to connect with other people and see them still socially distant and safe in our current state of the COVID pandemic.
I have to be honest; it was really fun picking up trash with other people. As we went around the neighborhoods, people were coming out of their houses and thanking us.
And it struck me how here we were doing something for the community around us. And they responded, they came out, they loved what we were doing. They were very appreciative, and they saw what we were doing. And when we’re done, we picked up over 60 bags of trash and left the corner of the city that we were cleaning up that much more bright and sunny.
Moreover, it gave me a chance to say, “Hey, here’s the community that 3Tree is connecting with and growing. It’s not just me. There are other people they’ve got movement.”
Marketing Begins with Social Values
I have to admit; I have my own personal bias against advertising and marketing. Part of this stems from knowing that they’ve known since the 1920s how to sell products and that you don’t sell products based on the attributes of what they deliver but half of the emotional values that people care about.
So in around the 1920s, they shifted from selling products based on what they can do to the social values that we crave: relationships, family, friends, sex, love, and social connection. The things that we really desire.
If you look in advertising, you’ll see stories of these social values intertwined with the products that were being sold. Over time, marketing’s ability to get in front of us and remind us of what’s out there and reinforce these social values that were being sold through products has been refined over and over and over. It’s an art form and a very effective one.
Kind of scary how they use all of our data from social media to actually do this and how effective it is. None of it is really evil. It just people trying to sell products and finding an effective way to do their business.
So effective impact that it only was a matter of time before politicians saw how effective marketing worked and applied it to their campaigns. You saw this with the rise and fall of Cambridge Analytica, which was using people’s data to influence their political choices.
And I think that’s where my own discomfort with marketing comes from is when you intentionally deceive somebody or manipulate somebody into thinking they want something, which they truly might not need.
Personally, I hope you never have to do that. At the same time, if you’re developing a business, you need to make sure that people who need your service and will benefit from it know that you exist and what you offer.
If you have a great way of doing something, you’re doing the world a disservice, not to let them know about it. Because quite honestly, you’re solving a pain in somebody’s life.
And by being in business, you’re making the world a better place.
High-touch Marketing: A Genuine Way to do Business
For me, high-touch marketing is a really wholesome form of spreading the word about your product and services. And it can come from a very genuine place.
If you look at 3Tree’s recent CBUS clean crawl, I don’t think it was done with the intention of, “Oh, we’re going to market our product and service so people can find out about us.” Instead, it was done because it was an event that aligned and demonstrated who they were to the public.
While doing some good for the environment at the same time, they had their cleanup just to after earth day, and they wanted to celebrate the earth, and that they did. While raising the profile of who they are as a company and having a chance to share with others what they are doing and what they stand for.
We’ll further dive into different ways that you can engage in high-touch marketing for your own business in further blogs.
To get started, though, you just need to ask yourself, “who can I talk to in my community and share something that demonstrates who I am so that they know a little bit more about me?”
This means that you’re going to be talking to people and interacting with people face to face.
And if you want to be genuine, you have to remember; it’s not all about you.
People are running around living their lives. And you can learn so much by listening to somebody about what they’re going through and facing, make sure that you can clearly share who you are and even what you need help with or what you’re looking to do in the world.
You do want to have clear messages rehearsed so that you can say them without having to find your words when talking to somebody, but it really doesn’t have to be much. You want to be able to communicate who you are, what you offer, and what you’re looking for in just a few sentences. And then turn the table and make sure that you’re listening to the people you’re interacting with.
Being listened to truly listened to is such a rare commodity. And I think when you spend your time, Listening to other people and understanding where they are and what they’re facing, they hear you much better.
Build Your Community
Build your community, but not from the standpoint of what you get out of it. Approach high-touch marketing as a way to answer the question, what kind of community do you want to live in? You set the tone for that community and those interactions. And people will naturally be curious about what you’re doing, and they’ll learn about it.
We spent 2018 and 2019 building up Wild Tiger Tees and talking to people in the community, sharing our story, but just being ourselves and getting to know what other people were doing.
When COVID hit and everything shut down, we stopped marketing Wild Tiger Tees. We did nothing for the last year and yet we’ve still had a consistent stream of orders coming in. We’ve continued to fill those orders, even though our work program was technically on hold. It allowed us to pull together a really cool new t-shirt design workshop program that we’re paying the youth to design t-shirts and opened up a whole new avenue for Wild Tiger Tees.
But the real point is this word of mouth business that came to us last year was all from prior business places we had gone people we had talked to who remembered who we were and cared about what we were doing and wanted to help out.
I can’t underscore how important it is to be genuine. We care about the youth we work with who are experiencing homelessness. And that comes across in our conversations. We’re not trying to sell anybody something they don’t need – we are upfront about who we are, how we operate, and what we stand for.
So step back for a minute and think about how you might communicate with other people in your community to share the message of what you’re doing.
Then go out and talk with one person that you’ve got it. You’re on your way to mastering high-touch marketing to grow your business.