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Designing an ethical marketing strategy for your eco-friendly start-up

Consumer demand for eco-friendly and sustainable products seems to be growing by the day. And, as this shift in consumer attitudes continues to gain momentum, the market is becoming increasingly crowded. So, how can you ensure that your message is reaching your target customers? Jonathan Birch, Creative Director from Glass Digital, stopped by to share his top tips for creating a digital marketing strategy that will showcase your eco-friendly credentials and drive traffic and sales to your site.

More customers than ever are now looking for products and services that align with their values, with ethical consumer spending and finance hitting £89 million by the end of 2019 (The Ethical Consumer Markets Report). And, even though many people saw their finances take a hit last year, the interest in ethical shopping showed no signs of slowing down. Despite the pandemic, shoppers were not deterred from choosing ethical or eco-conscious options, with the same report finding that public interest in shopping locally and buying Fairtrade and organic products continued to grow through 2020.

All of this is great news if your business already operates in a sustainable and ethical way. However, it also means that the market is becoming increasingly crowded, as lots of brands — including the likes of fossil fuel companies (edie.net) — are now attempting to cash in on the eco-conscious boom. So, if you want to stand out from your competitors and show your customers that you’re a truly sustainable brand, you’ll need a great marketing campaign to help spread the word.

Here, I’ll talk in more detail about how you can design an online strategy that will connect with consumers in an authentic way, attract more traffic to your site, and drive those crucial sales.

Spread the message — and boost site visibility — with content marketing

One tactic that can be very effective for promoting your ethical policies is producing content marketing for your site. This approach offers several benefits: first, it allows you to demonstrate your values as a brand and show that you take sustainability seriously. Secondly, it helps establish your site as an authority on sustainable topics with search engines. And thirdly, it also allows you to draw organic traffic to your site by targeting the sorts of queries and topics that people are searching for online, which in turn can boost your rankings across your entire website.

To ensure your content marketing is offering maximum value for your site, remember to focus on producing content that is high-quality, well-written (or produced, if you’re creating video content), informative, and relevant to your industry or products. It can also boost your chances of success if you focus on creating content that your target audience is likely to be interested in. For example, if you sell sustainable clothing and your customers are typically looking to make their wardrobes more eco-friendly, you could create content marketing offering tips on how to stop funding fast fashion.

Good content marketing takes time and skill to produce so, if you don’t feel that you can handle this job in-house, remember you can always outsource the work to a copywriter or agency. They may also be able to access SEO tools and software which can be used to optimise your content for search engines, further boosting your chances of success.

Communicate effectively and be sincere

When producing marketing materials for your campaign — whether that’s onsite copy, blog posts, or social media content— clear communication is key. It’s not enough to make vague claims about being eco-friendly or ethical: you need to be specific and exact. Using statistics to back up your claims — like the number of trees your company plants per every unit sold, for example — will give your campaigns greater impact and show you’re not just piggybacking on a trend.

Additionally, with any kind of ethical marketing campaign, sincerity is vital. It might sound obvious, but you’re more likely to succeed if your company really is sustainable and ethical. If your marketing communications aren’t actually an accurate reflection of your real business plan and principles, it can backfire spectacularly — as many brands who have been accused of “greenwashing” have learned the hard way.

Customers are getting increasingly savvy to these tactics and will be able to pick up on dishonest marketing, so you really need to make sure your company lives up to any claims you make in your marketing campaigns. Even if every element of how your business operates isn’t fully sustainable or eco-friendly right now, then be honest about it and show what you’re doing to improve. Consumers are likely to respond well to your honesty, but they won’t like being misled.

Build links to boost site authority

If you’ve spent any time reading up on SEO, you might already know that one of the most important factors (or “ranking signals”) that search engines use when assessing the quality of a site is its backlink profile. Basically, search engines like Google interpret having lots of links from high-quality sites as a sign that your website is offering quality content. Consequently, when your site has lots of good backlinks, it can lead to an overall boost for rankings across your site, meaning you’ll attract more organic traffic to your key pages and products.

Having lots of great content on your site will help to build up a strong backlink profile. However, if you haven’t produced much content marketing yet, this can take a fair amount of time. So, you may want to consider giving yourself a head start by engineering some of these SEO-boosting links yourself. To do this, you’ll need to contact other websites and offer them some content — like a guest post — in exchange for a link back to your site. 

When building links in this way, it’s important to remember that relevancy is the key to success, so target sites that are in the same industry or a related field to your brand. You should also take care to avoid falling foul of Google’s guidelines: don’t ever offer reciprocal links, and don’t pay to secure links on disreputable sites, as both can do more harm than good.

More consumers than ever before are seeking to shop ethically where they can, despite the pandemic. So, if you run a sustainable company, now is the perfect time to use this to your advantage. By following the tips I’ve shared here, you should be able to design a marketing campaign that makes the most of your conscious USPs.


Jonathan Birch is Creative Director at Glass Digital, a digital marketing agency that offers bespoke SEO, tech, content, outreach, affiliate, and paid search services across a wide range of industries. In a field where many professionals prefer to shroud their tactics in mystery, the company prides itself on offering a transparent approach, with real-time activity updates, straightforward advice, and honest reporting. Over the past 7 years, Glass Digital has produced great results and increased site visibility for a range of top clients, from Dormeo to Denby Pottery.

Jonathan Birch