It is important to understand what “marketing” is today. It used to be the external face of your company, designed to attract attention and increase leads, sales, traffic, etc. And it still kind of is – but from my perspective, marketing is now everything you do: your human resource policies, supply chain management, check-out process, product design, waste management, social impact, and your CEO’s choice of car or vacation location. The new paradigmatic requirement of transparency has turned everything – everything – into marketing. Or, at the very least, into a marketing moment.

But that’s not what you want to hear. You want a step-by-step instructional on how to market. You want a worksheet, don’t you?

OK, first off, let’s dispense with the hocus-pocus. Most marketing firms claim to have a secret process or formula to uncover effective marketing strategies. The truth is, they are all using variations on the same theme. The ingredients are all the same. There is a recipe you can use to build a respectable and measurable marketing plan: fill in the chart below and you will be able to draw direct correlations from your marketing costs to your marketing goals. Fill it in and you will have a path.

The thing is, marketing is a learning process. Try stuff – there are no guarantees, only educated guesses. Lather, rinse, repeat. In other words: develop strategies, fund them, remove what doesn’t work, refine.

This is not particularly sophisticated – it’s kind of pedestrian, but it will work. Simply identify the following:


Who do you want to influence? Are they consumers, retailers, investors, supporters, policy makers, or employees? Be specific. If you have different consumer demographics, then list them.


What do you want them to do? Do you want them to purchase, volunteer, donate, or sign up? Be quantitative if you can.


What do they need to believe to take that action? Is it that good products and services matter? Are they thinking, “I will look cool,” “change matters,” “the system is broken,“ or “this is a better way”? (Another name for this category could be “motivations” – but then this acronym wouldn’t spell PABST.)


How will you create that belief? Will you do it through advertising, public relations, street teams, or social media? What do you think will be the most effective way to engage your audiences?


What things do you need to support the strategies? Do you need a website, promotions, direct mail, print ads, a deck to show to an investor, tchotchkes? By the way, all of the hard costs for marketing are found here. The trick is to use as many tools as needed and as few as possible. Your tools should overlap, which will mean that you’ll get the most out of your marketing dollars.

Here, I’ll get one started for you:

OK, so that’s how everyone else does marketing. You are a social venture, so you need to market like a social venture markets.

The philosophy for marketing with social purpose hinges on this basic premise: wherever possible, develop marketing that has corporate, civic, and cultural value.

Corporate value: This is normal marketing stuff. Plan for and expect a return on your investment in marketing.

Civic value: Improve the environment and the lives of your customers and supporters in tangible ways with your marketing.

Cultural value: Your marketing should push our culture into building a sustainable and more accepting way of life.

Let’s face it, consumers can’t buy a cup of coffee, open a checking account, or rent a car without saving the world these days. So the solution is not likely to be found in cause marketing. The solution is likely to be found in an entirely new marketing paradigm. The tools will probably be the same, but the approach will make it new and more powerful.

When you think about marketing like this, when you ask what kind of impact your marketing has on culture and society, you tend to measure your marketing in a different way. You don’t just think about return on investment, but about return on impact as well. Your business is designed to do good, so shouldn’t your marketing – the physical act of marketing – do the same?

Here are four examples:

1. The Tide Loads of Hope campaign cleans clothes for people affected by natural disasters. Tide can measure its return on impact in loads of laundry washed, dried, and folded (30,000 or more to date).

2. Performance sports apparel company Atayne picks up litter along marathon races. Atayne can measure its return on impact in pounds of waste diverted and litter accumulated.

3. Timberland promotes its proprietary blue-collar job search engine to help launch a new line of work boots. Timberland can measure its return on impact from the number of employees placed in jobs.

4. Seventh Generation wanted women talking more openly about menstruation as part of the on-boarding process toward a new product line, so they gave boxes of tampons to women’s shelters in exchange for consumers starting a dialogue by sharing a viral email. Seventh Generation can measure its return on impact in the number of donations made to shelters (675,000).

In each of the above examples, the act of marketing managed to:

1. Be phenomenally on-brand
2. Help its audience in physically tangible ways
3. Become news and content for the company (a double hitter)
4. Be measurable in normal ways.

It has been said that advertising is the price you pay for not being creative. The same goes for marketing. Marketing used to be the outward-facing part your company. But now, thanks to transparency, data availability/visibility, social media, and socially responsible businesses like yours, the guts are on the outside. Like William Burroughs sang: “T’ain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.” Naked is good – but only if you are authentically good yourself. Your marketing should challenge you to be a better company.

Look, you can either buy attention or you can earn attention. Both strategies work. Nike buys attention by paying celebrities to wear its gear. Stonyfield Farm rarely advertises its yogurt in traditional media. It doesn’t need to: it earns the attention.

Marketing strategies are always co-opted and stolen. Green marketing, for example, is usually just an open-air heist of colors, iconography, and language from authentically green brands. Authenticity, however, can’t be stolen. For social innovators, your best defense against the dark arts is transparency. Not translucency – transparency. Use your transparency as marketing. Inauthentic companies won’t dare follow you. They can’t – that is, until they can, and then we simply push our strategy even further.


Founded in 2006, CLYNK was launched as a logistical solutions company, offering an easier and more convenient way to recycle bottles and cans, which carry a deposit. CLYNK members collect bottles and cans in green CLYNK bags and drop them off at CLYNK drop-off centers located at participating grocery stores. Bags have bar codes to identify the members, and each bottle and can is then scanned as it is sorted at a central facility. Deposit refunds are placed into a CLYNK account for the member. To date, CLYNK has been responsible for the recycling of over 340 million bottles and cans.

Historically, CLYNK has relied on fairly traditional marketing strategies to attract attention and new members. In 2011, my company, The SOAP Group, was engaged to help them revisit their brand and marketing strategies. During a series of discovery workshops, two key facts jumped out at us:

1. Because each bottle and can has its bar code scanned (in part to ensure that it is eligible for deposit redemption), CLYNK also captures the manufacturer, product, container volume, and material of each container (glass, aluminum, etc.).
2. The average CLYNK member account contains less than twenty dollars and is often neglected or left to sit without collecting interest.

We saw both of these facts as opportunities to create more value for membership, for the community, and for CLYNK.

Using data from the bar codes, we were able to create impact data for each member and for their membership. Using calculations provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we could convert a member’s recycling efforts into data pertaining to energy savings, as well as carbon and landfill reduction. Members can now log on to to check their available financial balances and are presented with their positive environmental impact. These calculations create content for members to share with friends and neighbors.

We also worked with CLYNK to build program called Community Cash. This program allows members to donate their funds to featured nonprofits. It also allows nonprofits to use CLYNK as a fundraiser. In this way, a member, already an evangelist for his or her favorite nonprofit, can link CLYNK with their passion and share information about the service via word of mouth. Nonprofits can clearly promote their affiliation with CLYNK to their own audience in order to raise additional funds and awareness.

Extending this model, we have also launched the Maine Recycles Challenge, in which schools compete to collect the most recycling as a fundraising campaign. Educational content has been created to demonstrate to students and parents the cumulative impact that their recycling has had on the environment. In 2012, sixty schools participated, recycling 315,000 containers and raising over $23,000.

Moreover, we are currently launching the CLYNK for Art program, a regional promotion to use CLYNK as an awareness and fundraising mechanism for local art, artists, and programs.

In short, using data inherent (and unique) to the CLYNK system, we are able to demonstrate more value than simply “more convenient recycling.” And lastly, doing good for the community has become the go-to promotional strategy for both new member acquisition and increased redemptions.

Corporate value: Low-cost word-of-mouth marketing, community goodwill, brand value, and increased business (as demonstrated by increased members and redemptions).

Civic value: Raises money and awareness for local nonprofits. More than $270,000 has been raised for local nonprofits since 2010.

Cultural value: Visible awareness and reinforcement of the positive impact recycling has on the planet.

Social Good Guides (SGG): What are some things socially conscious companies should prepare for in marketing their products, services, or causes during their first year?

John Rooks (JR): Ask this: Is our marketing – the physical act – working to solve the problem? Create your marketing budget for a full year, but plan and execute it in six-month chunks. Be consistent and flexible in your approach. Talk to your customers all the time. Remember that aligning your marketing is more than simply being “on brand.” Aligning your marketing to causes that are important to your company can actually be more important.

SGG: How much money should one put into a marketing campaign in the first year?

JR: This depends on so many factors including margin, overhead, market size, amounts spent by competitors, geographic market, growth strategy, and expectations. In general, your first year requires a lot of up-front costs: branding, web development, strategy consulting, etc. Just like setting up your legal structure, there’s an up-front investment. Without knowing any specifics, one might estimate that a starting figure for a first-year marketing budget is between 15% and 20% of projected revenue.

SGG: Can you give some examples of marketing tactics one can easily employ at no or low cost?

JR: Be your own content. This is the best advice I have. Position yourself as content for the industry. Write smart white papers. Do research and publish it. Speak at conferences.

Simplified media relations can also be done in-house. Build a list of editors and bloggers who write about your industry and keep them informed about what is going on in your company. Only send them something if it is actually interesting. Hiring a new account manager is not interesting. Follow all media on Twitter. See what they are interested in. Respond and pitch accordingly. Simplified social media can also be done in-house. The issue will be having enough time: social media is like a new puppy – someone is going to have to take care of it. Pick a couple of outlets and be consistent with them. Don’t overcommit.

SGG: What are some elements or indicators you can look at to determine if your marketing strategy is yielding results as it relates to sales?

JR: It’s hard, but if you can correlate sales to marketing, that’s the best number to focus on. Mix up promotions to see what sells the best. Change keywords and ad headlines for online ads to test creatively. If you sell online this should be easier than if you don’t. Huge brands have already spent millions trying to figure out what a Facebook friend is worth. I wouldn’t even bother trying to measure that. Some marketing is only going to build awareness – try to measure that awareness (Internet stats, Facebook friends, retweets, etc.). Other marketing will drive leads into your sales or lead generation funnel – flag where they come from as best you can and track them through the system.

SGG: Search engine optimization (SEO) is something many businesses do not employ or understand. Why is it such an important marketing aspect to have and when should one consider using it?

JR: In a very real sense, to be found is the new marketing goal. Strong SEO will make you much more likely to be found. It’s worth investing in.

SGG: What is the difference between cause marketing and your new form of marketing?

JR: Cause marketing is typically used to align a brand with a cause through some kind of affiliation or “portion of proceeds” clause. The brand gets a halo, the consumer gets permission to consume, and the cause gets some money and visibility. On the surface it’s harmless. Social companies tend to solve the problem with their business, not for their business. This is not to say that partnering with nonprofit organizations or affinity groups is always bad. Cause marketing, by the way, works to sell products. Consumers love it. I just think that there is a better way to make change happen quicker.

SGG: As a social innovator, your brand’s values and mission should always be integrated into your marketing plan. What are some ways to ensure your company’s values stay in line with your marketing strategy?

JR: Your marketing needs to live up to your values as much as you do. It’s really that simple. We had a client come to us when they were offered a significant amount of sponsorship by a bottled water company for an event they were curating. It was tempting to take the money (they needed it), but the concept of bottled water was not aligned with their mission. In the end, they turned down the sponsorship and felt better for doing it. The employees recognized this as a marker of genuine commitment to the values of the company.

We chose to become a B Corporation to make our commitments visible. Regardless of whether you seek third-party certification, I would say use your gut and use the gut instincts of your employees to test ideas that fall into the gray area.

SGG: Why is it important to be transparent about your business within your marketing plan?

JR: It’s not so much about being transparent about your business within your marketing plan as it is about being generally transparent as a part of your brand strategy. How exciting is it that being transparent about your company can be part of your business strategy? And it is a strategy. You do need a transparency strategy, but, when done right, the very act of transparency can become part of your marketing mix.

SGG: What is the one rule of marketing that a social entrepreneur should always remember?

JR: Be authentic.

SGG: Marketing has many aspects. What are the main areas of marketing and can you describe each in one sentence?

JR: Some of the low-hanging-fruit strategies of most marketing plans include:

Promotion: Short-term deals to generate an immediate response.

Media relations (i.e., earned media): Encouraging media (bloggers included) to write about you, your product, or idea.

Advertising (i.e., paid media): This includes paying for placement within traditional media channels like print, radio, TV, but digital marketing and mobile are becoming increasingly larger parts of many marketing budgets. Some ads are “direct response,” encouraging immediate action, and others are “branding,” whose sole purpose is to be seen, retained, and, ideally, discussed.

Word-of-mouth: Creating value so that your customers brag about you.

Collateral: Produced, static pieces of content (printed, PDF, or online) that are used to describe who you are and what you do.

Social: This is the community of your customers made visible, and, to some extent, controllable by the brand. It’s also the modern newsletter.



John Rook’s TEDxDirigo Talk on The Lost Art of Authenticating Real


Social Enterprise Articles

4 Characteristics of a Winning Social Enterprise Strategy
Disrupt & Delight: Five Principles for Sustainable Brand Innovation
The Bootstrapper’s Bible
Fixing Capitalism: Michael Porter and Robert Reich
Social Enterprise Marketing Toolkit
The Hidden Costs of Cause Marketing

Nonprofit Articles

A Five-Step Strategy to Market Your Nonprofit Online
Startup: 8 Ways to Market Your Startup
14 Renowned Experts Share Insanely Useful Startup Marketing Advice
How to Market Your Small Business on a Budget
The Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing


Advertising Age (AdAge)
Showcasing the advertising and marketing industry around the world from large to small brands, this site is a great way to get inspiration for new marketing tactics.

Cause Marketing Forum
Provides nonprofits and businesses with the practical marketing information needed to succeed.

Great e-book downloads available on subjects from how to properly market using social media channels to the best marketing campaigns.

Highlights expert marketers and provides practical advice through their website, podcasts, newsletters, and more.

More Than Promote
A pledge and a book about authentic marketing.

Pimp My Cause
Brings together worthwhile causes with talented pro bono marketers.

Seth Godin
Provides innovative marketing techniques and guides by Seth Godin, best selling author of many books on marketing, the way ideas spread, quitting, leadership and more.


Branding + Identity
Building Your First Website
Publicity: Getting The Word Out
What You Don’t Know About Social Media
What’s Strategy Got To Do With It?
Why Design Matters

The guides are primarily intended for social entrepreneurs based on the United States, though some of the resources may be generally of interest to an international audience. Please remember that many of the topics covered by the guides, such as corporate structures, laws and legal customs, accounting, business planning, funding and fundraising, etc., vary widely from country to country, and that the information presented here may not be correct, applicable, or relevant to any other country or jurisdiction.

We strongly advise those of you building social impact ventures outside the United States to seek advice and support from reputable professionals who are licensed in your jurisdiction, and/or have area expertise in the country where you plan to build your businesses. For more information, please see our Terms of Use.



President and Founder, The SOAP Group

Website | Email | @thesoapgroup

Once in a while three distinct things collide during the right epoch, the right moon phase, the right storm event. For Rooks, those three things were an academic background in writing and cultural theory, a first-quarter career in environmental consulting, and a second-quarter career in advertising and marketing. The result is John Rooks’s third-quarter career as the President and Founder of the SOAP Group (SOAP), a sustainability consulting firm that operates at the intersection of culture, science, business, and sustainability.

Rooks started SOAP in 2003 as a cure for his career and as an antidote for the scourge of green marketing that was creeping over the nation like a plague. He anchored SOAP in a mission to help companies, governments, and organizations understand, improve, communicate, and own their impact in the world.

John is the author of the free online book, More Than Promote: A Monkeywrencher’s Guide to Authentic Marketing. He blogs at and for Richard Branson’s People and Planet blog.

Rooks lives in Portland, Maine, with his family and a dog named Martha. He listens to both kinds of music (punk and progg) and nerds out on Žižek and Zombies.



Co-Founder, Elastik


Tania Savage is a Sydney-based graphic designer who is fortunate to have worked with some wonderful individuals and companies for the last twenty-eight years. She has been involved in some great projects within the entertainment, corporate, retail, and government industries.

For the last twelve years, Tania has been busy raising her three children with her husband, Simon, and trying her best to live a well-balanced and meaningful life. A keen gardener, she is a big believer in growing her own food. Her wish is to be able to transform her urban environment into a food producing one that everyone in the community can benefit from.

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Consultant and Strategist, Social Good Guides

Website | LinkedIn | @think5577

As a Design Strategist and Creative Facilitator, Marc focuses on human-centered design and social innovation. Marc organizes, plans, and leads creative workshops to create positive change and tackle some of today’s gnarly social challenges.

Through playful exercises, he helps people come up with fun, usable, and innovative solutions to challenges. With a graphic and web design background, Marc is able to put ideas generated from these workshops into action, which continues conversations and encourages further collaborations across multiple industries. He loves finding ways for organizations to make huge changes and impacts in unexpected places.

Since 2009, Marc been actively involved, as both an advisor and facilitator, in Project M, an immersive program designed to inspire and educate young creative individuals by proving that their work can have a tangible impact on the world.

A multitude of his collaborative workshops and projects have been featured in the New York Times, Fast Co, AIGA, GOOD, Print, ID, PSFK, and various other design and culture outlets. Marc has lectured and facilitated numerous workshops at a number of distinguished universities and conferences throughout the country. Among other things, Marc is building out Secret Project @ CCA along with teaching in the graphic design department, and leading GOOD SF. He also rides a bamboo bike, makes homemade hot sauce, and unplugs in the outdoors. You can follow him on Twitter, @think557

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Founder, Social Innovators Collective
Series Producer, Art Director and Editor, Social Good Guides

Website | Email | LinkedIn | @shanadressler | @sic_org

In 2011, Shana Dressler founded the Social Innovators Collective with the mission to train and nurture the next wave of social change leaders to help them achieve measurable impact and financial sustainability. Since then she has been creating and leading workshops on business development for social enterprises and nonprofits at General Assembly, New York’s premiere center for entrepreneurship, the Social Good Summit, and social enterprise conferences at Harvard, Columbia, New York University, Brown, the School of Visual Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, and others. In 2014, she designed the curriculum for a startup business school designed to support 21st century entrepreneurial problem-solvers and creatives tackling the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time.

A deeply committed social entrepreneur, Shana is widely recognized as the first person in New York to organize rigorous educational programming for social entrepreneurs in startup mode. To fill a notable gap in the lack of resources available, Shana co-created the Social Good Guides, a series of 20 guides focused on the essential small-business skills that would-be changemakers need to know and an 8-week workshop called Social Good Startup: Idea To Launch.

Shana is an Aspen Institute Scholar, a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and a judge for The Webby Awards. In 2014 she became a Delegate to the United Nations Foundation Global Accelerator which brought together a “100 of the world’s top entrepreneurs to work together with policy leaders on global issues.” Shana was recently honored by the World CSR Congress as one of the 50 Most Talented Social Innovators. In addition to frequent travel to far-flung places, Shana loves all things chocolate, and makes her way around New York on a midnight blue Vespa. You can follow her @shanadressler and @sic_org.


Project Manager: Caitlin O’Malley
Copy Editor: Kelly Cooper + Kristen Hayes
Web Developer: Keyue Bao
Consultant + Strategist: Marc O’Brien
Series Producer, Art Director + Editor: Shana Dressler

whydonate_green_fullbanner_whitetext_110614Three years in the making, the Social Good Guides are the result of the generous contributions of a team of esteemed authors, designers, copywriters, proofreaders, project managers, marketing consultants, researchers and interns. Initially conceived as a “nights-and-weekends” labor of love, the project quickly expanded beyond its original scope once we realized that accessible information about the essential small-business skills needed to build sustainable social impact organizations was missing in the social impact space.

If you would like to make a general donation so we can finish the last four guides, click here. If you received value from reading this guide, and you would like to make a donation click here.

Please donate. Your support is needed and appreciated!





Text © 2015 John Rooks
Cover © 2015 Tania Savage
All other graphic design and elements © 2015 Social Innovators Collective.

All rights reserved. All guides have been created for private use. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, published, transmitted, photocopied or stored by third parties for download or for sale in any form or by any means, including electronic or mechanical methods, except with the written permission of the publisher, the Social Innovators Collective. Please see our full Terms of Use for more information.

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