Marketing: Lean In and Control the Lane


Marketing: Lean In and Control the Lane is a guide that forms part of the Social Good Guides, a series of essential small-business guides created to support startup changemakers produced by the Social Innovators Collective. Authored by John Rooks, president and founder of the SOAP Group (SOAP), this guide uncovers some general marketing principles and their adaptations for social ventures. Some of the insights offered in this guide include how transparency can be used as a core value to attract attention, and how different channels and tools can bring about change. When asked “What are some things socially conscious companies should prepare for in marketing their products, services, or causes during their first year?” John answered: “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.”

Through cause marketing, social companies tend to solve the problem with their business, not for their business.

Below is an excerpt from the Q + A section of the guide.

The Social Good Guides (SGG): How much money should one put into a marketing campaign in the first year?

John Rooks (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 the projected revenue.

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: 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.

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