Ethical Marketing for Small Businesses

Ethical Marketing for Small Businesses podcast from Product Powerhouse

Today’s episode may feel like a hard-hitter, but it’s an incredibly important topic - now more than ever. Today, we’re talking about all things ethical marketing. 

Sometimes it’s far easier to define what ethical marketing isn’t than it is to clearly understand what ethical marketing looks like in practice, so today we’re breaking it down from concept to intention to action. 

What does it mean to market, ethically?

Let’s look at ethical marketing from a bigger picture to begin with, and I may need you to bear with me as we explore some of these examples and concepts. 

In 1979 the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare brought together some of the top psychologists and advocates and researchers in order to outline a guide of conduct when researching the behaviors of people. 

They outlined three guiding principles that I believe apply to any interaction we have with others, and can be directly applied to the way we show up in our business efforts and marketing strategies. 

These principles are - a respect for others, altruism, and justice. Let’s take a look at each one.


A respect for others specifically refers to a respect for your customer’s autonomy as well as their ability and right to make informed decisions. 

We as marketers should not say or design anything to influence them to make a purchase decision without their full consent and knowledge. Meaning, we respect their right to choose - to choose to buy our product or not buy our product. 


Altruism  means to act with selfless concern for the well-being of others. So, in our marketing, we should set out to have the best interest of our customers   in mind, CARE about whether the product will truly better their lives. When you care about this, it makes its way into every marketing strategy you create, because you’re determined to keep them from buyer’s remorse.


Upholding justice means you intentionally strive to keep them from bearing a burden just so you can reap the benefits. In marketing, you want to enter into a purchase arrangement that benefits you, yes, but benefits them equally. 

Ethical marketing in action 

What does following these principles look like for us as business owners and marketers?

  • Be transparent. When crafting your marketing copy, you want to focus on communicating the true impact of your product as well as communicating and reflecting the heart of your brand purpose. When you do this, you help your customers decide if your core values are in alignment with theirs.
  • Be realistic. Don’t exaggerate the benefits - always take an undersell and over deliver approach. You want your people to be impressed with the product, to realize that it exceeded their expectations, rather than having them disappointed with ways it doesn’t measure up.

What do these principles look like in action, when it comes to crafting our own marketing content - from our websites to sales pages to social media content and advertisements?

  • Share numbers when it truly helps someone see a benefit or make a decision, not to increase feelings of FOMO
  • When crafting sales pages, don’t focus on SELLING. Focus on minimizing risks to your customers. Help them make decisions that provide the best results for them and direct them to the best option for their needs. 
  • Don’t sell by slamming other products. Don’t unfairly put down or compare your product to others. 
  • Tell people how you are using their data and information. 

The secret to ethical marketing - market research!

My biggest tip to support your ethical marketing efforts is to focus on conducting market research - which may sound boring or like a waste of time, it’s not! There are a lot of exercises out there that help you map out your customer journey and extrapolate what they’re thinking in order to create a customer avatar.

These exercises are great, but can lure you into thinking you know your customer inside and out without actually knowing your customer’s thoughts, needs, wants, and problems. That is, unless you conduct market research first!

Marketing research is the best way to ensure you’re ethically marketing and selling - because you get to know, in the words of your customers, what their needs are, what they’re looking for, and what problems they are facing. 

You get to know their desired price points and you accurately understand how to (1) craft a product that truly benefits them, and (2) communicate the benefits and features of your product without extrapolating about their needs and writing unfounded sales pitches. 

Market research doesn’t have to be overwhelming or long and drawn out. You can simply put out a call for a focus group on your social media or email list, give everyone an Amazon gift card in exchange for showing up to a Zoom call, and simply ask them some questions and take notes! You can also send out a survey via email and social media. 

To help you get started with research, Survey Monkey and HubSpot  have tons of great questions and tactics you can use in your market research interviews!

Thank you for listening! If you enjoyed this episode, take a screenshot of the episode to post in your stories and tag me!  And don’t forget to follow, rate and review the podcast and tell me your key takeaways!

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