I usually write about sexuality related topics. I am taking a little detour in my writing in this article to write about marketing, selling, pitching, promoting and offering our services to the world for money or for free.
If there is one thing I have learned in my marketing class, it is that everyone has to market—businesses, nonprofits, change makers and social justice workers. Marketing is about influencing, persuading and getting people to take action. The marketing professionals I listen to would add: doing all of that with integrity.
Even if we are working for societal change, we need marketing skills to make it happen. Even if we are working in a nonprofit organization and the business model is not based on profits, we need marketing to promote our mission and get funders or donors or clients to take certain actions.
I am not a marketing expert. But what I have noticed in my numerous online business groups is that promoting, pitching and making offers have all of a sudden become undesirable. Rules have gotten made to try to control promotion much the way that rules get made around sex and sexuality trying to keep us safe.
In various groups I participate in, there are statements such as “Don’t link to your blog.” In another group no one is supposed to link to their websites. In one group, the rule is it is okay to link to your blog if you want to start a conversation, but otherwise it is not okay.
The conversation is also, fortunately, about being intentional in our online promotions. I fully support people getting intentional, thoughtful and respectful in every area of their lives. I believe building relationships and not pressuring people are important ethical principles in marketing just as they are in sexuality. Those are the same concepts I teach in my sexuality and intimacy workshops.
But I’m also very sure that everything we do is promotion. As I have been saying consistently, it does not matter so much what we do or say as how we do or say it. These arbitrary rules about not promoting our websites or blogs or only posting offerings in a designated marketing group as opposed to the main group or only posting offerings on Thursdays or Fridays or in a specific thread for offerings are not solutions to me.
I believe everything I do is a promotion.
One of the conversations I have listened in on is about not promoting yourself but being helpful to people—and therein you may find your customers. I am coming at this idea from the perspective of being someone who is incredibly giving. I have helped more people move than I can count. I am known for being generous to people by helping take care of their children and in many other ways. Most of my paid work has been in the human services.
We should help someone because we really want to, not because it is the only way to ultimately get noticed for our paid offerings. I place great value on doing something for people unconditionally and not because we secretly are trying to sell something or find clients.
It is hard to guess at someone’s motivation or intent. I like to trust that people have good intentions unless I know otherwise. I also appreciate and feel more comfortable when people are upfront, direct and clear about what they want. If we are proud of our offerings and they truly would help people, there’s no reason to keep quiet or get clever about how we let people know about what we have to offer.
Someone asking my opinion about their website or logo design has started to feel uncomfortable to me. In this marketing environment I am describing, it is really hard to know if the person genuinely wants feedback or they just don’t have any other way to get their website or business in front of me and other potential clients.
We all have individual preferences and tastes. So one person’s style and way of promoting may not be appealing to me but could be appropriate for someone else. Deciding that something is not my cup of tea is very different from deciding that all promoting, selling and marketing are bad.
It is similar to deciding that sex is bad because we don’t share someone else’s preference. It is unrealistic to think that we would like all offers or all ways of promoting. And it is not helpful when someone draws broad generalizations or attempts to control it, especially in the area where they are selling their own expertise, programs or offerings.
I honor the people I know who are identifying marketing that is done ethically and with integrity and marketing that is not. To me that is a much better approach than just deciding that all promoting is unacceptable.
If we don’t like a certain promotional effort, we need to ask what we would change rather than making it impossible to promote. It is the same conversation I would have around sex and sexuality. I have done workshops such as one called “Sex Is Not the Problem; Touch Is Not the Problem” trying to get at this very issue. Yes, there are problems with sex and sexuality, but let’s be specific about those problems rather than draw broad generalizations about sex, touch, intimacy and relationships that make them all “bad.”
Similarly, we should ask what makes quality pitching and selling. Marketing is not going away any more than sexuality is going away. Marketing is the way we get the word out about everything. And, again, it is not what we do but how we do it that matters the most.
Consent and respect are what are most important to me in all areas of our lives. What is consensual and respectful or done with integrity could be talked about fairly endlessly in sexuality and also in regards to marketing. But that is a valuable conversation to have.
I welcome the complex conversation as to how to do it rather than a straight-out attempt to control it. And I also recognize this may not be any easier to do with marketing than with sexuality, given some of the contexts of where it happens. For example, how do you have these conversations online or in a group of thousands? Not easy at all.
However, if we really believe that marketing is good—and we should if we are teaching it or using it in any way—then it is imperative we engage in a way that makes it clear what we want to change. Just like sexuality, it is not something we can turn off at will. Everything we do is promotion in a similar way that sexuality is a life force energy within us at all times. My hope is that we act in both of these areas consciously, intentionally and with as much consent as we can verify in our complex individual and social interactions in person and online.
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