Typically, when we think of marketing, dollar signs, advertisements, sales, professionals in suits talking about leads and analytics come to mind. We think of big corp marketing schemes and data points. However, what if we saw the other side of marketing? Could it be that Marketing has deeper attributes that are well beyond sales?
Doris Zhang and Nikki Goodson, founders of Marketing for Good Aotearoa, discuss how marketing can be used as a powerful tool beyond sales. Seeing immense value in marketing beyond sales, and with their shared experience in the industry and overall business knowledge, they created their unique and innovative platform. Marketing for Good Aotearoa is already bringing many people together from design professions to marketing to digital professions to really promote innovation, education and growth.
Evän: How did marketing act as a tool or resource to achieve something beyond sales or product promotion?
Nikki: I’ve been working with the TEDxAuckland crew for about 6 months now. Our mission with the platform is to inspire individuals and communities to create a positive impact. At our most recent event - ‘tūmanako: To hope for a better future’ - people like Angela Lim of Clearhead (a diagnostic and triage mental health app) and Thomas Owen (speaking about privilege) shared their ideas on stage. Our role as a marketing and communications team was to get their message out to as many people as possible, to help create this positive impact. There were several ways we did this. We worked with partners, media, digital distribution channels, and most importantly the awesome TEDx community that’s accumulated over the years.
Doris: When I was working at Velocity, the goal was to motivate and challenge students to turn their ideas into world class businesses. Personally I love talking about ideas and interesting things that can bring any brightness into our world. I feel honoured to be a marketing lead in Velocity and using the power of marketing, not just the traditional marketing, to deliver key messages, inspire people, and to see so many passionate students entering the challenges. Seeing them try and become entrepreneurs at the end, I guess is how we measure our success. One example was, instead of telling people to do the challenge, we interviewed a few alumni to share their stories of their experience with the challenges.
Evän: How were you able to perceive marketing as a tool to do this and not utilise marketing in the traditional sense for product promotion or sales-driven goals?
Nikki: Like most things, marketing can be used for different purposes. I always wanted to try to put it to use to help create a healthy and thriving society. Of course, there needs to be a way for you to extract value but how you define value and regenerate your mahi can be up to you. I think that’s where a lot of people get tripped up and develop a negative association with ‘marketing’. It’s not all about selling something. To me, marketing is putting the customer at the heart of design, and that’s important no matter what you’re offering.
Doris: I agree with Nikki here. For me, marketing is a way to inspire, to deliver opportunities, to connect like-minded people, and build a community. It matters.
Evän: How has your attitude towards marketing specifically influenced the creation of Marketing for Good Aotearoa?
Nikki: It’s always been important to me that whatever we create be purpose-led and built on a strong value proposition. I was keen to use design-thinking to lead our process. I’m really passionate about design-thinking ways of working because they help to solve real world problems by getting to the heart of an issue, rather than just addressing the symptoms around it. When we started out, we did a couple of things - we began sharing the idea with as many people as possible to get feedback, we sent out a survey, and we used a business model canvas. Marketers might know this exploration process as research and the in design-thinking as the discovery phase. One of the outcomes of this work was we noticed freelancers’ desire for connection in absence of an organisational structure. This has significantly influenced the design of our platform. It’s an ever-evolving beast. We’re really trying to get to the core of this challenge because not only do we want to solve a real issue but we also know if we design a service that has tangible value to people, it shouldn’t be a struggle for us to generate income from it.
Doris: I knew nothing about marketing when I was doing social media work in my previous organisations. Initially, I just thought it was fun and interactive as I discovered more about it. I remember I had friends telling me how much they loved my work. They said they could feel the energy and felt uplifted from my posts and messages. I became good at it by using it to do what I love. For me, marketing is a tool to connect with awesome people and bring people together into a community. I think marketing is definitely a powerful tool. Here I am with Nikki, trying to ensure that we use it for the good of our world.
Evän: What are some takeaways that someone else can learn from to utilise marketing as a tool to achieve something beyond sales?
Nikki: Make sure you’re familiar with your value proposition, understand the benefit of design-thinking, and find your community. If you’re looking for a way to provide value that is complementary to an existing product or service, the value proposition canvas is a great place to go. It helps you to understand the core of your offering and what customers might appreciate in addition. As I mentioned before, design-thinking is also a tool I recommend to everyone - it helps you to take a fresh approach to problem-solving. Personally I find it a really liberating way to work. On finding your community, this is important no matter what line of work you’re in - to have people support, encourage, and laugh with you - that’s what keeps you going.
Doris: If you can, always ask yourself "why?". Throughout the creation of Marketing For Good Aotearoa, Nikki and I have done quite a few “why?” sessions to make sure that we are going in the right direction. The second thing I would say is to do your research. Whether your idea already exists or whether your product or service is useful are answers you can't obtain without research. For marketing, I would say as long as you understand your value proposition, know what you are trying to achieve, have found the right community, and have made it easy for people to understand, the magic will happen!
Evän: What are some of the bigger challenges you experienced utilising marketing in this way?
Nikki: A couple of the challenges I’ve experienced are having little or no budget for marketing and sometimes feeling alone in the pursuit of doing things better. With budget being such a barrier for many start-ups and social enterprises, it’s really important that we get smarter about marketing by understanding our true value and using the tools that deliver results. The regenerative businesses our world needs also need marketing. Often these smaller businesses don’t want to employ an agency, but it can be hard to know where to find and connect with freelancers. We know there’s online platforms available for this, but remember we’re also trying to tackle the issue of isolation. These new businesses need traditional marketing skills but also new ways of working. Freelancers can offer expert skills with the support and encouragement to continue to do so. Further, considering all my freelance work has come through real life connections, it seemed to make sense to create a real world community.
Doris: One thing I was struggling with, and perhaps it is still a challenge for us, is to find the right audience and understand what they need. We cannot reach everyone on digital platforms and that’s why we need to create a real world community. That is why Nikki and I constantly do our research and review our contents and ideas. As people change, minds and behaviours do too and all the time. It’s important to keep up with the trends and especially with the current pandemic. We want to bring people together so no one is feeling alone.
Evän: What are some final words of wisdom you can offer other enthusiastic marketers about how to level up in an ever-changing marketing world?
Nikki: In an ever changing world, I think it’s really important to take ownership of your learning and belonging. With the internet there are endless opportunities, you just need to decide what you want to learn. A few platforms I’ve used include LinkedIn Learning, Google Analytics Academy, and Moz Blog’s Whiteboard Fridays. When you’ve decided what you want to pursue you can then begin to connect with people on a similar wavelength. It was highlighted to me at a recent CoJam that with people moving countries, changing faiths, and lines of work, we’re no longer restricted to the institutions we once were but we may also lose the communities we once had. It’s important we take conscious action to establish our sense of belonging, independent of place. Connecting with others who are on a similar journey and who positively influence, encourage and offer support, is my stability in an ever-changing environment.