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Reluctant Marketer: Why the triple bottom line norm?

By Pat Heffernan on 7/28/14 10:15 AM

spreading farm manure: representing a Reluctant Marketer_flickr

It’s a scene I’ve lived over and over again. Deep into a positioning work session while I’m probing for what you believe distinguishes your triple bottom line company from others, you start to become uncomfortable. It’s as if you feel — this is not a conscious response I’m observing – it’s as if you feel viscerally that you will be dirtied just by contrasting the marketing claims of traditional competitors with what you are trying to do. Suddenly, a reluctant marketer appears. Why?

position matrix


Reluctant Marketer Vulnerability the Norm

Triple bottom line companies, social entrepreneurs, 501(c)3 nonprofits, and those founded on the principles of sustainable business are all vulnerable to “reluctant marketer syndrome.” It’s as if the more that traditional and mega-corporations paint themselves in the triple bottom line language, the less comfortable are those for whom these values are at the core of who they are and why they were founded.

The Search for New Language

Over the last 40 years values-based businesses have struggled with new language in an attempt to distinguish an authentic commitment from what is seen as merely window dressing for a profit-only model.


Google Trends TBL Sustainable Business social entrepreneur benefit corporationetc


Easing Reluctant Marketer Syndrome

This is a topic to be returned to, but meanwhile here are a few suggestions to build comfort and confidence for those who may be in the early stages of struggling with wearing a white hat in a dirty field.

  1. Consider becoming a benefit corporation or certified B Corp to legally and publicly document your purpose and practices.
  2. Use your values and principles as a touchstone to test your marketing tactics and messages against
  3. Let your stories show rather than tell, how you live your business values
photo credit CC via flickr: Spreading farm yard manure, Natural



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