We live in a country that supports and defends our citizens’ rights to free speech and equality. That’s part of what makes the United States such a great place to live. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with any of the local or federal hot button topics that are happening right now – you have the right to follow your beliefs and express them in a civil way.
Right now, our generation is experiencing one of the most impactful Supreme Court Verdicts this country has seen in a long time. The SCOTUS verdict legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states was issued on Friday, June 26. This decision has been met with either extreme celebration or moral outrage across the nation.
If you own a locally owned and operated business like I do, then you had a serious decision to make after the ruling came down and your Facebook feed, email, and Twitter accounts exploded with people expressing their beliefs.
You had to make a decision on where not only you stood (which is usually easy to figure out), but what your company’s official stance would be. You have three options – Supportive, Against, or to remain Professionally Neutral.
Now, before I continue, let me step back a minute and tell you who I am so that the rest of this article makes sense.
<— That’s me. My name is Christina Hooper. I’m pretty much your home-grown, small-town, southern girl. My husband and I run a business in Fort Oglethorpe, GA called Absolute Synergy Squad.
I am Inbound Marketing Certified, HubSpot Marketing Software Certified, and HubSpot Marketing Agency Certified to provide online (content) marketing. We spend a LOT of time helping companies plan and implement marketing strategies that will help them grow their business. We build their websites, we write their content, and we coordinate their social media strategies.
My husband and I are obviously not gay, but we are supportive of anyone that can find love in this crazy world and wants to formalize that love through marriage – no matter what their sexual orientation is.
So why am I writing this article?
As a marketing agency – and as a business owner – one of the first questions I have to ask all of my clients when hot button topics come out is Where do you stand?
I ask this because I have to make sure that their views are respected when I write their content and plan their marketing strategies and that we are projected out into the web what they want to say.
Every one of my clients – literally… every… single… one – told me that they were professionally neutral. David and I were still trying to decide that question for ourselves. We’ve always chosen to go the professional neutral route ourselves, but that just didn’t feel right as Friday progressed and we saw all the people celebrating such a momentous verdict.
That’s when we really started to weigh the pros & cons of stepping out of the professional neutral box…
At first, professionally neutral makes sense… if you are publicly supportive, then you might lose customers… but likewise, if you’re publicly against, you could lose customers too. If you’re neutral, you don’t have to worry about that.
But… even if you aren’t offending prospects, are you losing any? Is it possible that when so many opinions floating around, that people are actually seeking like-minded businesses and choosing to only do business with them? The simple answer… Yes!
Aside from that, one of the first things to come to mind for us was something we preach every day… if you want to grow your business, You have to know who your ideal customers are and focus on them.
For example, we build websites, and we do marketing – every business needs both of those… right? So it would seem logical that literally every business would be our ideal client.
But if we want to grow, that’s not how we need to think. For starters, we prefer to work with local people – so that narrows it down. We prefer businesses that are large enough to be able to afford us, but small enough that we can still meet with and talk to the business owner. We love doing marketing – which means growing a business – so we want to work with businesses that want to grow and have plans to handle growth.
Do you see how that starts narrowing down what an ideal client looks like for us compared to saying everyone is a possible client?
So, how did that help us decide to get away from being professionally neutral?
Well… simply put… we build relationships with our clients. We get to know them, spend time with them, have conversations about their hopes, dreams, fears, and goals.
If they look at our experience, our qualifications, and our skills and they still would not do business with us for no other reason than because we are supportive of marriage equality – then they probably aren’t someone we would enjoy sitting down and working that closely with anyway. They are not our ideal client.
With that in mind, we don’t have to worry about offending them and losing their business by expressing our views AND we get to spend more time with clients that either put business first, or share our views… so we enjoy a much more enjoyable and rewarding work day as a result.
And we’re not the only ones that see the benefit of not remaining neutral!
One small Florida photographer, Brentwood Photography, drew national attention and went viral by supporting marriage equality openly. He handled the “10% negative” comments he received very well and didn’t get drawn into debates, just peaceful answers. You can check out his story here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/06/30/florida-photographer-sends-snarky-comeback-to-same-sex-marriage-opponent
Companies and cities all across the country “came out of the closet too.”