Build Your Digital Marketing Plan on a Solid Foundation of Core Values

Since I joined the Wellspring Digital team, I have given this some thought and gained a fresh perspective. Wellspring’s core values are simple yet very powerful:

  1. Integrity – Always be honest and do the right thing, even if it’s hard.
  2. Transparency – Hide nothing from the client; make them a part of the team and not just a source of money.
  3. Results – Do what we’re paid to do, identify, meet, and exceed the client’s digital marketing goals.

There are some bad apples in the digital marketing bunch. Our overarching mission is to prove to our clients that working with a digital marketing firm can be educational, interactive, and even fun all while achieving and exceeding goals.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because everything we do stems from these three core values. Knowing and living these has made it easier to operate and succeed as an organization. And it keeps a laser focus on maintaining a positive customer experience. Focusing on these core values makes us a better agency.

Core Values

Identify Your Core Values

Your core values are the foundation for everything you do as a business. Without core values, you’re just meandering along trying to make a buck. It all has to mean something.

Andrew “Andy” Dufresne’s Core Values

I’d like to tell you a story about a banker named Andy Dufresne. Andy was accused of murdering his wife. He is convicted and sent to a life sentence in Maine prison. The only problem is… he’s innocent.

Think about that for a minute. How would you handle it if you were sent to prison for a crime you didn’t commit?

Andy arrived at the prison on a bus loaded with new inmates, or as the veteran inmates call them “new fish.” Andy was one of those new fish. Andy’s future friend Red started taking bets on who will crack first during their first night in prison.

Red bet on Andy cracking. He is sure of it in fact. Andy is a well-to-do, well-educated banker who is spending his first night in a very scary and dangerous place. It seems like a good bet to me.

But, Andy doesn’t crack. He’s smarter than that. He’s made up his mind that while he doesn’t belong in this horrible place, he’s not going to let this place challenge his core values. He refuses, right from the start, to let this place break him.

Make Your Core Values Unbreakable

After a decade or so in prison, Andy has settled into his life behind bars. But, he’s still Andy Dufresne, the same man he was when he got there, at least at his core.

He is challenged again and again but he simply refuses to be “institutionalized.” He ends up running the “library” in the prison. After a long stubborn campaign of letter writing, Andy finally gets the new books and library materials he wanted to get the library up to his standards.

One of the gifts in this delivery is a record. It’s a recording of “Canzonetta sull’aria” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro.” Of course, it’s Mozart .

While the guard uses the little prison guard’s room, Andy decides the prison needs some culture. So, he locks the guard in the toilet and plays the opera over the prison PA. The guard hears this and starts banging on the door. Then the warden comes and starts banging on the other door and yelling for Andy to turn the music off.

No One Will Break Andy’s Core Values

Did Andy comply? Nope, he turned it up. This is his time with his music and no one is taking that away from him.

The warden has the glass in the door busted and forces his way into the room. Andy then spends a good bit of time in “the hole” or solitary confinement.

When he’s finally let out of the hole, you see him sitting with his friends at chow. Andy tells them that his time in the hole was the easiest he’s ever had. No one believes him. He tells them that he had the music with him and it gave him hope.

To which Red says “hope is a dangerous thing my friend, it can kill a man.” But Andy disagreed. He was not going to be broken. Hope was all he had and he wasn’t going to give it up.

Andy then crawls to freedom through the sewer pipes and escapes to a little town in Mexico. He misses his friend Red and decides to write to him. Andy tells Red “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

This was Andy, from day one until his last. Prison never broke Andy Dufresne. Why? Because Andy’s core values were so strong that nothing could change who he was or how he would face the challenges he faced.

So, what does this have to do with digital marketing? Everything!

Core Values

What Sort of New Fish Are You?

If you don’t have strong core values, you will waiver under the slightest pressure. You will not believe in your efforts. You will meander along with no real goals and without any sure footing to keep you on the right path.

If you can’t stay on the path, if you waiver and change with the slightest breeze, how can your customers trust you? They need to believe that you are for real. They need to know that you are so passionate about what you do that when you offer help, it’s going to be real and useful help.

Identify Your Core Values for Digital Marketing Success

So, you need to do some soul searching if you haven’t already. What are your beliefs? What are your core values?

I like this definition from

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. Core values also help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their goals by creating an unwavering guide.

So, how do you find those core values? There’s a ton of exercises online you can do to determine your core values. Whatever you do, don’t overthink it.

Core Values Exercise

Just answer these questions…

You can write these out on a piece of paper but I think a whiteboard is your best bet, the bigger the better.

  1. Write all the adjectives that describe the organization you are, want to be, or plan to create. Whatever comes to mind. I don’t want to give you words to choose from, I want these words to come from your mind or the minds of your team. Use words like caring, bold, creative, indispensable. Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to give you words.
  2. Once you’ve finished a complete brain dump, take a step back and survey your work. Circle the words that move you, the words that just work. If a word doesn’t speak to you, take it off the board. You want the ones that are perfect when describing your business to someone.
  3. If you’re honest, you should have taken a good chunk of words off the board. If not, go back and start erasing! Take the circled words and put them in a list along the left side of the board, ranked from your favorite to your least favorite.
  4. Now, going through the list, one at a time, pick a word and put it in a sentence. This should be a statement about your company. Try to write 10 sentences for each word. When you’ve written the sentences for one word, do the same survey you did with your words. Which sentence just nails it?
  5. After coming up with the best sentence for each word, write them all in a list, ranked from powerful, blinding flash, to meh. You might not have those extremes and it might be hard to rank, but just go with your gut on this one. If you’re a team, let the majority rule here.
  6. Rework your top 3-5 sentences so they are written from a client-centric standpoint. For example, turn “we want to be the most creative greeting card company in the industry” to “our greeting cards will be the cards that stand out, that meet the needs of the customer who wants something truly unique.”

Cores Values Drive Successful Digital Marketing Campaigns

Remember, we’re looking for your “core values.” You’re taking your brain dump and reducing it down to powerful, client-focused statements that will drive every decision you make as a company.

Using the greeting card company, you’ll go from “that’s a cute card” to “is this card going to scratch the itch of the person looking for something unique and fresh?”

When you know what your core values are, you can craft digital marketing strategies much easier. You can do digital marketing with a laser focus and a sense of purpose. Otherwise, you’re making a bunch of noise and that’s it.

What do you think? What are your core values? I would love to hear them! Please share in the comments below.

Jon-Mikel Bailey Avatar