We are all taught that marketing is about matching people with their needs and wants. Some even dolly it up and romanticize the whole process – we don’t just sell products, we create visions, bring dreams to life, cure all that ails us and yes, we even have the ability to generate world peace like some sort of seedy social working Wonka in a fantastical cyber-topia – watch out for the gumballs and no that’s not a river of chocolate.
Yup, no-one can do the spin like a marketer. We can take any side, any topic and twist it until it makes some sort of logical sense.
Now while regular marketing is beginning to finally get the recognition and credit that it deserves, internet marketing is seen in a completely different light. Internet marketers have such a bad reputation that we make regular marketers look like jolly old St Nick – complete with his Coke bottle. But the very mention of us tends to send people running to filter their emails and upgrade their anti-virus!
And let’s face it. There are more than a few internet marketers out there who have sullied our reputation, but now the fight back is beginning. We all want to join the ranks of ‘ethical marketers’ and fight the good fight.
But wait – What is ethical marketing?
‘Ethical’ is very much in the eye of the beholder. There may be hard and fast rules set out by a governing body for the real extremists, but as individuals we all have a different perception of ethics. We all consider ourselves to be upstanding citizens, we have principles, we follow the local law and have a good grasp of moral righteousness. But yet as soon as we get online, our moral gauge gets a bit twisted and we begin to do things that we never would in the real world.
So, let’s start with a few questions just to help you gauge your own ‘ethic level’ of marketing.
1-Would you engage in random email spam tactics or promote junk emails designed to get people to send money to bank accounts in Nigeria?
2 – Would you promote or create a product purely for profit – without considering or even caring whether it works or not?
3 – Would you create a product or course but leave it ‘unfinished’ so that the person that buys it has to buy another product from you, at a greatly inflated price, to get the full picture?
4 – Hitler is a massive brand. The very image of him creates such a powerful emotion in people – would you utilize this response and use pictures of Hitler in your promotions?
(No, no, no and hell no? Cool, we are off to a good start)
5 – Would you go out of your way to find work-arounds for Google policies, FTC compliance or even sites that have changed their Terms of Service?
6 – Would you use spam tools that automate social bookmarking and blog commenting?
(Yes spam tools – why do you think that they constantly fail and need updating? They are trying to get into sites that are desperately trying to stop them submitting stuff! This is spamming.)
7 – Would you deliberately try to cheat a system designed to give Joe Average the best information and value, just to get that all important ranking and make sales?
(Isn’t that really what SEO, backlinking, auto submission services and social bookmarking is all about?)
8 – Do you send out emails that claim to be helping people but that are really only designed with the sale in mind?
9 – Social Bookmarkers – do you really care about the people that you are dealing with? Or is the whole point of building the relationship to focus on the end game – make a sale?
10 – Would you knowingly try to get inside the head of your reader and try to manipulate their actions, either by playing on their fears, hopes and dreams or by tapping into their feel good or nostalgic impulses?
(Uh huh, thought so)
On some level all of these are either acceptable or unacceptable to you. If they are all unacceptable to you, then just maybe you are in the wrong industry. The vast majority of us work somewhere around 7-10 and are OK with that.
Call it what you want, but internet marketing is a career choice and at the end of the day, if we didn’t have to do it to earn some sort of crust, most of us wouldn’t be doing it.
How you choose to earn that crust is entirely up to you; you can choose to create good valuable content that will help the reader regardless of whether you make a sale or not; you can do this, have patience and maybe cheat a little bit; you can go with the transparent PPC methods or you can go the way of the black-hat.
But you also need to be aware of the consequences of your actions. In some cases it will be an account suspension, in others total IP address expulsion, in extreme cases you may face the full wrath of the FTC.
What you choose to tell your kids about what you do for a living is up to you too. How you sleep at night is also your choice.
But remember too, how people respond to you is their choice. It is these people who will ultimately decide how ‘ethical’ you are.