I mentioned ethical marketing in my welcome video yesterday (heck – it’s even featured in that little green box at the top of the site!), so I figure it’s probably appropriate for me to elaborate a little more on what ethical marketing is and why it’s so important to me.
First of all, bear with me – actually defining ethical marketing is pretty difficult, for two reasons:
1) Ethical marketing is a lot like porn – I can’t easily define it, but I know it when I see it! More specifically, I know un-ethical marketing when I see it, and you probably do too. If you’ve ever clicked on to a website and felt a sinking, skeezy feeling in your stomach, you’ve witnessed unethical marketing.
2) Everyone’s moral compass points in a slightly different direction. What I consider to be ethical or unethical might be different than your definition. For this reason, it’s hugely important to figure out where you draw your line in the sand. Let me give you an example:
One of my first major website successes was a “flog” – a fake blog – I purchased, of the, “Learn the 1 simple secret to how I lost 35 pounds in 2 weeks…” variety. Basically, it was the fake blog story of a woman who lost weight using a combination of acai berry products and colon cleansing – two of the hottest CPA products that were being advertised at the time.
The fake weight loss message wasn’t the only thing that bothered me. The products I was promoting were the scammy kind of CPA offers that sell buyer information to other forced continuity programs and are nearly impossible to cancel (believe me – I know, I tried the acai berry pills myself and then spent a week jumping through all the hoops needed to cancel the “free” trial…). The site made a ton of money, but I couldn’t handle the deception and sold it just a few months after I bought it.
(Let me be clear – this example isn’t intended to condemn CPA offers or flogs. I know plenty of people who work with them, and again, everyone’s tolerance for ethical/unethical techniques is different. This example is merely meant to illustrate how you’ll need to set your own boundaries about what is and isn’t ethical marketing.)
However, even if I can’t define ethical marketing specifically, I can give you a few highlights of the things most ethical marketing sites have in common.
* Ethical internet businesses don’t take advantage of their visitors or attempt to manipulate them. Instead, they seek to persuade by providing value and building relationships with their readers.
Think of the difference here as being similar to the distinction between a pushy used car salesperson and a talented, relationship-based sales executive. On the web, this “pushy used car salesperson” kind of mentality can be seen in sites that bury their terms in tiny print at the bottom of the page in the hopes that you’ll miss them (like that acai offer I promoted!) or that use the email address you so thoughtfully provided to send nothing but spam. Don’t be that guy!!!
I promise you, it is 100% possible to build a business that promotes products in an ethical way and that actually makes money. You don’t have to compromise your ethics and you don’t have to engage in unethical business practices just to make a sale. Provide value and build relationships with your readers over time and I guarantee you’ll like the results.
* Sites that utilize ethical marketing are designed to be sustainable income producers. They aren’t out to make a “quick buck” at any cost.
Have you ever been on a site that’s so focused on making a sale that you’ve had to scroll past numerous opt-in boxes and close several pop-up ads just to find the content you’re looking for? The kind of site where, when you do decide to leave, you’re confronted with three separate rounds of text box pop-ups offering you a “special” deal just for sticking around?
Now, tell me – when you visit these sites (and we all have), do you feel like the website owners have your best interests at heart? Are you ready to open your wallet, or are you thinking about bolting for the next website on your list?
Ethical marketers recognize that it’s far easier to sell something to someone who’s already purchased from you, and that it’s easier to keep and retain customers when they believe in the value you’re providing.
* Ethical marketing businesses engage in fully legal practices, and avoid “grey hat” or “black hat” marketing techniques.
The legality part should go without saying, but the reality of internet marketing is that it’s a world full of that grey zone between good and bad. Think about search engine optimization (the practice of improving elements on your website to boost your rankings in the search engine results pages) for a second. Even something as widespread and universally accepted as SEO is essentially “gaming the system” for personal profit.
So is that ethical? Again, this is an example of a situation where you’ll have to draw your own line. Personally, I’m a huge believer in the gut check. If you’re reading up on a new web marketing technique that everyone else is raving about, but your gut tells you is wrong, listen to that instinct and find a different way to grow your business ethically!
* Ethical marketing follows the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have done to you” (not, “Whoever has the gold, makes the rules”).
My goal as an affiliate marketer is to create websites that provide value for their visitors. They don’t have to be big sites with tons of content, but they do need to meet at least part of the need that the visitor was hoping to satisfy when clicking on to my website.
To make sure I’m succeeding in this, I take a day or two off after building a new website and then come back to it with a fresh set of eyes. I try to evaluate – if I were a first-time visitor to this site, would it be useful to me? Occasionally, I catch myself pushing too hard for a sale or not following through on the value I promised, so it’s important for me to check that I’m in line with the Golden Rule – and I recommend you do the same.
Now, I do want to apologize for starting out on a somewhat theoretical note. I know this isn’t concrete advice that you can use to actually move your business forward, but I hope it’s something that you’ll keep in mind as we get into that type of conversation on this site in the future.
If you’ve spent any time whatsoever studying internet marketing techniques, you know how easy it can be to get sucked down into unethical practices. Bookmark this post (seriously – do it now!) and come back to it whenever you feel that pull. I’ll always be here to give you that swift kick in the pants you need to keep things on the straight and narrow!
Anyways, on Wednesday and Friday, I’m going to get more into the importance of business planning and how you can set yourself up for success with internet marketing if you’re just starting out. Even if you’re an experienced marketer, you’ll benefit from reevaluating your core business strategies using this framework. I can’t wait to share this great information with you!
Talk to you soon – thanks for reading!