From black hat SEO tactics to sleazy car salesmen, we’re all fairly well aware of covert, unethical marketing tactics. As purveyors of authentic marketing, we understand the importance of steering clear of such problematic tactics, not just to avoid legal issues, but to also work with integrity.
But some tactics may fall more in the grey area. If you’ve ever been unsure if what you’re doing in your marketing is toeing or crossing that ethical line, this blog post is for you.
Let’s dive into four ways you can ensure you’re ethically marketing your business.
1. Set the Right Expectations
To kick things off, let’s talk about setting the right expectations with your clients. When you set the right expectations for your service upfront, you eliminate the possibility of ethical conundrums down the road.
How to Set the Right Expectations
Determine deliverables and timelines that work for you, regardless of how fast your client is seeking to get their project done. If you can’t meet their fast turnaround time, then pass on the project. You’re doing yourself and the client a disservice by taking the project and then failing to deliver as expected.
Expectations go both ways! So, make it clear what you will deliver and what you expect your client to deliver, as well as by when, throughout the project.
Also, remember to put all things in writing. Create a contract with everything you and your prospective client have agreed upon and make sure you both sign it before you move forward with any work.
When clients sign up to work with you, they’re signing up for YOU. Don’t try to be someone or something you aren’t at the outset to try to get the sale. This will come back to haunt you later in the process. Be yourself at all times.
What to Avoid When Setting Expectations
Making Promises You Can’t Keep
You don’t have to be bound to certain professional rules or regulations to see that making promises you can’t keep will lead to ruin. If you find yourself having to lie to get a sale, the sale isn’t worth it.
Compromising on Your Values and Processes
This goes hand-in-hand with being authentic. Never agree to a project that requires you to compromise on something that matters to you. You’ll dread the project, you may not deliver well, you may wind up with a huge conflict on your hands, and so on.
If you and your prospective client aren’t the right fit for one another, move on. If you have someone to refer the prospect to, then offer the referral. Otherwise, kindly back away and move on. You aren’t meant to serve everyone; focus only on serving those who best fit you and your company.
2. Sell Good Stuff
If you do one thing and only one thing to ensure you’re ethical in all your marketing, it’s this:
Sell only those products or services you believe in and know will deliver benefits to your clients.
When you sell something you know is worthwhile and worth the investment, then you will:
- Speak naturally with excitement about your offering
- Answer any questions and address objections with ease
- Approach each client with energy and enthusiasm
In other words:
- Don’t cobble together a barely thought-out offer to make your next dollar.
- Don’t put time and effort behind an offer you don’t believe in.
- Don’t pull benefits or outcomes out of thin air because it makes your offer sound better.
Focus only on the good stuff and you’ll never be called out for peddling a bad product or service. Indeed, if you only sell the good stuff, you’ll find you aren’t selling at that point…You’re helping.
3. Respect Others’ Property
We’re going to put it straight to you: Sell *your* stuff only.
Yes, we’re talking about the need to respect other peoples’ and companies’ intellectual property.
There’s a lot of wibbly-wobbly when it comes to unique ideas and content online. For instance, it’s common practice to create a list of potential topics to write about after researching what’s already out there.
Just remember that research is to be used as inspiration only. You should never take something you find, slap your name or brand on it, and then attempt to sell it off as your idea.
So, how do you respect others’ property online? Start by following these rules:
- Don’t copy and paste content from other websites and use it on your site (this includes Terms & Conditions and Disclaimers).
- Don’t use photographs or other images without permission and/or attribution.
- Don’t copy an email or a social media post and share it as though it’s your content.
- Don’t use quotes, statistics or other facts without citing the source.
- Don’t use copyrighted or trademarked material without permission.
4. Set the Right Prices
Did you know that your prices are governed by the Federal Trade Commission’s rules on pricing and trade practices?
Under Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the FTC is given the power to regulate various items related to pricing (among other things), including:
- Deceptive Pricing
- Bait Advertising
- Advertising Warranties & Guarantees
- Using the Word “Free”
Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to read all of Subchapter B to get up to speed. And, no, we’re not giving you legal advice.
What we are giving you are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:
- When setting your prices, aim to keep them within the accepted range in your industry.
- When setting values for items you’re giving away for free or bundling with other services, make sure the values you set are what you could actually get for the items if you were to sell them on their own.
- Don’t tout a special price for something if it isn’t special. Meaning, don’t mark up something just so you can sell it at its regular price (the one you’re now calling “special”).
- Clearly communicate your terms and conditions regarding your pricing and what’s included.
- Follow any additional pricing regulations that may exist within your industry.
When in Doubt, Get a Second Opinion
Ethics in marketing matters. And the words you choose impact what side of the line your marketing falls.
If you’re ever wondering whether your marketing content is telling the right story to the right audience in a respectful manner, or if you need help creating that content in the first place, reach out for help. Our Word Nerds are here to support you!