Is your marketing strategy backed by a strong policy on ethical marketing practices?
In developing our marketing strategies, we think about market impact, consistency of brand recognition and customer engagement. However, unless the subject of the marketing strategy is sensitive or likely to arouse strong emotions, ethics are rarely considered. We spend meetings discussing colours, tints and shades of colours and fonts for our campaign and spend no time discussing the honesty of the messaging or whether we are reducing the customer to a stereotype that will profit our bottom line.
To put it simply, a lack of concern about ethical marketing will affect the viability of your business. Abraham Lincoln once said,
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Unethical marketing may fool some people. Initially, it may fool all of the people; however, it will not fool all the people all the time; and when people realise, they are being taken for granted or for a fool, the reputation and viability of your organisation are destroyed.
The reason for having a robust ethical marketing policy is to guide staff in the hundred and one grey areas that exist in the marketing field, which can potentially impact your business viability.
As a B2B or B2C business, you may be selling a product. However, the product is, or should be a solution to solve someone’s problem. This emphasis on providing a solution is important, because it keeps the focus on the person, the customer.
When the emphasis is on the product, the priority becomes the amount sold—the financial return. When the focus is on the person, the priority becomes how to engage with and assist the individual.
2. AVOID STEREOTYPING CUSTOMER PROFILES
Customer profiles are helpful to develop focus when you are considering the solutions you will provide to your niche market. However, customer profiles are not useful when the profile allows us to stereotype the customer. Customers profiles are tools to better understand the issues, concerns, and problems of your customers; nevertheless, it is essential not to lose the customer in the profile.
It is essential to engage with profile potential customers and understand how they think, rather than simply profile them. Understanding how our client think, requires time and energy to understand the psychological landscape of our clients.
To market ethically, we need to go beyond the profile to the person.
This is an important truth. A half-truth is still a half-lie.
The erosion of trust and confidence and the growth of mistrust and cynicism that comes with half-truths is seen in the political arena. The expectation that politicians will tell the truth is very low. Where distrust and cynicism impact how democracy is viewed, distrust and cynicism of a business impact the viability and sustainability of the organisation.
Misleading claims and messaging such as promising more than you can deliver or the product provides falls into this category.
We are familiar with websites that promise beyond what they can honestly hope to deliver, for example, hundreds of followers or financial returns that are in the thousands. While businesses may seek to attract customers with extravagant claims, the ethics must be questioned when the results are beyond the control of the business, and the impact on customers is cynicism and disengagement.
It is easy to forget the importance of privacy to our clients. We are all wary of the information that is collected about us. Yet, we often forget this in our business. While we may be reluctant to provide information about ourselves without good reason, we expect clients to provide us with their data because we see ourselves as trustworthy.
We can be biased about our systems and believe they provide security of clients’ information simply because they are our systems and have worked in the past.
However, we need to critically review the information we collect on clients, how we store it, what we do with it, who has access to it, and what procedures we need to take if there is a privacy breach. This is important so we can assure our clients their information is safe. For example, how secure are our systems in maintaining the privacy of clients’ email addresses?
It is increasingly common for businesses to offer clients a white paper, e-book, or some other report in exchange for their email. It has been estimated the value of this email address is between $10 - $15 for the business. How secure are our systems in maintaining the privacy of email addresses we collect during our business?
Privacy breaches are increasingly costly for businesses to rectify; hence the importance of making sure the systems are as secure as possible.
As we plan our business marketing strategies for 2022, now is an excellent time to review or develop the ethical policy that underpins our approach to marketing.
Are we customer-focused, providing solutions to problems rather than a product we want to sell?
Have we personalised our customer profile by engaging with them to such an extent that we know how they think, not just their likes, dislikes, what they watch on Netflix, and their income band?
Are we 100% truthful about what we can provide and what our product does?
Can we assure our clients that we respect their privacy and do everything we can to keep the information they have entrusted to us safe?
Answering these questions is the start of looking at the ethics of our marketing.