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Resolving the Dilemma of Ethical Marketing

Jun 19, 2008
Many service professionals will tell you that the words 'ethical' and 'marketing' don't belong in the same sentence. While you'd be opening another can of worms by asking for a precise definition of 'ethics', let's just say for the moment that often marketing leaves us feeling a little dirty, or sleazy if you prefer. One marketing guru summed it up by saying that marketing and sales are the world's second-oldest profession - and often are indistinguishable from the first! Is that how you feel? If so, you have a problem (and you didn't need me to tell you that!) That's because without marketing you're on the fast-track to retiring from a dull middle-management job at a faceless, heartless corporation. Not much in the way of choice, I hear you say!

Well, perhaps there is a third way. Let me say that a little more positively: I KNOW there is a way to be as successful as you choose to be at marketing without feeling like you need a hot shower and a scrub. Let's take a few moments to explore the marketing dilemma and see if we can unravel it.

First, let's acknowledge that not all of us would do anything for a quick buck. Most of us (certainly the professionals I work with) went into professional services because we really believed that we could do things better if we weren't hamstrung by corporate red-tape, and that by doing things better we could better serve the customers whose dollar we were on. Has that changed? Not for me - and I doubt it has for you either. So at its heart our business exists because we believe it helps those we do business with as much as - if not more so than - it does ourselves. Many professionals remember this simple fact by carrying a Vision or Mission Statement which says so. (Without intending to get off track, I cannot recommend highly enough that you regularly reconnect with the reasons you went into business in the first place. Our Marketing Mindset process helps our clients to do just that. Please go to www.zee2a.com/7principles.html to view the process.)

Second, let's agree that sometimes we really need to close a deal in order to survive. We've all had months when the taxman was calling, the bank manager was refusing to extend the overdraft and the kids were expecting to be equipped for university like Shackleton was for the Antarctic! Some of us have had more of those months than we care to remember! At times like that it doesn't help to hear some smart aleck say that if you really need the money, you shouldn't do the deal. They may be right - and if so we'll have our nose rubbed in it later when we're trying to untangle from a customer whose expectations were way too high but whose commitment was close to non-existent. But in the heat of the moment it's human nature to do what we have to do in order to survive, so we do and say whatever it takes to get the signature on the proposal.

Clearly then, there are times when our commitment to a customer doesn't closely mirror our overall vision for our business. And if we have too many of those, we start to question our vocation. You may not realise this, but you should: Getting to feeling like that is a GOOD THING! It means that your profession still means something to you; that you still want to be better. You want to be better for your own sake, and you want to be better for your customers' sake. If you ever lose that desire, you're in deep trouble and I'm not sure who can help you!

However, that scenario should not be the norm for service professionals. All too often, though, it is. Why? Because we neglect the necessary chore of regularly prospecting for customers until the urgency is great enough to force us out of our comfort-zone. Or, to put it another way, we don't do any marketing until we're having 'one of those months' - the type that make us unethical marketers! Are you sensing the pattern here?

Finally, then, lets discuss how to break the cycle that leads to ethical misdemeanours. It seems too obvious to say, but plainly it's not: Do more marketing more regularly, and you won't have many of 'those months'. Of course it's one thing to say it and quite another to do it. How do we market regularly? What does that involve? How do we get the most bang for the buck? We are busy people, so only the most effective marketing activities should be in our portfolio or else we're wasting time and money, right?

Many years of testing and sifting have demonstrated to me that there is nothing that even comes close to Relationship Marketing in terms of effectiveness for service professionals. As I define it, Relationship Marketing is about building trust with and demonstrating credibility to prospective clients before initiating the crucial sales conversation - letting them get acclimitised to you and plying them with information about your services so that when you ask for their business they have little hesitation because they already know they're going to get value-for-money. And for it to work successfully on a consistent basis, you have to have a game-plan for it.

Put in a nutshell then, a good Relationship Marketing game plan well-executed is the cure for the ethical marketing nightmare. So what are you waiting for? Make sure NOW that your marketing strategy is focused on building relationships - not just when you're desperate for new business but every week and every month. Your conscience will thank you later!

ęDavid Deakin and Zee2A Limited 2008.

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About the Author
David Deakin, CEO of Zee2A, works with Professional Services Executives yearning to take their business to the next level. Through one-on-one mentoring he helps them create sustainable marketing strategies that attract more clients at profitable rates. To learn more, sign up for his e-zine, or enquire please visit www.zee2A.com.
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