Ethical Internet Marketing: A lie, an exaggeration, and a fib away from success?

Kyle @ Wealthy AffiliateToday I am going to tell you a lie or two.  Maybe tell you a fib.  And definitely exaggerate to get you to buy something.

Well, maybe not.

However, this is the exact problem I see within the Internet marketing world these days.  As new marketers come into the fresh new world of marketing, they tend to approach it in the wrong way.  They understand the marketing aspect…but not the ethics.  Ethical Internet Marketing does not mean making less money, in fact it will result in making more and I am going to explain exactly why within this post.

At the core of all sales (online or offline) and the product you choose to sell, money is typically the ‘persuading’ factor.  If you make a sale, you make money.  If you sell something that is higher commission, you make more money.  If you sell something that is more expensive and is of the highest commission, you make the most money.

The problem is that consumers tend to remember negative experiences and embrace positive ones. Choosing a product to sell for the wrong reason can lead to a negative sales experience, impact your brand, and ruin the ever sought customer relationship.

Have you been to a car lot recently…and been surround by the “sharks” trying to feast on your wallet?  It is not only overwhelming, it is a pushy and uncomfortable experience.

Go another step further. Ask the sales person what kind of car they drive.  You might be on a Mercedes lot, but the salesperson could be driving a Honda.  I have seen it happen first hand.

How can someone try to sell you a car when they choose a completely different brand?  It doesn’t make sense and the entire sales angle of the sales person is flawed.  Practice what you preach right?

Try going into an electronics or an appliance store and see what the salesmen tries to sell you.  Chances are it is an item that they make the most commission on versus the best value product.  Go to a non-commissioned store like Best Buy…you will find that they tell you how to get the best bang for your buck by offering sound advice that is not being impacted by what makes them the most on the sale.

AND THE EXACT SAME THING is happening within the Internet marketing world.  I see it all the time.

Marketers and salespeople tend to choose the highest commission product versus the highest quality. It’s OK in some instances of you have product A that is equivalent to product B…and one pays more than the other.

For example, some web hosting companies offer $100 per sign-up to affiliates whereas others offer $50 per sign-up and they offer the exact same services…down to the support.  Choosing the one that pays more may make sense in this situation assuming that the $100 product converts at least at 51% of the rate of the $50 product (i.e., is more profitable).

However, if you are promoting one product as the better one, knowingly understanding that the only reason you are doing this is because you make more money (at the expense of your customer), then you are doing a disservice to the general public.

I know what you are saying right now…

“Kyle, if this business is about making money, why would someone sacrifice a higher commission just to be a little more honest?”

Because quality creates reputation.  Reputation creates repeat buyers.  Repeat buyers create longer term success. By being honest you will promote the product that is of the best quality for the best value.

Yes, you are in the business of earning money, but this business requires relationship building and ethical marketing to create long term success.

The problem is that most people associate doing whatever it takes to make a sale with “marketing 101″.  Terms like snake oil salesmen and guerrilla marketing come to mind.

It is quite funny what we see at Wealthy Affiliate. People sign-up with us and come in thinking they know how to market, because they know what they know.  They know that they need to sell something in order to make money.

Unfortunately they know the marketing techniques they have been subjected to…problem being, the only real marketing they have been exposed to, they probably bought without even thinking of it as a “sales” experience.

So what makes someone want to buy something?

People tend to make purchases to resolve a problem, out of necessity, or in some cases, out of “want”.   But what truly makes the person decide between buying a product on SITE A or buying a product on SITE B.

“The ability to make an informed decision”.

People like to jump to their own drum beat…and make their own conclusions.  They like to think they are making the smart choice.  Being smart with their money.

The Internet is the biggest and best research medium in the world.  As a marketer your job is to cut down the amount of research some has to make to buy something online.

To further your understanding of exactly what I am talking about, let’s just use an example here between two marketers try to “market” within the “abdominal exercise” niche: an Unethical Internet Marketer and an Ethical Internet Marketer.

Unethical Internet Marketing

Johnny is an unethical marketer.  He just wants to make a ton of cash online. He doesn’t care how…all he sees is dollar signs.

An unethical marketer tries to convince people to buy stuff through exaggerations or outrageous claims versus offering value to people, and letting their relationship do they selling.

I am definitely not saying lying doesn’t work.  It does.  You get lied to all the time.   Just look at one of the last infomercials on TV telling you that you will look like a supermodel or have the stomach of Floyd Mayweather if you use the latest ab gimmick!

An unethical Internet Marketer can take a couple of approaches.  Leverage these existing claims that are already in place, or create their own false personal claims.

What Johnny doesn’t know or care to realize is that there are PEOPLE on the other end of the transactions.  Meaning, as an Internet marketer you can have either a negative or positive impact on people’s lives.

Johnny likes working out and is in great shape and would make for a great spokesperson (or internet marketer) within the weight loss/abdominal industry.  He knows the latest ab gimmick is not going to work and that getting in shape requires diet and exercise, however he is an unethical affiliate marketer…and a very aggressive one at that.

He watches the late night ab commercial for the latest “ab spaceship”.  He then goes online looking for an affiliate program, and sure enough he finds one.

So far so good…nothing negative yet.  However, when he goes to market the product, Johnny creates a page that outlines how the “ab spaceship” helped him lose 30lbs.  He then takes a picture of himself with his shirt off, and tells people if they use this machine, they will look like him.

He then drops his affiliate link.  People buy.  People buy lots.  Johnny makes lots of money.

However, Johnny has lied to make this money.  He has done this intentionally in the name of commissions.  Johnny has just created an UNETHICAL INTERNET MARKETING CAMPAIGN.

Although the initial success seems like an exciting time, Johnny gets nailed by Google for poor Quality Score.  His pages lack content and his material and claims do not abide by the FTC.  Johnny can no longer scale with Google.  He looks to alternatives, but becomes impatient.  His success is short lived and he has not created a single customer relationship he can take with him.

The Internet marketing dream ends within months.

Ethical Internet Marketing

Jesse is an ethical Internet marketer.

Most of us know the real truth.  Ab exercises don’t give you abs.  Exercise and healthy eating does.

Many marketers are making money by lying, but over the years I have seen them come and go as fast as you can say “money”.    Ethical marketers immerse themselves in the industry they are promoting.  The become knowledgeable of the niche.  They understand the customers’ questions and concerns…and they want to help them resolve their problem.

If you have seen the Google type at home style sites, you have seen a scam.  If you have seen the acai berry trial websites, you have seen a scam.  The sites will come and go as the FTC catches onto them.  Their success is typically very short-lived…and although these people bank good money when the times are good (so did the Enron executives), when they go out, they do so without a list of customers or any industry credibility.

Making unrealistic claims to make a buck is unethical. Plain and simple.

In saying this, the smartest marketers (ethical ones) are making a killing online by telling the truth…and their businesses are long term.   And this is exactly what Jesse does.

Jesse has scoured the Internet for information on losing weight and ab exercises.  He himself has made a hobby of working out and can rap about it with anyone who shares the same interest.

He also is aware there are a ton of scams out there and has become an Internet ambassador for helping others who are seeking to learn how to lose weight around their mid section.  He has created a site that reviews the top products and if you are interested, he offers a free course on how to lose your first 5 pounds using his eating and exercise strategies (in exchange for a name and email address).

Not only is he creating himself a brand/name within the industry, he is also helping people steer away from the scams and take a look at products he knows will work (through his research and accumulated knowledge).

People start listening to Jesse’s advice.  People start buying products he recommends.  People are happy with their purchases and start to buy anything Jesse recommends.  Jesse has created an Internet marketing business where he has REPEAT CUSTOMERS…and has them on a mailing list!

Jesse has a long term business in place.  He has built a brand, he is credible and has a reputation.  His “customers” trust him…and if every advertising platform were to drop off the map, he would still have his list of email addresses he could contact and earn money from (because he has the relationship already).

Jesse is an ethical, yet very successful marketer and will be around for a long time to come.

I just want you to weigh in on this idea today…

If you were a “potential” consumer, what would you rather see on a website?

Choice A: Making one-sided, outrageous claims…bragging about a product, then telling you that you have to buy a product or you won’t cure your problem.

Choice B:
Someone offering you value, telling you the pros and cons of a product,  how it will benefit you, and then making a subtle recommendation or simply offering you the link.

I think choice B is the obvious.

A ethical and successful marketer will have the main intention of offering value.  Although making a sale is the ultimate goal, making it the secondary goal will naturally lead people more in this direction.

It really doesn’t matter what industry you are marketing within.  There are products and services that help and there are ways you can help people overcome their concerns, fears and naturally guide them to something that will help them out.

If you are promoting a “Internet Marketing” product, your focus should not be on the pay-out or the commission size, it should be on the quality of the product or service you are promoting.

Believe me, Carson and I being in the Internet Marketing industry know exactly how much junk there is out there.   It frustrates us that someone could even promote these $5,000 mentoring packages or a hard copy book & a couple of CD’s for $2,000.  This in my honest opinion is dishonest marketing.  Doing anything to make a buck.

Marketing is not about “hunting”. Marketing IS about helping.

Have an ethical purpose behind your marketing efforts and you will not only earn more money, you will feel better about yourself at the end of the day.

Take pride in your ethics,

A Wealthy & Ethical Marketer

PS. Please feel free to comment on this post.  I am a feedback junkie!