Inbound marketing does not only generate better qualified leads, it is also a more ethical business approach.
It’s not often one finds the words ‘ethics’ and ‘marketing’ in the same sentence. From false advertising and plagiarism to offences such as not offering an option to opt-out of subscription emails/newsletters, marketing is often criticized for unethical tactics and questionable practices that even the smoothest Don Draper would have trouble defending.
The internet has democratized access to information. From buyers only knowing what marketers and advertisers tell them, there’s been a real paradigm shift with consumers now able to control what information they receive and how. Buyers no longer want to be ‘advertised’ to. Organizations that focus merely on short term ROI while ignoring long term side effects such as negative brand perception and unhappy customers being spammed will find it hard to sustain their success in today’s landscape.
Inbound Marketing on the other hand naturally helps businesses market more effectively and ethically. It takes into account that marketing needs to be a two-way street to be both sustainable and successful in the long term. It shifts the focus of its efforts to the user’s return on attention (the benefits customers expect to get out of content in return for their time and the attention). By adopting Inbound, businesses must consider not only themselves but their audiences. Here we outline five old school values that are fundamental to Inbound Marketing:
Honesty - Inbound marketers create original, informative and educational content (and tons of it!), all of which adheres to the old cliche -- honesty really is the best policy! Inbound marketers are aware that ripping off other people’s content is not just tacky but more seriously a copyright infringement too and can be penalized by search engines. Controversial manipulation of customer feedback, changing testimonials and trying to bury negative comments do not show your business in a better light. Owning your own mistakes, making efforts to be honest about them and fixing them does.
Transparency - Openness and transparency are highly valued attributes on the internet. This means it is necessary legal practice to give due credit to the original source (for images, infographics, research being cited etc.), providing the right disclosures and disclaimers, revealing vested interests or conflict of interest and being up front about cross promotions of brands and guest posts. It is best to abide by FTC mandated regulations and guidelines for promoting your content on the web and it doesn’t serve you or your business to hide or cloak information that people will eventually find out anyway. Being transparent with not just your clients but everyone online is advantageous as this ensures sustainable relationships and your followers’ continued support and trust.
Authenticity - Behind the internet’s virtual curtain, people still like to imagine a real human being at the other end of their transactions and online interactions. Being contrived and unoriginal is not just disappointing but unacceptable to most consumers. People expect genuine links, reviews and relationships as no one likes to be defrauded so staying clear of fake social media profiles and paying for likes etc. instills confidence that you are a trustworthy, honest and reliable vendor. Rely on responsible keyword optimization as this will show better results than any keyword stuffing or black hat SEO ever will. Being an expert in your own product and taking the time to understand your target audience’s main pain point/need is what guarantees best results.
Respect - The brands that command respect do so by earning it first and foremost from their customers. Respect for visitors to their site can come in many forms such as upholding information privacy values, providing an option for them to opt-out of your emails, and refraining from spamming them with too much (as well as valueless) content. Inbound helps businesses avoid this by asking the tough questions on whether or not the information you have is worth your prospects’ precious time (whether it’s 40 seconds of your customer’s lives to read an email or 3 minutes to watch a promotional video).
Kindness - Most people will go out of their way to find a company has excellent customer support and makes them feel their feedback is highly appreciated. The ability of consumers to keep check on companies more easily than ever before means even the slightest slip can have a long lasting ripple effect. This in turn ensures that while brands may use content to provoke a reaction, to shock and awe and even to go viral they will stop short of putting out content that could be misinterpreted as offensive, discriminatory or alienating to even a remote subsection of their potential readership. Inbound helps marketers stop and question the ethics of an action or its repercussions.
Inbound = Better Leads and Better Ethics
Inbound is therefore essential to improve business ethics because of the high standards it ensures. Companies that aren’t willing to do the simple things right such as monitor comments and respond in a timely way are only setting off red flags. Whether inbound or outbound marketing, it is not the channel but how it’s used that determines outcomes. Where inbound has an edge however is that it creates success for businesses on the back of mutually beneficial interactions and value to both the customer and company.