Are Ethics and Internet Marketing mutually exclusive?

My last post looked at the ethical issues of buying electronic gadgets made by Chinese workers. Those workers certainly do not enjoy the wages, safety or other employment conditions that we in the West would consider fair. Whether they should be considered exploited or not depends on our own outlook, experience and values. As do decisions on whether to buy the gadgets made by those workers.

Here is another ethical issue from closer to home.

Last year, I subscribed to a newsletter from an Internet Marketer who I consider a successful business person, one with a history of success in the corporate world before becoming an entrepreneur and starting an on-line marketing business. Although this business primarily targets moms wanting to start an on-line-work-from-home business, (not me) I still read the regular emails and find nuggets of good information between the sales messages.

Generally I have no problem with the products or programmes recommended in the newsletter. I am not in the market so do not pay much attention to the details, most of them are the creations of well-known people from the information products arena  with good track records.

Yesterday’s email had a sales message interesting enough to make me click the link that took me to a cleverly designed sales page, different to most that I see and again interesting enough for me to start watching the video.  I sat through 20 minutes or so of one of the cleverest sales videos that I have seen in a long time, but one that I am surprised has not been banned by the advertising watchdogs. It comes so close to guaranteeing that every person who buys the programme will make 6 figure incomes starting next week that it might as well just spell it out.

The video ends with the obligatory scarcity warning “only available to a few people over the next few days”, the incredible kindness of the marketer for not pricing it at$5000 or even $1000 and so on. A quick search showed that the programmes has been around for 3 years or so.

The programme sells for under $40, that is not a huge amount, and there is almost certainly that amount of value in it, I am not suggesting it is overpriced.

The way it is promoted in the video is I believe deceptive and will easily fool many desperate people with no internet experience into believing that this is the magic bullet that will make them millionaires and solve all their problems for very little work. If that buyer had stumbled on the video browsing the web or from a random tweet on twitter or a Facebook ad, I would say that’s all part of life and buyer beware.

My problem is that the standing and reputation of the person promoting this in a newsletter to loyal and trusting readers, lends the product a level of authenticity that it does not deserve. There is no magic bullet, Internet Marketing is simple, but it is certainly not easy as thousands of people have discovered. There have been cases of instant success and huge earnings in a short time, but those are rare exceptions in a huge field of disappointment.

Before writing this, I looked at several independent reviews of the product and the consensus was that while it contained a lot of good information and could be useful to someone with experience, it was likely to be overwhelming for inexperienced newbies trying to launch an Internet Marketing business for the first time.

Encouraged by the apparent endorsement of a respected entrepreneur, many people might invest their whole reserve of hope into this programme, only to find that it does not reward that hope. That is the real loss, loss of their hope, not the few dollars on the credit card.

It’s not a crime to promote stuff that for most of its buyers will not live up to its promises, politicians do it all the time. I would not have given the issue any thought if that endorsement had been in an email from the many other Internet Marketers who continually promote similar “magic bullet” type products. But for me this has put a blemish on the shiny image I previously held of that particular marketer. I am not a good prospect for that person’s business right now, but what if he or I expanded our businesses so that I might be a potential customer next year for a different product or service? Would my mild displeasure from this incident prevent us doing business in the future?

It might.

Reputations take years to build, but can be destroyed in seconds. Especially now when news of any misdeeds, real or imagined, can be spread around the world in an instant.

Perhaps we all need to think more carefully about the products and services we promote.

What do you think? Am I being overly critical?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

Peter Wright




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