A Value Proposition?
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In this week's article Bill takes a rather different tack, sharing his view on what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to selling and marketing through the use of electronic media.
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A question of spirit?
I admit to being rather taken aback last week, when I received a rather irate message from one ex-reader who felt that the newsletter was written in the wrong spirit. The gist of the complaint went something like this:
"I don’t feel that what you are saying is sincere or genuine. To me you are just a sales person trying to sell me something. I will look elsewhere for my inspiration in future."
I chose not to respond but rather to reflect on the criticism.
To sell or not to sell?
As you can imagine, I get rather a lot of emails that fall into the 'pushy sales' category, so I can relate to people who that they are being unfairly burdened by others who want to sell them something they don't want.
And yet, as one of my favourite quotes (by Robert Louis Stevenson) goes:
"Everybody lives by selling something."
So where does one draw the line between selling (or marketing) that is fair and selling that is unethical?
What's the value proposition?
In my opinion, the answer has a lot to do with the value proposition involved between potential seller and potential buyer. (Given that I want to focus on the electronic messaging that is so prevalent in our digital world, allow me to use the terms 'communicator' and 'recipient' for the purposes of this discussion).
What I mean by this is that, to start with, there has to be genuine value in what the communicator is offering, coupled with an active interest of some form, on the part of the recipient. In addition, there needs to be some clear and simple mechanism that allows the recipient to close the door on the communicator when his or her interest is no longer there.
So, for one thing, I despise chain letters that offer to bring me rich rewards if I send some completely unknown person R10, put my name at the top of some arbitrary list and then forward the message to fifty friends. I mean, where is the genuine value proposition in this? If you ask me, it's a sure fire way to lose any friends I might have!
Unsolicited = Unwanted
I also dislike sales-driven communications that are unsolicited. To be specific, I mean emails, faxes and SMSes (don't even get me started on telephone calls) that are sent without the recipient having shown a prior active interest in the product or service that is being promoted.
The word 'active' is key in this context because it implies that the recipient initiated the communication by expressing an interest (by responding to an advert or promotion).
Those who choose to market their wares by buying email or cellphone lists from list brokers and sending out bulk messages to the unsuspecting masses do so, I believe, by crossing the boundaries of good marketing ethics.
In my opinion it simply isn't good enough for the communicator to assume interest on the part of the recipient unless that recipient has shown, through his or her actions, that he or she is likely to be interested.
Not everything is clearcut
Of course there are grey areas.
If the recipient has demonstrated an active interest in product A, isn't it fair to assume they may be interested in Product B from the same communicator?
Probably, as the communicator will feel that they have developed something of a relationship with the recipient - but in such cases I feel there is an ethical responsibility on the part of the communicator to ensure that the recipient is clearly 'shown where the exit is and how to open the door'.
Show me the door!
For my liking, there are far too many sales messages being distributed with no clear instructions on how the recipient can unsubscribe or opt out. Worse still, some communicators will provide opt out instructions that either don't work or which they deliberately ignore!
Now, back to Insights.
Insights subscribers do so by invitation only. They are all people who have actively expressed an interest in life coaching through responding to our marketing. There is a 'double opt-in' policy that allows subscribers to confirm their interest and there is a clear unsubscribe mechanism that readers can use at any time. Insights is free of charge and readers can choose to open and read it if and when they choose. The newsletter aims to promote the New Insights Africa mission of bringing freedom, confidence and growth to people from all walks of life in southern Africa by offering advice, inspiration and new perspectives on day to day living.
In exchange, Insights is sometimes used as a vehicle for low-key promotion of life coach training and related products and services.
I hope you'll agree that this represents a clear value proposition for both communicator and recipient.
NEW: Share your views
Let me know what you think. Feel free to share any good and bad examples you may have by trying out our brand, shiny new reader's forum, which you can access from this link:
Until next week,
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