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Should Your "Company Ethics" Be Used as a Marketing Tool?

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/20/2006 | Marketing
Ethical Marketing. For some companies that phrase may seem like an oxymoron similar to government intelligence. For others however, its a core operating value.

What exactly is Ethical marketing? According to a recently released white paper on that subject, ethical marketing is a model of ethical interactivity between businesses and consumers that includes seven practices notice, choice, access, contact, security, horizon and intrusiveness.

Every day there are exciting new technologies being created that open up endless possibilities for Internet Marketers. As a small business owner, your email box is probably already flooded with offers every day, telling you about the next big thing that will help you sell more of your products or services to scores of hungry buyers.

Right now, when a customer visits your Website, youve got the potential to track what pages they visit, how long they stay, what links they follow. To help make buying from you even easier, your customers have the option of letting you remember their personal information everything from physical address to preferences and previous purchases to their credit card information.

You can even get their personal information such as IP and email addresses, without them having to type a single word, or lift a finger to click a mouse.

Technology, by itself, isnt inherently good or bad. What makes the difference is your intent and how you use it.

Here are five issues when it comes to addressing privacy issues that you should be thinking about, to ensure that your company is participating in ethical marketing practices.

Gathering Information Addressing Consumer Privacy Issues

NOTICE: Do you tell consumers what information youre collecting, how it will be used, whether it will be disclosed to anyone else, and whether or not youre using cookies?

CHOICE: Do you give visitors to your Website the choice to agree with how you gather information and use it?

ACCESS: Do visitors to your Website have access to the information you collect about them? Do they have the ability to review and make changes to that information?

SECURITY: Do you let your customers know that you understand their concerns about the protection of their private information, and use best practices when transferring or storing their information?

CONTACT: Do your visitors and know how to contact you, and have the name of someone in your company to ask questions or register complaints about privacy concerns or complaints? And are those concerns or complaints handled in a professional manner immediately?

Being ethical and honest in all business dealings has always been considered good business practice. Doing business the way it has always been done just doesnt work with savvy consumers any longer. In the wake of scandals like Enron and Arthur Anderson and others, consumers have become more cautious and skeptical and want to know more about the companies theyre doing business with. Because of their concerns over privacy and safety issues, many consumers are still hesitant about making purchases on the Web.

So can your companys core operating values its ethics become an effective marketing tool?

Some experts say yes.

Here are some of the top ways small businesses can attract new customers and maintain strong support and loyalty from current ones:

1. Include words about your companys integrity, commitment to excellence and high standards in all your marketing, advertising and on your Webpages. When youre thinking about what you want to say, think about these questions: How long has your company been committed to excellence? Do you believe in integrity? How do you handle customer service?

2. Offer concrete examples of how youre committed to excellence, integrity and honesty in all your dealings. Instead of just saying Our service department is committed to excellence explain why. What procedure do they follow? How are your employees involved in ensuring customer satisfaction? What guarantees do you offer your customers?

3. Get feedback from your customers. Even if youre the only employee in your business, you can benefit from one of the secrets used by the Fortune 500 companies its called primary market research but what it boils down to is asking your customers questions. Find out what they liked about doing business with you. But also ask what they DIDNT like, and then take steps to solve any problems right away! Dont make excuses, and dont make it tough for your customers to fix something they consider to be a problem. Figure out a guarantee, and then stand behind it.

4. If you own a brick and mortar store, you can run quarterly promotions and in-house contests. For example, one inexpensive idea is to run a contest that rewards the employee who provides the best customer service during a specific time period. Or give your employees buttons that say Ask about our 100 percent guarantee etc. You can get really creative and make it fun for your customers and your employees, with the end result that everyone knows about your companies ethics and core operating values.

5. Add tag lines under your company name that talk about your companys values. Include the same tag line on all marketing materials. Just remember to use statements that your company will be able to stand behind for a long time, because once thats what you become known for, the image will stick.

Just remember that if you're going to use your company's ethics as a marketing tool, you need to adhere to them completely, with a "no tolerance" policy for any unethical practices. If you don't, this marketing tool could backfire, and you'll end up losing your credibility and your customers.