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  • Ems Rae Searle

An Honest Guide to Marketing your Online Business

Looking to market yourself in line with your business values but don’t know where to start? What is Ethical Marketing Strategy, and what are some examples of less than ethical marketing for online business?

In this blog, I look at some commonly used tactics and question whether or not they’re really in line with sound ethical marketing. If you’re seeking to make the world a better place but the tips and tricks you’ve been picking up feel like lead in your stomach, then read on.


Common unethical marketing tactics and how to identify them:

Ask yourself do you want to be the dodgy geezer flogging knock-off watches in a car park? Or setting your beautiful offering out on a clean, well-kept market stall – out in plain sight next to the kitsch catering van selling impossibly large meringues?

You’ve got a great product or idea to sell. Maybe it’s a killer coaching programme full of value and life-changing insight. Maybe it’s the product of your own heartfelt journey or your mission to stop others from falling into the same holes that you have.

At its heart, your offering is about connection, remedial methodology and excellence. It stands and speaks for itself - your job is to make sure it reaches the eyes and ears of the right people.

You’re going to come up against conflicting advice on these. Commonly used in online marketing, they’re dressed up as clever methodologies for getting people further into your funnel and ultimately signed up, but don’t be duped. These are clever tactics there to help you to circumnavigate your client’s natural sense of better judgement.

Keep your eyes peeled, the weasely tricks are surprisingly common.

Charm Prices

This is all about trying to make your product appear cheaper, so instead of saying £30, you’ll knock off a few quid to make it seem more affordable. When we make a decision to make any purchase, we all unconsciously judge a price by the left-most figure. That’s why you see a lot of prices that look like £29.99 - or even the dreaded ‘chuck a ‘7’ at the end and it’ll look like a steal’ floating around.

Charge what it’s worth, don’t hoodwink your client. If they’re ready to work with you and you’re offering the thing they need, they’ll have the cash without you having to make them (falsely) believe they’re getting a bargain.

The lowdown on Countdowns

‘Buy it now or you’ll die’ tactics stink. If what you’re selling will be around tomorrow, don’t pressure someone into buying it today by putting a ticker in the corner of the screen. It screams that you’re as desperate to make a quick buck as they are vulnerable to missing out.

If you’re proud of what you do, allow your client to use their head and heart to make a proper, gutsy, decision – not one based on fear and time pressure.

If, however, you're flogging something that took you an afternoon to put together and you’d like it all gone by tomorrow tea-time then carry on. Quite frankly, I’m surprised you made it this far through this blog. For goodness’ sake, go do something more productive with your time.

False Scarcity needs to get scarce

Most of us have been brought up to believe that things that are rarer are more expensive, but that doesn’t mean that they hold more inherent value. Stating that there are a limited number of something that is, in reality, exponential (like a purely online course that requires little input from you) places the onus on fear to drag your clients in rather than allowing them to desire your product. If you want to put attraction front and centre, then leave this dodgy tactic well alone.

Of course, if there are finite variables (like your time or someone else’s resources) then make sure you’re transparent, offer alternatives and dump the ticker. It’s just not nice.

Flimsy Lead Magnets carry no weight

The lead magnet is the stalwart of the traditional marketeer’s arsenal, so bear with me on this one. It’s basically an exchange – they get something from you for free (a pdf worksheet, a quiz or a webinar) and you walk away with their email address and other contact details.

But is it really free? And here’s the point of responsibility. You’ve had something from them, so treat it with the respect it deserves. No one likes spam, even those weirdos who enjoy processed meat in their sandwiches.

Bait & Switch can get in the bin

Come along to my live webinar, the advert says. So you sign up, wait for the hour and then find out that it’s:

  1. Pre-recorded

  2. Very poor in terms of tangible value

  3. In reality a sales pitch

  4. A complete waste of your valuable time

The assumption is that a few people will be pissed off enough to throw things at their laptop, annoyed that they’ve been duped into 30 minutes of being sold to. Others will shrug their shoulders and skip the promoted ad next time it comes up on social media, a little knot in their stomach tweaking the wound (they’re also not buyers), and then there’s the very few who will actually sign up for whatever it is you’re promoting.

The principle is you don’t need to aggravate that many people for a few sales. It’s shitty.

Woke Washing

This one smells as bad as the bottom of your laundry bin.

This is all about picking up on the latest trends in ethics, politics or ecology, for example, to hook someone in but then trashing these values to make a sale. If someone has logos or badges on their website, be curious. Are they walking the talk?

What’s their sales process like? How do they get you from interested to committed? If they’re consciously saying one thing and doing another, you’ll notice. It’s the commercial equivalent of gaslighting if they then attempt to dismiss your misgivings.

The Secret Sauce

Think you have the secret seasoning of 11 spices that’ll give your clients the juicy offering they’re looking for? I’m sorry to say this but you won’t be everyone’s fried chicken.

And that’s the reality. There is no one silver bullet that’s guaranteed to sweep away your inhibitions, build a six-figure income in three months and fit you into the pair of jeans you wore to your 18th birthday party.

Marketers who claim to be the be-all and end-all of your sector are shamelessly preying on the desperate and if you checked, their pants would be on fire. If you’re offering a quality service full of personal experience, expertise and genuine interest in growing someone’s business then you won’t be the magic ticket for everyone. Be transparent and bring yourself to a quiet place of confidence so you don’t feel offended about not being best-fit for everyone.

After years of playing bullshit bingo with cheesy sales tactics, I’ve produced my own marketing and sales methodologies to help take them out of play completely. If you’d like to learn more about how you can sell like a pro with a clear conscience, then book a chat here.

Thanks for sticking around folks! Chat soon.

Ems xo


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