The Internet is still a relatively new tool in the marketing mix. Sure… it’s been commercialised for over a decade, but it’s a mere baby when compared to TV, radio and print. As a result there’s a LOT of business people (and even marketing people) with more dollars than Internet marketing sense. So they come to us for help. They come to us with their problems… and their grand ideas. The only problem in this equation is sometimes their ideas really suck. So what happens when they’re not willing to deviate from their totally sucky plans…? Do we take their cash and implement a plan we know won’t work? Or do we take an ethical stance and tell them to take their ideas elsewhere…?
I came across an ethical dilemma of this nature last week. A current client requested a meeting. The client runs a computer chain selling laptops and other hardware. He has a database of 40,000 members and uses our email marketing software to send a weekly email to his database. He typically promotes a couple of heavily discounted items in the weekly email and sees good sales every time. Everyone’s happy! Until our meeting last week… You see our laptop selling friend has had a bright idea… If the weekly email works so well, why not send it every day…
Yes, I know it’s not spam… yes, I know they’ve opted-in. But it won’t stay that way for long Mr computer salesman. How often do you think someone wants to buy one of your computers…? Every day…?
I could think of a thousand reasons why his idea completely sucks:
- He’ll burn through his list within a month.
- He spent a lot of good money building that email list.
- Current customers are worth far more than new ones. Do you really want to lose them?
- Increases in sales will be offset by increased marketing spend to replenish the list.
- Consumers don’t care if it’s technically not spam. They’ll still push that spam button if you annoy them.
- He may damage his email reputation and reduce his deliverability.
- His customers can’t change the email frequency if it starts to piss them off.
- Etc. etc… you get my point
Our main problem is that our client has already made up his mind. He’s going to do this regardless of our best advice. And if we don’t do it for him he’ll take his business elsewhere… Hence our ethical dilemma. Because despite the complete suckiness of his idea, it’s absolutely fantastic for our business. His change in email frequency would multiply the email volume by five. Instead of sending 40,000 emails a week, he’d be sending 200,000. And that means a big ching ching for our cash register.
Of course, that is an incredibly short term view of the situation. After all, the size of the list is certain to diminish once he starts mailing it every day. But the irony of the situation is that if that happens, we may profit even further from the exercise. Who’s he going to turn to when he needs some help topping up his list again…? Us.
So what is a man to do…? Allow a client to make poor decision that will cost him money, but benefit our agency? Or stand firm based on our principles of ethical marketing and business practices? I’m on the stand firm side. A number of people in my agency aren’t. The decision is still yet to be made.
So I ask you… what would you do…?