If you are hired to work in marketing at a typical company, there will likely be clear ethical standards defined in a company policy and some level of compliance among employees at all levels in the company. You will witness ethical breaches and need to decide whether to report them or not. You will see examples of outstanding ethics and have the opportunity to participate in debates about ethical disagreements and issues. No company is perfect, but most are trying to be ethical.
How can you, as a marketer, make a difference? Marketers have a specific set of responsibilities when it comes to preventing and addressing ethical issues. These are described below.
Demonstrate Respect for Your Target Customer
Marketing is not a game of manipulation. Good marketing provides compelling solutions and informs customers to help them make good selections and realize value. Recognize the customer’s need for an offering that is easy to use and includes clear instructions and appropriate warnings. Remain available to customers to hear complaints. Be humble enough to recognize that not everyone wants to hear your messages. If you demonstrate respect for the consumer, you will find new opportunities to provide value. If you treat consumers like a commodity to be manipulated, a host of ethical issues will clutter your path.
Prepare the Sales Team to Sell Effectively and Ethically
If personal sales are a part of the business plan, then marketers have an important responsibility to prepare the sales team for success. Often marketers are asked to create the message, and sales reps are asked to deliver it. When the sales rep is prepared with a strong value proposition, effective communication materials and presentations, and thorough market research, the sales rep can do her best work. When the marketing mix is not hitting the mark, the sales rep’s is much more difficult, and there is a greater risk of ethical issues. It is the marketer’s responsibility to prepare sales reps to be successful without compromising their integrity.
Demonstrate High Personal Standards in Business Relationships
Marketers often entertain and give gifts. It is not unusual for the marketing team to create the gift list for all customers. Marketers cultivate business relationships and distributor relationships, too. If marketing demonstrates a high standard for professionalism and ethics in these relationships, it sends a strong message and increases the expectation that others will, as well.
Provide Fair Value to the Target Customer
Many ethical issues result from some level of deception involving misstatement of value to the customer. Be accurate in communications to customers about the value that a product provides. Be clear in pricing and contracts. Pricing strategies that confuse customers and cost more than the customer initially believed are never a good long-term strategy.
Play Nicely in the Competitive Environment
Companies in a competitive market shift positions and introduce innovations to give them new competitive advantage. This is the very nature of a competitive marketplace. Treat competitors with respect and learn from their approaches. Do thorough competitive research to understand them better. Do not seek to gain confidential information about competitors or their products.
Seek to create a relationship of trust with your target customer through honest, helpful communication. This is such a simple but important recommendation for all marketers. If customers trust the product, the company, and the brand, business results improve, and the company has greater flexibility to introduce new products or make market adjustments.
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