There is a dark side of marketing that's seldom spoken of. In this post, we'll address the elephant in the room by outlining the various sales tactics used by sneaky Internet marketers and startups.
It goes without saying that we're living in a sales culture. We often buy things we don't need for no apparent reason, even if and when we can't afford the product or service. So, what drives us to purchase both cheap and high-ticket items alike on the Web? Let's get straight to it.
Campaigns that feed fear represent deceptive marketing at its finest. Low-level forms of graphical and text-based advertising, for example, will convey to readers that there is either a time limit (for no reason other than to create pressure) to purchase whatever it is that they're selling, or that they will suffer in some way if the product or service is not purchased.
In truth, nearly every business or non-profit can be found guilty of this within its early stages. But somewhere along their progression, at least for conscientious types, sound ethics need to trump the bottom line in order to put higher values in the limelight. The new entrepreneur should have a vision of serving others, not manipulating them in order to increase conversion rates.
How to Avoid Fear
Oddly enough, negative emotions as a means to influence action don't play as big of a role as we might think it does. Once we learn of what to look out for as customers, we become reluctant to reaching for our credit or debit card when approached by shady merchants. Since education is the key, conducting research or simply getting a second opinion in times of doubt are options worth considering. As we become smarter buyers, we make better decisions, and this improves the economy as a whole.
Belittling the Competition
Companies emphasizing their superiority over their competition likely don't have much to offer in terms of innovation. There are essentially two ways to package your offering as a business owner; (1) Develop it from scratch, or (2) re-package what already exists with a spin of some kind (eg: lower pricing, attach a value-added product or service as a bonus, display it using a unique angle [eg: re-purposing it for a niche market], or promote an original use for it, etc). But regardless of how competitive the market they're in, in fact, is, putting others down is a clear sign of an entity that doesn't want to work on their weak points while perhaps not having any strengths to begin with.
It's worth noting that this isn't the same as highlighting factual feature comparisons to products offered by the competition (if done in a tasteful way).
The Promise of Making Money Online
Almost exclusive to the individual Internet marketer (whether they be a blogger, affiliate marketer, network marketer, or an online consultant of sorts), the promise of making money online is a powerful catalyst in getting people to buy. Paid membership sites, ebooks, e-courses, MP3s, webinars, video downloads, and so on - these are rampant on the net, and while it's perfectly fine to package your knowledge for visitors to consume, we don't believe it's right in certain cases.
The biggest issue we've observed is with individual marketers never having generated significant income (at least not enough to be considered a "guru") through any means prior to selling these products or services. The few that take the moral high ground are open and honest about their business model, but it's still insulting to the potential customer in our opinion.
As an example, a widely-recognized Internet marketer (who shall remain nameless) literally has "I make money online by telling people how I make money online" as his/her primary website's title. Although comical as a statement, it represents a dangerous cycle which leaves very few playing this game somewhat rich, while those with a conscience entering into an economic void that discredits supply and demand along with individuals acting on personal ideas that could actually benefit others.
As a side note, "I make money online by telling people how to make money online" would be more ethical but we see how replacing the second "I" with "to" could open the possibility of being targeted for potential law suits.
The subject of countless debates, good design is a topic we couldn't overlook. When presented with a beautiful product, you almost can't help but take notice. Conversely, individuals that immediately see passed the exterior into the functionality, usefulness, or practicality of an item are far and few in between; However, where aesthetics play a major role in its utility, the latter may be missing an important component to their freedom of choice.
We see beauty woven into the shopping experience as a good thing. Therefore, any merchant or startup that concentrates their efforts on creating a pleasant look (given it's relevant) in both their marketing strategy and products/services themselves is warranted. Our only caveat is that it shouldn't be the primary driver and sales point, that is, unless it's fundamental to the core of its purpose (eg: artistic pieces that make your home look more zen-like or of another design genre that fits your preferences and requirements).
Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to buy is yours. We're all guilty of having been scammed or led astray at one time or another, but the word "guilty" shouldn't be taken lightly since we're not necessarily the victim if we let bad things happen to us. Although the dark side of marketing may not be a reflection of good, well-intentioned, and hard-working people... it is empowered by a public that yields to scare tactics, arrogant behavior, delusions of grandeur, and the illusion of something great where looks can very realistically be deceiving.