Doing the Right Thing in the Digital Age
An interesting thing happens when technology allows for entirely new industries to be born. Innovation and creativity often work together in new and exciting ways, while at the same time accepted practices and philosophies are replicated or transferred from older business models.
In other words, brand-new products and concepts are not only being born, but tend to get implemented in old-school ways. Consider how the first mass-produced computers were manufactured on assembly lines just like cars, or the way websites were initially made to look like print brochures. In each case, innovators were being supported by business strategies, or business instincts, that came from other parts of the economy.
That has happened in my own industry, where a lot of digital firms are built on what I refer to as the “old agency model” of doing business. Even though they are involved in practices like website design, search engine optimization, and social media, the process they work through – creating proposals or doing spec work, billing clients for a set menu of services (like an accounting firm), and emphasizing sensationalism or aesthetics over actual lead generation results – would have been just as applicable on Madison Avenue in the ’60s. Over the years, poaching clients, staff members and even strategies became the norm. Ethics were tossed aside in pursuit of winning an account.
As I’ve written in the past, I think this is the wrong thing for marketers (and especially our clients), as dated strategies are dated for a reason – they don’t work as well as they used to, and people are becoming more aware.
We Can All Strive to Do Better… And Be Better
Although we are often taught to think of others in our industry as competitors, I think the reality is the truly creative, committed, and innovative minds in any field are colleagues as much as rivals. We all learn from one another, and shouldn’t be afraid to reach out, get together, or work collectively when it’s to everyone’s benefit – especially the client’s.
I believe we’ve reached that point in the online marketing industry, which is why I want to share that I’ve adopted a voluntary code of ethics that any business, marketer or online firm can agree to:
- I commit to put our clients and their needs first, and to only serve them when we feel it’s in their best interests to with with me.
- I commit to respect others in our craft. That means refusing to tell lies, diminish their work, or make attempts to copy something they’ve done and take credit for it on our own.
- I also agree to think of Internet marketing as a collaborative service, in a field where there is always room for success at the top. That means sharing ideas and insight, not fighting for clients that are already being served by other reputable companies (unless they turn to us for help on their own).
- And finally, I agree to market my firm in an ethical and responsible way, just as we should be advising our clients to do in a day and age where our reputations mean so much.
Do you agree with these ideas? Would you add to them?
So many things have changed – in marketing, technology, and society – over the last 50 or 60 years. Isn’t it time we changed the way we work with our clients, and each other, to a way that benefits everyone?