Conversational marketing is all the rage among marketers these days. Marketers across industries sleep easy knowing that their commitment to helpful conversations and building meaningful relationships with potential customers separates them from their traditional counterparts.
But, is conversational marketing really ethical?
It's a valid question. In order to develop a conversational marketing campaign, you have to be able to be present where your prospective parent needs you, when they need you, and come bearing the answers to their questions. That means gathering tons of data about your prospective parents and using it to build semi-personalized experiences that look and feel authentic.
Yuck! When you look at it that way, it doesn't seem any more ethical than the traditional distract-and-coerce marketing methods.
But it is.
What Is Ethical?
Ethics is one of the most complicated and contentious subjects in marketing. We believe ethical marketing begins with intent. Your goal, of course, is to attract students to your school. Beyond that, your intent is to prepare those children for a purposeful, productive future.
Conversely, the goal of your typical marketer is to capture attention to convince an audience to part with their money. The goal is to make money. The intent is to grow the business, or make money. There is no consideration of the customer beyond simply having something they want.
See the difference?
Ok, so ethical marketing starts with intent. But how do you maintain your high intentions in the face of monetary need and questionable marketing tools?
Easy. Write them down.
The power of the written word is incredible. When your goals, mission, vision, and values are written down and published where everyone can see them, you eliminate the grey area where questionable marketing practices grow like mold. Just as you write down your goals for each marketing campaign, write down your intentions. It may seem repetitive, but it's the foundation of high ethical integrity.
"That's great," you say, "but ethical marketing only starts with intent. What else is there?"
Glad you asked! You know what really makes ethical marketing ethical? Boundaries.
Setting Ethical Boundaries
The power of modern marketing tools is incredible. Information giants piece together intimate details about your life from your credit card number to your prescriptions, charting your every action with the intent of putting parallel goods in front of you in hopes that you'll buy.
With the right software, a marketer can track your online movements, gather data on your interests and activities, and even create algorithms that show you their product at times and in locations where you're most likely to buy. And they know that because they've been stalking you like prey in the woods.
These tools could be used to make your life easier. They could be used to make sure you stay up-to-date on changes in the topics that matter most to you.
They could be used to carry on a conversation that benefits, educates, and empowers you.
And frankly, some of them just shouldn't be used. Some are downright invasive, sometimes to the point of being dangerous.
The trick to ethical marketing isn't a trick at all. In fact, it's simple.
What modern marketing tools will you use? How will you use them? Which tools align with your intent? Which don't align with your values?
There's a lot to think about. As you go through each marketing tool from analytics and data tracking to chat bots, you'll have to sit down as an organization and decide what fits and what doesn't, how things fit, and draw out your boundaries. As you do, write them down.
If you don't put your boundaries in writing, they aren't there.