Last week, I watched (for the zillionth time) the Spider-Man movie (2002 with Tobey McGuire) in which Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben says, “Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.”

That idea became a guiding principle for Peter/Spidey.

Too bad so many marketers don’t take that idea to heart.

Those of us who market businesses have great power. We know how to get people’s attention. We know how to persuade. We know how to overcome objections. We know how to close the sale.

With that power comes great responsibility.

It boils down to this: We don’t have to lie and mislead to be persuasive. And we should focus our persuasive powers on those who will truly benefit from our products and services.

We should not use our power to trick people into buying something that won’t help them.

Too many marketers forget that. Too many marketers will pursue the sale at all costs, even if their “target” won’t benefit from the products or services. Such marketers will happily “trick” you into buying their stuff.

They’re not interested in what’s best for you. They’re just interested in your cash.

That’s why I’m always on guard for marketers who use tricks to get my attention.

Last month, I received an unsolicited email from a guy who wanted to lend my business some money. I’d never heard from the guy before, but the email subject line said, “re: Our Conversation.”

I knew that subject line was bull, and I thought, “If this guy resorts to stupid, transparent tricks to get me to open an email, what tricks will he use to persuade me to borrow money?”

The bottom line: Before he had any chance to connect with me, he undermined trust and convinced me not to do business with him.

Don’t get me wrong. I think all marketers should understand buyers’ psychology. One of my go-to marketing resources is Dr. Robert Cialdini, a psychologist who has written groundbreaking books about influence and persuasion.

We’ve even distilled Cialdini’s persuasion lessons into a free online resource, “7 Ways to Make Your Marketing Messages More Persuasive.”

We want to empower marketers to deliver better, more persuasive messages. But that doesn’t mean we want marketers to misuse that power.

The best, most ethical marketers understand the power they wield, and they understand their responsibility.

They don’t use their persuasive power to sell worthless goods to people who don’t need it.

They use persuasion to help prospects discover more quickly how they can benefit from the products and services.

We’ve all heard the saying, “He can sell ice to an Eskimo…”
...as if we should congratulate a salesperson who sells ice to someone who doesn’t need it.

You may have the persuasive power to sell ice to someone who doesn’t need it. But it would be irresponsible and unethical to do so.

But if you’re truly selling something they need, use the power of persuasion to get their attention (without misleading them), move the conversation forward and help them discover the benefits they’ll garner from your products and services.

This post first appeared in St. Louis Small Business Monthly for which Tom Ruwitch writes a regular column. 


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