I have been in business and a serial entrepreneur since 1988 officially, unofficially I started in 1979 moving lawns, pulling weeds, and washing cars… So suffice to say I’ve been at it for a while. Even so it ceases to amaze me how very little some small business men and women actually know about business. One of the biggest things that frosts my hide is the lack of understanding of what is needed for marketing. I teach both graduate and post graduate marketing classes; from intro marketing to advanced marketing theories and there is one thing I do in all of those classes; I ask a very simple question. “When creating a marketing plan, what is the first thing you need?” I get a myriad of answers, I get things like:
I have been in business long enough that nothing should surprise me, and yet it still amazes me the lack of integrity and honesty that so many people in the business world have. Sales people in general have created a horrible reputation as being dishonest and slimy and that whatever they tell you should be taken with a grain of salt because everyone knows that they will say anything to get the sale. That is not the way it should be, and it might surprise some consumers that not every sales person is like that. There are those that have a sense of integrity and their sales techniques are governed by a personal moral compass.
As a business owner your moral compass or lack of one is what will guide those that work for you, because they are looking to you and your actions as a benchmark. This does not apply to just sales personnel but to public relations, marketing, just about anybody who deals with clients or the public at large. If you want your business to be thought of as an organization that has integrity than you need to lead your employees by example. In today’s world the integrity of a company is often more important than the cost of the product or service.
It has always been said that the business world is a cut throat, dog eat dog world, and that is true. It’s tough out there. The question is can you survive in the business jungle and still stay true to your values and conduct yourself and your business with integrity? The answer is absolutely. I do this every day, as does everyone who works at my company. Our slogan “Where Honesty and Marketing Meet” is not just something we think sounds cool; it is how we conduct ourselves. We don’t lie or exaggerate the truth just to close the deal, the exact opposite actually. We are completely forthcoming with our clients, so much so that on occasion we lose a deal because we have managed expectations and talked the client out of the sale. But more often than not clients appreciate our honesty, because frankly we are the odd man out.
Can everyone do this? Of course. How? Simple; let your actions be dictated by your sense of morality and ethics; not by profit. The profit will come anyway and if you are honest, you will probably make more profit in the long run, not less. In today’s world with so many scams and cheats and liars, by being honest and creating a reputation based on honesty, you really can’t go wrong.
Anyone who is in the lead business whether as the primary supplier or a broker knows that in every batch of leads provided to a client there is a percentage of leads that are rejected. The reasons vary based on the benchmark the client is using to qualify the leads. If the client is a call center they are qualifying the leads based on phone numbers, leads are rejected if the number is disconnected or the wrong number and even though these leads come with both phones and email addresses they don’t care about the emails because they are using the data strictly for calling. This is the case for most call centers. On the other hand if the client is a marketing company that is using the email address but not the phones they would reject leads based on bounce backs (bad email addresses) whether the phones are good numbers or not.
So let’s say that the call center is paying you the supplier based on good leads based of course on good phone numbers, and that you do not get paid if the phone number is disconnected or a wrong number. So out of 10000 leads let us assume that there was a 15% disconnect/wrong number rate meaning you got paid for 8500 leads and payment was withheld from 1500 leads. What if the call center then takes those 1500 rejected leads and sends an email to them advertising whatever it is their offer is, driving traffic to their website? Is this ethical? You were not paid for these leads because they were rejected, should the call center be using leads that you were not paid for?
While the answer for this might be grey for many, not so much for me; if a lead is used in any capacity then the provider should be paid. The call center did not pay for those leads and therefore should not benefit from them in any way whatsoever. As a supplier or provider of leads this should be discussed prior to supplying the first lead, you need to determine what the classification of a lead is based on what and how they are going to be used. If a call center tells you that their primary method of contact is phone, but that when they cannot get a hold of someone on the phone or the phone is not a valid number they then attempt to email them, then you should be paid for that data regardless if the phone number is good or not. You will probably want to charge less for this record; maybe you are only charging half the cost of the other leads since the phones are not valid.
Companies that are purchasing leads need to be ethical and honest and tell the supplier exactly what they are going to be using the leads for and what fields will be used and under what circumstances. Full disclosure is a must for a long term healthy relationship with your supplier and conducting ethical business should not be a choice. Suppliers may want to consider seeding their data with phone numbers and email addresses so that they know what is being done with the data, and make sure that your agreement is in writing, even if it’s with an existing client.