In reading a blog post by Joe Leech at cxpartners last week, I came to realize that his discussion of User Experience and ethical behaviour as a professional was also applicable to the marketing and advertising industries. At MB, we’ve been living by this code passively – not really giving it conscious thought or consideration. Because, well, it just makes good business sense to give your customers a bunch of reasons to keep coming back. Trust is built, and should never be assumed.

The code goes like this:

  1. Don’t trick.
  2. Don’t lie.
  3. Don’t cheat.
  4. Provide positive benefit.

These four simple rules provide the foundation for what we do as a company. Follow suit with your organization, and you’ll win big with your customers.

Don’t Trick

Be crystal clear, in plain language, about what you’re providing and what you’re asking for. Yes, you may be required to include the legal boilerplate depending on your industry or the complexity of your offering. If you are, always explain it in language that your customers will understand. Nine times out of ten, it’s about as clear as malt vinegar.

Don’t Lie

This is rather simple. Don’t lie. Not even by omission. Does that mean that you have to put everything on the table, for all to see? No. But don’t publicly, knowingly, communicate a falsehood or twist reality to such a degree that your customers will be confused, frustrated, or angry. Don’t bury things in your Terms of Service. If you do, and you upset your customers, don’t hide behind the standard go-to skeezy spokesperson line that we all hate.

This was clearly communicated in our Terms of Service. Paragraph two thousand, four hundred and seventy one, section six, subsection (iii). Didn’t you read that?

If you’re burying something in the ToS, you know that people won’t like it and you’re hoping that people won’t notice it. Stop. Make adjustments to your business or service model if necessary, and be transparent. Your customers will love you for it.

Don’t Cheat

Be honest, be transparent, own your mistakes, say “we’re sorry” when you should, and relate to your customers like they’re human beings (hint: they are).

A decade or so ago, a blue-coloured telecommunications giant won my wireless business when I put ink on my first mobile phone subscriber agreement. What the sales rep didn’t tell me at the time was that there was a $6.95 network access fee. And an emergency access fee. And that if I started a call before 6pm (free evenings and weekends), the entire duration of the call counted against my allotted minutes (not just the pre-6pm portion). She also didn’t tell me that if I changed my plan (even by adding services to it), it was considered implicit consent that I wished to re-sign a three year service agreement. Nor that the penalty for terminating this agreement early was on the order of $40 for every month left on the agreement’s term. Perhaps all of these details were in the 20-page document that I signed; but like most people purchasing a cellphone, I wasn’t at all interested in retaining legal counsel to sift through the voluminous wasteland of nine point font.

To this day, I refuse to conduct business with this entity. If they’re the only provider for a product or service that I’m interested in, I do without until one of their competitors can bring it to market. And I’m not the only one who feels this way – over a decade later.

This is the power behind feeling cheated.

Provide Positive Benefit

The entrepreneurs who really kill it are the ones that solve a pressing problem, in a positive manner. If your company can solve a problem really well that a bunch of people have, with few appreciable downsides, you’ll capture market share. Be clear about the benefit that you provide; in fact, you should promote yourself based on this benefit(s). Benefits sell widgets and retain product loyalty, not features.

Treat your customers like you would want to be treated. It really is that simple.