Online Business

Create Your 2021 Ethical Marketing Guidelines

February 3, 2021

You don’t need to sign a declaration or print your name on the dotted line – instead, craft your very own set of guidelines that are, first, achievable, but are also – ethical, effortless and effective. Marketing and business success is not binary – there’s not one way, and there’s certainly not a set of […]

I'm Amie Finlayson!

I am the digital growth expert helping service providers to craft strategic offers and create courageous content that enables them to infinitely grow their online business. 

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You don’t need to sign a declaration or print your name on the dotted line – instead, craft your very own set of guidelines that are, first, achievable, but are also – ethical, effortless and effective.

Marketing and business success is not binary – there’s not one way, and there’s certainly not a set of rules you should follow. Instead, consider the 4 areas of your business where you make the most impact on your audience’s decision making:

  • Pricing
  • Storytelling
  • Community
  • Sales

The importance of each, or the hierarchy, is entirely up to you. You’re the online business owner. You’re the service providers. You’re the marketer. You know your audience best.

Crafting a set of ethical marketing guidelines for your business will allow you to focus on what matters most to you.

Start with your pricing: is it ethical?

My mission for YOUR marketing is to do two things:

  • rewrite the standard AND
  • make your own rules

When it comes to pricing your digital products, online programs and services – know better, do better – but also do what feels right.

I have an episode coming out in the new year that’s going to dive even deeper into the pricing dilemma, but for now, if you’re thinking about how you price your value – think about the true value of the offer.

Gone are the days where we price and package up every part of what is included IN the offer and give it an over-inflated value.

If it costs $300 and you’re marketing it with $20,000 in bonuses – there’s a missing link here. An over-selling; it’s NOT the true value to the client or customer, because they would never buy every single piece for $20,000.

When pricing your services and products – be realistic. I don’t mean in how you position your expertise OR even how much the customer will spend – I mean in how you make the buyer perceive what is on offer. Is it fair?

And set yourself a task of reviewing if any of your current pricing preys on the impulse buyer – are they buying because they truly want what you’re offering? Or are you giving them a no-option due to how the price “appears”?

At the end of the day – pricing is representative of how you want your buyer to feel and what they’re receiving in exchange as a result. Bake it into your guidelines that you want to either run your numbers by someone else – or you want to include your audience in the pricing process – give your community options to buy from you.

Tell truthful stories in your marketing

If we move on the part two – storytelling – we can immediately place a guideline on all of our lists: to tell truthful stories that make a difference or solve a problem – rather than fear or inspire a buyer into purchasing.

That’s the obvious part, now to the stories that unintentionally (sometimes intentionally) leave out important details.

I’m SO guilty of this over the past 4 years of marketing on Instagram.


Your stories aren’t worth sharing if they leave out your privileges – and I don’t just mean if you have white privilege or cis-gender or able-bodied – I mean also the hidden parts of the story (which are of course related).

Say you’re digital nomad who started your web design company out of your bedroom with only $25 in your bank account. This is already not an ethical story, but it’s VERY common in online biz – the hidden part: the bedroom was in your parents home, where you had no financial pressures or dependents.

You worked hard and had a growth mindset, so that’s how you got to where you are today.

That’s great – but the story forgets that you may have had a lot of expensive therapy to deal with a mental illness; your work hard attitude came from years spent listening to motivational speakers that do more harm than good; OR maybe you actually have a tonne of debt that you sink deeper into each month.

Now that probably all sounds quite depressing, but it’s real – there’s more to the story – what is it? Why do you have an Instagram following that doubled this year? What story aren’t you telling?

That’s just one example – but when doing this; it’s not to be sharing a rags-to-riches story. No. It’s to be developing a FULL narrative, that shares achievement WHEN it’s transparent.

Stories sell. But they should also be contextually relevant, not shame or harm, and provide real evidence for how it is an achievable outcome for your target audience.

Look at how you build community online

If you feel like you don’t belong, chances are you’ll be more inclined to join the program or course from the marketer that is making you feel that way.

As part of your 2021 guidelines – I want you to an audit of not only the stories you use to sell on your sales pages and social media; but also the community you’re cultivating.

Are people allowed to disagree with you?

Do you let others have open, respectful discussions or do you shut it down?

Do you LISTEN when people give you feedback or tell you you’re in the wrong? Or do you unfollow, block and take massive offence?

These are all learning curves that go into your ethical guidelines. The heading could be “Feedback Process” and a series of dot points for what counts as feedback (not all feedback is necessary or helpful; there are obviously people who won’t be constructive, so create guidelines for what that means to you and what you want to get out of it – do you invite them to a Zoom call? Do you DM them to listen deeper? Do you email them with a few questions to get to know their concern or point of view?)

Critical discussion IS essential to an ethical community where EVERYONE feels heard and seen.

Next – are you creating false community? Do you use belonging to sell your membership, mastermind or online course? I don’t mean having something fundamental where people can connect; I mean positioning it as an exclusive offer BEYOND any other community.

Your community should also feel comfortable to not buy. They’re still welcome. How will you create community on your free channels? How will you make sure that your content disregards or diminishes others? How will you create spaces for people to learn and participate and experience without a transaction?

Consider the sales process

But probably the most important; as this is where we can REALLY did deeper into how many marketers and entrepreneurs abuse their authority.

Your worth is not tied to the decisions you make to invest in online courses or programs.

In 2021 – I’m going to be exploring this concept from the perspective of how sales calls can be a predatory way to influence buyer decision, as well as promoting programs without a sales page.

As part of your guidelines, consider two things:

  • how limiting and gatekeeping information can distract and harm buyer’s from making real empowered decisions
  • AND on the other hand – how overwhelming your buyer with info upon info can make the sales experience a hard one to navigate through

At either end of the scale – there’s SO much to look at when you review your own sales processes.

A big one I want you to consider for 2021 is on the topic of – which again will get more airtime on Good Authority – affiliate marketing.

Are you promoting something because it has a hefty affiliate cheque?

Or is it because it GENUINELY solves a need – and you use it too?

There’s a common trend to share bundles and course launches to get a quick and easy cash injection – but aligning yourself with such schemes, can be at the disadvantage of your audience. This is not always the case – but in your guidelines, make it clear what needs to happen for you to consider promoting something for a commission.

Download your 2021 Ethical Marketing Checklist here.

Marketing feeling kinda… icky? It’s time to rewrite the standard and change the way we sell products and services to our audiences. Flip off the status quo and build your own feel-good marketing guidelines.

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