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Are You Marketing or Manipulating? Let's Find Out. Are you in business to solve your client's needs or solely to make money? Let's explore the fine line between marketing and manipulation.

By Saba Tekle Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It is not unusual for business owners to manipulate target consumers into buying their products or services. In more ways than one, it is becoming the culture. A consumer's mind can work subconsciously; they can take in a piece of business information even when they don't necessarily understand the message.

More and more customers are influenced by a projected outcome (i.e., lifestyle) that blinds them into not seeing the smoke and mirrors. Many entrepreneurs use manipulation as a marketing strategy. Unfortunately, ethics are not called into question enough.

In most cases, we call things a scam, but there is a fine line between marketing, manipulation, ethics and effective marketing. Effective marketing should involve giving people the free will to decide to buy your product or services without manipulation. It is not manipulation if your marketing goal is based on serving and satisfying your consumer's needs. However, it is manipulative if your plan only benefits you at the expense of your consumer's needs.

So, the question is: Are you in business to solve your client's needs or solely to make money? As a business owner, adding value to your customers through your product or service should precede your gain.

Related: 5 Sneaky Psychology Tricks Advertisers Use to Get Our Business

The difference between marketing and manipulation

Marketing is a form of connecting and communicating. It involves using tools to promote products by transmitting messages to consumers so they are aware of your brand and your product or services for sale.

Ethical marketing involves presenting your product in the way it is intended for use and for who it is for. For example, if your service or course is not for everyone, do not make it appear like "it is for everyone, or anyone can do it" if you don't have the statistics to back it up. Business owners don't have to lie, intimidate consumers, present unreal facts or exaggerate the quality of the product or service. Instead, your marketing should be based on facts, presentation and emotional arguments.

For example, many authors and those who sell services rely on deceptive facts to sell their products. They use misleading, confusing or untrue statements to promote themselves or their products — thus, playing with consumers' emotions misleadingly and deceptively. Sadly, consumers are likely to accept false information because of their strong desire to improve their way of life. This is manipulation.

Many online gurus, self-service providers or service-based businesses sell products, books or strategies that don't work for everyone, but they don't disclose this. Instead, their advertisement speculates on your emotions and is construed in a manner that promises or implies a connection between a product and happiness, social acceptance, friendship, etc.

Is scamming manipulation? To a large extent, scamming is manipulation. It is an intentional manipulation focused on getting someone to give up something in exchange for something bigger. So, when clients pay vast sums of money in the promise of a benefit they do not get, the business owner scammed and manipulated them.

Service-based business vs. self-based business

Business owners can choose to operate as service-based or self-based businesses. Service-based business owners trade their knowledge or skills for money; they focus on providing functions to make life more comfortable for others. So, they market their business according to consumers' needs.

On the other hand, a self-based business is built with the core desire to make money. Self-based entrepreneurs care less about the outcome of the company or the quality of their products. Instead, they are focused on increasing their market share and profit margin.

To achieve this, they spend resources analyzing what consumers do and how they think. Your goal as an entrepreneur should be to solve a common problem for consumers rather than chasing money. Finally, a service-based business focuses on serving, while a self-based business manipulates.

Related: 3 Marketing Claims That Hurt Your Reputation

Is your marketing authentic?

These days, it is challenging to recognize brands that are authentic to their messages. Nowadays, there are forced purchases of products and services due to clickbait, monopolies and emotional bait-and-switch tactics.

For example, many online gurus or self-publishers flood their followers or target audience with fake engagements, exaggerated income reports, bots, borrowed dishonest ads, etc. You see gurus selling deceptive strategies or courses on making quick money online or becoming millionaires.

They lure you in with false images, sly promises, "proof" of income reports and testimonies. Unfortunately, many vulnerable audiences buy into these theories — many of whom fail to question these reports or conduct due diligence research.

To build an enthusiastic following and brand, you must leverage authenticity and build trust. Being authentic means representing yourself and your brand from a place of sincerity and genuineness. You don't have to invest in marketing gimmicks to get your target audience.

There should be zero discrepancies between your brand's words and actions. Instead, know your target audience, their values, why they seek your products or service, etc. In addition, all communication with consumers must be honest and transparent. A brand that is not authentic, accountable or transparent never thrives in the long term.

Related: How Authentic Marketing Is Key to Building a Loyal Audience

Authentic marketing brings long-term success

Manipulative marketers are interested in short-term goals and not long-term ones. They hardly care about producing positive results or providing value to their consumers. Hence, their influence tactics can be shady and manipulative, which is becoming the norm and culture — so they don't see the wrong.

As a business owner, don't dwell more on yielding profit. Your objective should be to solve consumers' needs and grow your brand. So, engage in smart marketing strategies and ensure your products produce results for consumers. Also, properly vet them to see if you truly are a good fit.

Entrepreneurs manipulate consumers when their interests and goals don't align with their desire to make money. Instead of thinking of your best interests over your customers', align your message to their values, and be authentic enough to form genuine connections with them.

Saba Tekle


Saba Tekle is a publisher, mentor, former Huffington Post contributor, and best-selling author. She has worked with over 200 authors worldwide, and her writing has been featured in the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Essence.

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