“We have the Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities.” ~Bill Maher

The Bill of RightsThe Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Relax, that is the end of the history lesson.

This Bill of Rights isn’t hard to understand. It is comprised of ten amendments but they are simple and straightforward. The longest of the ten is only 108 words and the shortest is a mere 16 words. Let’s hear it for brevity in powerful writing!

The Bill of Rights is such a watermark of majestic communication that other “bills of rights” have popped up: the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the Patient Bill of Rights, the Donor Bill of Rights, the Consumer Bill of Rights, and there are more.

Gimme My Rights!

Many of us figure that whatever group we are in, there are rights for us and we are naturally owed them. Marketers are one such group. Here is the Bill of Rights that many marketers presume for themselves:

  1. No marketer shall be restricted in regard to with whom they may communicate.
  2. Permission for a marketer to communicate on any topic shall be inferred from any type of agreement to receive communication.
  3. No marketer shall be restricted in what they may or may not communicate.
  4. All marketing communications shall be considered to be “valuable content”.
  5. No marketing communication shall be restricted as to length or frequency.
  6. The use of hyperbole, innuendo and manipulation shall be specifically protected in marketing speech.

Ick, I feel dirty just for writing that down.

So let me be blunt: there is no such “Marketer’s Bill of Rights”. Yet every day many among our own ranks feel that they can do and say anything they want for their own commercial benefit. I am not talking about lying or fraud or deceit. Even the most callous business people get that such things are unacceptable (and in some cases even illegal).

I am talking about the presumption that we as marketers are “owed something” or that we “own something”. So let’s consider an example where you are on the other side of this interaction and see how it shakes out.

It’s All Mine

You signed up to receive this very article and others that will follow. Consider the language I would use and the outlook I might have as a marketer about that. You are on “my” list. You are “my” subscriber. I got “permission” to email you. The only specific restriction offered up was whether I could contact you weekly or daily and even then I set the rules.

Your take on this arrangement is likely a bit different. Sure, you gave me permission to send you stuff but with some serious provisos. Frequency was already discussed. But you have some expectations about content too based on my past promises and even on my past articles. You don’t consider this relationship permanent but merely provisional. In short, you expect to be able to walk away with impunity at any time for any reason, or no reason at all. As far as you are concerned, you owe me nothing.

It would appear that we are pretty far apart on this. This is the dilemma that marketers keep experiencing. Their expectations are so far off from that of the market that they keep making glaring errors that drive away what should be a welcoming audience.

I Demand My Rights Responsibilities!

It is very simple: Mr. or Ms. Marketer, you have no rights, you have only responsibilities.

That doesn’t sound very promising. But wait, it actually is. Because the majority of marketers are not evidencing that they understand this reality, those of us who do have a distinct advantage.

Look at some of the ways that marketers blow it. I gave you my business card — so do you just presume you can add me to your mailing list? That is a quick way to kill our budding relationship. Take a moment to connect with me. Invite me to be on your list. In fact, first give me a reason to want to accept such an invitation. Structured correctly, the question will almost always be welcomed and answered in the affirmative.

You Gave Away Your Rights to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

Get plugged in to reality. Facebook groups are owned by Facebook, LinkedIn groups are owned by LinkedIn. It is irrelevant that you started a group or put in a labor of love to moderate it. You are the one who freely chose their platform and accepted their rules.

Do you know how you can tell that Facebook owns it and not you? You don’t control everything on the page, at most you influence (something even less than control) at best a third of it. Facebook rules the rest. It makes recommendations for other of its groups to “your” members, even to groups you would consider to be competition and you have no say whatsoever.

Facebook runs ads on your group page specifically because the target audience has the shared interests of members of your group. Those ads are targeted at your group very much on purpose. This is not only allowed by Facebook, it is a selling point they offer to their advertisers. The same is true of every other “free” platform out there. They own you, they know it, and they don’t care if you know it or not.

The Rule of Five

Ok, you are clear that your audience has its own expectations, that Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook has its own, and that your email service provider additionally has its own. Do you ever get to say something you want to say when you want to say it?

Yes. Just follow the Rule of Five. It goes like this: if you tell me five things I want to hear about, you have now earned the right to tell me one thing you want to say to me.

That means you have to send me five valuable emails. The value is determined by me, not you. There is actually an advantage to you in this. Even if you were forced by the rule to act this way, you get the benefit that you have established your credibility. Without credibility it doesn’t even make sense for you to talk to me. It sets the best possible stage for you to do that thing you do.

“Here is the Marketer’s Bill of Rights” click to tweet

These facts can be very hard for some folks to swallow. But once you do, the world looks like a different place. Behaviors of customers and prospects that made no sense become clear. Results start to align with expectations. Your inalienable rights are still there. Only your unrealistic ones go away. But they were never really there to begin with.

What supposed “rights” have you been able to release? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Photo credit: editrrix

Stop Wishing for a Marketer’s Bill of Rights
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