It may be the single most important word in business.
I just finished an in depth interview with Professor Tamar Fankel of Boston University Law School which I’ll be posting next month.
But you can get a preview here and now…
Tamar has been a professor at Boston University since 1968 and it currently a Faculty Fellow at the Beekman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She chaired the forum that led to the
creation of ICANN, the Internet naming system.
Despite of her Internet credentials, Tamar is best known for her work in securities law. She was a pioneer in helping define law in the fields of both securitization and mutual funds.
Quite an impressive career to say the least.
So what is Tamar focusing on now?
A book she published on the subject just came out from Oxford University Press. It’s called “Trust and Honesty: America’s Business Culture at a Crossroad.”
You’ll hear more about this book and the ideas in it in depth when we publish the interview with her, but it’s not too early to start thinking about how trust applies to your business.
It’s all about trust
Going back to the start of this article, trust may be the single most important word in business.
I’m not talking about being blind trust. Healthy skepticism is one of the most important tools in the entrepreneur’s tool kit.
I’m talking about being trustworthy. Literally: worthy of trust.
And no, I don’t mean a new sales technique or copywriting tactic. I mean being worthy of trust.
Internet marketing is a very new field. Many people have been attracted to it because of the low cost of entry, the ability it gives to sell-at-a-distance, and the anonymity it provides (or seems to provide.)
Being a new, and largely unregulated, marketplace, the Internet has attracted a lot of bad players. In this way, it’s not unlike any other industry or field of human endeavor.
The problem is that in the Internet marketing field many of these bad players are often looked up to by beginners as the model of how to conduct business online because of their supposed (usually self-reported) success.
This problem is like the proverbial elephant sitting in the living room that no one wants to talk about, but make no mistake: it’s costing us all dearly.
What bad players cost us all
When businesses behave unethically or in a “screw the consumer” way on the Internet, it effects everyone who sells on the Internet. It diminishes the level of trust buyers have for the medium. It reduces opt-ins. It reduces sales. It reduces profits. And it reduces the ability of good players to reach prospects and customers who need their products and services.
In her book, Tamar points out that in markets where dishonesty becomes institutionalized, distrust reaches epidemic proportions and economic activity grinds to a halt.
A classic example is the Third World nation where nothing can be accomplished without bribes and no property is safe from corrupt officials. Countries that do not get a grip on corruption-accepting attitudes like this can never make long term economic progress.
Is the Internet in danger of degenerating to this point?
Maybe, maybe not, but as Tamar points out, it’s the culture that a community develops that determines its long term prospects.
What kind of culture is forming around Internet marketing?
This is not an idle question, but if we don’t like the answer, what, if anything, can we do to change things for the better?
Tamar has three recommendations:
1) Don’t bury your head in the sand and hide from the subject,
2) Bring it out into the light and discuss is openly, and
3) Realize that culture is malleable, changeable. It’s not carved in stone. If we don’t like the way things are, or where they’re headed, we can do something about it.
Coincidentally this morning I saw a review in the New York Times for a book called “Revolutionary Characters.” It’s about the nature of the people who made the American Revolution possible. (You know, the one we celebrated yesterday.)
The book asks: Why are the leaders of today so inferior to the leaders of 1776?
The reviewer says: “Mr. Wood (the author) points out that it was the trust George Washington inspired in people ‘that enabled the new government to survive’ its tumultuous and fragile early years.”
Am I saying that players in the Internet marketing world should look more to people like George Washington and Bejamin Franklin for inspiration and less to people like Donald (gag) Trump and his Internet marketing equivalents?
Yes, I guess that’s exactly what I’m saying.
It has to begin somewhere. It might as well begin with us, now.
– Ken McCarthy
P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.
If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.