Tag Archives: ethical bribe

Banish The Phrase “Ethical Bribe”

The report is yours to keep...

The report is yours to keep...

Marketers use the term “ethical (or legal) bribe” to refer to the free come-on that makes you (the buyer) take the action they (the seller) want.

That action can be anything from subscribing to a free newsletter to signing up for a $3,000.00 online course.

The products may be wildly different, but the process is the same.

In order to lure the suspicious customer into giving you the chance to pitch your product, you offer them something valuable for free.

You may have learned this technique from Mary Popins, when she advised that “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Or you might have picked it up from a late night viewing of Reefer Madness, when you noticed that The Pusher gave away a free taste to create demand. Or maybe you attended a workshop to learn how to sell.

There is nothing wrong with offering a free “this,” if you buy “that.” It’s a time-tested tactic, tried and true; nothing more.

What is unfortunate is the relationship it creates in the seller’s mind, between herself and her customer. The potential customer is now a dupe, who has to be bribed. The seller has to append the word “ethical”or “legal” to remove the sleazy taint. There is no hint that the seller is proud of the product or that the buyer might want it just because its good.

The chances of creating a respectful relationship are diminished just by the words you chose to describe your actions.


What is an ethical bribe? It’s the offer of something the potential buyer will find valuable – a report, a video, a mini-course, a discount, a bonus – that the seller offers freely.

In other words, it is a gift.

So why not call it that?

If you have been using the phrase “ethical bribe” to describe the small enticements you offer your clients, try consciously switching to using the word “gift” instead.

Are those who accept your gift still sheep waiting to be sheared – or are they now valued partners in your business?

Which relationship is likely to be more fruitful in the long run?

Photo by mike@bensalem Released under Creative Commons License