The practice of trading goods has been around for centuries. Historically, the most well-known and influential trade route is the Silk Road or Silk Route. This was the structures of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interface throughout regions of Asia. It continentally linked the West and East as Chinese traders and merchants traveled it to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time.
And its name lives up to this day… albeit in a different route and in a darker shade too.
Today Silk Road currently refers to the nefarious online black market site on the Deep Web and it was operated as a hidden service. This meant that online users could browse it anonymously and securely without alerting online authorities and any potential traffic monitoring. The Silk Road was seldom called the “Amazon.com/ebay of drugs”.
The site was recently shut down by the FBI on October 2, 2013. But it still boggles the mind: how could such a website exist? Well perhaps it’s because the Silk Road still engaged in online marketing, but only on the darkest, less ethical side of the internet.
The way it operated, catered, and advertised its goods barely differed from methods used by legitimate online marketers. Their contacts visited them in order to find information. They interacted with them since communication is how marketers know what customers are looking for. And as the conversation gave them what they needed to know, it brought them closer to a sale.
Finally, there is the issue of privacy. A main point in B2B marketing is to not drive customers away. That includes distributing private information about them without their consent. Even the method of payment (Bitcoin) was structured in a way to protect buyer identity.
But as Silk Road did all of this, the obvious problem was that their particular interactions involved hackers, drug dealers and the like in order to carry out their black market operations. Their goods were sold and shipped to various locations in the globe.
To them, the commerce of drugs, firearms, stolen credit cards and falsified documents was no different from the marketing of harmless apparels such as jewelry, books, toys and whatnot.
That didn’t stop either the site from shutting down or the subsequent arrest of its administrator.
The lesson here is simple: No matter how good your marketing is (or how commonplace), it doesn’t change the legal nature of what you’re trying to sell. Marketers can generate interest in your product but they won’t be the ones defending you in court. That’s a lawyer’s job.