If you hate marketing hype, you’ll love today’s topic: honesty in marketing. On some level, it feels crazy to even discuss this. Why do we need to discuss whether we should be telling the truth in business dealings?!?
Of course, part of this discussion boils down to the less than stellar traits we humans can exhibit like greed, or the desire to have power. These attributes have led some to overinflate or even falsify their claims in the name of earning more.
I’m sure we can all name several people or companies who’ve behaved in this manner. But I know that for most of my audience, this is far from where we stand.
For those of us interested in authenticity and being genuine, honesty matters. I consider it the second trait of authentic marketing.
What are the other traits? I use a little acronym to capture them: THOR. This can help you remember the four traits: Transparent – Honest – Original – Real. More to come on the Norse God (or Marvel hero depending on your viewpoint) who’s name is the same at another time.
The short story on honesty in marketing is simple: tell the truth and only that.
If it ain’t true, don’t say it. But there’s more to it than this.
Let’s look at a couple areas where honesty needs an upgrade for many small businesses.
LANGUAGE IT CLEARLY: the biggest area where I see honesty take a beating is in written marketing materials. How many times have you gone to a website or scanned a flyer only to be left confused by vague words that don’t actually tell you anything?
Here are three headlines I found today to illustrate:
- Our world-class team produces highly unique work that you can’t find anywhere else
- Time is running out to secure your legacy
- Your abundant life begins with energy mastery
- Do the exact thing you need to do in your career
I mean do you have any idea what these people do or how they could help you? Sure, you could start to guess at what might be attached to these things, but guess what? Most readers won’t do it.
You have about 2 seconds to capture someone’s interest when they scan your materials. Then they will read further if what you are saying applies to them and their situation. Not because they are cold, callous people who don’t appreciate clever writing but because they have big, full lives and with the tons of information coming at them, and have to make decisions about what they spend their time with.
Stop making it about you. If you really loved your prospective clients you would find a way to communicate with them that shows them how much you truly care by saying clearly what you can do to make their lives better.
You will come across most authentically if you just say what needs to be said with the intent of creating understanding. Be honest and direct in a way that says what you do and for whom.
Consider these headlines instead:
- San Francisco Carpet Cleaning Experts
- Strong reading skills are the key to your child’s happiness, confidence and success in school
- Career Coaching for Rad Ladies
- World-Class Virtual Assistants for World-Changing Therapists
There’s no confusion here, even in the last two where they’ve added a tiny bit of clever into their words. By adding in Rad and World Changing, they haven’t added in confusion but rather clarified who they work for which would help their ideal clients see that they are a fit.
YOUR VOICE MATTERS: Oddly enough, it’s not just your language that genuinely conveys your business but also your voice, both in the way you write and speak. All the time I meet earnest, accomplished women who either underplay what they are about in their business or on the opposite end, are so assertive in how they share that you end up avoiding them.
My guess is that at home in the company of loved ones, these women have a more neutral stance in their voice and share in a more relaxed, authentic manner.
Why do sane, kind women suddenly talk in a non-authentic voice when asked to market themselves? Usually because they believe that who they are isn’t good enough.
So they put on what they think is a good voice and try to share from who they think they should be.
Instead, I invite you to get to know your real self and your real voice, then market from there.
If you are being too assertive, or always talking about what you can do for someone, stop it. You’ll know this is true for you because if you are honest, rarely do people ask you about your work more than once. You’ll find that people say hi and move on. If you are genuine and easy in your sharing, generally people will ask about your work and what you are up to with regularity.
On the other hand, don’t downplay what you do. Very often I meet talented, intelligent men and women who do amazing work for others but learned in their early lives to not speak too highly of themselves. They have an inner critic that would stop even the most talented copywriters in their tracks.
No wonder those people can’t think of what to say about themselves and their work.
If you have to do some inner work to overcome limiting ideas around seeing yourself accurately, do it. Because that’s how you can be honest in your marketing. Take the time to make an accurate assessment of yourself and the results your work delivers for others and share the truth of that in your own authentic way.
From my soon to be published book The Authentic Marketer: Create the Mindset You Need to Grow Your Small Business and Love It.
Linda believes that small business owners can step into a better version of their business when they embrace authenticity and become more fully themselves. Her 25-year marketing career has included Kimpton Hotels, Jamba Juice, and Disney helping her clients win awards and placements in publications like The Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine, as well as on the front cover of WIRED magazine. You can visit her website here: lindabasso.com or join her FB conversation.