Is marketing lying?
As a marketing graduate, this question was triggered by a facebook response on a marketing mailshot campaign, so here is the background: I received a mailshot from a company, which claimed I was in the 1% of special people to receive this e-mail and promotion, later that day I spoke to a client and he asked me are you also in the 1% of special people, which I could only confirm and I am sure a good few thousands of others were on the same mailshot. I then raised the question on facebook whether this was a form of deception, false advertising, me being cynical or just marketing lies? One of my facebook friends responded that all marketers are liars, so that prompted this blog post and question.
When I give workshops to professional service start-ups, they often ask whether they should fabricate their testimonial section and come up with some good stories. Personally I totally and fundamentally disagree with this approach and would recommend that people work on getting experience and results in what they do and then look for real testimonials. However I am aware that some marketing guru’s may recommend and utilise his approach. It is very much a value call, whether you remain truthful or not, but it does raise the following questions for me: What is the net gain? What else are you lying about? What if you don’t live up to the story? What if people find out after that it was fabricated?
Coming back to the original mailshot that triggered this line of reflection, I actually ignored the message as soon as I read you are in the 1% of special people that have received this e-mail. In my own mind, I had already smirked: ‘yes me and all the others who happen to be on your database’ and I had stopped reading and deleted the mail. Have I read too many empty promises or marketing lies to be de-sensitised by this or the opposite does it start the anti-craze in me? I wouldn’t mind but that particular company have a lot of great products that I would recommend, however this campain I feel was off the mark and outright wrong. It is now a standing joke, that me and some of my clients are in the top 1% of special people; I guess if you take the world population we probably are in the top 1%.
It does show that what you say in your marketing is important and that if you have buyers that value integrity and honesty, you may actually lose them as potential clients by sending them lies or far fetched stretches of the truth.
I don’t think every single marketer lies, but I do believe marketing often stretches and is liberal with the truth. In professional services I would say be careful where you draw the line and make sure you are willing to stand over and prove what you have sent out as marketing. A prospect that buys from you based on stretched truth and subsequently doesn’t receive the result they were after, will be come an anti-prospect. Usually you don’t have unlimited chances to redeem yourself and prove you are worth every penny they paid for their service.
We receive hundreds of maketing messages every single day, since you got up this morning just have a quick re-visit: did you turn the radio on, have you opened a newspaper, social networking site, e-mail box, watched tv, received phone messages? How many of these were marketing messages? Now reverse it, how many marketing messages have you already sent today? Did you speak to people in person, on the phone, by e-mail, letter, have you actively looked for more business?
Most of us are consistently marketing ‘brand me’ in our actions, communications and equally in what we don’t do. In professional services people interested in buying from you will make assumptions and create perceptions that may be totally unfounded and not at all based on facts, yet vital in the decision making process of whether to buy from you or not. I know when I give talks that some people will like me for being direct and others will not, my clients feel that is one of my critical and unique sellign points. As a coach I would be doing them a dis-service by not pointing out what I believe is obvious, when their words and actions don’t match. As an accountant, when the profit and loss account screams minus figures, you are rarely going to say to a client, that they are doing a great job, you will be looking for strategies from them to get out of minus figures.
The kind of marketing I like and recommend for service businesses is when it is kept real. Not everyone will be the number 1 company in their chosen field and if you are not there yet, whilst it may be your ambition, my advice would be to keep it real, put the ambition on the goals list and when you reach number 1 then use it in marketing. It is rare to have a 100% success rate with every single client, so only promote a real percentage, anything above 80% is high and good.
When you are marketing your expertise and choose to write a blog or articles, then let us know your opinions and how you think things should make difference. If all you are doing is regurgitating someone else’s textbook, then just give me the reference to the original, I would rather read this and write your opinion on their book as a recommendation. Give people an opportunity to chose your ideas as the ones they want to learn more of.
Recently I came accross another blog and the teaser headline was good and drew my attention, when I read it all I found it was just a sales pitch for a workshop that was going to tell me the secrets, which the blog was supposed to have revealed in the first place. That didn’t instil me with any confidence that I was actually ever going to find out. In actual fact I commented and asked the question what the secrets were and apart from a rather defensive response from the original writer, I was still none the wiser. In my view I had given the author an opportunity to create an interesting debate about his chosen topic, we don’t all have to have the same opinion, but at least have one. So again opportunity missed.
I don’t know if from time to time you also sign up to great internet marketing offers and newsletters, I actually have a dedicate gmail account for newsletters purely because I know I have unleashed a marketing barrage of information. I believe newsletters are a great way of promoting your professional service as long as you give good information, but as soon as they start resembling pure sales and marketing copy I tune out and often unsubscribe. If I remain a follower it is usually for market research purposes as opposed to buying purposes, you have to know what your competition is doing.
Often rookie marketers and entrepreneurs, swipe and borrow good copy from those that have proven themselves in their field and apart from offering the same service but cheaper, you can nearly track back the source of their market research. If you are thinking the mile long 1 page e-mail marketing letter with 7 testimonials and 5 bonuses and the limited time price offer on it, works for professional services, I would seriously suggest to think again. I have very rarely seen this work, however regular free valuable advice then followed by a limited time offer, that I have seen work in the service industry.
Become known for what you do and what you offer and create an interest with your target market, which ultimately is what marketing is about. What are your actions and communication saying about you that people can get to know you, like you and trust you. At least make your message unique to you and difficult to duplicate. If you have a strong opinion, the next person can agree or disagree, but it is very hard to copy it without it being trace-able.
In this marketing age, where an image is so easily built up and open for the world to see, keeping it real is essential (that’s my opinion anyway). If you can make the marketing message yours and uniquely yours, if you are looking to become the recommended expert in your chosen area then do share your opinion, the more contentious the bigger chance of it being read and it sticking to you. In any case you will win some and lose some, but you don’t have to lie in order to be a good marketer, that remains a value choice.