I now present to you…The Golden Rule of Effective Marketing

9 April 2014
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Like all great things, there’s always going to be someone out there who ruins it for the rest.

And in marketing, that person is the over-promising, under-delivering charlatan whose mere presence makes people uncomfortable. You know the type. The greased back hair, toxic cologne and sharp tongue. These fast talkers want nothing more than to take your money and run. It is guys like this that give marketing and salesmanship a bad name. In fact, a recent national poll stated that 53% of Americans claim that they experience a feeling of deception when they read, listen or watch a marketing message. Over half of the country feels like they are being ripped off!

So I guess the big question is…”Can your marketing be both effective and honest?”

In my professional opinion, the answer is a confident and resounding YES!

Golden Rule RetreiverIf you have to twist the truth in order to sell your product, your chances at experiencing long-term success are slim to none. You’ll be sniffed out fast, and in today’s world of rapid digital communication, it won’t take long for the word to spread like a bad rash.

Most online sales sites have a review or rating section where past customers can post their opinion of your product, and the buying experience they had with your business. This area, such as Amazon.com’s 5 star rating system, can either make you or break you. I myself have made hundreds of dollars’ worth of purchases on Amazon after only minutes of glancing over the product reviews.

In an economy where people are closely guarding their earnings, and only choosing to do business with the most rebuttal companies, one would be a complete fool to create customer distrust by falsely marketing their products features and benefits.

Successful businesses, non-profits, clubs, schools and other organizations are honest in all of their marketing because they understand that adding just a dash of dishonesty, just a tiny pinch, will eventually standout in the minds of their audience. And once that seed has been planted, there’s no chance that your message will have ever again be accepted as truthful.

The reputation that you worked hard to build over the years, is not worth tainting for a few extra sales, some new members or a hundred dollar donation.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “I don’t lie…I simply exaggerate a little.” In marketing and advertising, there is a fine, and hard to navigate line, between exaggeration and dishonesty. You fall to one side of that line, you might be safe, but you drift over to the other, and you’re toast. It happens fast, and it happens to those who had nothing but the best of intentions. Maybe we witness a competitor stretch the truth in his or her latest newspaper ad. They laud the importance of buying their product based on their secret additive, which really doesn’t exist. Then they over-sell and over-value their product with crazy exclamations, and you know for a fact that what they are saying is a giant pail of hog wash.

So should you draft up your own crafty tall-tale description, or do you simply highlight the truth?

The truth is just as sexy as the lie! Great marketers and advertisers know how to find truthful descriptions of a product or service, and tell it in a way that the average customer may have missed. The best way I know how to explain this process is by using a reference from a crazy stupid movie called Dude! Where’s my car?

In the movie, the two main characters pull up to a drive-thru window and order some food through the intercom. The woman on the other end says, “And then?” asking the guys what else they want to add to their order. Ashton Kutcher’s character says, “No. That’s it.” The woman replies by repeating their order and again asking, “And then!?” This goes on for far too long, but demonstrates a great method I use to uncover some of the coolest benefits associated with a product.

Start by stating the problem that your product will solve. Once you have that written down, next to it write the words, AND THEN? That simple query will force you to envision what comes next.

For example: Bill’s weed and feed, used as directed, will rid your lawn of overcrowding weeds, and replenish lost nutrients in the soil, creating a green and vibrant appearance. As a result, your neighbors will most likely wave to you more often hoping that you will share your secret. So grab that morning cup of coffee, puff up your chest and sit upon your throne as the newly crowned Dean of Green! You deserve it my friend…you really do.

Your product solves a customer’s weed problem, and adds nutrients to the soil bettering the overall health of each blade of grass. The result is a more green and lush lawn. And then all of that effort will be acknowledged and envied by your neighbors. And then the compliments will create a boost in self-esteem and pride in your lawn’s newly enhanced appearance. And then you feel great!

You are simply playing and having fun with the outcome. No sane person is going to use this product, and then stand in their yard waiting for someone to wave. As a customer, they understand the message and appreciate the nature of your meaning. Your product simply solved their weed problem.

And that’s why they decide to buy.

As an added bonus, be sure to include specifics in your ads. Hard numbers and percentages are great! Just make sure that you have the data to back up your claim. Also, be sure to include some genuine testimonials. Humans are creatures of social influence. We base many of our decisions on the actions or opinions of others.

If there’s ever any doubt that your message is sincere, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable giving that same pitch to your dear old grandmother. If you get a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach, or it takes you awhile to answer your own question, you may want to think about changing some things up.

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photo credit: Tim . Simpson via photopin cc

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