Time to Be Honest About Marketing

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I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that as marketers, we forgot the sacredness of accolades.   Words like “amazing,” “incredible” and “life-changing” should be reserved for those things that actually are. I for one am sick of the constant barrage of false claims and outright lies that do nothing more than clutter my vision.

When are we going to demand honesty from those who sell us their products?

Do you actually trust any marketing you are exposed to? Think about it. Our entire system is designed to over-hype everything we sell. No one is immune to it, everyone knows about it and it seems as if no one believes it anyway.

So what about your own marketing? Have you read through your own website and tried to put yourself in the position of the reader? Even if every word is true, does it sound like hype?

The Truth Test

Years ago I worked for a company that did a lot of advertising and we were asked by our attorneys to do an audit to make sure we can back every claim we made. We did an exhaustive audit and discovered that much of what we were using for copy needed to be verified. The problem is that we didn’t have “verification” for all our claims so we had to systematically eliminate specific claims or find verification for them. It was hard but it was honest.

The Truth Worked Better Than Hype!

Amazingly, our sales increased, our response rate went up after we changed all those ads. I was astonished since intuitively it seemed as if the opposite would have happened. If you claim less “goodness,” you get fewer sales, but that simply wasn’t true. In fact, the reason I think sales improved was that our claims were believable and verified.

The confidence of the sales staff rose since they felt better about what they were selling. It was such a powerful tool that we re-crafted much of our marketing material and client communication. It was a welcome shift when we discovered the power of blunt honesty.

iStock_000015157968XSmallThen I started to be aware of all the marketing hype I was exposed to throughout the day, day after day, more and more hype. Some in the consumer space, some in the business-to-business space, all professionally done and all full of hype. I am not saying that all marketing is dishonest; in fact, much of what is presented is most likely honest. It’s the way it’s done.

Basic Rules for Good, Honest Marketing

Most of us love our products and services. This leads to speaking highly of them.  I feel the same way about my own products and my clients’ products too. But that’s no excuse to over hype, which means that it can easily be ignored. Hype is “eyewash” which means our eyes wash over it without ever seeing the words or getting their meaning. Become a trusted authority by telling the simple truth, and back up with solid facts and figures.

Be Your Client

Try to be “zen-like” and have a beginner’s mindset. That means try to be the prospect. Listen to your own words. Are they believable? Does it seem real? Would you believe it? Really ask yourself that question and see if you can identify the hype in your own message. Then get rid of it. Make it real, make it believable, make it honest and then do it again.

Putting Letter in Outgoing Postal MailboxNow test it. See what happens when your target client receives the message. Yes, I know it will probably be an email or a radio ad, possibly direct mail through the postal system. Let the results speak for themselves. Remember, make your communications stand out because it’s honest.


How would you react if you were presented with a balanced, honest presentation of a product or service so obviously presented accurately and simply?

Three Steps to Honest Marketing

  1. Avoid words that sound like hype, even if you truly believe them. Words that sound like hype turn off the logic mechanism and raise the defense mechanism. It’s hard to sell something when someone is on guard and defensive.
  2. After filtering out the hype, check with others who don’t know your product or would be potential clients. Ask them what they think and listen to honest criticism, change your copy to reflect their feedback.
  3. A-B test both and see what pulls better. If the older hype promotion pulls better that means you didn’t do a good job creating a compelling marketing message with the truth. Do it again and keep trying until you get it right.


Honesty is the highest form of leverage. You have the chance to do something truly unique. You can reset the playing field and stand alone in your market with some very compelling, honest and forthright communication that makes you stand out as an example when you come from the highest level of integrity.

As I am sure you know, trust is the most compelling closer – in a sales and competitive environment. That’s why the best sales message is most often a testimonial from a happy client.

Make it feel right for you and the clients will follow.

If you would like me to provide you with a quick review of your own marketing materials for free, get in touch.

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