Many business owners tend to exaggerate the benefits of their services / products and downplay their shortcomings.
I am talking about ads that present the company as the best company in the world. Or a consultant that promises the world. Or an offer that is just good to be true.
Doesn’t that always make you a bit suspicious?
It almost makes you want to seek out the hidden weaknesses. That 1-star review from 5 years ago. Or the cons in the product reviews. Anything that will prove that you are right.
That’s scepticism – the number one factor that makes us not buy.
Now here lies an opportunity to improve your marketing.
It’s being outright honest.
Why honesty is the best policy
When you admit your shortcomings, you might lose some clients. But maybe these clients are not the ones you want.
The people who you scare away with honesty are the people least likely to buy from you, and, more importantly, the least likely to be happy if they do buy. These are the customers who will email you a million times, complain about the service over the phone and give you a nasty 1-star online review that you’ll never be able to erase.
That’s a lot of high-maintenance activity you want to stay away from.
If you are promising a silver bullet to your customers, or selling smoke and mirrors, what kind of expectations are you setting for that customer? And how are you going to manage those expectations?
The best way of selling is actually un-selling
Let me give you a basic example. Imagine that you want to buy a second-hand car that is 7 years old. You call the seller and ask for more information.
Now let’s look at two different scenarios for what the seller could tell you over the phone.
Which one do you find more convincing?
- The seller tells you that the car is good as new
- The seller tells you that there’s a fair amount of wear-and-tear, and a few scratches on the side, but the engine is in really good condition
9 times out of 10, you would be more likely to go and see the car in the second situation. This is because you know that it does not matter whether the car looks new, but the condition of the engine is what is important. In this situation, you are more willing to trust the seller, because they have admitted a flaw.
We are likely to buy from people we trust. And who we trust is a matter of instincts and common sense. You probably wouldn’t trust someone telling you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a 7 year old car.
So here’s what you should do
If you want to stand out from your competitors, practice outright honesty in your marketing. Expose your shortcomings and explain them. Use them to emphasise your advantage.
Tell the world who should probably not buy your products. When you do this, clearly identify the ones who should.
When you are open about the potential shortcomings of your service, the two things your customer will think are:
- You care about the customer’s expectations and want the customer to have the best kind of experience
- You are honest — and when you are open about the potential problems with your service or product, the customer can trust you when you tell them about the positives
The power of being outright transparent
- Being honest is surprising — it makes your marketing seem less like marketing
- Being honest signals confidence. You know what you are good at
- It builds trust
- It alienates less likely buyers
- It attracts your ideal prospect customer
- It focuses on battles you can win
The rental car company Avis’ probably most famous advertising campaign, and one of the most successful campaigns ever run, was based on the fact that they were the second biggest, and not the biggest, rental car company. They didn’t just admit it, they advertised it.
“We’re number two. We try harder.”
The Bottom Line: How To Stand Out From Competitors
Being honest, visible and transparent in your marketing is one of the easiest ways to distinguish from your competition. In the era of ‘Fake It Until You Make It’ — be who you currently are — and that will help you stand out from the rest. Try it — and get better clients.