Fighting Truthiness and Hype in Marketing6 min read
In 2005, Stephen Colbert, in his TV show, the Colbert Report, coined the word, “truthiness.”
“Truthiness is the belief or assertion that a particular statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.
“Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions.”
We know that truthiness is rampant in politics.
But it’s also rampant in marketing.
Many of us think that marketing is mostly truthiness, not real truth in any way, shape or form.
We expect hype and exaggeration, if not downright deception when it comes to promoting products and services.
Because of this, many of us become almost immune to the majority of marketing messages.
We assume that whatever someone says about their business, product, or service must be a form of truthiness, a veiled lie that hides the real facts.
So, as an independent professional wanting to attract more clients, you are faced with a real dilemma.
You are puzzled about how you can persuasively communicate the value of your professional services given that most prospective clients will doubt almost everything you say.
Because of this, I’ve noticed that many independent professionals shy away from marketing completely.
While others chose to go to the truthiness dark side, hoping an excess of hype will carry the day.
A recent email promotion I received contained a number of over-the-top marketing promises about an online marketing program:
“You will witness a revolutionary new technology being released that will allow you as a small business owner (regardless of skill level or experience level) to… generate as many new clients as you can possibly handle.”
Would you believe that? No, it’s truthiness and hype incarnate!
And anyone who does believe it is likely a naïve, gullible person looking for miracles with little work on their part.
So how can you eschew truthiness and still market your professional services effectively?
That, as they say, is the million-dollar question!
Well, the opposite of truthiness is honesty.
And yes, it is possible to communicate the value of your services truthfully, honestly, and with integrity.
But to do that you need to watch out for certain things that can become a slippery slope in your marketing.
Truthiness Insight #1
You must realize that what you feel about something is not the same as facts about something.
“I feel that my consulting services dramatically increase my clients’ productivity.”
OK, that’s nice, but by what objective measure are you determining the actual effectiveness of your professional services?
How about doing some measuring instead, such as before and after metrics?
When you have actual proof of what happens before and after, your credibility increases, as does your own confidence in your services.
The best marketing outlines real benefits and advantages based on facts, not hope.
Truthiness Insight #2
It’s not unusual to see client testimonials about how great it was to work with someone.
That’s nice and it’s certainly positive, but it’s not as powerful as reports of real changes.
“I lost 20 pounds in four months working with Ralph on both my diet and exercise program. He really supported me during the challenging times and helped me develop positive new habits that have stuck with me for the past year.”
This certainly trumps something like: “Ralph is a wonderful health coach who I trust with my life. You should definitely consider working with him.”
We often hear about the importance of getting testimonials. However, better to focus on getting solid results for your clients and then getting the testimonials will be easy.
Truthiness Insight #3
When you always speak in superlatives about your services, you again undermine your credibility.
Remember, people are skeptical and understandably so. So many promises made by marketers end in disappointment.
Better to actually talk about some of the drawbacks of your services than paint a completely unrealistic picture of “success without effort.”
I make it a point of telling all my prospective clients that if they engage me it will take a lot of work on their part to get out there and attract new clients.
They appreciate that I’m realistic and don’t sugarcoat things.
But believe me, in the past I’ve been less than realistic and it hasn’t turned out well for me!
We need to turn off the hype and get real. When we do, we tend to build more trust and confidence with our clients.
Truthiness Insight #4
We live in a sound-bite world.
Sound bites are important, as they are effective at getting attention and interest for our services.
But is there depth beyond the sound-bite? If not, you’re going to come across as shallow and insubstantial.
I once attended a public speaking course that stated: “You should know 30 times more than what you say in your presentation.”
That’s what real professionalism is about: deep knowledge, understanding, and experience in your field.
As they say, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”
This is the motto of the truthiness practitioner and ultimately won’t bode well for your long-term success.
Truthiness Insight #5
One of the hallmarks of truthiness and hype is ever-changing marketing messages.
You think, “Heck, if one message isn’t working, I’ll try another until something sticks.” But you pay little attention to the validity and authenticity of the message.
A message that is clever, catchy, or over-the-top may get attention but undermine your professional image.
Your message needs to be interesting and believable.
It should make people think, not insult their intelligence.
Take some serious time to work on your marketing messages. Run them past your current clients and get their reaction.
Others will notice truthiness and hype before you do.
But you’ll know you’re on track if they say, “yes, that really hits the nail on the head; that’s the reason I decided to work with you.”
Start banishing truthiness and hype from your marketing.
Not only will you build trust with your clients, you’ll start to attract more of the right clients, clients who are looking for professionals who walk their talk.
THE MORE CLIENTS CLUB
If you want to become a more successful marketer of your professional services, Action Plan Marketing provides a comprehensive resource called the More Clients Club.
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