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Insane Honesty in Content Marketing

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Marketers are trained to put their best foot forward and ignore the downsides of their products. This is about doing the exact opposite: finding your weakest points and showcasing them for all to see.

Published in: Marketing, Business
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Insane Honesty in Content Marketing

  1. Quick story...
  2. We were trying to book a restaurant table for a Velocity trip a while back. Usual thing: sent out emails to the places that looked good. Listed all our requirements. (Separate room. Drinks first. Some vegetarians.)
  3. One woman’s reply stood out. Not because she sold hard but because she seemed to be trying to un-sell us. A few of the restaurants ignored our email. (I know: WTF?) A few replied.
  4. She said she didn’t have a separate room but could screen off a section of the main restaurant. She included a photo to show what she meant.
  5. She said they did have vegetarian dishes but they were a fish restaurant and didn’t want to pretend to be otherwise. And attached a sample menu.
  6. As we corresponded with the woman, this pattern repeated itself over and over again. She kept telling us what we might not like about her restaurant and what she could do about it.
  7. In short, the woman was 100% honest. And it had a magic effect on us.
  8. Because she was so open about the potential shortcomings of her restaurant, we concluded two things:
  9. She really, really didn’t want us to show up and be disappointed. She cared about us having a great time.
  10. She was honest. Because she was so open about potential problems, we trusted everything she said about the positives.
  11. We chose her restaurant, (Ristorante Eleonora D’Arborea in Rome.) Rocked up with 30-odd people (and I do mean odd)…
  12. …and had a fantastic evening from the very first minute to the last. And not a penny more than they quoted (despite our frankly excessive drinking). Great, warm welcome. Bubbly on arrival. Fantastic food. Friendly, attentive service.
  13. The shortcomings she pointed out? They were true but unimportant to us and utterly manageable. If anything, they were overstated.
  14. And because she had managed our expectations, we found ourselves actively minimizing or completely discounting these issues.
  15. So what can marketers learn from this little fable? Just this…
  16. Total honesty is the best ruse* ever invented. *surely ‘policy’
  17. They hide them. They wheel out the smoke and mirrors. They lie, deny and vilify anyone who draws attention to the shortcomings. Most marketers treat their negative features like weeping sores on a blind date.
  18. That’s just how sales and marketing works, right? It’s called ‘putting your best foot forward’. They pretend the weaknesses don’t matter (when, to some customers, they might matter quite a bit).
  19. But every once in a while you come across a brand that takes another approach.
  20. They expose any potential downsides openly and honestly. They admit that their solution is not for everybody – but for the right people, it’s ideal.
  21. They expose their soft spots and show how they’re working to fix them – or they share strategies for minimizing the impact.
  22. Instead of inflating claims, they’re conservative about their performance data even when the competition is shamelessly puffing up their numbers.
  23. Try putting a paragraph on your website that says, “Who we’re not for” and see how fast it’s deleted by your boss (or hers). On Planet Marketing, this kind of honesty is thought to be insane.
  24. The thing is, when your target audience is any subset of homo sapiens, anything less than total honesty is the insane thing.
  25. Why? Because we like people we trust.
  26. We buy from people we trust.
  27. Total honesty signals to your prospects the exact same things that the wonderful restaurant owner signalled to us:
  28. That you care about your customer’s actual experience. More than you care about your short-term revenue
  29. And that the positive things you say about your products are 100% true. That you can be trusted.
  30. Aren’t those fantastic signals to send?
  31. Don’t they make you want to actively seek out weaknesses that you can share with the world?
  32. Go do that.
  33. Because here’s a little secret: the people you scare away by exposing your weaknesses are the ones who do really care about that little missing feature.
  34. These are, by definition, the least likely to buy from you – and, more importantly, the least likely to be happy if they do buy.
  35. These are the people you want to deter. (At least until you fix the issue.)
  36. And for every one of these, there will be dozens or hundreds or thousands of prospects who appreciate your honesty, don’t care about the downside and trust you far more because you had the balls to be truthful in public.
  37. So here’s what we urge you to do:
  38. Practice insane honesty in your marketing.
  39. Expose your soft spots and explain them.
  40. Admit your shortcomings and put them in context.
  41. Tell the world who should probably not buy your products. (Which clearly identifies those who should.)
  42. Try it.
  43. Why insane honesty works...
  44. It surprises and delights. Making your marketing less like marketing.
  45. It signals confidence. The most powerful force in marketing (as we argue in ‘The Other ‘C’ Word’).
  46. It builds trust. Trust good. Suspicion bad.
  47. It alienates less likely buyers. The mismatches and the time-wasters.
  48. It attracts your ideal prospects. The ones you need to meet.
  49. It focuses you on battles you can win. The only ones worth fighting.
  50. Want to see Insane Honesty in action? Read this admittedly geeky blog post. (With examples of classic ad campaigns and some cool newer cases.)
  51. Velocity is a B2B content marketing agency. We’re not for the timid, the weak or the hide-bound. We can be annoying by sticking to our guns when other agencies might have surrendered.
  52. Sometimes we disappear en masse to places like Rome (clients who want 24x7x365 service may not like that). And we’re big on getting our clients to take a stand. (Brands with stronger legal teams than marketing teams may find us frustrating.)
  53. Oh, and we publish lots of content about content marketing. Which we hope you’ll come and eat.

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