Are Little White Lies Acceptable in Direct Marketing?


Are-little-white-lies-acceptable-in-direct-marketingIt seems that businesses sometimes forget what the direct in direct marketing means. Whether your marketing efforts involve direct mail, online content (including blogs), social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, or Pinterest) email, or (hopefully) a combination of these—the main point is that you are talking directly to your customers.

Unfortunately, some businesses do things in these direct conversations that they would never do if they were sitting down across the table from a customer. Somehow, (maybe it’s because they’re not looking these individuals in the eye) they feel like it’s OK to mislead people—just a little bit. Here are a couple of examples of what that can look like.

Misapplying the Tricks of the Trade

Whether your writing a direct mail letter, or an email, one of your main objectives as a marketer is to get people to read the message. After all, if people never read your message there is no chance that they’ll respond. Over the years, direct marketing experts have developed “tricks of the trade” to get people to read more. It could be a tantalizing teaser on the outside of an envelope. Or it might be a compelling subject line in an email subject line. Those are good things. Tricking people into reading your material isn’t.

If you promise something on the outside of a direct mail envelope or in the subject line of an email, you need to make sure you deliver the goods when people read further. The same thing applies to your offer. Nobody likes the “bait-and-switch” approach. So don’t dangle one offer in front of your audience at the beginning and then change it to something else once you get to the part where you ask readers to respond.

You know the old adage that says, “You only have one chance to make a first impression”? It’s true in direct marketing. You can trick someone into reading more—but they’ll only do it once. Next time they see something from you, it will go straight in the trash (digital or physical)!

Hedging the Truth

Actually, I’m being a little bit polite here. What I’m really talking about is lying to people. Here’s a real-life example that illustrates what I’m talking about. A while back I started getting emails from a company whose services I had used once (several years ago). This company let me know that I had “credits” with them that I could use against future purchases. I no longer needed what they offered, so I ignored the offer. Then I started receiving regular emails (despite having unsubscribed several times) telling me that, “Your $31.19 Earned Credit expires today.” If my credit expired “today”, why have I been getting the same notification every other day for the past two months? This company may think they are just “hedging the truth” a bit. But as far as I’m concerned, they’re lying to me—and I don’t do business with people that lie to me.

That’s the bottom line when it comes to direct marketing. It’s not about twisting someone’s arm to get him or her to buy. It’s not about tricking him or her into listening to your sales pitch. It’s about letting potential customers know that you understand their situation—and that you have something that can help them. It’s pulling them in with a legitimate offer of something that can meet their needs. That’s the essence of inbound marketing. And that needs to be part of your marketing mix if you want to succeed in today’s marketplace.

View The Checklist