We’ve all experienced dishonest and predatory marketing tactics – ones that made us vow never to do business with a particular person or business and that might even have prompted us to warn friends on social media or discuss them with family and friends.
The simple fact is that dishonest marketing practices don’t work, and they might do more harm than good. So before you spend money on your next direct mail campaign and order those printed marketing materials, find out if you’re guilty of these kinds of practices – and learn how to change your ways.
What Is Dishonesty in Marketing?
Dishonesty in marketing may not be as easy to spot today as it once was (snake oil anyone?), and you might even be guilty of it without realizing it, if you’re doing one of the following:
- Making unsubstantiated claims of benefits without proof. Quite a few big-name companies have actually been forced to pay out millions when their claims were challenged in class-action lawsuits! If you’re making a claim, be sure you have evidence to back it up, and that it is credible and irrefutable.
- False urgency, created by “limited time offers” that aren’t actually limited at all. If you make the offer and put a limit on it, don’t run the same direct mail campaign in a month or two. Your target audience will realize they’ve been had, and you will lose credibility.
- Improbable headlines. We’ve all seen those flyers from car lots claiming to have over ordered vehicles. Have any of us actually believed them?
- Thinly veiled lies in your headlines. Ever got mail that said “you have won” or “urgent account information enclosed” only to open the envelope and find it’s a sales letter? Just don’t do it.
Honesty and trust is critical in business, and once you’ve lost it, it’s gone forever. If you have to bend the truth or make unsubstantiated claims to sell your product, you’re taking a very big risk.
What Happens When You Lie On Paper?
Honesty is always the best policy, but when you choose to put half-truths and whole lies on printed marketing materials, you’re doing something even worse: giving customers and competition concrete evidence that you can’t be trusted.
At best, customers are likely to make a mental note not to buy from you; at worst, they might tell everyone they know not to do business with you at all. They will lose respect for your brand, and because trust is one of the most important factors in the customer/service provider relationship, you will almost certainly have lost them completely.
Competitors are also likely to use your less-than-straightforward direct mail pieces to discredit you, and your misleading flyer or postcard may well do a lot more for their brand than it does for yours.
The Grandmother Test
It’s always tempting to inflate statistics just a little, to fudge your stock holding just a little or to make a claim that isn’t completely true, but it’s never worth the fallout if you get caught.
Before you send your printed marketing materials off to the printer to get your direct mail campaign started, ask yourself whether you’d be happy to tell your grandmother the same story. If you can look granny in the eye with a clear conscience, then you’re probably okay on the direct mail honesty front!