If you’re constantly on the lookout for things that will help get your company’s message across, you may have seen the term “transparency in marketing” pop up from time to time. The general idea is that companies and organizations are more open about themselves when dealing with prospects. For some that means being more forthcoming about mistakes and failures. If you blew it in customer service—you say so. If your product didn’t perform as well as promised—you admit it. If you’re overstocked on an item, you don’t pretend that you got a great deal that you’re “passing on to the customer”—you own up to the fact that you over-ordered.
Transparency can also take the form of sharing lessons learned. Those lessons might have to do with the industry you’re part of. Here’s an example. At TRM Direct, we’re in the business of helping companies market their goods and services. About five years ago we focused an increasing amount of attention on what was (at that time) a new marketing emphasis called inbound marketing. After three years worth of experience we posted a blog entitled: The 3 Biggest Inbound Marketing Lessons We’ve Learned Over the Last 3 Years. In doing that, we were transparent about what we got right—and what we would have done differently.
What’s transparent about that? We didn’t just share things that would make us look good, but also mistakes or miscalculations we’d made. Being open with certain information helps build trust. Your clients expect you to be knowledgeable and professional. That doesn’t mean mistake-free. If you learned a tough lesson that can help someone else, you may want to share it.
Sometimes transparency in marketing means being really honest with prospects about whether or not you can help them. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla don’t pretend to make cars for everyone. They are high-end auto producers and their marketing projects that. Being clear and honest about who you are and what you can offer is important. You need to let potential customers see you for what you are. If what you offer doesn’t meet their needs, you can even help them look elsewhere. By doing that, you’re not wasting their time—or yours. Of course that means taking the time to understand who your real clients are in the first place.
Transparency is about dropping the masks. Not everyone is your customer. Some customers want speed. Some want quality. Others are looking for low prices. You can’t be all things to all people. Let prospects know what they can expect from you.
Transparency is also important when it comes to your motives. You don’t want to trick people into responding to your mailings or your online offers by using gimmicks. You don’t want to mislead potential customers by dangling one thing in front of them and then giving them something different.
Why is transparency so important? Let’s face it: people talk to one another. Your business can present a good face online or in your traditional marketing endeavors, but prospects will talk to their friends—and they will seek out the opinions of people they don’t even know online. If you don’t “walk the talk,” word gets around. And in today’s “always online” world, the word can get around fast.
So drop the masks. Acknowledge your mistakes and share them when appropriate. Be honest about who you are and who your customers are. Your marketing results will be better because you’ll be dealing with people who really want to do business with you.