Ever see a billboard on the side of a bus for a new movie? "Wow" or "Amazing" is a typical quote. But you've heard the occasional story that the full reviewer's quote was actually "Wow, this is the worst musical I've seen in 20 years." or "It's amazing that a studio even released this movie." The people reading our marketing claims often treat them like detective stories, trying to figure out what's really going behind the florid prose. Does that sound like your company?
If so, you might be in for a rude awakening. (No one ever seems to be in for sweet awakening.) Your customers, especially your younger customers, are far more distrusting of media messages than ever before. Sometimes it takes only one breach of trust for them to write you off.
Let me give you an example. Most of you know that my family has had a rough few weeks lately, as my father-in-law first grew very sick and then died. It started when my mother-in-law asked if I could cancel their cruise reservations with Prime Time Travel, because he was too sick to go. It was easy to work with them on the phone and I felt like I was helping, but that was just the beginning. Soon, I was taking frequent train rides to Long Island. I got to know the Long Island railroad quite well, and I recall looking out at Jamaica station at everyone having a normal day and feeling nothing was normal at all. My family ended up changing our vacation plans and spending the time on Long Island. We returned again and again over the next few weeks, doing all sorts of things—one day we spent the day with Aunt Grace at her nursing home in Freeport, Long Island, because we realized that in the confusion, no one had visited her to even tell her Dad was sick. Then, all too quickly, he died. And we were spending our time in funeral homes and thanking people for flower arrangements. Since Dad died, we've been continuing to visit Mom to help her adjust to her "new normal." Not exactly your typical vacation, right?
But how could we spin this into a wonderful customer testimonial through the miracle of copywriting?
Mike M. says, "Having never been on a cruise, I had no idea what to expect for our island vacation. But Prime Time Travel was so wonderful in helping me with the arrangements. I vividly recall passing through Jamaica, but I think the memory that will always stick with me was the day we spent in Freeport. The people there were so nice and life just seemed to go at a slower pace, which is just what we needed. At the end, there were flowers everywhere—it was so beautiful that you can see why some people are dying to be there. We'd never had a vacation like this one, but now we keep returning again and again."
OK, that was a bit over the top. But if your customer testimonials are exaggerated and slightly sneaky, you might fool your customers briefly but eventually they'll see the truth and make you pay for it in lost business and lost reputation.
So, does your marketing material turn your customers into detectives? Do your copy writers spend most of their time shading what they say to paint everything in the best possible light?
Your customers want the truth. They want to know what is good and bad about what you do. They're smart, you know, and they will eventually figure it out. It's better for you to target the customers that will be thrilled to be working with you and be up front with those who might not be. You'll have better customer relationships and real testimonials that don't need to go through the copy editing sausage maker to sound positive.
Don't turn your customers into detectives and they won't need to investigate everything you say. That's the basis of a real relationship—one that people would really miss when it's gone.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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