In his article, 10 Commandments of Modern Marketing, Dr. Augustine Fou lays out the second commandment as “Thou shalt be truthful.” In fleshing out the concept, Fou notes that today’s consumers are intelligent. Consumers have the ability to instantly research product claims and the power to let everyone with an Internet connection know when your product fails to meet marketing promises. This can lead to a public image disaster, so it is incredibly important to keep your advertisements realistic and focus on your product or service in an honest way.
Modern consumers are not like Will Ferrell’s naive character, Buddy, in the movie Elf, who saw a diner’s window sign advertising the “world’s best coffee” and ran in to congratulate them. Today’s consumers are skeptical of advertising that sounds like hype and they do not like being lied to.
Building a business is all about establishing good relationships. From your first contact with a customer, to the sales process, and through support after the sale, you are building that relationship. The cornerstone of every good relationship is trust, and lies destroy trust. Even a small lie in your mind can be a major issue to a customer and will damage your relationship forever, ruining your opportunity to do business with that person in the future, as well as completely shutting down your ability to gain positive word of mouth advertising from that person.
Furthermore, gains of publicity or money from dishonest statements are temporary and shortsighted. As soon as consumers understand they are being misled, your gains will quickly evaporate. Your integrity is forever. Most customers will understand a mistake or a flaw in your product or service if you are open and honest about it. In fact, honesty in customer service builds greater trust and improves consumers’ confidence in your ability to help them and others who they refer to you in the future.
In interviewing many millionaires and their associates for his book The Millionaire Mind, Thomas Stanley discussed the actual habits and characteristics that millionaires have in common with each other. One of the top correlating factors in the millionaires he studied was a high degree of integrity. In talking with friends and business associates of millionaires, he found that to be one of the most common traits listed. This person is impeccably honest. Multi-millionaires were even more likely to have integrity listed as one of their top traits.
People are attracted to integrity and they reward businesses that are straightforward with them. By the same token, consumers actively punish dishonesty. You can easily see this at work in the marketing of movies being released to the theater. A film that promises a good theater experience in its trailer and then delivers on that promise is hailed as “better than the previews.” But a movie that packs all of its good scenes into the trailer will be universally panned by disappointed audiences with reviews like “don’t bother seeing it, all the good parts were in the trailer.” It doesn’t matter how masterfully or expensively you market — if your customers believe you are being deceptive, they will lose faith and take their business elsewhere.
Whenever you interact with your customers, whether at the point of initial contact with advertising or with product support after delivery, you are building your relationship with them. Work hard to ensure they can trust you. Unfulfilled promises and other failures of trust break the bond, costing you much more than it would have taken to simply deal with the customer honestly.