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Tell Them the Truth.

Tell them the truth. First, because it is the right thing to do, and second, they’ll find out anyway.

—Paul Galvin

Ahh the truth. That thing to be finessed if you want to succeed in marketing … NOT.

I say Galvin was absolutely right, more so now than he was in the 1930’s when he said this. In his new introduction to All Marketers are Liars, Seth Godin outlines the rules of the game: “… when you fabricate a story that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, you get caught. Fast.” Like Seth Godin, Paul Galvin was also bucking a trend in his time. Industry practice was to lie and to exaggerate your company’s financial health and product benefits. Everyone was doing it.*

Many of those other companies who saw such immediate benefit in lying actually no longer exist. Galvin’s company, on the other hand, may be familiar to you. He was the founder of Motorola. The truth did not kill it. It had quite the opposite effect.

Tell them the truth (Galvin Ad)

Tell them the truth.

When I say the truth is even more important now, I mean that the “they’ll find out anyway” part is now on hyperdrive. Seth Godin’s paraphrase of Galvin puts an emphasis on the fact that the revolution of this cycle by which lies catch up to you and bite back has significantly sped up.

It’s getting harder and harder to get away with telling a story that does not hold up to scrutiny. So why not just tell the truth? The truth is not overrated. It’s good business practice, but it’s also hard. If your product is not good enough to tell the truth about, you have to make it better. If your service is not good enough to tell the truth about, make it better. Make your product or service good enough so that the truth will side with you when it comes to marketing your story.

You want the story you and others can tell not only to be a good one, but a true one as well. It’s actually much cheaper this way. It’s quite costly to undo the impression left by negative reviews. According to the WSJ, in 2012 BIA/Kelsey media-research firm predicted that small and midsize U.S. businesses will spend $700 million on tech tools to monitor customer opinions on the Web. And that’s just monitoring. Not emergency cover-up. If you think that Yelp or Trip Advisor reviews really do not matter you should probably reread the Nielsen Trust and Advertising Global Report, or at least the Addressing Objections post I wrote citing it a couple of years ago.

When you fabricate a story that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, you get caught. Fast.

Taking this further to the realm of hocking inferior wares, do you know how much it costs to make people believe crap is good? It can be done, and that’s work many (if not this) ad agencies will be happy to do for you (see The Businss of Demand Creation). It will, however, cost you. A lot.

Here is another facet of this prism to view the world:

Google’s search algorithms were given a major update last year. These improvements had the effect of sending many previously highly ranking websites into an SEO tailspin. Thousands of fiefdoms built out of manufactured links and questionable content plummeted in rank. All that money spent on “marketing” was reduced to rubble. Many of these same companies are now looking into new ways to work around the improved algorithms and thus recapture their former glory.

Put your energy into content that’s actually valuable and interesting.

Here’s an idea: Put your energy into content that’s actually valuable and interesting. Get your ranking that way. Make content that someone will truly want, and you’ll have a better chance at turning up as a search result. This is the Motorola strategy from the thirties recast for today. Just tell them the truth.

Your product and service have to be good. You have to be able to sell on their true merits. Anything else will eventually come back to hurt you, if not kill you, like it did to most of those Motorola competitors from the 1930’s.

Get comfortable with the truth. It will serve you best in the long run. Marketing, it turns out, is not a sprint. It’s a long race.

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