• Sarah Hegland

Six Ways to Tell the Truth in Your Marketing

"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters."

- Albert Einstein

Can you feel the collective hunger for truth these days? With so many false and misleading words pouring out of our leaders and media outlets, many of us are longing to hear words we can trust.

May this decade be one in which truth is spoken, honored, and loved. May we be courageous enough to be honest with ourselves, our loved ones, and all those we encounter in business. May we create safe and welcoming spaces for others to share their truths.

How can our marketing and communications offer more truth to the world?

Be transparent about your prices

Build trust with your audience by being upfront about your prices. Marcus Sheridan talks about how this strategy helped his business in his book They Ask You Answer. Traditionally, pool installation businesses were unwilling to post anything online about their prices, because there are so many variables involved and they want to sit down face-to-face with a customer before talking about prices. Sheridan knew that prices were forefront in his customers’ minds, so he created informative articles and videos about how his company went about calculating them. People searching for guidance came to see his company as honest and trustworthy.

Use your prices as an opportunity to communicate honestly with people.

Go behind the scenes

What’s your work process really like? What are some insights that you can offer about how things work in your industry? These could come in the form of an article on your website describing how you work with people, or a social media post that shows people how things are made. Recent posts that caught my eye on Instagram include the process of making croissants, the process of laying a new floor, and a famous author talking about her writing process.

Transparency about your process builds understanding for all the work that goes into your product or service, and it makes you more relatable. It also makes you seem like a trustworthy guide who can help people solve their problems.

Be clear in your communications

One of the fun things I’ve discovered about LinkedIn is that I can easily connect with some of the top thinkers and writers in my field. What do they all have in common? Clear and prompt communications: clear yeses, clear nos, clear meeting arrangements, clear follow-ups and thank-yous. It’s a sharp contrast with those who follow more of a ‘hazy communications’ policy. Top professionals are clear about who they are and what they want, and how something will or will not help them get there. They’re not interested in leaving you wondering about what’s going on. It’s refreshing and fun to communicate with them, and there’s a feeling of trust and respect on both sides.

Use your communications as an opportunity to be honest about where you’re at and what you’re able to offer, and let people make their own decisions about how to respond.

Stand behind your products

I know something’s fishy when a company won’t stand behind their products, whether with a generous return policy or with excellent customer service. They’re trying to hide something and trick me into buying before I figure out the truth. Let us create products and services that are reliable and trustworthy, and let us stand behind them.

Be honest about your experience

Talking about the challenges and messiness of your experience can be a refreshing change from hyper-image-conscious marketing. Check out which post has the most likes and comments on my local vegan bodega’s Instagram feed: this one, where he contrasts the amazing muffin batter he just made with the reality of having had a terrible week and feeling wracked with self-loathing. It’s rare for people to be so honest about their dark emotions, and yet it elicited empathy, understanding, and support from his sweet community.

Social media feeds can be a technicolor fantasyland where images are polished to perfection and anything unsightly or uncomfortable is swept under the rug. Telling the truth can help build community and understanding, and it can give others permission to be imperfect. You want to be judicious with this one--people don’t need to know all the emotional wrangling that goes on behind the scenes. Try introducing a little truth about the messiness of life and see how it feels.

Take responsibility for your mistakes

One of the things I found most interesting about the Me Too movement was watching how people dealt with the accusations against them, and how much responsibility they were or were not able to take for their mistakes. There were people who went to great and expensive lengths to deny everything and discredit their accusers, and there were others who accepted responsibility and did some reflecting about their behaviors and how they impacted others.

Many books have been written on the art of the apology, but let’s keep this short: when it’s clear that you’ve made a mistake, own it. Take responsibility for your role in it, acknowledge the ways in which others have been affected, and explain how you plan to do things differently in the future. Don’t waste people’s time with anything less: your ideal customers want truth more than they want perfection.