At the intersection of “fake news,” clickbait, and sponsored content are wary customers. Not only are they looking for factual information, but also genuine advice to inform their buying decisions. And yet, more customers are recognizing that the Internet is an unpredictable mix of content—some objective, some agenda-driven, and some blurring the lines. The thing is, even if you don’t intend to fool your customers, the perception that you’re trying to can kill any hope of a relationship. Misinformation is marketing’s enemy.
So, what can marketers do to stay relevant and competitive amid changing trends without losing credibility or customers? As the adage goes, honesty is the best policy. Remembering these tips can help you build customers’ trust, ensure quality of content, and keep misinformation at bay.
- Do better than boilerplate
“If what you say can be said by anyone else, you’re not doing your job.” This lesson—I can’t remember which of my journalism professors said it—absolutely applies to crafting impactful marketing content. Customers who can smell hyperbole often also have a barometer for boilerplate messages that don’t say much, and this leaves them feeling skeptical, confused, or irritated. “Simply take the top line messages in your marketing materials and replace your product name with that of your chief competitor,” says Geoffrey James (Selling Power). “If the statements sound as if they’d be credible to your customers, then your marketing materials are too boilerplate to be effective.” That said, recognizing you have a boilerplate problem is the first step to recovery.
- Avoid language that overpromises
In the words of Jonathan Salem Baskin (Arcadia Communications Lab), “It’s more than possible that hyperbole is a useful tool for communicating the ‘what’ of brand promises, but it’s really bad at substantiating the ‘why’ necessary for credibility and subsequent purchases.” Sure, most people recognize hyperbole when they see it (think (DirecTV ads) but it can be tough to gauge the validity of common B2B offers like “free consultations” or “complimentary add-ons.” If the buyer accepts your offer and your promise falls short (e.g., your “free” eBook ends up costing them their personal information and time spent speaking with sales), it can turn them off from your brand. Make sure you can deliver on your promises. And if you disregard the real cost of consent, you might pay for it in lost leads.
- Respect your customers’ intelligence
According to eMarketer, native advertising now represents an estimated $22.09 billion opportunity—more than half of digital display spending. But I have to wonder how many customers are looking at these ads, wondering what they’re looking at or if clicking through poses a risk. Poorly labeled content, offers that seem too good to be true, ads that stretch the truth beyond recognition…savvy customers think twice about working with companies that sneak their way to selling. Unless you want to deal with the consequences of mistrust, treat your customers as equals in the content you provide and the touchpoints you facilitate. Your customers deserve better. Your reputation depends on it.
This all rolls up to the notion that effective content marketing depends on helpful, resonant content that builds trust. Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Whether it’s influencing people with fake news or misleading marketing content, if you’re at all concerned, do something about it. Don’t settle for contrived, self-serving content because your customers certainly won’t.