You’re probably inclined to answer, “Of course my customers aren’t stupid!” But are you sure you aren’t treating them that way? I’m not a big TV watcher, but recently there was a show I wanted to catch, and of course the commercials come along with it.

Some of them are either funny or sad, depending on how you take them. If you’re to believe the commercials, it’s very difficult to put on your shoes without a device to help you; people can’t judge the amount of food that will fit in a plastic container and will keep filling it until it overflows (then be surprised and angry that it happened); and cracking an egg is a specialized skill that no one can possibly master without a special tool to help them. Then there are those that are “interrupting this program for a special report”, or that “have an important announcement” from some fictitious government-like agency.

If it were just the dumb commercials that treated people like idiots, it would be one thing, but it doesn’t stop there. How many emails do you get that you’d have to be completely naïve to respond to?

Not just the ones telling you you’ve won the lottery or asking you to update your personal information at a bank where you’ve never had an account. What about the ones you signed up for? Every now and then an email will come through from a legitimate source that’s clearly meant to entice action based on some less-than-honest hype.

You know the ones – they talk about a limited-time, last-chance offer or an e-book that’s going to reveal a secret that will make all the difference in your business or life.

FreeSpecialReport

Of course all the marketing training will tell you that you need a call to action, and a reason to take that action now rather than later. So maybe there’s nothing wrong with some of these. But does anyone really believe it? And what does it do to your reputation if your marketing is presented in a way that makes people doubt your professionalism or honesty?

Why it Matters?

When you over-hype something and try to make it sound greater or more important than it is, you’re assuming your customers will “fall for it”. But customers are you and me. And we’re smart enough to see through the hype. Even if we don’t see it right away, it will become evident eventually.

If you offer a “special report”, or “free download” to something that promises to help people, but is clearly just intended to give a little information to get people to pay for the real valuable stuff, you’re telling your customer that you think he or she is stupid. You might not like to hear that, but it’s true.

Obviously you need to sell your product, material, or service and can’t give it away. But if it’s good, you shouldn’t have to trick people into buying. How about telling your customers what you’re doing? Say, “Here are the first couple of chapters/sections/lessons of my stuff. If you like it, the whole thing costs x”. There’s no hype or trickery in that.

Maybe there are marketing studies that contradict this or something, but it’s hard to believe that the people who buy the EZ Egg Cracker do so because the scenes of people struggling to crack an egg properly have convinced them that they can’t live without it.

It’s more likely the scenes of the EZ Cracker communicated some usefulness, and that’s why people bought. So what if they took out the parts that insulted the intelligence of their target audience?

If you’re straightforward and honest with your customers, not only will you still sell to the people who buy now, you might get some business from people who don’t appreciate being treated like they’re stupid. But more importantly, you’ll protect your reputation and be regarded as an honest marketer.

EZCracker

Look, the bottom line is this: You’re not trying to rip anybody off, you’re not a dishonest person, and of course you don’t really think your customers are stupid.

No one is suggesting that. It’s just that some marketing methods are on the edge of what some people might perceive as “transparent”, and perception is everything. So protect your reputation – be upfront with your customers, and treat them like the intelligent people they are.

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