Marketing Manipulation

A little background: a few weeks ago, I wrote “Marketing to the ‘Why”, after which ensued an interesting conversation between myself and Arth Strout of Customer First Marketing (you can read the conversation in the comments of the post). During the back and forth, Arth said that he has no intention of being “that” kind of marketer – that is, the manipulating kind. He thinks that considering the customer first and the sales later isn’t traditional thinking.

I’ve spent the past several days thinking about this, because it’s an important point to look at. Is marketing just another word for manipulation? Is the “customer first” attitude really non-traditional?

After much thought I have to say that I think it’s quite the opposite. Although the sales approach may have become the norm, it’s a far cry from back in the day, when a handshake and someone’s word was good enough to go by.

I’ll even go one step further. If you think that you are manipulating your clientele to buy your service or product, then you have no faith in the value of your product or service. And if you have no faith, how can they?

What is Manipulation, Really?

Firstly, when was the last time you looked up what “manipulation” meant? Did you know there were two different meanings? Did you know that only one of them is negative?

The first meaning is to handle or control, typically in a skillful manner. Therefore, one can manipulate a robotic arm or remote control car.

The second meaning is to control or influence cleverly, unfairly or unscrupulously. This is the meaning most often applied to marketing. As Arth says, it’s the implied word behind marketing. As if, simply by being a marketer or by participating in the act of marketing, you are unscrupulous.

Falsely Manipulating

Are You Marketing True Value or Falsely Manipulating Your Customers?

For those of you who feel like all marketing is manipulation – and therefore choose to wallow in guilt as you halfway sell your product -, I’d like you to take a moment to consider what you’re selling. Is it shoes? Glasses? Clothing? Cleaning supplies? Maybe you run a marketing agency, like Arth does. Or a writing service. Or a cleaning service… or…

The point is, if the customer didn’t buy from you, would they be buying from someone else? In other words, do they actually need your product, or find it useful in some way? If so, then the problem isn’t the product itself; the problem is that you don’t feel your product is particularly valuable.

So the real question is, what is it about your product or service that isn’t worthwhile?

Myths and Facts

Selling the True Value, Not the Product

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but these are important distinctions. Manipulation (the negative kind) assumes that you are knowingly selling a worthless product to a customer using false promises or other falsehoods. In other words, you are actively lying to sell a piece of crap.

Is that what you’re doing? If so, then yes, you are a manipulative jerk, shame on you, go hang your head.

If not, then maybe you need to get a fresh perspective on your product or services. You need to find out what the true value is for the customer. What do they get out of it?

And while I’m on this topic, I have to rant for a second. I was recently looking at WordPress themes and came across the word “unique” so many times I lost count. For example, “…allows you to put a sidebar on either the left or the right for a truly unique look.”

You know, words mean things. “Unique” means that there is no other kind like it. One of a kind. Extremely rare. To the power of One. Unduplicated. If you’re selling a WordPress theme, talking about sidebars, and using the word “unique”, this is an example of manipulation. Bad manipulation at that.

You are not a unique snowflake. Rant over.

The above is not focusing on the true value. The value is that you can move the sidebar. The value (in this case) is not about being unique.

Getting Rid of Over-used, Manipulative Verbiage

George Carlin used to crack me up. “How can something be both ‘new’ and ‘improved’”? They can’t, and yet you see this kind of sales talk every time you turn on late night T.V.

I hate to break it to you, but most products are not innovative. They aren’t revolutionary, pioneering, state-of-the-art or cutting-edge. -And if they really are fantastic or stunning, let the customers tell others.

Getting Rid of Useless Verbiage

Useless verbiage can sneak into your sales copy without realizing it – especially if you don’t really know why your product has value. You say things like “really good” or “very useful”. An example: do your customers leverage or utilize your product? Maybe they should just use it, instead.

Useless verbiage is often put into the sales material as a way to pump up the product – kind of like verbal steroids. Instead of saying that something is very useful, explain what makes it very useful.

Brand Building

Above All, Do Remember the Customer

The customer should come first. Why? Because they keep your company going.

In fact, this is why marketing can’t actually be manipulation, you know. If you spend your days lying to customers about your product or service, you’re shortly going to run out of customers. Not to mention that word gets around, and you will find yourself with a horrible reputation for crappy products.

So, by all means, put the customer first. Tell the truth about your products or services. However, tell the whole truth. You have a good product. It is what the customer needs; the marketing just lets them know they can get it from you.

Do you need help with transparent marketing? Give us a call – we’ll help you through it.

PhotoCredit: Social Consciousness