In 2018, the whole game changed for media, and subsequently, direct marketers. Independent media firebrands like Alex Jones got completely de-platformed, being kicked off YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. The age of “Fake News” as Trump coined it is well under way, and mainstream social media, search engines, and even web hosting companies are refusing to let extremist content thrive under their collective umbrellas.
As marketers, we saw the casualties of this “purge of scourge” first hand. In a way, this was a saving grace, because as the direct marketing landscape has evolved, our observations turned into cautionary tales for how we can best present our products in a way that focuses on features, not fear. Wild claims, fake scarcity, and fear mongering are definitely out. Usefulness, innovation, and transparency are IN. The question is, how do you know your brand, your messaging, and your offers are being received positively?
It’s really not that terribly complicated.
Tell the truth. This seems almost too simplistic to even post here, but the reality is that for the longest time, some direct marketers became very successful by “embellishing” the truth. Unsubstantiated claims, questionable if not downright fake testimonials, and promises of easy pay-offs abounded with literally no end in sight. It began with direct mail decades ago and really took flight in the 90s. Now, with the prevalence of an “iron wall of community standards” amongst almost all big search engines and social media sites, you just can’t get by anymore with the fast and loose rules that made direct marketing a free-for-all in times past. Adopt a philosophy of honesty in everything your company does – advertising, customer service, sales, and internal operations. It might be a multiple step process, but once you start, you’ll find that keeping everything above board results in better outcomes all around and less stress.
Know your platform. Obviously, in order to reach your customers, you’ll have to know primarily where they hang out on the web. Is Facebook their thing? Maybe Instagram? Perhaps you get most of your traffic from organic Google searches. Whichever way your customers find their way to you, make sure you know the “rules of the road” so your ads don’t get rejected or even worse, your page gets banned. And be aware that social sites like Facebook don’t just explore the content of your ad to ensure compliance with their standards; they will carefully examine your sales pages, too. Inflammatory rhetoric, anything that could be considered divisive or fear-mongering, or claims that seem outlandish will almost always get the boot from any mainstream platform. Take the time and review the rules for each. To save yourself some work, you can assign the research to a trusted team member and have them create an internal “cheat sheet” that will allow your writers and designers to create offers that are compliant without having them spend inordinate amounts of time familiarizing themselves with the granular details.
Keep it simple. Again, this may sound absurd (because who wants to make things complicated?) yet this principle can elude some marketers because the opposite way of doing things worked for such a long time. What does this mean, exactly? Well, for starters, make the offers you present about your product or service, not necessarily about your target prospect. For one, huge traffic sources like Facebook frown on this, and they want to keep their advertisers in line with the idea of universal appeal. You can still target your ads, but your messaging needs to be neutral when speaking to your prospect. Another practice that follows this principle is to have your policies for purchasing, returns, and refunds in black and white. Don’t hide “certain conditions” apply somewhere in the fine print. Be up front, be as good as your word, and you’ll find your loyal customer list start to grow exponentially.
And don’t forget that as you adhere to being a beacon of goodwill in a sea of a dying breed of swindlers, you can capitalize on your “white hat” marketing by collecting your rave reviews and re-purposing them in emails, review sites, and sales pages. Try to get the ultimate customer “buy in” with using a real photo even, if that’s possible. If not, real reviews still carry a lot of positive weight, and are one of the top ways prospects research your company and products before making a purchasing decision.
Also, realize that no business will ever be perfect in its operations or messaging. But if we strive for honesty and excellence, the odds are tipped in our favor overall.
Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville, TN.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.
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