Tips, techniques and inspiration for marketing communications from Richard Groom at Peterborough Copywriting Bureau.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Try managing expectations rather than stretching the truth

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes clients ask me to stretch the truth in the stuff I write for them. Putting aside any ethical considerations (although they matter to me too), what bothers me the most is that I can't see how it can do my clients any good in the long term.

Consider this example from a few years ago...

The website provider I was working for offered a content management system (CMS) to its customers. I was told that this was a great CMS that was 'as easy to use as editing a Word document'. So I wrote some web copy that promised this and other great things for customers.

But when I tried to use the CMS to get the copy onto the provider's own site, it was far from easy. In fact, it was so bad, I had to get one of their technical people to do it.

And when I spoke to the techie, he said that he wasn't surprised I was having problems as the CMS was 'a piece of rubbish'.

Is it wise to promise great things from a service when you know that it's really a lie? How can that lead to happy customers and sustainable long term relationships?

Even when a short term sale is the goal, is it a good idea to create unrealistic expectations?

The last time I looked for a house to buy after just a couple of weeks I had a list of estate agents that I wouldn't deal with. You know the ones: their property pictures make tiny, damp-ridden houses look like lovely mansions. One even assured me that a village was getting fibre optic broadband 'soon', when two minutes of research revealed that the earliest that will happen is 2017.

Being negative doesn't have to be a disaster

There are ways to let potential customers know that a product or service has some flaws without losing their interest.

When I call up about a property the agent can say 'there is some damp in the house but the price reflects it and in our opinion it is something that can be remedied relatively easily'. This would make me respect an agent. Wasting my time by sending me around the countryside on wild goose chases does not.

Are there any examples in your own marketing communications where some claims or promises are stretching the truth a bit? Is this creating problems for sales or customer services staff down the line?

If so, there may well be opportunities for phrasing things in a more realistic way.

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