Wiping Off the Marketing Tricks Slime


Last night I opted-in for a free report on building website credibility (it’s something I talk about on my blog so I was curious what others were saying).

I actually feel the need to wipe the slime off me after reading it. It just felt wrong to me, and relied on little “almost illegal” (their words, not mine) tricks to build credibility in the eyes of website visitors.

The perspective wasn’t how to BE credible, it was how to APPEAR credible – and I realize after reading it that those are two completely different goals.

There were a few good, honest suggestions like adding your contact info to all your pages.  But among the other suggestions:

  • Add a live chat box, but add it with the knowledge that you won’t make it active or actually allow customers to contact you with it.
  • Fake testimonials from gurus by making it look like they endorse you when you’ve really just used something cool they said without asking their permission.
  • Buy a cheap ad in Newspaper X and then add “As Seen in Newspaper X” to your sales page.

There’s more but I’ll stop there.  Maybe those aren’t technically lies.  You might change your mind and decide to login to be on the live chat sometime (even though you have no intentions of it).  A guru might like some aspect related to what you’re promoting (but has never seen your product).  If you have an ad in the paper technically you could be seen there.

Do these tactics work?  I’ve never tried them.  Clients probably won’t realize what you’ve done to sway them to purchase.  But do you want to make sales at the expense of your ethics and honesty?

Live Chat That’s There Only for Looks

What happens when customers start to notice you’re never on the live chat?  Don’t put it there if you have no intention of allowing customers to use it.  What rubbed me wrong on this suggestion was their clear intention to fool customers into feeling secure that they could be contacted when they had no intentions of being available for contact.

Don’t add live chat if you’re never going to login.  If you’re too busy, then have your virtual assistant login while they do other tasks and be available for customers.  Or use a combination chat/contact box that really does let people contact you.  Or just offer the other contact methods that you are available through.

Positioning Guru Quotes as Real Testimonials

What if that guru you quoted sees you’ve used his/her quote and positioned it as an actual endorsement of your product?  Do you think he/she will ever say anything nice about you or be willing to work with you in the future?  I’m not even sure this one is legal if it’s done with the intention of making it look like a testimonial where the guru has endorsed you or your product.

If you want to quote gurus, go for it.  But don’t make it look like an actual testimonial for your product.  Don’t put it in a box with formatting that makes it look exactly the same as the real testimonials on the page.  Distinguish it from the testimonials and make it clear that you’re quoting something the guru said–it may still be worth quoting and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Just don’t be tricky in how you do it. Or, ask permission to use their quote and photo.  And ask them to review your product.

If you’ve got a quality product you’ll get testimonials.  Your testimonials might not be from gurus, but if you’re helping people you’ll get their sincere testimonials about you and your product.  If you don’t have product-specific testimonials yet because it’s a new product/service launch, then offer something like “What People Are Saying About Me…” and include testimonials from those who you’ve actually worked with.

Making it Look Like You Got Real Press When You Just Bought an Ad

What if clients realize that you’ve not actually done the work and gained the credibility to be featured in the news and just took out an ad instead?  Will they think it’s a “cool trick” or will they feel deceived?

If you just took out an ad then why not say, “Did you see our ad in Newspaper X?” and go on to show the ad with your selling points.  You’ll still be building the credibility by using the paper’s familiar name, but in a more transparent way.

If you want to say “As Seen on TV” or “As Seen in Newspaper X” then send out a press release, get to know your local media contacts, and sign up for HARO or PR Leads and get yourself some real press.

Don’t go for the easy shortcuts to make a quick buck off someone who buys one product.  Get out there and do what you need to do to BE credible instead of just trying to APPEAR credible.

While we’re on the subject, if you want to build your credibility, check out Felicia Slattery at Communication Transformation, and if ethics matter to you, go read something by Shel Horowitz (start with Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green).  (Since we’re talking about transparency here, some notes: I own a product or two from Felicia, have been on her mailing list for years, and have met her in person; I’ve worked for Shel Horowitz for the last 10 years as his virtual assistant, and he’s in no way one of those slimy marketers, he gets consistent, legitimate press coverage.  None of these are affiliate links.  I just like them as examples of good communication, honesty, ethics and marketing expertise, have learned a lot from them, and am confident you can, too.)

If you don’t agree with this post, that’s okay, but I should tell you that you’re probably at the wrong blog.  I’m more on the “from the heart” side of selling than the “get rich quick” with internet marketing side.

Smart tactics I’m fine with, and with just a few little twists the ideas above are smart since you want customers to know they can contact you, that your solution is great, and that you’re out there in the media–it’s the intention to deceive that bothers me.

And now I’ll step down off my soap box and go shower.

May I give you access to some great free resources for small businesses including 101 Free/Cheap Ways to Market Your Business, 119 Things You Can Outsource, and more?  Visit http://www.michelleshaeffer.com and claim your free treasure chest of resources.

Michelle Shaeffer has been a work at home mom for more than 10 years and loves to share the tips and strategies she’s learned to help other entrepreneurs and small business owners.