DO YOU EVER get that “What, really?” feeling when you see or hear a claim that seems just too good to be true? Of course you do. It may even just be in your subconscious.
How many times do you get it? I actually can’t tell myself, however I seem to be getting it more often in today’s seemingly hyped up world than in yesterday’s one. What about you?
The on-line world is either fuelling it or, perhaps because we use this channel so often nowadays, we just see more hype than we ever did before.
One thing I’m certain about is there’s bunch of people out there prepared to make questionable claims about themselves, their achievements and their business whilst hiding behind the technology they use to embrace what they may feel are their bragging rights. Would they stand in front of a live audience and share the same questionable claims? I doubt they would.
The bad news is this is going to get worse. There are many reasons for this. The main one being many of them want to get noticed in an ever busy and crowded world, vying for attention and, ultimately, to get business from you. For some the line between integrity and fame gets somewhat blurred, perhaps even ignored.
So what can we do about it?
Now that’s a fairly tricky one.
A good place to start is usually authenticity. Yes, you’ve heard that word many times before, however how do you use this to your advantage?
In the business world, sales and marketing is something we all jump on; both buyers and sellers. Buyers love the shiny buttons on-line and the colourful packaging off-line. Sellers love slinging it our way. Supermarkets, for example, plan meticulously. As far as they are concerned, there’s a science behind it all. On-line experts will split test consistently to get the piece of the action.
But what about jumping on research before we make a decision to buy a product or service? By this, I don’t just mean looking at reviews on-line or what people say off-line. That should be something we should all be doing anyway. What I’m focusing on here is the authenticity of the business and the people running it.
If they are claiming that, say, 90% of their customers are either satisfied or highly satisfied with their products and service, they should be upfront with you about the facts. Who said that? Was there a survey carried out by a reputable third-party? If so when? Was it less than a year before or something from years ago they are still relying on?
I realise researching may not be the most exciting of activities however if you don’t embark on it – especially when you’re making an important purchase – no matter what the value; you only have yourself to blame if it goes pear-shaped.
Four years ago, I invested in a business improvement programme which lasted about 9 months. Approximately 30 entrepreneurs were in my group. During the programme, which involved a significant investment of my hard earned money, we got to meet other entrepreneurs in the wider network.
Many were laying the blame that a certain module of the programme, ‘Publish,’ didn’t actually include publishing when they finished writing their books. They assumed it did, however it simply included the coaching element, not the editing, printing and distribution of books. Yes, it was somewhat misleading by those marketing the programme.
Welcome to the world of marketing!
It was only by my having done my research and booking an hour’s appointment to have a meeting with the programme’s team, before I invested, that I knew it was only coaching, not publishing. ‘Publish’ was the outcome, not the means.
As with who complained about this during the programme, it’s always easier for them to blame someone else. We all need to be more accountable for our decisions. After all no-one’s going to look after your business and watch your back more than you.
My advice is you need to start with the people behind the brand. Always.
Many were misled by the ethical ethos of Co-op bank in the UK, only to find that its head honcho didn’t quite match that image. This is by no means the first example and it certainly won’t be the last. Authenticity, and of course integrity, should show itself from the very top – the management – of any sound and reputable business. This certainly applies to the public and charity sectors too.
Conversely, authenticity can also mean being honest and true with oneself when dealing with others. No-one is of course perfect, so never seek perfection. It just doesn’t exist.
Would it be more ‘perfect’ if I used American expressions when writing for a US business network like I am here? My view is I would be more authentic if I just stick with being myself, I’m English after all however not as English as you may think. (You’re going to have to check out my Linkedin Profile if you’re in the least bit interested in what I’m getting at here. The point is, never take things at face value).
However I hope that doesn’t put you off, the British are not all villains as you see in films! We’re just “more focussed; more precise.” I digress. ;)
It’s even possible for those who have made mistakes to be as transparent as they can to put things right; to be ‘authentically authentic’. People are usually more forgiving than you or I may think. That doesn’t mean they give anyone permission to mislead deliberately though.
In today’s world of misleading claims, a rather bungling human being can be authentic too and that can actually work to the person’s advantage where others appear stale and even rather fake.
Politics is of course an area where this is proven to be true. America has Trump who is, well, just being Donald Trump. Britain has Johnson, who is, well, Boris Johnson. They are far from slick people. Yet Jo and Josephine Public appear to warm up to them perhaps because they find these characters refreshing and even funny. Whether it will still be amusing if either, or even both of them, end up becoming world leaders is another matter. Each and every voter has a responsibility of doing their own research of course.
From a more light-hearted perspective, authenticity can be applied where ‘one’ needs to be closer to an audience, even a global one, through humour. Take a look at how authenticity can quite literally reign supreme, even presidential, in this brief video.
You can make it real. Do your research on people then the product and service. Just don’t blame someone else if you won’t. Firing up your browser on your smartphone or tablet can take just few seconds today.
There’s no excuse for not researching for authenticity. Actually, regardless of technology, there was never one anyway.