Honesty is the most powerful weapon in business

From the notion that “opinion is equal to fact”, or that “lies are OK as long as it supports my agenda”, it can sometimes feel that honesty is like disco: hopelessly out of style. In fact, honesty is becoming something of a rare element in business and has surprising worth; ask any market trader… the rarest commodities are the most valuable. Why is lying everywhere? Lying is easy, a short cut. Honesty is much harder. But even when being honest is painful–actually, especially when it’s painful–honesty can be your most powerful weapon.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on you again
Customers are tired of companies that overpromise and underdeliver, but have learned to expect/accept disappointment because it’s so common. Trust is at an all-time low. Not to be overly pessimistic, but companies lie, a lot. Whether intentionally or accidentally, all lies undercut customer trust. Trust is the building block of great brands. Do you trust someone that lies to you?

We all have developed a sort of BS-detector, on the look-out for weasel words and vagueness. What are weasel words? Anything that weakens a statement and give the speaker a built-in excuse, an out. Look at this statement:

“A recent study shows that virtually all of your competitors are choosing a solution like the one we sell.”

“A recent study shows” : Quoting an unknown authority. What research? “Virtually all of your competitors” : Who? How many? How do you know? “Like” : so, not your solution? How is your solution different?

“Some restrictions apply. Certain conditions apply. See store for details. Offer good for those with approved credit. Above terms subject to change without notice. Actor portrayal, not a real XXX. Many will enter; few will win. Not responsible for typographical errors. Past performance no guarantee of future results.” And on and on… all weasel words designed to give the company an out of their promises.

Lying is not a long term solution
People lie because of short term thinking; it might seem the better choice in the moment, but when the truth comes out you’ll either look deceptive or ignorant. Neither one fosters good relationships with your customer! With blogs, social media, and small-town gossip, the truth will come out eventually, so it’s better to do it now instead of later. Pull the band-aid off, just get it over with. Coming clean might hurt the transaction today but save your long-term customer relationship. By definition: lies are only told by liars. Do you want to do business with a liar? No one else does either.

Excuses are not a good reason
No one wants to hear about why you didn’t do what you said you would. The only thing worse than lying is trying to cover your lie with an excuse; no matter what happened, it comes out something like “my dog ate my homework.” You can give context why you failed the customer, but at the end of the day you have to own up, to and fix, it. Unless it involves death, new legislation, or major disaster, your excuse is no good. Just make it right.

The truth can work better than the best advertising campaign
Because it’s rare, the truth can be a unique value proposition, a differentiator for your company. People respect honesty and authenticity, and the courage of exposing your vulnerabilities make you real and relatable. Don’t share every skeleton in your closet, but don’t try to cover up every flaw, either. Customers are often more accepting and forgiving of mistakes than you might expect. Prospects who go with your lying competitor will come back to you. Play the long game; it’s the only one worth winning.

Do, or do not. There is no lie.
We here at Grow try to always do the right thing. Online marketing already has too much mumbo-jumbo and false promises–we don’t want to contribute to it. We try to do good work, even in difficult situations; we’re human, we sometimes make mistakes, and we own up to them. But our heart is in the right place. The Camas-Washougal business community is too small to act any other way.

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