Trust is essential for effective relationships and our research has long shown that trust is a critical factor in technology purchase decisions. And yet, every day I see examples of Web site messaging, e-mail marketing, and business discussions where claims that are made (typically in the hopes of building credibility) that erode trust. Often, these occur at the point of first engagement and interest–the worst possible time.
A few of my favorite examples:
- “We are the leading provider of XXX” – where the the provider has very little brand recognition
- Signals to the customer: You aren’t (so you are lying) or the category is not relevant
- “We are ideal for companies of all sizes”
- Signals to the customer: You don’t know who your best customers are and you are making this up–because it is next to impossible to be ideal for everyone.
- “After reading your LinkedIn Profile..” – when the next parts of the message clearly show you haven’t
- Signals to the customer: Another e-mail to ignore (or use as fodder for #FridayFails)
- “Hi Hank, it has been a while since we talked” – when we’ve never spoken
- Signals to the csutomer: Desperation!
I could go on and on. Feel free to send some of your favorites in as comments. But the fundamental issue is that companies (and sales and marketing reps) are masking inferiority complexes or lack of preparation. So, they make claims to seem like they care and understand or to try to appear different than they actually are.
If you turn it around from the customer perspective, it’s easy to see that the immediate impact is to start to question every claim–there is no reason to believe when the foundation is built on meaningless hyperbole.
What Buyers Can Do To Make This Go Away
In some cases, not a whole lot, without wasting your time. I periodically respond to the “I’ve read your profile post” with “what in my profile made you feel I was a great target” as a response. I never get a reply back (but maybe it takes me off their list so I don’t get the “I know your busy but you haven’t done what I asked to do” email.
But in others, you can act. If someone claims they are the leading provider, ask them who they are ahead of. Or ask them, “why haven’t I heard of you before.” If they claim “ideal for all”, tell them “we don’t think we are like everyone else, how can you be ideal for us.” This will make for some uncomfortable conversation, but they way they respond may let you know if all these claims are just bad habits, and its worth giving them a chance. Or it will show that there is no reason to engage deeply.
What can Vendors Do
Just stop doing it. Make claims that are believable. Provide evidence. Describe characteristics of your ideal customer (those characteristics don’t have to be driven by size). If you claim you’ve done some research, prove it.
If you shift your thinking to a customer-centric perspective, I’m confident you’ll find ways to be more relevant–and trustworthy.
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