Michael Seitzer, an authority on marketing with white papers (and a fellow Dilbert fan) put up an interesting post on his blog last week. The post, Inventing Facts To Fit Your Purposes, begins with a quote from a recent Dilbert cartoon strip.

If you follow Dilbert (and why wouldn't you?) his dog, named Dogbert, is an evil genius whose life mission is to exploit everyone around him. In this recent strip, Dogbert brags about making up facts to support his marketing claims. Michael brings up this cartoon as a starting point for a discussion on ethics in marketing with white papers.

Marketing and selling have well-deserved bad reputations. If you read, watch or listen to many ads, you can't help but wonder how all these competitors can be, "the best," "the leading," "recommended by more doctors," etc.

We read ads and other marketing materials like white papers with honed skepticism. We assume the facts, statistics and claims are at best, strategically selected, or at worst, made up.

Contrast this with openly admitting flaws and negatives up front.

Dan Kennedy is one of my freelance copywriter heroes. In his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter, he shows several examples of how admitting these weaknesses up front helps to create a more powerful sales message.

Open admissions does several wonderful things for your marketing materials:

  1. First, admissions enhance your credibility. It immediately causes your readers to crack open their protective shields just a little bit. You will still have to earn their trust with the benefits you introduce, but at least they will give you a chance.

  2. Admissions set up your benefits. No one expects you to pay for expensive advertising just to bad mouth your product or service. They know that if you are willing to admit some flaws, you will soon have some positives you will be mentioning. This builds up anticipation and gives them a reason to pay attention.

  3. Admissions help you to position your product, service or company against your competition. You can't be all things to all people, and you lose credibility when you try. Instead, by openly acknowledging your weaknesses, you put the spotlight on your strengths.

Dan Kennedy finds making admissions up front so powerful and so compelling to the reader, that he claims to look for flaws, just so he can admit them.

Possibly that's going too far (although who am I to argue with Dan Kennedy?) but honest and open admissions can go a long way to gaining credibility every one of your competitors lack.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown


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