Businesses earn integrity by staying real | Kelly Maloney

The value of being real.

I recently had a client in a high-growth industry that requires a high degree of ethics and honesty. Given that I believe all organizations and people should have these traits, I was surprised when the owner said he was licensed and bonded despite the fact he wasn’t.

Integrity being one of the most important aspects of business and life, I convinced him it would be in his best interests to get the proper licensing and become bonded. He eventually acquiesced, in part because I showed him it wouldn’t be that expensive, but also because I impressed on him the value of being real. There’s also the fact that I won’t work for anyone who intentionally sets out to mislead.

But not all cases of what I call Pretend Marketing (aka, smoke and mirrors, faux marketing, bait and switch) are that cut and dried.

Take, for instance, the case of a local business owner whose behavior, in my book, is less than stellar. I’ve heard from a contingent of unrelated professionals that said business owner consistently makes promises to call, e-mail, “do lunch,” and even goes so far as to state she will become a customer of theirs — all to naught. Word is that her customer service is lacking and that the offerings themselves are not as good as projected.

But, the worst assault to her credibility is her use of tragedies to increase sales and gain marketshare. I don’t have an inside view into her true intentions, but many people are suspect that her “generosity” is self-aggrandizement and that she’s profiteering on the misfortunes of others.

It’s interesting to me that she believes doing this will lift her up. I’ve witnessed and experienced first hand when her promises fell through, so that others were left to pick up the pieces. Yet, she has a large following due to her larger-than-life personality, which must make her believe what she’s doing is OK.

It’s not. This type of person will burn through hundreds of relationships (aka, customers) as she continues her quest toward her true objective. Those who no longer hold her in esteem will fall to the wayside, only to be replaced with others.

But that kind of marketing isn’t sustainable. Eventually, people will stop whispering about their bad experiences with her and her organization, eventually becoming more and more vocal. Her reputation will be in shatters. Unfortunately, should this happen (and I truly hope it won’t), others who are depending on her will also be hurt.

But, how can she overcome a tidal wave of burgeoning realization that her brand isn’t quite as pure as she’s made out? It’s simple. Be honest. Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. Be responsive to your customers and deliver a superior product. Don’t profit on the tragedies of our lives. Do best what you do best, without the interference of showmanship.

In short, start being real.

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