Be Honest, Not Stupid!
Even though we seem to live in a fact free society, we have to remember that our biggest asset as entrepreneurs is our integrity and that dishonesty comes with a very severe price…
When I was 22 years old, my dad and I were walking on the beach in Siesta Key, FL where we had vacationed since I was 12 and we were talking about my future.
Having just started college a second time after a military stint, he was curious what I wanted to do with my life.
I said I was interested in politics and thought maybe I’d become a politician.
My dad, ever the straight shooter, said, “Hell David, why don’t you just buy a whorehouse and be done with it.”
He held politicians in low regard for one reason only – they never told the truth.
Dishonesty was the biggest sin in his life. And politicians were the biggest sinners.
This is not political, so don’t leave political comments!
We just went through one of the strangest elections in our country’s history. It was one of the most negative and divisive. It was also one of the most dishonest.
According to Pulitzer prize-winning Politifact.com, Hillary Clinton told lies or half-truths 49.5% of the time while Donald Trump told half-truths or lies 84.6% of the time.
Facts, it seems, no longer mattered.
And the more outrageous and emphatic the story, the more a part of the culture became.
We’ll be debating the results of this election for decades because it was a masterful demonstration of marketing by Donald Trump.
Now before you get all excited, and want to scream the pros and cons of your candidates, this post is about marketing.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of that!
Candidates as Marketers
Trump had a near perfect message-to-market match. He understood the language his constituency was using and was able to parrot it back to them so that they trusted him, even though the evidence of untrustworthiness was heavy against him.
Even he said, “I could shoot someone in the middle of fifth Avenue and the public would still vote for me.”
He so thoroughly understood his market, that he was able to predict a “silent Trump” vote that no one else believed existed.
What do we learn as marketers?
- Find a problem.
- Learn the language.
- Use that language in your sales copy to offer the exact solution your prospects are looking for…
Kudos to Trump, a master of marketing.
Hillary, on the other hand, completely missed her market and the message.
She was so confident about the “Blue Wall”, an historically reliable line of Democratic states, that she completely ignore the problem the market was screaming about.
She missed it so badly that she didn’t even visit Wisconsin, a traditionally Democratic state. Yet, the voters in Wisconsin turned out in droves to vote against for her rival because they related to Trump’s message.
Clinton and the Democratic Party along with all the pollsters and all of the news pundits were blindsided by the final results in a victory that was a surprise to everyone except possibly Trump’s folks.
Lesson # 1: In marketing, facts DO matter
Thankfully, the rules of marketing are more predictable than the rules of politics.
If we online business folks are trying to sell a product, we rely on the Know, Like and Trust axiom to work every time. It’s as simple as getting the prospects in your target market to:
- Know who you are
- Like you and your product
- Trust you to do right by them
That doesn’t seem to hold true in politics since very few people admitted liking or trusting either candidate.
And don’t we agree that being honest is the key to gaining trust?
Let’s assume that Politifact got the truth index correct.
Remember, Clinton lied 49.5% of the time while Donald Trump told lies 84.6% of the time.
What’s astounding about that? They both lied more than half the time they opened their mouths.
If there had been a truly trustworthy candidate in the race, he or she may have walked away with it.
Trust is an extremely important part of the conversion process.
Lesson # 2: Hacks, Loopholes, and Fads do not a business make
I still believe, even after a campaign where facts were abandoned like a stack of 1984 floppy disks, it’s incredibly important to always be honest with your market.
Otherwise, your credibility goes out the window. (Unfortunately, politicians have no credibility to begin with!)
When that’s gone, conversions suffer quickly.
But in today’s world of flashy marketers who spin tales of exaggerated riches and push-button solutions, it’s really hard to dig out the honest claims from the dishonest.
Too often, it’s too late when we find out the truth. Our money is gone, and our results using the product are nil.
But it only happens once. What’s that old saying?
Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me!
In the Wild West days of Internet Marketing – you know, like 5 to 10 years ago – a lot of people made a lot of money with smoke and mirrors.
Basically, they were selling the promise of fast cash to people who had more hope than they did sense. In my early days, I was one of those.
I bought a lot of stuff that focused on the latest fad. And of course, the marketing fad of the day didn’t work, or the “hack” was too complicated, or “loophole” had been closed.
But in the Internet Marketing shakeout around 2010-2013, the one-trick pony marketers found they couldn’t sustain their businesses, because they didn’t have one.
They had a marketing scheme.
And marketing schemes cause entire markets to distrust anyone who labels themselves as a “marketer”.
I urge you, no I beg you — never call yourself an Internet Marketer. Don’t even call yourself a marketer!
You’re a business person. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re a problem solver.
Small business people have one of the most noble callings on the planet: Serving others.
Lesson # 3: Always be honest; never be stupid.
I learned my lesson when I was just a skinny 18-year old kid, sitting in a classroom on the 17th day of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.
It was hot, as only hot can be on August 15th in South Texas.
Basic training is not all push-ups, marching and gunnery drills. There is much classroom work. So we weren’t surprised to be in a classroom.
But this day with special.
A man walked in wearing civilian clothes and sporting a flattop haircut with shaved sides. He said he was a city social worker, and had a short questionnaire to determine what kind of people the Air Force brought into San Antonio.
The first question was:
“Have you ever experimented with marijuana?”
Now my dad had taught me to be honest no matter what. “Always own your mistakes,” he said, “and answer truthfully.”
Being young, naïve, and having just finished my first year of college, I checked the “yes” box, filling in the notes below and confessing to having smoked grass one time on one weekend while I was in college.
The next day, I was required to see the commander who sent me to the chaplain, a psychiatrist, and then the narcotics officer who told me that even though I had received the highest scores possible on the aptitude tests in the four major career categories, I would have a job pushing a broom in the lowest career category.
I protested, “I was guaranteed electronics, and if I don’t get it you have to let me out.”
The narcotics officer said, “You think they don’t push a broom in an electronics shop?”
And that’s what I did for the next four years, essentially, after he stamped my personnel card with “DRUG ABUSER”.
My drill sergeant, Tech Sgt. Ennis, dragged me to the commander’s office and pleaded with the colonel, “This is a good troop,” he said, “and he was more stupid than he was honest.”
I’ll never forget Tech Sgt. Ennis for a couple of reasons:
- He scared the crap out of me
- He taught me that lesson – be honest but not stupid
What did he mean by being honest, but not stupid?
Although he was encouraging me to not be so honest, I really think it means to be aware of the consequences.
When you can be honest even when you know the consequences will be dire, integrity should never be questioned.
So, why or when should we focus on not being stupid?
If we think about the consequences of our actions BEFORE we take the action, then we can always be honest without ever feeling stupid.
Unfortunately for us, both of our candidates, the media’s talking heads, and the pollsters all are feeling a little stupid after this election…
This is where we do the work, test the results, build businesses and support our community.