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There’s a lot to be said for sincerity in business. Sincerity as in saying what you mean – clearly, completely and consistently.
But there’s second part to sincerity also, on top of the saying what you mean bit. And that is genuinely making sure that what the business is saying really is customer focussed. It’s making sure that the decisions you make and communicate are a positive thing for the buyer. And not sneaky, diluted or underhand.
So that’s my definition of sincerity in business. It’s a two-part thing. Clear, complete and consistent communication. And doing what is authentically best for the customer.
Sincerity is Easier.
Sincerity in business gives you a much easier life. If what you say is clear, complete and consistent. And if the things you say really are customer focussed, you minimise conflict. You minimise conflict because nothing is hidden. There’s nothing to fall out with consumers over.
Sincere brands are likeable brands. And likeable brands breed loyal customer base that tell other people about you. All of which is really good for business.
And you can relax more. Because you don’t have to remember what you said. You can be more natural. Because when there’s no fibbing, no hyperbole and no spin, there’s nothing to trip you up. The truth is easier to remember than something you made up for effect or to create a temporary flare of awareness.
So as I say. There’s a lot to be said for sincerity in business.
The Sincerity Test.
Because I am interested in businesses and how they run, when I look at businesses, I can’t help but judge them not just on what they are and do, but on how sincere they are. I ask myself how they make the decisions they make. To keep things simple, I ask myself whether they made ‘this decision’ or ‘that decision’ for the good of me, the customer – or for the good of themselves. Then I am interested in how sincere they are in the way they communicate the decisions they make. I look out for the fibs, for the hyperbole and the spin.
Sometimes, you can find insincerity tucked away in the small print. The headline suggests the brand is doing something good for you. Then the small print erodes the power of the headline by chipping away at the loveliness of the sentiment. You know the kind of thing…
“This offer or opportunity is only available for new customers.”
This means – to me – “we are doing this so we can acquire new customers. We have allocated budget for that. Customer acquisition is hard. And important. But as for existing customers, we have them onboard already. So we don’t feel we have to invest in keeping them so much. And anyhow, we’ve made it hard for them to leave.” (See further down!)
Here’s another example:
“You can return your item within 30 number of days, and we will give you a credit note for the full amount. Which lasts for 6 months.”
This means – to me – “we have your cash for the current transaction, and we want to hold on to that cash. We are not confident in building a longer-term relationship with you, or in our product, so we do whatever we can to hold onto the money we have right now, rather than do what’s best for you and work hard to build trust with you over time. Oh, and the credit note has to be used within a timescale that impacts the best period for us, rather than the most convenient time for you to buy, which could very well be in a year from now.”
“You’re tied in for 24 months (and/or) you have a 60-day cancellation period (and/or) there’s a penalty to pay if you want to leave earlier. Etcetera.”
Now, with this kind of thing, for certain businesses I do admit that there’s a place for reasonable periods of time to want a customer to stay engaged with you, or to give notice before leaving you.
But what this means – to me is – “We are tying you in for as long as we think we can get away with, rather than allowing you to stick around for a period of time that might be most comfortable and convenient for you.” This always feels awkward. Rarely good.
“You can get a three-month trial for half price.”
Things like this can all look rather lovely at first glance. But what this very often means – to me is – “It is up to you to stop your direct debit after the three months if you want to leave. And we hope you forget so you keep paying. Oh and you’re not getting the full set of services for your first three months, so you don’t experience us at our best. It’s a diluted version instead. Well, it is free!”
I’d love to see this kind of an offer where the brand treated me like royalty for the first three months, with full access to all they offer, and made it so hard for me to leave not because of silly small print – but because they were, well, just irresistible!
Now that would be refreshing.
Of course, it is the first principle of any business to make profit.
But I really do think that consumers take a real dislike to brands that are slippery. Brands that aren’t clear or straight forward. Brands that don’t quite tell you what’s going on. Brands that don’t tell you exactly what you get for what you pay. It makes us uneasy. And suspicious.
In fact, I have a vision in my head when I come across cheeky brands like this. And I’d quite like to implant this vision in your brain too.
It’s the vision of a large mousetrap. A large mousetrap with a lovely, flashing, hypnotic neon light above it. A neon light with the beautifully crafted lettering:
And this large, neon-headlined mouse trap is talking to me. A peckish mouse. A starry eyed, lip-licking prospect.
There’s a lot to be said for sincerity in business. And it is a two-part thing.
Clear, complete and consistent communication. And business decision making that’s authentically good for the customer.
It’s the future. Because I really do think that these are the only kinds of brands that last.