Deceptive Marketing: Snake Oil Marketing Doesn’t Work

Damian Thompson posted this in the Sales Skills Category
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Persuasive Marketing vs Deceptive Marketing

It might seem logical, but there are some fuzzy lines between persuasive marketing and deceptive marketing.

No matter whether you are a business owner looking to scale from 6-figures to your first $1m, or you’re at ~$1-3m and want to achieve $10+m, there is one truth we all have to face in our careers.

The product or service we are working on is not perfect — and never will be.

Our challenge is to figure out the correct way to pitch this product or service so that people still want to buy it. To make it sound appealing to our potential customers despite its shortcomings.

If a product is highly usable yet has a glaring, but necessary flaw, this can be quite difficult to do correctly. Usually it doesn’t boil down to the correct decision of words to use — but a moral decision.

Persuasive Marketing vs. Deceptive Marketing

We say versus but we don’t think there is a real battle going on here. You should always choose to be persuasive rather than deceptive when marketing a product. The problem is that the line between the two can get blurred.

Some people even believe that being persuasive IS being deceptive. They might even make a good argument for their case that someone once persuaded them to do something that they didn’t want to do, thus deceiving them.

To avoid any further confusion, let’s hit the ol’ dictionary. For “persuade” we have:

Persuade – verb – to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding

And now let’s see “deceive”:

Deceive – verb – to mislead by a false appearance or statement

As you can see, both are different ways to arrive at the same goal. To get someone to believe you or to do something that you want. What makes the biggest difference is in your intention while pitching your ideas, products or services.

Do you want your customers to trust you, enjoy your products and buy from you again? You better be a damn persuasive writer to get them to become customers in the first place.

Or do you want to make some quick money off your customers, who will never buy from you again but you don’t care because you already have their money? You are probably better suited for deception. Maybe a black hat forum is more your style.

Sharpening up those blurry lines

With some products, the hardest thing can be actually figuring out at what point being persuasive stops and being deceptive begins. While lying about the product is obviously deceptive, what is it called when you conveniently leave out information about the product’s flaws?

It’s all about how you put it

Let’s use an example.  You have just created and developed the world’s most advanced wireless gaming mouse. This thing has everything. It is super sensitive, has more customizable buttons than your average keyboard and works on both PCs and Macs like a charm.

The flaw:  it sucks through batteries like Rosie O’Donnell on a triple chocolate milkshake. That’s not good for business. The weak batteries aren’t helping either (see what I did there?).

The deceptive marketer would completely ignore the battery life issue when marketing the product. Or even worse, he will flat out lie about it.

“What’s the difference?” he says, “the customer won’t find out until they have already paid for the product that the battery life sucks.”

While that may be true, he won’t be seeing many return customers. In fact, he might see a lot of actual RETURNS coming back from unhappy customers.

The persuasive marketer is different. Instead of trying to hide everything the product does wrong, he approaches the product’s flaws confidently and assertively. He doesn’t ignore the dismal battery life of the mouse – he posts the figures right up there on the site!

Of course, one of those moral gray areas is how you actually report those figures. Do you turn the settings on the mouse down and do office work instead of gaming while checking how long the battery lasts? Maybe, but you are still being up front with your customers. The average consumer has become accustomed to adjusting the stated figures into real world figures by default anyways.

Even better, the persuasive marketer will take that flaw and turn it into an advantage for his customers. After mentioning the life of the batteries, he can offer rechargeable batteries along with a charger, to be included in the purchase.

With a bit of clever word work, the customer sees this as a way to save money in the long run and help the environment at the same time. Meanwhile, the persuasive marketer is seeing his sales go up by including the rechargeable battery option alongside the mouse.

No one feels deceived and everyone is happy.

Two Schools of Thought, but Only One Way is the Right Way

That is only one example of course, but it works to highlight the main elements that separate the two schools of thinking. This should be applied to all of your content marketing.

A deceptive marketer is actively trying to deceive everyone – including himself. By not being up front with his customers from the beginning, he denies himself the chance of doing repeat business with most of them. He might make a quick buck but a deceptive marketer’s riches tend to be short-lived at best.

With persuasive marketing, you approach all the flaws and disadvantages of your product head on. You explain what is not perfect about your product in a way that actually makes your customers put more trust in you. People like an honest salesman. The fact that you addressed your product’s problems correctly can go a long way. They are then far more receptive to buying from you now, and in the future.

The choice is yours – will you be doing persuasive marketing or deceptive marketing?

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