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Advertising works hard to attract your ideal customer.  In today’s world where deceptive practices are easily used, it’s vital for your marketing approach and advertising is based upon truth.

Thanks to some abuse of social media, social media isn’t always real.  You need to use social media to reach your customers. Anything you create, post, share needs to be authentic.

As a professional in your field – counselling, coaching, therapies – your role carries ethical responsibilities of care. For some of you, your clients come to you when there are in their most vulnerable state.  They trust you by default.

So, while it’s tempting to exaggerate, to over-promise results (because you DO care and believe in what you do), it’s critical to maintain your honesty and integrity. For both your reputation and your client’s wellbeing.

If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.

Zig Ziglar

How do you build trust in this crazy promise packed world?

Many self-improvement products do promote the benefits of their products using copy filled with superlatives. 

High emotion words like transforming, life-changing, miraculous, divine, magical, are often part of the copy written in the self-improvement market.

Using those words is a great idea as long as they are genuine benefits. This is why caveats need to be warmly written into your copy to prevent people from being misled.

Let’s use the idea of change as example.

We all know that change takes time.

Most of you work in practices that are about change: attitudes, beliefs, or expectations. We also know in many cases, helping your clients transform how they perceive their worlds leads into a ripple effect.

Change brings change.  Not all of that ripple effect might be desired. Or it can become overwhelming and anxiety producing.

We also know your customers must engage and do the work. You can lead, coach, encourage, nurture…but they must do the work. Nothing happens without effort. You might have strategies to make the work feel easier, but it’s still up to your client to do it.

To avoid being branded by customers as being a fake, you need to be sure to write caveats explaining the responsibilities of the client into your materials.

You can do this through story telling, case studies and other forms of copy. You can include a legal disclaimer as well.

Three words your customer’s heart needs to hear: genuine, trust, respect.

If you mislead your customer by promoting false claims, or if you assume your customer is a fool, you’ll be in trouble. It might not happen immediately, but it will happen. When your reputation is tarnished it’s difficult, often impossible, to regain it.

Customers need to believe you have their best interest at heart. They’ll be looking (even subconsciously) for evidence of this.  If they have been burnt by an unscrupulous person in the past, they may be doubly cautious.

Customers look for proof about your integrity.  How do you provide that?

  • you can provide frank testimonials from former clients
  • you can use your backstory
  • you can give them case studies of your clients and their successes
  • you can offer them white papers about your industry and professional practice
  • you can highlight a TV interview or podcast with you

Ideally, in your marketing plan and content calendar you’re developing these materials, or you already have them and are keeping them current.

Another approach: practice acts of kindness

Let me share a story.

It gets dark earlier and earlier this time of the year. Electricity is greatly appreciated. A couple of weeks ago I blew a fuse. The result? No power on the second floor.

I went down to the basement and looked at the grey panel box. Flipped a couple of switches. Marched all the way back up stairs. Nothing. Back downstairs. Try again. Back up stairs, still no power.

So, I did what every rational person does. I grabbed my phone and Googled my situation.  All the advice on Google pointed to the potential for a serious electrical problem. Just so you know, electrical problems in my house trigger me into imagining every fire-related home disaster in the world.

Nonetheless, I left everything alone and went to bed, imagining the worst. First thing the next morning I called an electrician who could work late because I had commitments during the day. 

He arrived on time, with fabulous professional attitude and ID, and a great reassuring smile.

He zipped downstairs, opened ‘another’ fuse box I hadn’t noticed (I’m still kind of new to this house) and flipped a switch. He ran upstairs to check everything. Everything was fine. 

This took about 3 minutes from the time he knocked on my door. 

Now, I was prepared to pay the service call fee. I expected to pay the service call fee ($120.00). In my head I was calling it the ‘life education tax.’

As he was writing the invoice, he stopped. He just thought for a moment and shook his head, crossed out the service fee and wrote something different.

Handing me the invoice he said he couldn’t charge me that much for something so minor (note, I felt like an absolute idiot at this point). He charged me a much lesser fee ($40.00) for the time and trip.

Honestly, this took me by surprise. It was more than fair and more than generous.

He also said if he charged me the regular fee, he wouldn’t sleep at night.

One act of kindness.

What was the result? From my perspective he created a sense of personal integrity. I’ll refer him whenever possible. And I’d call again if needed.  Hmm….also a bit of loyalty developing, right?

He accomplished a lot in three minutes for his reputation.

What does an act of kindness look like in your practice?

What feels right to you?

  • Is it a complimentary consult or referral
  • it might be staying in touch with the odd personalized email with a link to useful information (no strings attached)
  • could it be volunteering at a local event and you post info or pix on your social media page to help show you practice kindness in your community (note – this isn’t bragging but celebrating)  

For each of you, there is something you can do you. If you’re stuck, brainstorm some ideas with friends or colleagues.

Wrapping it up…

Ok. The point of this article is simple and for the majority of you this isn’t an issue. Except you might be a little blind in recognizing your customer’s experiences. 

Today, more than ever, consumers are jaded.  They are distrustful. Everyone has felt they’ve been taken advantage of, at one point or another. The field of self-improvement is overflowing with great professionals and sadly, also with fakers.

Your reputation, your authenticity, and honesty is part of your marketing. Social media is a valuable resource in your marketing plan.

Social media is also causing customers to be wary.

Step away from creating advertising copy that’s fake, over-the-top, or click bait.

That kind of copy is the plague. It will hurt you. It may ruin your business and your reputation. And it can harm your clients.

So, avoid the plague. Do this by being yourself and using your marketing materials as one part of the proof.

Be the professional your clients are delighted to know. They’ll talk and become one of the best advertising strategies for you.