David Kirkpatrick

Better Window Than Door – a Transparent Marketing primer

November 11th, 2010

If you’ve spent any time reading content here at MarketingSherpa, or at our sister company, MarketingExperments, I bet you are familiar with this mantra – “People don’t buy from companies. People buy from people.” That very intuitive idea is a big part of a concept – Transparent Marketing – that is the heartbeat driving everything we do. We even offer an article that explains in detail what we mean by Transparent Marketing.

If you just want Transparent Marketing boiled down to the base essentials, here are the five key principles:

  1. Tell (only) the (verifiable) Truth
  2. Purge all vague modifiers
  3. Let someone else do your bragging
  4. Substitute general descriptions with specific facts
  5. Admit your Weaknesses

All five concepts are simple, direct and make a ton of sense. And you know what else? They are harder to implement than you think. Much too often marketers talk to the target audience in the “marketer” voice, and not the “person” voice.

Do you enjoy being spoken down to from up on high by some corporate entity you may or may not even want to engage with in any fashion at all? I know I don’t. Now when that same corporate entity comes at me with little more human-sounding message, suddenly I’m a lot more receptive to donating a bit of my valuable time (and/or cash) to whatever proposition I’m being offered.

Hype is a door, the truth is a window

Here are some daunting figures taken from that article I linked to up there in the very first graf. The numbers are from 2003, but the lesson is timeless:

The average person is assaulted with a barrage of 577 new marketing messages per week.

If we could somehow wire the mind of the consumer as they sift through the conundrum of emails, snail mails, banners and commercials… we would probably hear a resounding response:

“I don’t have time to listen, and I don’t believe you anyway.”

Indeed, experts tell us that people sort their mail in order to find an excuse to trash it. And even if by chance a message somehow escapes this ruthless purge… it probably won’t be remembered.

Statistics indicate that we retain less than 1% of the marketing messages we encounter.

That means that this very week, your company’s pitch is just one of another 577 being hurled at the prospect. You may be #11 or you may be #450, but whatever number you are, it is imperative to win a place among the fortunate 1% that are actually “heard” and remembered.

And this is only half the battle… somehow you must be believed.

The lesson here? If you can avoid churning out the typical jargon and meaningless hype, you have an opportunity to create a very high level of credibility. And credibility leads to trust. Trust builds a bridge to a relationship and that relationship translates into sustained sales. This short thought sequence is also taken directly from our Transparent Marketing article. Did I mention it’d be a great idea to invest in a click and read the whole document?

Here is my editor, and Associate Director of Editorial Content, Daniel Burstein on this topic:

In an age of social media, all marketing is transparent

Flint McGlaughlin’s seminal article, Transparent Marketing: How to earn the trust of a skeptical consumer, was written seven long years ago, and it has never been more prescient. Think of all that has changed since 2003 in the world of digital marketing. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and other forms of social media has turned everyone with a device (you don’t even need a computer any more) and a connection into a publisher. So if you produce marketing that isn’t transparent, don’t worry, it soon will be.

From @BPGlobalPR to YouTube songs about broken guitars, you are no longer just up against your competition to grab mindshare about a product or service, you are essentially competing with your audience as well. They are also diligently working to shape perception of the brand. So let a little sunlight in … before someone breaks your window.

What does Transparent Marketing mean to you?

I posed this question at our MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments Optimization and B2B Lead Generation Roundtable LinkedIn groups.

Kirsi Dahl offered this response at the MarketingSherpa discussion:

In brief, to me, transparent marketing is a term we industry types have created to summarize a growing trend among consumers related to their skepticism of sales and advertising.

Consumers migrate towards brands that authentically engage in meaningful relationships with them. Brands can demonstrate this authenticity through listening and engaging in two-way conversations in places and spaces where their consumers are hanging out (online and in store).

First, I want to thank Kirsi for taking the time to share her thoughts with the group, and second, I want to invite everyone to join the conversation at one of the three LinkedIn groups, or in the comment section for this blog post. What does Transparent Marketing mean to you?

Related resources:

MarketingExperiments article on Transparent Marketing

Blog Case Study: Three Lessons Learned from a 232% Increase in Visits over Eight Months

Transparent Marketing and Social Media: Twitter and Facebook are the new Woodward and Bernstein

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

Categories: Marketing Tags: , , , , ,

  1. November 13th, 2010 at 08:21 | #1

    Transparent marketing is an interesting phrase. Marketing describes collecting, sorting, and interpreting data. It is a verb not a noun. A company draws conclusions that may not be the same that a consumer would given access to the raw data. Consumers are actively collecting their own data and reaching their own conclusions. Does your marketing match that of your customers?

We no longer accept comments on the MarketingSherpa blog, but we'd love to hear what you've learned about customer-first marketing. Send us a Letter to the Editor to share your story.