June 24, 2012

Snake oil

I got fed up with a LinkedIn posting the other day from the “would you like to earn $____ a day for [describe effortless activity here]” school of flimflam. I may have been a bit testy to describe the headline as stupid.

It’s one thing to sell snake oil, it’s quite another to be so transparently blatant about it.

Of course, some products are snake oil, aimed at a gullible target audience, so a preposterous appeal may be the effective choice (“Earn money for taking surveys,” “72 virgins for you if you fly that plane into that building,” or “address envelopes at home!”)

We don’t want to help you peddle panaceas or perpetual-motion machines – but suppose you have a genuinely beneficial product or service. How do you avoid being perceived as snake oil?

As clumsy as most get-rich-quick efforts are, they serve to illustrate the balance you must strike between letting people see a real reason to buy from you, versus the over-promising that kills your credibility.

Don’t let your enthusiasm run away with you. Know prospects as well as you know customers. And get objective advice about your effectiveness when communicating your brand narrative. We immodestly suggest our agency as the source of that kind of thinking.