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Ketty Colom

Ketty Colom Digital Marketing Specialist

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The Transparent Marketing Strategy


Ever since I attended the B2B Marketing Sherpa Summit at the end of August,  I’ve been following Dr. Flint McGlaughlin’s latest articles and observations. Today, I came across an article on Transparent Marketing that I believe is worth sharing with you all.

Back in the late 1800s there was a product named Modoc Oil that promised to cure all your ailments in one minute. Here is the original sales copy printed in a local paper at the time:
"Modoc Oil – The greatest medicine on earth. It has no equal. It relieves all pain instantly:Toothache in one minute – Headache in one minute – Earache in ten minutes – Sore Throat in one night –Neuralgia in from three to five minutes."

Sounds pretty bogus to us now, but back then the demand for this oil was so high that the company had to build a new plant that encompassed an entire block. That demand was so high because people trusted and believed its message, but today that’s a different story. Let’s take a look at some statistics before we move on:

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

And here’s the bad news as Dr. McGlaughlin puts it, “The Post Modern Consumer just doesn't believe us anymore. They have endured too many empty promises, too many exaggerated benefits, and too many artful disclaimers.”

So how can we get this skeptical generation to accept and respond to our marketing message? By using Transparent Marketing. As Dr. McGlaughlin states:

1. Tell (only) the (verifiable) Truth
The task is challenging. First, we must strip our ad copy of every last info fragment that is not absolutely accurate. Then, we must go back and strip it again, this time of every fragment that is not absolutely verifiable.

Here is a direct quote from the mission statement of HealthWidgets.Com:
"We consider respect, trust and integrity to be essential in all our dealings. We expect honest, ethical behavior from ourselves, and we encourage it in others."

Fine sounding words, but despite the noble tone, their message will likely be discarded. If the Post Modern Consumer can't instantly verify a claim, they will assume that it is false.

2. Purge all vague modifiers.
Let's take a pair of surgical scissors to the MediWidgets pitch. Let's cut away the subjective adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.
"Led by ______________________ management teams in the industry, MediWidgets has _________ demonstrated a _________ understanding of the industry and a ___________ vision for its future. This vision translated into a concept of a ____________ system - of how patients should move _________ through a _______ healthcare system that offers _____________________."

Question: What do we have left? Answer: Not much.

What is this copy saying? How will it impact a prospect?
Here is a paraphrase of the remaining paragraph, along with the likely responses of a weary decision maker as he scans for meaning.

  • Info-Fragment 1: MediWidgets is led by a management team. (So what. So is every other company)
  • Info-Fragment 2: MediWidgets has demonstrated an understanding of the industry and it's future. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. Says who? How have they demonstrated this "understanding?")
  • Info-fragment 3: MediWidgets has designed a system for moving patients through a healthcare system. (What are these people talking about? What do they really do? How can they help me?)

3. Let someone else do your bragging
To the Post Modern Consumer, nothing is more nauseous than the sound of someone singing their own virtues. If you must convey subjective information about your product, then do so through the voice of your customers, peers, or reviewers.

In our sample copy we deleted the following modifiers: finest, consistently, keen, strong, superior, smoothly, less invasive, cost-effective. Anyone of these colorful words could be acceptable, bracketed within the quotes of an unbiased third party, but they will not work when we declare them for ourselves.

4. Substitute general descriptions with specific facts
The Post Modern Consumer demands to be respected as a capable decision maker. They despise thinly veiled sales pressure, but they appreciate simple, direct communication. Give them the resources they need to make an intelligent comparison; then politely "step back" and allow them to make their own evaluation.

5. Admit your Weaknesses
The Post Modern Consumer is not looking for perfection. He is looking for honesty. He wants to build a relationship with someone or with some company that he can trust.

Keep in mind that Transparent Marketing is about values. It asks that we treat the customer with the same integrity that we would expect to be treated.


What do you think about Transparent Marketing? Do you think you’ll be able to implement this strategy at your dealership and on your website?

Mark Dubis

Ketty: Like many others you are on track with transparency. Like Don Tapscott said in his presentation on the Internet, "We are all Naked! And if you have to be naked, don't you want to look good?

Good auto dealers and sales professionals are not afraid of the truth and transparency, and in fact some are starting to use that in their marketing already. Solutions are available for dealers to show their employees, customers and prospects that you can use "Truth" as a marketing strategy and really differentiate yourself from the competition.

The reality is some very large companies are looking at the auto buying process today, and see that millions of consumers are frustrated by their current treatment in dealerships. While the dealers have the power to change it they are not taking the steps to do it. That gives a tremendous opportunity to "outsiders" to come in and "fix the problem."

When that starts happening it might be too late for dealers to change and that could spell the beginning of the end for the retail system as we know it. Just think about what happened to local clothing and grocery stores when Walmart came to town.

The new process will be friendly, informational, entertaining and non-confrontational. It will also be very profitable for the companies/entities implementing this evolutionary auto buying process.


Mark Dubis
Here is the correct link to the Don Tapscott video on Youtube.
Jim Bell
Awesome post Ketty. So many of us, including myself, will get tunnel vision when coming up with our marketing campaigns. To be honest, I have never thought about the amount of other messages that an average consumer gets in a week. Goes to show that an incredible subject line will get you even looked at. Thanks for a great post.
Ketty Colom
Thanks for the link Mark! Jim, the average consumer has the attention span of a goldfish! We have only 5 seconds to impress them! Keep that in mind when you are writing email subject lines! =)

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