Junk marketing: Three ways to lose credibility

Who doesn’t love a good statistic? Reading them can be interesting and using them can make us sound knowledgeable.

Here are a few random statistics you might enjoy. . .

  • Using videos on your product pages will increase sales, on average, by 43.7%.
  • Eye-tracking studies show that your website has less than four seconds to get a viewer’s attention before that person moves on.
  • Top sales professionals use LinkedIn for up to 1.25 hours per day.

Are these stats interesting? Sure. Are they likely to change your thinking? Maybe. Are they accurate? Absolutely not. In fact, I made them up.

And therein lies the problem.

There is so much information out there. A quick Google search yields one-third of a billion pages that will offer “marketing advice.” But how much of it is real, based on scientifically valid, replicable research? How much of it is reliable? How much of it is even based on reality? (Answer: 14.8 percent.)

As a marketing writer, I am always looking for an edge, good information that will help my clients more fully engage with their clients and, yes, sell more stuff.

But that information has to be credible.

Want to lose credibility? Here are three tried-and-true ways to do it.

Give me a statistic with no source at all. If you have no source, it tells me you don’t care enough about truth to find out. “I read it somewhere.” “Everybody knows that!” Not good answers (and I’ve heard them both). Your credibility is zero.

Provide a “source” that, itself, has no source. I track down your source only to find out that at best, it’s anecdotal or, at worst, it’s totally concocted.

Offer self-serving statistics. Chances are, a favourable study sponsored by Big Tobacco is all smoke and mirrors.

Unfortunately, I see examples of this all the time. What’s worse is that thanks to the Internet, these so-called statistics can take on lives of their own. Here’s one of my favourites:

It takes nine (it could be five, seven or maybe even 12) contacts with a potential customer before they will buy from you.

Who hasn’t heard some variation of that? (If you can track down the source of that widely believed nonsense, please let me know.)

So, what can you do?

Keep your head up, your eyes open and never stop asking questions.