Recently, the President visited our city. It wasn’t on his itinerary, with scheduled event attendance at Buffalo to the West, then Syracuse to the East, but it would have been a real snub to Rochester if he didn’t detour the ten miles or so to come say hi. So, he did lunch.
What amused me most was the fabricated veil of secrecy surrounding this ‘surprise’. I happened to be driving back from a meeting in Syracuse (the day the State Fair started – oh, my, do I know how to pick a bad travel day) when neon signs overhead started flashing Exit 47 (the other Route 490 Rochester exit) was closed. Good thing I was heading to the East side of the city.
Or not. Guess where his lunch destination was?
The way the local Leos mobilized for the excitement was comical. Countless numbers of cops were flying onto all the bridges over and entrance ramps onto to 490 to shut them down. They took their important assignment very seriously. Lights, sirens, triple digit speeds, aggressive posturing against travelers trying to finish what they thought would be a short trip to their destination moments earlier . . . it all played out like a surreal state.
Of course, it didn’t take a genius to figure out where he was headed, within a block or three if you were traveling on 490; or the street address if you were on Park Ave.
Which made me wonder, was the claim of necessary secrecy for safety’s sake actually a ploy to build more buzz through an orchestrated melee?
The radio commentators went wild with prognostications on his destination. While I wasn’t privy to the TV scene, I’m guessing every local station stopped regular programming to report where the bus was last seen and probably had camera crews do live feeds at the restaurant where he landed.
It’s not often the President comes to this town. I get the groundswell of excitement. What I don’t get is how putting a bull’s eye on where he’s going improves his security. What it did do (probably by intent) was ensure all media eyes, ears and mouths were focused on revealing the secret first. It was an effective marketing maneuver.
Will your audience appreciate your secrets revealed?
The President can do it, some wealthy self-described online media gurus can get away with it and so-called reality TV seems to be drawing a scary number of dupes that are enamored with fabricated secrets, but that might not be your best small business marketing strategy.
Your clients and prospects may be smarter than you think. Authenticity has become a marketing buzz-word of late (starting to rank along with quality, dependable, professional and effective in my mind; if you feel the need to say it . . .), but it’s becoming increasingly important to buyers. Most will fall for a trick once. Then they’ll talk about it. Sadly, consumers share more frequently when they’re disappointed than when they’re pleased, but that’s life.
Some secrets can be successful. Contests work well to draw an audience (just make sure you have clear criteria and unbiased decision makers). Unscheduled, respected guest speakers can build buzz during (with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and other immediate online communication vehicles) and after an event – pushing more prospects toward you seeking future fun. An unexpected client gift is always welcome. You just need to be careful about crossing the line between genuine and hype.
When it comes to deception, though, people are slow to forgive. Will you get caught? Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. If honesty is a principle you hold in high regard, the money you earn short-term won’t compensate for how you feel. Plus, anyone still short-sighted about business results is bound to fail in the long-term. Just look at what perceived stock-holder priorities are doing to large corporations these days. Our former big three in Rochester (Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb) are no longer the behemoths of better days. Golden parachutes aside on the biggies, it’s rarely lucrative these days to fashion a small business marketing strategy that fails to build trust, loyalty and referrals.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of quick, easy money. Duping consumers can provide some of this short-term. It won’t, however, create the long-term results you need to thrive as a small business owner.
You might be amazed at how much more prospects and clients appreciate you when you’re genuine and forthright.