Avoid False Guru Status to Boost Credibility

Want to know what one of the fastest ways to kill your credibility is? To pretend to have it when you don’t.

It’s an unfortunate reality, but the landscape of online marketing has been invaded over the past decade by those claiming to be experts in things that they, to put it politely, aren’t. The ‘fake it ’til you make it’ bravado approach was actually wildly effective for a number of years, but the reality now is one in which potential customers are much more skeptical.

Not only are they wary of falling victim to people pretending to be something that they aren’t, they’re also realizing that much of the information that false gurus put behind a paywall is available free elsewhere on the web (indeed, the expertise of fakers doesn’t allow them to create much exclusivity based on genuine, helpful content that no one else is providing).

Enter: The transparency trend. Believe it or not, there are some people out there who are up and coming and have been killing it with their audiences even though they haven’t done a whole lot yet. Instead of pretending they’ve executed in one market or another before they really have, these players are instead simply sharing exactly what they’re going through at the time to their audiences. In a way, this approach levels the playing field and makes communications more genuine.

Over the past half decade, there has been an enormous shift from consumers wanting to be told what to do by brands, or at least being convinced that’s what they want, and their realizing that they can lead the discussion more than just have it fed to them. As a result, personal communications win, and honesty is an often sought but less often delivered trait when people go looking to something from someone else online.

For an example of the effectiveness of this approach, the Groove blog, the blog of a small remotely managed helpdesk software, has openly admitted that the number one driver of sales and awareness for their product has been their blog; the Groove blog epitomized transparency.

The company began under the premise of writing out everything they do to try and reach $500,000 in monthly recurring revenue. Ultimately, they’re a couple of years into their project, haven’t yet breached even half of their goal, and yet their posts are wildly popular. Why is this? Because the folks at Groove simply write about what they’ve done and a lesson they’ve learned each week, good or bad, success or failure.

They’re not pretending they have the software as a service game figured out, their not padding the numbers (or downright falsifying them), and they’re certainly not renting expensive cars for the day in order to take pictures with them in front of a mansion they don’t own – I’m looking at you, mid 2000’s internet marketing ‘gurus’.

So keep it honest, keep it open, and you might be surprised to find out that you actually end up making more with, well, less.