Can you use made-up stories to market your real business?
The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is, “Only under certain conditions.”
(1) Jack shares stories about his “6-figure success.” Unfortunately, he’s barely running a 5-figure business.
You could argue that he’s not hurting anyone if he’s giving good information A surprising number of business coaches work with clients earning a lot more than they do.
But it just doesn’t feel ethical and your audience will sense that something is wrong. I once knew a lbusiness coach – a very sharp and confident entrepreneur – who continuously referred to 6-figure earnings in her blog posts, articles, and sales letters. It never rang true. After a few years, she returned to a corporate job, acknowledging that she needed a more consistent income.
Why do people do this? They’re seeking credibility. They want people to believe, “You’ve got the goods.” The truth is, you have many ways to demonstrate credibility. You can accumulate a large amount of well-written content. You can present a new and innovative way to approach your topic.
There’s no need to make up numbers.
(2) Mary has worked with several clients on similar projects. She combines them into one composite client who she shares her story. She’s careful to say, “Robert is a composite of 3 clients I’ve worked with.”
No problem! This approach is not only ethical, but also extremely effective.
Most readers and listeners won’t care and many won’t even notice.
Relatedly you might have story “scenarios” in a sales letter, like the ones I use for my copywriting course. It’s hard to imagine anyone questioning the literal truth of those scenarios. They’re almost like metaphors.
Or you might say, “Here’s an example of how I might work with a client. Let’s call her Louise…” It’s pretty obvious you’re projecting a scenario that’s realistic but not historically accurate.
(3) Rita has been advised to create a hard-luck story. Frankly, she says, she doesn’t have one.
She’d accumulated significant savings in her corporate job. She was directed to an outstanding business coach who helped her avoid the most common costly detours.
So Rita decides to make up a story. She talks about “almost going broke.” She tells stories of forcing herself to do the work so she could pay her mortgage. She even wrote about dealing with depression as she was building her business…although she was never treated for depression and mostly enjoyed life to the max.
You can make your own decision about the ethics of Rita’s story. A sharp-eyed follower might make connections: “Rita just bought that house in Seattle. She must have had a good down payment and a credit rating, unless the house came with a fairy godmother.”
Another reader might have known Rita a few years earlier, recognizing she was definitely not broke
Bottom Line. “Making up a story” can help your marketing, as long as you don’t fall into the category of deceptive marketing. Apart from the ethical implications, you lose big when followers feel duped. And readers have a sixth sense for detecting a fake story presented as true.
Trying to find an answer to the “What’s your story?” question? Want to use stories to grow your marketing with professionalism, not sleaze? Start with a Strategic Intensive. You’ll find the missing piece …and a new story.