Before I begin, I would like to add a disclaimer: I am about to break the rules here, one being that I am speaking about a local competitor in a blog; however, I will not give the persons name, refer to this person by gender (him/her), nor give any other detail about this persons business, other than the fact that this person does similarly what my business does. I will simply refer to this person as “this person”. The other rule that I am breaking is speaking about myself and my business, Mindbrand, in my own blog - which is never recommended.
The other night I was up late and visiting some competitors websites, something I tend to do when fueled by insomnia. I do this just to get a feel of what the other guys are offering their clients, as well as discover ways of expanding my own business’ services. I am never bitter about competition, no matter how much bigger than me they may be, nor how much more they can offer than I can. In fact, I often will call these competitors the following morning and get insight from them and build a networking relationship with them. Why? Because the word competitor does not define as “enemy”. It’s actually is the opposite since you and your competition already share a commonality, the precursor to friendship.
I love competition! Competition is a cornerstone to successful business. Without it, there wouldn’t be a drive to be the best, and there would be no one to learn from within your industry.
Back to my story. So, as I was surfing through some competitors sites, I stopped for a moment on “this person’s” site and read the details of “this person’s” services... and I wanted to scream and punch through my monitor - which probably would have resulted in my wife and son staying over my mother-in-law’s house for a few nights. Fortunately for me, I’m a calm and rational man and decided to vent in this blog instead.
First, let me tell you briefly as to how I know of “this person’s” business. Two years before the inception of Mindbrand, I had worked in the same building as “this person” and was told great things about “this person” and their business. I had never had the opportunity to meet “this person”, yet I was somewhat inspired, and eventually that inspiration led to me creating Mindbrand. I still have not had the opportunity to meet “this person”, but I did send an email a year ago (no response), and I subscribed to their e-newsletter... that, unfortunately, is another sad and aggravating story.
The services on “this person’s” website were neatly listed on the services page, each with a button that read “click to learn more”..... In the words of every nuclear engineer ever, “DONT PUSH THAT BUTTON!!!”; otherwise, your head will explode.
I’m actually quite surprised that “this person’s” head hasn’t exploded yet; each service that I clicked on had about four paragraphs that were 5 to 6 sentences long that were purely “this person’s ” self inflation - which could have easily been condensed into one sentence that reads “I can do this, please believe me!”. Following was a fifth paragraph, 3 sentences long, that described the actual service... vaguely.
This, as annoying and uninformative as it was, was not the driving force for my writing this blog. It was a statement within the first four paragraphs of each service that said: “Want proof? Google me! Google doesn't lie!”. I took action and Googled “this person”.
My Google search results came up with “this person” in 7 of the 10 results on the first page, including “this person’s” website and several articles and interviews featuring “this person”. Pretty impressive!.... At least to the unknowing prospect it is, but I dared to actually go further and read them all... and shortly after was that moment where I nearly lost my mind, and my monitor!
These were not “real” articles and interviews, these were fabricated and paid for by “this person”. In fact, the websites that held these had a section for membership and pricing to put your own articles and interviews on these sites. They even advertised this as “Look like an authority to your prospects!”.... Wait! Isn’t “this person” already an authority in the branding and marketing industry? But what about all the good things I’ve heard about “this person”?
I had to find the true credibility for “this person”, so I navigated back to “this person’s” website and viewed the video testimonials. AHHHHHH!!! 8 out of 10 video testimonials were from people that worked in the building that “this person” and I had worked in. They were not “this person’s” clients at all, they were friends! I’m cant be certain about the other two video testimonials, but the backgrounds in them did look strangely familiar.
Here it was, the person that had a small hand in inspiring me to start my business, was the polar opposite of the ethical code I follow for building Mindbrand. Apparently, credibility fraud is not illegal in a branding business. If that ever changes though, I will be the first Branding Marshall!
This is what I mean by “plastic credibility”. When something is plastic, it’s fake, not organic. Toys are plastic, and that’s what “this person” is doing to prospecting clients; toying with them and portraying a fake personal image. I am sure that “this person” is good at most of the stuff that they offer, but then why build this facade? Why not get the clients that have benefited from “this person’s” services to give a real testimonial? If they are beyond satisfied (as all clients should be), then I am sure they will have no reservations about doing a testimonial.
I am not a believer in the ‘fake it to make it’ philosophy. My motto is ‘build it and build on it’. I am also a firm believer in ethics, and being true to your prospects and clients. Your clients will eventually see through you, so you want to be very transparent with them. Maybe this is why “this person” does not have organic testimonials.
I also believe that a little modesty goes way further than a self-inflated ego. When you make yourself out to be bigger than you are, you lack the ability to give beyond that expectation you set for your clients. Dial it back a little, then give more than expected. This provides real value to your clients and gives them something to want to rave about. Think about it: historically, who has people cheered more excitedly for when they win a victory - the reigning champion or the underdog? Prospective clients feel more comfortable with a business that can relate with them on their level, not above them.
I would love to talk and network with “this person”, perhaps share my observations, but I still have not received an answer to the emails I had sent a year back. Hopefully we will the opportunity to speak or meet one day in the future. I am not only positive that there is a great deal we could learn from one another, but I also would like to help “this person” build a more organic credibility, from one authority in the industry to another.