“Clever Truth” or Outright Lie?

“Clever Truth” or Outright Lie?

Video screen shot of Dan Kennedy with the words The Invention of a Category of One Which You Can Instantly Be #1

Dan Kennedy

A few weeks ago I twisted my ankle — I actually heard the cracking sound inside my body. Ouch. By the next day it had swelled up and was so painful I had no idea if it was only sprained or in fact was broken. I hobbled into urgent care where I had it x-rayed. It turned out it was not broken after all. Whew. Here I am a few weeks later and aside from a little twinge now and again, I’m all better. Yay. Now… hold that broken ankle story for a few paragraphs while I tell you what reminded me of it today.

So I’m watching Dan Kennedy’s new video series he’s calling Game Changer DNA where he’s presenting a lot of useful information for free. His video crew is obviously top-notch and has made a visually interesting product — at one point even turning Dan Kennedy into both Batman and Superman. Really fun!

During the second video in the series, something struck me. Dan Kennedy talked about an idea he learned from copywriting and marketing genius Joe Sugarman. If you don’t know the name undoubtedly you know some of the products he created and marketed. Remember Blublocker sunglasses? Those were Joe Sugarman’s. Here’s the iconic TV ad you might remember:

Anyway… Joe Sugarman has been writing massive sales-generating copy for decades and Dan Kennedy talks about a strategy he modeled after Joe Sugarman.

Dan Kennedy calls it creating a “clever truth” about your product or service. You do this at business inception by positioning your business (or re-positioning if you’ve been in business a while) and naming yourself the best, biggest, most whatever in the world or country of whatever it is you do. But for the strategy to work and be truthful you must be very specific about the category you are in and, as Dan Kennedy says, create a category of one for which you are the ONLY choice.

Back in the 1960s Joe Sugarman called his company, JS&A, “America’s Largest Single Source of Space Age Products” because while his companyDan Kennedy clever truth was likely not technically “selling” more in quantity than existing giants like Radio Shack or Sears, he was shipping more out of one warehouse location direct to customers — the single source — than any of the others, and therefore was telling a “clever truth.”   He created a genre of one- and his company was IT.

Dan Kennedy himself modeled the same idea when in 1983 he named his new company, Success Trac, “The Largest Integrated Publishing and Training Company on Practice-Building Serving the Chiropractic and Dental Professions.” What made this a “clever truth” was at the time he was the ONLY company serving both markets — chiropractors and dentists –  simultaneously.

From its inception, Dan Kennedy has called his No BS Marketing Newsletter “The Largest Paid Circulation Newsletter in its Genre.” That genre? Teaching direct marketing strategies for non-direct marketing businesses.  From his humble beginnings in the first month with only four subscribers, to now what is a world-wide circulation, he has always “technically” told the truth. He created a 1-publication genre. So he was the largest. Of one.

Later Dan Kennedy released other programs like Magnetic Marketing he called “The Best-Selling Program of its Kind” and as he says “kept to himself” it was the ONLY program of its kind. To date it has now sold over $70 million, so it has since earned it’s positioning.

The point is you need to establish your authority in every single sales letter, presentation, ad, or whatever every single time.

I agree that you need to establish your authority. 100%. That authority is a crucial part of building credibility in business.

My question to you is: do you question the ethics of communicating a “clever truth” and thereby starting your business relationships off only in a “technically” truthful way? OR do you see the “clever truth” simply as positioning and helping you stand out in the marketplace, and rationalize that most people see all that as “ad copy fluff” anyway and kind of let it roll of their backs?

Here’s my opinion that has come from many hours of reflection and in conversations with sales greats like my friend Kevin Nations. Remember my story about my swelling and painful ankle? I didn’t care if the doctor at urgent care was the best or the brightest or whatever medical school he went to. I also didn’t ask, “Before you fix my ankle, how much do you charge?” I found someone FAST who I knew could get the job done and I did whatever I had to do and paid whatever I needed to pay so my ankle could be fixed and I could be out of pain and back to my regular activities as soon as possible. I pretty much had no choice.

In your business position yourself as THE person who can fix the proverbial twisted ankle your customer has. Your customer might realize they have a “twisted ankle” so to speak, but they may not know if it is broken or not. It’s YOUR job as a specialist to help them determine how bad their problem really is, help them understand the depth of their problem, and then it’s your responsibility to do what you can to help them fix it. Just like my doctor wasn’t about to let me walk out of that urgent care clinic without a cane or crutches and an ankle brace, you can’t let your customers walk out your door without you doing what you can to fix their issues.

So where does positioning come into play? When a customer doesn’t realize they have any pain. Or when the pain is minor and there is a sea of alternatives to choose from. That’s when creating a “clever truth” can be the vehicle to drive your customers directly to your door.

Tell me what you think in the comments below… brilliant marketing strategy? Shady at best? Or could it be just the game-changer your business needs?

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  1. Howdy Felicia,

    Unfortunately these days the online marketplace is so crowded that one simply needs to stand out in a memorable way or resign themselves to life imprisonment in the Dilbert Cube.

    As long as one is not pulling it out of thin air, I believe that the “Clever Truth” approach is a very sound strategy for standing out in the marketplace. Its all about packaging and presenting your business in the best light, and as long as the business isn’t lying about it I feel that the “Clever Truth” approach is one of the many factors that will contribute to one’s long term success. His explanation on the matter certainly was an eye-opener for me.

    Best Wishes,

    Felix Torres

    • Felicia Slattery October 26, 2011 at 11:31 pm - Reply

      I fully agree! Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment!

  2. Cath Daley September 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Hi Felicia,
    I think that in practice if you get the “clever truth” right for your business it just becomes “the truth” eventually as your examples illustrate. The challenge is coming up with the appropriate “clever truth” to begin with and I know I need help with mine!!
    Kind regards,

    • Felicia Slattery September 23, 2011 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Cath-
      Thanks for your comments! I think you’re right on both counts. If you get it right it not only starts out as truth, but it will become even more fully true as success grows. And yes on the point about getting what your clever truth will be right to begin with!

      If you need help— well, communication is my thing. 😉 Let me know!

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