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96 percent of consumers don’t trust ads. How to sell your product without getting grubby

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It’s no secret that many consumers are skeptical Marketing and Promotion. Years of pop-up ads, touchless publicity gimmicks, and downright offensive content have made people understandably suspicious of ads. According to a study commissioned by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, only 4 percent of consumers believe advertisers and marketers practice integrity. Ouch.

So, as a business owner, what can you do to make sure your branding, advertising, and marketing don’t subconsciously end up in this bucket? Many things. Here are six of them.

1. Provide social evidence.

Across the board, people trust people more than brands. Because of this, it’s important to leverage what customers say about your company. One way to do this would be to use testimonials – where you use customer quotes as advertising.

Another form of social proofing is the number of likes, shares, and comments on your social media ads themselves. The more you have, the more likely consumers will think you are legitimate. To encourage this type of interaction, make sure that your ads are targeted and that you are not too tight on your budget.

Finally, remember that these principles of social proofing should stay consistent across all of your marketing resources – from your Facebook ads to your website. These days, consumers do extensive branding research before buying, so make sure your ducks are in a row to show potential customers that you are the “real deal”.

2. Don’t be hacky.

Unless your brand voice is about dad jokes or meme culture, jumping on the latest viral trends just to get a few extra likes is almost never a good idea. Just because an egg beat Kylie Jenner for the Instagram likes record doesn’t mean your medical advice needs to be posted about it just to be “hip”.

This opportunism seems fake, hackneyed and selfish – and can quickly backfire. Instead, stick with your brand. If you are secure with your identity as a company, you can avoid terrifying advertisements.

3. Be culturally aware so as not to be objectionable.

After the marketing failure of the likes of H&M, it’s clear that many advertisers and companies don’t have a solid base when it comes to cultural literacy or even awareness. Take the time to make sure you are looking at general public opinion. If you’re not sure whether an ad campaign is offensive, run it by people in your organization who know the answer.

No matter who you are, there are millions of consumers who don’t look like you, think the world, or see the world the way you do Background is so important. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask.

4. Don’t use cheesy stock photos.

Nothing calls for a complete lack of effort like cheesy stock photos spread across the Internet in your ads and marketing assets.

Before you decide on a photo, you should take a look around. If you don’t have the resources to hire a photographer, then use sites like Unsplash and Pexels to find free stock photos that are much higher quality than most unpaid alternatives.

5. Stop making spelling and grammar mistakes.

According to one consumer, if a company can’t spend thirty seconds proofreading its assets before posting, it will practice the same carelessness with its products, services, and customer experiences.

In a world where there are competing brands on every corner, this can have a massive impact on your bottom line. No spelling and grammatical errors. Simply not.

6. Stop making fancy promises.

Let’s face it, if your product was good enough to cure cancer, share the Red Sea, or turn water into wine, you wouldn’t have to advertise in the first place. Stop making fancy, exaggerated promises – they’ll damage your reputation. Instead, be open and honest with the actual results your products and services are bringing.

If that means your product takes 30 days for the buyer to see results as opposed to instant results, then so be it. In the long run, it is much better at building trust when it comes to your business than overdoing what your solution brings to customers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.

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