"I never trust people who say they are honest"

21 replies
My Dad is a keen writer (not sales related), so I get him to proof read my copy before I put it live.

Today he said an interesting thing to me when proof reading my latest company statement draft for the my websites front page.

The line in question read:

"We are here to provide you a reliable, honest and cost effective way to..."

His response was, "I never trust people who have to tell me how honest they are".

This made me laugh as I couldn't see how it was any different to saying we are "reliable", but it set me to wondering. Does using this sort of language lumber me in with scammy style text used by cowboys and conmen?

Is there a better way to phrase it?

I know I am over thinking this but honesty is one of the main things I pride myself on as my industry is full of people lying pre-sale or feeding customers half truths to sell them a product that isn't entirely right for them.

It is a difficult thing to convey all the dirty tricks the competition are using without making myself look bad or to put objections in my prospects mind. One of my competitors tried to do this recently when everyone was jumping on the bandwagon of "exposing" stuff in their industry (no doubt the conclusion of a seminar and string of subsequent ebooks at the time). It didn't work out too well for them and they subsequently removed all the copy.

I was always taught never slag off the competition. Just give reasons why people initially considered them, but chose to use us instead. This has always served me well in my sales appointments so I think it would also apply to copy.

Really, what I am wondering is... how do I convey my honest approach effectively?

To give you an idea of some of the things my competiors do here is a list:

- sell wrong product for that customers needs as they dont have the right product
- sell the wrong product as salesperson is not trained well enough to identify the correct product they need
- sell a product that has expired or is very close to expiring
- make a promise of employment once they have completed the product (but then get out of it in terms and conditions)
- Include other fees as a bundle price but then make it very difficult to actually redeem these fees against what they are meant to be for
- Include clauses left right and centre that absolve them of all responsibility and put hidden fees on if customer wants to change anything

I could address each of these points but the thing is, even the dis-honest companies with ancient products and sales agents with zero training say they offer expert advice and up to date material. I feel I am just weakening my copy if I acknowledge the fact others are being sneaky.

I do offer a free demo and a money back guarantee which eases their risk and I guess goes as brownie points towards a "honest" image. My competition have started doing this also but hidden in their terms are lots of hoops and an adminitration fee for anyone wanting a refund.

Sorry for the overly long and rambly post. I could have said it all with "What are some good copywriting techniques to convey honesty and integrity".

Any comments that trigger some useful ideas or nudges in the right direction are greatly appreciated.
  • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
    "As honest as the day is long we promise to (state strongest benefits)..."

    Or similar.

    Simply follow it up with a big promise to generate trust and cement further credibility.

    I wouldn't worry about splitting hairs too much. Yes, every word can make a difference but if good words like 'honest' have to come under such close scrutiny, it's a sad day for everyone.

    Mark Andrews
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  • Profile picture of the author PatrickIcasas
    If you're unsure about including the word honesty, integrity works fine by itself.

    Write. Edit. Rinse. Repeat.

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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      Both honesty and integrity are characteristics you cannot credibly claim for yourself. You need credible third parties to attest to them for you.

      Marcia Yudkin
      Check out Marcia Yudkin's No-Hype Marketing Academy for courses on copywriting, publicity, infomarketing, marketing plans, naming, and branding - not to mention the popular "Marketing for Introverts" course.
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      • Profile picture of the author Stephen Root
        Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

        Both honesty and integrity are characteristics you cannot credibly claim for yourself. You need credible third parties to attest to them for you.

        Marcia Yudkin

        The thing is that in many cases people are trying to use their honesty as a way to differentiate themselves from other merchants. I see this a lot especially in our industry and every time I think that if their honesty is the only thing they can offer, their value is most likely quite low.

        I try to follow "trust but verify" mantra.
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      • Profile picture of the author KaplanT4
        Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

        Both honesty and integrity are characteristics you cannot credibly claim for yourself. You need credible third parties to attest to them for you.

        Marcia Yudkin
        Sort of like the canned line "In my humble opinion" when in reality there is no such thing....you lose your humility once you state it!
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        • In all honesty, I don't think there's anything wrong in saying you're honest.

          But no need to harp on about it or people will disbelieve you.

          Just ensure your integrity and credibility is backed up by real testimonials.

          And as Guerrilla mentioned at the end of his post-

          Always give a strong "no quibble, no questions, no nonsense" guarantee.

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  • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
    Kind of related...

    A distinguished client of mine was recently riffing in a V/O we're working on and used the word, "Honestly" at the start of a sentence mid-way through the copy.

    Problem is, that gives the impression everything said before was full of lies. So we re-recorded that bit.

    Quite the anecdote, huh...

    --- Ross
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  • Profile picture of the author GuerrillaIM
    Thanks Guys.

    I re-read my copy and I am trying to convey the message now with examples and let them make their own deductions.

    It's getting very wordy tho. Think I will make some separate pages perhaps that go into more detail on how we train advisors and how to make sure their product is in date.
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    I can see how someone claiming to tell the truth could
    have the opposite effect, and this would depend on your
    perceived expert level in the field in which you are claiming
    to tell the truth ...

    BUT 78 times in the New Testament, Jesus used the
    statement "I tell you the truth ..."

    Then, honestly, I don't think it's bad to remind people
    that you are honest.

    -Ray Edwards
    The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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  • Profile picture of the author EmmaPowell

    SHOW you reader you are honest

    * Screenshots

    * Testimonials

    * Examples

    * Stats/Graphs etc

    Let your reader naturally arrive at the conclusion you are honest....... and if you are then your copy will tell that story and your reader will hear it loud and clear =)

    Best of luck with your launch, wishing you loads of success!

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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      * Screenshots

      * Testimonials

      * Examples

      * Stats/Graphs etc
      Screenshots, stats and graphs do NOT show anyone is honest. Even gullible people know they can be faked.

      Testimonials from well-known people who themselves have a reputation for honesty (i.e. they do not provide blurbs to just anyone) do help. Testimonials from unknown people that have the ring of truth do also help to a certain extent. Case studies that relate to verifiable events, companies or people also help.

      Media clips and awards won tend to provide the biggest boost in credibility - unless of course the media articles were about something disreputable the person did!

      I spend a lot of time reading reader reviews on Amazon and I have seen many, many shoppers be suspicious of someone who has too many vague five-star reviews. These do not necessarily bolster someone's perceived trustworthiness.

      Marcia Yudkin
      Check out Marcia Yudkin's No-Hype Marketing Academy for courses on copywriting, publicity, infomarketing, marketing plans, naming, and branding - not to mention the popular "Marketing for Introverts" course.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    It's an art form to sell something, no matter how much it benefits your target audience, and come across as completely in integrity.

    It's also why authenticity and honesty sell WAY more than the over-hyped nonsense that used to dominate the marketing world even just a few short years ago.

    Does hype still work?


    People are emotional beings...

    ...and if you have the ability to capture their imagination by trigger the RIGHT feeling and circumstances, there's virtually no limit to what you can sell.


    Integrating your voice and integrity into the copy can be more effective than well-placed hype these days.

    Here's a question I asked a client this morning who has an amazing mind for helping every day people (think individuals with good jobs, but massive credit card debt) achieve a whole new level of abundance-creating-abilities:

    What if you were invited onto Good Morning America tomorrow?

    Would you care if your copy came across as disingenuous hype (even though you can really help people?)


    Would you be grateful for taking the time for your REAL voice to come through in the copy and create a reputation based upon integrity, credibility and authenticity?

    He answered the latter.

    My point?

    If you utilize the word "honestly" in copy that's chock full of hype, you'll likely trigger the opposite emotional response in your reader than what you intended.


    If you're making absolute certain that you're coming from a place of truly believing in the mind-blowing, life-changing benefits that your product or service can produce in your prospect's lives...

    ...then throwing in words like "honestly" won't even phase people.

    Trust me ;-)

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    • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
      Really, what I am wondering is... how do I convey my honest approach effectively?
      Be sure to write conversational-style sales copy.

      Include a "damaging admission".

      And be sure to differentiate yourself from the competition.

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  • Eh...

    It's one of those things.

    Saying "trust me, I'm honest" is obviously a huge red flag, but using the word "honest" in a sequence of adjectives really isn't the same thing.
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  • Profile picture of the author rjweaver10
    I didn't read through the other comments, but I never thought about "not trusting someone who says they are honest." Good way to look at it! Sometimes we never know the effects of what we say to our clients.
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    • Profile picture of the author Shaun OReilly
      As the wise man says...

      A rich man doesn't need to tell you how rich he is.
      A good man doesn't need to tell you how good he is.
      A smart man doesn't need to tell you how smart he is.

      Similarly, an honest man doesn't need to tell you how honest he is.

      Dedicated to mutual success,



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  • Profile picture of the author havplenty
    Most of the lies that hit my inbox each day come from the most successful marketers in IM. I am not saying their success is tied to a lack of honesty, but there's at least a causal link there
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  • Profile picture of the author RedShifted
    This is how I view honesty.

    There are negative honest statements, and positive honest statements.
    A negative honest statement can act as a qualifier and damaging admission at the same time.

    Like "Our company isn't the cheapest in the industry but..."
    To me thats a qualifier and a damaging admission wrapped in one. It builds trust.

    At this point your reader is trusting you. THEN you move to your more powerful, "positive honest statements". I'm not a copywriter so I'm just throwing out labels that come to mind immediately.
    (see even that was a damaging admission). Truth is I learned most of this stuff in the seduction community. Its more about how you sequence things and the combination more than anything. You can't just drop out a bunch of positive, honest statements one after another. This kills trust faster than anything, EVEN IF you are being HONEST.

    Like I met this guy a few days ago. Very successful in his business. So all he talked about was how successful he was. For all I know he was probably being 100% honest. I even believed him because his bodylanguage/voice tone conveyed honesty (which in hindsight could just mean he is a pathological liar). But I felt this nagging feeling of "this guy is fos" the more and more he did it.

    Up untill the point I became 100% convinced he was lying to me. There were NO CLEAR INDICATORS of dishonesty, not even in his bodylanguage. It was the constant barrage of boastful statements that brainwashed me otherwise. Humans are very weird creatures imo.
    Skepticism seems to be hardwired into most of our brains if you ask me.

    Thats why I really suggest you use damaging admissions to prevent this type of effect.

    I make those positive, "honest" statements hold a lot more weight than our damaging admissions (aka "negative honest statements"). That way their value overcomes the damaging admission. The reader percieves trust from both sides, the bad things you say AND good things. If you sequence it right, people will have no reason NOT to believe you whether you use the word "honest" or not.

    If that makes sense.

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  • Profile picture of the author stellaex
    Honesty , immaterial you can't weight it or count it
    Being honest is difficult

    but to prove your self honest is even more difficult

    Dogging other is a common routine, to sell the one’s product.

    So keep honesty as much required , Excess of everything is bad

    its not a long post but YOU have highlighted the common problem of online world and given us chance to read the good solution about above given problem
    Synergist Consultants - Provide help to manage your agency and projects - Agency Management System
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  • Profile picture of the author Greg71
    Explain what you said in your post (about your father's input and your response), to your readers. They are intelligent, perceptive human beings.

    I know what your dad is saying though. When I hear someone who emphatically exclaims, "Trust me...", it immediately causes me to be suspicious. Lol.
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