The “D” Word: People Don’t Like Being Duped

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People will forgive and forget some things. They won’t forgive and forget being duped.

People don’t like feeling duped.

Even if they aren’t being duped, as long as they feel like they are being duped, they will believe they were duped. As as long as they feel that way, they are duped.

And they don’t like it.

So don’t do it.

What is duped? Duped is the kiss of death, especially if “The Duped” are your customers, clients, followers, or anyone whose opinion you value as a part of your success in life. So that’s just about anybody, really. The Duped are those who feel their trust or confidence has been shaken. Things have been said or done – or even omitted – to leave an impression. Until somewhere down the road, their understanding changes. And not in a good way.

This is how reputations are made and lost. This is how products or businesses live or die. You might sell a million bottles of snake oil because people believe your marketing claims, but once they decide those claims were just that – marketing – you might have trouble selling the next fantastic product.

What makes a customer feel duped?

There are different levels of Duped. There is the immoral, the illegal, the accidental, and the intentional. Above all is the unforgivable. There is nothing illegal about calling something “the best”. It’s called puffery and it has been around since the first caveman bragged that his hunting prowess was best. It would be immoral for him to make this claim to win a mate, only to spend his days napping while his family goes hungry. But it is not illegal. Whether it is accidental or intentional depends on Mr Caveman. Whether it is unforgivable depends in Mrs Caveman.

If you make a claim that someone relies upon, which later turns out to be less than accurate, that person is going to feel duped. People that don’t believe the message to begin with, then chant “I told you so” just make it that much worse for the Duped. They now feel even more duped.

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The failed claim is nothing new. The modern consumer might be a bit more alert to the tactic. Do you believe everything you hear or read? The decision to put trust and confidence in something is affected not only by the message, but by the experience, education, and depth of reasoning of the person making the decision. As the messenger, you try to give a convincing presentation. Then it’s up to the consumer.

A whole new layer of “duped” comes into play when it isn’t something that was said, but something that wasn’t. Which, ironically, is the whole point of this article.

There’s errors, and then there’s ommissions

Recently I noticed a business contact felt compelled to make a statement in defense of their service, addressing certain misconceptions. The bottom line was that the service relied on paid advertisement. In the age of free-to-use information services, it never occurred to anyone that someone has to pay the bills. Apparently advertisers either felt they should be included at no cost, or the user felt they shouldn’t be subjected to advertising, or both.

Consumers are used to advertments shoved in their faces. The fact that your information service relies on advertising shouldn’t be a surprise to them, right?

Businesses are used to the concept of advertising. They know that quality exposure costs money. Presented with facts and figures, they make that educated decision mentioned earlier.

So where was the breakdown? This was too intriguing to ignore. I contacted my colleague and asked! One thing soon became clear. A whole lot of words were being used in an effort to avoid the one word that wasn’t. I finally asked, “Why don’t you just call it what it is: advertising?”

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The response was a jaw dropper. “Because as soon as someone hears the A-word, they hang up the phone.” He couldn’t even say the word.

So let me see if I get this straight. You’re not going to be direct and explain what the service entails. So when they commit and then figure it out, you wonder why it suddenly goes wrong. Not only is your service abandoned, but your likelihood of getting new advertisers doesn’t look so good either. All because you somehow think they won’t notice they are advertising? Or that it comes with an invoice.

Because the A-word is scary.

No. It isn’t because the A-word is scary. It is because they have been duped.

People will forgive and forget some things. They won’t forgive and forget being duped.

The D-word is far more scary.

How do you prevent people from feeling duped? That one is easy. You simply don’t dupe people. If you are not confident of your message, how do you expect others to be? If you close the sale with a nagging voice in your head telling you the relationship you just started isn’t going to last, it won’t.

Be clear, be honest, and offer reasonable expectations. Promote the strengths, but realize there are weaknesses. Make the weaknesses go away, not because you don’t mention them, but because you’ve worked hard to improve. Address concerns. These are the secret ingredients to improvement.

Above all, believe in your message. Believe so much that you work every day to make it better.

The last thing you want is an audience that feels duped.