Do Your Readers Secretly Think
You’re a Liar?

image of Pinocchio

You might not hear it, but your readers might be saying it.

To themselves and to one another, they’re reading what you have to say and shouting “Liar!”

It’s not because you’ve stretched the truth, because you don’t care, or because you got your facts wrong.

It’s because you were lazy.

There’s nothing like lazy copy to make your readers and prospective buyers shout “Liar!”

It happens when you’re trying to promote something — a product, a service, or even an idea — and you don’t back up what you claim. Too many writers share their recommendations without giving any evidence, like this:

Spiffy-Brite is the best detergent there is!

While some readers might not share their skepticism aloud, if they read a sentence like that, they’ll usually either say “I don’t believe that” or “I don’t care.”

Three angles of proof

To show you’re not a liar and persuade your reader to take action, you want to work three solid angles of proof into your copy.

No, I’m not saying you should splatter testimonials all over your blog and hope for the best.

Instead, strategically address the reader’s core belief about your statement. Whether they don’t believe you or they don’t care, you have to take steps to make them believe, make them care, and make them want to take action.

Offer your strongest proof element first. This is going to be the part that makes 75% of people believe what you say. You’ll want to devote the most time to fleshing out this proof and making it worth their time to read.

1. Show a comparison and share the results

One of the strongest elements you can incorporate is a “Pepsi Challenge.”

That means getting readers to compare your product or service with another product and sharing their results. Ideally you can do a “blind taste test,” to show that the results are impartial.

This simple test is what catapulted Pepsi over Coca Cola a few years back and solidified the brand as the better tasting choice to many people.

When you can show that others prefer your product to the competitor, it helps people avoid feeling inadequate or foolish for choosing your brand (and possibly regretting it later!) Comparisons show that “other people have tried this and recommend it,” which can be the jolt you need to get readers to take that all-important first step.

2. Get validation that backs up your statements

The second “proof paragraph” should be shorter than the first one and a different type of proof altogether.

This proof element will focus on any third-party validation of your product. For example, you could quote studies done in your niche that can clearly demonstrate that your product is head and shoulders above the competition. You’ll also want to include the logical reasons that would back this up.

For example:

When we asked people to share their secrets to growing beautiful roses, 80 percent of them recommended Grow-It-Fast fertilizer over the other leading brand. In fact, a recent study by the Gardening Council for Prize-Winning Roses concluded that Grow-It-Fast fertilizer included more plant micro-nutrients than comparable brands — helping plants thrive longer without constant attention and pruning.

3. Highlight a customer’s experience

The third paragraph should be the shortest of all and can include a case study of a high-profile client or a testimonial that shows off exceptional results.

You want to “wow” people with your testimonial. How many people would buy if you included a piece like this?

I’ve smashed hundreds of guitars on stage, but you can bet I’d never smash my Echelon 5000 guitar. The sound quality is amazing and you can just watch the audience go wild — like they feel it in their veins. That’s what music is all about, and that’s why I trust my Echelon 5000 to deliver.

~ Mr. Amazing Q. Rockstar

End with the call to action

After backing up your statement with easily digestible chunks of proof, it’s time to hit them with the call to action.

Don’t give them another second to think of reasons why not to buy. They’ve got everything they need to make an informed decision — the next step is to make it.

How about you? What’s your favorite technique that keeps customers from shouting “Liar!” when you share your recommendations?

About the Author: Sherice Jacob is an author, copywriter and web designer. If you’d like more interesting insights, prove it and follow @sherice on Twitter.

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Reader Comments (26)

  1. says

    These are three basic steps in a solid sales pitch. It is all about building credibility with your readers.

    If every product you recommend delivers in the way you describe, it will take less to earn their trust each time.

    I think building a personal relationship is almost as important for gaining trust though. Sometimes a solid relationship is worth more than all the statistical proof and third party testimonials in the world.

    This also makes me think about the new FTC law that everyone has been talking about… as a blogger, being honest about your intentions will build more trust as well. It is a shame false testimonials are becoming enough of a problem that the FTC is stepping in.

  2. says

    I regularly hammer academic papers for “unsupported claims.”

    This is the same sort of thing, and I like that I can make the connection to something I know how to do really, really well (write and publish peer-reviewed papers).

  3. says

    I also use this strategy when I’m at work. I’m a phonesalesman. Off course the step I use most is comparing the phone I want to sell to other phones or to the customer’s current phone.
    In real life you could refer to the call to action as asking for the sale: “So, would you like this one?”. Or immediately skip that question and jump immediately to: “Because you travel a lot I advice you to buy a carcharger with it”. Guess in a blog this might be something like: “After you purchased this item, be sure to check out…”.

    The thing I like about blogging is that you can rethink the information you’re going to share. And you have more time digging into resources to really be able to convince you’re potential customers.

    Thanks for this article. Always enjoy reading the stuff discussed at this blog.

  4. says

    I found this really helpful as providing evidence can be easy to forget and can also help you avoid seeming too preachy.

    I see this technique being used in free reports a lot as well when people open with an anecdote or highlight a study that supports their argument.

  5. says

    Hey this is good insight.

    It’s good to know that readers may be thinking “you’re a liar”, but not saying anything out loud, when they see something that is atypical or that is not backed up by some sort of factual representation.

    I will now remember the phrase “you’re a liar” when I am posting something fact-related, so I remember to support it enough that it would satisfy me if I was reading my own writing.

  6. Sonia Simone says

    @Mark, that’s a good point, content marketing is an excellent way to deliver proof elements in a somewhat more “under the radar” way.

  7. says

    I like to tell clients that when they talk about benefits, they need to “make it real” for the reader. Too many people, especially in B2B services where we play, like to to pitch their products as magical solutions ready to solve a company’s problems, but they never connect with their audiences. A mini case study or some actual numbers work to legitmize their claims and thus help sell more product.

    This is a great post and definetely something I’ll be passing along.

  8. says

    Good information. Endorsing products can be far more difficult than selling. Some might look at those two words as one in the same but they’re not. You can sell anything you want. But once you sign on to endorse a product that makes it personal – personal for you and your readers. Like one of the authors wrote hear earlier this week – trust is key. Thanks for posting.

  9. says

    Wow, thank you for sharing this, Sherice! You know I never really thought about it that way. I guess I supposed that readers might consider it false advertisement, a bit underhanded, but — a flat out liar! You are right.

    I think that it is our responsibility as bloggers to do all of the things you’ve mentioned above. Not just to protect our reputations but also because we OWE IT to our readers! They come to our blogs because they like what we write, the trust us. It’s our duty to give them everything that they need before we go ahead and promote products – or even ideas!

    Thank you for the reminder.


  10. says

    Very true!
    In my case, it’s more of carelessness -not vetting sources.
    I’m just lucky I wasn’t endorsing a product when I blundered -lol.

  11. says

    @Dena – I think it’s going to get to the point where the bloggers who cultivate trust will be the ones gaining more of an audience willing to take action. The rest is just numbers!

  12. says

    Hey Sherice,

    Being authentic and transparent is definitely the most effective way of selling. In fact, your tips, plus adding an honest attitude (with personal experience, your criticism of any shortcomings, etc.), make the “sales copy” more of a recommendation.

    How would you recommend a genuine value-giving product to a close friend? Translate that same exact method onto text for strangers. No-hype copy might draw less eyeballs, but you’ll get higher-quality potential customers… and you’ll be an awesome, authentic person too.

    Thanks for the simple and useful breakdown of the 3 angles of proof,

  13. says

    Hey ,
    First timer on your blog, but this article completly makes sense .. Soon I will try to work on what you tried to say … and show the proof to my readers .

  14. says

    Personally, I wouldn’t touch Pepsi or Coca Cola with a barge pole, as they’re both made from carbonic acid + coloring + flavoring + artificial sweetening. I’d rather not put my health at risk.
    My three adult children seldom drank the stuff in childhood and never drink it now; and none have ever suffered dental decay.
    I’d be interested in a scientific evaluation of Coke and Pepsi’s health benefits (or lack thereof) compared to H2O.

  15. says

    @sherice Now that I know I’m a liar. Teach me how to come clean as a service provider selling social media strategy services. The examples in this post are product based. Give me some service related examples so I can clean up my lieing act? 😉

  16. says

    Definitely good advice that one can also apply to their marketing and advertising. Substantiate all claims. Whack the cliches. Close all loopholes.

  17. says

    I think conclusion is quite important and after that your call to action should be like cherry on cake.

    It should be well noted and well covered everything. If you have seen horror movie or detective movie they create such kind of surroundings which make it more scary.

    So similarly in our field as well … we need this kind of surroundings and well tight things.

  18. Kirk B says

    Excellent job.

    I appreciate the thought (though I don’t want to represent it) that people might consider my copy to be less than truthful. I am a person who tries very hard to always tell the truth, so I never think of myself as someone who cannot be trusted.

    Your article helps me to remember that even though I AM telling the truth, I can’t forget to see my copy from the reader’s point of view and to back it up with the “proof” they need to feel good about what I have written and to act on it.

    Well done. I tip my hat.

    (pause) ….OK, that’s a lie…I’m not wearing a hat.

    Dang it!

  19. says

    Hi Sherice,

    Nicely demonstrated (especially the last point 😉 ).

    There’s one more really important thing about giving proof, which you can (and should) use throughout your copy to make it more believable:

    “Be as specific as you can with everything possible.”

    Specifics naturally seem more believable than generalities. You can quite easily think, “That must be an exaggeration” about something vague. But you’d have to say, “That’s a lie” to a specific claim, and that’s much more difficult.

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