Editor’s Note: This post is based off of a presentation that Doug Kessler, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Velocity Partners, recently gave at Content Connections, Acrolinx’s online, virtual conference. Held in November 2015, the event attracted more than 2,000 content professionals from around the world.


Let me start this post with a quick story. One of the things we like to do at Velocity Partners is take our team away for the weekend. A recent trip had us going to Rome, and I was in charge of finding a restaurant for dinner. After poking around on TripAdvisor, I identified and reached out to what I thought sounded like some promising options.

Of the restaurants that responded one really stood out, though not for the reasons you might think. The woman who wrote me started off by pointing out why her restaurant might not be the ideal choice. We were looking for a private room for the dinner, which she went to great lengths to explain she couldn’t really provide. We needed some vegetarian options, which she was quick to point out wasn’t their specialty.

What I liked about the woman was that she was proactively being honest. Really honest. It caught my attention because it signaled two things to me. First, she clearly didn’t want us to be disappointed and was more concerned with our having a great time than making a quick buck. The second thing was that I was convinced that anything positive she had to say about her restaurant — great seafood, an excellent wine list — had to be true. If they weren’t, she was so honest that she would have told me so.

As it turns out, I wound up choosing this restaurant and we went and had a great meal and a fantastic time. It was her honesty that cinched the decision.

When Being Insanely Honest Can Be Insanely Smart

The point of that story is that being honest is incredibly powerful. To be clear, I’m not talking about normal honesty; you know, where you’re just ethical and professional. I would hope that’s table stakes. I’m talking about being insanely honest, and that’s different. Insane honesty is a choice, and once you’ve made it you really have to go out of your way to do it. That’s because you’ve not only got to actively seek out your weaknesses, but also be prepared to share them openly.

It’s an odd thing for marketers and salespeople to think about, but we all should be. After all, what could be better than signaling to your target audience that you care more about their success than your own short-term revenue? What could be more impactful than for your target audience to know that they can trust everything you say because you’ve been upfront and honest about your weaknesses? It’s pretty powerful.

6 Reasons Why You Should Put Your Worst Foot Forward

Of course, to reap the benefits of insane honesty, I think you’ve got to take it a step further by baking it into your marketing and your content. Put a spotlight on your weaknesses, and acknowledge what you don’t do well or who your product or service really isn’t for. In other words, I’m advocating that you put your worst foot forward.

That sounds insane, right? Why would it possibly work? Here are six reasons:

  1. It surprises and charms. People expect typical marketing, so when you use insane honesty you’re breaking that convention. That gets their attention and, as we all know, attention is pretty much the gateway drug of content marketing. It’s critically important and using the element of surprise that insane honesty provides is one of the best ways to get it. Plus, it makes you more charming. People don’t like braggarts, they like people who are self-effacing. The same holds true for brands.
  2. It signals mojo. Mojo is a huge and totally undervalued force in marketing. I see it as being a combination of confidence (being good at what you do and knowing it), attitude (having a point of view and being willing to take a stand), and energy (being passionate and believing that what you’re writing matters). Insane honestly gives your content the big injection of mojo that it needs.
  3. It builds trust. Trust is so important in marketing. Yet when most of us see marketing, no matter what form it takes, our defenses immediately go up. Fortunately, insane honesty provides the antidote to that problem.
  4. It alienates your less likely buyers. That may sound like a bad thing at first, but it’s actually not. If you think about how expensive sales and marketing efforts are, particularly in B2B, alienating your less likely buyers is a good thing. It means not having to waste time and budget on people who either aren’t ever going to buy from you, or who will just be unhappy as soon as they do.
  5. It attracts your ideal prospects. An ideal prospect is someone who really values your strengths and doesn’t care about your weaknesses. By being insanely honest, you’ll be much more likely to find those great customers.
  6. It focuses you on battles you can win. This last point is really a bit of summary of the ones above. Being insanely honest means no longer trying to be all things to all people. It’s about accepting who you are and recognizing that when you do so, those customers and prospects who you’re right for will see that you really are the best choice for them.

So my advice is to get out there and try being insanely honest. Maybe you start internally just by writing it down and seeing what that feels like. When you’re ready, try publishing it and see what happens. They say honesty is the best policy and, when it comes to content marketing, nothing could be more true.