“Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.” ~Benjamin Franklin

holy land USAMarketing experts expound that we all should be shouting about the benefits of whatever it is that we offer. The principle behind this is that while we as sellers care about our features, our buyers care about how those features will benefit them. But what happens when a decent rule gets created out of a great principle and then the principle gets forgotten?

Here’s an example. Have you ever seen a sign outside a restaurant with the neon proclamation “Fine Food”? I understand you are proud of your product. But this message just doesn’t get across to the eater how they will benefit.

The rationalization is that as a restauranteur I want to convey an upscale experience. But here’s the rub: such a crass self-aggrandizing statement is at odds with an upscale experience. You can’t tell me I will have an upscale experience, you must show me.

The Devil Made Me Do It

I warn you up front, I am going to step on some toes right here and now. There is a popular trend to include claims of spirituality in advertising, statements like “God Based”, “Christ Lead”, and “Spiritual Business”. Oh, so you don’t put that in your ads, it’s just on your web site or Facebook page? I hate to break it to you but your web site and Facebook page are both advertising.

You may be thinking, “What’s the harm? Some people look for that.” Yes, some people do. But what are they really looking for, a sign that says “Fine Food” or actual fine food? If you operate your business on godly or spiritual principles, is it not already apparent without the use of a bullhorn? If not, you have some self-examination to do.

Rather than proclaim your spirituality, why not do a self-inventory to see how well your business lives it and displays it in practice?

Frankly, such “spiritual forward” messaging is anything but. I am not saying that you must hide the things you believe. If you have read my articles, you know that I am not afraid to reference Jesus — or the apostle Paul or King Solomon or Moses or Buddha or Lao Tzu or Confucius…you get the picture. I reference politicians of all stripes, leaders of all colors, and thinkers of many different persuasions. But never will you see me proclaiming my beliefs without demonstrating them.

True Essence Shows

Have you ever encountered anyone and you just knew they were a {enter your favorite spiritual archetype here}? I don’t mean because they had a priest’s collar or a yamaka or a book bag. I mean something about their presence, their spirit. That my friends is true spirituality. And just as you have a presence, so does your business.

If you are worried that the spiritual nature of your business won’t come through without a direct proclamation, you have one of two problems:

  1. Such a spiritual nature isn’t there to come through; or
  2. You aren’t communicating it well enough.

Let’s presume you have dealt with #1 already. If not, there is nothing about #2 that can help you. Communicating spiritual values isn’t in claims, it is in practice. Your business’ presence has a “vibe” — people feel it much more strongly than any statements you make, no matter how direct. So endeavor to embody your spiritual stance in your message rather than to merely state it. It means you must stop merely serving your own wants and start serving something higher.

You might think that this will get in the way of the best interests of your business. It is true that it does not directly serve such interests. But do not be deceived into thinking that indirect benefits cannot be immensely more powerful than direct benefits. This is how you add depth and meaning to your marketing. Your marketing becomes a message that serves a mission. Can you see how much stronger this is than mere advertising?

I am reminded of a story told by Jesus about a certain Pharisee and also a tax collector who prayed at the temple. The Pharisee offered, “O God, I thank you I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give the tenth of all things I acquire.” But the tax collector prayed, “O God, be gracious to me a sinner.” Jesus then stated that the tax collector proved more righteous.

“If you have to tell me you are, you probably aren’t.” click to tweet

So prove your values. Exemplify your stance. I promise we all will notice because we aren’t stupid, we know living principles when we see them.

How do you show what you stand for? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Photo credit: Laur Marshall

If You Have to Tell Me You Are, You Probably Aren’t
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11 thoughts on “If You Have to Tell Me You Are, You Probably Aren’t

  • Permalink

    Excellent post. I have been really thinking about this lately. You have provided some good clarity for me. The truth is integrity trumps mere words anyday. And if you don’t have the actions you probably don’t mean the words.

    Reply
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      I am reminded of James 2:18: “Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.” Of course I don’t mean that words are unimportant but neither are they enough by themselves.

      Reply
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    I agree and disagree. Your post makes sense and is true and accurate. However, as a consumer AND someone who is starting my own business, there is another factor: time. When I am looking for a product or service, I am quickly scanning through websites and I am short on time. Sometimes I look at a website for mere *seconds* before moving on/eliminating it as a contender. Then, after skimming through many sites, I pick 2-3 to review in-depth and decide whose product or service to use.

    Having someone plainly state that he/she believes in God or Jesus (or not) provides information I need to know without me having to read through the entire website to get a sense of who that person is. So, in that respect, it is a benefit for business owners to have that information on their Facebook page or website. It doesn’t say “fine food” it just says “Christian”. If it said, “Good, obedient Christian” then that would raise an eyebrow, exactly as you have suggested. I *do not* limit *all* of my purchases of products and services to Christian businesses. However, since I am short on time and there are thousands of online options available, it helps to have that information available for those times when spiritual beliefs are a factor.

    Reply
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      While I hear you saying that you value the claim, I don’t believe that the claim is really what is important to you. I think you care about the truth of the matter. A “quick scan” doesn’t provide that. In fact, I suspect your quick scan is looking for a variety of things and this one claim won’t be a make or break factor. After all, without such a claim you are here. 🙂

      Reply
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    Good refrence to James – love is definitely a verb. I have a hard time expressing my faith through business (outside of ethical practices) because –

    1. I feel like I am exploiting my faith in an effort to get like minded people to shop from me.

    2. I just don’t really see the relevance. When I’m at work I work. I don’t go around witnessing.

    I could be off base here and I for sure don’t look down on Christians or other who do this. But for me it just does not work at this point.

    I prefer to just run my business by biblical principles. The chief one being to treat others as I would want to be treated.

    Reply
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      I believe you would agree with me that exploitation would belie one’s claims of spirituality.

      Witnessing is a specific act and hardly the sole embodiment of spirituality. Solomon wrote there is a time for everything under the sun. People forget that his point included that it is not all the time. So work when you work, witness when you witness. Be true to your spiritual standards whatever you may do. It sounds like you are already there.

      Reply
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    Yes. I agree. Faith has meaning and a practical out-working in all of life. It’s not just about “spiritual” things.

    Reply
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      People often mislabel religious things as spiritual. While religious things can (and should) be spiritual, it certainly isn’t guaranteed. When the apostle Paul wrote “Do all things for God’s glory” he was making it clear that spirituality should show up in every aspect of one’s life. And for most of us, business is a big part of life.

      Reply
  • Permalink

    For sure. We always need to separate the “stuff” or things of religion/faith from the essence. And the essence is love. The things – good deeds, church going, study, etc.) without love are meaningless. 1 Cor 13. As far as doing all for the glory of God goes, you bring up a good point. Business can and should be done for the glory of God. But how? Through love for fellow man, by operating under the business principles
    found in the proverbs, and keeping our main goal service.

    Reply
  • Permalink

    Hi Kenneth,
    Yep, your assessment of your business’s qualities probably has zero meaning to customers. Try exemplifying your brand and what you stand for instead. So nice to see your post on the BizSugar community. Hope to see you back here again.

    Reply
    • Permalink

      I’m happy to see it on BizSugar too. I am a regular author at Small Business Trends (the sister company of BizSugar) so hopefully you will see more of me. 🙂

      Reply

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