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Stretching the Truth Online Has Never Been Easier

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I don't own a Blackberry. But my clients don't know that. They're impressed when they receive an email from me with the tag line: Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld. It shows that I'm available 24/7 and always responsive to their every need.

Am I lying? Literally, yes. However, in the world of business we are always stretching the truth to impress our customers. We want to give them a sense that we're successful, and never let them know that they're the first serious prospect we've had in a month.

A generation ago, sales reps did it with gold-embossed business cards, Gucci shoes, monogrammed French cuffed shirts, and of course the obligatory Cadillac.

And back then, even if you worked from your basement you still had an answering service that responded with a real human being saying, "Reinfeld and Associates, could you please hold."

And your mailing address was always a fancy downtown address (even if it was your brother's dental office).


But today, when you often never meet a prospect face to face, what can you do to differentiate yourself? Obviously it has to be in the world of cyberspace. Let me offer some examples.

  1. Have every email of two lines or less say it's sent via your Blackberry. Don't try it with longer messages. No one is going to believe that you typed a 200-word message from a Blackberry keypad.

  2. Place a long confidentiality statement and disclaimer at the end of each email. Make sure it has a lot of legalese about intellectual-property rights. (I actually paid a second-year law student to write mine.)

  3. On your Web site, add a page of white papers. This proves that you take an intellectual approach to your business. Now you actually don't have to write these white papers. What I do is write one paragraph and then inform the reader he/she must sign up and get a 12-digit password to read the entire document. I know I never sign up for other people's Web sites, so I assume most people won't take the time to sign up for mine.

    If someone actually signs up, what do you offer? Obviously you are not going to take the time to write these white papers. So just have the page say "under construction."

  4. Make sure your photo is from 20 years ago, when you still had hair (guys) or when you were really a brunette (gals).

  5. Add a few testimonials from satisfied customers. You don't have to offer the name of a real person. Just say the quote is from a "CFO of a Fortune 100 corporation." You know the drill, make it up, but please keep the hyperbole to a minimum.

  6. Never have a visitor counter on your Web site on your home page. Why would you want someone to know that he's only the 43rd visitor to the site since it was updated five months ago? And imagine if he actually returns in a few days and sees that he is now number 45.

The one addition to my Web site that I am having trouble faking is a blog. I have nothing new to say every day. Most probably, I would find it hard to find something new and insightful to say every fortnight. My current solution is to say that my blog is on hiatus, because I am working on my book.

As for you newly minted MBAs: Don't be disillusioned. How many of you really believe what you read on those matchmaking and dating Web sites?

As I say on my macho male profile: Amicule, deliciae, num is sum qui mentiar tibi?—Baby, sweetheart, would I lie to you?


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Hesh Reinfeld writes a syndicated business humor column (www.heshreinfeld.com).

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