Plenty of people have written online marketing guides about how to sell a product or promote a brand. Many marketers focus on the best ways to use social media and SEO, or how to network. Too many of these guides miss one of the best tools in a marketer’s toolbox: honesty.

Customers are savvy. Whether a marketer’s promoting a social media site or online timecard software, their audience is going to know if they’re being lied to. The consequences of lying can be devastating. A company risks losing a lot of business if they get caught in a lie.

Some marketers think that it’s OK if they just bend the truth. But exaggerations are risky. Even if a product is great, if a customer was given false claims about what it does, they’re bound to feel disappointed and deceived.

The advent of social media means that news travels fast. Everybody on the Internet loves a scandal. If marketers lie to one set of customers, they should assume that others will find out.

Moreover, being honest to customers means that customers are that much more likely to trust a company. This doesn’t mean that marketers should show off their time clock software’s shortcomings and weaknesses. Instead, marketers should spin a positive story while being straightforward and truthful about what a product does or does not do.

Marketers need to put themselves in the customers’ shoes. They need to consider things like how a customer would feel if they were lied to. A customer who’s been lied to is far less likely to trust a brand and buy a product again. They might tell their friends about what happened, or call news media or even a regulatory agency.

It’s easy to lose that kind of emotional connection with customers when working in the industry. But empathy is important to good marketing. Marketers do their best work when they’ve connected with their customers’ desires, motivations, and needs — and customers want to hear the truth.

Finally, it’s easy to lose sight of what made a person get into the marketing industry in the first place. Some people might assume that everybody in marketing is a liar. If this were true, it would mean that it’s OK or even necessary to lie, in order to survive in the industry.

But no marketer punches their online time clock every morning, thinking excitedly about how they’re going to lie to their customers today. Though some in the outside world may not believe it, most marketers got into their business because they love spreading news about exciting products that they believe in.

Lying harms a worker’s morale, no matter what business they’re in. Being honest in one’s work is a great way to stay happy, and a marketer’s work is going to be better when they’re happy.