We spend a lot of time discussing authenticity with our clients. An authentic business truly inspires consumers and ultimately prospers. Some of our clients confuse authenticity with transparency, and others sometimes think that the very nature of marketing prevents the brand from being authentic. So, we take great care with our clients to build brands that are truly authentic.
It is often difficult to tell what really constitutes authenticity. In fact, most consumers can’t explain exactly what authenticity means or tell you how to achieve it. Simply telling one of our clients to be authentic doesn’t accomplish very much, either. So what is authenticity? It means staying true to who you are, what you do, whom you serve and, most importantly, why you do what you do. It’s a really simple concept, and to quote Simon Sinek, “It means that the things we say and the things we do are things we actually believe.”
At the end of the day, authenticity is really the basis of the “trust” a consumer develops in your company or brand. A consumer wants to have some sense that the beliefs and values of your brand align with theirs. People are drawn to others who are “like” them in certain ways. The same is true of brands. That alignment of values is the tightrope we call authenticity. If a consumer senses in any way that a company or brand is acting entirely out of self-interest, they will generally develop distrust and eventually steer clear or grow suspicious.
Many times, companies think they are being authentic by telling consumers what the consumer believes. Being authentic doesn’t mean listening and then spitting back what we hear. It means telling people what we stand for, why we do what we do, and then waiting to see who is attracted to us. This is the key to being authentic.
In today’s crowded marketplace, it is hard to stand out from the crowd, especially if you are a small company competing for a share of voice and share of wallet. So, when we first start working with a client, we spend a lot of time working with them to define who they are, what they do and why they do what they do. From there, we strongly believe that authentic companies lead and do not follow. We do not want any of our clients to be followers. We want to go first.
Authenticity matters more today than at any other time in the history of marketing. As advertising alone has lost its effectiveness, social media has filled the void. The primary reason for this is that most consumers now want to be engaged by the brands they love. Today’s consumer needs to know you before they love you. It’s like dating — they have to get to know you before they’ll trust you. They want some level of transparency, relevance and interaction. They also want to know that they are dealing with humans and not some faceless corporation.
For most small companies, we feel this creates an advantage over larger, less nimble competitors. These clients can’t afford to spend enough money on flashy ads and big promises, so we have to focus on authentic message platforms. Here are five ways that you can be more authentic:
- Be Real — This is what most brands find difficult. However, if you know what you do, what you stand for and why you do what you do, it’s easy. Focus on your purpose, your mission and your passions. Make sure that you show empathy when you can, and make sure that you are able to communicate that you really care. Don’t over-promote or force things on others.
- Let Clients Peek Behind the Curtain — I firmly believe that consumers want to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of a company they love. For example: How does an apparel company go about designing a particular piece of clothing? Or, how does the distribution center pick and pack 3,000-plus items a day? Consumers want to see that the company is more than just the product itself.
- Make Clients Feel Special — If a consumer has given you their email address or liked your Facebook page, they are saying — “Hey, I like you.” So if you are good at dating, you will say, “Hey, I like you, too, and want to make you feel special.” You do that by giving them things you don’t give to everyone else. Think free shipping, special loyalty offerings, etc. These will create an even deeper relationship with them.
- Be Consistent — Always maintain consistency. As soon as you venture too far off your purpose and mission, it will cause your core consumers to distrust you.
- Have a Personality — Consumers want you to have personality. Social media and content marketing are the perfect places to showcase your brand’s personality. Just make sure that your personality is in alignment with what you stand for.
Remember, today’s consumers are smarter and more empowered than ever before. They can see through bullshit and self-promotion. The brands that are truly authentic and stay true to themselves will be the most successful in today’s digitally dominated world. If you need help finding your voice, contact us today, and we can help.