When you attend marketing seminars, or listen to a webinar, some of the speakers and presentations are inspirational and refreshing. Some are not and come across as fake and shamelessly self-serving. All of this is due to one main reason: a lack of authenticity.
Authenticity is a popular term among marketers. The fact is, consumers and clients can chose from countless companies in every aspect of their lives and businesses. If an unremarkable product or service disappoints, they can tell the world about it instantly on a social media platform. Pay attention B2Bs: just like traditional advertising isn’t enough for B2C businesses, reputation and a well-known name is no longer enough for service firms either. These days, your potential clients have access to dozens, even hundreds, of brands like yours. Why would potential clients choose you? What makes you stand apart from your competitors? Sometimes it’s just a good feeling people get, which comes from your perceived sincerity. Authenticity has unique characteristics. It helps to have a clear brand positioning statement reinforced by all angles of your brand identity.
According to this article from Fast Company, a brand feels authentic when it “comes from a sense of place, has a strong point of view, serves a larger purpose, and has integrity.” Where did your brand come from? What were the core reasons for starting your company to begin with? What are your values in life outside of your business? If you’ve retained those core reasons and qualities, your brand’s personality will be backed and verified by history. Time builds trust and this, in turn, validates your brand.
Trust is crucial for success no matter what group you’re targeting, but it especially matters if you’re trying to reach Gen Y. According to this article on the Insites Blog, Gen Y value origins, history, heritage and consistency in brands. Consistency is the most important word here: if all of a sudden you start marketing yourself to fit in with the trend of authenticity, but your tactics and tone are totally different from what you were before, people will notice. Your marketing approach has to come from a genuine place and has to fit with your personality or corporate identity in order for it to work.
How can you be sure that your quest for authenticity is coming from a “genuine” place? You can’t just tell people you are sincere. Make use of the golden combination of quality and honesty. Show potential clients proof you have a track record of providing excellent service. Communicate with your clients in a way that is unique to your personality and values. But don’t try so hard that it steers you away from your true brand personality. If you apply authenticity to the language, tone and topics that come naturally to you, you’ll have a sustainable model. However, if you try to apply a preconceived notion of the type of authenticity that you think “works,” people move on. Your employees may lose vision. You have to reconnect with the motivations, values, and unique qualities of your brand; by doing so, authenticity will come easily.
It’s easy to imagine latching onto authenticity as a marketing ploy. And an interesting paradox emerges: a de-authentication of authenticity. For example, there are many establishments that play on themes and pull it off well, while others look like cheap copies. Although some can make their trendiness appear to be honest and highly enticing/engaging (through a combination of luck, the right timing, and good execution), others just can’t make it work. Some companies have cool, cutting-edge websites, but in the end, what does it mean? Is it quantity over substance? Funky over functional?
The bottom line is this: Does the company understand the client? Does the company care?
Here are five tips on how to follow a truly authentic path for your business.