When you attend marketing seminars, or listen to a webinar, some of the speakers and presentations are inspirational and refreshing in their perspectives and approaches. Some are not. They can come across as fake and shamelessly self-serving. All of this is due to one main reason: a lack of authenticity. Insincere. Seemingly untrustworthy.
Authenticity is a popular term among Marketers, and for good reason. The fact is, consumers and clients now have countless numbers of competing companies to choose from for every decision they make. 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. Ten years ago, it was a different story; but now your potential clients have access to dozens, even hundreds, of firms 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. That often is a result of your perceived sincerity – and this authenticity takes on a few unique characteristics.
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 existance.
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 it’s 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 in order for it to work.
Yet here lies the difficulty: 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 (that, in and of itself, shows insincerity!). Make use of the golden combination of quality and honesty. Show your potential clients proof that 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 “authenticty” 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? Do they care?
To summarize, here are five tips on how to follow a truly authentic path for your business.
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