There was a time when marketers had a bad reputation. They were seen as slimy, manipulative agents who tricked consumers into buying something the either didn’t want or that didn’t even come close to delivering what was advertised. That is changing. Why? Because your audience can sniff out your BS. And not only that, they will actively, aggressively and immediately jump on their technology to tell everyone else you are a swindler. Scared? You should be.
At no other time has it been more critical to practice authentic marketing. If you do–these same people will become your very own viral marketing and sales force touting your brand proudly through their networks. They are the fuel to lay your golden brick road to real, sustainable growth.
What is authentic marketing?
Authentic Marketing means the core of who you are connects directly and deeply to the core of your audience establishing an unbreakable bond. Your company’s brand fibers and their personal brand fibers meet fusing together in a way that is mutually beneficial to each parties desires, needs, and goals. You both are immediately fulfilled in some way that has the potential to last far into the future; as long as the established promise is continually met forming trust in the exchange.
Basically, you can’t say one thing then do something else and expect the customer to be okay with it. When doing brand discovery for various brands, I have discovered the following scenarios which illustrate this disconnect on different levels within a business.
Authentic Marketing Disconnects
- Operations: A restaurant had a menu describing the food in beautiful detail. Unfortunately, the menu was not to date with the head chief’s vision of the dishes given the seasonality and availability of certain elements. What the customer ordered was not what they received. Their initial expectations on what they were getting was not met. The brand promise was broken. Oh, and to boot, the price on the menu was wrong. So when the guest received their bill the cost of their dinner was higher than what was presented originally. Needless to say, the distaste in our (luckily or unluckily) mystery shoppers’ experience was on the sour side.
- Culture: After interviewing the entire executive team of a Fortune 1000 company, all clearly stated that the relationship with the client was at the top of their brand list. However, these words were not well backed up in substance. For one thing no where in the building was there a single element connecting the people to the clients. No photos. No client service recognition programs. No loyalty artifacts. Nothing in the company values. Additionally, the employees themselves were not treated with the same respect they were told to treat their clients nor were they empowered to quickly meet clients needs or solve their problems.
- Communication: Companies many times err by focusing on communicating often versus well. When looking at the data they collect it becomes really apparent on how respectful they are of their market. After taking a deep dive into some funnel strategies it became clear that they were about reaching numbers not hearts; quantity over quality. Spamming the heck out of your customer list just creates animosity, which directly reflects on your brand. Instead, earn the right to sell by getting to know your customer and their unique pain points, then showing how you can solve them. The wonderful thing about this approach is you build rapport through every touch making the customer journey enjoyable and highly effective.
Each of these examples illustrates how easy it is to give a customer any reason to not do business with you. Earning back trust after it is broken is not only a difficult feat, but also one that carries a hefty price tag with it. Make sure at every turn your company is reinforcing its brand using authentic marketing not cannibalizing it with destructive, poor tactics.
Authentic Marketing Tips
First, take a long look in the mirror. If who your company thinks it is does not match up with the reflection of what it actually is, then no matter what actions you take you won’t be successful in the long run. Know who you are as a business and your vision of who you want to be when you are fully grown. Make sure you believe in the direction you are going. If you don’t align from this core, you can’t expect anyone else in your company to either.
Second, get vulnerable. Ask others to chime in without fear of retribution. Put your personal feelings aside and really listen. I’ve found the best way to do this is through a brand discovery interview session done be a third party who keeps the feedback completely anonymous. This findings are typically shocking, but here is where the real growth happen to bring your organization true brand grit.
Third, own the change. Find it in yourself and ask for it in others to be the flag bearers of this charge to be authentic inside and out. Review every core philosophy, policy and process for ways to infuse who you want to be. These will help your vision come alive real time within your business.
Fourth, instill celebration. To make sure you are continuously moving forward in the right direction to deliver on your promise of authentic marketing, put in place markers that celebrate particular milestones you achieved along your journey. Not only will this keep your objective alive and well, it will also provide your business with an opportunity to pivot, make change or reinforce key initiatives to keep your progress on track and healthy.
Solid successes are born from a solid foundation. Authentic marketing infuses your brand with the right stuff to get you there. With it you gain the resilience and confidence to see your business be all that it can be.