Being Authentic is Your Best Approach

Authenticity: Get Real or Lose Your Business

It’s time to get real. Consumers today are savvy. They have more tools at their disposal, are more connected, aware and conscious than ever before. If your business isn’t being honest and genuine, you’re in trouble.

People are opting out of heavily photoshopped models and superficial ad campaigns. Instead, they are gravitating toward authentic depictions of real life, with #nomakeup and #nofilter hashtags trending all over social media.

Today’s consumers won’t settle for anything less than the truth. When your brand isn’t transparent and real, consumers will not only recognize your deceit in an instant, but they are more likely to call you out on it.

Authentic Marketing

What does authenticity mean? The dictionary definition is, “representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself.”

In marketing, the idea is the same. Authentic marketing is staying true to your business values and being honest with your audiences about them. In a brand authenticity study, the top 10 brands, which included Disney, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple, scored high because they consistently delivered on what they promised. They also protected their customer data and communicated with transparency.

Why Authenticity Matters

Years ago, brands may have gotten away with aggressive advertising and promotional marketing tactics, but not anymore. Consumers will actively ignore brands that try to tell them what they need or how they should look or act.

Advances in technology have helped to influence this consumer-centric shift. However, another major influence is Millennials, with their huge population and significant buying power. Last year, Pew Research Center announced that Millennials (75.4 million) are now the largest living generation in the United States, surpassing Baby Boomers (74.9 million).

According to a report by Accenture, they collectively spend over $600 billion per year. By 2020, their buying power is expected to rise to $1.4 trillion annually and account for 30% of total retail sales─and that’s just in the United States.

Millennials have been a force, but their desire for authenticity isn’t exclusive to those aged 18-34. It permeates every generation and is forcing companies to change their ways or get left behind.

Individuals have more power to choose what types of content they consume. When people buy a product, it is more than just a transaction. The brands that they choose to support are a reflection of themselves and who they want to be.

Trust and Authenticity

Authenticity is not just good business ethics, it’s critical to your bottom line. Across the board, people consider a company’s ethics when making buying decisions. A study from research firm Mintel found that 56% of buyer will quit buying from a company if they believe it is unethical─27% will even ditch you for a competitor that has better ethics but lower quality.

The study also revealed that over 63% of consumers believe that a company’s ethics will be an even more important factor in the future. Nothing builds trust and helps audiences connect with a brand like being real. What can your brand do to connect with consumers in more authentic ways?

Tips to Be More Authentic

Although being authentic means that your brand should be genuine, honest and real, it doesn’t mean that you should wing it. Authentic marketing needs to be thoughtful. Crafting messages and marketing that reflect your business and core values takes planning. These tips can help you connect with customers in more authentic ways.

Get to know your customers.

People support brands that align with their own beliefs and aspirations. What do your customers care about? If your company sells only eco-friendly products, then your customers likely care about the environment. If you sell high-tech gadgets, they may be passionate about startups and innovation. Their interests are part of the story that your brand tells.

However, don’t simply play off their interests and passions to sell product─that is the opposite of authentic. Also. those values will not only shape your marketing messages, but they will influence how you run every aspect of your business, so choose them wisely.

Incorporate user-generated content.

User-generated content (UGC) can be a post in Reddit, an online review, a blog, or a photo on social media. It is any content created by users, and it can positively impact brand engagement, site traffic, sales, reputation and more.

It’s hard to believe a business when it tells you that its products or services are great. However, when real people and users share their experiences, consumers listen. More than 70% of people value user reviews and recommendations over branded content. When it comes to Millennials, 84% say that UGC influences their purchasing decisions.

Interact with customers on social media. Respond to reviews, even if they are negative. With user permission, share photos, videos and other content that features your product.

Go live with video.

Real-time updates are growing in popularity thanks to apps like SnapChat and Facebook Live. They can give customers an inside look into your business. Since it is in-the-moment and unedited, people are more likely to trust the content. Even short clips that show employees or demonstrate your product in action can have a powerful impact.

Listen

Authentic marketing is about honest interaction. Consumers are telling brands what messages they will respond to, what interests matter to them and how they want to interact. They are sharing their opinions on social media and review sites. Businesses just need to listen. User feedback is invaluable to your bottom line and to growing your business. Establish a system to collect and catalog feedback across multiple channels, and consider it when making strategic decisions.

What hurts trust in your brand?

It can take a lot of hard work and time to build up a reputation as a brand that is trustworthy and authentic. Unfortunately, it could only take one mistake and a few seconds to damage or destroy it.

It is crucial that you focus on being authentic in everything you do, and defend against things that will jeopardize your reputation. Here are some keys to remember:

●      Stay consistent. Honor your values and your customer promises. Failure to deliver on them consistently will cost your business dearly.

●      Superior customer service and experiences. One of the most important factors for business success is a positive and seamless customer experience.  Everything from your website design to your product packaging is part of the buying experience, so it should all reflect your business.

●      Be transparent. In other words, don’t be shady. Don’t use confusing business jargon. Give customers an inside look.

●      Be honest and take responsibility for failures. Sometimes we learn the most from our failures and being real about those. People will respect that you can acknowledge a failure, but highlight what you learned and make sure your take steps to make it right.

●      Show don’t tell. If you need to say you are honest, you’re probably not.  

The most important rule for authenticity is: Be yourself. It may sound like cliche dating advice, but it’s accurate. You can’t keep a false charade going for long. Eventually, if you are not being true to yourself and your business, it will catch up to you. You won’t be able to meet the expectations of the customers that you acquired and will lose them. It will hurt your business reputation, often to a point of no repair and can be fatal to your business. Still having trouble highlighting what makes your business exceptional and genuine? It’s okay to get advice from outside. Contact 10twelve to see how our agency can help you with your marketing efforts.