In our age of instant information, customers are more informed and savvy than they used to be. Having a good product is not enough these days; where quality and price are equal the next biggest drive to buy for 53 per cent of customers is social purpose. With growing trends gearing towards more heartfelt posts on social media like Instagram and Facebook, the posts with the most shares have one thing in common; authenticity.
But what is authenticity? It’s a bit of a buzz word at the moment – like gratitude or purpose – but the unfortunate thing about buzz words, is the more they’re used, the more we tend to trivialise them. I’ve heard people say “everyone uses that word,” as if somehow the meaning is diminished. On the contrary, I believe the more people using words like authenticity, the more meaning and power it holds. You can witness the power of the word authenticity in marketing these days, many businesses are now concerned with appearing genuine because they know that customers aren’t simply looking for a product anymore. They’re looking for a story, an experience and a company they can trust and rely on. Therefore, a lot of businesses are now tapping into what makes them truly authentic to stand out from the rest and to gain trust from their customers over their competitors.
Aside from gaining trust and respect, being authentic gives you an edge that no one can compete with. Unless you’ve reinvented the wheel, in our saturated market, it’s safe to say that whatever your business is, there’s likely to be many others doing the same or a similar thing, which is the very reason why authenticity has become so important these days. It is the one competitive edge that you have over your competition, because out of the billions of people on the planet, there’s no one with the unique combination of ideas, life story and gifts that you possess.
So how can you tap into this authenticity in your own business? Well first of all, it is not something that you can aspire to or obtain, but rather it is something that you already have that you can tap into whenever you choose.
So how do we tap into what makes us unique and authentic?
Many businesses are so caught up on being ‘professional’ that they fail to relate to their audience and by doing this, they isolate themselves from potential customers. You can still be professional at the same time as being real. Let people know what drives you and your company, what its roots are and where you hope to take it. The key element that will speak to your customers is how you hope to serve people and add value, so find out what that is and share it.
Find a brand image that best represents what you do and stick to it. Brand inconsistency generates distrust and suspicion in audiences and mixed messages only serve to confuse your customers. Apple is a wonderful example of how consistency can pay off with a great reputation and customer loyalty. Their constant innovation, brand story, great customer service and elegant simple products, build an overall sense of trust and reliability; what you see is what you get, all across the board.
Have you ever been on the phone to an insurance or telephone company that immediately transfers you to a robot before making you hold for 20-40 minutes? In this day and age where companies are becoming more impersonal, being responsive is becoming more and more valuable. Prioritizing personal contact with your customers lets them know that you are there and you care, you’re not simply a website front to collect money without speaking to your customers directly.
This is arguably the most challenging part about building a business that is based on authenticity. It’s one thing to share what drives you as a company and where you hope to be in ten years, but it’s another thing to share your mistakes or the unglamorous journey it took to get to where you are. If you can bite the bullet and follow this step without holding back, you’ll gain trust from your audience like nothing else. Transparency breeds respect, trust and allows your audience to relate to the human, flawed parts of your business and appreciate the fact that you were honest and brave enough to share it.
Not everyone knows the definition of authenticity, yet somehow we all know when it is not present.