Last Updated on October 28, 2022 by Troika Gellido
Gone are the days when slick and flashy marketing strategies worked for consumers.
Today, keeping consumers happy requires transparency, above all. They’ve dealt with inauthentic marketing for as long as they can remember, and they’ve had enough.
“People don’t want to be sold. What people do want is news and information about things they care about.”, says Larry Weber in his book, Authentic Marketing. He discusses how the use of authentic marketing should be based on operating with a higher purpose. Companies can only gain customer loyalty if they can relate well to their customers by feeding their passions.
Seth Godin agreed on this with his iconic book, This is Marketing. He writes, “Instead of selfish mass, effective marketing now relies on empathy and service.”
By “selfish mass,” he means people who have dollar signs for eyes. Usually, their mantra is ‘sell, sell, sell’. But authentic marketers know this: before selling to people, modern marketing has to connect with people.
So, if you want to have an authentic connection with your customers, you should do it in a way that authentically clicks with them. You shouldn’t compete on price, but rather on how well your brand matches their values.
This article will guide you through authentic marketing, its strategies, and what you can do to ensure that you’re being genuine in your efforts.
What Is Authentic Marketing?
Authentic marketing is exactly what it says: marketing that is authentic. It shows your brand’s true colors, and it messages things as they are rather than what you think people want to hear.
As simple as this definition may sound, some marketers toss the term “authenticity” around and don’t really implement it. They’d rather see what other brands are doing…and do the exact same thing.
Understandably, all of us want to do something that’s proven to work. Yet, when you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. Your goal isn’t to cast a wider net, but to find those who will stand by you no matter what.
If nothing else has worked so far, try being authentic for a change.
Why Is Authentic Marketing Important?
Inauthentic Brands Don’t Go Too Far
According to members of Forbes’ Agency Council, “consumers treat businesses that try to perform inauthentic marketing with disdain, and modern cancel-culture can lead to massive PR disasters.”
Annoying as it may be, brands are scrutinized for everything they do. That’s not to say you need to step on eggshells to market your products, but none of us would like to be called out (or worse, canceled) for trying to be something we’re not.
Earning Your Customers’ Trust is Your Goal
Your customers’ trust is like happiness: it can’t be bought. And if it can, then you’re doing it wrong.
Think of the people you trust. Who are they, and what makes you trust them?
Those are the people who don’t do you wrong and who keep their promises. As a result, they make you feel safe. That’s exactly what makes people buy their favorite product, keep buying it, and choose it over the competition.
You Have Pains to Solve and Desires to Fulfill
In simple terms, people buy things for two main reasons: to get closer to pleasure and further away from pain. Every single product does one or both things in different ways.
As a business, you can only help consumers solve real pains and reach pleasure by wanting to make their lives better – and then by proving you’ve done it. They’ll tell you all about it in testimonials, comments, reviews, and even in person.
In contrast, you can’t prove that with shameless marketing that puts sales over solutions. Because a hard sell doesn’t stem from authentic service but from pressure alone.
How to Earn Loyal Customers With Authentic Marketing
Get Into Your Customers’ Heads
We click with people who match our worldview. When we say “this world sucks,” we don’t want people to disagree with us. We want them to tell us “the world does suck, but hang in there.”
In Copyhackers’ book Where Stellar Messages Come From, Conversion Copywriter Joanna Wiebe writes that “people who won’t derive enough value to talk about your product after using it are not your target audience.” So strive to find your target audience.
The more you research your customers, the deeper you can get into the real value they derive from your products. This way, you can better understand where they’re coming from, why they feel the way they feel, how they speak, and what they stand for. That’s key to authenticity.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What do your customers believe in? How do they view themselves? How do they view the world they live in?
- How do they speak? What are the words they use to talk about solutions like yours? (Knowing this can help you match their voice, increasing your chances of connecting with them)
- What do they expect from solutions like yours? What claims are they used to?
- What was their motivation to seek you out in the first place?
Hire People Who are Excited About Your Values and Mission
Your Values and Mission are more than just blank fields in a branding document. They carry the DNA of your business, which means they should support every single thing you do.
That’s why your efforts in authentic marketing will be vain if your employee attitudes don’t match the company’s underpinning.
Take Google Careers’ word for it: “It’s hard to build a fulfilling career on something that doesn’t excite you.” If an employee isn’t excited about what their company represents, they simply won’t support it.
As an example, some companies claim that they support diversity. But once you take a look at their staff, you’ll see that’s not the case at all.
If you rave about valuing your customers’ time, be sure to have 24/7 support available. If you’ve given presentations about women in the workplace, hire more women.
If you don’t do those things, there will be a disconnect between actions and words, and your company will be seen as inauthentic.
Don’t Make Up a Brand Story
Not all brand stories are inspiring and otherworldly. Some business owners feel the need to whip up a life-changing story when they could be honest and say, “I had this idea while I was in the shower.” Which is a pretty cool beginning, by the way.
What matters most is whether your product turns your customers into better versions of themselves – and whether you’re honest about how it does that. All your story should do is support your claims and actions.
Make a Big Promise and Keep It
You’re likely familiar with Domino’s “30 Minutes or it’s free” policy. That’s a massive promise because customers can time the delivery if they want to. If it doesn’t happen on time, they get to keep the pizza for free.
This benefits both the company and the customer: the more they keep their promise, the more orders they’re likely to get. Because customers know that they can safely expect a pizza at their door without being ripped off.
Whatever you promise, keep that promise. If you can’t keep it for whatever reason, make up for your customer’s lost time and money.
Show Them Behind the Scenes
What does a day at your company like? However boring you may think it is, don’t be afraid to show it. Just like a brand story, it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. Just real.
Digital media company Betches has found success on Instagram and TikTok by having employees make fun sketches based on work life. That screams authenticity because they still include the daily struggles, the annoying coworkers, and the strict bosses.
If you get your audience laughing, agreeing, or nodding along, you’re doing the right thing.
Keep Voice Consistent Throughout Your Marketing
As subtle as a change is, people can tell when you’re faking it. You’ve probably seen brands using way too much slang trying to sound jovial, but all they do is sound unnatural.
If you have to drop an F-bomb, then do it. The wrong people will be taken aback, but the right ones will see themselves and their own vocabulary in the words you use.
Own Up to Your Mistakes
From a silly typo to a heart-wrenching apology, owning up to your mistakes shows character.
If no human being is perfect, then no brand is perfect, either. And it’s silly to portray it like it is.
As long as you don’t just say sorry, but listen and learn from those mistakes, you’re being authentic.
In 2015, pop singer Taylor Swift exposed Apple Music for not paying artists when their music was being played during free trial periods. Here’s what Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, had to say about it:
“#AppleMusic will pay artists for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.”
“We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.”
Apple was willing to publicly make a change in order to accommodate their customers’ best needs. Whenever possible, you should do the same.
Plan and Strategize Authentic Content
These are great ways to look at it, but it all boils down to how you are going to execute your authentic marketing strategies. By planning how you want to present your authentic content to your target audience, what platform you will use for it, and when should you post it will make a lot of difference.
Just because it’s authentic, doesn’t mean everything should also be spontaneous. Successful marketing needs to have the right timing and platform. Got great customer reviews? Should you post a video about it? Would you try email marketing to get more reviews? What are the peak hours your customers are online? While spontaneity is big part of it, a little planning and strategizing can help you right market discover these organically.
Above All, Be of Service
To borrow from Godin, “Marketing is not a battle, and it’s not a war, or even a contest. Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.” Being of service is the only way to earn loyal customers who will stick around for the long run.
Once you get this, you’ll understand something a lot of marketers don’t: that being authentic is about not trying to put on a flawless storefront. Sure, that helps. But if a storefront isn’t buttressed by honesty, it won’t be long until the façade is blown away.
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