Authenticity is a word you’ll hear frequently in the world of business. But what does it really mean and why do we need to prioritise being authentic in our pursuit of business success? It surely can’t make that much difference to our plans to build, scale, and prosper?
Authentic or bust
‘Authenticity’ put simply means staying true to who you really are. Whether that’s in your personal life or work life, the same rules apply. To be viewed as authentic, you are honest about who you are, what you believe in, and are true to these beliefs. It’s pretty simple really. In our over informed, over-marketed, over-connected world, this very human quality of authenticity is being prized above all others. It creates value and benefits to businesses that are the key to growth and success at all levels. And more importantly, being inauthentic can harm your brand in equal measure.
Messaging is king
In the 1970’s consumers received around 500 marketing messages per day, and that has risen consistently every decade to more than 5,000 per day at current estimations. Whether these are messages via TV, phone, radio, streaming services, podcasts, whichever way media is being consumed, consumers are being bombarded wherever they go. So how does a brand stand out from this overwhelming marketing noise? How do we get a brand seen, heard, engaged with? The answer is to have an authentic voice. To have built up a brand message, a brand purpose and to pursue that through strong branding, and a communications strategy that keeps this message consistent and honest throughout. Having that consistency and true purpose is crucial to engaging with your consumers on whatever platform you choose.
Time and energy
You’ll soon discover in your business startup, that time is your scarcest commodity. Wasting time trying to sell a message or a brand that you don’t truly believe in is an uphill battle. Consumers will very quickly pick up on the lack of honest commitment and it’s difficult to claw back from that. Start by being yourself. Doing something you feel honestly invested in. Being a brand that you can stand behind with a message that you truly believe in. If you can do that and consistently tell the same story because you really are invested in it, your customers will be far more likely to join you.
Erosion of trust
The ‘infodemic’ that we are all subject to these days is ever growing. From constant news streamlining to ever-multiplying social networks, data breaches, and increasingly sophisticated marketing tactics. The world from a consumer’s point-of-view is one filled with suspicion and a deep seated lack of trust. Whether it’s fake news or suspected disinformation through endorsements and brand collaborations, it’s hard to know what you can believe. At core, trust is the glue that holds together any good relationship and businesses are no different. To build trust, to grow customer loyalty, engagement and respect, you need authenticity. Any business with brand loyalty has a built-in competitive advantage so it’s something to truly prioritise.
Consider authenticity like a sliding scale. At one end, a fully authentic business, honest and transparent, true to its values and core beliefs, open and responsive to its stakeholders. Bu what is at the other end of the scale? An unreliable business? A business with no respect? It’s hard to imagine that this option would appeal to any business owner. And truly the space in between the two ends of the scale is hardly appealing too. There really is only one option if you have a goal to launch, grow, and make a success out of a business you care about. Do it with authenticity at the forefront or spend time later wishing you had.
How to be authentic?
Making authenticity your goal is not something to be afraid of. It might in fact be one of the most enjoyable and attainable new business goals to achieve. Bear in mind a few key considerations when you’re making decisions and planning your communications and you should be on the right track.
Clarify with yourself what the goals of your business are. What you believe in? What is important to the company and why? When you’re clear on those, make sure they are front and centre in everything you do. Staying clear and honest about your intentions and motivations is invaluable.
Don’t confuse your customers by telling one story about your brand then switching it up on another piece of marketing. Keep your marketing clear and consistent. Keep your brand purposes and voice on track and don’t be tempted to veer away from your original goals.
Every communication counts
From a response on social media to a nationwide press release, every piece of communication coming out of your brand counts. You should be comfortable with anything you release, no matter how small to be printed on the front page of tomorrow news and that it is completely representative of your brand.
Accept and own mistakes
Mistakes are going to happen. Be prepared to accept and own up to them. Be honest and decent in how you handle them and move forward learning as much as you can from them.
It’s easy to be distracted by changes in the market and by what your competition are doing. Don’t. You’ll only be tempted to dilute your own brand in doing so. Stay confident in your own initial goals and move forward with them. Let others follow you. Not vice versa.
Engage, engage, engage
Authenticity requires real communication. Proper engagement. Emails should have a quick response. Social media must be manned and interacted with in real time. Customers are real people and you have to engage with them as such. Keep your brand voice central and engage with your community whenever and wherever you can.
Consumers are increasingly disturbed by sophisticated marketing techniques. We all recognise how strange it is to have something pop up on your social media feed after you’ve discussed the product with a friend. Whether it’s retargeting or leaking data to other firms, consumers are naturally distrustful of a ‘corporation’ so it’s important now to be human. Be real people talking to your customers. Send real, specific answers to comments or enquires, not stock, automated responses where possible. Listen to your community, really hear what they have to say and build their feedback into your engagement. It will make all the difference.
No matter what your business idea is, take time to dig deep into the ‘why’ of your brand. What do you think is important, what do you want to achieve, and how do you want your business to impact the community and the consumers it engages with? Making decisions and setting strategies with brand authenticity at the heart of your plan is wise no matter what you plan to sell and where you see yourself.
Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.