Marketing for small businesses is becoming increasingly difficult. Customers are growing tired of traditional paid and owned advertising. We’re living in the age of the customer experience, and the same principles apply when it comes to marketing. Consumers want a brand they can trust and build a relationship with. They want to connect with brands and that means that businesses need to consider spicing up their marketing strategy this year. Customers today want authenticity.
The ideas of authenticity and marketing may seem like polar opposites. But, in the digital age, consumers are so connected that authenticity is essential to successful marketing. Customers have the advantage. They have access to all of the information they could ever want to know about your product or service. They also have unprecedented access to a global network of reviews, both positive and negative, on which to base their opinions of not only your products and services but your brand as a whole. News spreads fast on social media, and your brand could turn from being on top of the world to a sinking ship in no time.
Authenticity in marketing means being honest and transparent with your customers.
Make it personal- while the concept of personalization in marketing is nothing new, taking the time to let your customers know you care can really go a long way.
Own your mistakes and shortcomings- customers will be more likely to extend you some grace if you’re humble and willing to engage them if you fail to meet their expectations
Respond, don’t react- if you receive a negative comment on social media, address it quickly and with honesty. Avoid knee-jerk, emotional reactions that will perpetuate a negative image.
One way to promote authenticity this year is to ask for feedback from your customers. Traditional marketing is a one-sided conversation. It involves a business sending a message to a customer and waiting for the sales to start pouring in. However, being authentic requires participation from both sides. Call your customers on the phone, or better yet, meet with them in-person. Ask them what their perception is of your brand and company. Let them know that their opinions and stories are valued. While you might be surprised at how your brand is received in the real world, you have a tremendous opportunity to really connect with your customers in an authentic, honest way. Then, use that feedback to improve your marketing effort.
Get familiar with earned media. Earned media is a relatively overlooked marketing tool. According to business.com, earned media is when “a business or business leader is written about, quoted in or contributes to a publication or website.” So, basically, the more credibility you have across your industry, the more likely your customers are to trust you and your brand.
It’s no longer enough to market and sell a product or service well.
Customers want to know what you’re doing with their hard-earned cash when they hand it over to you. They want to know your brand’s purpose and place in the bigger picture.
Are you giving back to the greater good? Are you trying to find eco-conscious sourcing or manufacturing? They want to be proud that what they are purchasing and they want to know that you’re committed to making the world a better place.
Stay true to your brand. This may seem obvious if you’re aiming for authenticity, but don’t feel like you have to reinvent your brand to remain relevant. Brands that try to reinvent themselves end up straying from their original core values. Customers can practically sniff out when you’re trying to be something you’re not. You created your company with a vision and values in mind, be yourself and stick to them.