According to an infographic from the agency Bonfire Marketing, 91% of customers want brands they follow to be authentic in their social media posts. This infographic also states that 63% of customers would buy from an authentic brand. These facts seem so obvious. But there is something deeper going on here. As some of you may know, I’m a “how” guy. Of course people want to buy from companies and people they feel are being authentic and genuine! But HOW do they know which ones are?
Last week, a new friend of mine in business took me to lunch to get to know each other a little better. Naturally, we began to talk about how we got to where we are today. To anyone else in the establishment, we may have looked like an odd couple to be sitting together. And they would be right. But this is exactly why we chose to get to know each other and explore some ideas together.
This friend of mine is in the financial industry, and I couldn’t have been happier when his words were “The financial industry is stale. I want to do something different. I’m 50 years old and I have no children. I want to leave something behind that people can remember me by. So I feel that I DID something with my life that was my own and I can feel good about.”
“You want to leave a positive legacy,” I replied. “That makes sense.”
He wasn’t saying this so one day he could gloat about it, or put his name all over it to get accolades from the community. Here is a guy who is reflecting and asking himself what it’s all for. We both know he is genuine, and I feel most of his clients get the same from him.
But what about those who don’t know him already? How do THEY know that he and his team, and their brand, is authentic in an industry that’s overtly “stale” and associated with greed and ego?
This gentleman and I both have some similar traits. We’re able to talk and connect with just about anyone, and allow ourselves to find amusement in people’s differences. Variety is the spice of life, and the best way to see ourselves is by choosing to be around people who can challenge us to see things in a new light. When we can appreciate our differences while holding true to our own values, we learn more about ourselves. This in turn helps us to become even more authentic in our day-to-day lives.
For me, authenticity runs right next to uniqueness. Although we may share many things in common with others, we all hold a unique blend of characteristics we call our own. I am a firm believer in the more questions we ask, the more clear we become. It is with this clarity that we can have courage to share ourselves with the world.
And this is exactly what branding is to me. It’s finding the ways that we can display which characteristics we feel are our strongest and closest to us, and that we feel most consistently able to naturally exude. It really is like turning ourselves inside out for the world to see.
It is this consistency our customers need from us. Across all platforms, communications, devices, applications, and websites. If our messaging is not uniform and congruent in all spaces, it will be spotted right away and eat away at our trust each time customers experience a disconnect in what we say versus what we do. This especially includes content.
The PR Firm Cohn & Wolfe, in a 2014 study, shared that the number one thing people demand of big brands is honesty about their products and services.
One great way to show transparency with your audience is to ask them questions. Be vulnerable! You can ask your audience what it is they want to get from you. Especially as a small business or a company offering new products and services, it is OK to acknowledge the elephant in the room that you don’t know each other that well yet. It is through maintaining a dialogue with your customers and listening to them, and then responding to their needs, that you will form the relationships needed for higher conversions.
It is not enough in this hectic world to just do business and make money. If that is all you’re doing, it is not likely to appeal to your customer base. Everyone has different causes they care about and want to feel as if they’re contributing to through the products and services they buy from the companies they like. And they like companies who are part of something bigger than themselves.
Although my new friend does hold a couple volunteer positions in the community and has been doing them for quite some time, he knows there is more to the world than the local school he supports with his time. Granted, he’s changed many students’ lives, but he doesn’t want to stop there. And he is exactly right.
You need to think in terms of the products and services you offer, and how to give back as a direct result of what you’re doing. If there is a way you can use biodegradable products, or support sustainable agriculture, or otherwise use byproducts in new ways for the greater good, let your customers know!
Better yet, if there is an organization that is already tied to your personal or brand story, go with them. It will help you to work harder and your work will be extra rewarding every time you write the check. And bonus, who doesn’t like another write-off?
Did you know:
48% of millennials admit to supporting brands “that are active in supporting social causes”? By the year 2030, millennials will outnumber baby boomers 78M to 56M.
If you’re like most people, you might find it is much easier to talk about others, or about the products we are offering, than it is to talk about ourselves our what our brand story is. Many times it simply takes a third party to ask the right questions to pull out information that is already there which wasn’t initially deemed as important.
There are many independent consultants and agencies who can help you do this. Find one in your area you can relate to and get a consultation. They are usually free, and if nothing else, you will leave with the satisfaction that you’ve done your research. Don’t get discouraged, though! If you don’t find one you connect with right off the bat, keep trying. There are a wide variety of different types of agencies and consultants, each with their own focus and value proposition.
Matthew Stoneking is a Connections & Communications Strategist, and Founder of the Corridor Connection Network and Put Me On Paper, LLC. His core values are Authenticity, Curiosity, Clarity, Connection, and Courage. Matthew helps people and organizations discover the Freedom and Abundance that naturally come from them. To learn more about how he can help you or your organization be purpose-driven and more Connected to what you’re doing, who you’re serving, and who you’re serving with, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text 319.601.0326.
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