Alexa, play ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morissette.
Now that you’ve got the right background music (and yes, I know none of those situations she mentions are truly ironic, which makes the song perfectly ironic if you ask me), let’s talk about a common problem in business marketing: authenticity.
‘Be authentic’ is not a task waiting to be checked off your to-do list…and it’s harder than it sounds for most organizations. Should we really tell it like it is? Should we talk about ourselves, our customers, our solutions and service without any spin? Can we lift our corporate veil and show personality? And more strategically, do our customers trust us? Are we genuine with them?
Now, for the irony: I think Ashley Deibert, Vice President of Marketing at iQ Media, said it best:
“[…]the irony here is that marketing, by nature, isn’t really authentic. It’s an all-out arms race as brands compete to showcase their products and services in the most attractive, clever and appealing light possible while simultaneously downgrading their competitors and sweeping any negative commentary under the rug.” [source]
I’ll make a broad assumption here and say that we’ve all been caught in the trap of insincerity in our marketing – whether it’s to help close a deal, adapt to a CEO’s demands, or create perceptions in the market — we are asked and assumed to be comfortable with inauthenticity.
But we see companies that are thriving, digitizing, and growing that feel like authentic brands.
So how can we define authenticity in marketing? Being authentic IS: engaging people with your company in a way that is true and genuine. Being authentic IS NOT: a tactic to trick more people into giving you money.
Marketing is at the tip of the arrow in helping others experience your business authentically — and let’s be real, it’s not easy to rethink all of your tactics and filter for “authentic engagement” before every campaign.
So how can you, marketing, overcome the irony and bring authenticity to the table in the areas where you have the most influence? Genuine interest in your customers and prospects. Not only do you need to have the interest, you need to incorporate it into your marketing strategy and tactics. Here are two areas you can consider to immediately improve your authenticity:
Let me be the first to say, I used to think it was really neat to put someone’s first name field into an automated email campaign. But, if the name field is the only thing personal about your email campaigns, you might be doing it wrong.
Today, personalization in marketing is about building a depth of understanding about your potential customers. Know their business, the people, and the pain points. Communicate authentically with valuable insight and without ‘tricks’. Here are some examples to personalize your campaigns:
- Track your potential customers pain points and target your content and outreach accordingly
- Work with a Sales Development Rep (SDR) for your ongoing communication so emails truly are personal without weighing down your sales team
- Clean-up contacts in your lists — smaller lists can be managed more personally
- Track things like customer anniversary dates, preferences, and interests and create engaging campaigns that use this information
- Keep data and notes on any interactions that you can reference in a personal way
- Support your sales team by encouraging personal communication and follow through (e.g. provide thank you cards and gifts and incentivize sales to use them)
For any Account Based Marketing enthusiasts, this probably feels like nothing new — simply engage target accounts in a more personal way. By gathering the data you need to get more targeted, opportunities to be more personal in your marketing will present themselves (think about it: how can position your brand as caring about your customers if you aren’t spending time understanding them).
Check Your Agenda
When producing content, deploying campaigns, creating events — check your agenda. It’s okay to have revenue goals on your mind; just think of authenticity as an effective strategy to reach them. Be genuine in your interest in creating marketing that helps your customers.
How can you tell if you agenda needs checked? Here’s a specific example I see every day: gated content. Gated content is basically content with an agenda that needs triple-checked. If we are genuine in our desire to help customers, why do we keep our most useful and helpful content hidden behind a form? In a recent and insightful blog, Gated Content 101, Pinja Virtanen of Advance B2B writes:
“So you’ve declared to the world that your company is customer-obsessed, user-friendly, accessible, and well… human? That’s great, but as you probably know by now, saying that you’re something isn’t enough. […] I don’t know about you, but lead forms never gave me the warm and fuzzies. So if you want people to buy into your beautiful brand promise of customer-centricity, you might want to reconsider your forms.” [source]
Challenge yourself and your team to continually evaluate your agenda and make sure it’s authentically representing who you claim to be. Are we just trying to get campaigns out the door? Or are we trying to build engagement in a meaningful way?
So, the song is ending and you want to wrap this up.
To summarize, authenticity is leading the way to improved customer engagement, proven by companies who get it right (and those who get it wrong). If you read this and think, “oh yikes, we are a little inauthentic”, start by having some dialogue about what an authentic experience could look like. Test out some new tactics and introduce programs that are completely based in authentically caring for your customers and wanting to understand them.
Authentically out of words,