Customers know that you’re lying. Or, if not lying, at least exaggerating, and they hate that. They crave authenticity.
People have so many choices about where to spend their money, allocate their attention and trust with their data, and in order to earn these things, companies need to master authenticity.
In fact, according to the Jack Morton Experience Brand Index, over 52% of consumers believe that companies fail to live up to their promises and a third equate overpromising and underdelivering with brands. These perceptions have dollar and cents consequences: almost half (47%) of consumers surveyed said that when brands lose their trust, they will no longer buy from them.
When you say something that isn’t true, are less than transparent about your product’s efficacy or safety, when you greenwash to appear more eco-conscious than you are, neglect to disclose your sponsors or when you fail to take responsibility for a problem or mishap that you caused, you are being inauthentic. And if this happens, customers, the online community and the media will make sure that you suffer for it.
Keys to Being Authentic
- Be honest. Honesty within your company should be valued, and you should make sure that employees know that they should be honest with customers too, both directly and through your marketing communications. Nobody likes to feel like they were lied to or taken advantage of, although this doesn’t mean that you tell everyone everything. It’s OK to keep some things confidential, but when you need to do this, say that you are not able to disclose this information and why. Being honest with customers makes you trustworthy and can translate into a higher lifetime customer value, increased revenue, a better reputation and more referrals and positive reviews.
- Express empathy. Remember the Apple commercial that depicted Microsoft as a faceless corporate dystopian nightmare? This is how many customers view corporations in general. They see them as self-interested, uncaring monoliths that are only interested in profits, not people. When customers have this kinds of negative feeling toward businesses, they don’t want to contribute to their success. Like honesty, empathy should be part of your company culture. In particular, customer service reps should show empathy when dealing with customer problems. Research on customer rage shows that when something goes wrong, the top things that customers want are: to be treated with dignity, to be told that the problem won’t be repeated, a resolution to the problem, to be talked to in everyday language rather than with a scripted response and for the company to put itself in the customer’s shoes. Authentic empathy goes a long way to build customer trust and long-lasting relationships.
- Take responsibility. Everyone makes mistakes. When your company makes a mistake, whether large or small, it is important to admit it, explain why it happened, make amends and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you have a goal such as sustainable practices and you have not yet achieved it, that’s OK. Tell customers where you are at in your quest to achieve it and what your next steps are in the process.
Act on these values both externally, with vendors, customers and the community in which you are based, but also internally. Treat your employees with the same care and transparency that you treat your customers. Aside from just doing the right thing, happy employees are more loyal and productive and having a workplace like this makes it easier to attract high quality employees in the future as you grow.
Example of Authentic Marketing
This ad for Mastercard showcases its specialized cards for visually impaired cardholders in a very visual medium: video. Take a look at how the company demonstrates its empathy and willingness to “walk the walk” in regard to its visually impaired customers by narrating the video.