Honesty Sells: How authenticity can build your business
It seems so strange to say that in order to effectively market your business you should bring up the negative with the positive, but that's the world we live in now. Content marketing is all about story-telling and your potential clients know that we don't live in a Pollyanna world; if you're ready to admit that, you're leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.
It seems like these days, when it comes to social media, we run into one of two things:
1. People who only publish their highlight reels, portraying a life that no one can compete with (even them).
2. People who only publish their grievances, sorrow, and general dissatisfaction with the world. And we don't want to come across the same way.
However, embracing vulnerability can be the most healthy thing you could possibly do for yourself - and allowing vulnerability into your business could be the secret to connecting with your ideal client.
I've been on a podcast kick lately and I've been somewhat addicted to Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday. No one does an interview and gets to the heart of the matter like Oprah and I've noticed a theme with many of the experts she interviews:
Successful people allow themselves to be vulnerable in their professional lives. Actually, they don't just allow it. They embrace it.
I don't even know if they realize that they're doing it, but it seems like so many entrepreneurs have found success because they've leaned into their fears...and they've told EVERYONE.
These days, when it comes to being relatable, authenticity is the best way to go. And people can sniff out fakers through their computer screens.
Howard Schultz is the CEO of Starbucks and, to be honest, I'd never even heard his name before I listened to his interview. He begins by telling the story of WHY he started Starbucks - a story that had nothing whatsoever to do with coffee.
When he was a child, his father was a deliveryman. One day his father slipped on some ice and broke his leg. With no workers' compensation or disability, his father was fired from his job. So, as an adult, Howard Schultz wanted to create business that would allow even part-time employees to have benefits.
That was his "why." And he still follows his "why" almost $4 billion later.
He then proceeded to tell stories about how he once cried during a meeting, went back to Starbucks after resigning as CEO in order to get the company back to its original values, and all the mistakes that were made along the way. He talked about going back to the basics, even knowing that by doing so Starbucks might lose revenue.
He was completely transparent. And Starbucks rebounded.
It's about time
I don't know about you, but this shift toward honesty is something I'm enjoying. I've noticed more and more companies owning up to mistakes and talking about what's worked for them and what hasn't. Gone are the days of self-promotion. As consumers we respond to imperfection.
We relate to it because we know that no person or company is perfect.
In a recent article on SearchEnginePeople.com, they said the following:
An authentic brand is a company that is forthcoming and honest at all times. It promotes transparency for the purpose of engaging stakeholders, even when it’s possible to hide something potentially negative or damaging. In other words, authenticity is about being fully known, no matter the costs.
There are lots of different ways for brands to promote authenticity, but in today’s marketplace, it begins and ends with content. Your content is your brand. If your content is authentic, then your brand is authentic.
Honesty builds trust. Revenue follows.
Proof that it works
I have a hard time not being vulnerable on social media. In fact, I'm more likely to write about mistakes I've made than successes I've had. I don't mind that I've made mistakes. I can usually "find the funny" in a bad day (although sometimes it takes a while). And I've built a living telling people about it.
When I started blogging about grief, people would thank me over and over again for sharing what I was going through. In reality, it was as much for me as it was for them, but everyone responded to my posts about screw-ups, bad days, days when I didn't feel like I could get out of bed, and the small victories I found along the way.
I built a following of thousands...just by being human.
But this is a hard thing to get across to businesses. And I know their fears.
1. What if I do this and sound unprofessional?
2. If I admit that I make mistakes...why would anyone want to hire me?
3. They don't want to know about me. This is all about them.
However, the fact that everyone thinks these things is the VERY REASON why you should address them in your content.
One of my clients was recently quoted in a article about how much she learns from her clients: "I don't always have to be the smartest person in the room," said Kristi Sullivan, a certified financial planner in Denver, Colo. "Listening to clients is a great way to get new ideas and make the relationship stronger."
What a remarkable thing to admit! A professional who says that she learns from her clients? Isn't that risky? What if people think she's not an expert?
OR what if people think she actually listens to her clients, learns about their needs, and figures out the best way to serve them?
Authenticity at its finest.
How it works
The next time you start thinking about your next blog, video, newsletter or social media post, think about how it relates to your ideal client. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Can I relate a story from my own life into this blog?
2. Is there a success or hardship that I can draw on to help describe what I'm talking about?
3. What is one thing I can do to this piece or comment that will make it more relatable to my ideal client?
You'll find that once you start humanizing your marketing, you'll attract more actual humans.