With so many competitors and distractions, marketing is essential for every entrepreneur.
Most of us understand that well. But when we try to apply it, sometimes our efforts can feel fake or superficial.
This is a pretty common feeling for creative types. We’d love nothing more than to work on projects all day and have the quality speak for itself. The last thing we want to do is pressure someone to buy something they don’t need – or rip them off.
At the same time, it’s tough (and stressful) when we’re not seeing results. Sometimes it’s that the market has gotten more competitive. Every so often, though, it’s because of you. You just don’t get it.
What’s the solution to this dilemma?
It’s turning to authentic marketing. Not only will you get the word out about your business more effectively. You’ll also do it in a way that doesn’t conflict with your core values.
Keep reading to find out how!
Marketing Well – Without Selling Your Soul
It’s so much easier to find success when you’re true to yourself. We’ve already discussed with it means to be an authentic entrepreneur today.
But how can you apply that to marketing?
Isn’t marketing, by its very nature, inauthentic?
Only if you limit yourself to a traditional approach. That approach would have you spend serious cash buying ads and saying pretty much whatever it takes to get customers in the door. It’s putting on a polished image – whatever it takes to position yourself as the best choice.
It doesn’t have to be that way for you, though. Here are some practical ways to become more authentic with your marketing:
Accommodate Less Linear Customer Journeys
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If you’ve studied marketing, you’ve probably seen illustrated flowcharts and funnels depicting how cold leads become paying customers. Those charts make the process seem so simple! It’s just a matter of attracting visitors, qualifying leads, and nurturing them to become buyers…
Or is it?
The typical buying journey used to be a lot more linear. Sure, it took longer to market complex products and services. But practically every buyer followed an easy-to-follow path.
Things are different now. Empowered with the internet and all kinds of new communication channels, would-be customers can diverge from your carefully crafted funnel.
Someone might hear about you on social media, forget about you for six months, then find you again on a YouTube video before joining your email list. Every customer’s journey is different – and messy.
Authentic marketers don’t fight this tide; they embrace it.
It’s a lot like dating (or any other type of relationship). You can’t expect to follow a formula and get everyone you meet to like you. You have to adapt to the specific person. Someone might fall in love and want to get serious right away. Another might have a lot of baggage.
Use customer feedback and analytics tools to trace these paths. Then figure out how to create meaningful interactions along the way. Go to platforms where your audience is already hanging out instead of expecting them to come to your own.
I’m not suggesting to ignore different stages of the buying journey. But don’t try to force people into a rigid funnel; engage them wherever they are.
Embrace Content Marketing
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It takes time to build authentic relationships.
Your target customers won’t know, like, and trust you until after multiple interactions. One of the best ways to do this is by creating valuable content.
Content marketing shows your audience that you know what you’re talking about. As you produce more and gradually build authority in your industry, you’ll nurture relationships in the process.
A PPC ad campaign can work well to bring in a batch of new leads (if you have the cash). But what about all those people who see your ad and just aren’t interested enough right then to click?
That’s where content marketing comes in.
Content that educates and entertains about a specific problem can attract people who are casually interested in a solution, but aren’t yet seriously invested. It can also resonate with serious buyers – and everyone else in between.
Ideally, you’ll create a range of content that appeals to the entire spectrum. Blog posts and social media help educate casual searchers about a problem. As their interest grows, you can offer webinars, email sequences and podcasts to help them learn more. White papers (and possibly free consultations or trials) can help them take the final step to become a buyer.
For every piece of content you set out to create, ask yourself:
How can I make this valuable for someone even if they never become a customer?
Creating value is the essence of authentic marketing.
Don’t Be Afraid to Express Your Core Values
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What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What are you willing to fight for?
Those might seem like philosophical questions, but they actually have a big impact on the authenticity of your marketing.
Your target customers prefer to do business with someone who shares their worldview. 84 percent of consumers said they seek out products that help address social and/or environmental issues whenever possible.
Consider how Apple built one of the most successful brands in history. Yes, there was always a grounding in great products and design. But there were also clearly-defined values attached. The desire to think differently. To be creative and challenge the status quo.
Not being afraid to express your values humanizes a brand. Instead of buying from a faceless corporation, an Apple customer might come away with the sensation that they’d just bought their first iPod from their rebellious, music-loving older brother.
Anonymous businesses online don’t stand for anything. But people do. The more willing you are to share your values, the easier it is to connect on a human level.
Your values might conflict with others’. That’s okay. A little polarity will draw the right people to you, and on a deeper level than the business who’s walking on eggshells just to appease everyone.
Finally, don’t say you’re authentic. Just be authentic. You wouldn’t trust someone who went around always talking about how honest they were. You might even think they had something to hide.
Stop Broadcasting – and Start Interacting
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I’m sure you’ve met someone who wouldn’t ever let you get a word in.
You put up with it for a while, but it quickly becomes unbearable. What’s the point of talking at all if they insist on dominating the conversation?
This is one of the hallmarks of a more aggressive marketing strategy. The idea is to get your message out at whatever the cost. And hope that you’ll pull people away from whatever they’re doing long enough to listen.
Even when this approach works and people buy, there’s no real relationship. You are faceless buyers and sellers. You don’t know your customers at all.
Authentic marketing abandons the broadcast model. It’s a conversation.
Listening is one of the first steps to making someone feel valued. Fortunately, digital platforms help you do just that. You can engage on social media. Go back and forth on email. Respond to comments on blog posts.
Wherever you can, invite customers to get in touch with you. Build up a wealth of feedback. And show them you’re responding to their needs by tweaking your content and business accordingly.
The benefits to doing this are twofold. First, conversing makes your audience feel valued, leading to more business. You’ll also gain cool new insights for products and services you couldn’t have gotten anywhere else!
Show Them You’re Human
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With all the unscrupulous businesses, identity thieves and other scammers out there, people are (understandably) skeptical about ads and marketing.
Your audience isn’t just investing in a solution to a problem. They’re also investing in a relationship with the person who offers the solution: you.
A large part of authentic marketing is simply showing the person or people beneath the business. In an increasingly connected but depersonalized world, they want to see that you’re human.
This demands transparency. It means not being afraid to inject your personality into your website, content, and interactions with potential customers.
Who would you rather trust? A perfectly polished corporate social media account that never says anything controversial? Or a website designer with an obsession for Game of Thrones and a penchant to post pictures of her cat on social media?
People are more likely to relate to the designer because she seems real.
Being real means having tastes, preferences, and a personality. It means being imperfect.
Give your audience a taste of what goes on “behind the scenes” to make your business happen. People want to know what your day is like, how your team gets on, and the challenges and struggles.
It’s time to stop pretending and commit to transparency. You don’t have to go spout off your political and religious views or be deliberately confidential, but a little transparency will help people connect with you.
By all means, post those memes and silly cat video!
Choosing authenticity can turn marketing from a nightmare into something you enjoy.
It might take some time to get the hang of if you’re used to a more traditional model or have hangups about marketing in general. But once you get in the groove, you’ll appreciate just how much easier and more natural everything feels.
Authentic marketing doesn’t try to bulldoze everything in the customer’s path to get their attention. It earns it for years to come.
And what’s easier than just being yourself?
Have you ever been conflicted about the need to market and not wanting to feel like a fraud? Do you think authentic marketing can help? Leave a comment below and let me know!