By STEPHANIE WOODCOCK
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product or service.” – Marty Neumeier
In a world of increasing imitation, imposters and artificial intelligence, authenticity in your marketing matters.
The term “marketing” gets a bad connotation because of shady intentions and gimmicks employed under its name. People think they are going to get “tricked” into something.
Marketing should be transparent, not tricky. Words don’t tell the whole story.
Build your marketing around culture, work and actions.
If we interchange the words “branding” and “marketing” with “reputation building,” we can better understand the goal: building the reputation of a company through the eyes of your customers and their perceptions.
Another uncertainty surrounding “marketing” is that it’s not black and white. Or all data driven. It requires emotion and intuition.
Our right and left sides of the brain are involved. Concentrating too much on the data side can come across calculated or not trustworthy. Concentrating too much on the emotional side can come across as dramatic and not professional.
The right balance portrays the authentic essence of a company. A company is more than facts, data and logic. It is people, culture, values and reputation.
Build your reputation along with your marketing.
It’s like meeting a new person. Do our brains assimilate only facts? No. We get a gut feeling of whether we like them or not. Our first instincts are a mix of data and intuition.
So should it be the case in our company’s reputation – a mix of data, facts and intuition.
Ultimately marketing is the truth of something. We are trying to portray the essence and truth of our companies.
Here are a few quick tips for building an authentic marketing plan.
- Ditch your mission statement. No one really believes it. It’s corporate speak for telling people what you think they want to hear. Instead, build your Community and Culture pages (on your website and beyond). This is more difficult than getting executives in a small room and pounding out a few sentences to put on a wall. Instead of “mission statement” or “value proposition,” interweave your culture and “truth” throughout your branding, content marketing, digital presence and every touchpoint with the customer.
2) Show, don’t tell. Words are cheap. Actions are real. Build a plan to show, not tell. What are your values and how will you show them? A bullet list of Core Values on our website doesn’t accurately portray a company’s reputation. Show your company’s culture, work and action in real time. Make it timely and transparent. Invest in more video to show action, work and culture. You can’t hide behind words here. You see the nonverbals, the energy and the essence of a company through video.
- Focus on your best assets – your people. Your people are your best reputation builders. If they aren’t happy, it will affect your brand (reputation). Culture at its best is when the brand (reputation) of the company is embodied and believed by the company’s employees. It’s a walking mission statement.
- Match your company personality with your professional assets, sales materials and marketing strategy. It’s like dressing well for an interview. Make a good first impression with your marketing materials. Especially when you don’t have the job yet. First impressions matter. But make an impression that is consistent with what you will provide long term for your clients.
- Be consistent. The fastest way to build trust and a good reputation is to show up. Be consistent in your marketing. Develop a “brand voice” that portrays your real purpose. It’s helpful to start backwards here. What do you want to accomplish and how you will get there with a step-by-step process. Don’t start a marketing plan that you can’t deliver on. You’ll lose trust and brand reputation.
- Think beyond tactical. It’s easy to think of marketing as tactical only. How do we get more leads? What email marketing platform should we use? How do we measure ROI? Intuition and gut feelings about your brand – your reputation – are just as important as tactics, if not more. What does your intuition tell you? Does what you are doing daily in your marketing align with the big picture of your culture and values? Is it genuine and transparent? People will respond to marketing built on transparency and authenticity with a greater purpose than just getting a website click or like on social. Being authentic is difficult. It requires being present, listening to your intuition, and clearly stating your purpose without ulterior motives.
- Don’t compartmentalize marketing. Authenticity in marketing extends beyond your campaigns and marketing departments. Every touchpoint of the customer throughout the company builds reputation. Being consistently transparent and true to your brand values only deepens customer trust and loyalty.
- Keep your promises. A brand promise is like a real promise. It’s not about the words or the fancy new look of a brand. It’s not what you think they want to hear. It’s intentional authenticity. Our brand promise is closely aligned with our culture. Both should have a purpose that resonates with our clients. Your clients want to trust in both your capabilities and your character. A brand promise is the purpose behind marketing’s message. People know when a company or person is not being true to itself. They spot discrepancies between the brand’s words and actions.
These things are difficult in marketing and branding, as they are in life. Reputation is everything, but worth the investment. Everything good is. The key to great marketing – as in life – is to be genuine, find your truth and trust your gut.
Stephanie Woodcock is president of Too Creative, a St. Louis-based marketing and creative design firm for businesses in the building industry. Contact her at Stephanie@toocreativestl.com or (314) 753-1148.