I’m writing this as I sit at a hotel in DC. To my left is a flat screen streaming today’s news stories; a potential winter storm due to hit Virginia and the Manti Teo “Dead Girlfriend Hoax” as it’s starting to be known. At first I was a little confused and surprised about what was going on with this dead girlfriend hoax story — but then I shook my head and asked myself why I was surprised at all. This is certainly not the first incident of people, institutions and certainly businesses being afraid to simply say what was so.
What’s a marketers’ responsibility around authenticity?
It seems that we’ve been traveling down the slippery slope of bastardizing authenticity and integrity. We’ve been playing with definitions and changing them around to suit our needs — and then we wonder why our customers aren’t buying what we’re selling.
As a marketer, you’ve probably said “be authentic” more than a thousand times — but what does being “authentic” look like? The simplest definition of the word “authentic” is that it is indisputable or original. In other words, it’s an honest representation of your product, service or opinion that isn’t colored or covered up by fancy words or terms that serve YOUR purpose of appearing smart and knowledgable instead of focusing on your ideal customer and what matters to them.
People see through this and they turn against it.
A case for being plain spoken
In my Twitter stream this morning, I saw an article about a young intern who wrote a letter asking for an internship. Usually, these letters are wordy and self-inflating. But this one was different. This young person simply said what was so. He or she sat down and literally thought about who his audience was and what they might be thinking — and then he said what was so.
Take a look at this!
As you can see from this letter, authentic DOESN’T mean unprofessional — it means simply saying what is SO. And what’s so in this case, is that the writer (marketer who wants his customer to choose him) is clear about his level of experience and even more importantly, he is clear about his commitment to learning and hard work.
Apparently, he’s hit on his customers’ hot button because this letter has gone viral — it’s been passed around from investment firm to investment firm and the kid has probably gotten a call from every firm that has seen in in the two to four hours that it took for it to make the rounds across Wall Street.
How to bring magnetic authenticity to your marketing
Be clear about who you are. This is critical and it requires some self-reflection. What assumptions are you making around what really matters to your customer/audience? Chances are you THINK they are looking for “the smartest, most experienced” person out there. While this might appear to be the case — it isn’t necessarily so. Take some time to honestly assess your natural strengths and skill set. Are you a connector and relationship builder? Are your detail oriented or a perfectionist? It honestly doesn’t matter what your talents, strengths and skills are. Believe me, there are customers and clients out there who are looking for exactly what you have to offer.
Focus on what matters to your audience. I thought I was good at this. But when I had another marketing expert look at some of my emails, she pointed out that a lot of my sentences were focused on ME and what mattered to ME and not to the person I was writing to. It took at least three revisions of a simple email for me to get close to being focused on my reader and not on me.
For decades there’s been a debate about whether short copy or long copy is more powerful. David Ogilvy‘s (one of the greatest marketers of all time) is one that is focused on the reader and what they need to see and read to actually make the purchase. People will read anything as long as it’s about them.
Target the right audience. If you find yourself stretching yourself, your fact, and features, you may be targeting the wrong audience. Inside yourself, you’re thinking you need to impress or tell them something they want to hear. If that’s the case, you’ve got yourself the wrong audience. Stop. Look. Listen. And don’t be afraid to switch your audience or your message.
I’ve made this mistake too many times to mention. I chose an audience that I was familiar with and had relationships with and forgot to pay attention to the fact that they were simply not interested in my message or what I was selling. They liked consuming it, but they didn’t want to pay for it. This is obviously no way to build a profitable business. I found another audience.
Speak plainly and carry a big offer
Finally, don’t be afraid to speak in your own voice. I know, you’ve got this little voice inside your head telling you it’s not good enough, you’re not good enough. This is BS. If you’ve had at least one client, you are good enough. There is at least ONE company or person out there happy to trade dollars for your offer. Build on that.
The next step is to have an offer that resonates with your customers. If you’ve chosen the right customers, paid attention to what matters to them and decided to serve them — then the offer will become self-evident.
It may take some time — but that’s what it takes to build an offer. Rome wasn’t built in a day, your house wasn’t built in a day and neither will your offer. Give yourself the time it takes to craft an offer that your customers can’t refuse.
Don’t be afraid
Finally, don’t be afraid of who you are, what you have to offer and whether or not your audience will choose you. You will look desperate, your prospects will smell it and you will achieve exactly the opposite of what you intended.
Focus on who you are in the world. Decide on what you’re committed to and what people can count on you for. Then go out there and just do it!
Name: Ivana S. Taylor
About: Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers.com – an online marketing publication that provides marketing strategies that help entrepreneurs and business owners get and keep profitable customers. She is the DIY Marketing expert and book editor for Small Business Trends and a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum. Her strategic consulting firm, Third Force specializes in helping companies find their best customers and be the one they choose – regardless of price. Ivana is the co-author of Excel for Marketing Managers. You can find her on Twitter as @DIYMarketers.