Even as we pour millions of dollars into various campaigns, we acknowledge that one of the most powerful marketing tools available is word of mouth. Studies are done on this topic, it’s talked about at conferences, but really you already know why word of mouth is so powerful: every marketer in the room would listen to their friend over an ad.
If we were to do a quick survey of customers that are relying on their friend’s suggestions we’d quickly find one recurring theme – trust.
People trust people. They don’t trust companies. And why don’t they trust companies? Because companies have an agenda. Or better yet, they’re not authentic.
Personalization isn’t authenticity!
As marketers we are taught to personalize emails with the name of our client, specialize content to a niche audience and to make contact knowing the problem we are hoping to “solve.” In essence, we want to appear more human.
Problem? Well, we already are human so let’s work on losing the jargon and getting to the heart of the matter: authenticity. Since we all know the standard procedure, no one is really impressed that you know a name or could ferret out your customer’s need. Those things are also necessary and important, they just no longer stand out as much as they did a decade ago. Today, the approach is slightly more complicated. You will need:
- A story to tell.
- It must be a true story.
- You must believe it even more than your customer does.
It all boils down to being authentic. If you, your product, and your company have authenticity in your corner, your marketing potential is improved exponentially. This is basic human to human marketing.
But what does it mean to be “authentic“? Is this just another word of the day to be repeated ad nauseam? It could be a “business jargon word,” a word that you may equate with “consistency” or “brand image,” but if you do that, you will be missing the point.
Authenticity means knowing your people. No, not your “customers” but the people that are hiding behind that title. They are your people because you’re in the same boat, trying to help each other. They are your people because they probably have similar interests and goals. So treat them that way! Tell them your story, your real story, and you won’t need to embellish. Geek out over the areas where you think you are doing well and listen honestly to frustrations so that you can fix them later.
Remember: if you need to develop a formula for it, it is NOT authentic.
Finding that Authenticity Sweet Spot
Okay, so all of this sounds good, but how do you actually get there? How do you develop a rapport with your people and how do you keep the momentum going for new customers?
Well, unfortunately this is not a “one fits all” kind of plan, but here are some things to think about:
- What do you like to read and what engages you mentally? You’re probably similar in many ways to your target audience.
- What problems are your customers struggling with and what information can you provide to help them?
- Do you like humor in marketing? If you answered yes, your customers probably do as well… so loosen up!
- What is the content you share with your colleagues? Use this as a benchmark and start creating content at this level.
- Does your current marketing material have its own personality? Most marketing is canned and lacks any personality. Instead, give your campaigns a voice and a personality.
When you start thinking in these terms, you’ll notice that your marketing material flows freely from your mind to the paper. Instead of wrestling with voice and prose and messaging, you’ll realize that an organic campaign with personality takes on a life of itself; at which point it’s your job just to corral the content and give it direction and purpose. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot more fun marketing like this!
And of course, if you’re having fun doing what you’re doing, it comes through. The bottom line is: authenticity is being you (or the larger, company “you”) and loving it. If you think it’s too hard, you are doing something wrong! This should generally be a painless task, once you get the hang of it.
So what did we learn?
Let’s recap. If your customers are people, and you or your marketing team are also people, the proverbial playing field is all the more level. You can converse openly, share ideas and, ultimately, develop a partnership that can be mutually beneficial far beyond the point of sale. If your customers are people and you are a person, they are more likely to believe your sales pitch because, hey guess what? It’s no longer a sales pitch, but the truth!
Getting back to that word of mouth maxim: people trust other people and they are far more likely to share and engage with another human being, rather than a company. It doesn’t matter if your audience is an individual or another business, you will ultimately be talking to a human being who is looking for another human being to give them their honest, informed opinion. Find your truth, tell your story and you will open up a world of happy partnerships.