Winning customers today is directly related to being personable, relatable, and authentic. For small businesses in particular, conveying authenticity plays a significant role in building the kind of meaningful customer relationships that lead to steady growth.
Small business owners often feel they are at a disadvantage when competing against bigger competitors. However, online marketing has leveled the playing field in a number of ways. Your small business no longer needs a massive marketing budget to connect with the people who care the most about your products or services – and influence them to make a purchase.
What is Authenticity and Why Does it Matter?
Being authentic means staying true to who you are, what your business stands for, and the people you serve. The more virtual the world gets, the more people crave products that add value to their lives and companies that deliver genuine experiences. To be competitive and grow your business in an increasingly authenticity-driven marketplace, you must give clients and prospects what they want. This means being honest and transparent across all promotion platforms and ensuring that your strategy reflects the values and culture of your company.
Authenticity is more than just a list of tactics. It requires creative thinking and bold choices at every customer touchpoint with your business. In honor of Mother’s Day, here are four practical and effective ways to nurture your authenticity and add warmth to your small business marketing.
1 – Use size as an advantage.
“Bigger is better” is not always the case when it comes to business. Many business owners start out small, stay small, and are very happy that way. When marketing your small business, the last thing you want to do is try to fool customers or prospects into thinking you’re bigger than you are.
Instead of trying to hide your small size, use it to your advantage. Show your followers that your small team is responsive and dedicated to providing highly personalized service. Go behind the scenes of your company to demonstrate how your products are sourced or made. Share stories about real people who buy and use your product or service.
The majority of Americans believe smaller companies place more emphasis on customer service than larger companies. People often turn away from impersonal companies because they want to feel like they matter, and they gravitate towards personable businesses with whom they can easily communicate. Avoid off-putting customer service strategies such as using automated voice messages or canned email responses to questions. The same holds true for creating unnecessary layers of management. If your company is small enough that customers can call the CEO directly, this can be a competitive advantage.
2 – Be real.
The best way to be perceived as authentic is to be authentic. This may sound simple enough, but many entrepreneurs drift away from their passion and purpose as their businesses grow and evolve. If this is true of your small business, it’s time to get back to the basics and refocus on what drives you and why you do what you do.
Revisit the core values, beliefs, and goals that form the foundation of how you approach every aspect of your business. Communicating your company’s values differentiates you from your competitors and can make a difference when it comes to winning new customers. People are attracted to values that resemble their own, and letting your customers know what you stand for helps make your business more human and relatable. Over time, this builds trust and fosters brand loyalty.
3 – Admit your mistakes.
No company is perfect, and you and your team are bound to make your share of missteps. Unfortunately, bad news travels fast, especially when it comes to customer reviews. The Internet and social media have made it easy for disgruntled customers to share their opinions and experiences in an instant. A recent survey by Dimensional Research showed that when it comes to people sharing customer service incidents online, 95% post complaints while only 87% share positive experiences.
Although you can’t prevent mistakes or bad reviews from happening, you can mitigate the impact by managing the way you respond to them. Address complaints immediately and admit any wrongdoing, then find ways to turn your errors into lessons learned. This can be as simple as an apology, replacing a product, or issuing a refund or credit towards a future service. Using the opportunity to demonstrate both your authenticity and superior customer service can help you turn a critic into a fan and show current and prospective customers how much you value them and their business.
4 – Be consistent.
Inconsistency is confusing to consumers. For example, many small businesses make the mistake of projecting different personas offline to online or across online platforms. A brand will try to be funny on Twitter, hip on Instagram, and authoritative on LinkedIn. The resulting mixed messages can lead to suspicion and mistrust.
While it is important to tailor your approach to a specific marketing platform, your fundamental message, voice, and identity should remain the same. You gain followers on and offline because people like what they see and hear and want more of it – so why not give it to them?
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