Authentic marketing is the true self-expression of a sincerely held business philosophy. It's rare in comparison to traditional, or inauthentic, marketing strategies, but it's much more effective for a business' longevity and impact.
If your sole goal is to make a profit, go buy Google AdWords and call it a day. But if your goal is to build a great business that will be among the 35 percent of companies that make it past the 10-year anniversary mark and be at the top of its industry, you can start by understanding the difference between traditional and authentic marketing.
Defining Authentic Marketing
Authentic marketing begins not with tactics or strategy, but with the self. It asks, What do we (as an organization) believe? If 'success' is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal, then what ideal or set of ideals do we want to be known for? Other than the commodity that we deliver to our customers, how will we deliver those ideals?
Note: that how references all of the individual touch points, with everyone inside and outside the organization. Because everything is marketing.
Ordinary marketing tactics (e.g. infomercials, banner ads, email blasts, etc.) done solely for the sake of informing a potential client of a potential purchase can work to produce sales, but are less likely to be noticed and remembered. By comparison, a marketing campaign that uses such tactics but is structured first around the philosophy of an organization is more likely to be perceived as relatable, personal and unique. It's an actual reflection of the organization's personality and soul.
Know Your Company's Core
Do not think of authentic marketing as a strategy per se. If you do, you're missing the point, because strategy assumes calculation and optimization. Authentic marketing must not feel contrived; it's about genuine organizational self-expression driven by self-awareness.
Authentic marketing comes from your company's sincerely held philosophy; some call this core values. Actions or ideas in disagreement with those values are forced out like antibodies ejecting a virus. This is because the philosophy is one that the organization has decided it will never compromise on.
To help you determine what your core values as an organization are, sit down with your business partners or key company executives and invest a significant amount of time into asking the question: what is it we stand for that will never change, even if at times it proves to be a disadvantage?
Express Your Company Transparently
Once your team has identified that set of core values, it's time to express it in every marketable facet of your company.
Zappos is a great example of a company that incorporates its philosophy into everything they do, especially when it comes to customer interactions. This makes them stand out. Recently, a Zappos representative explained to me that new customer service hires don't interact with customers until their eight-week training program is over. They are then offered $2,000 to quit after that time period, because Zappos doesn't want to employ people who are only interested in money. They have to be passionate about and share the company's philosophy of delivering "WOW" through service, among nine other core values.
Another example is 37signals. From their books to their blogs, their philosophy of providing simple, user-friendly software and practical business-building strategies is woven into every product like DNA strands. One need only read the table of contents in their REWORK book.
Here are 3 action steps to authentically market your business:
- Ignore the traditional tactics. Instead, start with an understanding of what your organization stands for (beyond making a profit).
- Don't get trapped by marketing dogma. Think outside the box and be willing to take risks, so long as it's in line with your philosophy. For instance, blog openly about the problems your company seeks to solve in the world and how you're working to overcome them by fulfilling your mission.
- Examine your business' processes. Ask yourself: are these systems in line with our core values and organizational identity? Make deletions and amendments where appropriate.
Matt Ackerson is the founder of PetoVera, a creative process development firm headquartered in New York City. The company's flagship product is SaberBlast.com an all-in-one alliance marketing tool and online community of entrepreneurs & marketers. The company’s mission is to accelerate and automate creativity.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.