Consumers today are not interested in the pretty, scripted versions of your company. They want to know who’s really running it, how things are done, and how money is spent, even profit margins. They want to be sure they trust and respect your company before doing business with you. It’s a little bit like an investor doing their research before investing in a company. Customers know they have a choice in where they spend or “invest” their money. And they will often choose to buy from one company over another based on transparency—or the lack of it.
Like it or not, authentic marketing is transparent.
Transparency means letting customers see the various aspects of your business: from how you source products, to your values and decisions you make, how your pricing works, and even how money is spent within your business. It means sharing your process in terms of both what has worked and what has not.
Get it right and you end up with customers who are loyal to you and your brand.
But if you are Gen X or older, this can be a process you need to work through. Transparency was not encouraged in school or the workplace. We were told to be professional at work and keep our personal lives to ourselves.
For younger people, this aspect is less of a problem. Raised in an era of transparency in social media, you may have no problem with the idea that transparency and privacy can coexist. You may have to consider the opposite issue: when is transparency too much for the other person or the situation at hand?
The answer to both of these comes together with another concept: what’s appropriate content?
According to Webster, appropriate means especially suitable or compatible. While suitable conjures up an image of a stuffy formal dinner to me, the word compatible stirs my heart. It means capable of existing together in harmony.
That’s a definition I can get behind.
But being too transparent in the wrong circumstance can disturb harmony. It’s not about wearing different masks for different situations. It’s about discerning the amount of transparency that would create the most harmony. Good transparency is about degrees of sharing and timing. It’s also about being human.
Take a look at two things to determine how transparent you should be in your business:
- Your ideal clients and their desire for transparency
- The level of transparency in your industry
For example, if you are a coach of some sort you are expected to be fairly transparent so your clients and potential clients can know who you are as a person and relate their lives to yours. In your social media, it’s expected that you might share your opinions on the various issues or insights into your personal life such as what you do for enjoyment or how meaningful your family time is to you. You would share your real life, but with an eye toward your industry.
As a health coach, you might share photos of some of your meals or behind the scenes photos of you working out or training. You might share your struggles with certain aspects of your health.
As a business coach, you might share ideas you have for being more productive in your days or how your decisions around your business setup are supporting you to spend time with your family. Coaches often take photos with their clients and share those online, or feature videos of their clients sharing about their experiences.
On the contrary, if you are a financial advisor, you might be less transparent about your personal life and instead focus on sharing the values your company has or tough decisions your business has made to find your success. Instead of fostering personal connection, you are attempting to share in a way that builds credibility and reliableness.
Ditto if your clients are from cultural backgrounds that ask for more privacy, they would not want their photos on your social media or to do videos with you.
Like with all topics of authenticity, there’s no black and white answer. It’s a combination of where you are sharing, what company or brand values you have, and who you are sharing it with.
If you find transparency personally challenging then take a look at why. Maybe you’ve picked up some limiting beliefs along the way that you need to let go of. Are you telling yourself that no one would be interested? Or do you feel vulnerable about sharing yourself?
Or if you’ve gotten feedback that you share too much, or find that what you share doesn’t create meaningful connections, you may be too far on the other side.
Then do the needed personal growth work to get into alignment with this aspect of authentic marketing.
Tools you can use:
- Take time to talk this through with a colleague or coach whose sharing you admire. Ask them how they decided how much to share and how often.
- Look at others in your industry and identify where you would like to be. There’s probably a range of people sharing in your industry…are you like the one that’s over here with super vulnerable shares and often? Or over here with the more conservative sharing person?
Your goal isn’t to copy them but to digest enough of other people’s approach that you can craft your unique approach. And finally, then you begin to experiment. Don’t worry that it feels awkward at first, or uncomfortable. You are trying something new!!
Look out for my next video where I’ll share authentic marketing trait #2: honesty. Gonna be fun to dive into just what honesty in marketing means.As always, have good fun with this idea and let me know how it goes.
From my soon to be published book The Authentic Marketer: Create the Mindset You Need to Grow Your Small Business and Love It
Linda believes that small business owners can step into a better version of their business when they embrace authenticity and become more fully themselves. Her 25-year marketing career has included Kimpton Hotels, Jamba Juice, and Disney helping her clients win awards and placements in publications like The Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine, as well as on the front cover of WIRED magazine. You can visit her website here: lindabasso.com or join her FB conversation.