The authenticity opportunity.

Authenticity in business and marketing – how you can find a true opportunity.

Last week I spoke at an event in Sheffield that was centred all around authenticity in business. As a speaker and marketing company based here in Sheffield I was thrilled to be invited to talk at the event and offer up my thoughts on how small business can harness the opportunity of authenticity in business and use this to help better focus that business owners activity and marketing strategy.

Rob Taylor talking about business authenticity at Square Peg Networking in Sheffield. Photo: MayKing Tsang

I wrote an introductory article around the topic over on the Square Peg blog, you can see that here if you wish to read it! The premise here was to question the authenticity of those in the highest seats of power who seem to revel in the opportunity of spreading Fake Nooz, Alternative Facts and persistently seem to campaign and promote disinformation. How can we as business owners avoid this??

Social Media and authenticity

Social media for small business is one of the greatest playing field levellers of our time. Nothing has come before and little will come hence that will adjust the way we do business. Social media is here to stay, it’s how it will evolve that will direct our use of the various platforms. When Facebook was the victim (or perpetrator) of a data breach affecting 87 million users, the game had to change slightly. Facebook is clamping down on fake profiles, who can see your postings, the ability to erase our social history and a much more strict a test for posting ads.

It’s surely inevitable and has been a matter of time that something like this will happen. Over 2 billion people use Facebook alone, never mind the other social platforms. Anything that is unregulated and that ginormous is prone to attack, but all of this is out of our hands. Can we really affect the way these huge corporations operate? Some would argue yes through the choice to not use the platforms in the first place, that social media is a force for bad. But let me ask you if Facebook disappeared tomorrow, would your business be here next month? How many of us are solely reliant on the platform bringing us business?

Fact is, I can’t change the tide, I just have to learn to swim with it, rather than against it. And the best way to do this is the be true to yourself and the messages you share across all platforms, not just Facebook.

It starts and ends with you!

The opportunity for small business to really elevate its position in the social business world is to start by looking inwards: look at yourself as the root of your business values, business mission and business goals. In the exercise at the keynote talk I presented I invited the audience to raise their right hand to signal their personal authenticity, and their left hand to represent their business authenticity. Then I invited the guests to mesh the two hands to signify the clear crossover between the two when relating to small business. Huge business like Coke or Apple or Starbucks all have their corporate brand values and portray that in their messaging and their communications. As small businesses, we too need to reflect our business values through the content we share, the opinions we hold and the reflection of our business to the customer.

The point I make here is that often the two are in fact the same. If you search for a small business on Facebook you can most likely find the owner of the said business and see their personal profiles and activity too. This is our greatest opportunity, but can also be seen as our greatest threat.

If we say and do one thing within our business but then say and do other things on our personal profiles, who are we being dishonest with? 

To be true to ourselves as small business owners is to be true to our business. And the benefits that can reap are tremendous.

The Authenticity Cycle

authenticity in business the cycle of authenticity

I believe is we are dishonest to ourselves as business owners, we are in turn dishonest to our business operation and most importantly dishonest to our customers! We can reverse engineer this cycle for if we are dishonest to our customers (giving bad advice, give bad value or product delivery) then we are not reflecting the true purpose of our business and therefore as the small business owner, we are also not giving the true reflection of ourselves outside the business operation.

The “everyone is my customer” myth.

I speak often to business owners in Sheffield and the region about identifying a target market. All too often the response I get when asked who is your customer is “everybody”. It is a story for another article about how to identify your customer and indeed why everyone is not your customer but for the purpose of authenticity and how to remain authentic in marketing and in business let me ask you…If everyone is your customer, how is it possible to serve all of them authentically?

If everyone is your customer, how is it possible to serve all of them authentically? Click To Tweet

To be true to yourself and true to your business, you will know who your ideal customers are. Yes, there may be several groups of customer who would benefit from your offer, but to simply say everyone is a customer is not being true to yourself or your business.

The benefit of identifying your values and authentic position.

As highlighted above, the negative impact of been dishonest with yourself can, in my opinion, reflect negatively on your business. Likewise, the opposite is also true. If you identify your person values from a place of authenticity and reflect those in your business through deliver of service, value and pricing to the right group of people your business will benefit massively from customer referral, customer reviews and repeat purchase. And also as small business owners, you will feel much better on a personal level knowing that you are sharing your business and product to those who will benefit the most!

Social media opportunities

Social media is changing, yes. But I believe it is changing for the better. Social media is now making us become more honest, more useful but ultimately more relevant to our audience. I believe the number one way to build your brand authenticity and reflect your brand values in a social media space is to create your own business community. If you create a community-based brand you set out with the goal of offering true advice, true knowledge, shared wisdom and the benefit of joined-up thinking. And from a business perspective, you can also monetise and leverage the opportunity within your community to build a business based on the foundation of values that you identify with and share across your group.

Every single business owner in the region should be looking at how to build, engage and ultimately monetise a community of like-minded people and prospects – in an ethical and authentic way! What would your community offer? How can you be different to others in your field? And who would want to be a part of it (remember, not everyone!)

How to build a tribe of loyal fans for your business

So go ahead, identify what makes you, you! Identify how those values you identify with on a personal level should be reflected in your brand – are they currently getting portrayed that way? And then go ahead and start focussing on community building. It will be a briliant step forward for your brand, your business, your customers…and for yourself!

I’d be delighted if you could take time to share this blog across your platforms, and also visit my other posts on the marketing blog. We are a committed to helping the small business community of the Sheffield City Region. Why not join our Facebook group and join in the conversation!

Thanks for reading, remember, the change is in the doing!

So go ahead and make it happen!

R

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