Humans are social animals, and we crave emotional connections.
It’s why we rewatch Titanic when we’re already sad or call our moms when we had a bad day. It’s why the smell of cinnamon sugar reminds you of your grandmother’s house and why you still get butterflies when you see your spouse after work.
Instinctually, we are drawn to situations that are going to make us feel, whether those feelings are positive or negative. Yelp is the perfect example of that. Everyday, thousands of people are taking the time out of their day to leave reviews of businesses that are charged with emotion: effusive praise, utter contempt, and everything in between.
That’s why modern content marketing can be so difficult. Sure, you’re writing on a regular basis. You’re using your keywords. You’re posting on social media.
Still, it seems that your audience just won’t bite.
That’s because they’re looking for authenticity in your marketing. No longer is jamming as many keywords as you can into your blog posts enough. Each piece of content has to be lovingly crafted, a masterpiece in its own right, and not just another piece of fodder that you’re feeding to the masses.
When you decide to start digital marketing, you are taking on the mantle of a storyteller. You have to persuade, entertain, inform, and craft information in a way that will draw your audience in… all without trying too hard.
When you’re busy running your business, taking the time to create art in writing is a daunting task. Piecing together the words, finding your voice, and learning the basics of content marketing isn’t impossible, but it’s certainly something that takes practice.
Authenticity is an art and a science, so it only makes sense to take quantitative and qualitative observations that guide your craft.
Quantitative measurements are pretty easy because they can be gauged using numbers, data, and checklists. If you’re already using Yoast to rate your SEO practices, you’ve seen their “stoplight” system that measures how well you’ve utilized optimization best practices.
Good optimization is qualitative authenticity. When Google caught wind of keyword and backlink stuffing, they quickly pulled the trigger on new algorithms that penalizes sites for those practices.
When you have a visitor to your blog, it’s because they genuinely want to learn about something that you are an expert in. Old school marketing tactics don’t make for good content because it’s not truly focused on giving the reader what they’re looking for.
If you’re not sure where to start when you begin developing quantitative authenticity, there are a plethora of resources available, like this checklist from Orbit Media. You can also spend some time with people who have been in the trenches longer and learn from their mistakes.
Qualitative authenticity is a little harder to measure because it’s all about personal experiences and emotions.
When your audience sees your content, what are you trying to make them feel? What do you stand for? Who are you as a company and why should your customers care?
Though these questions can be complicated ones to answer, they also act as a guiding light for all of your future marketing endeavors. It also helps your audience understand and relate to you more easily, which in turn gives you the opportunity to connect on a deeper level.
The first step is defining exactly what your company does. Of course, you’re probably in the business to make a little money, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re going to have a tragically difficult time creating authentic content.
All marketing content serves the purpose of answering a question or solving a problem. When people look up terms associated with your business, they are looking for solutions. It is rare that someone sets out to buy something without having a particular issue that they are trying to fix, whether it’s a craving for stuffed crust pizza or needing a part for their dehumidifier.
If you’re not appealing to that solution-oriented mindset, it doesn’t really matter how well your SEO is going– People aren’t going to read your content, explore your website, and buy your product if your business doesn’t feel like it really, truly cares about solving customer problems.
Genuinely Genuine Marketing
Now that you’ve oriented yourself as a company, you can begin your marketing efforts anew, armed with the know-how to connect with your customers.
Check out these 3 steps to developing a more authentic approach to your marketing:
Fall in Love with Your Product Again
Customers know when you’re faking enthusiasm, so the best way to get them excited is to really, really love whatever it is that you’re selling.
It’s tough to write excellent social media and blog posts about things you don’t care about. Personally, I can’t imagine having to write about car repairs because I don’t have a passion for vehicles. But, I would surely hope that a mechanic would enthusiastically share their knowledge with me if I asked them about how carburetors work.
Having a keen sense of self when it comes to your business helps you stay grounded, avoiding the pitfalls of “reinvention” that brands often fall prey to. Being the very best at what you do, and doing it with enthusiasm, is the foundation of making your marketing more authentic.
Just Be Honest
Awhile back, Chick-fil-A launched a marketing campaign geared towards health nuts called “Let’s Gather.”
The site is down now, but in its (very short) prime, presented itself as a zine of sorts, completely with pastoral scenes of farmers and beekeepers. It boasted articles like “Supernatural Superfoods,” “Our Year Without Groceries” and “Extreme Stair Climbing,” all while still selling chicken sandwiches with abysmal calorie counts and over 100 ingredients.
The heart of the issue with “Let’s Gather” is that it was a completely dishonest to what the restaurant actually represents. When we pull into the line at Chick-fil-A, it’s not because we want to feel healthy. If that’s what we wanted, we’d eat an apple. We’re there because we want a dank chicken sandwich after a long day at work. And that’s okay.
They only published a few issues before pulling the site and the marketing campaign altogether because customers can smell a lie from a mile away. The best policy is to let your marketing represent what you really are, thoroughly and honestly. Playing coy and trying to appeal to markets that are way out of your wheelhouse is a waste of time, money, and trust.
Share Your Whole Story, Not Just the Pretty Parts
When something goes wrong, like a social media snafu or a defective product, you need to have such a strong relationship with your customers that they are okay with the mistake. It’s a lot easier to be angry with a faceless corporation than it is with real, living people who messed up.
Humanize your business every chance you get. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you need to post pictures of the office Christmas party where everyone’s holding a shot glass, but you can share pictures of the team having beers over dinner.
If there’s one thing that consumers understand, it’s work. They understand the stress of an upcoming deadline, the misery of working late hours when you just want to put your feet up, and the rush of excitement when you solve a tough problem. These are the moments that you want to share, the ones that show you are a work in progress and that you are trying to become the best you can for the people you serve.
That same motivation should run through the content that you create. If you are authentic in your love for your business and for the people who buy from it, then you need to market to them in a way that honors that relationship. Like a marriage, your marketing relationship needs to be nurtured. You can’t woo them, then leave them high and dry after they give you what you came for.
Authenticity is simple, when you really get down to brass tacks. It’s about taking off the “business” persona, then thinking about what your customers want and need. When they’re looking for your product, what are they experiencing? Are they excited? Are they frustrated? Are they hesitant? Whatever it is, it’s your job to appeal to that emotion as a human being, not as a business entity.
That’s where authenticity truly lies: in empathy, good humor, and a willingness to be transparent.