Every entrepreneur dreams of having a steady stream of loyal, repeat customers and clients. To make that dream a reality, it’s helpful for small business owners to stay in lock-step with customers’ ever-shifting preferences and priorities. A key example from the current consumer landscape? The increasing demand for businesses and brands to be authentic in what they say, do and sell.
According to recent global research, “authenticity” in business boils down to three key questions.
In other words, consumers like it when a business practices what it preaches (or when it walks the talk and walks the walk). According to a Forbes article, it’s “low hanging fruit” – in other words, a no-brainer – for small businesses to get their message, mission and offering in perfect alignment.
Aim to show and tell
If you run a social media agency, for example, your very best marketing tool is to have a power-packed presence across your various platforms. After all, if you’re not knocking it out of the social media park to grow your own business, how will you convince others you can do it for theirs?
When your process and your product is authentically aligned, you can both “show” and “tell” your core business values and strengths. When you do, good things tend to happen – things like rave reviews on social channels, referrals and recommendations from satisfied clients and a deep sense of trust and loyalty from your customers.
Here’s how some members of the QB Community embrace the authentic alignment challenge:
Hanna Broer designs and creates lingerie using organic and recycled materials. Her choice of fabrics stems from both her preferences as a consumer and her priorities as a business woman.
Organic farming is really important to me. I believe in nourishing the land and not depleting it or putting chemicals in it. I don’t want to put chemicals on my body either. When I can’t use organic materials, like for swimsuits which need some synthetic stretch to them, I will use recycled polyester instead.
Jeweler Maggi Simpkins started designing bespoke engagement rings as a way to capture and reflect stories of true love. But she knew she wanted her business to reflect her personal commitment to being socially and environmentally conscious, too.
“For me, it’s a no-brainer that my personal beliefs translate into my business. In my jewelry I use diamonds, sapphires, aquamarines, emeralds and more, and all my stones are verified as ethically sourced. Whenever I can, I use recycled or reclaimed metals, too.
As a small business owner and a woman of color, I’m always thinking about how I can empower other people. I deeply believe in paying the artisans I work with fair, livable wages. I’m happy to pay a premium for high quality rendering, casting and diamond setting, which, in turn, helps other people live happy, productive lives.”
Karla McNeil-Rueda’s small-batch Cru Chocolate generates revenue and helps support other women in business. Using cacao sourced from family farms in Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, Karla focuses on building sustainable trade practices and supporting Central American women who create and grow their own businesses.
“I recently visited Honduras and gave a talk to Women in Cocoa & Chocolate, a Honduran organization for female chocolatiers. These women are processing cacao, making chocolate and running restaurants while also acting as the primary caregivers to their children. I was so proud to connect and share my experiences with these amazing, inspiring women.”
Zip Recruiter’s Ian Siegel says being authentically aligned means sticking to what you do best – and then doing it better than anyone else.
“I believe the most important thing a business can do is identify what your customers come to you for. For example, if you’re a hamburger restaurant, the most important thing you can do is make a really fantastic hamburger. You don’t have to offer the best French fries or a chicken sandwich or a gluten free bun. No business can be good at everything.
The primary identity you have with customers is the most important thing to deliver. What is the one thing they’re coming to you for? This answer will drive your marketing and all of your customer-success endeavors.”
Less than perfect can be a-ok
Hair-product creator Celeste Ruberti (@cruberti) wants to “go green” for her all packaging. But, like countless other entrepreneurs, while she’s in startup mode, Celeste’s financial limitations means compromising on her lofty goal.
“Sustainability is a big issue for me. In an ideal world, I’ll be able to source biodegradable bottles made from vegetables and use eco-friendly labels and plant-based ink. But realistically, it will be incredibly expensive for me to honor those goals and put them into practice. I’m just starting out, and right now, I need to keep track of every dollar. It’s frustrating to know I can’t do everything perfectly at first. Hopefully I’ll be able to make adjustments along the way.”
The key for Celeste (and others in a comparable situation) to build her authentic brand even if it’s a little shy of perfect? Open communication about her goals (sustainable and otherwise) and about her financial realities. Turns out, what we learned as kids still rings true today for entrepreneurs: Honesty really is the best policy.
Don’t wait to “authenticate” your business
One more thing. According to Forbes, plenty of small business owners prioritize getting customers over sprucing up their own brand. That’s a mistake! Would you hire a copywriter whose website has typos? A professional organizer with messy office? A personal trainer who was out of shape? Probably not. Before you focus on pitching what you sell, make sure you’re representing your products or services in the best possible way.
Before you go
QB Community members, what steps have you taken to make sure you’re building an authentically aligned business? What brands do you support because they’re keepin’ it real?