What does it mean to be authentic?
Authenticity is an elusive quality that we all crave in our personal or professional lives. We want to be our unapologetic selves, we want to launch a brand that represents our passions and we want to buy from companies that do the same.
But, often times, authenticity falls to the wayside.
When it comes to your brand and business, it is indispensable to maintain authenticity in order to be successful.
Why is it important to be authentic?
When you’re launching a brand, think about it this way:
Is it easier for you to talk about something you are deeply passionate about or something that you think other people will approve of?
Most likely, you chose the former.
It’s easy to get caught up in what should be or what others like, but losing sight of why you wanted to start a business or what really motivates you to excel can be detrimental to your business in the long run.
In fact, it’s easier for you to be authentic. It’s easy to speak openly about a topic that you love and to help people when you are enthusiastic your work.
If you’re not being authentic, it will not work.
It isn’t easy, however, running a brand that doesn’t sit well in your soul. There is an abundance of opportunity in the world, but if there is no passion behind it, there is no drive. Instead of diving into an industry where there is lack and opportunity, how can you look at your own skills and create a need for what you’re already doing? Can you construct an opportunity with what is already there?
You’re a freelance graphic designer, however, you listened to friends and family members share how they wanted to start a business but didn’t know how. There is an opportunity for you to become a business coach. It would be good money and you know how to run your own graphic design business, but the business side was never really fun for you. After working with a number of people, you feel that you, nor them, are getting much value out of your services.
So then, an idea clicks in your head.
You’re not going to help manage businesses, you’re going to help them create brands. You love to design and they have no idea how to create a logo or a website. You stop coaching and instead start to build brands with your customers.
This is where the magic happens. You can be an opportunist with a passion-fueled mission. You can love what you do and make money! It’s not a dichotomy, it’s the intersection of both.
Authentic businesses inspire people.
Take a moment to reflect on a business that you purchase from over and over again:
Chances are, your loyalty comes from their loyalty to their original mission. They never flipped the switch on you one day and completely rebranded. They never deviated from their company values. They remain true to their brand and customers happily follow.
This is the key to developing a following of loyal customers.
They want you to be vulnerable and they want you to share. They don’t need another business in the industry that is just doing it because the money is there. They want you to care deeply about your products and services so they know that you are the real deal.
How do we maintain authenticity?
Don’t get me wrong, it can be very easy to get sidetracked from your original mission. In the age of social media, we’re constantly comparing ourselves and our success to other people. Every business’s success is evident thanks to metrics like followers and page fans. So, how do you maintain your business’s authenticity when there’s so much noise out there?
Come back to the experience.
In our digital age, customers want something genuine. They want a product but they want the experience that comes along with it. They want honesty, so push forward creating content and products that are true to your heart.
I get it, there’s a million things on your to-do list and another dozen products or services you’d like to try. However, inconsistency is confusing to your customers. Different messaging or sporadic posting on social media only takes away from the trust you were building with your followers. Your fundamental mission, once developed, should remain the same regardless of where you are.
Show your personality.
Is there anything more exciting than connecting with a business that has a similar personality to your own? Taco Bell, for example, has done an incredible job at relating to their target audience. They inject humor into their social presence and are known for their wittiness throughout all of their branding.
Understand the difference between authenticity and adaptability.
Authenticity means that you remain true to your founding mission and core values. Adaptability relates to keeping up with the ever-changing atmosphere of your industry. Often times, it can be confused that you must sacrifice your authenticity if you want to be adaptable, but that is simply not the case.
You’ve owned a spa for ten years and never needed a website so you avoid building one. The unknown makes you uneasy and you have your loyal customers. Why should you need one?
This is a classic example of resistance to being adaptable. You worry that the core of your business will be lost, but in truth, the exact opposite will happen. You will open yourself up to more people that will follow your business and an opportunity to connect with the ones that already do.
There’s a time and a place for comparing, and that is in your competitive analysis. Otherwise, there is no need to get caught up in what someone else is doing or how much success they have. It’s fine to look for inspiration from other businesses, but when you start to blend in with what everyone else is doing because you think that’s the right direction, you lose sight of your true motives. Stop comparing your business to others, I promise it will make your entire journey much easier.
Authentic businesses work.
They develop an identity that stays true to why they began. There is substance in their products, services, and messaging and customers can feel it when it’s true. Customers can relate to authentic businesses and crave that connection between brand and audience. They are reliable, trustworthy, and influential. So, what do you choose – a business built from your heart or one built from someone else’s?