Marketing and PR are supposed to help you build connections, manage relationships and inspire loyalty in your customers. But many businesses seem to be limiting themselves to advertising their low prices, top quality and some vague “commitment to customer service”.
In this connection-deprived age, where everyone is time-poor and relationship-starved, authentic and emotive connections with people are increasingly necessary. The standard quality of most products or services is already high enough, we can generally afford most of the things we need and a “commitment to customer service” is about as essential as breathing if you are serious about staying in business.
Business is about connecting and working with people. At the fundamental level, everyone wants to feel connected with others, to be heard and valued. We prefer to deal with people who act as one with their values. We naturally distrust those people who consistently shirk their promises, or those who change their tune rapidly depending on the situation.
Customers are most likley to stay loyal when you demonstrate integrity and authenticity…the attitude of being wholly who you are. They need to see you living, working and engaging with others in a way that is truthful to your values and ethics.
For soloists, to be authentic means designing your business to reflect your personal values. Authenticity means you are the same person at work and outside of work. In other words, you are wholly and consciously present in your business.
Does your business treat people in the same way you do as a person? If you are a generous person, is your business generous to the community? If you are an honest person, does your business unambiguously reflect this honesty?
If you are used to having a different persona at work and away from work, being authentic will be a challenge at first. This is especially true if you have set up your business based on conventionally accepted practices and have not yet considered the implications of these practices on the way you engage with people.
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Then there is always the pressure to conform and the fear of appearing less valid to the outside world because you may choose to do something differently.
But the price of authenticity is worth it, because maintaining a façade is hard work! When you are operating in a way that is true to who you are, there is less of a need to learn and remember blind rules. Think dating…
A person or business with integrity will behave consistently with those rules every time, regardless of the situation. In fact, those rules may be quite obvious to people who know that person or business well. Think of your closest friend (assuming this person is someone with integrity) – I reckon you can list at least three rules of theirs.
Integrity means not conceding to someone else’s points just to avoid conflict. It means not twisting your rules (or values) to suit your advantage or for your immediate comfort.
Having integrity requires faith. Be clear about your values and stick by them, even in the face of great cost, loss or adversity. You need to have faith that when you stick to your truth, the right things for you will come about, eventually.
In a crowded market, your actions count more than ever before. The best marketing and PR may well get you some immediate attention, but that won’t translate to loyalty and commitment if your actions don’t bear out your integrity. Remember: as the social creatures that we are, we are actually very good at sensing the lack of authenticity.
If you want inspire loyalty, you need to start by making genuine connections with people. Be real. Be yourself. Make your actions count.