Increase Sales Through Authentic Marketing

Authenticity is a hot word in business.

Today’s consumers don’t want to be told how to think or what to do. Instead, they want businesses that inspire them, and customers are demanding greater purity and consistency in the products, messages, and values a company represents.

What is Authenticity?

Some define authenticity as being consistent in word and deed or having a fundamental character that doesn’t change based on circumstance.

Inauthentic companies may come across as artificial, timid, fake, or gimmicky, while words associated with professional authenticity might include transparent, original, boldly unapologetic, legitimate, or truthful.

Authentic brands are those that stay true to who they are, what they do, and who they serve. This means that, in an age of unprecedented consumer empowerment, understanding your customers and what they expect from you is critical.

But in crafting authenticity in marketing, entrepreneurs should understand that the meaning of the word authenticity can vary based on customer expectations.

Authenticity Translated: Two Interpretations

Consider the restaurant industry in New York.

Two fan favorites in this scene include DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn and Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. Both are lauded as “authentic.” DiFara’s reviewers rave that this pizzeria is as “authentic as they come,” while Blue Hill at Stone Barn is hailed as “an authentic Hudson Valley culinary experience.”

What does this actually mean?

Translation 1: In this genre of authentic companies, a product or brand perfectly conforms to the original.

DiFara’s matches the expectations a customer might have for a “classic” Italian pizzeria experience. The pizzaiolo at DiFara’s, Domenic DeMarco, immigrated to the U.S. from a small town near Naples and has been making traditional thin-crust pizzas in Brooklyn since 1964.

Translation 2: Blue Hill offers farm-to-table ingredients with a focus on creating sustainable food systems.

Here authenticity is assigned to a company that offers products or experiences that adhere to the core beliefs or values of the customer served, whether the value is for transparent leadership, unpolluted products, or a desire for excellence. (Think the Honest Company, Apple, or Yeti, for example.)

Which Strategy Should You Pursue?

According to four studies reported by the Harvard Business Review, authentically conforming to a category (see Translation 1) might lead to higher social evaluations (like 5-star ratings) but might not increase a consumer’s willingness to pay more.

This can bring tangible benefits: research shows that even a 1-star increase in Yelp reviews may bring a 5-9% increase in revenues.

On the other hand, authenticity adhering to customer core beliefs (see Translation 2) might persuade consumers to pay more for those products.

How does this affect your business? Researchers said this:

“Managers should consider these patterns as they attempt to appeal to customers. Rather than assuming that any mention of authenticity leads to a better reputation or more revenue (or both), managers might do well to think carefully about what kind of authenticity their organization expresses. For organizations that convey authenticity because they exemplify a specific category or genre, they might focus on generating value by winning higher star ratings – which can increase sales traffic – rather than attempting to charge more for products or services . . . Organizations that evoke authenticity by adhering to their core beliefs might benefit more from charging a premium for products and services to a more selective set of customers.”

Want to win at authenticity? You will be wise to choose the best way to meet customer expectations, ensuring each message you send is genuine and in line with your brand principles.

Don’t just claim to be authentic, choose a strategy to pursue it. Then live up to this vision by giving your very best!

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Get Ahead at Work by Busting These Bad Habits

Work and sleep are two of the most time-consuming things we do.

The average American will spend nearly 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so the way you approach your job can have a huge impact on your quality of being. As Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Do you want your experience at work to be as happy and anxiety free as possible? If so, perhaps it’s time to put the scalpel to some of your less-than-desirable work habits.

Here are just a few ways bad choices might make your life more difficult at work.

Habits that Hurt You Personally

Skipping Breaks

Sometimes we think we’re too busy to take breaks or grab some fresh air.

But this simply isn’t true. Research shows productivity is highest when people work in “sprints” with frequent breaks (around 90 minutes with 15-minute rests).

Winging it on Mondays

Do you struggle to get down to business at the start of each week?

Devote part of Fridays to making a “start here” list for the following week so you can hit the ground running on Mondays.

Negative Attitudes

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 62% of employers say they are less likely to promote employees with a pessimistic attitude.

Avoid complaining (which comes across as unprofessional) or responding to suggestions with negative comments like “that won’t work,” or “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Even when things go wrong, focus your energy on what you’ve learned rather than despising your situation.

Habits that Annoy Others

Eating Smelly or Loud Foods

While a small snack may be fine, avoid eating foods that are messy, noisy, or smelly to protect your reputation with co-workers. Top stink generators include reheated fish, raw onions, tuna, smelly cheese, and hard-boiled eggs.

Grooming at Your Desk

When you are distracted, do you tend to chew your nails, play with your hair, pick at your face, or pull food out of your teeth? What if the co-worker next to you did this? Yuck. Enough said!

Interrupting or Asking Too Many Questions

While a willingness to contribute can be great, often you may be repeatedly cutting off others without realizing it.

Interrupting is rude and shows a lack of self-control. Similarly, asking an abundance of abrupt questions can be draining or annoying to others. When you need further information, gather a list of questions and pose them in an organized, positive way so you are respectful of others’ time.

Habits that Harm Your Reputation

Using Work Time Improperly

Be honest: while at work, how often are you handling texts, personal e-mails, or private phone calls?

If you think others don’t notice, you’re wrong. While co-workers may tolerate this behavior, it will certainly hinder the respect or opportunities you receive in the future. Keep your personal life out of sight (perhaps tucking the phone away or on silent) and you will be more efficient and more valued.

Distraction or Delays

Why is texting while driving illegal?

Because it’s impossible to concentrate fully on two things at once. If you are jotting personal notes, sending e-mails, or galloping through the fields of your imagination during meetings, it sends an inconsiderate message and communicates a lack of integrity. Come to appointments on time and ready to focus.

Being Nosy or Political

While small talk goes a long way to build rapport with others, avoid uninvited personal inquiries or incessant curiosity that won’t let things go.

And remember, if certain topics are divisive in politics, they’ll be divisive at work. Keep conversations focused on work-related issues to avoid insulting others, hurting your professional image, or causing rifts in your company.

Easy Ideas to Boost Your Social Media Standing

Social media is an increasingly popular way for brands to connect with consumers. Almost 60% of Americans engage with brands on social media between 1 and 3 times daily.

But pinpointing the right strategy for your business can be a challenge. Need inspiration?

Here are three practical examples of entrepreneurs who are jumping off the screen to convert and keep customers through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Edge Body Boot Camp

Edge Body Boot Camp (EBBC) uses both Instagram and Facebook to create a vibrant, friendly social media presence.

EBBC uses social media to create a sense of community by incorporating members into their content. Using photos of individuals holding “I survived” chalkboards, personalized posts congratulate people for things like finishing their first workout, completing a 30-day fitness challenge, or achieving a specific goal over time (pounds lost, miles run, etc).

Takeaways: EBBC uses social media to create brand loyalty and inspire repeat customers. Since pictures on Facebook receive 53% more likes than an average post, this is especially effective for boosting engagement. Add hashtags to your photos and they can be used as clickable links on Facebook or you can link all public posts that have the same hashtag (like EBBC’s #isurvived).

Eileen Lanza Realty

Eileen Lanza is a top real estate investor and realtor in the Los Angeles area.

Lanza understands the importance of real-time updates via social media, and leans heavily on Twitter to keep a steady stream of information available to clients. 92% of all user interactions on Twitter are in the form of click links, which can be formatted as a hashtag or as a link to an external website. Lanza often includes both in her tweets: a hashtag at the beginning (i.e. “Just leased in #Larchmont – Spanish style Bungalow . . .” and a second link (which readers can follow for full listings or articles) with an image like this.

Takeaways: Location or event-based hashtags help attract relevant audiences and snag new leads. Images with external web links can grab the eyes and catalyze curiosity in readers.

See Jane Work

“See Jane Work” is a company that sells stylish office and supply solutions for women who want to be successful in organizing their homes, careers, and futures.

As platforms have grown more involved in sales and marketing, revenues for social media sales have expanded quickly as well. See Jane Work uses shoppable Instagram posts (denoted with a small white shopping icon in the corner) to tag products, lead viewers to their website, and to make purchases incredibly easy for users who see something they are dying to have!

Takeaways: Use shoppable posts to showcase products in a natural way through story themes that connect to your brand. “Jane” is a fictional character that embodies everything working women are today, and often shoppable posts show versions of Jane with her own trendy styles and products that are helping her kill it each day.

Keep Your Name Current

Social media can be liberating to individual users but overwhelming to entrepreneurs.

Use these tangible examples for inspiration or plan quarterly content curating sessions with your team to generate ideas and be proactive in your posting. Need help keep your name current and your message fresh? We can help!

How to Build Trust in Your Team

Once there was a businessman on a routine domestic flight.

Though a seasoned flyer, he felt tense when, shortly after takeoff, the pilot asked everyone to stay in their seats with belts fastened. Moments later the pilot announced there would be no beverage service due to unexpected turbulence. People looked worried, and soon some were shrieking with alarm as a storm bounced the plane erratically.

Nearby, the man saw a little girl sitting all alone, but acting totally calm. When the plane jolted she closed her eyes briefly but eventually started reading, looking out the window, or fiddling with toys until the shaking subsided.

After the flight, the girl waited quietly as others exited. When the man approached and asked how she could be so brave, she said:

“My dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home.”

Weather the Storms

Does your team trust that you are taking them home?

When the clouds form and turbulence comes, do your people trust you to guide them through? Building trust may not be on your regular “to do” list, but it can cement a foundation so you can build high and strong.

Here are five tips to increase trust in your workplace or family today:

1. Show your vulnerabilities.

Great leaders are connected leaders, and people relate more with your weaknesses than your strength.

To truly connect with people you serve, it’s important to share not just strengths and victories but struggles and setbacks. Admit your mistakes. Apologize. Be proactive about gathering negative feedback. And use your own errors to teach or encourage others.

2. Regularly delegate authority.

Give trust to get trust.

If you run a regular staff meeting, occasionally have others develop the agenda or lead the discussion. No one enjoys a micromanager who constantly takes credit or dominates others. Step back into the shadows and you will build a wealth of relational currency.

3. Be transparent about money.

Sharing financial information can be a huge boon to the bottom line.

However, a 2016 study found that only 25 percent of privately held companies were sharing financial information with all of their employees. Whether your firm is publicly-traded or privately-held, the time you spend explaining and talking about results will allow team members to feel they are a valuable, integral part of your circle. And it helps people understand how they can positively impact the financial performance of the business as a whole.

4. Operate from a visible set of values.

If your firm lacks clear values, define them.

Mount them on walls, design strategic symbols to communicate them, or put a face on them by sharing testimonies of team members who are living the values. People thrive when they have context for their work and its importance to the bigger picture.

5. Don’t let difficult issues linger.

When times get tough, the clock on your credibility starts ticking.

Don’t allow difficult situations to corner you – instead confront them head-on and get your team involved too. The formation of problem-solving groups can energize your staff and provide opportunities to reward creativity and individual contributions. Groups can be tasked with brainstorming strategies or exploring new models.

If your “difficult issue” is a person, be intentional about heading off conflicts immediately. Be hard on the problem and soft on the person. Be assertive but courteous, addressing specific complaints and providing clear expectations about the response and timeframe needed to resolve them.

Trust is built through daily interactions and intentional gestures. You have many opportunities to gain trust each day. Work hard in the small things and you’ll weather storms with confidence!

Four Ways to Track Your Print Marketing

When you call someone on the phone, are you glad when they pick up? If you had to pay for each call, would you be especially glad when they picked up?

Marketing is essentially a call to your customers, a financial investment you make in hopes that people will “pick up.”

And print is one of the best mediums for engaging your audience.

Direct mail response rates for print are much higher than e-mail response rates (4.4% versus 0.12%). 60% of consumers said receiving and handling tangible objects leaves a lasting mental impression on them. And 57% of people say they feel more valued when they receive print marketing from brands.

When you place a call, are your customers picking up?

When you send advertising through print, you’ll have a better estimate if you are tracking responses. Every business using print marketing needs an effective testing system. Tracking your marketing will help you answer two questions:

  • Are your marketing dollars resulting in leads or conversions?
  • What specific parts of your marketing are responsible for prospect visits or sales revenue?

Four Ways to Track Your Print Marketing

Here are four ways to find out:

1. Unique Promo Codes

Promo codes are like hashtags, but better.

They are fun, expressive, and they bring tangible savings to your clients. Offer distinct coupon codes in print pieces you want to test, and be sure the call to action is strong and clear (e.g., “Get 25% off patio decor by presenting this card in stores or using the code ‘LOVE25PATIO’). If your customer uses the code, you’ll know they’ve responded.

2. QR Codes

How do you build bridges between digital and print advertising?

One easy technique is to include a QR code to drive traffic to your landing page. By adding these handy tools to your flyers, postcards, or brochures, you can track relevant info while storing data, location, and text. You can also experiment with social media hashtags to track success and increase online engagement.

3. Distinct Online Landing Pages

Online landing pages can be created specifically for promotion through your print ad (for example, see Uber’s landing page targeting new riders here).

While your website homepage typically offers an introduction to your business, a promotional landing page:

  • Is designed to receive traffic from specific sources
  • Prompts visitors to take one well-defined action
  • Stays focused on a single topic or offer
  • Omits or downplays site navigation options

Beyond narrow landing pages, you can also record general web traffic during a campaign to note whether a spike in visits may indicate a particular ad’s effectiveness.

4. Asking Customers

Want to know what’s on their mind? Ask them!

While you may not be able to connect with every customer, take time to ask new clients how they heard about your business. Speak with people face-to-face and you may gain insight into their motivations, frustrations, or preferred benefits.

Also consider adding a drop-down element to your website to ask how customers were introduced to your business (direct mail, word-of-mouth, social media, etc). Finally, including a unique “point of contact” email address or phone number (specific to the campaign) on your print materials to make response tracking easier.

Record and Recalibrate

From big business to small firms, every business using print should track and recalibrate based on results.

Print ads are more compelling when they use clear calls to action and high-quality pieces. Ready to set up a campaign with distinct tracking points? We’re happy to help if you have questions! 

Use Emotional Marketing to Win Customers

In 2014, an animated film titled “Super Amma” was created to teach mothers in rural India the importance of consistent hand-washing.

Because families had no running water (and typically only used soap when dirt was visible), changing mindsets was a daunting task. The solution? Health officials put together an inspirational animated film starring “Super Amma,” a mother who loved and cared for her son, eventually helping him grow up to become a doctor.

Dubbed “an extraordinary tale of an ordinary mother,” Super Amma used the powerful appeal of a nurturing mother to forge an emotional connection between regular handwashing and a mom’s desire to care for her children. Initially rolled out in 14 villages, the results were better than expected. Six months after the first campaign, 37% of families were regularly washing their hands with soap.

Emotional Connection Rules All

All of us understand the power of emotions.

They drive us to pursue dreams, keep us from making destructive choices, and can easily nudge us in a particular direction when we make decisions.

Marketers can use emotions like vital arrows when advertising a particular product or service. But to build an emotional connection with your audience, you need to understand what’s motivating your buyers. What are they hoping to achieve? What feelings are they searching for with your product or service?

According to MEG research, there are three key motivators that affect most buyers: trust, confidence, and empathy. How could you use one or two of these emotional triggers to move your core buyers?

Emotional Trigger: Trust.

Move Customer to Believe: “Acme Company is a company I can depend on. I trust that they’ll do what I say.”

Trust is a powerful motivator! Share hard facts, testimonials, stories, and convincing benefits to show prospects that placing their confidence in you is a worthwhile decision.

Slogan example: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”

 

Emotional Trigger: Confidence.

Move Customer to Believe: “I have confidence that Acme Company has the expertise to meet my needs and the tools to do it with excellence.”

When seeking to sell a product or service, your goal is to convince buyers that your marketing claim is credible and so is your company. Move prospects from believing that your product brings results to believing it can bring results for THEM.

Slogan example: “Stronger hair, stronger you. For hair that shines with all its strength.” (Garnier)

 

Emotional Trigger: Empathy.

Move Customer to Believe: “Acme Company understands my present situation, and is there to walk me through purchasing decisions and service support after I make a commitment.”

It’s not about you, it’s about THEM. To make lasting emotional connections with customers, show that you understand where they are coming from and demonstrate how what you offer solves their problem.

Slogan example: “Make quitting suck less.” (Nicorette nicotine replacement therapy products.)

Use Print to Get to the Heart

Statistics show that emotional marketing campaigns are nearly twice as effective as those that have a rational focus, and print ads that generate an emotional response outperform other ads by a factor of 2-to-1.

When you recognize the key motivators of your audience, identify similarities among those who respond to your brand and speak to their desired emotional benefit.

By getting to the heart of your audience (causing prospects to buy-in to more than just the logical “result” of your product) you go from simply conveying a message to evoking a response.

Perseverance: How to Know If It’s Time to Quit

Over the last two years, there has been a great buzz about 37-year-old tennis phenom Serena Williams.

Williams has 23 Grand Slam titles and a dominant career, ranked number one for 319 weeks over 15 years. In 2017, Williams gave birth to her first daughter. Many wondered how motherhood would affect her career. Would she return with the same fight? Would she return at all?

Williams roared back to the semi-final of the 2018 U.S. Open and quickly regained top 10 rankings. Fans worldwide were inspired by her courage and moved by her transparency about her struggles.

Faced with a Crossroads

In life, you will face discouragement, wondering, “Is it time to quit? Should I alter my path or press on through resistance?”

On one hand, redirecting can be wise, helping you avoid harm or consider better alternatives. Conversely, quitting might weaken your character or prevent you from realizing an achievement that’s closer than you think.

Walter Mallory, an associate of inventor Thomas Edison, was expressing regret that the first nine thousand experiments with a battery yielded few results. Edison had a different perspective:

“Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I have found several thousand things that won’t work!”

To Fish or Cut Bait?

Politician Newt Gingrich said, “perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

Pressing on in a project can build character, enhance your skill set, and build confidence that can only come through trial. The best leaders are those who’ve been tested.

When tempted to quit, ask yourself whether other alternatives seem tangible or rewarding. Does a change seem realistic? Could you tweak certain variables to make a situation more bearable? Perhaps your moments of greatest discouragement are those when you’re actually closest to breakthrough!

But whoever said “quitters never win” may have been wrong. Quitting is scary, but sometimes continuing is worse. Stubbornness can destroy important relationships, blind you to better alternatives, or make you oblivious to your destruction. It might be time to quit when:

  • Continuing will destroy friendships, family, health, or your character
  • Despite loads of effort, you don’t see results
  • You find yourself growing numb to red flags
  • Proceeding may eliminate other options
  • You’ve lost all joy or energy

In 2010, Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa shocked fans when she retired at 28. At that time, she was ranked number one in the world, a winner of two major championships and millions in prize money.

An impulsive decision? Ochoa says no. From early in her career, Ochoa wanted to marry and raise a family without golf, projecting about 10 years on the tour.

“ . . . For me, getting married and having a family, that was more important,” Ochoa said. “Now that I’m a mother, I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world and I feel blessed. I’m really, really happy that I made the decision at the right time and now I can enjoy 100% this second stage of my life.”

Looking back, Ochoa said knowing there was a definite “end” actually helped her game:

“When I was in a difficult position and I was either upset or tired or angry or disappointed, I keep saying, ‘OK, y’know I have three or four years left. I’m going to do it and continue and I’m going to put everything into it’ . . . When I look back and I see what I did, I just feel even luckier because I made the right decision at the perfect time.”

Ochoa’s courage may inspire you to think of it this way: perhaps it’s time to quit when saying no to the good means you can say YES to the best.