Authenticity is not a goal.
It’s a byproduct of something else.
It’s not something you can put on like a coat. It’s not a strategy. It’s not something you can posture at. It’s not even the goal. It’s the result of something else that you’re doing.
There’s the old story of the archer who misses his shot because his eye is on the trophy he wants to win and not the bullseye. If you try to get the trophy, you miss the target. The only way to get the trophy is to stop focusing on it.
Every once in a while, I will hear people say things like, “I’m a very authentic person.” Or, “Well, to be really authentic about it . . .” And I also see courses on how to learn to market authentically.
I’ve seen email subject lines say things like:
“This is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever shared.”
Or, “I’m really scared to share this with you . . .”
Then I read it and that vulnerable thing is something so sales-y that is clearly not very vulnerable at all. They used my caring for them as a hook to get me to open the email. That didn’t feel good. As another colleague of mine, Teray, shared, “When someone sends too many “vulnerable,” and, “embarrassing” subject headings in a row, it starts to feel like me-me-me-me.”
Often this strategy rings hollow. Some of it makes the person marketing seem like they’re trying really, really hard to be authentic.
Authentic also doesn’t mean hippie, conscious, new age, spiritual, or any of that.
Want to know who has the most authentic marketing of anyone I’ve ever seen? Jay Abraham.
Jay Abraham is a hardcore capitalist and doesn’t hide this at all. His offers are direct, candid and he is extremely transparent about his own selfish motives for making the offers he makes.
Nothing is being hidden.
And though my political views couldn’t be more different than Jay’s, his marketing feels authentic to me.
Being authentic doesn’t mean speaking in soft and sweet tones all the time. It can sound sales-y too. Believe it.
Authentic doesn’t look a particular or specific way.
But when you use the language of authenticity and you aren’t actually being authentic . . . it’s the worst. And it’s often obvious.
So what is the bullseye on which we need to focus?
In marketing, I think it’s the truth.
But a particular kind of truth. It’s the truth of “is this a fit?” rather than “how can I get the sale?”
If your agenda is to get the sale then no matter what you do, short of telling people, “I really just want the sale,” your actions will be manipulative and they will land as inauthentic.
Most sales training is an attempt to cover this original sin, the type one error of focusing on the sale. It’s all about how to build rapport, elicit buying strategies, overcome objections, etc. So much of marketing is about trying to seem authentic while we pick clients’ pocket. It’s full of justifications for our own selfishness and desperation. It’s full of rationalizations for doing things that don’t actually feel right for us.
Having said that, collapsing and giving away the store for free isn’t particularly noble or authentic either.
But what if our focus wasn’t on trying to seem authentic.
What if it wasn’t even on trying to be authentic.
What if our focus was just honed in on creating something wonderful, giving great customer service, and getting the word out? What if our focus was – in those wonderful moments when someone expresses an interest in our work – on helping that client sort out if our work or offering was really the best thing for them or not?
Let your focus on providing value for your customer be the most authentic thing about you. Don’t use authenticity to sell something.
The Seven Graces of Marketing – Lynn Serafinn
Marketing for Hippies 101 – Tad Hargrave
On Fake Vulnerability and Giving a Crap (Dear Marketing Guru…) – Ling Wong