Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why Authenticity is the Key to Life... And to Growing Your Business

At Plum Grove, we like to talk about ways to improve your business, but sometimes we stumble upon marketing principles that apply just as well to our personal lives. This is one of those posts. Whether you're a business owner, an employee for a small company or a corporate office, or just a random passerby who happened to stumble upon this post.... We encourage you to keep reading!

When it comes to content marketing, you can try all the advertising, promotional, and PR ploys, but authenticity remains key. What is authenticity, you might ask? Simply stated, it means staying true to your values - whether they're related to your personal life or your business. 

Your values include who you are, who you serve, and what you do. It may sound like a no-brainer, but we've all heard of peer pressure.... Few people and even fewer companies are able to withstand internal pressures or external turbulence without losing their authenticity.

How do I apply authenticity?
Great question! In your personal life, it is important to make sure your goals are realistic. For example, if you're trying to get a six pack in 30 days, but you haven't been to the gym or done a sit-up in 30 years, then your goal is not realistic. You need to have a consistent growth strategy in place to make sure you're being honest to yourself and -- in this example -- your body.

The same principle applies to business goals too. Get a vision that your company's personnel understand, embrace, and can implement. Then ensure that your "authenticity" motto aligns with your business goals, so you can clearly demonstrate to stakeholders such as investors and lenders that you have a growth strategy in place.

Here's how to do that:

1. Be real
Sounds easy, right? Well, we have all heard of the term "selling out": This means you've betrayed a belief or value you once had out of greed or hopes of personal advancement. We hear this term a lot when it comes to the music industry.

But you'd be surprised how many companies lose their operational soul, delve into every sector deemed profitable, or adopt strategies that are counter to their mission. Define what your business does -- its mission and vision -- and stick to those core values.

2. Be charitable
You've donated in some way, I'm sure. Whether you throw some change in a Salvation Army bucket or purchase some of those always delicious Girl Scout cookies (Any Thin Mint fans out there?), you try to be charitable on a pretty regular basis. Well, have you ever heard of something called "corporate social responsibility"? Well, CSR is one way an organization can give back to society-at-large and the communities in which it does business. Consumers love that, and it's a win-win for both the company and the aid recipients.

3. Be consistent
Don't give mixed messages that might lead to mistrust and confusion, both of which could make you lose customers down the road. Lies are always bad and complicated when you're trying to remember which stories you told to which people. Stay close to your values, mission, and vision as much as possible. For example, Apple's tagline is "Think different." All of the company's products and services somewhat match that slogan.

4. Back up what you say
To build trust and customer loyalty, your word must be credible. If you want to establish a solid reputation, make sure your company delivers on its operational commitments. For example, if "Maintain customer satisfaction 24/7" is your tagline, prove it to patrons in the way your handle things like complaints, merchandise delivery, and service quality.

5. Be responsive
The last thing you want is bad press, so don't let word-of-mouth tarnish the reputation you've spent years, if not decades, building and growing. Be quick in handling customer inquiries as well as questions from any other relevant party. Think regulators, business partners, activists, and consumer groups.

6. Respect privacy
Build solid privacy practices in the way your company operates, especially when it comes to archiving online data. In this age, everything business-related is kept on the "cloud," so make sure your cloud provider has implemented effective policies to safeguard your company's data, as well as your customers' private information.

7. Cultivate your client base
To grow your business, you must cultivate your clientele. These include your existing and past customers, along with a mishmash of interested parties ranging from prospects to social media followers. It's important to cultivate fans because, while some may be unable to buy your product or service today, they definitely will in the future. Plus, they'll encourage their friends to do the same.

8. Polish your reputation
Don't spare any opportunity to polish your reputation, establish authority in your industry, or seize on a good PR occasion. Being authentic also means burnishing that authenticity every now and then, so everyone will take notice, including your competitors.

Until next time,

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133

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