“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
– Groucho Marks
It should come as no surprise that people are attracted to authenticity these days. They want to believe that what they see is what they’re going to get. Of course, with consumer options growing by leaps and bounds and thousands of companies selling the same things, that phrase has taken on new meaning. It’s not enough to buy something from the cheapest bidder anymore, or the one closest to home. It’s about creating meaning.
There’s an old saying that a brand is what someone says about you when you’re not looking. Authentic leaders build authentic brands pro-actively, and strive to insure that what people say about them and their businesses behind their backs is not only good, but helps build an even stronger customer base.
People buy from people they trust, but with so much purchasing being done on line, many businesses are remaining ‘faceless,’ the buying process becomes little more than a crapshoot. Some businesses have websites that provide little more than perfunctory information from old business listings. Other websites might be big and splashy, but look pretty much like everyone else’s that are big and splashy. They stick to facts, and provide no differentiating value that would make a customer choose them.
Authentic leaders – especially those with small businesses – understand they need to find ways to convince to customers they can be trusted. They can’t simply tell them to. The customer needs to see it with his own eyes, and feel it at a gut level. No matter how they come to you, the onus is on you to make them feel they made a wise decision to do business with you. That only happens when you make an emotional connection.
You may sell a brand product, but the brand you are actually selling is yourself. Your company. What you stand for, and your promise.
Just like that Dr. Seuss line, people want to believe you ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say,’ and in this interconnected world of ours it’s getting more and more difficult to rise above the hype and calls to action, unless, of course, you’re prepared to be yourself.
That’s a market that only you can own – because after all, there is no one like you. It’s also the place where authentic leadership and branding merge into one voice, which should be transparent to those both within the company (employees) and without (customers).
Both leaders and brands share the same mission: to influence others. Without influence, leaders are powerless and brands can’t exist. They ‘re mutually dependent on the beliefs held by others about you.
So how can authentic leaders create authentic brands?
- Be true to what you believe in. Let everything you do reflect your vision and your mission, and convey it not only to yur teams, but to your audience (your customers, both in person and on your website).
- Put the needs of others above your own. Show empathy and compassion.
- Be honest and genuine in both thoughts and actions.
- Consistency counts. Make everyone aware of what they can expect from you and your services. Become a reliable and dependable resource.
- Keep your promises. No exceptions.
- Be a problem solver. Find solutions and not more problems.
- Be social. Interact more and be genuinely interested in others. Show it.
- Listen and learn.
- Apologize when you’re wrong.
- Never lose sight of your vision. Integrate your thoughts and actions around the bigger picture and insure that each step you take supports it.
- Have a purpose and tell your story. Story creates an emotional connection quicker and deeper than anything else – and importantly, it shows your humanity.
Remember, people don’t have to either work for you or buy from you. The companies that win the loyalty of both employees and customers are those whose simple, consistent and very human message rings through the din of others, clear as a bell.
Today’s blog was written by Nessa Goodson, a brand consultant, strategist, writer and ghost-blogger. She helps small businesses find their stories, enabling them to build a brand – and a business – that’s both memorable and compelling. Your story matters. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org