Every so often, marketing folks adopt new buzzwords that seem to take on a life of their own. Most times, that’s for good reason — the market and society are evolving, and we’re working to keep pace.
In recent years, we’ve been wrapping our arms and minds around things like “influencer marketing,” “digital transformation” and “omnichannels,” to name a few. Recently, another word has, as they say, entered the chat: Authenticity — especially as it relates to sales and marketing and helping you to reach your customers.
Authentic marketers aspire to create their content more transparently, to be more genuine in the visuals they present and find sincere voices to influence their audiences. The goal is ultimately the same as it’s always been: encourage connection and sales. But the approach has transformed.
Social media marketing has certainly played a big role in the move toward more authenticity. In order to break through the mountains of noisy content served to our audience day in and day out, brands have to tell better stories and connect in real ways.
Today’s consumers won’t waste a thumb scroll on a traditional sales pitch on TikTok if it doesn’t look like it belongs there. And they far prefer to be influenced by someone who resembles themselves versus a highly polished spokesperson.
So, let’s look at some ways your small business can add authentic marketing tactics and reach your customers in meaningful and lasting ways.
Create Authentic Short-form Video
Don’t get tripped up here trying to chase another buzzy phrase: Going viral. Chances are your next TikTok or Instagram Reel won’t get millions of views, but a heart-felt message with real-world visuals could go a long way with the people who matter the most: your customers and prospects.
Social media viewers want to be engaged and entertained, not sold to. They want the story, not the sales pitch. And, yes, AI tools can make content creation easier these days, but take it with a dose of caution — AI won’t deliver that authenticity nor your unique story.
When making a video, don’t be overly concerned with the quality. If it looks like you and sounds like you, it will get the message across. You don’t have to spend thousands on video like the old days. Just grab your smartphone and hit record.
Here are three easy-to-create videos you can post today:
- Behind-the-scenes prep for an upcoming event that you’re catering — show the details of meal prep, setting up tables, the beautiful scenery. Title it: “Today’s event set up” and use hashtags like #eventplanning #eventsetup and #eventdecor.
- Before-and-after of a pool cleaning job — show the pool in its original state, film some of the cleaning and then show the final, sparkling water. Title it: “From Green to Clean” and use hashtags like #poolcleaning #poolmaintenance and #pooltok.
- A day in the life of an accountant — show your morning routine, your commute, working in your office — don’t forget the spreadsheets, take a break for lunch, meeting with a co-worker and a post-work client dinner. Title it: “Spend the Day with Me as an Accountant” and use hashtags like #dayinmylife #accountantsoftiktok #accountinglife
Build a Real Community
Good old networking and community marketing are having a heyday. These are areas that local small businesses can truly shine over big brands — especially when connecting with younger audiences.
To reach Millennial and GenZ customers, community and purpose go hand-in-hand. According to Ernst & Young’s GenZ Segmentation Report, expressing what you care about and support in your community will go a long way in connecting in a meaningful way. Ernst & Young urges:
“Have you asked the question: ‘Why would they care?’ GenZ’s dollar is hard won … To capture them, you need to go beyond the transaction, leaning into the things that they care about most.”
So, what could that look like for your business? Here are some ideas:
- Give time, talent or treasure to local causes that matter to you, whether that’s buying youth baseball team jerseys or giving employees the afternoon off to help with a food drive. Pro tip: When you post about this on social media, be sure to mention the cause and what it means to the community, rather than self-congratulating for your participation.
- Host a Facebook or LinkedIn group that discusses relevant topics and invite customers who would like to share their experiences and ideas with like-minded people. This can be especially effective for businesses in industries like health and fitness, personal finances and education.
- Write a blog or create a short video that showcases your employees and open positions or internships you are hiring for. Not much impacts the health of your local community more than providing jobs.
With smartphone cameras always at the ready, it can feel like we’re all starring in prime time these days. Anyone can capture you during a high or a low or post a scathing review or glowing first impression. You need to be ready to manage your reputation.
Transparent communication begins as soon as a potential customer learns about your business. If your website doesn’t tell them anything substantial, they will move on to your competitor. What’s substantial? Things like your hours, products you use, prices, procedures and more.
Here’s how to provide crystal-clear communications to reach your customers:
- Convey policies and changes clearly. If there are areas in your business that may make or break a deal, be sure customers can find them easily. For instance, if you charge extra for customization, let that be known up-front. If you’re making changes to your processes or policies, email them to your current client database. Proactively communicating sets the right expectations for your customers from the jump.
- Request and respond to reviews. More than 80% of consumers say they read reviews before visiting a business. Show that you’re on top of things by answering every review with a genuine response, whether offering thanks for the kudos or solutions and apologies when warranted.
- Want to make all of this easier? Meet your customers where they already are. If they want to make a complaint on Facebook Messenger, be there. If they send an appointment request via email or text, be ready. If they’re old school, pick up the phone. The bottom line is: The customer expects you to have the ability to not only connect on any and every channel, but to also understand the nuances of each one.
Whether “authenticity” burns out as a marketing buzzword or not, small businesses have an edge here that stands the test of time. Show up as who you are and tell your brand’s story to build the most meaningful, long-term relationships with customers who trust both you and your business.
Tami Cannizzaro is Thryv’s Chief Marketing Officer. She is an industry veteran who is known for her expertise in digital marketing and building inbound growth engines for new customer acquisition.