The consumers of this decade are smarter and better informed than the consumers of the past. Their computer screens are portals into an unbelievably deep and rich world of information. Beyond that, however, today’s consumers have grown up on television, radio and newspapers. They have seen and heard almost every permutation of marketing and sales, both the good and the bad. As a result, today’s consumer can see an inauthentic sales pitch coming from a long distance away, and they want none of it.
Authentic Marketing is not about gimmicks
In fact, sales people twenty and thirty years ago – the front line of consumer engagement – were schooled in sales “techniques” and “marketing” meant a collection of gimmicks to lure people closer, mechanisms something like a venus-fly trap might employ. Smart consumers were skeptical, but nevertheless largely reliant and therefore vulnerable to the machinations of manipulative, and sometimes unscrupulous, sales approaches.
Before the advent of the internet, companies had a near monopoly on key information about their product. There were fewer retail outlets, so choice was limited. Comparing airline ticket prices, cruises or safaris across a wide range of consumer options was a matter of intensive, time-consuming research. Buying any consumable good meant relying on the few retailers in your neighborhood who sold the product. Moreover, since most marketing involved advertising, the information flow was largely unidirectional. Any conversation was muted and company problems could be handled largely at the company’s discretion. The loci of a company’s brand was largely situated in the company’s camp.
Social media platforms have shifted the center of gravity
At the heart of every brand is the company’s corporate culture as amplified by the interactions and ongoing conversations between consumers and consumers and consumers and the company. Therefore, paying attention to the nature of corporate culture and its manifestations in social media is a matter of key importance.
Simply put: consumers do business with companies they like. Everyone talks about the quality of authenticity – the idea that clients will seek out and choose a travel company with which they can identify and trust. A credo of authenticity seeks to fulfill every explicit and every implicit promise made by the company. Making good on your promises is important; authenticity without stellar performance means little. The consumer wants your performance to be well above the norm – in fact, they want it to be exceptional to such a degree as to be unique. That is why the small services provided to a consumer of your product throughout the relationship are so important. They can potentially set the authentic provider apart from all others.
Authentic marketing is not about clever tactics or contrived attempts to go viral. Authentic marketing is the projection and communication of core company values, clearly articulated, into the marketing matrix.
If the customer is at the very center of a company’s values; if the company’s mission statement is about providing the client with unique value; then the fundamental requirements of authentic marketing exist. If the company then evaluates its every strategy and tactic in the light of the company’s core values, the conversations the company has with its customers are likely to be perceived as authentic.
Authentic marketing is about corporate personality and integrity. Outside of the travel world, companies like Zappos come to mind. The corporate culture is observable, and every marketing effort, every corporate policy reflects the same light.
Passion is best expressed by authentic marketing. When the corporate personality is balanced and sound, there is an almost joyous feeling exuding from every marketing effort and communicated from employees to consumers effortlessly. The authentic company realizes it’s ALL about the customer, not about them.
Genuine. Honest. Open. Client-centric. These are the qualities consumers look for in the companies with which they do business. The travel company embodying these characteristics gracefully will earn the loyalty of many clients for a long, long time.