Authenticity: Without It, Your Business is Doomed

In today’s rapid-fire, ultra-connected, news-travels-fast world, businesses that don’t deliver on promises end up in deep water fast. Companies who operate vastly differently from how they have marketed themselves now find out that word travels fast—and that dishonesty is quickly exposed.

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Frustrated customers can now instantly share their experience with the world.

Ten to fifteen years ago companies could still operate with one goal in mind: sell as much of their product as possible using whatever methodology worked the best–including slight exaggerations, deceptive upselling, exploitative advertising, all the while avoiding or ignoring as much as possible, consistent customer complaints and providing shoddy customer service.

Fifteen years ago the adage was that “one unhappy customer will tell seven other people about their experience with your company.” Of course, if those seven other people didn’t need a new vacuum cleaner, then what did it matter–there was always another unsuspecting customer who hadn’t heard the news yet anyway. While shortsighted, this mode of operation worked extremely well for many businesses and companies: sell now, sell fast, upsell more, and move on to the next consumer. However, many of the companies involved in this kind of shady customer exploitation are now finding themselves under-the-gun, or going out of business. Now, one unhappy customer can instantly alert millions of people about their experience.

While not every exploitative sales pitch or company making false promises has been uncovered or unmasked, the truth is, if you’re “faking it” these days  people will find out. If you’re not delivering on promises consistently or if you’re using deception to upsell more false promises, you and your company will be exposed and word will spread like wildfire across facebook, blogs, twitter and numerous other social media platforms and websites.

Even worse than lost customers, falling sales numbers, and perhaps even class action suits from unhappy consumers, there is very little hope of rebuilding a mangled reputation or simply moving on to do business in a different arena. You can’t “erase” everything on the internet and start fresh under an assumed name.

The solution is simple but not always easy:  maintain your authenticity. Believe in your product, service or resource. Believe in your mission and make sure those around you do as well. Serve (and listen closely to) the customer–instead of selling to him or her. Be honest about your services, and be honest with yourself.

About Derek Richey

Derek Richey is Director of Marketing at Coltrain Group, LLC. He was awarded the “Rosemary Miller Preservation Activism Award” for his co-authorship of the book “Bloomington Then and Now”, which documents the changes in the Bloomington, Indiana landscape over the past 100 years in a photographic format. Derek has helped launch several multi-million dollar brands, and recently played an important role in the launch of professional soccer in Indianapolis.

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