Authenticity in Marketing

In speaking with creatives and super-small business owners one thing I’ve found over and over again is a resistance to marketing and promoting themselves and their work. Part of the reason is a sense of  Canadian modesty that must have been ingrained in us in childhood, but when I’ve pushed deeper with these people, I’ve found that at the core of their discomfort with marketing themselves is wanting to avoid being perceived as ‘fake’. This makes a lot of sense. As independent business people, and creatives, we want to showcase how we are different from ‘the big guys’ – that we (and our products/services) are authentic.

ARTISTS – don’t go walking away right now because you think your drawings, paintings, songs, poems, performances, aren’t products. They are all things that can be bought and sold (products) that add value to the lives of your customers. While the things you make may not slice, dice, and chop, or save people time and money in the kitchen, you add value to people’s lives through their experiences with your artwork. Plus, I have a special section at the end of this article just for you.

Please appreciate me taking a selfie while holding a 'no more selfies' t-shirt. #Authenticity

Please appreciate me taking a selfie while holding a ‘no more selfies’ t-shirt. #Authenticity

Authenticity has become a bit of a buzzword over the last few years. Particularly in discussions around businesses using social media. And another day I will post an article about how small business can effectively use social media in their marketing campaigns, but today I’m going to stay focused on how to market yourself in an authentic way, no matter which medium you are using. Marketing doesn’t have to be the slick, sleazy, deceptive persuasion technique we often associate with the word – I assume you aren’t selling timeshares so you probably have something that people want. If you are running your own business you obviously believe in whatever product or service you are offering to the public – if you don’t, in going to give you some free advice and say you should quit right now. If you can’t believe in what your offering, how can you expect anyone else to?

There are two elements you must have a complete understanding of in order to be authentic in your marketing.

1. Know Who You Are
2. Know Your Ideal Client/Customer

1. When I say know who you are, I mean know who you are as a brand – which in small businesses and the arts is often very much related to who you are as a person. Are you funny? Genuine? Sarcastic? Straight laced? A little bit wild? Think about the core elements of your personality, ask a few friends if you’re having trouble. I guarantee one or two words will come up again and again.

Once you know who you are, it will be much easier to figure out who your ideal client is.

2. If you are a little bit wild and sarcastic, chances are your ideal client isn’t the soccer mom or retired grandmother. I’m sure some soccer moms or grannies will absolutely love you, but they probably aren’t looking in the same places as most other moms and grannies so why would you waste time, energy, and money marketing to a demographic that will be put off by, or disinterested in you? In our hyper connected world, whatever you are into you can find a group of people who share your passion. We as consumers are used to finding products that are made just for us, so if we see something that is being marketed against our type, we will likely look elsewhere for a similar product or service. By focusing your marketing on a niche group you are also able to avoid problem customers – people who ‘don’t get it’ – who will take up lots of your time and energy but won’t bring in much revenue or new business for you.

Big Take-Away: Taking the time to discover who you are, and who your target audience is allows you to be clear, authentic, and consistent in how you talk about whatever it is you do.

For the Artists

I know it can be difficult to put yourself out there as a sales person, but until you are selling enough work that you can pay people to care about these things for you, you have to be your own marketing and sales machine. Remember, most supporters of the arts feel a joy from knowing that they are supporting those people who bring beauty, poignancy, thoughtfulness, and humour into their lives. Your work allows people to experience the world in a way they normally don’t from day to day and that experience is something that they are willing and excited to pay for.