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The Authenticity Imperative

A real tactic for B2B marketing success

The Authenticity Imperative

The trouble with B2B marketing today is, well, remarkably similar to what it’s always been. Sameness.

 

Everyone is saying roughly the same thing, in roughly the same way, to largely the same people. It’s hard to stand out; and it’s only gotten more greige now, thanks to the influx of GenAI-fuelled shortcuts and AI-written thought pieces.

 

(Before you start wondering about this article, rest assured, we passed a reCAPTCHA just before this. No bots here, no sirree 🤖)

 

So, in a sea of shiny veneers and best-foot-forwards, how does any business have a hope of making a mark?

 

In short, by being authentically you.

 

Appealing to your people through authenticity

Or: Why authenticity is basically the marketing equivalent of wearing that one ratty old band t-shirt you love that almost nobody else gets except for that one couple down the road that’s just as into the band as you (hey, Jill and Joe!) and, oh yeah, the group of music pundits that said you looked cool last Saturday down at the pub.

 

One of the hardest but most useful lessons I’ve learned over the years is that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I won’t be for everyone—but, similarly, not everyone will be for me.

 

I think that’s something we understand naturally as people, but less often as companies. The truth is: Not everybody will want to buy what we’re selling. (And that’s okay.)

 

Sometimes, sure, it may be because you’re not saying the right thing. But, often, it’s because the person you’re speaking to:

  • Is uninterested (Doesn’t need what you’re selling—or doesn’t think they do)

  • Is time-poor (Thinks what you’re selling will mean more work for them)

  • Is comfortable (Isn’t ready to change the way they do things)

  • Is underfunded (Doesn’t have the budget to afford your product or service right now—but might in the future)

 

Now, some of those things you can’t do anything about. But others, you can.

 

That’s where authenticity comes in.

 

Authenticity is about peeling back the layers and showing your audience your product or service, what it does, what it’s good for, and—crucially—what it’s not good for. And, by doing so, allowing people to self-select and choose you if you’re the right fit.

 

Of course, that’s easier said than done. When everyone around you is showcasing perfect, replicated, one-size-fits-all facades, it’s hard to be comfortable showcasing your wrinkles.

 

But, for those businesses brave enough to bite the bullet, authenticity often has amazing results.

66% of consumers think that transparency is one of the most attractive qualities of a brand

88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands to support

91% of consumers want brands they follow to be authentic in their posts

82% wish B2B advertising had the creativity associated with B2C advertising

So, there’s a case to be made for being more genuine in your marketing. As Mark Mathieu put it: ‘Marketing used to be about making a myth and telling it. Now it’s about telling a truth and sharing it.’

 

Now, how do you go about finding your truth?


What is authenticity, anyway?

Authenticity is about being authentically, unapologetically human. Easy-peasy. Except, maybe not, because it’s hard to pinpoint ‘humanness’ when AI is starting to do a good job at fronting as human.

 

That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important to check back in with ourselves and reconnect with our most authentic selves. Ask:

  • Why are we doing what we’re doing?

  • Why should others care about it?

  • Why should someone else believe in our proposition?

  • Why should people believe we care about their business, really?

 

It may seem like a frivolous exercise, but we often lose track of these basic things when hit by the deluge of busywork, email communications, KPIs, sales targets, and more.

 

By reminding ourselves of why we do what we do—and why it’s actually pretty cool—we remember the exciting elements that other people will care about.

 

Think about it this way: AI is exciting, but it’s not inherently exciting to hear about it anymore—because everyone is talking about it in the broadest terms. But when you dive down into the nitty gritty details of what you do with AI and why it’s so ground-breaking, you tap into the reasons why your ideal customer will care.


The 4 ‘P’s of authenticity

There’s a power in the unconventional when it comes to showcasing authenticity. We think these four ‘P’s are a good guide on where you can start when looking for a place to draw authenticity from:

  • Personality: What’s your company personality? Can you bring a bit more approachability into your tone? Is there space to introduce a bit of nose-tapping humour?

  • Purpose: Why are you doing what you do? What is the cause that you care so much about that you’ve built a business around it? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

  • People: Is your culture something you’re particularly proud of? Do your people make a difference between you and your competitors? Does the way you treat your people make you stand out as a business?

  • Preference: Do you have a specific type of business your product or service works best for? Are there particular projects that make your heart sing? Sometimes, it helps to draw a circle in the sand and invite people to step in.

 

 

Building trust in the digital age– why people like their brands to feel human

At the end of the day, authenticity is about appealing to the human in all of us—and our desire to support things we care about and actually like.

 

We’re already seeing this. Over the past few years, there’s been a flux in the number of thought pieces and apps geared at showcasing reality without the filter. (Do apps like BeReal stop people from hurriedly doing their makeup and trying to look like they’re doing something cool? No. But they do suggest a visceral human hunger for authenticity.)

 

In an even more clear-cut display, a recent research paper by MIT Sloan found that people have a clear preference for humans. As the research put it, ‘not AI aversion, but human favouritism’.

 

All that to say: People like people. They want to support people.

 

Appealing to that human favouritism by bringing authenticity into your marketing allows you to tap into emotion and create narratives that resonate and linger.

 

Done right, authentic brand content can have a greater staying power. People remember how things make them feel; so, if your authentic approach appeals to the viewers emotions, sense of humour, or personal experiences, you’re more likely to resonate with your desired audience.

 

It’s about vulnerability and realism as a business strength, not weakness.


Some of our favourite examples in the wild

I’ve nattered on long enough but, before you go, have a look at these brands that have embraced authenticity, shown their underbelly, or used a sense of humour to grow their customer base and garner support.


 

The best marketing is memorable. It makes you smile. Or groan in sympathy. Or let out that little puff of air that suggests a laugh.

 

In short: It’s human.


Authenticity is easier said than done. And it’s worth it anyway.

So, back to the beginning: The trouble with B2B marketing today, sameness, still stands. Why? Because it’s hard for brands to embrace authenticity.

 

We can’t lie. It is scary.

 

There’s a critical balancing act that marketers need to do; a tightrope to be walked between personality and professionalism. That balancing act is why it’s so crucial to know your audience—how they speak, how they think, where there’s space to flex, and where boundaries are best left standing.

 

But, done right, authenticity can be a catalyst for success. And it can also help you understand who you are as a business better too.

 

Change is slow, but we’re seeing it all over the place; authenticity is becoming something people look for in the businesses they do business with.

 

So? Bite the bullet and get real. Really real.

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