You are what you are: so be authentic

You are what you are: so be authentic

Along with many others, I moved some of my scheduled marketing content for the week so as to show respect for the #BlackTuesday initiative. This seemed like the right thing to do. I oppose racism and inequality and try to do things in my professional and personal life to reflect this.

But honestly I found the decision-making around this to be something of a minefield. I'm clear on my views, but did not want to unwittingly send out a message in moving my content that would be interpreted otherwise. It seemed to me to be wrong to just carry on with my content plans as before – but equally wrong to take a position to lecture on an issue which I am not an expert in. I am clearly not from a BAME background and while I have educated and continue to try to educate myself, I still have blind spots.

Dave Stevens

As with many brand- and marketing-related decisions, it's a matter of authenticity. How can you stay true to what you are in how you present yourself in the market? And that ‘essence of business’ can be complex to un-pick. For your brand consists of much more than your logo. Your business is made up of your purpose, your culture, your values, your employees, your suppliers, your products and your services. To be authentic, all of these elements need to be aligned and that means all of the parts of a business need to be pulling together in the same direction. Customers can tell whether a brand is behaving authentically or not.

Being authentic is everything

The most effective business marketing of recent years has been borne of authenticity and yet it’s rarely celebrated in the way that differentiation (which is a nonsense of a concept by the way: there’s probably another column in that) and prevalence are as marketing levers. So let’s begin to correct this here.

Hooray for Xero, the accountancy software business. Their mission is to help small businesses thrive by changing the game. Customer centricity is reflected like writing through a stick of rock in Xero’s culture. Take Xero’s values like ‘challenge’, which applies to moving the needle in the tech and accounting industry and so enabling the business to work at its mission of changing the game. The Xero product that results is a game-changer. And it’s reflected in the messaging – and even the channel for the messaging. What other B2B accountancy software businesses have used TV in the last year?

And three cheers for PA Consulting Group that has authentically positioned its technology-enabled consultancy offering in the covid crisis by showcasing work it is doing to support ventilator production for patients. No hypocritical posturing here.

And bravo to Dropbox for Business which takes its customer-centric culture through to a messaging that always solves customer problems rather than pushes product features – even if the solutions are work-in-progress against known problems.

So be proud to be what you are. Don’t pretend to be what you’re not. And if you want to change who you are, don’t just change the message.

Dave Stevens is a B2B marketing consultant and can be contacted at DaveStevensNow@gmail.com. He is Chair and Co-Founder of the Business Marketing Club, a not-for-profit community network of B2B marketing professionals and people interested in B2B marketing. Find out more at www.businessmarketingclub.org.uk.