If you read anything to do with marketing, the phrase “Be Authentic” will come up all the time. It’s great advice. Especially when we live in an age where a lot of brands and people are less than their true selves.
But what if you think your authentic self is, well, kind of boring? You like long naps, cat videos and eat at the same place every other day. You don’t go on trips alone to Africa, or skydive, or take selfies of your awesome body after doing 4 hours of cross training. And you’re worried that your authentic image just isn’t enough to cut it against all your flashy rivals.
First, you have to understand your worth. The only thing you need to compare yourself to your rivals is the quality of your product or service, and make sure yours is always better. If better is not in the budget, then make sure your lower pricing is your key strategy and do everything you can to make the best with what you have available.
But chances are, you know how great your product is. Now you just need a little nudge on how to market it in an awesomely authentic way.
Start with Some Inspiration.
My mom gave me a book called, Steal like an Artist, by Austin Kleon. You can also watch his TED talk if you’re short on time. Basically, the idea is, there aren’t really original ideas anymore. Ideas are all bits and pieces of other ideas, that lead to something unique that represents you.
“Artist steal things that they really love”
So collect ideas. Read. Look around. Find something that speaks to you, and steal the part you connect with. This will require research on your part. If you own a software company, check out what other software companies are doing for branding and see if anything stands out to you.
But don’t stop with your industry. Hop on inspirational Instagram and Pinterest accounts and get lost for a while. Watch Abstract, read books, scan magazines, watch TED talks. Take notes of things that inspired you or stood out as interesting. They don’t all have to fit together, you can have a long list of random things at first.
Believe that You are Awesome.
Once you’ve found some inspiration, you need some self-motivation. You have to actually believe you have something awesome to offer people. Because you do. You probably just quit believing that you do when you turned into a teenager because that’s when we tend to let go of our imagination and start to care about what others think of us.
Be real with yourself and stop wondering if you’re going to win everyone’s admiration. Just focus on being you and helping your customer.
If you have a great product or offer a great service, then just be honest. Maybe you aren’t the most creative, so go plain. Minimalism is usually the win-all method anyways.
Or maybe you act quiet and reserved, but inside there’s a creative party animal just waiting to break loose. Here is your chance to express all those ideas in your mind.
Expressing yourself isn’t as scary as you lead yourself to believe. Just because people have pushed your ideas down before doesn’t mean you have to suppress them all forever.
Your ideas will get shot down, and not everyone will like them. But some people will. People that connect with your honesty. And those are the people you are after anyways.
Like Brenda Ueland wrote,
“You are talented, and you are original”
because you are an individual and there is no one else exactly like you on the planet. Everyone has a voice, everyone has something to say. So find the most honest way to say it in your words.
This isn’t always the fastest process. Sometimes being yourself takes a while for you to find and for people to catch on to. And often we are so concerned with money and numbers we aren’t willing to wait it out and see how things would’ve turned out if we had truly followed our instincts. We usually just give it a little while, don’t see results, and then give up and try something that seems to work for others.
I’m not saying don’t try multiple options. It’s always great to have backup plans. But don’t kill your ideas off just because they aren’t turning heads like you had hoped in the first few months. Not everything is about receiving instant praise from others. Sometimes, you just have to be happy with the fact you did something that’s true to you and hope others appreciate your honesty.
Do Some Real Living.
The next thing is going to be hard. You need to do what you are uncomfortable with. Do you like social activities? Does talking to people give you energy? Good, now go somewhere quiet and remote and don’t talk to anyone.
Eat by yourself in a restaurant, go on a walk, visit a museum, do something completely alone. And pay attention to everything.
On the other end, if you tend to be introverted, guess what, you have a little assignment too.
Try talking to someone, anyone, that looks like they might be willing to chat for a few minutes. Talk about vanilla pudding, their favorite animal, or straight up ask them what their hopes and dreams are. You’ll make a friend instantly if you learn what someone really wants in life.
But try to eventually get to know something about the person so that you learn something from them. Because everyone has something to teach you. Every person you ever meet, encounter, or pass by has something to teach you. We usually just don’t take the time to learn.
The more you step outside your comfort zone, the more inspiration you will find. You can’t find inspiration sitting in the same bubble you live in day in and day out. Push yourself to explore and learn! Then you will find new and interesting ways to connect with your audience that you never realized before.
As long as you live in a mindset that everything must be done one way, because that’s just how society works, the faster your company will go under. People love something that’s new and feels real to them because they are surrounded by fake things every day.
Change How People Feel.
The last piece of advice I have on helping you find some inspiration is something I learned from Bernadette Jiwa’s TEDx talk—and that is to stop trying to make people do something, and instead, try to change how they feel. Trying to convince people of something based on facts and numbers just isn’t enough.
Especially these days, scientific proof seems to hardly even matter to a large group of people. But one way to connect to anyone is through emotional appeal. Figure out a way to make your product matter to them. Create a story of how your user would benefit from your product or service.
Are they at work, opening a long list of emails, and accidentally stumble upon a virus that shuts down their entire system? You know your company’s security software could have prevented it so you create an emotionally gripping story about someone’s regular day and how it could have continued to be a regular day with your software, but instead has turned into a day of utter chaos, stress, confusion, worry, fear and anguish. These are all feelings people want to avoid, but it’s an emotional connection nonetheless.
“The secret to spreading ideas: The fortune cookie principle. Every product, every idea, every innovation has 2 elements: The cookie and the fortune. The cookie is the commodity, the tangible thing that you put in your shop window. And then there’s the fortune, the thing that moves them to act . Your vision, your values, your purpose and your story…Change how people feel. Not how they think and not what they do.”
You can have a great product or a piece of garbage (as she proves in the TED talk), but all that matters is the emotional connection. How does this product improve your user’s life? What do they get out of it? Find a way to say that honestly, with your true self.
The key is not to be afraid to do something that’s real to you, and always has your customer’s best interest in mind. Be brave, be patient and create something awesome.