In a world where advertisers are vying for attention, more consumers are losing trust in brands and growing wary of duplicitous behavior. Studies also show that 45% of respondents believe incessant advertising caused them to lose confidence in a brand. And yet, for some reason, we just keep doing the same thing again and again as marketers. 

So how can you avoid falling into the same trap? Pull back on marketing altogether? Declare that brands are dead? Not super productive. Instead, you can embrace authentic marketing to win back customers and earn a reputation of respect and transparency in your industry. 

Here’s how to rethink your marketing and stay on top without losing the heart and soul of your brand. 

What is Authentic Marketing? 

Authentic marketing is the process of communicating openly and honestly with consumers, or the general public as a whole. The goal is to stay genuine and meticulous with your brand’s word. Case and point, if your product claims it can solve a specific problem, make sure it does what it claims or offer a satisfactory resolution. 

Solutions-focused marketing that puts your customer first is the foundation of building authenticity. Instead of making your messaging all about how great your brand or product is, showcase how your product solves customers’ most prevalent problems.

Your customers are among the best sources of information when establishing authenticity in marketing.  Devour customer reviews, scour comments on ads, and consume organic social content to reveal valuable insights into how your brand is being perceived. You can also gather feedback by surveying or interviewing customers directly.

Why Should You Integrate Authentic Marketing into Your Creative Strategy? 

Authentic marketing is more than just nice to have; it can also dramatically impact your bottom line. Boosting engagement while lowering CPAs (cost per action) is among the most crucial reasons you need to integrate authentic marketing into your creative strategy. 

Higher Conversions

Integrating customer concerns and feedback can greatly influence the number of online conversions your paid and organic campaigns generate. When your site’s content isn’t designed or written with your customers’ priorities in mind, you’ll likely see higher bounce rates and lower organic conversion rates. However, when tailored to those needs, you’ll see your audience actually converting because they resonate with what you’re putting out there. Loyalty is built, and sooner or later you have a flywheel of success. 

Lower CPAs

You may see greater impressions from using general messaging and broad targeting, but you’ll likely experience lower CTRs—which means increasing costs for leads. Tailoring your messaging to those few key points your customers genuinely care about allows you to connect with a more intent-driven audience, which can result in reduced CPAs.

Higher Engagement

It’s always important to stand out from the competition, but when you have increased market saturation, it’s also crucial to differentiate and connect with audiences more effectively. You’ll inevitably drive higher engagement by crafting full-funnel messaging tailored to your unique audience personas. You can use your research-backed customer concerns and feedback to help shape your messaging to bring more authenticity to your campaigns.

Just don’t confuse being authentic with pandering, especially in your online ads. Customers are more tech-savvy and advertising-aware than ever before, and will spot disingenuous messaging from a mile away. It’s important to identify what customers actually care about versus what you think they might care about. Industry jargon and slick marketing talk are also signs your creative desperately needs a refresh.

6 Audience Research Techniques for Authentic Digital Marketing

To establish authenticity in marketing, you need to intimately understand your audience. Yet, you can’t truly know your audience unless you’ve done some in-depth research first.  

Customer feedback is a simple, powerful research input that can fuel messaging for both paid and organic marketing. Whether you’re creating paid video ads, organic social posts, web copy, or landing pages, your customers should be able to identify their perspectives and concerns in your marketing content.

Of course, centering your messaging on the customer doesn’t mean changing who you are as a brand to fit the needs of all potential consumers. Instead, you need to take your brand principles, mission, and vision as a company and balance them with what matters most to the consumers you want to buy your product or service. In other words: Who is your ideal customer?

Developing a message that targets your ideal customers means showcasing your brand through the right lens in order to connect to that specific group’s values. You’re not changing who or what your brand is, just how it’s being positioned to the customer. 

Here are six ways to start gathering customer insights:

1) Evaluating Customer Reviews and Social Comments

There’s plenty of feedback out there waiting to be collected, starting with customer reviews and social comments. What concerns, hopes, and pain points do they share? What bothers them about the products or brands they use? What motivates them to try something new? 

Beyond their interactions with your content, look at how these customers engage with each other. Take notice of what other customers are saying in response, whether or not they agree, or any suggestions they may have. It’s possible other customers are already trying to solve their pain points and direct them to brands they see as authentic. 

2) Collecting Customer Surveys

Sending out customer surveys is a valuable way to collect feedback, but it requires some nuance. Instead of asking for feedback or general comments, send out a survey with set questions. Limit your multiple-choice options and try leaving answers open-ended while giving context to your audience:

  • Why did you choose to use our brand/products/service over other options?
  • What influenced your purchase?
  • Did you find anything disappointing about this product?
  • What would you tell someone if they asked about our products or services?

3) Interviewing Customers

One-on-one conversations with customers are a great way to dig deeper into buying motivations and the circumstances that influenced their decision-making process in real-time. Just like the survey option, open-ended questions are essential during interviews, but you’ll find more value in the follow-up questions. Think of your interview as a conversation rather than an in-person survey to hone in on what drove them to purchase your products or services in the first place. 

4) Competitor Research 

Another way to identify missed opportunities or gaps in your messaging strategy is competitor research. In addition to what your own customers are saying in reviews and in social media conversations, it’s important to scope out what competitors’ customers are saying as well. Take a look at your competitors’ organic and paid content—how are they speaking to their prospective customers? How are their customers talking about them?

5) Industry Research 

In addition to customer and competitor research, understanding your industry as a whole can put feedback into perspective, painting a picture of how macro influences may impact the way consumers interact with your brand. Study how thought leaders in your industry are addressing certain topics or conversations, as well as how people are interacting with said thought leaders. Capture this honesty and find a way to address these key values in your campaign messaging.

6) Demographic Research

The one-size-fits-all approach is the antithesis of authentic marketing. When tailoring your messaging to address different audience personas at once, it’s important to layer demographic insights over the feedback you collect through customer research. This will ensure you’re presenting each subgroup with the information most relevant to their specific needs, preferences, and circumstances. You may discover that 45% of Gen Zers say that a brand “appearing trustworthy and transparent” is a big motivating factor for engagement. Or that Gen Xers want respect and are fiercely brand loyal to the companies that give it to them, no matter the price of said companies’ products. 

A Note on Privacy

While customer privacy on the whole is becoming a larger conversation, the level of concern varies by industry. For brands operating in industries where customer privacy is a major concern—for instance, healthcare—marketers may experience greater challenges directly accessing customers, especially for research initiatives like surveys and interviews.

Regardless of industry, remember that taking shortcuts by mishandling customer information will backfire and can cause serious reputation damage. Not only can you muddy your data to the point where you draw incorrect conclusions and spend valuable marketing dollars on ineffective campaigns, but you also put customers at risk if their data isn’t securely stored. Business Wire shows that 81% of consumers would stop engaging with a brand online after a data breach.

Need Help Developing Your Authentic Marketing?

When it comes to crafting messaging that actually drives results, customer feedback is your greatest asset. Get more insights with The Customer Journey in Consumer Services

Lauren Mcvetty

Lauren is a content strategist with expertise in copywriting, social media and UX. She applies a performance-oriented approach to creative storytelling to deliver meaningful results for clients.

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