Over the past several years, the movement towards “authenticity” in our personal lives has become a guiding compass to how we present ourselves to others. The thesaurus would describe the word “authenticity” as genuine, legitimate, believable, credible, truthful, accurate, faithful, dependable, trustworthy and consistent. I don’t know about you, but I want to surround myself with friends and family who possess these qualities, but what happens when those people slip away from authenticity? Or when they stop being consistent in the characteristics to which we have become accustom to? Well, the honest answer is that we want to stop hanging out with them because we just can’t believe them anymore or don’t know what their next move will be. The thesaurus would describe these “inauthentic” people as false, inaccurate, careless, artificial, deceptive, phony, wrong, unfaithful and erroneous. No one wants to be associated with that!
Now, flip over to the business world. How do you think a customer feels when a familiar brand is inauthentic, false, inaccurate, careless, artificial, deceptive, phony, wrong, unfaithful, and erroneous? Well, the honest answer here is that we want to stop giving them our business because we just can’t believe them or know what their next move will be anymore either.
Truthfully, I don’t believe that there are many companies that go out of their way to be inauthentic. Instead, they just move through each day, month and year trying to do better, but in that, they often choose conflicting and changing strategies to gain market share and the challenge with those “changing strategies” or “alternative value propositions”, are how your customers perceive what you are doing. In other words, if your customer is accustom to you being a price leader, then be doing everything in your company to keep your prices competitive, if your customer is accustom to you being a product leader, then be doing everything in your company to deliver on innovation, and if your customer is accustom to you being a service leader, then you better keep your relationship with them fresh. Anything other than consistency in these areas confuses the customer and a confused customer would rather give their business to a company where they know what to expect, every time!
Here are three simple examples.
Being an Authentic Price Leader
Customers expect aggressive pricing from brands like No Frills or Wal-Mart. Brands that are price leaders put their focus and strategy execution on delivering on what they promise, which are great prices. Customers who are motivated by aggressive pricing are not expecting these same brands to be delivering on product innovation and be providing deep customer relationships as stores like Whole Foods might provide.
Being an Authentic Product Leader
The easy example of a product leader is Apple. Everyone knows it, expects it, and always wants to buy their latest and greatest. These customers are totally motivated by product innovation and although everyone wants a good deal, customers who care about innovation are pretty much willing to pay whatever the asking price is. These customers are not expecting brands like this to be delivering on great prices as stores like Wal-Mart might provide
Being and Authentic Service Leader
Not all customers are willing to pay almost $5 for a specialty coffee and wait sometimes up to 10 minutes in line to order and then sometimes another ten minutes to have their order fulfilled unless you are a faithful Starbucks customer. Why can they get away with it? It’s simple; Starbuck’s is a service leader and their customers expect nothing less. These customers like to be called by name and don’t like to be rushed like one would giving their order in the drive through of a Tim Horton’s where the customer expects speed, with which comes great prices.
In all three examples, if a company tries delivering on all three, value proposition (price, product, and service), there will be two negative outcomes:
1 - the customer will get confused and will no longer trust the characteristics of the brand to which they have become accustom to and, therefore, stop giving them their business
2 - the brand will be diluting its efforts, focus and strategy execution on its core value proposition and, therefore, fail on delivering what the customer knows them for
So here is the question dear company, are you sticking with your core value proposition or will your customers find you to be inauthentic and eventually take their business to your competitor?
President & CEO
Little Fish Big Pond Inc.