The Marketing Value of Being Transparent
by Matt Gottesman
You misspelled a word!
Your grammar didn’t quite fit in that last paragraph.
The video isn’t completely polished.
Don’t talk to your audience if you don’t know what you want to say.
All of these are phrases countless companies and critics continue to think matter in the digital world. I’m not saying that spelling, grammar and great, quality content are not important – they most certainly are.
What I am saying is that too many organizations and individuals think everything needs to be perfect online in order to proceed with any one initiative. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t.
An influx of transparency-style marketers has taken over the web. They’re individuals who want to talk, report, blog and videocast their thoughts on a particular topic, but in a way that’s honest, raw, and unpolished. This creates higher engagement and leads to true impact with your audiences. Of course, the key is to be more giving of yourself.
And while bloggers, internet marketers and online celebrities are nothing new, the focus has strongly shifted from perfection to authenticity. People are now actively taking audiences on their journey through a particular niche.
Pat Flynn did this with SmartPassiveIncome.com. His motto is, “I’m the crash test dummy of online business, sharing what works (and what doesn’t) so you know exactly how to build your business better.” He’s currently making $150,000 per month.
Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSMetrics and Crazy Egg, also achieved notoriety via honesty with his blog, neilpatel.com/blog. While he’s a serial entrepreneur, his blog tracks his journey as a digital marketer, detailing his lessons learned from building target audiences – the good and the bad.
Tuft & Needle, a Phoenix-based startup disrupting the mattress industry, directly calls out the industry on it’s website under their “TRUTH” tab. Here they demonstrate “unfair markups” and the true cost of making a mattress without compromising quality and design. They have since become one of the top selling retailers online in less than two years.
Why is transparency so effective?
Let’s focus on four of the reasons:
#1: Transparency allows a relationship to build between the person/entity and their followers/customers. Just like the physical world, the digital world is navigated by trust. If someone likes what you’re building online, they will show you their trust by following you, opting in to your email list or buying your products.
Example: My online magazine, Hustle & Deal Flow™ has an email opt-in and its free to subscribe. Its mission is to create a global community of entrepreneurs who are currently building their companies and “would be” entrepreneurs who are quickly heading in that direction. However, it’s the manner in which I write the newsletter that gets higher engagement. I openly tell the audiences what’s happening with the brand, relay part of the direction we’re heading in and give them a forum to speak.
#2: Transparency keeps you flexible so you can make small changes to your initiatives/brand/product, etc. What does this mean? Well, if you’ve already established the relationship as alluded to in #1, then you’re able to adjust your initiatives based on your audience’s feedback. Doing so shows them you care about them.
Example: Tuft & Needle is exceptional about being customer-centric. They make one product exceptionally well, but stay close to the end consumer so they can constantly make it better. As they gather more feedback, they iterate that into the future version of their same product instead of spawning new ones to market.
#3: Transparency gets you to market faster. Instead of relying on everything being “ready” or “perfect” you can go to market with a beta mentality and most people won’t even care about the small mistakes. In fact, they’ll probably give you a lot of great feedback and appreciate you including them in the process of building your brand/blog. PS – These customers/users often stay around for significantly for longer lifecycles.
Example: Instagram is a perfect example of this. Several companies were born on Instagram because somebody created an inspiring t-Shirt, showcased it to their 50,000 followers, instantly gained feedback, set up an eCommerce store via Shopify and went to market – all while still figuring out the other logistics.
#4: Transparency shows there’s a human working behind the scenes. In the day and age of technology, too many companies relied on automation to the point where it felt irrelevant and impersonal. When you inject a person who’s acting open and honest into the marketing, it creates higher engagement because it’s more relatable.
Example: When I’ve made small mistakes in grammar, someone might point them out to me and I’ll make the changes (if it’s still possible). When someone responds to my newsletter, I write him/her back. When someone has a problem opting in to subscribe at hdfmagazine.com and they email me, I walk them through some of the reasons why they haven’t received a confirmation yet. These small details compound over time and cause my relationships with my followers to grow substantially. This is all because they see a human working behind the scenes.
Examples of recent growth
The above chart shows the growth in Instagram followers over the previous week. The table below demonstrates the growth in email subscribers from one of my email lists.
How can you implement more transparency into your online marketing initiatives?
• Find your voice. Write your content in your voice that’s intended for your target audience. Too many people try to write like someone else. If you’re looking to grow your audience, you must maintain a transparent voice of who you are. They’ll follow you because you’re you.
• Own that you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing. I just recently started podcasting. In my very first episode, we openly admitted that this is a work in progress, but we love feedback. This shows people we know how to take a chance and try something new, allows us to under promise and over deliver keeps us flexible to receive feedback from the people who matter so we can directly make it better for them and it’s was funny as all get out. This is something you can do this in your email newsletter as well.
• Talk about a lesson you learned from something that didn’t go right within your niche, industry or focus. Believe it or not, other people care what you learned because it shows your human side and potentially helps them as well.
Bottom Line: Honest pays dividends in the form of followers, likes, opt-ins, purchases, referrals, relationships, traffic, credibility, authority and even business deals ( yep, those happen too.). If you’re looking for a return of your investment of time, you’ll find a healthy one in the exponential value of transparency in marketing.
Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor for brands, startups and VC's, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™, and is a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content. Matt helps businesses grow digitally by design.
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