The word “authentic” gets thrown around a lot these days, especially when it comes to marketing and business in general. Although many buzzwords are fleeting, this one is here to stay. While it may be trendy to use it now, being authentic has been something driving the best marketers forward for a long time.

What does authentic mean? It means “representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified.” Now, if you are like me that sounds a little like wording that would be on a fortune cookie. If we break it down, if you are authentic, it means that you are reliable and trustworthy – a genuine person.

To be authentic in business and marketing, the same idea applies. You want to be truthful and genuine with your audience. Being authentic in business is a great way to build trust with your audience, which translates into long-term brand loyalty.

But how do you know if you are authentic?

Here are 8 questions to ask yourself to make sure you are being authentic in all of your business and marketing decisions.

Question 1: Do you know what your core values are?

To be authentic, you have to have a business philosophy in place. It is different than your mission/vision statements. It’s more sincere and gets down to the very core of what you believe are the ethics and values that drive your business. What does your brand stand for? Once you have identified your core values, it serves as the foundation for outreach and building genuine relationships with customers that share the same core values as you do.

Question 2: What do you want your organization to be known for?

Similar to your core values/philosophy, you need to figure out what you believe in as a business. Weaving socially responsible thinking throughout your business strategy is a great thing because it allows you to figure out what you want to be known for. It will help you shape your brand and marketing strategy.

Question 3: Is your business relatable?

I know what you’re thinking – how can you tell? You can see if you are relatable by how your audience interacts with you on your various marketing channels. In general, if you are being personal and unique – if your marketing is a direct reflection of your business’ personality – you will see a higher engagement rate.

Question 4: Do you have a loyal following?

If your audience (ie. your customers) is constantly shifting, but never really growing, then perhaps there is a disconnect in how you are reaching them. If you are being truly authentic, then you will take the time to figure out how you can make a stronger connection with your audience. Find out what is meaningful to them. The trick is to market to an audience that shares the same core values as you do so you can grow together over the long-term.

Question 5: Is your overall goal profit or equity?

Long-term implications can be more impactful than focusing on the short term. If you are focused too much on profit and not enough on building brand equity and long-term relationships with your audience, you should try adjusting your approach. While focusing on profit may work for some – saying anything to get the sale – eventually you will run out of customers to pitch to. Either your smarmy reputation will precede you or you will have exhausted the market and no one will want to work with you again because they don’t like how you do business.

Question 6: How often do you promote yourself?

This is a tricky one because you want people to buy into what you have to offer, but people don’t like to be pushed into buying through advertising or a constant barrage of self-promotion. They would rather choose based on their own convictions and on their own terms. This is where content, influencer, and experiential marketing are so important. Content marketing should provide value for your audience. Influencer marketing let’s other people talk about you rather than you doing it. Experiential marketing let’s your audience interact with your brand and decide for themselves. Your marketing should be more about building awareness through value and experience rather than a hard sell.

Question 7: When was the last time you asked your audience what they want from you?

Engaging your audience in this way shows that you are genuinely interested in their needs. Here is the catch, you need to follow up on it. Don’t throw away valuable customer engagement just because you are too busy, or you don’t feel like doing it. If you ignore them, it’s like a broken promise that leads to a lost relationship. A great way to engage your audience further is to create opportunities for user-generated content. Not only will your audience feel like they are a part of your brand, but others will see the content is more authentic because it’s not just you talking at them.

Question 8: Do you walk the walk?

It’s not enough to say you are authentic. You actually have to be authentic. In this case, actions speak louder than words. It means a whole lot more if someone else says you are authentic rather than you tooting your own horn.

Authenticity in business is a trendy buzzword, but it’s not something you should gloss over in your business strategy. If you take a step back and look inward first, you will find your marketing outreach will come a lot easier because it will be a genuine self-expression of who you are as a business.

This article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.

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