Business hand grawingDo you know everything that goes on in your business? And I mean everything?

And if you don’t, how much will your business suffer as a result?

I don’t know about you, but I have been reading more and more lately about scandals rocking the corporate landscape. Let’s not forget about the explosion of social media and how that has caused conversations about businesses to happen a faster speed. Because of all this, I believe that consumers are obviously more hyper-aware, and that there is great potential for consumer scrutiny.

Sure, it can leave a company wide open and vulnerable, but I don’t choose to see it this way. Rather, transparency in business can be a valuable opportunity to converse with your audience, to show them how great you are, and to even involve investors.

According to a study conducted by Chron & Wolfe, transparency was ranked third as the most important for consumers, right after quality and price. Transparency was actually considered more important than brand appeal and even recommendations from friends when it comes to the decision making process.

To further drive my point, let me point out a study conducted by Cone Communications and ORC International where they asked 1000 people about sustainability in companies. This reported stated that 68% of people polled think it’s alright if a company is honest, even if they’re not environmentally perfect. Get that! 68%!

Now do you see my point?

I Get it. So What is Transparency?

The basic definitely of transparency is where a business is opening and willing to share information about different parts of their organization with its consumers. You can further define it as how a business conducts themselves, how they involve consumer participation and how straightforward they are (i.e. not misleading) when providing products and services. Now of course that all depends on how much effort a business puts in to communicate regularly and openly.

But the bottom line is, a business that is truly authentic and transparent is when a business is responsible and ethical in its approach to their operations.

So What’s in it For Me?

While scary, opening up paves way for helping you innovate your company by what I like to call collaborating with your audience.  You let them know you need their help, people will come flocking. Opening up and being vulnerable shows that your company is human, not just another cold and heartless company. You want consumers to trust and, just as importantly, like you, so what better way to do that then by being transparent about what it is that you do?

Take a look at Dominos Pizza for example.  They launched a nationwide campaign to ask people how bad their pizza tastes. They showed all feedback. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

So what did they do with the comments? They took very customer’s advice to heart and improved their pizza. And look what happened. Within just three short years their sales increased over 14% year after year.

Another awesome thing they did? Create the ‘Pizza Tracker’, where you can actually find out where your pizza is every stage of the way.

Fine. How Do I Do Something Like This?

Easy. First and foremost, be clear with your customers. If they even suspect that you’re hiding something, they’ll run to your competitors. So don’t even think about it.

And when you are being truthful, make sure you communicate all necessary information or you will risk looking less than credible. Even if you forget one minor detail, consumers will be all over it. So before publishing any communication (internal and external), make sure it is written clearly and incorporates everything it needs to. Let’s say you’re making changes to your company. Make sure you roll things out in phases so that you can communicate each step clearly, and doing so means there is less miscommunication.

Next, make sure you communicate only what you know. Being yourself means that you don’t go and talk about things you have no knowledge of. What if someone calls you out? What will you do then?

So if you’re a graphic designer, it might not be a good idea to talk about being a lumberjack. Talk about what you do well, which is being a graphic designer. And sounds obvious, but people forget that by only talking about things they know, it will elevate their brand. It makes you look like the expert on a subject. In other words, it makes you look good.

Talking about what you don’t know is just as important. In these cases, make sure you’ve built up a network of people that specialize in those areas. For example, I am in no position to talk about graphic design, but you can bet I have a bunch of people I can refer others to. I still look good because I admit when I don’t know something, and I can still get what people need.

And it’s as easy as that. Just be truthful and open and you’ll be set. Ready to innovate with your company?