The importance of local authenticity
When deciding which local businesses to patronize, consumers choose ones they know and trust. Columnist Brian Smith shares tips for marketers looking to help their businesses cultivate a strong image within their local communities.
Welcome to the post-truth world. A world of fake news and faulty Facebook metrics. A world of Yahoo data breaches and WikiLeaks scandals. A world in which it’s hard to spot a glimmer of truth when it’s sunk to the bottom of a Flint, Michigan well.
With truth in short supply these days, a brand’s authenticity, particularly its local authenticity, is more important than ever. We trust those we know, those who live in our community. They’re one of us. We are forever suspicious of outsiders, the unscrupulous “them.”
If you’re a local marketer for an SMB (small or medium-sized business), you’ve got an advantage over larger brands with multiple locations. You’ve got your finger on the pulse of the community. You live in it. It’s easy for you to capitalize on that pop-up holiday market on the corner of 5th and Main.
But marketers at multi-location brands often don’t have this luxury. Their local marketing campaigns are typically run by corporate offices far removed from the locations they’re managing. And it’s hard for someone in a Manhattan skyscraper to know what’s happening on the streets of Akron. Multiply this problem by a thousand — or ten thousand, depending on the number of locations managed — and it’s obvious why national brands have trouble providing local credibility.
So how does one project local authenticity without faking it?
Let’s take off our tinfoil hats, emerge from our post-truth bunkers and see if we can shine some light on the subject.
Show me the social proof
When it comes to purchase decisions, we never make them alone. Sure, we might complete the transaction online without ever interacting with another human. But consciously or subconsciously, we make our decisions by considering how they will reflect in the eyes of others, and by what others might have decided in the same situation. We may ultimately ignore these influences, but they remain. It’s as if someone is constantly looking over our shoulder, nudging and judging our decisions.
What’s important for marketers to realize is that not all of these influences carry the same weight. If it were only the company telling you to buy a product, you’d naturally be suspicious. But if you also read multiple reviews endorsing the product, your trust and confidence grows.
Nevertheless, these faceless strangers leaving reviews will always remain in the “them” category. And the truth is, a single recommendation by someone you know and trust will trump the opinions — no matter how many — of people you don’t know.
And that’s why local authenticity is critical for brands. It transforms that nudging and judging voice in our ears from “them” to “us.”
Most of the time, local marketers won’t be able to establish personal relationships with potential customers. That’s the domain of salespeople. But there are three steps you can take to improve your brand’s local authenticity.