Get Real: How Authenticity Works to Break Through DM Performance

Is there a credibility gap in direct? Are we sacrificing authenticity for high-tech technique and substituting being genuine for being clever? It's time to talk real, because customers respond to real.

Can direct marketing inspire? Sometimes it just seems like direct gets desperate and we lose sight that direct marketing can actually inspire people. Not just influence, but inspire?

Yes, inspire. The word comes from the Latin “to breathe into.” Wow, is that the offer of direct marketing? It would make no small difference if we knew — really knew — that being authentic can actually inspire consumers.

Grab some direct mail. Is the copy tone and tenor genuine? Do the format and techniques support a genuine offer? Can you picture the recipient and their reaction — is it as real as it would be during a good face-to-face sales call? Are you inspired to respond? Yes, inspired?

Value-based relationships are real relationships. Take Starbucks, for example. The company talks about giving consumers an experience that energizes their life. Wow, so it starts with a purpose that is inspirational. How does it link passion to building relationships? Its standard for building relationships is values. One of Starbucks' values is, “Enthusiastically Satisfied Customers.” Its annual report is titled, “Living our Values.” Do values matter? Thirty million customers visit Starbucks each week, spending $3.50 on average. Values provide the standard for how they communicate “real,” one customer at a time.

Over the last six months, we researched the role of values to generate breakthrough DM performance. I'll give you the bottom line first: “Consumers can find good value everywhere. They seldom find values, but desire to work with companies where relationships are genuine, authentic and personal.”

Values provide the relationship standard. Values reflect a company's interpretation of truth — how to be real — in building and sustaining relationships. Ken Blanchard, author of “One Minute Manager,” wrote, “Less than 10 percent of organizations have clear, written values. Values are important because they drive people's behavior.” Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” says, “Core values are essential for enduring greatness … you must know what they are, build them explicitly into the organization, and preserve them over time.”

A company's mission, as shown below is what a company does to build its business — its products/services/benefits/goals, etc. As direct marketers we get that. The opportunity is communicating a company's character — their values which set the standard for building internal and external relationships (must be identical).


Use values to get real and breakthough goals. If direct marketing is to build hope, to inspire people to build relationships, you must know and communicate your client's values. Consumers are seeking buyer/seller relationships that are genuine, authentic and personal. For many consumers, direct marketing is where they first sense a client's passion for being real.

We all work for clients who are committed to great products and services that make a difference in people's lives. For some reason consumers aren't hearing this part. Why? I'm not sure exactly. But we know the following:

· Values provide a company's standard for building and sustaining relationships.

· Values must be consistent for building relationships, both internal and external.

· Values provides differentiation, because it is unique to your client.

· Value-driven communications results in copy, offer and promises that are authentic and genuine.

· Very few marketers are using these principles, so the timing is great to give

· clients a competitive edge

Competition is intense, commodity products are easy to copy, product life cycles have accelerated, and price is easier to match. Where does differentiation best occur in a way that impacts beliefs to impact behavior? It isn't price, at least not price alone. We recommend a values-approach to inspire people, to build hope, and build relationships that last a lifetime.

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