A small business owner smiling in her store

What makes a business authentic? What are ways to introduce people to your products?

Authenticity in business goes a long way, especially if you want to keep new customers around. By being transparent, you’re building a relationship of trust with your customers. In his book Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard discusses the importance of authenticity at Patagonia.

Continue reading to learn how to be an authentic business that makes its mission clear.

How to Be Authentic

Rather than crafting an artificial or exaggerated public image, Patagonia focuses on authentically operating according to its core values and its mission to protect the environment. For instance, the company’s guiding principles stem from a love for nature, a sense of freedom, and a refusal to conform to corporate norms.

(Shortform note: Experts define brand authenticity as how genuine, transparent, and consistent customers perceive a brand to be in its communication and actions. Creating an authentic business brand has several benefits: It increases customer trust and loyalty and also enhances your brand’s quality and iconicity. Research suggests that many consumers want companies’ authenticity to reflect a true commitment to important issues: 90% of Generation Z consumers believe that companies should tackle environmental and social issues. Studies also show that two-thirds of global consumers would abandon a brand based on its stance on controversial issues.)

Instead of relying on typical advertising tactics, Patagonia adopts several methods to introduce people to their products:

1. Hire product enthusiasts. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard says that great products are best created by the people who would use them because they’ll have a first-hand understanding of what users need and desire. Patagonia, therefore, hires people who share its passion for the rugged outdoor life.

(Shortform note: Some business experts refer to these employees as superconsumers—customers with passionate, first-hand knowledge about your products. Superconsumer employees bring energy, empathy, and creativity to your organization, and their enthusiasm boosts the energy and morale of the whole organization. They can also better empathize with customers, ensuring a customer-centric approach. Lastly, because of their detailed understanding of the products, they can contribute insightful observations and novel ideas.)

2. Share authentic stories. Patagonia produces a catalog that shares photos and stories of customers using their products in action. Instead of pushing sales, this catalog builds trust in the products based on people’s real-life experiences.

(Shortform note: Sharing authentic stories that show real customers using products plays into a cognitive bias called social proof: We tend to follow what others do because we assume they know what is best for them. In Influence, Robert Cialdini explains that we imitate others as a mental shortcut—modeling others’ behaviors saves us the effort of having to analyze everything ourselves. Therefore, showing a catalog of real people enjoying your company’s products can be an effective marketing tactic that encourages sales without outright pushing them.)

3. Focus on educating over advertising. Patagonia educates its customers in two ways: First, by providing thorough and accurate product descriptions and details, and second, by sharing stories that promote environmental sustainability.

(Shortform note: When you educate customers with quality information, you give your customers something of value before you ask them to buy your product. In Launch, Jeff Walker argues that this technique is more effective because when you provide your customers something valuable before mentioning sales, you establish trust and authoritativeness. This makes people more eager to reciprocate your generosity and purchase your product.)

3 Authentic Business Tips to Earn Your Customers’ Trust

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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