We all understand the importance of transparency — this past year alone, we’ve seen the titans of tech have transparency wars, and Google itself has committed to transparency as a core value. At this point, companies know they need to be honest to build trust with consumers and, hopefully, that translates into brand loyalty.

But why, if it’s so important, do so many marketers fail to invest in transparency? There are a lot of excuses for keeping your cards close to your chest. Some include fear of losing control of the story, not having the time or resources to invest, or simply not feeling supported by leadership to be more transparent as a company.

Well, those excuses are silly — there, I said it.

It’s time that we as marketers stand up for the new standard of transparency in our marketing efforts. We need to start intentionally driving traffic, community members and customers to campaigns that pull the curtain back and show our company’s unique story.

#1: Give Your “Why” More Real Estate

By now, hopefully everyone has seen Simon Sinek’s TED talk (video) around the Golden Circle Theory. It’s a great speech about the importance of selling more than just What we do and How we do it, and instead focusing on the Why.

The Why is the reason your founder started the business. It’s the core value you are trying to share with the world. It’s one of your biggest assets, and you should be spotlighting it. Too many companies tuck their Why away in the About section and give it one paragraph, tops.

Why not test putting it on the homepage? Why not create an entire lander dedicated to why you started this company and what makes trelloyou special? You can use your regular marketing channels and communication channels to drive eyeballs and buzz to it. This sort of dedication to your Why often kicks off a very authentic conversation between your brand and consumers.

#2: Show Off Your Product Roadmap

Say what?! I know this one is a bit terrifying, but publishing publicly your product roadmap (or your business goals, if that relates to your model more directly) is a great way to get customer buy-in and support.

A great example of this is Trello, which publishes its product roadmap using its own software (super smart!) and allows its community to vote up ideas for the next product feature to work on and comment on suggestions as well.

By publicly publishing your product roadmap you are encouraging conversation between your customers and the product team, and giving that conversation a beautiful home that represents your company as genuinely invested in the happiness of its customers.

#3: Pull Back The Curtain On Your Technical Performance

Downtime happens. Many of us work for companies that experience technical challenges often, and how we react (or don’t react) to these can be a great opportunity to connect with customers. If marketers spent time creating an area on the website that spoke to the technical performance of the site and company, they could then address Zendeskchallenges as they come, not reactively.

A great example of this is what Zendesk does. They show off their up time, they pull from social to point to real-time troubleshooting, and they give an historic view of how they’ve done.

This is incredibly vulnerable for them. If you have a bad month, you’ve made a promise to publicly spotlight that hiccup; but, it’s also incredibly honest of them. Customers know they can go here to see what’s going on and find out more information.

Marketers need to be thinking about proactive ways to surface challenges their companies are facing. How can we both create and market those transparent conversations more effectively?

#4: Blog About The Wins & Losses

This one seems the most intuitive to us, but there are still lots of companies failing to embrace a transparent approach to content marketing. Our day-to-day ups and downs lend themselves to great blog posts, and our customers want to hear them. Did you have a hard time hitting a deadline as a company? Did a product not accomplish what you had hoped? Did you have a rough financial quarter? Share these stories with your communities and make them part of the story.

On the flip side, we should be marketing our wins as well. Is your culture at an all time high? Did your team just launch something they worked really hard on? Get that information on your blog and let the community know things are rolling in the right direction. We shouldn’t be afraid to share our wins and losses. They are part of our company’s story, and our customers want to hear more about the company they are investing in.

#5: Create Micro-Sites/Campaigns To Share Your Story

Every company is fighting an uphill battle or two. Often, we try to handle those internally and keep our fingers crossed they don’t become public conversations. Ipatagonia think that incognito approach is outdated and dangerous. Instead, we should open up about our biggest challenges and control those conversations through intentional marketing campaigns.

Patagonia does an amazing job of this with its Footprint Chronicles campaign. As an outdoor gear company, the environmental impact of their production could be questioned. So they opened up about their supply chain and show customers just how they manufacture, distribute and more. They are dedicated to lessening their environmental impact, and this micro-site campaign showcases their progress.

Conclusion: Trust Follows Transparency

In conclusion, we as marketers need to stop marketing outward and start looking inward first. What story is there to tell about your company, team, challenges and more? By opening a conversation around these stories and being more transparent with your customers you are encouraging trust.

In our socially-driven ecosystem, trust and brand advocacy will continue to grow in importance. It’s time to jump on the transparency bandwagon. Those who think it’s an optional trend will be at a disadvantage; meanwhile, your competitors will be pulling back the curtain and winning for it.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | How To Guides | How To Guides: Marketing Strategy | Marketing Strategies Column

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About The Author: is Chief Marketing Officer at Seattle-based BigDoor, a customer loyalty technology startup. Lord is also a social-media enthusiast and frequent conference speaker on topics ranging from performance marketing, inbound marketing, data analysis and retention programs.




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  • Chris Elwell

    There’s a fine line between transparency and narcissism.
    Customers don’t care that you’ve had a bad quarter and your dog died. They want
    to know what you’re going to do for them… tomorrow and the day after that.

    Sure, come clean when you screw up, but it’s a mistake to
    think transparency is going to foster customer loyalty for brands that don’t
    earn it.

  • http://www.socialsinergy.com/ Adam Dukes

    Some excellent ideas and I need to start implement a few. I talk about the ‘wins’, but not much about the ‘loses’ or lessons learned :)

  • http://www.prosemedia.com/ Justin Belmont

    Great article, Joanna! I’m glad that you referenced Sinek’s TED talk, as it is incredibly informative and spot on. I agree that businesses should advertise their “why?” In this marketing age, consumers want to hear stories that engage them. Your “why?” page can do just that. It is important to tell potential customers why you decided to do what you do and that can best be told through a story. Being transparent is the first step to trust and telling your “why?” can get you there.

 

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