Transparency. It seems like such a simple word, but it also seems to come with a lot of strings attached. What’s the truth – and could transparency in branding be the key to strengthening your relationship with customers?
Businesses Putting Transparency First
There are many in the business world who will tell you that transparency is optional — especially for small businesses. They’ll tell you that nobody is demanding information from your company and you don’t necessarily have to be forthcoming if there’s no active pursuit of information from outside the organization. Unfortunately, this is poor advice.
Today’s customers are much savvier than ever before. This is partially because they have massive quantities of information and data available to them with just a few strokes of the keyboard. Whereas a small business like yours may have gotten away with safeguarding information in the past, modern customers have an expectation that they should be able to know what’s going on behind the scenes.
While we can discuss transparency in hypothetical and clinical terms for days and days, it’s helpful to take a firsthand look at this topic to grasp the true value of transparency and its many applications. The following three companies are good examples.
Buffer is one of the leading providers of social media tools and resources for businesses looking to increase fan engagement and drive traffic. They’re also one of the leaders in transparency and are constantly coming up with unique ways to promote trust in the marketplace.
In a step that was totally unprecedented at the time (and still is today), one way Buffer has made a commitment to demonstrating transparency is by releasing all employee salary information to the public. They also explain their pricing strategies, publicize diversity information, and touch on revenue figures.
Founded in the late 1990s, Triniti provides business and application consulting services, as well as software products that are designed to help clients maximize the value of Oracle’s e-Business suite. While there’s a lot of competition in this market, Triniti has found a way to differentiate from the pack through the prioritization of transparency.
This focus starts from the top, with CEO Srinath Alamela making key decisions by first filtering them through the context of transparency. And while most businesses assume that transparency only influences customer relationships, it also has a direct impact on how you deal with business partners.
“It is important that your partners in any shared initiative [understand your commitment to transparency] so that they do not take you for granted,” Alamela says. “In fact it is transparency that allows the bad apples to fall off as they are forced to being transparent and they are not comfortable doing that. Transparency also fosters recognition of common goals as in you are not saying one thing while covertly trying to achieve something else.”
Zappos, the ecommerce shoe and apparel giant, always leads the way when it comes to progressive business strategies. And while many companies are just now stumbling upon the idea of transparency, it’s something that Zappos has prioritized for years. It’s built right into their core values and reveals itself in many unique ways.
One of the ways in which Zappos promotes transparency is by being totally open with vendors when it comes to internal information. Instead of trying to hide secrets or use private information to establish leverage, Zappos believes in giving vendors complete visibility. The result is more trusting relationships that strengthen the organization at very foundational levels.
Three Tips for Making Transparency a Priority
Transparency sounds great, but how do you — as a small business owner — make transparency a priority within your own organization? This is a question that many are asking, but one that few small business “coaches” and “consultants” are answering. With that being said, let’s take a brief look at some ways you can put transparency first in your company.
1. Invest in Content
How do you best communicate your commitment to transparency to the largest number of people possible? In 2017, the answer is through quality digital content. From blogging and website content to social media and podcasts, good content that aligns with your brand’s core values is a high-returning solution.
The key to content marketing is to hone in on your brand story and make sure every piece of content you publish is consistent with this story. Spend some time working on your voice and only work with writers who can fully embody this voice.
2. Publish Data
“If it’s relevant to what you do, the people affected have a right to know,” points out Experts Exchange, a leading online community for tech professionals. “All too often, critical details of how a company operates are divulged on a ‘need to know’ basis. However, as soon as one of those details becomes public knowledge, that business’s reputation — and the reputation of the people running it — are compromised.”
One way you can put transparency first is by publishing relevant data and information. There’s always value in keeping certain information safeguarded — such as proprietary technology, trade secrets, etc. — but if it’s something that could eventually come out anyway, it’s beneficial to be forthcoming.
3. Take Customers Behind the Scenes
“One of my favorite brands to follow on Snapchat is Everlane, an online-only clothing boutique out of San Francisco,” social media expert A.A. Currey says. “They sell effortless, high quality California basics, and their Snapchat stories are always clean, simple, and very Californian (read: sunny and fun.) But that’s not the main reason I follow them. I follow them because they often use the Snapchat story function to feature their employees, many of whom seem to embody that brand spirit.”
Currey is touching on something that’s paramount in the pursuit of transparency: pulling back the curtain and bringing people behind the scenes. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to give customers a peek into what’s happening. Leverage the opportunities you have in this area to forge stronger relationships with your audience.
Don’t Underestimate the Value of Transparency in Business
Transparency is not just a buzzword or vague business principle that you include in your list of core values for investors and customers to applaud. Transparency is a tangible thing that must be proactively sought after and implemented. And as soon as you begin to prioritize transparency, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you interact with your employees, customers, and key business partners.
Customer Photo via Shutterstock