I’ve been writing about this for months, but it bears repeating: Whether you’re launching your own business or product, looking for ways to refresh your company’s marketing efforts, or even looking to market yourself as a job seeker, the most effective way to grow a community of super fans and catapult your success is to learn how to authentically market your brand.

The key to authentic marketing is to stop thinking about the people you’re marketing to as “consumers” or “clients” or “employees”—but instead, as humans, just like you. When you understand that they’re humans, who, like you, get creeped out and turned off by prescriptive, overly salesy marketing BS, your marketing will be easier, more effective, and more fun to create.

If you’re ready to get human-to-human with your audience, here are the three most important things I want you to remember:

1. It’s Not About Doing Things the “Right” Way

Having worked on well over 50 PR and marketing launches over the years, here’s what’s become very clear: Posting a specific tweet, at a specific time, a specific number of days before you launch your product of program is not what’s going to make or break it.

But here’s what I keep seeing, over and over again: Brands are getting so caught up in the using the “right” tactics—getting lost in the logistics of the what, where, and how—that they lose sight of their message, or essentially, their why.

I read a really interesting book last year called Brand From the Inside, by Libby Sartain and Mark Schumann. In the book, they say, “A brand is only as strong as the emotions it generates.”

What’s going to make people “Add to Cart” and “Buy Now” and “Learn More” has less to do with where on the page you put the call to action, and more to do with how you make people feel about the programs and products you’re offering.

If you feel like your marketing isn’t resonating in the way you want it to, go find five members of your target audience and ask them, “If you were going to buy a product like mine, how would you want that product to make you feel?

For example, wearing Nike makes people feel strong. Wearing TOMS shoes makes people feel empowered to help others and give back. Wearing Banana Republic makes people feel sophisticated. Those feelings are what the customer is buying—even more than the product itself.

2. If You Don’t Feel Connected to What You’re Doing or Saying, Your Audience Won’t Either

Sometimes we forget that our audience has a BS meter—just like we do.

If you’re following a script that doesn’t feel right for your brand or forcing yourself to follow every marketing best practice just so you can tick the boxes, your clients are going to pick up on it—and instead of feeling a positive emotional connection, they’re going to think you’re full of crap.

All of the marketing best practices, tools, and resources that you’ve found? Think of them as suggestions. What’s worked for some marketing professionals isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s your job to decide what makes the most sense for your brand and the people you’re trying to get in front of.

I have a saying: “Go in first, out second.” As in, spend some time thinking honestly about what you want to say and the experience you want to create for your community. Once you’ve done that, you can move outward by asking other people for feedback and checking out how other brands are marketing themselves.

Nine times out of 10, your most authentic, effective marketing ideas aren’t going to come from checking out what everyone else is doing—they’re going to come from that genuinely passionate part of yourself that got you this far.

3. Do the Work, Don

You can thank Mad Men for this one: In order to authentically market your brand, you need to do the work to authentically market your brand. That may mean constantly pitching yourself as a guest blogger, sending out a newsletter every two weeks, or posting on Facebook every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—or a combo of all three!

There are tons of fun, creative ways to market your brand that touches and delights the people you want to get in front of—but you do have to put in the time and effort. Otherwise, your efforts (or lack thereof) are bound to fall short.

If you want to catapult your business, product, or personal brand, you need to be a great marketer. And to be a great marketer, you have to consistently do the work. But I promise, if you make that marketing your own—this is where the authentic part comes in—it feels less like work and more like finding really awesome, interesting ways to connect with your community.

Photo of woman using megaphone courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020