What does authenticity mean for small businesses?

December 11, 2022
5 minutes
Pedestrians crossing the street

Authenticity put simply is staying true to who you are, what you do and your audience. It's about knowing your purpose as a business and making sure every action you take and the things you say aligns with that purpose. For example, if your business' purpose is to tackle sustainability in your given sector and you preach being environmentally friendly, you need to make sure all you do serves that purpose.

Having a purpose as a business is important, because without purpose what's the point? If you're not living by that purpose, you’re being inauthentic and will lose trust and support in your business, which is why authenticity matters. This article will look at why you should care about authenticity in your small businesses and why it's important to your customers.

The rise of the conscious consumer

Over the past few years, there has been a consumer shift toward supporting brands that have values that align with their own. Social issues and the environment are leading factors that consumers care about when shopping. They want to know what your business is doing for the environment and your stance on what's going on in the world. Your customers care about authenticity.

What matters to consumers

  • 86%: Authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support1
  • 81%: Need to trust a brand before they make a purchase2
  • 66%: Transparency is one of the most attractive qualities of a brand3
  • 64%: Would buy from or boycott a business based on their stance on  a political or social issue4

Case Study: Patagonia

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”

Patagonia: Mission Statement

Patagonia lives and breathes its mission statement: Producing long-lasting, high-quality products made from ethically sourced materials and have programs that fund environmental causes worldwide.

They have managed to stay true to this from the very beginning. As a result, they are held in high regard by their customers. Through being authentic in their messaging and staying true to their views they have built trust.

Read their "activism" page

Your business should strive to be:

1. Authentic

Authenticity is about staying true to yourself. Your actions should reflect your values.

Being authentic:

  • builds your identity
  • gives substance to your business
  • makes you relatable
  • builds trust in your business

Being authentic is about going beyond the profit-driven motive: What are your goals as a business? What do you stand for? What is your business's purpose?

Remain consistent and back yourself up with action. Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk.

2. Trustworthy

Building trust builds long-lasting relationships with your customers.

Trust is earned:

It takes time to build trust and it's so much more than providing a high-quality product or service. You also need to make sure that your customers find you reliable and provide them with an amazing experience with your business throughout their interactions with you: pre, during and post-transaction.

How to build trust:

  • good customer service
  • authenticity
  • consistency
  • being transparent
  • just being honest

3. Transparent

Show your customers what goes on behind the scenes.

Trust and transparency are linked. Being open about your business practices builds trust.

This can be being transparent about:

  • where and how you source materials
  • how you treat your employees
  • what you care about beyond making a profit

Transparency can help your business in being authentic, by being transparent about what your business is about and the actions you are taking builds on trust and authenticity.

4. Open with your values

Be vocal about the causes that you believe in. More importantly the things that matter to your customers.

Taking a stance on social and political matters is a double-edged sword for businesses, being active in matters that you truly care about is important and sharing this can go a long way with consumers.

However, trying to have a stance on everything can make you appear inauthentic to your audience. Consider the causes that really relate to you, your business and your customers.


The all-important takeaways from this are, as a small business you should:

  • define your purpose - what wider goal are you trying to achieve with your product or service?
  • establish your values, based on this goal - what do you care about beyond profit?
  • understand what values your customers care about concerning your business

Knowing these things can help drive your purpose and feed into your authenticity as a business. Being authentic matters to your customers and it can make you more reputable, trustworthy and ultimately build a much stronger relationship with your customers.

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