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Authentic people build great businesses, says branding expert Bruce Turkel

The Bard said it best: “To thine own self be true.”

That was good advice in Shakespeare’s day, and it’s good advice today. By why is it great to be yourself? To be transparent? To be authentic?

Bruce Turkel, our resident branding expert, was in the studio recently to explain. He said the Internet revolution has made it possible for anyone to determine, very quickly, if you’re telling the truth.

“Transparency, today, is critical to building your brand, and it’s critical to showing your customers, your clients, and more importantly, your potential customers and clients why they will benefit from doing business with you,” he said.

Recently, I had the opportunity to do just that. I met with a developer and his second-in-command about a financing deal. That meeting proved that I had made the short list, so I asked them what would be the key factor in the final selection.

They agreed that, in the end, they’d do business with the person they liked. So the three of us spent the next hour swapping war stories – and I got my next meeting with them.

The fact is, Bruce said, that the services we businesspeople provide are mostly generic. They can be had anywhere. Crucial is finding people we can work with and trust – and that happens through building relationships.

Bruce said he remembers a time when I was, well, less than authentic. I was just another suit. A stereotype.

But he also remembers when I started to drop the mask and let my true self emerge. I remember it, too, and that’s when things really took off for me.

“It’s been attributed to Mark Twain. It turns out he didn’t say it, but it’s still a great quote: ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you figure out why,'” he said.

“You have no control over the first one, and the second one I think a lot of people spend a lot of time working on it – and never quite figure it out.”

But if you’re building a business, it makes sense to figure out that second question, Bruce said.

When you can answer it, you’re in a position to promote how you can make a difference to somebody else.

This played out in spades when I was searching for Vivian’s kidney donor. What made the difference was when my transparency about the matter created a compelling story that resonated far beyond my immediate circle of friends.

That story included a heavy emphasis on the joy the kidney donor would feel by making a difference. By saving a life.

In other words, it wasn’t just about Viv. It was about them, too.

Now, projecting your authentic self can involve a bit of introspection. You have to know who you are, and a good way to find out is to ask your friends and colleagues, Bruce said.

In other words, they see the projection – so ask them what they see.

Once you figure out what you want to project, you have to follow Bruce’s seventh rule of marketing: Repeat, repeat, repeat. You have to get the message out in a variety of ways that are, ironically, not repetitive.

“Your customer needs that repetition in order to absorb and internalize your message,” he said.

Bruce is absolutely awesome. It’s like a therapy session when he’s in the studio, so click here to listen to the entire episode.

We covered a lot more ground, including our producer Wanda’s brand and Bruce’s other six rules of marketing. These are not to be missed.

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