“The customer is always right.”

It’s a statement that will always ring true, but many businesses tend to forget just how important the opinions of customers are — even with the easy access everyone has to the internet, n place where the uncensored sea of opinions can destroy a business’s reputation in a few hours.

The internet has pushed businesses to forever change their marketing methods, from design to implementation. Now, the customer has the control over conversations about business reputation, brand, service, and products, and customer satisfaction through social media, comments, and other online avenues. It is essential that every business learn how to be transparent to inspire trust.

Here are a few businesses that have learned the art of transparency and some lessons for applying these concepts to your agency:

Transparency in Finances

Buffer, a social media sharing company, shared the pay structure of everyone in the company on a blog post. This allowed people inside the company to know what others were making. It also provided access to outsiders so they could see the earning potential within the company. The result? Buffer has received a massive number of résumés.

Another company that utilizes transparency in the financial aspect of its business is a startup from New York known as SumAll. SumAll is a data analytics company that works with small businesses. Everyone knows the salaries of the staff and the entire capital structure of the company. Not only do they know who owns a certain percentage of the company, but they know exactly what is owned by investors. Everyone must collaborate on decisions because they all have a say, and though it takes a bit longer to implement an idea, everyone is excited to put the plan into action once an agreement is met.

So, how does being transparent about a company’s finances help to grow your own brand?

If you’re keeping your financial statements under wraps, know that doing so might make investors steer clear from your business. The more information you are willing to offer to potential investors, the more certain they can be about the future of your business.

Transparency in Work Processes

Regardless of what industry you are involved in, there will always be an audience that will be interested in seeing what goes on behind closed doors. Whether you’re marketing ice cream, organic lotions, or down-feather pillows, people want to know how something is made, and they want to make sure there isn’t any “funny business” going on.

McDonald's received some very bad press about the meat in its Chicken McNuggets. What made the rumor have such impact was the fact that there was a supposed photo of the process floating around on the internet, giving credibility to the accusation of "pink slime" as the ingredient in McNuggets. McDonalds took the opportunity to be transparent with its customers by filming a video with a behind-the-scenes look at what actually happens in the process of creating the food.

While transparency of finances and work processes are important, it doesn't stop there. The most successful businesses are transparent about performance. For instance, 37signals allows both employees and customers to see how the company has performed with its last 100 customer support communications. Customers not only hear about great customer support in ads and marketing campaigns, but they can decide for themselves if it is true. Employees also get the extra motivation to improve performance, knowing that everyone will be able to see how they do.

Benefits of Transparency

The common theme for all of these businesses is that they believe that being transparent makes them stronger companies. It establishes trust with everyone they do business with.

  • Investors can be confident in investing with them based on their financial records.
  • Employees are kept "in the loop" so they feel like they are part of the company. This leads them to perform better, making the company even stronger.
  • Customers have more trust in the company because they not only see their successes but their failures and how they deal with them.

Clients and customers will always choose the brand they trust over the one they’ve never heard of, which is exactly why you need to give them a reason to trust you. Not only will be attractive to new clients, but you’ll also be gaining trust from your employees: They will have a clear idea of what they represent and what their values are as employees.

Transparency isn't always easy, but it's the new path to success.

Originally published Aug 25, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2017

Topics:

Branding