I’ve recently been watching the Four Weddings and a Funeral remake on Hulu. It seems to be tailor-made for my pop culture taste—it’s produced by Mindy Kaling, set in London (check out my bio for how I feel about the British Royal Family) and features an enviable wardrobe. To the last component, The RealReal—the online luxury consignment store reshaping the retail industry—is featured throughout, both as sponsored content mentioned in the show and as the premier advertiser during Hulu’s 70 second commercial breaks.
Since watching, I’ve been meaning to check out The RealReal. But, competing interests, mainly real life, keep getting in the way.
Fast forward to ReCode’s CodeCommerce conference in New York City earlier this week. Focusing on how technology is reshaping retail and payments, Julie Wainwright, founder and CEO of The RealReal, was a featured speaker. In less than 30 minutes, I was a RealReal convert.
Why? In a conversation with ReCode’s Kara Swisher, Julie demonstrated the power of an authentic executive and the impact it can have on a brand. Put simply, in a room of 400 people, Julie made me feel like she was having a one-on-one conversation with me, and I walked out wanting to be her friend. More importantly to Julie, I left as a RealReal customer.
While its certainly easier for the CEO of a luxury retail company to form a connection with an audience, there are important lessons for more traditional B2B executives. Namely, no matter what industry you’re in, authenticity goes a long way to moving customers through the marketing and sales funnel.
Inspired by Julie, here are a few tips for any B2B business leader to help engage their audience (no matter the channel):
- Be Yourself. Or, put another way, don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. If you’re a naturally charismatic person, let that personality shine in any interaction, be it a webinar, panel or otherwise. If you’re not funny, don’t try and be (nothing is worse than a joke that doesn’t land). Whether you’re talking about how PE firms are leveraging unprecedented levels of dry powder or how AI is reshaping insurance underwriting, your passion for the topic at hand will be infectious. Don’t force it.
- Say Something (but, actually). It’s not very often you have 30 minutes of your prospects’ uninterrupted time. Don’t waste it. By the end of Julie’s presentation, I knew her vision for RealReal’s brick-and-mortar footprint, but also that she is a strong advocate of sustainability initiatives and women entrepreneurs and CEOs (“Line up boys. I was here long before you and will be here when you’re dead”). Even within the confines of being a CEO of a publicly traded company, Julie was able to share her thoughts on key issues impacting her market, and not just why her company is the best. To build a meaningful connection with an audience, B2B executives—including those in highly regulated industries—should strive to balance marketing talking points with meaningful industry insights.
- Have fun. It was clear from the start that Julie was enjoying herself—she laughed, told stories and even shared her pick for the 2020 presidential election. While most executives aren’t willing to (and probably shouldn’t) mix business and politics, they should try and enjoy themselves when engaging with customers. Start by picking a thought leadership platform that’s right for you. If you’re an executive that enjoys public speaking, a fireside chat with an industry reporter in-front of a live audience might get you excited. If you’re more comfortable in a one-on-one setting, perhaps a pre-taped video Q&A with a client would be a better fit. By picking a format that energizes you, you’re more likely to deliver a compelling and authentic experience.
Want to learn more about the power of authentic customer engagement and how to become an engaging thought leader? I’d love to connect! My contact information is below.