Many, many businesses have been snuffed out, and continue to be snuffed out, as the information age matures. Any industry or producer or provider who relied on a lack of information to succeed has, or will, fail. People won’t simply book a room at a Marriott because of the brand name, even if they trust the brand name. If Trip Advisor and Expedia tell them that specific hotel is awful, that’s all they need to know. Ebay became the market leader because it built a system that allowed buyers to avoid those sellers who didn’t perform. Amazon’s massive database of customer reviews has done the same thing for individual products. It doesn’t matter if you’re a trusted brand like Kitchen-Aid; if your latest product is poorly made, buyers will know.
On the other side, when you put out something excellent, it’s easier than ever to let people know. Not only are there are a multitude of platforms for the end users to share their great experiences, you now have the ability and the tools to let people know yourself. With that ability comes the opportunity to become completely transparent, to open yourself to your audience, to invite them to join you in the experience. I don’t think the value of this can be overstated.
Louis CK, a comedian who toiled in relative obscurity on the comedy scene for over a decade, has seen his popularity blossom over the last few years. With his own television show, which he brilliantly marketed by explaining to the world that he left money on the table in exchange for total creative control, a variety of writing jobs and guest appearances, and an hour of new material every year that focuses on his view of the world, his audience feels intimately connected to him.
So, when Louis decides to record and publish his own stand-up special instead of going the traditional HBO or Comedy Central route, his fans support him. When he wants to thank his fans for doing so, he opens up even more, disclosing exactly what it cost him to produce it, how many people people bought it, and how much he made. What do his fans do? Share this. It goes viral, and Louis undoubtedly sold even more. The transparency of the process helped that intimacy grow: not only did it make his fans happier to consume the product, it compelled them to join the process by promoting it.
Not only does transparency invite others to peek in, it encourages them to participate and build with you.