Where Hustle and Hype Meet – 5 Steps to Build Your Operational Integrity

You’ve probably never heard of it. One of the simplest ways to regularly drive repeat customers and referrals is to strive to achieve and maintain operational integrity. Simply put it is the measure of alignment between your hype and your hustle, your words and your actions. And it is also the most commonly ignored aspect of just about every business. It’s not sexy or overly complicated, and it doesn’t make traditional marketers rich, hence why it’s rarely known, but it’s results are known. It is the transparent appearance of craftsmanship and skill, respected and sought after.

Why should you align your hustle and your hype?

Consistency in word and deed is key to building trust and a positive and powerful reputation. The degree to which your brand and communications are aligned with what you deliver and how you actually practice is key to delivering on your promises. If you don’t keep this healthy and real, you’ll spend more resources faking it and letting customers and partners down, at considerable cost and personal anxiety, while hindering your brand’s impact and reputation. In turn, eventually, it can drive you out of business.

If it’s so critical to running successful business and marketing why do so many fail to achieve it?

The simplest answer is, it’s easier than ever to just lie about what you do and how you do it (#branding) than to put in a good effort, align the components, and humbly brag about it. In business speak, it’s also difficult to align marketing and operations efforts to ensure they meet customer expectations. And it requires courage to honestly review your efforts and commitment to work to refine them. Most people don’t have what it takes.

Many businesses will limp along without addressing this problem. 96% of them will not survive to enjoy their 10th birthday.

And in almost every occurrence where operational integrity is low, the hype is through the roof, and the company is saying just about anything in their marketing efforts to drive business; but doing very little to meet their own mark once they’ve earned it. The result is that a majority of companies quickly churn through marketing solutions and marketers, while consistently creating disappointed customers who never refer the business to anyone in the best case scenario.

Overhype and Underdeliver is a business killing habit. Its true cause is rooted in how most owners approach strategic thinking and planning.

Owners and teams will spin their wheels and prioritize marketing tactics over almost everything else, and rarely think or see value in addressing the rest of their business model and growth strategy. They often think of marketing efforts in a silo, removed of all connection to the rest of the business model.  

In well over a decade of transforming companies, I’ve seen clients more willing to spend their time deciding which coffee cups to slap their logo on than addressing the challenges of their business model.

With all eyes on the marketing playground and not the overall growth strategy of the company, the other components get neglected and break down. And in turn, they take their tole and go misdiagnosed.

The market for marketing is full of well-advertised tricks and distractions for business owners. Many inevitably hurt your business and brand in the long term, addressing symptoms but never the disease itself. You will never run out of new tactics to try, you will never have enough time to properly vet and deploy them all, and many are addicted to channel surfing the fun parts of marketing (shopping for new stuff) and spend every resource right down to your last dollar, minute and bitter end. This is a serious problem.

The same thing happens with your vendors and strategic partners. If the quality of the experience doesn’t line up with the language used to describe it, this hurts your credibility, which prevents trust, kills any chance at relationship, loyalty, purchase or referral.

A Better Formula for Repeat Customers and Positive Reputation

Striving to achieve operational integrity is key to increasing equity in your business. Whether you want to grow your customer base or get in shape to sell your business, aligning your efforts will increase the value. Instead of constantly swapping through marketing tactics, you can develop a strategy that will help you grow your business in the near and long-term.

Increase your Operational Integrity and align your efforts using these steps:

  1. Write and define operational integrity on a post-it note. Here it is for your convenience “Operational Integrity – The measure of consistency in which your brand and communications are aligned with what you deliver and how you actually practice”. Place it on your computer monitor or desk. Embed it as a core value for your company. Encourage your team to review their efforts through this lens, and bring any issues to your attention.
  2. Create an accurate map of your business model. Look for gaps and neglected areas that, if addressed can improve your results. Strategic partnerships also require your operations to be in order, so if you’re looking to add new revenue pipelines, make sure your company is operationally fit to serve them.
  3. Inventory your current marketing efforts. Ask yourself and/or your team these questions and have a conversation:
    • Which marketing effort would prove more effective if the experience aligned with the promise in the marketing language?
    • Which product or service would bring more customers and referrals if refined to fit our marketing message?
    • What are the signals and elements of integrity, and pride in our work that we don’t currently share in our marketing efforts?
    • What quarterly goals can you set to evoke a positive customer story? If you had 1 of these per quarter, it would give you 4 timeless testimonials, which is more than most businesses have. These stories are good KPI’s/ indicators of trust and integrity.
  4. Check in with customers and listen to their experience. If they had a bad experience, perform a post-mortem, to identify and make refinements.
  5. Bring more of the story of your true efforts to the forefront of your marketing by developing a strategic brand narrative.
    • Ask yourself, what would you have to do or improve to be all that you claim to be, or for the core products and services to measure up to your marketing? This is a great starting point.

Parting Notes

Will this require hard work? YES! It is the opposite of what most seek and do. Transformative work requires thoughtful and critical effort.

Your business needs to first meet expectations before it can contemplate exceeding them.

The truth is it’s easier to transform an honest 3-star business into an honest 5-star performer than it is to take a fake 5-star business to the same goal. Why? Under the hood, the fake 5-star companies are really 1-2 stars and have a lot further to go.

Want to learn more? Get more! Schedule a cup of clarity consult with the author, or share your feedback in the comments below.

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