If you really think about it, business is about perception, meaning that whatever you put out there about yourself and your business or service (especially online) is what sticks in people’s heads.
But did you ever think about how, if you make yourself sound small, like a one-person shop, you may not be taken as seriously as a “company” — ?? Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking on the topic of creating your online persona – writing your bio as if you were already a business “rock star” and regularly writing blogs that offer your clients something valuable each time you post, making you the expert as well as the resource people would turn to in your line of work.
But also think about this: if you don’t make yourself sound important, who will? I like to use the example of a young lady recently featured in Forbes who, at the age of 22 started a little store on eBay, selling clothes she found at Goodwill and Salvation Army as vintage, edgily styling and accessorizing them on gorgeous young college girls like no other eBay vintage seller. She began using social media to market her wares on eBay and before long, she had more than 30,000 MySpace friends who watched everything she posted. Each time she mentioned her little “company”, she referred to herself as “we” – as if she had an entire staff of people working around the clock to photograph the clothes, style the models, describe each item, take the photographs, and ship the merchandise. This was all while she was a one-woman show, furiously working to please her customers and focusing on her own unique brand.
Soon she enticed her cadre of fans on eBay and MySpace to follow her to both her own newly crafted web site and to Facebook and began carrying lines of new vintage-inspired clothing as well. Eventually, she hired an assistant, and “we” became real about a year and a half into all this. The rest, as they say, is history. She now employs several hundred people and has more than 450,000 Facebook fans worldwide.
What does she say when asked how she did all this in only a 5-year period? She recently told a Forbes Magazine writer covering her ascent, ‘We couched all communication from the site as ‘we’ even though I was a one-woman shop. It’s the beauty of the Web,” she says. “You can pretend to be anything you want. But people figure out pretty quick if you don’t live up to it.”
Even those of us who work singularly have some kind of support system when you really think about it. Insurance agents have adjustors and customer service personnel. Real estate agents have escrow officers, mortgage consultants, home inspectors and contractors with whom they interface regularly. I work with web designers, social media gurus and other types of writers – people I consider my “team.” How about you? Don’t you have a number of people you partner with, refer to or use for feedback? Then you have a team too, making you a “we” instead of an “I” after all.
And then there is the female side of this equation that drives me absolutely batty. I begin to think about that song from the musical My Fair Lady – “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” I don’t like to malign my own sex, but there is no reason women can’t make themselves sound as important as men when they describe their business personae. Take a look at some serious business profiles of male executives. Do they use the man’s first or last name throughout? Usually their last names are used, as if they had been placed smack in the middle of a news article. Rarely do you see them talking they have or which hobbies interest them. Instead, men’s profiles may feature gushing endorsements from raving-fan clients or even quotes from the man himself – in the THIRD PERSON, as if he had a PR firm doing the writing for him.
But women (and some men) tend to extend their “folksier” side, writing about themselves in the first person (or if in the third person, using their first names), beginning nearly every sentence with the word “I.” Some women even mention how involved they are in their children’s lives or how much they love working with people. It’s not that these traits in a person aren’t noble and important, but how relevant are they to someone trying to make a decision on which expert or professional they may hire?
So next time you refer to yourself online or in print, why not try to sound as big as you really are? You know about your own formidable amount of expertise, but unless others are made aware of it, in rock star terms, you may be destined to remain that modest one-person shop in their eyes.