The Cult of Personality
As a small business owner one of your best marketing assets is YOU! In the rush to get it done, to feel “modern” and to look “professional” this simple insight is often overlooked. But the fact is people like to do business with other people. And this is where injecting some personality into your business story becomes critical.
While in theory adding personality to your business story feels logical, there is also a practical consideration – how to add personality to your business blog while at the same time making sure your business is benefiting.
GOOD NEWS – in this post we are going to cover both how to inject personality into your business blog and also how to strike an appropriate balance between business and personality.
Addressing Personality by Not Addressing It
Corporations speak corporate. You are probably not a corporation though – you are more likely a small business owner (under 250 employees) or a mid-market business (under 1,000 employees). Not only that, but most of your customers also probably do not speak corporate – likely they speak a more “ordinary” language such as plain English. Sounds boring but plain English is actually a much more exciting way to communicate so PLEASE do not try to communicate in corporate unless you are a corporation. There is even debate on whether corporations should speak corporate… but for you, the small business owner, speaking corporate should likely be a non-starter.
In my space I see this all the time – a small business owner playing Follow the Leader and somehow deciding that the way to beat a big corporation is by being able to speak just like they do. Your customers are probably not interested in you communicating with them like they are taking part in the Q3 Earnings Call – they would much rather you dialogue with them as if they are actual people. In fact, your ability to define and introduce your own personality is likely a key area of distinction that will set you apart from big corporations.
And yes, I know, corporations are the ones that get all the glory – how often do you see a mom-and-pop in the Wall Street Journal? But corporations also market very differently, and frankly, they often play it safe as a big portion of corporate speak is focused on managing risk (BTW – how was that for some nice corporate speak!) Corporations also tend to advertise in places like the Wall Street Journal so perhaps it is not a coincidence that these publications also feature stories on the same companies – as a small business, the likelihood that you could afford such expenditures is not real. Don’t sweat it. All I’m saying is, the fact you don’t get the same press as a multi-national company should not make you feel like you are not worthy to compete. In fact, when it comes to personality, the advantage is yours for the taking!
The Challenges of Defining Business Personality
So… we know that unless our business is a corporation or we perhaps cater to a specific type of corporation, speaking like a corporation is probably not the best way to convey personality. But what is?
A business personality is often a very hard thing for a business owner to put their finger on – this is because by asking this simple question more often than not you are unwittingly exposing that big mess you conveniently swept under the carpet and let sit idle for way too long… out of sight, out of mind. Your business personality is inexorably linked to so many other aspects of your business. Things like presentation, branding, positioning and overall communication quickly come into play.
As a business owner you are constantly addressing many instances, all unfolding in real time. Things like customer service, employee needs, merchandise, presentation and digital. In emergency rooms the concept is called triage – we focus on the most immediate and pressing with an emphasis on a standard for a solution. When it comes to addressing, defining and showcasing your business personality often times this is a dialogue that needs to happen outside of a triage environment as it more often than not will inform so many different aspects of how you operate both in a digital sense as will as in a more brick & mortar environment. Of course if you elect not to have this “conversation” than you are never going to allow the personality of your business to shine through.
So before we get into a few particulars regarding how to inject personality into your business story here is a quick highlight to consider when viewed in concert with the realities of triage marketing – once you have defined and established the personality of your company, when addressing incoming digital efforts, this added wrinkle in your presentation will actually work directly with all your other efforts – your personality is of course a big part of your business!
Defining the Personality of Your Business
Before you can “inject” personality into the story of your business, first you need to define it. The good news is there really is not a “right” answer to this. As a business owner or stakeholder you have a wide variance here but you also do not need to feel pressure to oversell your personality.
Just because some companies go extreme with “personality” (the ‘crazy’ guy that can’t help but ‘give’ stuff away comes to mind) for most businesses we can pull back from this ledge a great deal and land at a very organic place that feels real yet also allows you as the business owner to remain comfortable with what you are doing.
Being comfortable with how you define the personality of your business is actually critical, as you are now allowing yourself to use this same voice in much, if not all of how you communicate.
Separating Business from Pleasure
While we are on the subject of rules, and lack of rules when it comes to personality, another aspect of personality that applies to a business is that there can be a healthy separation between the “home you” and the ” work you”. Just like you would not necessarily talk at the dinner table like you do in the office, the reverse can be true as well.
Of course if you are one of those people that blurs the line between home and office and it works for you, then go for it. When we’re talking about personality, and the primary stakeholder, just like in so many other aspects of your business, a healthy balance and a good feel are going to be critical.
In addition to considering individual needs, another consideration is that you might not be the only person working there. The personality of your business is likely formed as a collective result of your entire team and this is a very appropriate voice to develop.
The primary point is you are not required to imbue the personality of your business with every aspect of your personal life. What is required though, at least in terms of introducing personality to your business, is that you are providing both your customers and your potential customers with a very tangible sense of “who your business is”.
Less Personality Please…
The other side of the coin in terms of personality is the reality that there are plenty of places where personality is not the primary consideration. Sometimes your audience is looking for information and it is important that you make sure that your own need to express your business personality does not get in the way of your user experience. As with most things in life a healthy balance will need to be found.
Depending on the space you operate in, as well as the personality of your business, you’ll of course arrive at different conclusions as to where the right balance lies, but even in instances that perhaps might not overtly scream personality you might find nice opportunities to utilize images, fonts, backgrounds and videos to further drive your audience towards a very specific experience.
Personality Through Blogging
In particular, a great area to both express and develop your personality is YOUR BUSINESS BLOG. That’s right. We are after all talking about personality and despite all the nebulous talk about how people really don’t care what you had for breakfast (and yes, they really do not care) a business blog is actually so much more than that and it also is a great venue for you as a business owner to really express yourself.
From a business blog you can go “off script” and start to dive into the particulars of your business, the particulars of how your operation runs and the particulars of your team. Your customers are interested.
Even more so from a business blog you can really provide your audience with some very strong emotional ties by which they in turn can relate to your business. These ties in turn can greatly encourage your audience to move a little bit further into your world and can move people from visitors to customers to raving fans.
The “Right” Personality for Your Audience
Every business will have their own personality – whether you elect to share it or not is an entirely different story, but I think we can all agree that each business is unique.
Similarly it is important to appreciate that different spaces and sectors have their own unique set of rules, of mores and norms, and it is important that your business personality fit inside of those parameters – these are, after all, your customers we are talking about. If your space calls for “conservative” and you are going to project “zany”, you might have some problems closing new accounts.
On the other hand, if you are able to convey a personality that is appropriate to your space, tonally aligned to your audience, and vocally attuned to the language your audience speaks, then you are that much more likely to achieve results.
Remember that when you are blogging, your audience is making very specific decisions. Pull too far back and the reasons to choose your business over another remain elusive. Go too far forward and you run a different risk. Just some more things to think about to make it even more complicated for you!
Personality through Blog Design
Depending on the space you operate in, as well as the personality of your business, you’ll arrive at different conclusions as to where the right balance lies, but even in instances that might not overtly scream personality, you might find nice opportunities to utilize images, fonts, backgrounds, and videos to further drive your audience towards a very specific experience.
By utilizing images and even things like bullet points and bold text, you can also help to contribute additional “clues” towards the personality of your business. Using these very basic writing structures can also add massive value to your blog posts in terms of how they present to your readers.
Color choice is another massive issue to consider when it comes to personality. If your entire website is a black background with red text, you are sharing a very distinct blog personality, whereas if you are presenting your blog with very light tones and hues along with images of spring flowers, the personality for that business is clearly very different.
More Personality Please!
Other great opportunities to further establish the personality of your business beyond your blog include your about page, as well as other pages within your site.
Images can go a long way as well – actual photos of you and your staff add considerably. Often times photos of your physical establishment can also go a long way.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the power of video. With video you are presented with an amazing opportunity to really drive home the personality of you and your business – and while business videos can and should be informational, it is also critical to appreciate the personal aspects of video from the POV of the viewer.
No magic bullets here – people like people. People like to buy from people. People like to know that when they buy from a person they are in some way contributing to a bigger story. Personality stirs emotions. Buying is emotional. Life is emotional…