I’ve had several discussions in recent weeks with small business owners who are facing the challenge of being more visible and sharing their stories more openly. For many, it is a uniquely scary experience that leaves them feeling fearful, vulnerable and out of their depth. I know for sure, how that feels!
However, in these 2020 times, really differentiating our businesses from bigger brands or simply other businesses in our sector requires us to stand out, stand for something or shine a little brighter. It is a mistake to think we can do this by simply being better, cheaper or upping our advertising spend.
In fact, there are ways we can stand out that are free and support our goal to build longer lasting, stronger customer relationships.
By telling our stories more clearly, with more meaning and more openness as well as becoming more visible as micro business owners, we really start to connect in a new way that can help us steer a path through tough times to better ones.
What this list is NOT is a set of ideas to lay your heart on your sleeve, share your inner most vulnerabilities or private lives.
So as you grapple with social media, fear and the overwhelming prospect of sharing better, here are some pointers to help:
- Revisit your story. This is something all of us should do on a regular basis anyway. The story about how our businesses started; what the values are that lie behind your brand; what values are important to you; how your systems, products, operations are all informed by your values; why you get up each day is the GOLD SEAM in your business. Take a moment to ponder on that again and reconnect with it. Think back to your early days, think about how your story has evolved in 2020, what you have learnt, what’s changed, how this all relates to your values.
- Link your story with your marketing. This is not a contrived activity but a planned way to connect your values, beliefs and ‘WHY’ to the messaging you share. For example, if you bake and cook food – how that recipe relates to an old family one or how all the ingredients are fair trade and or gluten free. It’s vital that we differentiate our services and products from others – so link everything you do to your story.
- Retell your story in chapters and often. This is not just repeating the story but evolving it for your readers and breaking it into chapters. For example, if you launch a new product or service, let your audience know how that developed based on your values and story. This means that every time you post on social or email your subscribers, you can link your content with the core values and relevant elements in your story in your business.
- Drop the ‘we’ if you’re not. It’s so tempting to adopt the ‘we’ in our marketing in an attempt to appear more professional or bigger. However, this is a disservice to your micro size. If you are just you, then own that and share that as part of your story telling. Let your audience get to know you better by knowing your name, using ‘I’ in your content and telling you story about the brand, how you got here and what specific value and experience you bring to your customers. Small is beautiful after all…..
- Be more visible as a one person business or as the founder of something a little bigger. This does mean some pro shots folks! I can speak from the heart and tell you that this isn’t easy and I have had to be cajoled into getting mine done…but it is worth it, not to say vital. If you audience can see you, then they will connect better to your story and your business. It is easier to for them to understand your business, remember your business and will drive them to want to do business with you. If you simply can’t afford a pro shot (or can’t book one due to restrictions) then ask a loved one to take a great pic of you, in good outside light on the highest mobile phone settings.
- Consider video. NO I hear you cry – well yes actually. I am not suggesting that all businesses need to be doing everyday selfie videos for IGTV but I do think that saying hello makes a huge difference in the likelihood of someone buying from you. Even if it’s just one interview style video on your website to let people know who you are and why you run your business will have a huge impact and help audience connect with you brand.
- Your voice counts. Don’t be afraid to share when it’s right and links to your wider story. As I mentioned above, this doesn’t mean over sharing your kids/private life/personal struggles but more that you say what you really believe and what’s important to you. For example, if you’re a sustainable business and you want highlight your support of an environmental charity then that matters and is open. If you have experienced a crisis in your journey but come out of the other end, then that’s inspiring and uplifting. If you give back to charity because of a personal experience then share that if you can – it will inspire others. NOTE: please don’t take this ideas a must – only ever share what you feel comfortable enough sharing.
- Final reminder. All of us are flawed. None of us are professional models. All of us have grey bits, wobbly bits, uneven bits and faces we don’t like seeing on the screen. BUT, we’re all in this together and our stories matter. We’re not opening ourselves up to celebrity scrutiny but simply being present & real for our customers. We’re leading the way and showing social media and the internet that real people matter and that perfection sucks.