In our advisory and teaching work we talk a lot about the importance of being authentic as a business owner. Not only is it the only sustainable plan, but it also makes you compelling to your staff and customers.
We’d like to make a case for extending that authentic approach right down to your marketing materials. So many entrepreneurs want their businesses to be seen as serious and reliable that they forget to show their true personality. How many earnest postcards come through your mailbox in a week (think real estate agents’ cards) that could easily be interchanged with any of the other suppliers offering the same thing? How many websites have you seen that offer the same rhetoric, and while the words might be “right” they give you no sense of who is behind the business.
We think that taking a risk and showing who you are can be good for business. On a recent trip to our favourite local framing shop, Dimensions, we came across the display photographed to the left. We loved it. It’s eye-catching, it’s fun, and it really shows the great work this shop offers. Furthermore, it gives customers a real sense of the warm and funny women who own Dimensions. Owner Wendy Palmer admitted that it felt like a bit of a risk to put this display in the window at the height of Rob Ford’s media issues earlier this year, but the risk was worth it. Not only did people stop to admire the display, but new customers came in to take a look and a healthy amount of business came through the door as a direct result.
We had another recent experience with an authentic marketing piece. The website of an eco-resort in Costa Rica we were looking at gives potential travelers a lot of outs. The site’s home page shows an article asking whether this is the right resort for you. It goes on to list a lot of reasons why you might not want to come there. It’s brilliant. Not only does it keep away complainers and people who won’t have fun there, but it creates a sense of adventure and gets travelers in the right mindset before they have even booked their trip.
One of the most valuable things about putting your true self out there in your marketing materials is turning off the customers who are a bad fit with your business. If they don’t enjoy your style, odds are good that you won’t enjoy them much either, and that the business arrangement will be unsatisfactory all around. By the same token, attracting customers who want to be a part of your message is just good for business.