“I am who I am because of how I am different from those around me”.- Meg Jay, from The Defining Decade
In the business world, a lot of pressure is placed on differentiating yourself from others in your market. Huge corporate companies spend countless dollars on marketing strategies and test groups, trying to understand what it is that customers like (or don’t like) about their product or brand. They want to know desperately what makes them stand out to their target audience, what makes them unique in their eyes.
In the small business world, this is all still important but I feel there is one advantage that is often overlooked. Small business owners have an opportunity that the big companies dont readily have, and that is their personal stories and their ability to connect with their customers on a real, personable level. I would argue this is one of our biggest assets.
Sure there are plenty of big name CEOs that share their stories like Mark Zuckerberg, Tyler Perry, Oprah and Steve Jobs just to name a few. I think it is because they understand the importance of doing so. However, I think small business owners sometimes forget that they are a part of the community, and they can be even more connected to their audience then perhaps Mark Zuckerberg.
Even some celebrities, like Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga get the idea that staying close with your customers/clients (fans in their world) is vital to creating life-long relationships. This should be the mission of small business owners as well, it will only make things better for you!
I would argue that our objective as business owners should never be to become so big that we feel we are above others. The mentality of they are over there, and we are over here isnt going to go over well for the majority of people. That set up, while it makes sense for big time celebrities like Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie, doesnt really apply to small businesses. You can even look at the way people make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow as another example of the importance of authenticity. Most of the scrutiny towards her comes from the fact that people feel she is out of touch and perhaps not as down to earth as wed all hope. People get a sense that she believes she is better then others. Whether this is actually true or not is kind of irrelevant, because this is how she makes them feel and how you make people feel is important (more on that later).
The bread and butter of our system are our customers (and employees, but thats another story for another post), and we have to remember to act that way. This doesnt mean that we should force ourselves to personally engage with our audience. If its not going to be genuine, dont do it at all. But for those of us who do want to expand and do care about our audience, your story is the key that will open that door.
Our stories are special, and resonate with others. When we think about Facebook, own network, or Apple we can usually think of the people who started those companies as well. It is because people remember their stories, and it doesn’t hurt that their companies are huge.
Here are 3 reasons why your personal story is your biggest asset:
You Become More Personable and Relatable
Being open and authentic in who you are and why you started your business is refreshing. In a sea of people just trying to push products on you or sell you a service, its nice to be able to see that the person behind the business is real. People respect someone who isn’t afraid to show that they aren’t perfect, or someone who is willing to share how they got where they are today. If you can be open enough to show that you haven’t forgotten where you came from, people will hear you and more importantly; people will see you.
Your Connection To People Will Create Life-Long Relationships
People will feel connected to you when they feel they can relate to you. Just think about the fandemonium of Taylor Swift. Her fans feel incredibly connected to her, and that is powerful. They see beyond her music and feel that they know her character. They trust that she will deliver in her concerts, music, and probably anything else she puts her name to. All of that is built through her telling her story, being transparent in what is happening in her life, and taking the time to hear her audience and care about what they care about. Her fans will follow her wherever she goes in her future, and that is because they connect to her story and personality. If you make a point to truly connect in a world where emails and text messages are the norm, people will remember you.
The company I work for sent out Christmas cards this year to our customers. You would be surprised how many emails and calls we received from truly happy customers who had no idea it was coming. I remember one email in particular that said something like, Wow, how totally unexpected of you, thank you SO much! Care about your audience, and they will care about you. This will likely keep them around for much longer then a single transaction or purchase.
Your Story Can Inspire Others
Hopefully, you want your life to be more than just how much money you make and what things you have. I know I do. Inspiring others to make a change for the better, to move towards a more fulfilling life, or to even just laugh and love more is incredible. We have the opportunity to do this by unapologetically telling our story.
It is like the saying goes,
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. “Maya Angelou
So many people in the world are being told that they can not do something just because. Even worse, they may believe they cant do something because they don’t believe in themselves. So many people are struggling and they dont see a way out, they don’t believe there is a way out. If you are able to become transparent, to show others around that you are just an ordinary person that was able to make things happen, that will speak volumes. Inspiring and helping others is a gift not for our audience, but for us.
I was once afraid to be open and transparent about my story and life. I was hesitant to put myself out there,it can be a lot. I was worried that I may be judged or perceived as less than professional by including my own life experiences in my writing. But once I started to do it, I realized that was not the case. People started commenting more, speaking about their own stories and personal feelings about things. I have found, when you open up, so does your audience. Even more, I found myself connecting with other people in my field who could relate to what I saying. My personal and professional network grew, all because I was willing to be authentic, transparent and true to myself. If you do the same, I am sure you will find that your unique voice will call out to others who are looking for what you are offering.