How to Differentiate Your Business – Make It Personal!

I first became a consumer when I handed a $5 bill over to the guy in the Mister Softee truck in exchange for a cherry dip when I was in elementary school, and I’ve never looked back.

Those first ten years or so of buying things were done almost exclusively in person, where there was always an interaction with the person who was doing the selling, and a chance to chat and converse about things that don’t exactly pertain to the product in question.

Now I’m a consumer in both the physical world and online, and I’ll be honest—I kind of prefer shopping online. I suffer from severe social anxiety, to the point where it took me years to be comfortable talking on the phone and to even answer the doorbell.

And while shopping online has definitely alleviated that anxiety, I find at times there’s a certain quality that’s missing. Beyond the hundreds of thousands of products available to purchase instantly, is that lack of ability to actually have a social interaction. I mean, I could just slide right in to the sometimes-available Live Chat feature and say hi, but that too robs me of that authentic personableness I can get dating back to the ice cream truck.

The good news is transparency is not dead in ecommerce, and with the advent of social media to boost brands outside their website, both brick and mortars and online businesses have the opportunity to be more personable.

Being friendly and unafraid to show yourself—I mean you! The entrepreneur!—allows a consumer to get an authentic feel for a business. We can streamline and one-click purchase all we want, but having that option for the consumer to really connect with the people behind the brand can lead to a loyal customer base.

An index finger with a ribbon tied around it.

Let People Get to Know Your Face

Whether you sell online or offline, both present great opportunities to be more personable. On your social accounts for your business, don’t be afraid to use first person statements and even post pictures of yourself at work. It especially makes sense to do this if you sell hand-crafted goods: not often do people get to know and understand just exactly how a product they’ve purchased is made, and an action shot of you creating something in your workspace provides that very opportunity.

If you sell goods in a physical space, having great people skills and knowing how to interact with potential customers will of course not only boost the chance of them purchasing something, but also put them at ease and have them coming back for more. There’s a huge difference between being a pushy salesperson and someone who respects others’ space while still being friendly.

Give Your Business an Identity

Depending on what you sell, you may be able to get away with being strictly business and sell your products without much effort. Even if you could do that, that’s kind of boring. Think about your favorite brands: their success is usually not due to their product alone, but factors such as their mission, values, and personality.  

Speaking openly about what you and your company stand for opens the door for relatability. Honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s a way to guarantee trust and build a strong consumer-entrepreneur relationship. You wouldn’t automatically think all of that matters, but it only serves to strengthen people’s perception of your business.

Volunteering, donating to charity, and being conscientious of sociopolitical movements (think a shop that hangs a “Black Lives Matter” sign in their window) can do wonders for a brand’s image. And better yet, saving a place on social media or your website showing you participating in these things is a win-win for creating content and self image.

A hand holding up a sign that says Black Lives Matter.

Don’t Forget Who You Are

Small businesses take up a special corner of the commerce world. They’re full of integrity and good principles, and being proud of who they are makes them strong candidates for showing off their personal side.

Take into account what would and would not work for your brand’s image. The good news is deciding just how you get personable should be easy, considering all you have to do is be yourself. Being proud of what you do led you to create your business; staying true to that foundation will only serve to push you further.