Be more effective by being yourself

I’ve always wondered why people who are confident and comfortable with who they are become something entirely different when they produce an ad, write an article, or create a presentation.

Time after time, I’ve watched owners of reputable, high-quality businesses walk away from their hard-earned reputations and present themselves as something other than what they are.

I’m not talking about deliberate deception with intent to defraud. At the risk of sounding like an amateur psychologist, it really sounds more like a problem with self-esteem. It’s as if the decision-makers at those businesses are still wrestling with that 7th-grader’s attempt to find a place to fit in. (“Nobody likes me, so I should dress like the cool kids.”) Or maybe it’s just the latent effects of all those times their mothers demanded, “Can’t you be more like … ?”

If you’re doing that, you need to stop. Period. The simple truth is if you really want to be convincing and unique in the marketplace, you need to be yourself. You need to take pride in what you do well, and display that to your customers and prospects.

“While authenticity has always been a powerful approach, it’s even more so when you’re trying to sell to post-Baby Boomer prospects or consumers.”

While authenticity has always been a powerful approach, it’s even more so when you’re trying to sell to post-Baby Boomer prospects or consumers. Raised on an overload of media and often made cynical by the actions of corporations and celebrities, they have an uncanny ability to spot and see right through artifice. On the other hand, authenticity builds trust with them.

How can you make sure your business is presenting an accurate, authentic image to your publics?

Sound like yourself. Using big words and highfalutin language in your ads and brochures is about as effective as the college freshman who thinks that filling his term paper with five-syllable words from the thesaurus will make him look smarter. Those words may be accurate, but they’re less communicative than the simple words he’s trying to replace. He won’t dupe his teacher, and you won’t fool your audience.

Be straightforward. There’s no need to cloak your message in mystery, because your prospects will lose interest quickly if they don’t grasp what you’re trying to tell them. Your messages should be clear, honest, and upfront. Confidence, not conceit. Presenting your company as something bigger and grander than it really is sets you up for falling short of your customers’ expectations. Be confident of what you have to offer, and accept that it won’t be the right fit for everyone.

Be consistent. If you’re presenting one image one day, but something different the next, prospects won’t know who you really are. From design to tone and voice, every contact with the outside world should reinforce what your company is all about. That kind of consistency becomes increasingly powerful over time.

Don’t mimic. I shudder when I think of how many times the owner or CEO of a first-rate company has pointed to a competitor’s brochure and said, “We need to sound exactly like this.” Actually, you don’t, unless you’re planning to merge with them.

Maybe all this was best summarized in the childhood lesson I learned whenever Mr. Wizard the Lizard admonished Tooter the Turtle, “Be just vot you is, not vot you is not. Folks vot do this is the happiest lot.”