This week, I’ve had a few conversations about the difference between adding personality to your copy, especially on social media, and the risk of making things too personal. What do I mean by this?A friend was saying that she’d complained to a company last week and had received a rather personal, aggressive response that suggested the company owner had taken her legitimate and very polite complaint about a business service as a personal insult. From what I’ve seen, this isn’t an isolated incident.
As small business owners, entrepreneurs or solopreneurs (however you like to define yourself), we tend to invest a huge amount of time and energy into our businesses. Often, our inspiration to go it alone comes from a deep passion or life-changing experience, which means that we are even more personally invested in our businesses.
The problem is that sometimes bad things happen in business – competitors appear, a customer complains, it’s to be expected. But, with our hearts so firmly given to our businesses, it’s hard to keep a level head and remember that these things aren’t personal.Before firing off an angry response or retaliating as if you’ve been personally attacked, it’s worth taking some time out to gain perspective. It’s essential to keep things professional and not say anything that you might come to regret.
A cautionary tale
On 8th April, The Daily Mail reported the story of a hairdresser who responded to a customer’s one-star Facebook review of her experience at his salon with ‘a torrent of abuse’. The article reports the exchanges between both parties, complete with screen captures, and shows how quickly the situation escalated. According to The Daily Mail, the business owner concerned has apparently decided to no longer use social media for his business and has since issued a statement to say that his ‘reaction was completely wrong’… but not before the story had gone viral. Social media means that what would once have been a local story and a local complaint has spread internationally. It’s a harsh reminder that once something is out there on the Internet, it can’t be taken back.
This is why it’s so important to take a step back emotionally when something negative happens in your business. It’s the nature of business that things aren’t always plain sailing and sometimes there are unhappy customers. A complaint doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that your business is doomed to failure. As business owners, we have to remember that it’s not personal and we are not our businesses.
The best thing we can do with a complaint, a failed product or the rise of a new competitor is use it as a lesson for change and growth.
Adding personality to your copy
Personality, on the other hand, is something every business needs to succeed in my opinion; it’s a unique but integral part of your brand identity. From your tone of voice to the images you use, the design
of your logo, the content you post and so on, it should all tie together to tell people what they can expect from your business.
As customers, we tend to buy from companies with which we identify. For example, if you’re someone who is passionate about fair trading or environmental concerns, you will go out of your way to buy from ethically minded companies that share and reflect your ethos. Similarly, if you are committed to attachment parenting and natural baby products, you’ll seek out companies that support these choices. If you’re someone who aspires to owning the latest ‘must have’ gadgets, you’ll seek out brands that understand your passion and talk to you in a language you understand.
If you’re buying from a small business, you probably will want a sense of the business owner’s personality, especially if you’re dealing with a coach, therapist, designer, copywriter, photographer, wedding planner and so on. Many customers choose who to work with based on the connection they feel with their contact at the business, so it’s OK to let your tone of voice shine through, to use your individuality in your business. It’s just essential to keep things professional too.
Let’s not forget big businesses. We still want to feel they have a personality. There was a brilliant story that went viral at the end of last year about a Netflix employee who raised the bar on customer service. When a Netflix subscriber, Norm, contacted the company about about a problem he was having viewing an episode of Parks and Rec, the Netflix customer service rep introduced himself as ‘Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix’ and asked ‘which member of the crew am I speaking with today?’ Norm took the bait and introduced himself as ‘Captain Lt. Norm’. What followed was a brilliant customer service experience in which both parties talked as though they were ranking Star Fleet officers. This is a great example of a company connecting with its customers as people. Although some commentators were less positive because of their own customer service experiences, the majority of comments I saw around this story were complementary, with many people saying they were desperate to work for the company. It just goes to show the power of personality.
If you are going to make things personal, make them personal to your customers
There is one way in which your business should get personal and that’s in appealing to your customers’ pain points and aspirations. A good tip is to really pay attention to the words your customers are using.
- If you post something on social media and you get a big response, what are your customers saying in the comments they leave?
- What was it that resonated with them?
- Are there certain words that get a reaction every time to use them?
- Are there specific headlines that work better than others for YOUR customers?
- Are there words your customers use time and again when talking about themselves, or your products and services?
- Equally, if you ask for or are given feedback, do common words crop up?
- Do the customers you most enjoy working with say you’ve helped them in similar ways
You could always add customer comments, feedback and testimonials to your copywriting swipe file to refer back to the next time you’re writing a piece of copy.
Your copy will make the biggest impact when it uses words that mean something personally to your customers. For example, I just need to look at the stats for my newsletters to see that every time I write an article about overwhelm, being stuck for words, or deciphering things like Google Authorship, the open and clickthrough rates go through the roof. This tells me a great deal about my customers’ needs and concerns.
So, do you find it hard to separate yourself from your business? How do you deal with complaints? Do you agree that it’s possibly to add personality to your business without making things personal? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below or over on my Facebook page.