Joanna Leeshttps://www.frugalsolopreneur.comI manage a number of websites focused on marketing for B2B and software/tech companies. Software-Marketing-Advisor.com is a resource for software vendors wanting to grow their business strategy, marketing and sales capability in a services-oriented world, and the wordpress blog is blog.software-marketing-advisor.com. .
Should you use “I” or “We” when talking about your business?
What do you put on the “About” page of your website or social profile?
I get asked these questions frequently by my clients.
My advice is always the same: The most important thing when running a one-person business is to be authentic. It may have been different thirty years ago, but in today’s world there is no shame in being a brand of one. So own it… turn what could be seen as a negative, into a positive.
How do you do that?
A focused mindset
A targeted niche
It’s all about mindset.
Don’t think about that big company selling products or services in your category as your competition. They are not! Figure out what makes you unique as a one-person business, and focus on that. This is your USP (unique selling proposition). That might include personal service, one-on-one relationships with the CEO (you!), fast customer response, customization & personalization of products or services, etc. You get the idea.
Then target the customers who value these features.
The customers who value your uniqueness are the ones who are willing to pay more for it. Those are your “ideal” or “most profitable” customers, and you need to be laser-focused on meeting their needs in a way that that big company cannot.
Build a Brand of One
Own the fact that you’re a one-person business, and build that into your brand. Here are some ideas for potential brand attributes that celebrate the “solo” in solopreneur:
a personal touch,
Access to the business owner (you) rather than dealing with subordinates
Fast, personalized customer support
Top-notch customer service
Responsive to feedback
Ability to meet custom requests
In-depth knowledge of your target customer microcosm (the more focused you are, the more you can be an expert!)
Focus on Your Microcosm
Your brand of one is what differentiates your micro business from those larger companies in your space. Large companies market to an ecosystem, a broad customer base – they have to, because of the inherent overhead costs they have. You can focus your brand on a microcosm – a subset of the market that you know really, really well, and customers that value what you offer.
Now back to those questions that I started with…
Does a Solopreneur Need a “Brand”?
Your brand is you: what makes you unique (in terms of the value you deliver to your customers)? What adjectives best describe your business and your approach to your work and your customers?
Brand is much more than your logo or the look and feel of your website. In fact, those things are much less important than your USP (unique selling proposition): What is the one thing that is unique about you or your business that will convince customers in your microcosm that they should buy from you.
Is your Business “I” or “We”?
If yours is truly a solo business (you don’t even have any part-time or outsourced help), then my recommendation is to avoid using “We”. “We” is not true, and comes across as insincere to anyone who knows that you’re a solopreneur. Don’t try to be something you’re not… instead own what you are. At the same time, depending on your target market, sometimes using “I” comes across as too informal or in some cases even unprofessional in the eyes of your potential customers (again, depending on your market). In that case, try to phrase your copy without using either “we” or “I”. Refer to “the store” or “the company” instead. For example, you might write “new products have been added to the store”, or “the company delivers leading-edge services in…”.
However, if your business uses any labor other than yourself, whether employees, contractors, part-time help, or just family members who help out, then it’s okay to use “We” if that seems best.
Your “About” Page is Important
Studies show that the “About” page is usually the second-most visited page on any website, after the homepage. Having a good “About” profile is also an important part of your business social media presence.
Your About page should strike a balance of business professionalism, with your unique personality and flair. The exact balance will depend on your target market and what they expect (a lawyer’s website is going to need to be more “professional” than that of an artist, for example).
This is the place to really describe your “Brand of One”. Yes, talk about your business and what products or services you provide. But also tell your own personal and professional story – what brought you to start this business? What is unique about your business? What is your own background in your space?
You may have read the articles about lifestyle business that show a glamorous life of travel and laptops on the beach. Believe me, that’s not the reality for most solopreneurs! Being a solo business owner or solopreneur is not easy, it’s often lonely, and there’s no one else to make the hard decisions, hold accountable for mistakes, celebrate wins, or commiserate with about losses.
Despite the challenges, solopreneurship can be very satisfying (I should know – I’ve been a fulltime solopreneur for the past seven years).
I’ve worked with a lot of software and online companies over the past 25 years, from very small to very large and everything in between, mostly helping them with marketing or planning.
Over the years, sometimes I find all it takes is a different perspective or some questions answered to make all the difference in marketing results. That’s true for any company, whether a tech business or not.
If you need a little help with planning or marketing your solo business (software / lifestyle / services / online), but you’re not sure where to start, I make it easy to get started on your journey to more effective marketing and planning. I can help with marketing planning, strategy or project management, or just help give you the nudge you need to easily apply strong marketing principles to your small business.
With a strong inbound marketing strategy, your content and your website will pull in prospective customers, rather than you having to make cold calls or send mass emails to get buyers (outbound marketing).
Inbound marketing is increasingly important, since it’s more cost-effective and more targeted than traditional outbound techniques.
Traditional outbound marketing is increasingly challenged by higher costs, privacy regulations, ad “blindness” and ad blocking tech, and an inability to target your customer to the degree that buyers expect in today’s market.
On the other hand, inbound marketing allows you to establish more trust with your customers by sharing helpful content “for free”, providing information on their terms (when they are searching for it on Google, rather that interrupting them with a phone call), and an ability to target niche sub-markets with personalized messaging.
If you’re trying to get leads for your small business, do you focus on inbound or outbound marketing?
Outbound is traditional marketing: cold calling, sending blanket emails to email lists, direct mail and broad-based advertising like TV or radio.
Inbound marketing is all about finding ways to encourage customers to find you, via links to your website and other content.
As a small business, your focus should be on inbound marketing: it’s cheaper, establishes trust with your prospects, and automatically increases the visibility of your website in the search engines.
Inbound marketing is all about understanding your customer, and delivering them what they’re looking for and what they need (customer-centric). Outbound marketing is all about pushing your product features to get customers to sign up (product-centric).
Having a strong digital marketing strategy helps you to communicate your product benefits online to the potential customers that most need it, in language that resonates with them.
It’s critical to communicate those benefits over whichever digital channels your customers prefer. If you’re posting on LinkedIn, but all your prospects are in Facebook groups, then they won’t see your message. This is why strategy is so important.
Make sure you know what solutions your audience are looking for, and what problems they have, so you can deliver messaging that makes them want to click and buy from you!
My recent article on Seven Steps Marketing shows you how to apply these top five digital marketing strategies to your business:
Many business guides for the new or aspiring entrepreneur tell you to start with what you are “passionate” about.
But how important is “passion” really when starting a new business? Is the owner of the dry cleaners on the corner really passionate about clean clothes? Does the convenience store owner dream about stacking boxes of soda?
Passion (what you enjoy doing) is only one of the trifecta of ingredients for a successful startup. The other two are skills (what are you good at?) and financials (what will make money?).
So, yes, passion is important. As a solo business owner, there won’t be anyone to tell you to get back to work. You’ll need to be self-motivated, even when things are going badly and/or you don’t enjoy the specific task that needs doing. It’s much easier to be self-motivated when you are passionate about what your business stands for, or really enjoy the topic or focus of your business.
But passion certainly isn’t everything. I may be passionate about opera, but if I can’t sing and I can’t think of any way to monetize it, then it’s not going to make for a good business.
Ideally, a good lifestyle business idea should be a combination of:
activities that you really enjoy, or a mission that you’re passionate about,
skills that differentiate you from your competition (or that you can learn to do better), and
opportunities to earn money in a scaleable way.
The word “scaleable” is important in that last bullet, particularly for a solo business. I’ll be writing more about it in another post. “Scaleable” earnings mean that the business can grow even with a limited amount of resources (time, money) that you’re able to put into it. Non-scaleable earnings are things like one-on-one hourly consulting work (dollars per hour of your time) since there’s always going to be a cap on how much you can charge on an hourly basis, and how many hours you’re able to bill out on a weekly basis.
Some people may refer to “passive income”, but the truth is that growing a business is never passive, so I prefer to use the term “scaleable income”.