Can a Business have a Personality?

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People have personalities, not businesses – right? When people go to work they paint on their work faces, put on their work hats and become the consummate professional.  There’s a manner in which bosses and colleagues expect their employees to sound, look and act when in the workplace.

Yes there’s a need to be professional, yes customers demand a deservedly high level of attention, care and service – but is there a need to be so dull, stuffy and corporate about it?

The Business of People

Businesses consist of physical assets, products and services but it’s ultimately people who are the nucleus of a business. Owners, Directors and Managers set strategies and employees execute those strategies to the paying public. Employees and customers have individual personalities, morals and values – and so can a business.

All too often businesses assume a pre-programmed drone tone when dealing with customers. We’ve all experienced this whilst dealing with call centres or on Social Media – that scripted and overly cheery or politician-like response, delivered in true Stepford wife style.

Whatever sector your business operates in, the products & services you produce will be almost identical to your competitors. Therefore one of the few ways to create a genuine differentiation strategy is to focus on customer service by promoting your company values & culture.

Business Culture

The culture of a business should seep out of every pore and be consistent across all areas of a business – it’s called Branding. If customers identify your products/services with your company, it isn’t the pinnacle of Branding – you need to adopt a vision and set of values which resonate with the lifestyle of your customer base.

Create a mission statement so your employees buy-in to your company vision, providing a common purpose for all. Company values help to create a way of thinking consistent across all departments where guidelines are created to achieve an expected manner in which all employees should behave. With the creation of company values there’s a necessity to embed those values onto the daily processes and practices of your company – including posting on Social Media.

Social Media

One of my fundamental golden rules of Social Media is to BE SOCIAL. Minimise the use of one-way communications pushing your company products and services. Be creative in your approach to Social Media by devising a Content Marketing strategy offering a range of topics and material for your audience to enjoy and engage with.

The content you post and the manner in which you engage with your audience can help to define the values and culture of your company.  Send posts about the weather, your local community and even post something funny. Now humour is subjective, but as long as it’s light-hearted and family friendly humour then you won’t offend your audience. The reality is that customers won’t just follow posts from your company about product updates and special offers, provide them with more reasons to read, engage and share your content.

If you’re relevant, friendly and approachable on Social Media by exuding your company culture, then your personality will shine through and become synonymous with your Brand. So can a business have a personality? – Only if you want it to 🙂

Perceptions in Social Media

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Your own perception of you and your company aren’t important – What truly matters is how other people perceive you.
Social Media is your window to the world where people can freely window shop all day long. What do they see when looking at your personal & company profiles on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn?

There are 3 core elements to apply when considering how you’re perceived on Social Media:

1) Volume
2) Image
3) Ambiguity

What perception do you portray VIA Social Media?

1) Volume

How many likes & followers do you have? – This is one of the 1st areas people will see when they view your Social Media profile.

Achieving likes & followers should always be based on achieving quality connections – But do not dilute that quality by over-emphasising on achieving a higher volume.

To build the volume of likes & followers – Build slowly and sustainably. Make sure you give each like & follow the individual care and attention they deserve.

Do NOT buy likes & follows – It’s easy to spot based on your post/followers ratio. Build organically to be perceived as honest and transparent.

2) Image

You’ve got about 10 seconds to make an impact on Social Media which all depends on the Image you portray.

Your personal/business profile is the very 1st point of contact you’ll have with your Social Media audience. Keep your Friday night party pictures for your friends and ensure you have a professional picture on all your profiles.

Use keywords in your profiles to help briefly describe your company and any specialist areas – This is your chance to differentiate your company from your competitors.

Be Yourself – Inject a little humour and your own personality. People connect with people and you’re more likely to build trust by being yourself and not just a cold corporate face.

What you post on Social Media is there for all to see – Think before you post. Try not to be too salesy in your posts – Aim to be genuine, professional & approachable.

3)Ambiguity

I recently sent a post to my Twitter followers asking “What’s the biggest problem you experience when using Social Media?”

One of the responses was “Not sure exactly who reads your Tweets”

What I read was “who reads your tweets” and was a little insulted to say the least! But how I was wrong. I perceived the response to be directed at me personally when in fact the lady was kind enough to answer my question – She wanted to know which of her followers had been reading her Tweets.

Communicating in 140 characters means people shorten their words which can result in ambiguity. As I learned you must consider what you perceive may be different from what other people actually mean.

If in doubt seek clarification and learn to STOP before you send posts and think about how others perceive your words.

Remember to think about how people perceive you VIA Social Media –

Volume
Image
Ambiguity

I’d like to thank Janis Cornwall from the Southern Reporter for inspiring me to write this blog.

Have you experienced a misunderstanding on Social Media?

Always look over your shoulder – The Importance of Competitor Analysis

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It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening inside your own company, after all there’s a lot to juggle – profits, margins, new products, employees, tax, cashflow and so on.

Every so often you need to look over your shoulder to monitor your competitor’s activities.

One question I ask all my clients is – “Who are your main competitors?”

The response is often – “We don’t have any competitors because our product/service is unique”

Wrong answer – You’ve just not done your homework.

Regardless of your industry or company – you always have competitors. Yes your product/service may indeed be unique but you will have competitors, often offering a substitute or alternative.

SWOT

Begin an analysis of your competitors by conducting a SWOT analysis.

Strengths

Identify the main strengths of your competitors, what do they do well?

Weaknesses

Cast a critical eye over your competitors products/services, their website, Marketing and social media activity. You will be able to identify areas you consider to be inferior to what your company offers.

Opportunities

Focus on identifying opportunities from 2 points of view.

1) What opportunities might my competitor pursue?
2) What opportunities can my business capitalise on?

Threats

Use the information gathered from identifying your competitor’s strengths and focus on how these strengths may pose a threat to your own business model. Form a strategy to counteract any threats posed – Do you need to:

• Change your pricing structure?
• Focus on different benefits of your product/service?
• Do you need to delay or accelerate a new product launch?

Differentiation Strategy

By spending time on analysing your competitors you should be able to identify any gaps in the market, particularly from the opportunities section of the SWOT analysis.

Homogenisation blights every single business in the world so you need to be unique in some form or simply do what your competitors do – but better. Sounds easy in theory but having a genuine USP is a problem area for many businesses.

You’ll never know if what you offer is unique, unless you know what your closest competitors are offering. If you want to gain a competitive advantage in your market then you need to have a differentiation strategy, some areas to consider are:

• Product/service uniqueness
• Minimising expenditure to improve margins
• Leveraging your employee strengths and skills
• Price
• How you promote your company – Focus on benefits rather than features

To gain a deeper understanding of how to apply a differentiation strategy I’d highly recommend reading the work of Michael Porter – A true master of business strategy.

Steal

Yes steal!

Steal ideas, mash them up and make them your own. What benefits do your competitors promote? How can you match or improve on these? And one of my favourite areas is Marketing – How are my competitors Marketing their company?

Competitor or Ally?

Your competitors don’t have to be your enemy, consider striking up a relationship with your rivals to embark on a referral programme. Refer clients to each other depending on what speciality areas you both offer.

For small businesses consider collaborating with rivals on larger contracts that you would not have been able to fulfil on your own.

Just remember to always keep an eye on your competitors.

Is stealing ethical? Do you collaborate with your rivals? Tell me your thoughts 