It’s never been easier to start a business. With low-cost internet connection, a social media handle and a bank of royalty-free images, almost anyone can put together a business idea and execute on it within days.
What’s not so easy is being able to transform that first rush of excitement into a sustainable brand that not only brings you the financial security you need and emotional fulfilment you crave, but also cultivates a loyal community around it.
There are more than 7 billion people in this world and a large number of them run their own businesses. From side-of-the-road food stands through to multinational empires, the world is bursting with entrepreneurs all eager to make their mark.
So how do you stand out?
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How do you genuinely encourage connection when you may be one of thousands selling a similar product or service?
How do you become the go-to in your niche?
How do you make your mark?
Part of the answer lies in your ability to humanise your brand. Or, as Michelle Obama, more eloquently puts it, to own your own story:
“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. Your story is what you have. What you will always have. It is something to own.”
When it comes to standing out in small business, it’s the human element — your values, your beliefs, your why, your people, your story — that fuels connection and, ultimately, conversion.
While we don’t often admit it, emotion drives much of our purchase behaviour. In fact, according to Caroline Winnett and Andrew Pohlmann, who formerly worked for the Neilsen Company, more than 90% of our purchase decisions are made subconsciously — that is, we are attracted to emotional, rather than purely rational, drivers (think status over price).
One of the quickest ways to elicit an emotional response or encourage emotional connection is to show your humanity.
Outside of the feel good factor, humanising your brand can also aid in cut-through, conversion and sales. According to a retail study by Motisa in 2018, customers who feel an emotional connection with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value than customers that are merely satisfied.
How often are you showing the emotional, more human, sides of your business in your marketing and communications? There may be more than 7 billion people in the world but there is only one you, and as cheesy as it may seem, telling your story and humanising your business will be what sets you apart.
So, how do you do that in a way that feels right? How can you tell your story and connect with your audience without feeling like you’re selling out or spending far too much precious time trying to perfect a selfie?
These five quick tactics will enable you to humanise your brand without sacrificing yourself:
1. Share your values
Whether you discuss these in your About page, shout them out on your social media, design and frame them for your front office or list them on your swing tags, don’t keep the values that underpin your business to yourself.
2. Celebrate your people
People buy from people. Whether it’s celebrating your suppliers in a quote card, doing quick Q+As with your staff or just highlighting podcasts / TV shows your staff are loving right now, find a way to build connections between your audience and the people in your business.
3. Tell your story
Why did you start your business? What was the catalyst? Did your upbringing have any influence? What challenges have you overcome? All of these questions can be a starting point for sharing your unique story.
4. Make your mark
When considering ways to humanise your brand, think outside the box. How might you create something that people instantly recognise as part of your brand story and business? Melody Ehsani humanises her business by using her own handwriting on products, packaging and swing tags. Likewise, Radical Yes features a radical message on the soles of their shoes which is unique to them.
5. Show the ordinary
We are all whole humans with interests and passions outside of what we do in our business. Show these. If you’re a huge fan of dancing, share your fave playlist in a newsletter. If you love to cook, shout out your favourite foodie social accounts. If you love to read, share what’s on your bedside table right now. All of these things create a more whole picture of you and, in turn, enable your audience to create connections with your brand, beyond simply the products and services you sell.
Fiona Killackey is the author of Passion. Purpose. Profit. Hardie Grant Books, RRP $29.99.