I was speaking with a friend recently and he compared the direction we’re headed at Bizyhood with Derek Jeter’s newly launched website The Players Tribune. As much as I love sports and enjoy making sports analogies, I was hard pressed to understand the connection. My friend went on to say that The Players Tribune will give athletes an authentic voice – the ability to put their story out there the way they want it to be told. It doesn’t replace or eliminate other people creating a narrative about that athlete, but now there will be a place for them to have their own voice.
This explanation made the analogy very powerful for me. We have talked to many small business owners about being authentic online, and the biggest objection we tend to get in response is they don’t want people talking negatively about them. Think about your favorite athlete – while they do have lots of fans and people showering them with love and attention, they also have a lot of people saying and writing things that would make most of us cry if somebody said about us!
Taylor Swift’s “haters gonna hate” line has become a common refrain for most athletes.
How does this relate to your small business? It seems that you have two choices – focus on nobody saying anything about you online with the goal to avoid anything bad being said, or join a platform that allows for your authentic voice to be heard – and more importantly, a place to let your fans tell the community how great you are. Of course, the minute you do that, you open yourself up to the haters – there is no avoiding or denying that. But you can’t become a star if nobody knows who you are!
Your best sales tool is your authentic voice.
A small business depends heavily on return customers and word of mouth. I meet dozens of small business owners that go to networking events and work very hard to be a part of the community. It’s wonderful to see them so involved and active. Sadly, this does not guarantee success. Like you, we are focused on customer service, but we’ve learned how important it is for businesses to be online marketing savvy too. Doing one well without the other isn’t enough. Get your authentic voice out to as many people as you can, using as many channels as are practical. Do it often, and leverage your best marketers (your customers/fans!) to help you.