When promoting yourself or your business, self-praise is no recommendation

If as a child I happened to get a little carried away in proclaiming my achievements as being the greatest in the world, I could be sure to soon hear the phrase “self praise is no recommendation”.

At first I didn’t quite understand how my papier mache hot air balloon or chocolate rice krispie cake making skills could possibly be anything other than world class, but it turned out to be a very valuable lesson.

How easy is it to tell the world that you’re great? Very easy.

How easy is it to actually be great? Not so easy.

Do most people realise this? Yes, of course.

Even if people perceive your claims as more confidence than egotism, there’s the unfortunate matter of whether or not you’re telling the truth. So self-praise really isn’t any recommendation at all, ever.

Sadly, you won’t have to look far in the world of advertising, websites, company literature or even Twitter profiles to see self-praise at play.

“We’re the best”

“We’re number one”

“I’m an expert”

“The greatest doer of something somewhere”

I’ve even seen a few Twitter users proclaiming themselves to be a “great human being”, which takes self-praise to nauseous heights.

If it helps you have the confidence to do what you do by getting up in the morning and saying to yourself that you’re the best, then so be it – but the rest of us need a little more than your word to go on. This is particularly vital since people’s trust in what businesses say isn’t all that high.

According to a recent article in Marketing Week (1): “The Reputation Institute found that just 15.4 per cent of UK consumers believe what companies say in their advertising, with the rest neutral, disbelieving or unsure.”

So any trust in what you’re saying has to be earned – you have to show why you’re great, not just say so. The good news is that if you’re really so great, you’ll have plenty of evidence to prove it. Plus, there’ll no doubt be quite a few people who think very highly of you too.

What other people say about you is so much more influential than anything you might say about yourself.

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages survey (2) indicates that: “Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, often referred to as earned advertising, are still the most influential, as 84 percent of global respondents across 58 countries to the Nielsen online survey said this source was the most trustworthy.”

All those years ago, it was a glowing endorsement from my class teacher that was rewarded with a Matchbox car of my choice – not my chocolate rice krispie cake boasts.

It’s also very likely that it’ll be the glowing endorsement from your customers, not you, that’s rewarded with greater sales success.

References:

1. Marketing Week: ‘Majority of UK consumers don’t trust brands’ advertising’
http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/sectors/technology-and-telecoms/news/majority-of-uk-consumers-dont-trust-brands-advertising/4010029.article

2. Nielsen: Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages
http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/reports/2013/global-trust-in-advertising-and-brand-messages.html

Attracting customers – does your website mention your biggest asset?

It is often said that the close links and relationships that small businesses can build with their customers provides a key advantage over their larger rivals.

Also, in the absence of huge advertising and PR budgets, this people element can define how small businesses are perceived by their customers and be a key factor in winning new business.

So it greatly surprises me that many small business owners don’t mention themselves or their people on their websites. It’s like walking into a shop and finding all the staff hiding behind the counter.

It’s particularly odd when the business is offering a personal, creative or craft service. Here potential customers would be buying directly into a business person’s particular personality, skills and talents.

Sometimes little hints are dropped, such as “we’re a family business” or “the founders have more than x years of experience”, but that information alone lacks substance and isn’t useful. Introduce this family, their roles and experience – profile these founders and their experience.

Think of it from a potential customer’s point of view. Unlike the big names, they might have never heard of you before, or have any idea of your reputation and what they can expect from dealing with you.

Their questions, doubts, hopes and fears would no doubt be answered if they engage with your business. However, if your website is the first point of contact that a potential customer has with your business, it might be the only chance you get to convince them to do business with you.

Why leave these people wondering? You don’t need to provide life histories – and should avoid self-praise – just give your audience a summary of who you are and why you’re good at what you do, so they have some idea of who they’re dealing with.

Although you might have put a great deal of effort into showcasing your products or services on your website, the people element of your business could well be the key to winning that new customer.

Don’t hide behind the counter….or website.