So Big You’re… PLURAL?

big_doubleThere’s something I don’t understand.  If you’re a freelancer or an independent businessperson, why would your Web site or your marketing collateral consistently refer to “We” and “Our” (as in OUR services include… and WE are located in…, etc.)?  Is it a ploy to “sound” bigger than you are? Is this a self confidence thing? I just don’t get it.

I was contacted by a Web programmer the other day and, while at first blush, I was very impressed with his skills and portfolio; I was instantly turned off by the fact that he constantly referred to himself in the third person and as a plural.  Statements like “We have the most economical pricing…” and “Our clients have seen exponential return…” made me feel like I was being pitched by an account rep from some global conglomerate.

As the conversation continued I asked some simple (revealing) questions. “Who does the actual programming of your sites?” and  (amazingly enough) “Where are your offices?” came back with the answers me and my basement, respectively.

Insert Scooby-Doo “WTH” sound here…


Huh? sound bite Scooby Doo sound bites

So, within the first two minutes of our conversation, this poor guy went from impressive designer/developer to liar.  If he was willing to deceive me about the size of his “company,” what else was he willing to lie about? Sure, he (eventually) told the truth about being independent and working from his basement, but the perception that really stuck with me was the disconnect from “outward” portrayal and “actual” existence.

My advice to independent contractors struggling to position yourselves in this big, bustling world:  Keep the basic rules of TRUE Branding in mind at all times.

Be Truthful
Be Relevant
Be Unique
Be Engaging

Simple!

“Truthful” is the base criteria because it’s the most important.  If you have to make up statistics or create personae to make yourself feel/seem bigger, you’ve already failed.  If you’re an independent, tell your prospects.  If you outsource work to “partners,” make it clear

As a contractor, I would much rather work with a single, honest, independent genius than a million sub-par liars.

Don’t try to be (or even imply) something you’re not. And if you’ve gained enough weight to be considered “plural” then you need to call Jenny Craig.

Just food for thought…

Keep Cooking!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

6 Comments
  1. Imagine that, telling the truth. I know. Amazing concept!

    • Hey Pete…

      Yeah, honesty and transparency are key with building brands — a perfect place to start. 🙂

      I’m sure “Liar” may not fit in all occasions. MANY companies stretch the truth or spin perception to fit their marketing needs, but base aspects like WHO you are should be pretty clear.

      Heck, even Seth Godin in “All Marketers Are Liars” points this out. It’s a great read: http://tinyurl.com/sethgodin-liars … should be required of all entrepreneurs and marketers.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading! Have a great day!

      Keep Cooking!
      Andrew B. Clark
      The Brand Chef

  2. I must say I am one of those people that annoy you then 🙂

    There are several reasons I use “We” in copy and blogging in regards to my company – not because I lie or want to hide the truth that we (there i did it again) are a one man operation. I’m completely transparent in my business. Here’s why though

    1) Some day there will be more than just “me” and my copy will reflect that
    2) I want my business to be more than just about me – you can find the “I” content on my personal site
    3) I think it sounds better

    It may come from before I started my business. Whenever I was in an interview talking about what I did at my previous employer I used “We” to show a team attitude rather than saying it was all “me”

    Who knows – thought I’d chime in from the devil’s advocate

    • Hi Andy!

      I’m glad you chimed in.

      Like you, I’ve been freelance. And I can guarantee that I used “We.” But I used it with the knowledge that I spoke on behalf of the community in which I work. Example: I know my programming limits. So, when I talked to clients about Web development, I used “We” because it was me AND my sub-contractor (geniuses like you) that would be handling their project.

      In that situation, transparency is still paramount. I ALWAYS defined that upfront and my clients appreciated me for the honesty.

      And if I may, you stand out from independents or freelancers BECAUSE you clearly define yourself as a thought leader (intentionally or not) in your chosen community. If you say “We” and “Our” I know (as would anyone that talks to you for more than 30 seconds) that you utilize your community. Whether that’s a 50/50 split of shared knowledge… or 99/1 in your case. 🙂

      I know there will be a lot of people set on edge by this post, but I’m hoping the take-away is more than “all freelancers are liars.” I want to encourage honesty and transparency in marketing and personal brand building. If someone says “We” or “Our” in their web site or literature, PLEASE define who these people are (e.g. “WebMarketingCo has built a community of trade professionals that can deliver on any Web marketing challenge put in front of US.” )

      What page is the most visited on the majority of the Web sites I do? “About” Whether it’s “About US” or “About Me”, people want to know WHO they’re working with.

      GREAT comment! Sorry for the lengthy response… 🙂

      Keep Cooking! (solo or no)
      Andrew B. Clark
      The Brand Chef

  3. I have had several conversations in the past with clients about the “how big is your company” or “how long have you been in business” questions. Most assume that people prefer to do business with larger, older companies rather than work with a sole proprietor or start up.

    The fact is, some do want larger and older. Some don’t. And some don’t care.

    Don’t worry about it. There are enough of each such that all of the “I’s” and “we’s” that are good at what they do will have plenty of business.

    • I agree, Jeff.

      Even in our small community, there seems to be plenty of work to share between the “Sole Proprietors” and the “Corporations.” My biggest concern is truth and transparency. I always felt a little sheepish when using “We” when I was a freelancer… It all really comes down to your targeted audience. If “They” want a “We” and “He” is able to deliver, “They” may not care…

      Gaaah! …too many improper nouns for one comment… 🙂

      I’m glad you stopped by. Hope you’re having a spectacular day!

      Keep Cooking!
      Andrew B. Clark
      The Brand Chef