This is an interesting question that I am frequently asked.
Small businesses are the backbone of every industry and economy. Thanks to the Internet age they can hold their own when it comes to competing with the big boys, but how they are perceived has always been an issue.
There’s a constant dilemma: should you market yourself in the singular using ‘I’, or the plural using ‘we’?
There are pros and cons for each approach. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Using the Singular Approach
Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. For the one-man (or woman) band, this can throw up a challenge when it comes to marketing.
They want to be seen as a company that can cope with anything – most can. Just because they are a single person doesn’t make them any less able to be an effective supplier to a large multinational. In fact there are a lot of advantages to using sole traders and marketing using the singular shows:
- You are a person with a specific and valuable skill set
- Your clients only have one point of contact to worry about
- You offer continuity across all the services you offer
- Your reputation will count for a lot
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a downside to choosing this option. It will raise questions such as:
- Are you able to cope with large projects?
- Do they have the confidence in a sole trader to deliver?
- The ‘I’ approach doesn’t come across as professional
Taking the Plural Path
The other option is to market your business using ‘we’, ‘our’ and your company name.
This will make you appear bigger than you are, which could satisfy the companies that aren’t comfortable with the thought of working with sole traders.
Although it has a lot of positives:
- It gives the impression of a large team
- It implies you have the capacity to cope with large and demanding projects
- It gives off more of a professional feel
It also has a few downsides:
- Companies that were looking for a personal service could be put off by your corporate image
- The corporate image could suggest there will be a lack of continuity in your work
- Once they start working with you and discover you work alone, they may feel mislead
I wish there were a right or wrong answer to this one, but it comes down to personal preference.
There is a way round this though.
Many sole traders are consultants, writers, marketers, software developers, designers, bookkeepers etc.
All work alone, but all will probably have a ‘virtual’ team around them of like-minded professionals they can call in on larger projects.
How About a Compromise?
Write your marketing materials in the third person (i.e. the plural option), but then on your About Page, include a photo of yourself and write a short biography outlining your experience and expertise. This can also mention that they will be working with you (and will therefore have a single point of contact), but if the project demands it, you have a ‘virtual’ team to assist with all work being overseen by you.
That way you come across as a large business/agency, but with the personal touch of a sole trader.
It’s a compromise that works and one that I’ve used a lot for clients who have been tussling with this dilemma to great effect.
Only you can decide what’s best for your business, but this third option could be the perfect one for you.
About the Author: Sally Ormond is a copywriter based in the UK. Through her business, Briar Copywriting Ltd, she works with a broad range of clients around the world, from SMEs to blue chip companies, creating eye-catching, compelling copy, which boosts their sales and market visibility