Marketing Mythology Putting Lipstick on a Pig
When I first started my career as a solo entrepreneur, I hired a web designer to create my website for me. He was awesome, and I loved his work. When I received my first bill, it included a contact email address for his "support department" and "billing department". I was a little curious about who those other people were! Later I found out it was just him...he was ALL of those departments -- design, support, billing, the works! A true case of putting lipstick on the pig. Even though he attempted to "paint" his business with these additional departments, underneath it all, he was still simply a solo entrepreneur.
You Can't Contrive Credibility
It was amusing to me at the time...but now I see it for what it was: someone trying to be or look like something they aren't in a misguided attempt to add credibility. This web designer was worried that clients wouldn't take him seriously as a professional if they knew it was just him. So he created the illusion of these additional departments, presumably staffed by other employees. It wasn't what I would call dishonest, more of a stretching of the truth. He delivered on his promises and had the needed expertise; none of his clients received anything less than was promised (and he was actually quite good at over-delivering.)
The Risk of Dressing Up as Something You're Not
I knew this designer well enough and trusted him so it didn't really bother me much, although it was somewhat of a revelation when I discovered he was a solo entrepreneur just like me! His other clients, however, expecting a bigger enterprise, might not have been as forgiving of the pretense. They may have felt deceived, suddenly unsure if they made the right choice. Future work and referrals were put in jeopardy simply because the vendor set an expectation that wasn't exactly true.
The Upside of Putting Away the Makeup
The irony is that particularly as a solo entrepreneur, I actually was happier that he was a solo entrepreneur too! I'd left the corporate world and was embracing my own version of doing-it-all-myself. A short while later I interviewed an accountant for my growing business. She operated in an office with a couple of staff members. And she totally did NOT understand that no, I didn't need to be budgeting money to rent an office for my soon-to-be-hired staff -- I worked alone, from home, and I liked it that way! I sought out an accountant who was a solo entrepreneur like me, precisely because I knew she would understand my business -- and understand me, because she was LIKE me.
Like Attracts Like -- So Be Yourself!
The absolute best thing you can do for yourself and your business, is BE YOURSELF. The greatest truth in business is that you are going to want to work for and with people who share your goals, values, and to a certain extent, your personality. The best way to find those people is to be completely authentic about who you are! If you are a bit quirky or have a flamboyant style, let your website reflect that. If you like to tell it like it is, then do just that when you are on discussion forums, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. Not everyone will like it...but those that do will be the ones that do business with you and rave about you to their colleagues.
Throw Away the Lipstick
So stop listening to those who offer well-meaning advice that doesn't feel like you. Don't change your website colors just because some study shows purple isn't seen as a power color. Don't censor yourself in online discussions or let someone talk you into a business card that just doesn't feel like you. Put away the lipstick...and let your real self shine through!