I Versus We: What To Use When Marketing My Business?

shouldimarketmybusinessasA client emailed me a question I was asking myself about my own website/marketing:

“Should I use ‘I’ or ‘we’ when I write content for an email newsletter, Facebook page, etc.?”

It’s one I’ve had to ask myself again after two years of having a definite answer. Here’s how I made my decision, and how you can make yours:

Do you do everything yourself? In my case, no. To pretend I can market my business, run my business, do classes and seminars, and serve roughly 40-50 clients a month is ridiculous and completely inaccurate. I don’t want a client to get the impression that I am the only one who is ever going to do the work, because that is false.

Are you relying on others for some of the skills you are marketing? An example: one of the things the company offers is database manipulation. I can’t do it but it is something that periodically needs to happen on a project. Instead, I work with Ashley, who is a database expert. Since I don’t have this skill, when I refer to it being done for a client, I always refer to Ashley doing the work because 1) it is accurate and 2) I don’t feel like a slimeball taking credit for someone else’s work.

Aside: I am probably over sensitive about the giving credit thing. One time in a meeting, an old boss took credit for an idea that I had and got a lot of praise from upper management. In that awkward and infuriating moment, I decided I would never do that to someone else.

Will your clients/customers be talking with other people related to your company’s work? So Alice did some site maintenance and occasionally, had a follow-up question for a client. Now if I was pretending she wasn’t there, I’d have to email the client her question and forward her the email response from them. Can you say ‘bottleneck’?

Instead Alice emailed the client directly, which is quicker and easier. Since clients talk to other people in this company, I really ought to knowledge their existence.

So depending on your answers to the questions above, you’ll see if you’re a ‘we’ or an ‘I’. In my business’ case, even though I’m technically a one full time employee show, Breaking Even works with others to do good work. Breaking Even is a we.

Now I want to take a moment here to say there is nothing wrong with being an ‘I’. Some people really like working with the owner/work-doer directly as I learned the first couple years when this company was very much an ‘I’. But pretending you have a team of people when you don’t is as disingenuous as me pretending I do everything all the time at Breaking Even.

My point: Embrace who you are and market accordingly. Whether you are an ‘I’ or a ‘we’, if good work is happening people will take notice.

Note: I vet any new subcontractors/potential employees with work for Breaking Even before ever putting them on a client project. That way if they screw up, it’s my site/project, not yours. 

Why Your Customer Can’t Be Everyone

More fun posters here:

More fun posters here:

When I ask business owners who their typical customer is, about half of them say ‘everyone’.


So then I try another question. “Who is your best customer?” and I start pressing for details, like income, interests, age, and other details, it turns out that they usually have a relatively clear idea.

What’s the problem with thinking of everyone as your customer? It seems pretty harmless… but could actually lead to a lot of heartache.

Pleasing all people pleases no one.

Have you ever tried to design a website for a 25 year old and an 65 year old at the same time?

People want different things… and whether you are producing a rack card or a website, you need to create something that is going to attract your ideal customer.  You are communicating to customers in writing, images, video, and more… and different styles tend to attract different kinds of people.

Below are two online dating websites. Neither excludes people by age and for comparison’s sake, I blurred the names on both in case that swayed you:



Now neither of these sites actually discriminates on age… but some subtle design, text, technology, and photo decisions lead you to think (depending on who you are) you are in the right place or the wrong place.

So in subtle ways, you are targeting some people to somewhat purposeful exclusion of others. If you actually tried to design a website that appealed to all people, it would be super generic looking… and actually appeal to no one. (The site closest to this? Facebook but really if you look at it, it’s the information your friends disclose, not Facebook, that makes that site work well for you.)

Attracting people who don’t want to buy wastes your time and resources.

Think of these things (which may or may not have happened to you in the recent past):

The time you spend talking on the phone to that person who called about buying insert-item-you’re-selling-here but can’t actually afford it.
The money you spend on that broadly targeted Facebook ad that sent two clicks to your website and zero sales.

What do these two things have in common?

In both instances you have reached someone, but in both cases you have mainly reached someone who isn’t interested.

Think you can turn them around with your smile and cheery speech? Most people have decided within 5 seconds whether they like you or not so good luck with that.

The time or money you spent broadly targeting a large group could be reduced in reaching a smaller, more specific group.

Here’s an example from my Facebook profile (in case you don’t know me, I’m a straight, engaged female who is social media consultant with a bachelors degree). Which one makes me roll my eyes more?


I actually might want to get a masters degree so I get that… but attracting a man for a lasting relationship? I think I’m set!

The social media education company is not wasting their time on me but the ‘Enchant Him’ program clearly did. (Yes I totally clicked, if I would have waited until the end, I would have found the secrets to making a man mine forever… oh well!)

Knowing who your people are allows you to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

Who’s our ideal audience? Middle aged, middle class white women with bachelor’s degrees who are decision makers at a small business or non-profit in coastal Maine.

Now does everyone we work with fit that stereotype? Of course not. But this majority of people tend to attend our workshops, subscribe to our email newsletters, come in for consulting, and serve as our liaisons with their company/non-profit on our larger projects.

In general, they are most likely as a group, to be on Pinterest and Facebook, less likely to be on Twitter and Google+.  In case you don’t believe me, some graphs from (by the way, there is more than this available- fascinating website!):



OK so are you ready to see what the largest social referrers are on our website (NetworkedBlogs by the way is a Facebook app)?


I know, mind blown right?

But seriously, if you know your people, you know not only how to spend your time marketing but this information can help make all kinds of other decisions for you. So knowing who your people are helps you spend more time on the right things, and less time on the wrong ones.

Now I hope when someone asks you who your target customer is, you don’t say everyone… because not only is it not true but it’s costing you money.

What Can I Track With My Internet Marketing?

whatcanimeasureOne of the most beautiful parts of internet marketing is you can actually track whether something is working.

But what can you track, you ask? Here are a few things you can monitor:

Clicks on a link

Wait a minute, you can track things that aren’t on your own website? You sure can!

With a service like you can create a tracking link then see how it’s clicked on.

For example, with one client we made this link to their TripAdvisor profile:

To see the stats, we simply at a ‘+’ to the end of that link and put it in a browser:





So I see so far that this link I’ve shared has gotten 70 clicks and I can see a bit about when those happened; what social media sites they are coming from; and where in the world the clickers are.

Traffic To A Landing Page

The other day, I was talking to someone who wanted to measure the effectiveness of a print campaign. “But none of our people get those whole QR things.”

To which I said, what if you sent them to a specific URL on your site? Like for example, what if I said “Go to and see something amazing!”

People who do podcasts do this all the time. Do you really think going to is really that different from going to Nope, Audible just tracks the link to see how many people go there so they can see if their advertisement on This American Life works (and continues to work).

So make a landing page for your print ad and design it for those people in mind. Then look at your web stats and see if it was worth it.

For more on landing pages:

The Average Value of Your Typical Social Media Fan

I did an detailed post on this here:

But the idea of going through, seeing who’s following you on social networks and figuring out if they are your customers is a worthwhile exercise for most people. You might also want to measure repeat customers too.

Remember you don’t want to just have the feeling that you’re doing something right if you are doing anything related to marketing and advertising for your business, you want to have some solid facts to back it up!

A Few Reasons That Didn’t Work

You know that thing you did… the one that didn’t work?

No, I don’t know about it exactly. I just know I have a few things I’ve done that didn’t work and assumed you had at least one too.

So why didn’t your last commercial/coupon/event/blog post/insert-thing-here work?

You took the ‘doing homework’ shortcut by surveying your friends and not your customers.

Whatever you do, don’t ask your friends what they think of your idea. Because they will say your new haircut is awesome, right?

Your website, much like my asymmetrical haircut may have been cool... back in the 90s.

Me in the 1990s. You’re welcome.

Your friends will lie to your face because they love you. Before you pour a lot of time and money into something, you need some unbiased, ideally stranger, opinions. It’ll probably be more involved (re: expensive) than asking your friends over pizza but it’s better than the money you lose chasing a bad idea, right?

(A great way to get some feedback if you are shy is to use paid ads like Facebook or Google to test messages. This is part of what paid ads are for!)

You already tried it before and it didn’t work that time either.

Sometimes we really really want something to work. But it doesn’t.

So think “Is this like that time I…?” And if it is, and if that time things didn’t go so well, there better be a lot more about it that is different than what it has in common with your last mediocre (or terrible) initiative.

You can tell people to pivot over and over... but that couch still won't get up the stairs.

You can tell people to pivot over and over… but that couch still won’t get up the stairs.

You didn’t tell enough people about it.

Let’s say you think email is amazing. Well, your customers are tweeting, Facebooking, pinning, tumbling, blogging, and doing all kinds of other technological and non-technological ‘ings’ to get their information. So the more ways you get the word out and the bigger your audience, the better this is going to go.


You picked a bad time.

Let’s say you’re OKCupid and part of your coverage area is experiencing devastating floods with thousands of people stranded. Not a good time to say…



Sometimes your idea is good but it’s badly timed. If you did all your homework, tried something new, and told a lot of people, this is probably at play.

So truthfully, was your last bad idea one of these things? And do you have a tendency of repeating any of these patterns?

How To Make An Infographic That People Actually Like

howtomakeagreatinfographicAbout once a month, I get an email from someone to the effect of this:

Hi Nicole,

We’ve created an infographic about SOMETHING RIDICULOUS (How Many Shoes Women Buy In A Lifetime/Why Wisconsin Cheese Is Best/Where The Best Cities To Date Are). Here is the link: LINK We thought your blog readers might appreciate it.


I usually check out the infographic since they’ve actually bothered to look up the name of the person who owns this website. But it’s usually about some random subject I don’t (and you wouldn’t) care about. With the amount of effort taken to make an infographic (and by effort, I mean time and money), you’d think that most infographics would be pretty well executed. Sadly, not so. In case you are thinking of creating an infographic for your business, allow me to take you through some common pitfalls as I see them.

(If you click each infographic, you can see it bigger on the real website where it lives.)

Problem 1: Where do I look? Here’s an infographic by a non-profit charity that helps people access glasses in developing countries: + Read More

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24