One of my former C-suite clients was hesitating getting her site completed to launch and I didn’t really know why until she told me she feared that she would get so may calls that she might need to hire an assistant first. I hated to tell her that unless she was Bono, her fear about being deluged with business unfortunately wasn’t realistic.
Putting yourself and your business out there online brings up people’s stuff. What will people think? is one of the most common reactions, we all have it. But it is what you do in the face of it that matters. The more someone is not comfortable with who they are or what they have accomplished in life, the bigger mistakes they may make when confronted with how people may judge them.
This often results in a cover up of some kind. You may see this on a site that is all about the owner, with grandiose claims about the business, too many testimonials or a wall of words, chock full of industry jargon. These maneuvers meant to make them look better than they think they are, usually backfire making the website unapproachable and weird. Exactly what they were trying to avoid in the first place.
Fear makes some people take an ultra safe route, a sure recipe for Blandville. These people don’t take a stand about anything and so nothing in these websites stands out as personal and different. Sites like these are so lacking in personality and any reason you would want to work with them, that no one will be motivated to pick up the phone.
What I find so fascinating about dealing with people and websites is how much of my work as a psychologist helps me understand my clients and their issues. Since a website really is their front porch to the world, getting people to launch a website often requires a little website therapy. I try to help them understand and navigate their fears so they have a better chance for success.
If you see yourself in any of these descriptions don’t worry. We all have our issues. It’s just a question of how our insecurities show up online. Believe me, I had my own version of website insanity when working our most recent New Tricks website launch, which took way longer than it should have.
More Stories of Identity
When people start a new business or go out on their own, they need a website, so I often end up having to guide them in the transition to marketing themselves, something most people are uncomfortable with. This can require a learning curve about online marketing and sometimes a bit of ego adjustment – one way or the other.
One client retired from corporate America and started writing a column in a newspaper sharing valuable advice about succeeding in corporate positions. She wanted a website with a blog that would showcase her columns. This was stepping out for her as a private person since she was adamant at the time that she didn’t do and wasn’t going to do any social media (not even LinkedIn).
After a year or so, she stopped putting her columns and writing on her website. I didn’t know why, since her experiences and advice was great and she really loved writing. So I dug a little and it turns out that what she wanted was a platform where people interacted with her about her articles online. What she got was crickets. People were not commenting. Ohhhh. . . So that was it. I told her it didn’t work like “if you build it they will come.” If she wanted people to come to her website she had to invite them and engage with people on LinkedIn and other places where her target audience gathered. It is too bad but this was just something she couldn’t bring herself to do.
Another corporate refugee went out on his own, and in his new endeavor, he doesn’t have to dress up in a business suit. His website showed a photo of his new relaxed self and featured his more heart centered blog posts, but he thought he might want to still appeal to corporate clients, so he wanted to keep his the profile picture from his former position up on LinkedIn. When I looked at that pic, I had a hard time believing that it was the same person since that photo showed a grey looking, buttoned-up, unhappy looking guy. He was having a hard time reconciling that he was still himself, only obviously so much happier.
And for the kind of coaching he didn’t matter if he was not wearing a suit in his Linkedin profile picture. Anyone corporate or not that referred clients to him, knew he had corporate experience and knew he was now out on his own. They knew he still could put on a suit anytime and step back into some consulting jobs. In fact, that relaxed persona was probably why they would refer to him. He had not changed; he had evolved, and it was fitting to update his photo with a current image that (bonus) made him look 10 years younger and if it made him feel more comfortable. Perhaps he could take a picture wearing a sport coat as a transition.
None of us are immune to wanting to be liked, appreciated and successful. Putting it all out there online takes this anxiety to a new level especially when it takes more than just putting out a static brochure style website to make a difference. The added requirement of blogging and getting your business out there on social media platforms only magnifies our insecurities. But that is the new marketing and that is what it takes. I also have put together some advice on how to be more real on-line. You can see that having a PhD in psychology sure comes in handy!