I love Halloween. The chance to put on a mask and a costume and be someone else for a night has always greatly appealed to me. Even as a kid, while the candy and treats were certainly welcome and enjoyed, it was the costume that always was my favorite part of the holiday.
Pretending to be someone, or something, else is not only for Halloween, however. I routinely get asked by clients if I can make them “look bigger” than they really are (or disguise them in some other way).
While I understand why they are asking for this, I wonder if it is really in their best interest to put on that mask?
Clients who want to “look bigger” often explain that they are requesting this because they want to focus on where they are going rather than where they currently are. They want their site to reflect their expected growth. They also want to appeal to larger clients who may be looking for “bigger” companies to partner with. By presenting themselves as a larger organization, perhaps they can get their foot in the door and convince someone to use their services without being dismissed as being “too small” right away.
I hear the argument and understand the reasoning behind, I just don’t agree with it.
The Truth Comes Out
Let’s say that you get that meeting you were hoping to get. What’s next? At some point, the truth about your size, services, experience, etc. will come to light and if you really stretched the truth, will that company still even consider hiring you?
Even if the company does decide to go ahead and engage yours, will they question their decision at the first sniff of trouble? The minute there is a bump in the road, will they automatically fall back to the belief that you were “too small” to begin with?
That sounds like a lot of unnecessary pressure to work under, all because you put on that mask to get a job, or begin a client relationship, that probably wasn’t a fit to begin with.
All companies, big or small, have their strengths and weaknesses. Presenting yourself for what you are, rather than what you hope to be, does not mean putting those weaknesses right on your homepage in a 50pt font. If your company has struggled with project management in the past, and you are working on those issues now, you don’t need to declare that as your “welcome to our website” opening message. That isn’t being real, that’s being honest to the point of stupidity.
Being real is saying that you have a “small and focused group with access to additional resources as needed” instead of boasting that you possess a “global workforce of over 300 employees”, justifying this claim because you use a freelance agency that can call upon that many resources.
If the company you are pitching really does need to work with an organization that has a true global workforce, they will be sorely disappointed when they realize what is really behind the mask you decided to put on.
Help Your Clients Be Real
Next time a client asks you to make them “look bigger” than they are, or suggests a similar type of mask be used, ask them why this is important to them. Listen to their reasoning and try to convince them to take a “real” approach.
If the argument that they are thinking to the future and designing for their growth is made, explain that one of the advantages of the Web is its incredible flexibility. As your company grows and its needs change, your website’s messaging or design can also be changed, oftentimes very easily, to support those needs. There is no need to put a mask on today, simply because you think it may one day be your true face.
Another aspect that should be considered is that, by representing yourself as something other than what you are to appeal to one kind of clientele, you may unwittingly alienate others potential clients that are looking for a company exactly like yours. Again returning to the “company size” example - if you present yourself as a huge company when you are really a small one, you may or may not attract the attention of clients looking to work with a huge company, but you will most certainly push away those hoping to find a small, nimble organization to hire.
There are companies out there looking to work with you. Be mindful not to lose out on that business simply because you are trying to appeal to companies not looking to work with you.
No Time for Tricks
It may be called “tricks or treats”, but we all know that no one wants a “trick.” Whether we are talking about little ghouls knocking on our front door or business clients looking to engage our company and their services, everyone wants a “treat” and one way to help make sure that happens is to try working with your clients on being real and save the disguises for October 31st.