Five Tips for Getting Comfortable with Self Promotion

A small biz guide to marketing without the "icky" feeling

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My 3 year old burst into the room and proclaimed, “I DID IT MYSELF!”  While it’s cute when he does it, in the business world, no one would be impressed if you boastfully announced how awesome you are...even if your skills really are impressive!  How then do we promote our small businesses without coming across as self-serving, arrogant chiefs?  This can be particularly difficult for service-based businesses that are selling themselves rather than physical products!  These 5 tips suggest it’s possible, and even advisable, to embrace self-promotion without feeling uneasy or worried about how you will be perceived:

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#1 Reframe as "sharing your gifts."

Martha Graham, a world-renowned modern dancer, once said “There’s a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”   As a former dancer myself, I am in awe of what Martha Graham accomplished, particularly given that she didn’t begin dancing until age 32!  I believe she achieved fame in part because she lived this quote, determined to shine her light and share her gifts with the world.  Remember that there is only one of you.  Let others see who you are and what makes you unique, so that you can share more of your gifts with those who appreciate them.

#2 See yourself as a thought leader. 

Teaching what you know is generally more comfortable than tooting your horn.  What do clients or prospects often ask about when working with you?  Can you turn your answers into newsletter tips, blog posts or workshop presentations?   Marcus Sheridan employed this strategy when he owned a pool company, and now he teaches other small businesses the art of inbound and content marketing

#3 Feature your clients.

Create an avenue for your clients to share their stories. Depending on how you frame the “spotlight,” your business may or may not be part of the feature.  But at the very least, sharing their stories helps others understand the types of customers you support and demonstrates your values as an organization.  Check out how Linden Legal Strategies sprinkles these client spotlights throughout their blog.

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#4 Don't do it yourself.

It might seem as though I’m suggesting you simply rely on the quality of your work and word of mouth to grow your business.  On the contrary, garnering accolades from others requires active engagement.  Research and apply for awards or certifications, then promote the 3rd party validation through your website and social channels.  Reach out to satisfied clients and personally request written testimonials.  Make it easy for them by providing links to where you would like the reviews posted (e.g. Google, Yelp, Facebook) and suggesting points they might highlight.  Consider incenting or thanking referrals by offering discounted future services or providing a small token of appreciation.

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#5 Speak their language.

A deep understanding of your target clients can help you show up and communicate in a way that resonates with them, without having to say much.  Your brand identity – the colors, fonts, graphic elements, images, tone of voice you choose - says something about who you are, what you do and how you’re different.  Key messages that are thoughtfully and intentionally crafted to resonate with your audience will go a long way to support your marketing goals. Take a look at two very disparate brands: Mountain Dew and Annie’s Organics.  Notice how the brand elements either speak to you or they don’t.  I don’t imagine many people are huge fans of both brands.  And the way they communicate is geared toward their supporters and prospective customers. 

Having a marketing plan that ties all of these elements to your business strategy can greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your promotional tactics.  Wythe Ave Consulting works with small business owners and marketing professionals to deliver strategic plans and coach the execution of communications that drive meaningful and measurable impact.