When you examine the strategies and tactics of the most effective attention-getters in history, you’ll find an extensive list of notable individuals – P.T. Barnum, Richard Branson, and Donald Trump, to name a few – who are incredibly talented in the art of self-promotion. Regardless of how you feel about the people who have employed these techniques, it’s undeniable that their efforts have been remarkably successful.
Yet many business owners feel extraordinarily uncomfortable when it comes to self-promoting their ventures. Why is that? Where in our journey did we determine that self-promotion is bad? Why do we accept that as the truth? Why do we associate expressing joy, confidence, or pride about our work with something for which we feel shame?
This article will attempt to answer these questions, examine the specific tactics employed by shameless self-promoters, and provide action steps to help you, as a business owner, feel confident about promoting your enterprise to prospective clients.
Why Is Self-Promotion Important, Anyway?
At its essence, self-promotion is getting your proverbial foot in the door with potential customers. No matter how outstanding your product or service is or what amazing value you can offer, if prospects don’t know you exist, you’re never going to have the opportunity to do business with them.
Selling yourself can feel awkward, arrogant, and agonizing. But if you want your business to prosper and you want your work to have a positive impact, you’ve got to learn how to master it. When you don’t actively promote your services or products, you are robbing people of the chance to do business with someone who truly has the customer’s best interests at heart.
If you aren’t willing to market your talents, expertise, and products, people will quickly overlook you. Business strategist Debbie Allen sums it up like this: “The world isn’t going to beat a path to your door unless you lead the way.”
Healthy vs. Shameless Self-Promotion: What’s the Difference?
Not all self-promotion is shameless. It all depends on your approach.
Understanding how to recognize shameless self-promotion allows you to distinguish it from the kind of healthy self-promotion that genuinely serves your business. If you can’t tell the difference between the two, you’ll never feel entirely confident in talking about what you do with potential clients.
Tooting your own horn is fine, just as long you keep it in moderation and know when to put the trombone away. Knowing where to focus your efforts and where to draw the line are important components of self-marketing success.
Healthy self-promotion is all about spreading ideas, knowledge, and a higher vision. When you promote ideas, you give people something to cheer for, a cause to support.
What makes self-promotion shameless is how often you do it, the intensity with which you approach it, and to whom you’re promoting yourself. It’s generally unwelcome, unlikeable, and quite often insensitive.
Shameless self-promotion involves repeatedly mentioning your business, services, products, or accomplishments without any real concern for the people the business is purported to be helping.
In short, you’re a living, breathing, nonstop sales pitch – for yourself.
Shameless Self-Promotion Techniques to Avoid
There are many positive, healthy ways to self-promote. Some methods, while they might seem harmless at first glance, can actually be detrimental to both you and your business.
Asking Friends and Family to Support Your Business
When you launch a new project and you’re excited about it, the first thing you want to do is tell your friends and family. Those closest to you may not personally have a need for your products or services, but they might know someone who does. They may not be able to patronize your business with a purchase, but they can still add their encouragement or share your posts.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with asking family and friends to endorse your new enterprise, it’s important to understand that they’re under no obligation to do so. And if they don’t, you shouldn’t pester them about it.
Making Every Conversation About Your Projects
While it’s obviously okay to talk up your business, doing so all day, every day to every single person you encounter is not an ideal plan. In fact, it’s a very quick way to lose people’s attention and respect.
Starting a new business is a full-time job. As a budding entrepreneur, it’s likely all you’ll think about for a while. Because it’s easy to believe everyone else is as invested in the project as you are, you might be tempted to converse about it constantly. Even if you’re unaware that you’re doing it, it’s still fairly shameless – especially if you’re trying to solicit funds from people.
Spamming Your Contacts Via Email and Social Media
Using social media to garner interest in your business is perfectly acceptable. Where it becomes shameless is when you use these social networking platforms to spam your contacts with constant updates about your business and ask that they share them.
The same goes for email – if people start receiving too many messages from the same businesses promoting their products and services, they’re probably going to end up trashing them. If you only send the occasional email with enticing offers and shy away from being too “sales-y,” it’s more likely to be read.
How to Approach Self-Promotion in a Positive Way
Don’t Promote Yourself – Promote What You Believe In
By promoting what you believe in instead of making conceited claims or rattling off a catalog of services, you can more clearly convey what kind of business you run, what you represent, and the true value of what you do. That’s why people will choose to do business with you.
Start Circulating Your Ideas
Create genuine value and interest by bringing something new, or at least a fresh perspective, to the table. Let people know what you stand for, particularly as it relates to issues that are relevant to your audience.
Make your vision as unambiguous and well-founded as possible. Brand yourself and your ideas as original and exclusive. Although few ideas are genuinely unique, your expression can be.
Engage with power brokers in your field of interest and advise them why they should promote you. If they won’t, create influencers from within. As Nathan Hangen succinctly states, “Build others up until they have the power to build you up.”
Not everyone will approve of your ideas or your approach, and that’s alright. Acknowledge your critics, but don’t hesitate to challenge them, either.
Focus On Helping and Serving Other People
When done effectively, self-promotion is an art form. It comes from a place of service, from your passion and commitment to support others first. Effective self-promotion comes naturally when words and actions connect your head and heart.
Demonstrate that you truly care about solving people’s problems and making their lives better. Step outside business-related topics every once in a while to promote worthy causes. Good people want to do business with other good people who share their values.
When you start to look at self-promotion as a way to serve others, it becomes far less intimidating.
Let Your Passion for What You Do Shine Through
Passion is both inspirational and infectious. When you passionately believe in yourself, your ideas, your services, and your products, people will start to have faith in you as well and champion your business proudly. You won’t need to shamelessly self-promote; others will do it for you.
Be Authentic in Everything You Say and Do
People can spot a fraud from far away, and nobody wants to do business with one. Pushing something you really don’t believe in is actually worse than shameless self-promotion.
When you say something about yourself, it’s a claim. When someone else says the same thing, it’s a fact. And that’s a heckuva lot more potent than shameless self-promotion.
People who have a difficult time selling and marketing seldom succeed. In order to move forward with your business, you must become absolutely sold on yourself, your abilities, your products, and your services – or no one else will be!
Muhammad Ali was one of the consummate self-promoters in history. He was well-liked not just because he truly was “the greatest,” but also for his integrity and the audacity of his ideas. Mike Tyson’s accomplishments were magnificent, but he never projected a greater vision that made us cheer.
Learn to Live By the “Three Rules of Shameless Success”
Rule #1: Have your own personal style. No one can compete with you when you’re comfortable enough being your own person – someone who shares their own ideas and their own mind.
Rule #2: Never give up – even when other people don’t believe in you or your ideas, or tell you that you’re crazy. No matter how many roadblocks get in your way: move around them, over them, through them, and keep going!
Rule #3: Stand out and get noticed. Find a way to position yourself in front of the right people who will listen and pay attention, and ultimately support your success.