If you are a small business or a freelancer, you have to promote yourself. For some people that comes easy, but for others, it takes some effort. If you already do a great job promoting yourself, you can stop reading now. I won’t have anything helpful for you in this post.
But if you are one of the crowd of people learning how to promote yourself, I have something here that can help you take the next step in your self-promotion journey.
There are a lot of reasons why promoting yourself and your business may not come naturally to you.
- You are naturally shy so you don’t like to point out even the obvious things about yourself.
- You are unsure of yourself and so you don’t speak because aren’t sure what to say.
- You are confused about what other people find valuable about your services.
- You are reserved and you want your work to speak for you.
- You are waiting for someone else to speak for you and recommend you to the world.
But the reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that you find a way from where you are today to where you want to be. And that means overcoming these obstacles.
Before jumping into what you can do, take some time to look around you. Ideally, you are looking for people whom you feel are doing it right. When you find something brilliant, borrow it. But while you are looking, also take note of what doesn’t work in your opinion.
Here are the two things I most often see people do that make me cringe.
- Describe yourself from the inside. Have you ever landed at a website and couldn’t figure out which of the website menu options contains the information you want? Guess what!? That isn’t your fault. The person who wrote the website copy wrote about the company from the company’s perspective. They didn’t think about you and what you were looking for when they designed the structure. You are not an insider. That’s why you couldn’t figure it out.
- Describe what you do with a label. Lots of people give themselves labels instead of describing what they do. What’s the first thing that crosses your mind when someone says they are an “expert” or a “visionary” or a “thought leader?” I can tell you what crosses my mind–what the heck does an expert or visionary or thought leader actually do, and why do I need one?
Self-Promotional Strategic Thinking
Here’s how I go about describing my business and my services, and what I do to help my clients express themselves better to their clients.
- Make a list of the things you deliver. After you finish delivering your service to a client, what do they have to show for it? Is it a tangible product (a document, a file, a logo, a website, etc.), or is it an intangible product (a change in the way the client thinks or acts)? Or is it a combination of both types? Do this for every service you offer.
- Review your delivery item list. Is your delivery list the size of Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe inventory, or do you specialize in just a few things? Neither one is right or wrong, it’s just one aspect of your business. It’s something you should know and understand about your business.
- Clump your delivery items into solution sets. This is especially important if you have a lot of delivery items. Are they logical groups that you deliver together? The key here is not to group them by their characteristics but to cluster them they way a client might order them as a group. For example, rather than group together french fries and onion rings (as side options), group together a burger, fries and a drink (the way people order them). If you are graphic designer, you might group together a logo, business cards, and letterhead combination as an identity kit solution set.
- Write a list of reasons why a client might ask you for each solution set. Put yourself in the client’s shoes, and figure out what business situation drives the client to need your solution set. For my company, a client might want an online help system because they are taking a new product to market. Or, they may have an existing application that overloads their customer service and they think an online help system will cut their customer service costs. Really be creative here because this is where you start to connect to your potential clients.
- Turn the list of reasons into a list of client problems that you can solve. Again, put yourself in your potential client’s shoes. Imagine a potential client sitting at her desk with problems swirling in her head. Talk about her problem the way way she would talk about it. In my example, a potential client might have the problem of a customer service budget that needs to be cut, and he might decide an online help system could be the solution.
- Summarize what you do from the list of client problems that you solve. At the core, every small business or freelancer is a business problem solver. That’s right. If you client didn’t have a problem, they wouldn’t need you or hire you. They might hang out with you over coffee, they might tweet and email and Facebook you, but that’s not the same as doing business with you. Your clients have a problem that causes them pain, and they are paying you to make it go away.
- Publicize what you do to the world. Update your website, all of your social media sites, and your business cards with your updated business services description. Create your new elevator pitch. And prepare for the avalanche of new clients.
Are you ready to try this on your own business now?
Finding Your Voice
I continually redefine what my company does. Partly, this is because I change the services I offer. As I evolve, as I have new experiences, I shift my interests and have new software tools available to me. As a result, my services change. But the market is always changing, too. What clients need today may be different in 6 months or a year. Or they may have new buzz words that describe the same old things. Either way, you have to stay in touch with your potential client industries and know how to present yourself ot them.
After you complete this process for the first time, it gets easier. After a few years, it becomes second nature. With a little practice, you will be talking about your business and your services like the seasoned professional that you are.