Marketing is not self promotion

Have you won awards, been recognised for your expertise or had people rave about your business?

Is it on your website? Social media? Do you include it in advertising for new programmes you’re running?

And if not, why not?

I’ll hazard a guess – it’s because you don’t want to come across as self-promoting. You don’t want to brag or give the impression that you think you’re hot stuff.

Well, there’s good news. You are not alone. Lots of people worry that if they report their successes, they’ll be bragging.

But here’s what to keep in mind…

We do our customers a disservice when we don’t give them all the information they need to make a decision about whether or not to do business with us

Their focus (and ours) should be on what we have done, not who we are

To highlight accomplishments without bragging, keep it simple – just list the details and go easy on the adjectives 

Worrying about coming across like an egotist is also a common hurdle for women in the middle management stages of their career.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Jackie Dent wrote about it recently in her article, What’s holding so many well-educated women back when it comes to work?

Anna*, 42, from Melbourne, believes a lack of self-confidence stopped her from being promoted in the media and advertising worlds. “I used to watch this guy at work,” she says. “He wasn’t competent but he was the most extraordinary self-promoter I’ve ever seen. It made me realise how I needed to put myself forward more.”  

This reluctance is so common that British author/academic Tom Schuller wrote a book about it, called The Paula Principle. While researching post-secondary education, he had noticed a recurring pattern. Women were doing better than men at university, yet in the workforce the men got better pay, more promotions and greater advancement. While Schuller’s book gives a range of reasons, one of the biggies is that women don’t represent themselves in a way that empowers their progression.

But letting people know what you can do is not self promotion. It’s communication.

By denying people the chance to get to know everything about you and your business, you are only giving them part of the story. Is that fair to them?

I don’t want to sound like a show off.

One of my clients is a business coach, specialising in a niche area of equine businesses. She is a great businesswoman with a great heart – she truly wants every one of her clients to succeed. Recently she advertised her mastermind groups on FaceBook – warm encouraging ads highlighting the benefits of masterminds.

Yet nowhere does she tell people that she was once the winner of a Telstra Go for Business Gold competition. When I called her on leaving it out, she admitted she didn’t know how to include the award without sounding like a show off. Yet it was an achievement directly related to her service – don’t potential clients deserve to know that she has the cred to back up her claims?

I have more stories – I’m sure you know many too.

There’s the mindfulness/meditation coach I worked with who was just starting to use video for her business. After she heard about my TV background, she asked if I could write a script for her.

I said no.

Because I’d heard her explain why she started her business – about the difference meditation made to her life and how she was passionate about bringing those benefits to ‘ordinary women’ just like her. I knew she didn’t need a script – she just needed to recognise that she was integral to her business, and let people into her heart and her mission. She needed to step into her own spotlight.

I wasn’t surprised by the responses when I raised the issue with members of HerBusiness, an online training and mentoring group for women.

I find it so easy to speak about and celebrate somebody else’s achievements and play down or don’t mention my own.

HerBusiness CEO Suzi Dafnis has made it one of her goals to get women to recognise and address this common failing.

One of my favourite things to do is champion women’s achievements for this exact reason – that so many of us seem to play down our awesomeness because we may be comparing ourselves to others or because we have our eyes on a much bigger prize and so ‘this little thing’ doesn’t get a mention.

So what can we do to properly represent our successes without feeling like we’re big noting ourselves?

RECOGNISE that it’s a problem. Acknowledge that you find it difficult to communicate your accomplishments, and remember that it’s not unusual.

IMAGINE yourself in your reader’s shoes. Imagine you’re poring over your website looking for reasons to do business with you. What would you be looking for? Is it there?

LOOK at how other people do it. Not just your competitors (although that’s important) but also people and brands you admire.

LIST everything you could possibly put down as achievements and credibility points (awards, praise, feedback). Go over the top – put down everything.

CONDENSE the list (but not too ruthlessly) leaving only what you consider to be the most relevant – again, trying to see it through your reader’s eyes.

You’re going to worry about seeming overly promotional, aren’t you? That’s ok – I have an answer to that.

Avoid adjectives and keep it simple. Just the facts m’am.

That’s it. There’s no need to layer it with descriptive language about how you were ‘honoured to be chosen as the award winner from a field of outstanding candidates.’ Just create a list of the details:

2017 Telstra Businesswoman of the Year award (for example)

2016 Top Sales Achiever in outer Woop Woop

and so on. Pop the logo alongside and it’s all the colour you’ll need.

The focus should be on what you have done, not who you are.

It’s not only ok to tell people what you’ve done – it’s vital for your customers sake. Like I said before, people deserve to know everything that would give them a reason to buy from you.

How awful if you didn’t tell them so they didn’t know.. and then they didn’t buy from you and they should have done, because you really are good at what you do.

I hope your customers are getting access to the full story, including all your strengths?  They’re an important part of your Brand Story.

If you suspect your story doesn’t give the complete picture, you might be interested in a Brand Story consultation. I’m offering consultations for $280 during August and September. I’ll bring fresh eyes to the story you’re currently telling, and then give you feedback and ideas about how best to refine or redefine your Brand Story to meet your goals and your customers’ needs.

If there’s any other aspect of content writing that you’d like support with, or fresh ideas for, get in touch by email. The best writing is collaborative – there’s no need to struggle through on your own. I offer all my clients a 20-minute complimentary consultation to talk through a specific challenge and see if we are a good fit for each other.

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