How to market if you don’t like to toot your own horn

If you are marketing a business, you have to tell people about it. That should go without saying, but I say it because I think many of us don’t actually think about what that looks like. Even though it’s true that we should talk about and to our clients and not talk about ourselves, we do have to talk about our business and ourselves SOME of the time. This can be difficult for many entrepreneurs.

Most of us are taught as children that it isn’t polite to “toot our own horn.” Don’t brag. Don’t act conceited. Don’t talk about yourself too much. People won’t like you if you act like you’re better than they are. OK, stop the bus! If you’re a passenger on this bus, as most of us are to some degree, get the heck off, now! Learning to promote yourself and your business is essential and does not have to sound braggadocious or self-righteous or egotistical. While this problem can haunt us in different ways, it definitely can affect the way you market and brand your business. Here are a few quick tips to get the message across that you are awesome and necessary and valuable without ever actually saying so.

Shift focus

Taking the focus off yourself or your business and making it be about someone or something different may make it easier to talk about your business. If you’ve received an award, a big job, or a speaker appointment of some sort; send out an announcement talking about the association, the client, or the event. Look at the following two examples.  #1)”I am happy to announce we just landed the Downtown Revitalization Construction Project and I know we are a perfect fit for the job.” #2) “Have you seen the plans for the new Downtown Revitalization Construction Project? It looks so fabulous and is going to offer a safer, more vibrant place for our community to gather. We can’t wait to be part of this endeavor.” Although there is technically nothing wrong with either of these approaches, the first may feel a little uncomfortable for some and the second, which focuses on the reader and the project, may feel a little more comfortable for some to use. Shifting the focus off yourself  may be a way for you to get used to tooting your own horn.

Tell stories

Telling a story is an excellent way to illustrate how your business helped someone without sounding like you’re boasting. In addition, telling stories instantly increases the likelihood of connecting with your audience. It can make you seem more human, more authentic, and more approachable. Check this example out: “Have you tried Sprigs yet, the restaurant that just opened on the west side of town? When we first met with the owners, we appreciated how they wished to have their healthy menu be the main focus of their brand. They also told us how much effort they were making to have customers feel at home; from the large, communal dining tables to the farm-style dinnerware and earthy colors they intended to use in the furnishings. Bill and George were such a joy to work with that we felt more like partners or customers than their graphic designer. Bill emailed us last week to report how thrilled they were when their customers raved about how they felt like they were at a family dinner, but with much better food! He said “this was exactly the kind of experience we wanted, and we know our logo and visual branding totally hit the mark. Thank you so much, and join us for dinner anytime!”” Note how the use of emotion and descriptive details help bring the story to life and how including a direct quote adds credibility.

Let others do it for you

When you receive kind words from customers, share them! We all know the value of referrals, recommendations, and testimonials. When other people are speaking on our behalf, not only does it increase our credibility, it takes away the feeling that some people don’t like of talking highly of themselves. When a client expresses their satisfaction, ask them if they would be willing to articulate their feelings in written form. Thank your referrals appropriately so you get more. It is absolutely proper to ask a colleague or networking partner to make an announcement on your behalf. If you are the CEO or owner, have another individual in the firm make an announcement.

Most of us feel more comfortable talking up our friends, vendors, and referral partners than talking about ourselves. Try some of these techniques to practice sharing the good news. The more you do it, the more at ease you will feel. Let your light shine!

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