Doing business online is tricky. With scads of spammy pseudo-ads and shady-at-best businesses popping onto your feed every single day, many of us have reached a point where even mentioning our work feels like a total taboo.
I get it. You don’t want to sound like a phony door-to-door baloney salesman. But there are a few things you should know before arriving at the conclusion that promotion can only be the thinly-veiled, cheap-and-shameless variety.
Reason 1: People Like Getting Promotions
Haha, yes, a work pun.
We’re not a fan of randos sliding into our DMs with suspicious links or those slow-to-load web banners and pop up boxes that won’t go away. We don’t need rapid-fire emails from that shop we only visited once. We could do without that one guy who keeps talking about his backyard microbrewery that shockingly hasn’t swept America off its feet. Simply put, we dislike promotions we didn’t sign up for.
But that doesn’t mean we dislike promotions.
Communication is important to us. We like to stay in the loop. We need time to save up for products we want to purchase, and need to be given a heads up to save the date for important events.
Imagine how you would feel if:
- a new game from your favorite franchise released, but nobody thought to tell you until it was totally sold out.
- a favorite author was going to be in town to sign books, but you’d only know if you brought it up in conversation.
- a reboot of a favorite show started without any of the anticipation or fanfare we’re so accustomed to.
Ultimately, when it’s something relevant to our interests, wants, and needs, we like promotions. Providing people with a place to go for OUR news or updates is a very good idea.
Consider how your fans and followers feel about you or your business when doing promotion. If they’re truly cheering for you, keeping them appraised of sales, new releases, opportunities, and dropping a few sneak peeks should be something that’s relevant and interesting to them.
Takeaway: Create a space where you feel free to promote your business. A blog, a newsletter, a separate business account, or maybe a specific day of the week (#SmallBusinessSaturday!). Don’t be afraid to use that space to talk about business-related things regularly. If people don’t want to keep up with your news, they can opt out or keep scrolling.
Reason 2: It’s Your Job
Maybe you find it difficult to claim you’re a professional. You’re feeling unsure and untested, or absolutely positive your work can’t compete with what’s already out there. Maybe it feels self-congratulatory or egotistical to push product like you’re some big, famous, making-it brand… and you certainly don’t want to become the next Microbrewery Guy.
So, instead, you may find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum. Never posting updates. Avoiding shoptalk like it’s a crime. Essentially hiding all your effort and ambition behind your back and pretending it doesn’t exist. Why? Because it’s gauche to talk about your own business?
Unless you’ve hired a marketing team to handle your business’s outreach, promotion is part of your job. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a few close friends who are willing to help you out and hype you up, it’s your responsibility to make sure word is getting out about the products and proficiencies you have to offer.
While you can’t always control who sees your website, buys your merchandise, writes a nice review, or hires you for their next project, there are plenty of ways to raise visibility, encourage word-of-mouth promotion, and discover new opportunities. Don’t focus on the what-ifs, worries, and insecurities that chase along behind you. You can outrun and outlast them if you keep your eyes on what’s ahead.
Takeaway: If you can’t talk up your own business, who will? Treat promotion as an essential part of your job. Plan for it. Use it as a tool. Work it into your schedule. You don’t have to promote aggressively, but you should be making steady effort to raise awareness and connect with people beyond your inner circle if you want growth.
Reason 3: Your Presence Matters
While it’s romantic to think that the right customers and clients could discover our work without the need for legwork and strategic marketing, it’s wildly unrealistic to run a business with the “love finds a way” mentality.
Maybe someone will notice the one time you mention your side hustle as a line editor, but there’s an equal chance that they forget who exactly said it by the time they’re ready to polish a manuscript.
Consistency in talking about your work will help people remember who you are, what you do, and who they might turn to when the need arises. Your business is a topic you should circle back to with regularity. Whether it’s a peek behind the scenes, an opportunity to share your expertise, or an update on the latest sales, you should be nurturing a reputation for yourself and your business, even if it’s in a super casual way.
The temptation, of course, is to try and do everything. If more presence equals more business, why not do the newsletter, the blog posts, all the social media ever invented, a podcast, volunteering, giveaways, live events, and anything else that could mean new eyeballs on your work?
Turns out, there’s a reason marketing is a job unto itself. While it’s fun to try something new, it’s important to weigh the cost of all that time, creativity, energy, money, and emotion getting spent per each new responsibility. Unchecked, it’s all too easy spend all those resources on promotion rather than the things you’re trying to promote.
It’s also important to remember that more presence does NOT equal more business. Throwing yourself at every opportunity may only result in burning yourself out and getting frustrated faster. The last thing you want to sell your soul to promotion without gaining anything, so set some boundaries, think through the pros and cons, or ask a close and brutally-honest friend for advice before creating extra work for yourself.
Takeaway: It’s not bad to have your name associated with the work you do. Continue to build on your reputation in a way that is sustainable and honest to your long-term goals. Rather than trying to be everywhere and do everything, choose places that showcase your specific talents, strengths, or passions so the promotion you do feels worthwhile and maybe even fulfilling.
What are your tips and tricks for doing self-promotion? Share your experience, advice, or thoughts in the comments.
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