Shameless Self-Promotion: Confidence Can Grow Your Internet Business!
Shameless self-promotion is a concept every online business owner needs to understand. When you first enter the Internet scene, you’re pretty much on your own – you don’t start with an audience or following (usually). You have no reputation, no testimonials, no high-up connections. It can feel a little lonely in the beginning. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay that way for long.
I’ve run two successful ecommerce stores for several years now, but I never put my name or picture on my stores. I kept myself separate (hoping to appear to be a big company). I own a web marketing business, but besides a website, I’ve never marketed that business online (I used to gain all of my clients through word-of-mouth).
FresheVenture.com is my first attempt at promoting myself as an online marketer on the Internet. I launched my blog in May 09 and started with nothing. No connections, no reputation, no twitter followers.
In my first 3 months, I’ve gained over 700 twitter followers, 150 newsletter subscribers, 200 RSS subscribers and a lot of great new connections through Facebook. And I did it all with absolutely NO SPAM, BLACK HAT TECHNIQUES, or LIES.
I certainly haven’t broken any records here – in fact I’m far from it. But, I did do something I thought would take forever – I established a little audience of my own. And in this little audience, I have several LOYAL readers who comment on all my recent posts, help support my blog by sharing my posts and provide me with feedback and smiles. These loyal readers help spread the word about my blog. And the more word that’s spread, the more new followers I receive.
How did I get my own little audience? Through self-promotion of course.
noun. Promotion of oneself by oneself.
Self-promotion is pretty easy to understand. It’s the act of spreading the word about yourself or your website/blog. You spread the word by utilizing social networks, forming relationships with other online marketers and putting your best into everything you do online (web design, content, products, etc).
Since you know yourself and your business more than anyone else, you have all of the knowledge needed to promote your offerings. Even if you aren’t great at communicating, you still hold the information needed to exploit your business.
But, self-promotion can be done in different ways and can achieve different results. You might be reserved in your self-promotion; only investing money in advertising rather than investing time in networking. Perhaps you’re shy and don’t feel comfortable requesting guest posts on blogs, leaving comments in forums or requesting joint ventures with other business owners. This type of self-promotion leaves a lot of money on the table.
Can you imagine hiring someone to promote your business and finding out they’re not comfortable approaching people? Would you keep them as your PR rep? Probably not.
So, are you ready to fire yourself? Let’s try to avoid that. Hey, you might not have a passion for networking or sales, but as a small business owner, you have to learn to wear those hats – and wear them well. The good news is you CAN learn how!
You just have to learn to be a little shameless with your self-promotion.
adjective. immodest, transparent, bold, audacious.
Shameless self-promotion, in my opinion, isn’t about being annoying, loud or brash. It’s about being aggressive, assertive, persistent and confident.
If you offer something of value, you should feel compelled to spread the word! After all, you’re helping others find great content, products or services, right?
If you don’t have a large audience yet, then YOU are your audience and you have to take that job very seriously. You have to be your own promoter, PR representative and most loyal fan. You have to be shameless in your promotion – dismissing any feelings of discomfort or fear.
Shameless self-promotion means not being embarrassed to tell others about your business. Don’t hold back from offering your help to others. Don’t deter yourself from approaching fellow business owners and requesting partnerships or joint ventures. Be your own cheerleader!
Do you feel uncomfortable when you tweet about someone else’s blog posts? Probably not, right? Why? Because you’re doing it to help out your friends and followers. You’ve found some great content online and you know it will help others, so you stumble it, digg it and tweet it.
Do you have a problem telling a friend about a great new store you just found? Probably not. Again, you’re excited about your new found treasure and want to help others by letting them in on it.
If you can promote other businesses without giving it a second thought, what’s stopping you from doing it for yourself? Let’s look at what might be hindering your shameless self-promotion efforts and figure out some ways we can push through that wall.
Stop Selling and Start Helping
Most people can spot a salesperson a mile away. Well, they can spot a bad salesperson. The best salespeople never appear to be selling anything. They connect with you on a personal level, ask about your life and dreams and then offer to HELP you.
Since launching my blog, I’ve received a flood of new web design clients. I wasn’t expecting that at all. The point of my blog was to build an online presence for myself, not obtain new design projects. But, some of my blog readers began contacting me regarding their websites. It seems I built relationships with them through my writing – they trusted me because they had learned from me.
Other clients hired me because I was willing to fix minor issues on their website for free. I offered my help and they offered me a job.
Instead of selling yourself, why not share yourself. Think of your business as a source of good for others and simply spread the word about that good.
Write down 5 ways that your product or service truly helps others and burn those points into your brain. Now, go offer your help to someone! Offer to help someone install WordPress, potty train their dog or find a local notary. Of course, these are just examples – your help should be related to your business in some way since that is your expertise.
As soon you begin helping rather than selling, you should see an increase in business. Even more so, you should see a difference in the way you handle self-promotion. By using this help vs. sell attitude, you should begin to feel comfortable about opening your mouth. In fact, you should feel compelled to reach out to others!
Dismiss Your Personal Attachment
I’ve been selling products online for years and I’ve never had a problem writing product descriptions or talking about how fantastic the products are to my customers. Then, I decided to start selling my own handmade jewelry and I wasn’t as relaxed with the process.
All of a sudden, I forgot how to write compelling copy! I didn’t know how to sell my stuff – I was unsure, insecure and nervous. These were MY treasures made with my own two hands and that personal attachment clouded my business sense.
Your personal attachment creates a strong sensitivity to the reactions of others. “Will they like it? Will they see how special it is? Do I even know what I’m doing?”
You might be selling your own products online, but you HAVE to treat them as your business’s products. Detach yourself from them just enough to see clearly. You’re not going to please everyone, so be prepared to hear negative feedback. Don’t take everything so personally. You must look at your business from a business perspective.
Try pretending you are a consultant hired by, well, yourself, to promote your company. Or, ask a friend or family member to act as the consultant. Now, practice selling your products as if they were your business’s and not your own. Keep your passion intact, but leave your sensitivity behind.
Remember, if you don’t believe in your product, no one else will. And if you believe in it too much, no one else will be able to touch it.
Get Over Yourself
If you think it’s beneath you to promote your business, then you’re in for one long and lonely ride. Unless you can afford to invest money in promotions, you’re the only voice and face your business has. If your mouth is closed, who’s going to hear about it?
Remember, as a small business owner, you have to wear many hats (whether or not they look good on you). It doesn’t matter if you were the top dog at your old job and had people do the PR work for you. Your business relies solely on you.
It’s so easy to start comparing yourself to successful gurus or business owners. It’s natural to want what they have right out of the gate. But, that’s just not the way it works. Those gurus have spent years building a brand around themselves. Those business owners have worked hard at growing traffic and increasing conversions. They’ve put a lot of effort into self-promotion.
Remember, many successful business owners started where you are. They had to begin with baby steps and slowly grow their empires. My first try at an ecommerce store was a “failure,” but I pushed through it. You can learn more about my struggles on my About Keller page.
Stop comparing and start working! Let your passion drive your efforts rather than your ego.
Do the Dirty Work
I know there are a LOT of tedious tasks one must do to promote an online business (directory submissions, blog comments, article marketing, etc), but they are beneficial and often times necessary. Unless you somehow land a relationship with a well known somebody, you’re going to have to exploit each and every promotional method you can get your hands on (honest and legal methods that is).
Many common online promotional methods require little effort on your part. They just need some of your time. But of course, time is an expensive commodity when you’re a small business owner.
Try setting aside one hour a day or one day a week to promoting your business. Utilize free and paid promotional methods. Communicate with others, offer your assistance or leave comments on blogs (make your comments beneficial to the readers).
Learn to Use Your Social Profiles Effectively
If you’re going to set up a Twitter and Facebook account with the hope of getting more traffic, you had better be prepared to use them. Setting them up and then forgetting about them won’t work – trust me, I tried.
People want to connect with other people, so the more personal your profiles are, the more likely you’ll draw some attention. Using your social profiles as if they were directories (insert website link and never touch it again) will get you a few followers, but not many.
Look at Brian Clark of CopyBlogger. He uses Twitter to send out special quotes or personal thoughts throughout the day. Jeremy Schoemaker of Shoemoney uses Twitter to run contests. Many other successful online marketers use these platforms to ask questions, initiate discussions or instigate debates.
After a couple months of not seeing much action on either my Twitter or Facebook profiles (my two favorite social networks), I decided to change things up. Two weeks ago I added new pictures of myself, family and friends to my FB page. I began leaving messages on my FB profile and I began using Twitter more often, writing about what I was up to at the moment. Since making these changes, I’ve received over 40 new Facebook friends and over 500 new Twitter followers!
If people see you actually use these social networks, they’ll be more likely to join you on them.
Ask for Attention
The other secret to my recent follower success was the fact that I asked people to follow me! I began promoting my networks in my newsletter, I wrote a post about my Facebook fan page and I added my social profiles to my forum and email signatures.
Our Best WordPress Design 2009 Contest is sponsored by some big name online companies. How did I get these sponsors? I asked them to sponsor!
I had to be a little shameless in my promotion efforts. After all, these sponsors are well established online marketers and I’m a new face on the scene. I could have held back from requesting their help – letting lack of confidence prevent me from reaching out.
I could feel embarrassed to ask people to follow me on Twitter – not wanting to seem needy or desperate. Instead, I’m taking the opportunity to present new ways with which we can stay in touch.
You never know until you try, right? Well, you never know if someone will follow you until you ask them to. You’re probably already asking for followers if you have a “Follow Me On Twitter” icon on your website. But, why not be a little more direct about it?
Take some time to write a blog post or newsletter explaining that you are on Twitter (or whatever social network you prefer). Talk about why you joined and what you like about it. Make it clear that this benefits your readers/customers as it’s another channel of communication. Give them some reasons to follow you. And always follow them back!
Don’t Be Too Shameless
Yes, there is a line that you should not cross with shameless self-promotion. Remember, shameless means being persistent, confident, aggressive and assertive. It does NOT mean being annoying, disruptive or “spammy.”
If you remember to always be helpful in your promotional efforts, you should be able to avoid ever being too shameless. If you reach out to someone and they choose not to reach back, thank them for their time and move on. Don’t become an Internet stalker!
Don’t let your ego overshadow your business. Be respectful of others and accept criticism with class.
- Stop Selling and Start Helping
- Dismiss Your Personal Attachment
- Get Over Yourself
- Do the Dirty Work
- Learn to Use Your Social Profiles Effectively
- Ask for Attention