We all have to sell ourselves at some point—whether it be as a corporate warrior, a small business owner or an individual.
Of course, the rub is that it can be hard to do it well. You don't want to seem sleazy or self-serving...but you need to present your idea, product or service in the best way possible. With that in mind, here are seven tips for self-promotion that allow you to maintain your dignity and self-respect.
Know your values and you can choose your methods
Before you begin promoting something, decide what you will and won't do. Some people tell everyone they know about their new idea. Others prefer to keep their personal and business interests separate. There is no right or wrong answer, but you should decide what is right and wrong for you.
You may find yourself doing things you wouldn't normally do when you start promoting without setting clear boundaries first.
Be ready to own it
Entrepreneurs are starters and go-getters that are keen on action. Most of the time, that's a good thing. But the downfall is that every now and then, we find ourselves going all-in on an idea before we think everything out.
Before you start self-promoting something, make sure that it's an idea, product, or service that you really believe in—not something that you just find cool, exciting or interesting.
Is this something that you're just interested in only this week, or are you ready to own it forever? Are you ready for your reputation to be attached to it?
Be certain in whatever you promote before you start singing its praises. If you start promoting half-baked ideas to your friends, family and peers...then people are going to stop listening to you when you pitch them something genuine.
If you're not ready to own your idea and believe in what you're promoting, then how can you expect anyone else to believe in it?
Start with value
On a recent flight, the stewardess came over the intercom upon arrival and asked us to take a short online survey. She explained why the survey would be helpful to the airline and at the end of the speech she said, "...and you'll be entered to win 100,000 frequent flyer miles."
That pitch was totally backwards. By the time she got to the mileage offer, most passengers had stopped listening, put in their headphones, or made a phone call.
If you’re promoting to me, then start with the value. Tell me that you want to give me 100,000 free miles. Get me to buy in before telling me what I have to do. Show me what I get for my time. Then, tell me that I have to take the survey to enter the contest.
If you want to be a great self-promoter, then start by showing people how your product or service can provide value.
Listen for problems instead of seeking opportunities
Most self-promoters look for an opening. They search for opportunities to sell or a chance to fit their product into the conversation.
Instead of cramming in a pitch whenever possible, spend some time listening for people's problems instead. If you discover what they are struggling with, then you can determine how your product, service or idea can solve that problem.
Nobody enjoys being promoted to, but everyone loves having a problem solved.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not
If you’re not naturally outgoing and loud, then don’t try to be. You should always promote who you are and what you stand for. Most people see right through insincerity, and they recognize sincerity, too. How would you rather be perceived?
When you act like someone you aren't, you find yourself doing things that you wouldn't do. That's a recipe for being perceived as insincere and disrespectful.
Recognize that the world doesn’t owe you anything
A surefire way for self-promotion to go south? Act like people owe you something.
If you think that your friends and family should love your idea, you're wrong. If you think that your business partners will promote your products because you promote their ideas, you're wrong. If you think that the world should enjoy your ideas because you put a lot of work into them, you're wrong.
You aren't entitled to anything. You’ll gain a lot of fans once you accept that attention and accolades must be earned.
Build a better product
One of the best ways to make self-promotion easier is to build something that is easy to promote.
Enhance the features of your current product line. Improve on the experience your customers have. Build a better portfolio to show your prospects.
It's so much easier to be a great self-promoter when you have a product, service, or idea that promotes itself.
James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda. He is an award-winning writer on business strategy and entrepreneurship and has delivered speeches in the United States, the UK, and Switzerland.