Business marketing

7 ways to market your business without feeling like a jerk

- September 20, 2016 5 MIN READ

It’s natural to avoid doing things that make you uncomfortable, but unfortunately, when it comes to ways to market your business, avoidance and procrastination could be deadly.

Yet many small business owners tell me that they hate promoting their businesses because doing so makes them feel like they’re ‘up themselves’ or coming across as egotistical. (Actually, pardon my language, but the exact excuse they typically use for not doing more marketing is ‘It makes me feel like a wanker’).

If that’s something you can relate to, please don’t give up on marketing altogether. Instead, here are simple ways to change your approach that might make you and your prospective clients more comfortable.

1. Make marketing your business about your customer, not about you

In many cases, marketing messages that make you uncomfortable are likely to do so because they’re self-centred. Nobody likes to hang out with someone who talks about themselves all the time in real life, and it’s no different in a marketing environment.

Turn this issue on its head by making your marketing customer-centric instead of self-centred, and you’ll soon find that you’re connecting with people in a way that resonates with them. To get this approach working for you, continually return to three key questions when creating your messages:

  • Who can I help?
  • What are they struggling with or looking for?
  • How can I help them?

Tip: If your answer to any of the above questions is ‘Everyone’ or ‘Everything’, you’ve got some more work to do narrowing down your target market.

2. Use your marketing to educate and empower your audience

Make your marketing even more customer-centric by using it as a platform to educate and empower prospective customers. Key types of content to create here include ‘How to’ guides and information summaries that your audience can use or ingest to take their understanding to the next level.

Your overall goal with this type of content is to help people make good decisions, and help them arrive at the conclusion that choosing you or your product might be a very good decision indeed, and one that they feel comfortable making.

3. Expand your audience’s horizons

When you’re feeling sheepish about your marketing efforts, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that others see all marketing as irritating and annoying – but what if yours was aspirational and inspiring instead?

Numerous businesses have been built on the back of a marketing strategy that revolves around opening people’s eyes to possibilities they haven’t imagined for themselves yet. That’s a strategy that might work for you too, especially if your product or service results in some kind of transformation.

Whether you help people pick the best type of jeans for their body shape or revolutionise the profitability of their businesses, aspirational messages are marketing gold. To apply this strategy, look for opportunities to showcase before and after images of projects that you’ve been involved in for your clients, or to tell the story of their journey to success with you and what the outcomes have been for them.

Tip: Ask yourself, ‘How can I tell this story in a way that helps others realise that a similar outcome is achievable and accessible for them too?

4. Get your message in front of the right eyeballs

Sharing your marketing message with people who categorically aren’t interested in it is a sure-fire way to make yourself feel like a jerk, and won’t help your sales either.

This kind of marketing discomfort is particularly common among small business owners who send their sales and marketing messages out to a social media audience largely comprised of their personal networks – people who’ve supported your Facebook page or other social media activities purely because they want to support YOU rather than because they’re interested in buying what you have to sell.

Luckily, social media offers some solutions to this issue too, allowing you to spend just a small amount of money to advertise to highly targeted potential customers who are genuinely interested in your offerings. Also consider experimenting with Google AdWords, but in both cases, be aware that it’s very easy for the uninitiated to burn through money in a surprisingly short period of time. Before you start, get very, very specific about your target market and how you can help them, and either read up on how to create and buy effective ads or hire an expert to do it for you.

5. Be credible (but not bashful)

If the reason you’re uncomfortable about marketing is that you’re afraid you’ll come across as over-stating your case or being arrogant, then take a step back before you hit ‘Publish’ and ask yourself whether the message you’re working on is your opinion or a proven fact?

If it’s a fact, back up your credibility by including objective, incontrovertible data. Examples might include statistics regarding the frequency with which a particular issue occurs, the costs that are incurred when it does, or a simple explanation about the often-overlooked technical issues behind the problem.

If your message is based on your opinion, make sure to state it as such, but do so in a way that makes it clear why your opinion on the issue is one worth listening to. For instance, you might say something like, ‘In my 20+ years of creating marketing communications, I’ve repeatedly found that messaging that’s customer-centric is more appealing and more effective than marketing that’s all about the advertiser’.

6. Let others tell the story for you

If you really can’t bear to use your marketing to explain why you’re the right person for the job, distance yourself from the content by quoting testimonials and feedback from happy customers. This social proof is much more trustworthy than YOUR opinion anyway, and helps customers feel safe that others have had a good experience with you.

7. Make a concrete commitment

Whether we’re creating them or consuming them, marketing messages that are wishy-washy make us feel like we’re on shifty ground. From the perspective of the business owner, the underlying issue is often that we’re afraid to go out on a limb and commit to something in case we can’t follow through. Unfortunately though, that reticence doesn’t come across as caution to the reader; instead it has the effect of making us feel that the truth is being obscured in some way.

If this is an issue for you and your marketing, make it your mission to give your prospective customers a sense of certainty.

Doing that might mean you need to spend some time drilling down into what you can promise your customers. With your hand on your heart, is there a specific outcome or a certain level of quality or service that you can guarantee with 110% certainty? If so, find a way to weave that promise into your marketing message and not only will your audience respond positively, but you’ll find yourself feeling more authentic and less uncomfortable about your marketing.

Tip: Consider under-promising and over-delivering in this context. You’ll buy yourself a little wriggle room for the odd occasion that you need it, but more importantly, will be setting yourself up to wow your customers on a regular basis.

Have you found a way to market your business without feeling like a tosser? Please share your tips and experience in the comments.