The Art of Natural Self-Promotion

It’s just a reality of 21st century career-building, we’ve been told: using networking, self-promoting, and social media to “sell” ourselves and communicate the skills and talents we bring to the table. So, why does it feel so slimy sometimes?

We asked Tara Gentile, business strategist and creator of Quiet Power Strategy, to weigh in on how to reach people, deliver your message, and make an impact without feeling like you need a shower afterward.

MF: Why do you think self-promotion and networking can feel so slimy to some of us?

TG: Networking, at least the way we traditionally think of it, doesn’t align with everyone’s natural strengths. Even for people who are extroverted, it can be draining and feel gross. I advise clients to think about the conditions they need to truly connect with people. After all, self-promotion, networking, and marketing are just about connecting. Then, they need to create those conditions in their businesses and devise ways of benefiting from them that feel natural. 

In my own business, I do my best to create two conditions for connecting. First, I try to turn online relationships into offline relationships by sharing a beer or a glass of wine with a contact at a conference. I like deepening preexisting relationships, and I thrive in a casual, low-stakes environment. Second, I look for ways to connect with audiences of people. Although I’m introverted, I thrive on stage. So, accepting opportunities to speak or present allows me to better connect with people, even on an individual level.

MF:  Many of us think of self-promotion as broadcasting or shouting our messages and self-accolades from the rooftops. Is there another, quieter, way to make an impact? 

TG: Absolutely! The first rule of self-promotion is engagement. If you truly engage your listener, reader, or prospect with your message, it’s much more memorable than announcing how awesome you are. 

To engage with the people who matter, you have to listen first. So, if the first rule of self-promotion is engagement, the first step is listening. Listen to your prospects’ fears, desires, questions, and concerns. Consider what’s going on below the surface (here, introverts and other quiet people have super powers!), and then craft a response. That response is your blog post, your social media update, or your conversation starter.

When you can answer an unstated question, fear, or desire, you and your work are sure to make a big impact.

MF:  Is it really possible to spread the word about what you do well without reaching massive numbers of people? 

TG: There are many quietly powerful people who have crafted thriving businesses reaching much smaller communities. For many business owners, this means crafting a “deep” business model. You can serve four or five clients a year and still generate immense impact. But that impact is about going deep instead of going wide. You seek to help create deep transformation for one client instead of more shallow transformation for the masses. Of course, you also need a business model that supports that, which means very individualized marketing systems and much higher price tags than those of someone focused on scale.

I always remind people that, no matter the price point, it’s easier to sell four of something than to sell 40,000 of it. It just requires an intentional personalized approach (that’s what I call Quiet Power Strategy) that leverages the unique powers of quiet people.

MF: Do you think that a “quieter” approach to marketing and self-promotion, like your Quiet Power Strategy, ultimately works better for more people than a larger-scale strategy that relies on getting in front of as many potential leads as possible?

TG: Absolutely. Taking a “quieter” approach to marketing is something that even big companies are doing now. You’re seeing more hyper-targeted ads, more niche products, and more messages that reach something deep within us.

It works especially well for microbusinesses and their often introverted owners. In these businesses, you don’t need millions of potential leads. You need a few products that sell to a very specific market. Genuine connection—whether through social media, content marketing, video, podcasting, etc.—is the best way to find leads, nurture them, and ultimately make the sale.

We tend to think that people’s default mode is not wanting to buy. That’s not true. Look around: our default mode is absolutely wanting to buy! The real problem is that people don’t want to be sold to; they want to believe they’re in control of the situation. So when you make a genuine connection to them by presenting yourself and your business with your true personality and then tying that to the real concerns, questions, or goals that your prospects have, you’re not selling. You’re connecting.

Give people a product that they feel personally tied to—with messaging that reinforces that connection—and they’ll buy without you having to invest in a lot of expensive marketing or advertising. If you try to sell them something they don’t connect with and use messaging that doesn’t have meaning to them, you’ll have to work a lot harder to sell the same volume.

MF: What’s the first step you recommend for anyone who wants to do a better job networking or self-promoting but feels paralyzed by the “shoulds” involved?

TG: The first step is to write down at least three examples of when in your life or career you’ve felt especially persuasive or compelling. Then consider what patterns exist in those situations. Maybe it was the people you were connecting with or the topic of conversation. Maybe it was the environment or the extend to which you were able to prepare for the conversation. 

Once you know what makes you feel especially persuasive or compelling, you can use it as a barometer for saying no to the “shoulds” and crafting your own networking or self-promotional tactics that feel like a solid yes.