Overcoming the Fear of "Self-Promotion"
The idea of self-promotion is hands-down one of the most challenging and intimidating aspects for conscious entrepreneurs. Again and again, I hear from dear clients how hard this aspect is, how they don't want to "add to the noise." It's a valid thought in a loud world.
I see both myself and others shying away from shining their light, their products and their offerings just when it's time to truly shine. I see this especially with women. Here are some of my core thoughts on overcoming fear of self-promotion and leadership, fear of marketing, and resistance to bringing your work and inventions out into the world.
Get comfortable with self-promotion by realizing you’re not promoting you.
Some people just breath confidence. They speak their truth clearly and loudly (or sometimes softly) and they just seem to have a certain “joie de vive” always on hand when it comes to authentically getting the word out about their products or services. We all know at least one of these magic makers- my father-in-law comes to mind; he's a gem in this way.
Sometimes I admit I get all flustered by these types, because they remind me that I am a little afraid still. I thank them for that! Because for the rest of us, doubts and fears about seeming self-aggrandizing, greedy, or pushy can be regular roadblocks on the vast learning curve of small-business marketing.
Inspirational author Marianne Williamson famously said,
“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small does not serve the world.”
What a concept! The truth is, if you are reading this, if you’re an entrepreneur or a creative dreamer, not only have you already leaned into this concept, but you happen to be living in the best time in human history to promote your work.
As daunting as some of the ins and outs of online visibility and savvy websites and all that can seem, imagine trying to be seen, or actualize your work in the first place, even 50 years ago (especially as women and people of color).
Yet I especially find that the kinds of people I serve- artists, wellness professionals, change-makers, people striving tirelessly for a better world- are honestly some of the most reluctant and most suspicious of truly marketing their business or services. I know, because I was one of them (sometimes still am=full disclosure)! That suspicion is a good sign, because there are a lot- and I mean a lot- of terrible marketing strategies out there that feel icky because, well, they are.
Let’s break that ickiness down real quick, because it shows up a few classic ways:
1. Someone is truly just self-promoting. You can tell this when it’s very hard to see what you will receive in return for your very valuable, undivided attention.
2. Someone is trying to scare or guilt you into doing something (think fear-based email subject lines or predatory sales funnels that try to seem like your best friend). Even some amazing people still use such phrases as "This is not for you if you don't want to make money or do what you love." Ok, wow. Queue my girl Kristin Wiig's face abive! That’s just unimaginative at best.
3. Someone hasn’t asked permission to contact you, or given you any reason to trust them, and yet they want you to trust them (i.e. buy their stuff, read their stuff, share their stuff, etc.)
So, of course you want to avoid those tactics from having their seductive way with you. But there is an amazingly simple truth to authentic marketing that doesn’t feel gross or fake and is really the stuff of dreams! One that will allow you to relax and feel comfortable marketing your business (which you must do, no matter how big or small or itsy bitsy you are). And that is this:
It’s really not about self-promotion; it’s about needs-promotion. Needs-promotion means first and foremost that you and your company are fulfilling a specific need people have in a unique or innovative way.
Secondly, it means that instead of making yourself or your company the center point, you are making your customer’s needs the center-point. And third, it means that everything you say and do out there in the world can and should be linked to providing what you love to the world, rather than be an afterthought to drum up business. Those aforementioned joie-de-vivers? They get all this.
Of course, there are a lot of brilliant people who have made their actual name very well-known and respected. But I can almost guarantee that if you look at their work and leadership (whether in their neighborhood, city, or on the big world stage), they have consistently put the needs and wants of their tribe well ahead of their own self-promotion.
One of my personal and professional heroes, Seth Godin, and a true 21st century thought-leader, talks regularly about this kind of thing, and I recommend reading his stuff- beginning with Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us. Seeing as I’d be lost marketing-wise without him, I’ll end this segment with some words on self-promotion from what you might call The Reluctant Master:
“Self-promotion… is a mildly pejorative way to describe someone who promotes himself at the expense of others. Nobody says, "That Yo Yo Ma, he's so self-promotional," or, "can you believe what a self-promoter the Dalai Lama is?" That's because they're not promoting themselves. They're promoting useful ideas. They're promoting tactics or products that actually benefit the person they're reaching out to.… they're doing you-promotion, not me-promotion.”