Marketing angst is probably the most common concern I hear from people who are self-employed or considering self-employment, so I want to bring some hope to the cause right now.
Marketing is often equated with having to deal with social media marketing so we’ll get into that, as well as your options beyond social media.
I’ve been writing a business and career advice column for introverts that appears on Quiet Revolution and Huffington Post, and most of the letters I get from self-employed people are about some kind of dislike of marketing.
Here’s a question from a self-employed, introverted health care provider that captures the typical concern well. Along with my response to her.
I’m a self-employed alternative health care practitioner in private practice. It used to be that word of mouth was enough to keep my practice going, and I had more than enough business. The last several years have been more difficult, which I attribute partly to people having less cash for out-of-pocket services like mine.
Although I have a website that brings in some business, I don’t have much of a social media presence because I just don’t enjoy social media. I don’t like putting myself out there in continual posts about my services.
Are there other ways to market myself that are more consistent with being an introvert? Or do I just have to suck it up and keep posting?
– Frustrated by Facebook
I’m so glad you wrote me about this. What you’re describing is something I hear so often that I’m thrilled to help resolve it for you and all the other folks who are wondering if they need to just “suck it up” on the typical marketing “shoulds.”
The short answer is NO! I officially set you free from pushing yourself to do something that doesn’t feel right to you.
I’m not saying there’s no effort involved in growing a business. And I’m not saying “forget social media” entirely.
But anything you do for your business, including marketing, should not feel like “sucking it up,” or what I call swimming upstream—against the current. When it feels that way, it’s a sure sign that something is off and it probably won’t work.
Instead, marketing that actually works for you feels like swimming downstream, meaning you are exerting effort, but you also feel aligned with a natural flow. You feel energized and are able to easily find words that connect with people. When you find your easeful approach to marketing, your heart says, “Yes, this feels right.” You can trust that feeling.
Only when your efforts have that enjoyable feeling will they actually work. No icky stuff required. In fact, don’t do anything that feels icky because that energy turns people off.
Introverts and Marketing
You brought up what is probably the number one issue for introverts in business: the dread of sucking it up for marketing.
But the problem is not introversion or marketing. The real problem is that we’re carrying many worn-out assumptions about what marketing should be like (“Ya gotta go for it, be seen more, be a networking fiend, speak everywhere, faster, faster, more, more, push, push…”). It has a salesman-like ring to it. It’s enough to make any introvert, and many others, hide under a rock and give up on business.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Effective marketing is simply sharing the welcome news that you can help solve someone’s problem. It’s an offer of help from a spirit of generosity.
You can be successful by finding your own way of attracting clients that feels aligned with what you love to do and what feels natural for you.
For instance, if you love helping people with insomnia and it feels natural to teach a workshop, then teach a free workshop about how to deal with insomnia.
Clearly, there is still effort involved in teaching a workshop, and there might even be a courageous stretch to it, but if you do something meaningful for you, that aligns with talents you enjoy using, that will be more powerful than the fear.
And when you’re doing something that your heart is enjoying, your audience can begin to know you and trust you. If you show up as you, online or offline, and let people know about your services in an authentic way, you naturally attract clients without a sense of pushing anything.
Introverts and Social Media
These days, a big marketing “should” is to be using social media, especially Facebook.
Turns out, you can have a successful business without Facebook. Gasp, I said it. Take that, Marketing Police.
I’m not saying, however, to forget social media before giving it a real look.
Given the power of social media, it’s worth learning more before you dismiss it as “not your thing.” It’s very possible that you (like most people) have misconceptions about how to use it for business. The reality could actually be something you enjoy.
You mentioned you don’t want to put yourself out there “in continual posts about your services.” Your instincts are correct! Pushing something in that way can cause people to tune you out, and might lead to mistrust—so don’t do it.
Being real, engaging, and helpful is what works. Social media is not about sales. It’s about relationship-building. Don’t expect it to be a quick fix for getting new clients.
If—after learning about what works in social media and trying it at least a bit—you still find that you aren’t enjoying interacting online with your chosen audience, then drop it.
I have found social media to be a useful tool for keeping my business visible in an authentic way, but I enjoy it—and that’s why it works for me. I know it’s not for everyone. (Update 2020: I’m on social media more rarely now, because I stopped enjoying it. Business is still going fine.)
Introversion is a strength for social media.
You might find that your introversion is actually a strength when it comes to online networking! Studies show that introverts read the social environment in more detail and accuracy than extroverts. That’s quite an asset for interacting online as an introvert. (This research is found in the book Quiet, by Susan Cain.)
Many introverts prefer social media to in-person networking events.
Since introverts like to think before speaking, as an introvert, you might enjoy the benefit of having time to think before posting.
Many introverts also enjoy writing. Picture your ideal audience, and speak directly to them from your heart. If you do, the connection between you and your audience will come alive for you and for them.
Finding your sweet spot for marketing
There’s always a way to find the overlap between what you enjoy and what will draw your ideal audience to you. That’s your sweet spot for marketing.
Here are three simple steps to find your sweet spot:
- Do the things you love as your marketing.
- Learn about effective marketing methods before dismissing them. Only keep what’s fun.
- Drop anything that feels icky.
That’s what works for your wallet and for your heart.
Introverts’ top picks for marketing
Here are some ways to do marketing (or “relationship building”) that introverts tend to like and find effective for them:
- Get listed in the free Google business directory.
This is so easy and so effective that every local business should take this step.
- Have one-on-one lunch dates with people you know who feel like kindred spirits.
Let them know what you love about your work, and ask about theirs. Referrals come naturally from meaningful conversations such as these.
- Help out with causes you care about so that you’re easily connecting with like-minded people in structured and meaningful ways.
If you’re a graphic designer or photographer, you could help a non-profit with their materials and thereby show off your work in a public way while also connecting with people you like.
- Take time to send good referrals to other providers, and they’ll tend to remember you when the time comes.
- If you still feel some resistance toward marketing, you might find this helpful:
“If You Hate Promoting Your Services, Stop.”
I welcome hearing your thoughts, below. What works for you?[An earlier version of this article was originally published on Quiet Revolution and reprinted here with permission.]
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