It seems that a considerable amount of marketing and sales advice to self-employed professionals is aimed at extroverts. “Go to networking events and meet new people,” the authorities say. “Speak in front of groups.” “Call people up and chat with them.”
If you are an introvert, these experts might as well be telling you to fly to the moon. What if you don’t enjoy public gatherings, dislike being the center of attention, and hate to call strangers on the phone? Can you still do well at personal marketing?
How Do Introverts Market?
First, it may help to recognize that being an introvert is not some sort of disorder, nor is it unusual. Introversion is simply a personality type. It’s been estimated that introverts make up 25 to 50 percent of the population. Many of us have both introverted and extroverted qualities, so finding alternatives to extroverted marketing can be helpful even if you are not a full introvert.
Introverts are often defined as those who gain energy when alone, but lose it when interacting with others, while extroverts are exactly the opposite. Introverts tend to be quieter, more deliberate, and enjoy solitary activities, or being with just one person, instead of in a group. The typical introvert prefers deeper conversations to small talk, and often likes to listen more than to speak.
So how can an introvert do well at marketing? Effective marketing does require talking to people; there’s no getting around that. But the good news is that most introverts do like conversing with people, they just don’t like doing it with total strangers or in noisy crowds. Trying to force yourself to participate in activities that make you uncomfortable will usually backfire. Instead, identify your own personal comfort zone and try to work from within it.
For example, a client of mine felt uncomfortable at business events but enjoyed attending small, casual get-togethers. She always thought her problem was that she didn’t like being in groups, so she avoided them completely. But when we looked together at exactly what was making her uncomfortable, it turned out that her real dislike was for groups with a “mixer” atmosphere and not for groups in general.
My client enjoyed sitting with a few people and speaking with them about what was going on in their lives or businesses. But she didn’t enjoy standing around chatting about the weather or the food. So, the next time she attended a networking event, she found a table where several people were sitting and joined their conversation. Just the act of sitting down made her more comfortable, and she connected with several new people who she was able to talk to at length.
The Introvert’s Marketing Plan
In creating your marketing plan, pay attention to where you fall on the introversion/extroversion continuum when choosing what to do and how to do it. Here are some suggestions for adapting typical marketing activities to a more introverted personality.
1. Attend with a friend. When planning to attend a networking meeting or social event where you hope to mingle with prospective clients, invite a friend or colleague to go with you. Agree that you will help each other to meet new people. Introduce your companion to anyone you already know and ask him or her to do the same. Choose in advance some intriguing topics for conversation, and invite others you meet to discuss these issues with the two of you.
2. Seek out structure. Many introverts abhor mixers but enjoy meeting people in more structured environments such as leads groups or workshops. Look for groups where the meeting format allows all attendees time to introduce themselves, or builds networking exercises into the program. You may find that it’s easier to talk about yourself when there is a specific time allotted for just that purpose.
3. Avoid the crowds. Mingling at events may not be an environment where you do your best. Instead of trying to meet people in group settings, do your networking one-on-one. Arrange to meet with people for coffee or lunch to get to know them better. When you run out of people you already know to meet with, ask friends or colleagues to set up a three-way meeting with someone they know.
4. Prepare what to say. Whether you are attending an event or placing a follow-up call, most introverts find it helpful to plan out in advance what they want to talk about. This type of preparation gives you time to reflect on what you wish to express and explore the best way to say it. A short list of topics for discussion, or questions you want to ask, kept in your pocket or by your phone, may help you feel more grounded in your conversations.
5. Write or text instead of call. It’s true that it’s often more effective to contact prospective clients by phone than by email or text. But when calling makes you so uncomfortable that you tend to avoid it altogether, go ahead and write instead. You’ll probably find sending emails and texts more productive when you use them to follow up with prospects who already know you than if you try to approach strangers that way. To reach out to those you haven’t met, you may need to…
6. Establish connections. Approaching people who have never heard of you to ask for their business is not a requirement for successful marketing. In fact, introductions and referrals will open many more doors than cold approaches. Ask friends and colleagues to introduce you to people who might need your services, and spend time getting better acquainted with other professionals who serve your target market. These collegial conversations will be both more comfortable and more effective.
7. Promote by publishing. The focused, reflective nature of many introverts often makes them excellent writers. Writing and publishing articles, a blog, case studies, or even a book can attract many prospective clients and boost your credibility. Publishing also provides content to post about on social media. When clients come to you already acquainted with your work instead of you approaching them as a stranger, marketing conversations become more relaxed and intimate – just what most introverts like.
The Introvert’s Advantage
There’s one area of marketing at which introverts often shine. While extroverts typically enjoy meeting new people and find it relatively effortless to fill their marketing pipeline, they don’t always do well at following up with the people they meet. Introverts, on the other hand, frequently excel at building strong relationships over time.
If you focus your marketing on staying in touch with people and getting to know them better instead of continually trying to seek out new contacts, you may find that your introverted style of marketing works better than what the extroverts are doing after all.