One of my coaching clients complained, “I’m really good at what I do. I shouldn’t have to market myself.” In fact, he is quite good at his profession, but the problem is that not enough prospective clients know about him. Like many professionals, he is reluctant to talk about his capabilities and accomplishments. “It feels like bragging,” he says. “Doesn’t it make me seem unprofessional?”
If thoughts like these often cross your mind, ask yourself this — who are the biggest names in your profession? In your line of work, who might be considered unquestioned experts, those with maximum credibility? Now, how did you get to know about those people’s work? Did you read a blog post or book they had written, hear them interviewed, see them speak? Or perhaps you learned about them from others who had heard or read about their work.
The point is that these well-known people became well-known because they showcased themselves, usually in multiple ways. They shared stories, examples, and ideas about the work they do with a wider audience than just their friends, family, and paying clients. You know about their work because they showed it off. And I’ll bet it never occurred to you to call them unprofessional for doing it.
Showing off your work doesn’t have to sound like, “Ta da! Aren’t I great?” It doesn’t have to contain even a hint of bragging. There are a host of very dignified and appropriate ways to let potential clients know how good you are without ever having to say so. Here are a few you might try.
1. Writing blog posts and articles. Putting your expertise in writing and sharing it with your target audience is a powerful — and very professional — way to let more people know about your unique talents. Launching your own blog is ideal. But without a blog of your own (or in addition to it), you can submit your articles to magazines, newsletters, blogs, or resource websites that serve your niche and watch your visibility grow. If you aren’t a strong writer, take a class, or hire professional help to edit your compositions.
2. Public speaking. Appearing as a speaker allows you to broadcast your expertise to three different audiences — the people who attend your talk, the people who are invited by the sponsoring organization but can’t attend, and the people you inform about your talk before and after. If standing in front of a room makes you too nervous, explore virtual speaking opportunities, such as being a guest on a webinar or teleclass. Or serve on a panel of experts instead, where you’ll get to sit behind a table and speak from notes.
3. Media interviews. Being interviewed by newspapers, blogs, podcasts, or on radio and television can spread the word quickly about your capabilities. Landing interviews is not that hard to do if you remember to start small. Begin by approaching easier targets like association newsletters, neighborhood newspapers, lesser-known bloggers and podcasts, or local cable programs and talk radio.
4. Telling stories. One of the secrets to effective articles, talks, and interviews is to tell stories about your clients. When you describe your clients’ challenges and accomplishments, you reveal the value of your role in helping them without having to boast about it. You can use the same technique in sales conversations with prospective clients to boost your credibility without appearing arrogant.
5. Testimonials. Whenever you do a good job for a client, ask him or her to write you a simple thank you note describing what you did to make them happy. Then make their kudos available on your website, social media, or print marketing materials. Let your clients tell others about your brilliance and you won’t have to say it yourself.
6. Building a portfolio. It’s not only artists and writers who should capture their best work to show off in a portfolio. You can collect photos, graphs, spreadsheets, reports, project schedules, program outlines, and other evidence of your accomplishments and display them on your website, in a marketing kit, or with a PowerPoint presentation. You don’t have to sell people on your abilities when they are seeing for themselves what you can do.
7. Creating products. Packaging your work into merchandise that prospective clients can take home and sample gives them a compelling way to discover your real value. Products like ebooks, audio/video recordings, and home study courses allow you to showcase your expertise and increase your credibility. They can often be advertised more widely than your services can, giving you yet another avenue for getting your name known.
You don’t need to use all these strategies at once to begin making an impact. Pick just one of these ideas to pursue and make a plan to showcase what you can do for a wider audience. If you want to spend less effort on marketing yourself, start letting your prospective clients know how good you really are.