Thursday, 14 January 2021
Embarrassment and fear of being in the spotlight are major barriers to self-promotion for entrepreneurs, yet overcoming them can make a huge difference to the success of your business.
Being able to approach people such as investors and potential business partners with confidence, and build a social media profile that will entice clients and customers, is key to helping business owners forge the connections that will help them achieve business growth.
Extroverts often make self-promotion, whether that’s public speaking or appearing in social media marketing videos, appear effortless. Introverts, on the other hand, can find it more challenging and see it as simply blowing their own trumpet. However, there are tools and techniques to help people overcome their self-consciousness and promote themselves and their businesses with positive results.
Alison Edgar, AKA The Entrepreneur’s Godmother, works with entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs, helping them to improve their sales, grow their businesses, and promote themselves and their brand. Her personal mantra is: ‘Why would you blend in when you can stand out?’
She says: “When we launched at The Business Show at London ExCeL we stood out like a sore thumb because we were wearing tiaras and holding wands, but we knew we had to be confident. It was about putting our message out there, standing out from everyone else, and it got people talking about us.”
In being bold and standing out from the crowd, a business risks attracting negative as well as positive feedback. Introverts often take this personally, which can undermine their confidence. The key to dealing with this, says Edgar, is having a growth mindset.
She says: “If people are talking about your brand and they don’t like it, you just accept that your business isn’t suitable for everyone. But by being really strong with your messaging, the people who you do want to work with will find you. The real strength comes from your purpose; why you do it. I know that what I do, teaching sales and working with entrepreneurs on their strategies, works really well, and that’s my ‘why’ to keep growing my brand, and promoting myself. And that’s also what gives you the confidence to see negative feedback as useful rather than a personal slight.”
Creating a strong social media profile across the platforms where your target audience resides, and raising awareness of your brand by positioning what you are offering as a service, rather than simply selling it, is key to growing a strong customer base.
“Delivered correctly, sales and customer service are one and the same thing,” says Edgar. “If you feel you are offering a service, you are more likely to be proactive. If you’re looking for investment, and you believe that you can get that investor his money back in 12 months with an upturn of 20%, that’s not a sale, that’s a customer service. This approach will also boost your confidence.”
In terms of self-promotion on social media, video is the content channel of choice and one that any ambitious entrepreneur should get to grips with, especially in light of the current restrictions on face-to-face interactions due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the prospect of appearing on screen can be daunting.
“Make sure your video has structure and purpose, and keep it short. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but practising will make you more confident, and the more you do it, the better you’ll get”Lynne Parker, founder, Funny Women
Lynne Parker, founder of Funny Women, set up her business to help women find their voice through performing, writing and using humour in business and everyday life. Funny Women runs comedy workshops that teach entrepreneurs and business leaders how to use stand-up comedy techniques to perform, speak in public, and grow in confidence.
Parker believes that video is the best way of letting the people you are trying to connect with see who you are, what you are trying to do, and what you believe in. And for those who feel daunted by the prospect of video self-promotion, her advice is, to quote the famous Susan Jeffers book, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.
“What’s the worst that can happen?” she asks. “Nobody dies. If you want to get your message out there, you have to bite the bullet. Don’t overthink it, don’t internalise it; just do it.”
Whether it’s a piece of social media marketing content or a virtual meeting with a potential partner or investor, the key to effective video self-promotion is sound preparation, knowing your material, and knowing your audience. “Do your homework, do your research, and find out as much as you can about who you are talking to,” adds Parker.
Another important piece of advice, she adds, is to practice on camera before posting online. “Make sure your video has structure and purpose, and keep it short,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but practising will make you feel more confident, and the more you do it, the better you’ll become.”
Throughout November, Funny Women will be co-hosting a number of related events with NatWest, including ‘The Pressure to Perform When Things Get Tough’, ‘Finding Focus and Inner Calm’, and ‘Improvise to Succeed’.
Reaching the stage of business growth where you are looking to bring a business partner or an investor on board, it’s important to take a step back and think about your business objectives; what you want to achieve, and when. This not only clarifies the financial position of any new arrangement, but also the type of person you are looking for, and will help to ensure the best outcome in both cases. When it comes to pitching, there are some key principles of self-promotion to be aware of, as Josh Winfield, manager of NatWest Business Builder, explains.
“You have to be slick and you have to be clear on the problem that you are trying to solve,” he says. Some entrepreneurs may fail to focus on the problem, or focus on a problem that doesn’t exist. Another common mistake is to pitch in a way that is self-aggrandising. “Too many people base their pitching on what they see on TV, but that’s not good pitching. Too many people go to networking meetings to stand up and say what they are and do. My golden rule is that a pitch should never be more than 150 words, it should never start with a personal introduction, and it should focus on the problem that you are solving and how you solve it,” says Winfield.
“It’s about telling that story in a way that gives people the confidence to reach out to you. You understand the problem they have, you are giving them a credible solution to it, and you’ve told them how to engage with you. Problem, solution, call to action. If your pitch has all of those elements, you are on the right lines.”