Eat cake, not humble pie

How modesty is harming your business.

As a rule, us kiwis aren’t the best at celebrating our successes. Tall poppy syndrome is very real, and self-depreciating humour is our cultural go-to, even when we’re doing ourselves a disservice. People (especially women!) are socialised to fade into the background, and taught that modesty is more appropriate than confidence. But to be honest? I’m so tired of it.

Why is it that we can spend hours enthusing over our friends and their work, we can pay other people extravagant compliments, or leave them glowing reviews, but as soon as we have to talk about what it is WE do, especially if we do it well, we clam up. The words won’t come, and if they do, we’re sure they’re trite, awkward, obnoxious, or arrogant. Who wins when we don’t own our awesomeness? It isn’t us, that’s for sure!

While socially acceptable, our distaste for tooting our own horn can actually harm our businesses. Not only does trying to not sound ‘up ourselves’ result in stilted, boring copy, it also means that we’re less likely to connect with the right people. How are your customers going to find you if you’re not willing to tell them about why they should choose you?

So here are my 3 tips to help you promote your business with passion and enthusiasm, without feeling like a conceited fraud.

  1. Show, don’t tell

This is the number one rule of writing, but I think it’s applicable to most things in life, including self-promotion.

If you’re just starting out, your best advertisement is making sure that whatever you do, you’re doing it well. That way you know that when you say you’re awesome, you’re actually awesome. Positive recommendations through word of mouth are vital to your business, so make sure you go the extra mile for people and over-deliver.

And make sure you give credit where credit is due, especially if the credit is due to yourself. The only thing worse than modesty is false modesty.

2. Tell the truth

Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people market themselves as something they’re not. Don’t try and be what you think your customers want you to be, or you’ll attract the wrong people. In our marketing saturated existence, most people can spot inauthenticity a mile away. Honesty is the best policy, and the fastest way to surround yourself with the right people for your business.

3. Listen to understand, not to reply

Ask for feedback, and be willing to integrate it. This is the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Asking your customers for feedback can show you what it is you do well, which can help you feel validated when you promote yourself. But it can also help you work out where you need to improve. (I use a simple customer satisfaction survey I created on google forms.)

If you’re still stuck, imagine that you’re telling someone about your friend’s business instead, or get a friend or customer to write you a testimonial. It’s so much easier to compliment others! And if you’re still tearing your hair out, consider outsourcing. Feel free to contact me and I will be your personal cheering squad!

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