When you're an introvert, the world feels like such a noisy place.
It isn't that you're short on ideas - you've got plenty to share. You've listened patiently, researched thoroughly, and collected your ideas. You've studied the tactics, and you're finally getting a grasp on the audience you can help, and the problems you can solve for them.
You're ready to be heard - but you just can't find the right opportunity to speak up.
Learning about promoting yourself and building a personal brand is interesting, but a lot of the strategies and tactics you've read about put a knot in your stomach - none of them feel right to you.
Besides, you'd rather not have your face plastered all over the internet. Putting yourself out there feels like pulling teeth - you'd prefer to keep your head down, do your best work, and leave the promotion to the extroverts.
Let me share a secret with you, though. The problem isn't with you, or with marketing. The real problem is that you've made some assumptions about what promoting yourself should be like, "always be selling, network with everyone, ya gotta get personal, push push push" - and those assumptions don't mesh with your way of doing things.
But you know what they say about assumptions, right? 😁
If you met me in person for the first time, you might have a hard time guessing I'm an introvert. I'm not shy or awkward, and small talk isn't a problem - it's just that social interactions are draining.
Sure, if you leave me to my own devices, you'd no doubt find me in the corner of the room, reading articles on Medium, or just passing the time quietly and watching, happy with my own thoughts. Once you strike up a conversation, though - even if I don't know you - I'll have no problem having a chat with you. I get my energy from being alone.
Here's the problem, though - a lot of the advice and knowledge out there about marketing and self-promotion isn't geared toward introverts like us. We're constantly being told to network, sell, and teach, building an audience and a personal brand along the way - none of which comes naturally to us.
I used to think sharing online meant hiding more than you show - I definitely had an anonymous Blogger account back in the day - but being introverted doesn't mean keeping everything to yourself. My story of recovering from burnout is probably the most personal thing I've written - when I hit publish, I was expecting maybe a few dozen people to read it. Instead, over 60,000 people have read it, and I still get emails every week from people I've never met thanking me for helping them.
So here are a few things I've learned about making marketing work as an introvert:
Direct, in-person interactions are draining, so I try to focus all my efforts on tactics that require the least real-time interaction.
I've tried plenty of live webinars and public speaking in the past, and although I'm capable of doing all these things - and they do tend to work like gangbusters - they suck up a lot of my energy, and usually mean I get nothing else done for the rest of the day. Instead, I've tried to stick to things that need less in-person time, like email (hey there!), short pre-recorded videos, and guest posting.
For those times when you need to be interacting one-on-one, it's important to find ways to make the most of the energy you're spending. For example, I'm working on launching a new service to founders and makers grow through story-driven content, and I'm using cold emails to find the first interested clients. Instead of just blasting a few hundred identical emails to people that might be interested, I'm taking the time to research each business, find the actual name of the owner, and record a short personal video introducing myself and showing how I can help them and their store. Personally, I hate video - but, by turning each email into a one-to-one interaction instead of a one-to-many exercise, I'm able to get past those doubts and do it anyway.
There are a million different ways to promote yourself and your work - it's especially important for introverts not to fall into the trap of following the crowd. Play to your strengths - if it doesn't feel right to you, or you find yourself feeling like you're always swimming upstream, then try something else. Find the techniques that you enjoy doing and you can stick with, and you'll be far better off.
Trying to get concentrate on your work when your surroundings are fighting you at every turn is difficult, at best. I often don't even notice how unproductive I am until I try working from somewhere with fewer distractions, and suddenly I'm able to get way more done.
It's important to find a space that's just for Getting Things Done. For me, that's our basement office, or one of a few local coffee shops - I find that being surrounded by other people, but not being interrupted, is the best environment for me to work. If you work in an office, find a quiet conference room every now and then, or head out to work from somewhere different.
It's important to manage your energy and your workload. I try to keep all my writing to one or two days a week and keep my other commitments to a minimum on those days. Then, I try to take a break and do something that recharges me, whether it's binging on Netflix or taking our daughter to the playground.
I also try to keep all my client interactions - email, phone calls, and so on - grouped in the afternoons. That way, I get the morning to work on my own stuff, on my own schedule, without being constantly interrupted and thrown off.
A lot of "experts" talk about being honest and authentic in your messaging, but that doesn't necessarily mean sharing the whole story. You can always choose which parts of your story to share and which parts to keep to yourself. If you're worried about sharing with strangers, then focus on building a more intimate audience in a more private medium, like a private Facebook group or a mailing list. You get to pick what works best for you.
I'm terrible at talking about myself or what I do on the fly. What does help, though, is to practice your pitch or your conversation beforehand. Sometimes for sales calls with a potential client, I'll pre-write out all the questions to ask and things I want to discuss beforehand, to make sure I don't miss something important. Preparing for my last live webinar took forever because I wrote almost the entire presentation out in full, so I didn't have to worry about forgetting something.
Practice your story and your pitch until it's something you're happy to share and something you're comfortable talking about with others - it won't necessarily make it comfortable, but it will make it much easier.
At its core, marketing is simply having conversations and letting people know you can help solve their problem. Most introverts I've come across are excellent listeners, and we only talk when we fell we've got something useful to say, so focus on helping others as much as you can. People will remember you if you helped them solve a problem, or get out of a sticky situation, not if you were more outgoing or energetic.
I know everyone's different, and introversion isn't always black-and-white - but the above ideas are some things that work for me. Hopefully, if you lean the same way I do, some of them might be helpful for you too.
Being an introvert doesn't make it impossible to promote yourself. Most introverts struggle for two reasons - they don't know how to promote themselves in a way that feels authentic, or they know what to do but it just feels exhausting. Self-promotion isn't something that needs to be done in a particular way, though - you can easily find ways that work for you.
As long as you're connecting with the audience you're trying to help - regardless of how you're communicating with them - then you're winning at marketing. And that's something even us introverts can manage.
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