What holds you back from strong personal branding?
The vast majority of professionals, business owners and executives have trouble branding themselves because they suffer from FOB syndrome: Fear of Bragging.
Professionals and business owners need marketing materials that will demonstrate value to their clients.
Corporate executives also get stuck because they can’t sell themselves as they write resumes, performance reviews and reports.
Time to get out of your own way! If you can’t talk about how good you are, you will always stay where you are.
Can you relate to these questions?
“I simply cannot write about myself in large terms.”
“I can’t brag about myself.”
“Everybody else is better than me.”
“I don’t want to be obnoxious.”
“The nail that stands out gets hammered down.”
“Humility is a virtue.”
“Just do your work and you’ll get noticed.”
What Bragging101 Can Do For You
When you brag about yourself the right way, you will:
- Communicate your authentic message in a way that attracts sales (without sounding hype-y or obnoxious)
- Get better results for every dollar you spend on marketing yourself
- Spend less time promoting yourself but enjoy even greater results
- Attract clients, offers and rewards more consistently
- Transform prospects to customers easily (even if it was always hard for you before)
- Stand out in a crowded environment
- Sell your ideas and proposals
- Present yourself as a winner to bosses, colleagues and customers
“Often a query, never a sale”
Imagine someone asks you a question, visits your site, reads your resume, or picks up a brochure. Each event represents an opportunity to introduce yourself to your target market.
Will you seize the opportunity with a strong (but totally professional) message? Or will you think, “I don’t want to brag.”
When you think “brag” is a 4-letter word, you lose lucrative opportunities. You don’t turn queries into sales. You get frustrated with weak results.
And (believe it or not) you make your prospects uncomfortable. They want you to brag, the right way.
Many people think “brag” is a 4-letter word. They think they’ll be forced to be obnoxious and pushy to promote themselves.
I encourage you to think of bragging in a positive way – not only bragging but reaching out and connecting to your clients. The truth is … your clients expect you to brag. They want you to tell them how great you are.
The truth is, confident people want to associate with other confident people. Propping up someone’s self-assurance takes a lot of energy!
You may have heard the saying, “The nail that stands out gets pounded down.” In business and career settings, the nail that doesn’t stand out will disappear into the woodwork.
A lot of us were taught, “Just do your work and you’ll get noticed.” The truth is, you want to do your work and you want to do it but you want to let people know what you’re doing in a context that makes sense to them.
What motivated me to write about this topic
Once I took a zumba class where Bill was subbing for Maria, a very popular instructor. More than once during the class he would say, “I’m sure you’ll be glad next week when Maria is back,” or, “I know you miss Maria today.”
Most of us got very frustrated. It was like, “I don’t want to hear this.” In fact, many of us liked Bill better than we liked Maria.
And you’ve probably attended meetings where C-level executives would say, “I’m sure you’d rather be somewhere else instead of sitting here listening to me.”
Why not say instead, “It’s a beautiful day and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with you and I have wonderful things to contribute – things I know will make a difference – things I know will impact your business.”
Or have you ever been to a meeting where successful business owners raise their hands and say, “This is probably a stupid question but …”
I’ve seen this happen even at conferences with successful business owners. And I cringe every time.
First of all, your question probably isn’t stupid. Second, you’re taking up air time by apologizing for yourself. Get right to the point and ask your question.
We’ll talk later about owning your bragging rights and when you should apologize. Mostly you shouldn’t.
Your clients want you to brag!
When potential clients meet you and don’t buy, there may be nothing wrong with your product or service. The reason may be related to you.
In fact, people often think there’s something wrong with you if you’re not promoting yourself. I learned this the hard way.
If you’ve been on my website you probably know I spent many years teaching in business schools. Professors (even in business schools) say things like, “This might make a small incremental effect on the dynamics of the intra-organizational interactions…”
So when I got on the web I was nervous about selling. I created a timid little website. I wrote some timid little copy for my ebooks. I did get some interest and some clients but not a lot happened.
Then I studied copywriting. I was really nervous when I shared my first sales letter. I expected my prospects to turn away in horror.
Instead, people started saying, “This is great! Now we really believe you’re doing well.” They wanted to see that I was doing some promotion because that made my business seem real.
The truth is …
Clients like to brag about their professionals.
- “My dentist went to Harvard.”
- “My trainer is a bodybuilder who just won a big contest.”
- “My coach wrote a book.”
Clients EXPECT you to brag.
- If you don’t, it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
This book will walk you through the 5 Bragging 101 steps and then share places you can brag.
The Bragging 101 Program: Overview
Step 1: Connect emotionally to your target – your audience – with 3 levels of pain. Your target can be your customer base or your future employer.
What is your target audience feeling? Most prospects are scared. They’re terrified of making the wrong decision.
By bragging, you address their fear. You reassure them on the 3 levels of pain.
Step 2: Focus on the YOU factor. How does your brilliance make them shine brighter?
Make them look good.
Frame your brags in terms of your target market.
Step 3: Use stories to show what you do so you don’t have to tell them.
“Show don’t tell” is one of the maxims of professional writers and it can be yours too. Try reading a novel and notice how the author present scenes and people.
The best way to do this is to tell stories about your own accomplishments. Whether you’re advancing your career or your business, you can use stories to communicate your value to a variety of
Step 4: Let others do the talking for you.
Provide testimonials and list awards.
Step 5: Claim your bragging rights.
Stop apologizing! Accept compliments and start connecting.
Step 1: Connect emotionally to your target or audience.
Most people buy emotionally, even in B2B transactions. So the first question to ask is, what are the emotions they’re feeling?
Almost always the emotion people feel when they re in the market for something is fear. Fear motivates people to take action. So your mission is to reassure your prospects. But they can also experience anger, frustration, grief and more.
Let’s use our interior decorating example – a non-threatening service that doesn’t hit too many hot buttons. Most people don’t think of decorating as a medical problem. They don’t think of physical pain or seeing a therapist. They have fun with their decorator … but still are driven by 3 levels of pain.
Cynthia has just moved to a new city because her husband just received a promotion. Now she has to do more entertaining. Her husband’s colleagues – and even his boss – would be coming over to her house.
What was her pain?
When it comes to making a purchase, emotions play a critical role, even when we think we’re making decisions purely on logic and reason. We think we make decisions based purely on logic, but really, most of our purchases are based on emotions.
In his book Descartes’s Error, psychology professor Antonio Damasio describes cases where patients experienced damage to the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with emotions. These patients retained their intelligence levels but had trouble making even the simplest decisions, such as what to eat for dinner. They could list the logical pros and cons of each option but couldn’t apply this rationale to a firm decision.
Therefore, when you’re marketing to clients, you need to go beyond a logical appeal. Otherwise you’ll get clients caught in an endless loop, making pro-and-con lists but never signing on the dotted line.
When getting people to buy your service, you’re not functioning as a data collector, citing evidence for why your prospects should vote “yes.” You’re creating a scenario where your service solves a problem – relieving pain – and brings about a positive result
Your client gets nervous about hiring you. That’s why you need to be extra confident.
Think about it – when you’re scared and nervous you don’t want anyone who’s equally scared and nervous because now you’ve got two people scaring each other in the room. It’s like introducing two cats: ears flattened, tails fluffed, and loud shrieks.
That’s not going to help! What’s needed is someone who is strong and confident and can take charge.
How To Identify Your Client’s Three Levels of Pain
Your client experiences three levels of pain. You can find them by seeking answers to these questions – and you may not be asking those questions directly.
Question #1: What hurts?
Often marketers and copywriters focus only on this question. You can relate most sources of pain to the basics: finances, health, love, social status and time.
Of course, you can dig deeper. What will happen if you don’t increase sales? What will you enjoy if you save time? Why is your service important? How will your clients’ lives be better?
For instance, I often talk with clients about setting up their first or next website. We talk about how to register domain names and get hosting. These topics seem trivial, boring and factual.
But I can illustrate with some painful stories.
One of my clients hired a web developer with a fancy website and a package of big promises. The developer assured her, “I will take care of everything. I will register your domain name, hire the host, and get your website up and running. The hosting fee includes a monthly charge for maintenance.”
Two years later, my client was a successful small business owner. She wanted to upgrade her website. It seemed to be a straightforward decision…until she realized she did not have usernames or passwords for her domain name and her web host. In fact, her domain name had disappeared because the web developer went out of business and forgot to renew it. She had to pay $200 to get it back, after I helped her negotiate; the original listing was close to $1000.
Of course, avoiding future pain tends to be less compelling than dealing with current pain. That’s why web development companies make money. People want a website and they want it fast – not realizing what’s happening down the road.
But these stories will get prospects involved and deal with emotion.
So now let’s imagine Cynthia. She’s thinking about hiring an interior decorator.
Copywriters often say, “People are motivated by money, love, status, and health.” Let’s break this down.
Money: Cynthia knows that her husband will be evaluated – consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, fairly or unfairly – on the success of her dinners and social gatherings. His career with this company will depend on how his colleagues and bosses feel when they visit the Smith home.
At the same time, she wants to save money and time on the decoration project. She suspects a decorator will do a better job while giving her more free time. Time is another form of money.
Love: Cynthia values the relationships with her husband and family. When she supports her husband’s career, her marriage will be stronger. (They’re very traditional!)
Social: When guests come to your home, they make judgments about you – or at least you probably think they do. I once knew people who were living in a small apartment while their home was undergoing major renovation. They were embarrassed to invite new friends to their temporary home because it didn’t express who they were.
These core emotions address the fundamental why question: Why hire a decorator? In this case, we’re seen the reasons relate to all three core emotions.
But when hiring a service, prospects ask two additional “why” questions.
Question #2: Why now?
Sometimes it’s pretty obvious. People call a home stager when they need to sell their homes.
But sometimes people feel internal pressure. A life coach says, “They’ve been thinking about this for a long time. What makes the client pick up the phone?”
When you dig more deeply, you usually find that your client has experienced new external pressures.
- She needs a new job because her new boss is driving her crazy.
- He just got a wake-up call to start dieting when he ventured into a new social situation.
- The company needs a new employee because somebody just quit or they need expertise in a particular area.
You can be extremely effective when you know what triggered the search for a new resource because you tailor your marketing to meet this need.
Sometimes people have been thinking about hiring a resource for a long time. They may decide to buy when they encounter exactly the right service. Or they get inspired when a friend makes the move; you’ve been meaning to join a gym and then your neighbor starts going, so you get motivated.
Can you move the needle on the “buy now” scale?
You have to decide what’s appropriate, ethical and effective in your own profession. Some marketers believe it is appropriate to create a sense of urgency. Some urgency will be generated by the marketer (“this opportunity will go away”) and some by belief in circumstances (“if you don’t get a flu shot now, you risk serious illness this winter”).
At the same time, some people will question the ethics of preying on fears, let alone creating fear. They will point to the lack of absolute certainty about the future. If you google “controversy over flu shots,” for instance, you will see that not everyone in the medical community has been sold on their value.
Creating urgency in the hiring process
When you’re applying for jobs, you may feel you have to deal with the employer’s terms, and often that’s the case. But many corporate executives find they can gain an advantage when they honestly have a timeline in place.
If you keep several balls in the air during a job hunt, you will often be in a position to say, “I have to give an answer to another company by next Thursday. I’d really like to pursue the opportunity with you. Can you tell me where you are in your process?”
Of course a company will often respond with, “We’re not even close. Good luck in your new venture.” That’s why bluffing can backfire. It’s a good reason to have many avenues of exploration during a job hunt and, if you’re a business owner, to avoid relying on one big client who could go away.
Given a choice, prospects often prefer to postpone the moment of buying. If they can wait, they probably will. So as a marketer, it’s important to address the “why now” question. There’s a fear associated with signing on the dotted line – now.
Cynthia’s “why now” seems straightforward. She’s going to have to entertain pretty soon so she needs to get ready. Good decorators fill their calendars quickly. If Cynthia waits too long, she won’t get anyone – period.
(3) Why You?
There are two dimensions to this question.
First, are you the best resource for the client?
And second, will you do more harm than good? Will you show up? Do a good job? Clients know all the horror stories.
Good example: A real estate agent says, “Time is money. I work with busy women who want to have a great home-buying experience.”
How are you the best? How do you stand out from the pack?
What makes you stand out is your Fab Factor- what makes you “fabulous” to your clients?
Many business owners think “standing out” means they’ll have to define themselves as “amazing.” In practice, differentiation comes from understanding how you are truly, genuinely unique.
There are dozens of ways to set yourself apart. For example:
You can be the only game in town who delivers special benefits to a specific niche because you have insider knowledge. A retired medical doctor now coaches physicians and other healers on dealing with stress. A former Human Resource professional now coaches job seekers on writing resumes to get past the HR gatekeepers. A life coach who’s a lifetime horse rider creates an empire by developing equine-based confidence workshops.
Notice how authentic these differences are. You don’t have to struggle to isolate some arbitrary point of difference.
I’ve run across professionals who try to differentiate themselves based on their hair color (“blonde consultant”), height (“shortest consultant”) or even hairstyle (“curly-headed”). Those examples are extreme but many people look for simple, obvious qualities based on looks or personality.
The key is to stand out based on some element of the way you serve your client, not based on some personal trait that’s not relevant to your service delivery.
What are your clients afraid of?
Clients have two kinds of fears.
On the one hand, they fear you won’t be competent to solve the problem, as painlessly and ethically as possible.
Will the doctor be able to make an accurate diagnosis? Will she suggest a solution based on her expectation of rewards from suppliers and pharmaceutical companies, rather than doing what’s best for you? Will she suggest a solution that will be the most risky and expensive, or take your lifestyle into account?
Will your accountant prepare your returns to avoid getting you in trouble with the tax people? Will he suggest some tips for easier filing? Will he suggest ways you can prepare some of your own returns to reduce costs?
On the other hand, clients fear you’ll treat them with something less than complete courtesy. They wonder if you will be prompt, courteous and friendly. They’ll wonder if you’ll be judgmental about their decision and their lifestyles, especially in sensitive situations.
If you’re applying for a job, your employer will also have a lot of fears. Will you show up on time? Will you be able to do the work? Will you fit into the organization or be a problem child? Will you develop personal issues that cause you to be absent – mentally or physically – or leave the company before they’ve recovered their hiring investment?
We rarely hear discussions about these fears, but they are very real.
Why hire THIS decorator instead of another one?
Cynthia’s fears include:
Will you show up?
Will you paint the walls purple with pink polka dots?
Will you put pictures on the wall that would be embarrassing to have in our home?
Will you disrupt the family?
Are you going to be judgmental?
Will you look down on me when you see my current furniture – the same furniture I bought as a graduate student?
Are you going to tell me I have no taste?
To address these fears, you can tell stories about you helped others in this situation – came in under budget, didn’t drive them into debt, didn’t paint the walls a ridiculous color.
Those are the levels you have to reach when you’re dealing with clients. By bragging you actually reassure them – “yes, I can help you!”
Your Client’s Three Levels of Pain
Answer these questions for your ideal client:
Why now: What’s brought the problem to their attention (crisis, deadline)?
Where does it hurt (money, health, love, time)?
Why are you the right resource to address the pain?
Step 2: Focus on the YOU factor.
Frame your brags in terms of your target market. How does your brilliance make your clients shine brighter?
Olivia, a professional chef, ran cooking classes for amateurs. In her marketing, she felt she should emphasize her expertise. After all, she had studied with Julia Child.
Olivia came up with the slogan, “We know our artichokes from our endives.” That’s nice and clever but it doesn’t mean anything to clients who have never encountered an artichoke OR an endive.
How about, “You know how sinful you feel when you’re eating mocha nut ice cream with extra fudge? We know secret ways to make healthy food taste so good you feel sinful as you eat it.”
A husband-and-wife writing coach team proudly posted on their home page, “This book is our proudest achievement.” Does their audience care about their proudest achievement? Only if they’re personal friends or business mentors. Otherwise – no thanks.
How about, “Our book gives you the secret handshake to connect with publishers and editors – the insider secrets to getting your book on the shelves of the top bookstores.”
Confusing pride with promotion isn’t at all uncommon.
A sign on the side of a truck reads, “We are #1 in lumber.”
What does this mean? Do I build a house with their lumber? Rebuild my floors? Is their lumber tougher and sturdier than what’s offered by the competition?
A common example on resumes is, “My objective is a job where I can build my skills in…”
Employers rarely say, “Let’s hire him so I can help him build up his skill set!”
How about, “With my ten years of sales experience, I can help you reach qualified buyers and get them into action.”
“Seeking insurance sales position where I can apply demonstrated revenue generating and team building skills.”
(1) Dear Corporate Achiever,
Are thoughts of your performance review keeping you awake every night? Do you shudder every time you review your ratings? Wondering how to respond (or whether you really should)?
You’re not alone. Let’s review…
(2) Are you bored, frustrated and exhausted? Do you desperately want a new career? Facing layoffs, forced retirement or your own midlife crisis?
(3) Calling all career-changers!
Are you ready to lose your misery-making job and move to your dream career — in just 21 Days? Do you ever wish you could put yourself in the hands of an expert to transform your career — the way TV experts remodel a home?
(4) Seeking Insurance Sales position where I can apply demonstrated revenue generation and team-building skills.
(5) Award-winning sales manager seeks to apply proven communication and market analysis skills in a consumer goods Marketing Manager position.
What is the YOU in your example?
Write your opening paragraph or resume summary.
Step 3: Use stories to show so you don’t have to tell.
You’ve probably heard that our brains are hard-wired to respond to narrative. We listen and remember stories. Suppose someone calls and says, “I had a bad day.” You have no idea whether they’re dealing with a broken nail or a broken relationship. You decide it’s best to change the subject.
Suppose your friend Naomi says, “On my way to work I almost got hit by a car. Somehow instead of arguing we just started talking, discovered we had a mutual friend from high school, and exchanged business cards.”
In fact a few days later you might catch yourself saying, “I just heard the strangest story! My friend almost got hit by a car and then the weirdest thing happened…”
In The Water Cooler Effect, author Nicholas Di Fonzo writes that stories are so compelling they not only get remembered, they get transformed. So Naomi’s story might be changed to: “She got hit by a car and on the way to the hospital they discovered that the ambulance attendant was an old friend.”
Of course, Naomi’s story won’t do much for your business. To illustrate your brilliance, ask for success stories. Here’s an abbreviated version of how to do it:
Think of one client who enjoyed working with you – and someone you’d like to clone! You’d like 50 clients like this one.
(1) Where was the client before you were hired? Was their business not growing as fast as they would like? Was their website driving away clients instead of attracting them?
Are they thinking of going back to school?
Just lost their job and aren’t sure where to look for a new one — and the bills are piling up?
Or your consulting client has three department heads who aren’t speaking to each other?
(2) What did you do after you were hired? What did you do that others couldn’t do? And why? What made it effective?
(3) What was the outcome?
Example 1: Logistics consultant.
Ryan specialized in finding ways to cram more inventory into existing warehouse structures, so his clients could save the cost of new construction. At first he didn’t think he did anything unique. But buried in the services section was a statement, “We only come into your business one time.”
After pondering this statement, Ryan added: “I’ve worked in the industry for ten years. So I can get all the information I need in four hours. My competitors take three days.”
Why is this difference important? What’s the outcome?
“Every time you visit a client it’s an interruption, because they have to stop what they’re doing and show you around. They have to delay work that generates revenue. They can’t just turn you loose on the floor.”
Example 2: Organizational behavior consultant.
“I’ve developed a listening process so I can read between the lines of a client’s problem. I often discover a story that previous consultants missed. I address the core problem instead of just hitting the surface.”
(3) What was visibly different after you completed your engagement?
Look for tangible outcomes. Try to dollarize your results, if at all possible. Otherwise look for scores and numbers. “I can do this in 3 hours and not 3 days” is a start but you need to be able to say what happen.
Translate “what happened” to “what made a difference.” For example: “Since my project, the managers can communicate more effectively with one another. They know how to frame questions…”
A good start, but how has communication helped this company’s bottom line? Did they reduce headcount? Take fewer steps to deliver a product? Make fewer costly mistakes?
“My client was able to increase inventory in their warehouse without investing in additional real estate.” That’s important because building a new building is huge.
“My client was able to hold dinner parties with C-level executives as guests. She received many compliments on her home and her children are pleased too.”
“This client had worked with two other consultants in the six months before they called me. It’s been over a year and the conflict has not surfaced in all that time. The department’s gross revenue doubled even when headcount went down.”
Other examples of stories:
“Every year Company Z holds a training session. Because I have extensive training in communication skills, I created an interactive experience that got the different departments to talk to each other. The Training Director said my evaluations set a record. They rarely ask anyone back – but I’m returning in April for an extra session.”
“Branch managers spent two hours a day untangling angry customers. My experience in conflict resolution allowed me to create a specialized program. Six months later, managers tell me they spend half an hour a day – or less – gaining a productivity increase of 15%.”
“The client had many medium and slow moving products. They had difficulty identifying the best number of pick locations to achieve maximum productivity. They also incurred excessive travel time to complete orders. We analyzed product dimensions and throughputs and implemented a new storage and retrieval system. The client could comfortably accommodate all the products and reduced travel time by 60%.”
“I took over a sales department with 70% turnover. The group hadn’t met its targets for the last three years. I created a new system to screen applicants and upgraded our compensation system. Within six months, sales rose 30%. At the end of five years, we were exceeding goals and turnover was reduced to less than 10%.”
“When I joined the department, five managerial-level employees were doing nothing but screening complaints from customers. I created standardized forms and an online entry system. Within six months, complaints were handled by two managers and one clerical staff member. Customer satisfaction ratings rose by 40% during the same period.”
Exercise: Write up one success story. (I ask my copywriting clients for 3).
Test your writing:
No adjectives or adverbs.
No empty words.
More word pictures.
Solid dollarized results.
Step 4: Let others do the talking for you.
Your most convincing copy gets written by colleagues and clients.
When you teach a workshop, you might get comments like, “I loved your class.”
You follow up: “What precisely did you like?”
And then you say, “I’m so glad – would you write me a testimonial? That doesn’t just help me — it helps others who are looking for the results you got.”
It’s actually a three-way win-win-win.
Testimonials on your website help you, help others who are looking for a service, and here’s the surprise. Testimonials also help people who gave the testimonials.
Let’s say Janice, a health coach, writes me a testimonial. She says, “Cathy really helped my health coaching business grow. I discovered how to write copy to reach my niche, so I now have more clients who need my services.”
When someone visits my site, she’s probably interested in my services. But she has many other needs as well. If she’s been thinking about a health coach, she might see Janice’s testimonial and go check it out. Janice benefits from visibility she gets from being on my website.
At the same time, some of your clients may not want visibility associated with using your service. I got a heart-warming letter from someone who read my book on moving. Naturally I asked for a testimonial. But this letter writer didn’t want her company to know she’d been considering a move. She didn’t want future employers to think she was the traveling type.
Certain types of coaches and therapists will find even greater challenges. The answer is to write up success stories –the kind we talked about in Step 3- and put them on your site.
Another thing you can do is get testimonials from colleagues and people who are not clients but experts in your field. They write things like, “I have referred many clients to Linda when their lives are turned upside own. Linda’s a gifted life coach who knows how to find creative ways to transform a lost career into an exciting new adventure.”
These testimonials from experts will be less powerful than first hand testimonials. To understand why, we can refer to a story in Cialdini’s book Influence. Cialdini’s five-year-old son was learning to swim but he never got the hang of it. Instructors, lifeguards and Cialdini himself tried everything they could think of. Nothing happened.
But one day the son started swimming! Cialdini asked what happened.
“Well Bobby was swimming and he’s five! If he can swim, I can too!”
Similarly, the most powerful people come from ordinary people your clients can relate to.
Action: Begin collecting testimonial stories. Start a file of complimentary memos and emails. Save notes from performance reviews, award nominations and memos. You can modify the original wording to be more persuasive.
Kyle writes, “Your service was terrific. You had such interesting ideas. And we had an enjoyable conversation. Feel free to use my comments as a testimonial.”
You write back: “Kyle, thank you! How about this:
‘Cathy, your service was terrific! Since we began working together I feel much more confident. I have leads on 3 jobs in places where I’ve always wanted to live. And you made the process fun, too. – Kyle Kyleson, insurance manager, Chicago.’”
You’ve taken Kyle’s comments and turned them into a story.
Step 5: Claim your bragging rights.
Time to take a stand!
No more unnecessary apologies.
No more “I’m not sure I can do this but…”
No more “It was nothing” when someone gives you a compliment.
If someone says you were great you say “Thank you I enjoyed that.” Or, “I put a lot effort into setting this up and I am so glad it’s working!” Claim your bragging rights and feel strong.
Do you experience impostor syndrome: “I don’t know enough to be doing this?”
First, take a reality check. I have worked with coaches and consultants who really didn’t know their stuff at least in areas where I was seeking help. Make a commitment you will only work with clients within your area of expertise and you will say no if they ask you to provide a service you are not qualified to provide.
To test your effectiveness, get clients to comment on your effectiveness. Many coaches use pre-call and post-call forms to manage expectations. They ask questions like, “What are 3 things you got out of this call today?” You’ll get a sense of how clients feel as you read the forms, even if they’re trying to be polite.
“What do I do when I’m new?”
Good content is a great way to demonstrate your credibility without bragging – lots of info, lots of advice, good info about you presented in a positive way.
So when you’re new, you can promote your expertise by creating content. Write blog posts, create videos, and even consider writing an Amazon kindle book. My first client hired me from an article I’d written. He didn’t even go to my website. In those days I had a phone number on my articles.
The truth is, many people do their best work on the upward side of the learning curve. If you’re giving a talk for the first time, you might fluff a few lines.
But often that is one of your best talks. You’ve got the edge and you’ve got enthusiasm. You’re extra careful. You make sure you’re prepared. You’re excited about the material.
Depending on your field, you may offer discounted services to get your first clients. However, when you give people a discount to get testimonials, you often find you aren’t doing your best work. Those who seek the discount can be very different from those who will be your best clients. Their testimonials will be weaker.
3 Places to Brag
Now that you’re bursting with confidence, where can you share?
Bragging Place #1: About page on your website
Make sure you use your “about” pages. When you create a WordPress blog, you’ll often have a default page. Thousands of people don’t bother to complete this page, but it’s very simple.
Your “About Me” page should accomplish these goals:
Give us an understanding of your expertise, training and experience
Show how your experience will solve your clients’ problems.
Give readers a flavor of your personality
Here’s an example of a story that accomplishes all these 3 goals:
“I have been transforming dogs from ‘problem dogs’ to ‘perfect dogs’ since I taught my first dog, Rover, to sit and shake hands. I was five and Rover was also five. He was an easygoing, medium-size mutt from the local pound.
“Today I work with owners of mutts like Rover, and I also works with owners of problem dogs, show dogs and special needs dogs. I’ve saved over a dozen dogs who behaved so atrociously, their owners seriously considered returning them to the shelter.”
Relate your background to what you do – not how passionate you are. Clients want to know you like what you’re doing and they really want to know you’re good.
Bragging Place #2: Get interviewed
As you get known you’ll be invited to podcasts, webinars, telesummits, and more. When you’re interviewed you can share your experience without appearing boastful. That’s because you’re just answering questions truthfully, often by telling a story.
If you aren’t getting invited on interviews, you can invite a colleague to interview you and make a recording. You can also hire a consultant to help; I’m sometimes asked to help clients prepare their questions so they’re ready for interviews, and we can also record an actual interview as a showcase for the clients.
Often when you’re being interviewed, you’re invited to suggest 5 to 10 questions you’d like to be asked. One of the best ways to showcase your skills is to suggest questions like, “Give us an example of how you help your clients.”
For example, Ginger is an interior decorator. She could use a story like this one:
“Last year a lovely couple asked me to decorate their home. Marian had just moved here. Her husband got a big promotion. They needed to entertain. They have 3 kids and a big dog – and a tight budget.
“Then just as we got started, Marian’s husband set up a dinner to entertain some managers from England. We had to work fast.
“To keep costs down, we used some pieces Marian already had. We painted a few walls and found some fun objects in thrift stores. We finished on time and under budget. And Marian got lots of compliments when she entertained at the dinner.”
Of course you could polish this story, and every word has to be true. Listeners can sense when you’re not being truthful. Ideally, your host will ask, “And how can our listeners get results like these?”
When you’re invited to be a guest, it’s important to find out if you’re allowed to promote your business. My rule is, if I can’t promote my business, I need to be paid for speaking. Otherwise I won’t accept the gig.
To maximize your return on time:
1 – Always ask for a recording of the event. Posting an audio or video on your website will offer a low-key way to promote yourself.
2 – Make a note of audience comments and add them to your speaking page. They might say something like, “Great presentation! I took four pages of notes.” That’s an awesome testimonial. It sounds credible even when you can’t identify the audience member
Bragging Place #3: Brag about yourself when you review books online.
This opportunity may surprise you but it’s very effective. Amazon doesn’t pay for reviews, but I’ve gotten customers and clients by writing book reviews. You’re not boasting: you’re writing about a book.
When you’re reviewing a book, you get to share your ideas and opinions. It’s about you – not the reader. So you can bring in references to your expertise and your background:
“As a career coach, I believe…”
“Based on my experience, I disagree…”
To be even more effective, you can share a story about how you work with clients. You can show that the concepts discussed in the book apply – or don’t make sense for you.
When You’re Not In the Spotlight: You’re Always “On…”
You’ll find many other places to brag once you become aware of what to look for. In fact, whenever you meet a colleague or client, you’re “on.” That’s why your promotion starts with your mindset. When you’re running scared, you’ll most likely share too much information.
James and I were chatting at a networking event. He had returned from a three-day weekend seminar that cost him three thousand dollars, plus transportation and lodging.
“Terrific!” I said. “I’m impressed. You invested in yourself.”
“Well,” James said, “I had to take out a business loan to pay for the seminar and the air fare — don’t ask. Based on what I learned, I need a whole new website. Do you know any web designers who might be willing to barter with me?”
Before this conversation, I was prepared to recommend James as a successful professional. But James just re-branded himself as Scrambling and Scared.
I was considering a joint venture with Rochelle, a successful marketing consultant. When we talked about resources we would need, there was a moment of silence.
“I don’t have credit cards,” Rochelle admitted. “I am digging myself out of a financial hole.”
That’s way too much information. If you don’t have basic credit, you probably need a job, not a business. But that’s between Rochelle and her financial advisor.
Meanwhile, Rochelle needs to develop boundaries and get her finances together. Here’s what I would suggest if they were my clients.
Always present yourself as a product that can be counted on to deliver top quality service. Whether writing or speaking about yourself, go for the gold. James didn’t have to share his source of funds — and he shouldn’t. Inevitably, someone will say, “If he’s so successful, why did he need a big loan?” He may have good reasons but only his advisors need to know.
Writing about yourself IS hard for most people. And overcoming FOB – Fear of Bragging – can be even harder, especially for anyone who’s new to a service business.
Anyone that tells you otherwise is not telling the truth.
And I believe that in order for you to succeed in promoting yourself, you have to remember that your clients want you to be confident and strong. Your job is to reassure them about what you can do.
Get the stories you need to build your brand and then dedicate yourself to telling them effectively.
Learn the steps to successful storytelling. A lot of business owners are trying to jump on the story bandwagon, but not every story belongs on your website, your blog or your elevator speech.
I keep a notebook of stories based on what I experience as well as what I hear from others on a day to day basis.
I highly recommend ditching the old ideas about, “Be humble” and “The nail that stands out gets pounded down.” Stop paying attention to people who try to hold you back or discourage you. Find someone who can give you a real map to promoting yourself and your business, not fake feel-good advice.
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About the Author
You’ve probably heard that storytelling can grow your business. But how do you know what kinds of stories to tell? How can you choose which stories to share for maximum impact? And how do you build your brand … one story at a time?
I help entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses…
• Use storytelling to create compelling, high-converting materials to support their marketing
• Develop and implement promotional message strategies through copywriting, as Done For You and Done With You
• Use storytelling purposefully to build a memorable, client-attracting brand