Selling Yourself For Fun and Profit: A Woman’s Guide To Self-Promotion
You probably know at least one woman who still believes in Prince Charming. She may not admit it, but she’s secretly waiting for the perfect man to arrive on horseback so the two can ride into the sunset together.
Those fairy-tale fantasies are hard to kick — like the one that says all hard work gets noticed and appreciated, no matter how humble you act. While few of today’s women in business admit to this belief, many still act as though it’s true. They come to work early each morning, leave late, and never mention their professional achievements in fear of sounding conceited. When praised, they deflect compliments onto others.
These are the same women who, despite their efforts, never seem to get ahead. That’s because they’re overshadowed by people who do know how to get noticed, time and again. These people slip their bosses subtle reminders about their latest success. They accept praise graciously, and aren’t afraid to talk about their achievements.
The majority of these people are men. But this doesn’t mean women can’t overcome their conditioning and take the recognition they deserve. It just means they have to try harder to promote themselves, because it doesn’t always come naturally.
The Art of Self-Promotion
Lindsey Stauffer of Lititz recently became one of the youngest artists to have a painting accepted by the American Watercolor Society. Locally, she won “Best Of Show” during last year’s Landis Woods Outdoor Art Show. Despite these accomplishments, she still has trouble promoting her work.
“Part of me just feels like I’m just tooting my own horn,” Stauffer says. “I don’t particularly mind that people know what I’ve accomplished, but I hate to be the one to have to tell them. I also feel like a lot of people aren’t that interested, and I hate to force what I’ve done on them.”
Stauffer admits that while she’s read several marketing books, they all seem geared toward the pushy, in-your-face marketing methods that she tries to avoid.
“Obviously I don’t promote myself more because I am not comfortable doing that,” Stauffer says. “But I also know that it’s not helping my business at all. If I could find a way to promote my business more, I would do it, but there’s that comfort barrier that I’m not willing to step beyond.”
Find Your Strength, Then Use It
The question is, how do women market themselves comfortably? For many, the answer lies in lesser-known marketing strengths — traditionally feminine skills such as listening and relationship-building. Both can be helpful in marketing and self-promotion.
Relationship-building, for example, is one of the first steps to success in any field. Whether you’re a business owner looking for customers or a new graduate looking for employers, having a good network of contacts will improve your chances of finding the right person.
Many women have found the internet a great place to build relationships. With new social networks popping up each day, there has never been a better time to connect with people around the world. By using sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, women can broaden their reach without feeling pushy.
Listening is another great marketing tool. Most women have years of experience listening to friends, family and loved ones, then helping them identify and solve problems. Marketing works in a similar way: by listening to your key market, you can identify their needs. And once you’ve identified their needs, you can offer to meet them – no coercion or force involved.
Success in any Language
Sometimes, it’s not be marketing itself but the language of marketing that makes women uncomfortable. Browse the business section of any bookstore, and you’ll find countless war metaphors: killing the competition, dominating the marketplace, battling for wallets, et cetera. While this aggressive verbiage may work for men, women prefer to create win-win situations that leave everyone feeling happy.
In business, this approach can create repeat sales and lifetime customer loyalty — but because it’s not usually described in marketing manuals, women often feel pressured to use more aggressive methods. They start second-guessing their intuition, and before long, they start avoiding marketing altogether.
That’s a shame, because marketing isn’t just a professional tool. It also strengthens speaking ability and improves self-confidence. Marketing not only opens the door for new business relationships, but new friendships as well.
Good marketing can even provide a creative outlet as it requires women to stretch their thinking in different directions while developing new ways to get people’s attention.
Women in business can claim these benefits and more by simply utilizing the power of their innate marketing strengths. No matter how little experience they have or how hesitant they feel, all women have skills that can help them market successfully. They simply have to take notice, then use those skills to their advantage.
Baby Steps Outside the Comfort Zone
Once they’ve started marketing themselves in ways that feel comfortable, it becomes easier for women to go further. For one person, this may involve writing press releases about recent achievements. For another, it may mean taking credit for a project’s completion.
Over time, these women will feel more comfortable with marketing and self-promotion — and they’ll experience more rewards than they ever thought possible. That’s because while women’s innate marketing strengths aren’t well-publicized, they are powerful. And they may be the secret to breaking through the glass ceiling and reaching unprecedented success.
What kinds of marketing come naturally to you? What do you still struggle with? Let me know in the comments section below.