Getting Comfortable With Self-Promotion

A lot of us are uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion. We’ve been told that it’s “bad” and that if our product is worth it, other people will do our promoting for us. And that’s true, if you’re a mega brand. But people can’t promote what they don’t know about and, as a small business owner, the burden falls on you to make sure that people know you exist and what you’re up to. You do that by putting yourself out there and alerting people when your company does something great. If you won’t sing your own praises, then why would anyone else do it for you?

Unfortunately, the first step of self-promoting is convincing yourself that it’s OK. How do you do that? Here are some rules to live by.

Accept that some people won’t like it: If you start heavily promoting your content, some of your customers are going to be upset about it. They may still live in the imaginary world where good content naturally rises to the top and where small business owners shouldn’t be marketers. That’s OK and you need to accept it before you start. Remember, it’s not your job to market to everyone. It’s your job to market to people who like what you’re doing, and to grow your business. Part of growing your business means getting comfortable with singing your own praises when appropriate and making sure that people are aware of what you’re putting out. To not promote good content is to waste it.

Be confident in what you’re promoting: Never feel bad about promoting content that deserves attention. With all the crap that exists on the Web, if you’ve created a wonderful resource for your niche, you should be excited to share it because it may help someone else. If you’re not confident about what you’re sharing, ask yourself why. Could the content be improved? Is your product ready to go live? If you’re not 100 percent in love with what you’re doing, then you’re not ready to promote it. Wait until you’re over the moon about it. Then it won’t even feel like promotion. It’ll just feel like sharing.

Promote to the right people: People only mind self-promotion when it’s not relevant to them. It’s when you’re on Twitter and someone wants to sell you their $99.99 eBook on real estate. That’s annoying because it’s not a quality product and it’s not relevant to your needs. Be sure you only self-promote to people who will be interested. In my post on how to win media coverage, I highlighted some ways to get the attention of reporters in your local area. Part of that included doing research to understand which reporters cover which niches and the angles they prefer. Creating a media list for your niche will help you decide who to send what news and how you should package it.

Don’t promote everything you do: Customers get annoyed if you try to promote everything you release or publish. As special as your business is, not everything you do is revolutionary. Not every post needs to be promoted; not every new section on your website needs a full press release. Make sure you’re only promoting content that deserves to be promoted and that you space out your heavy promotional attempts.

As long as you’re promoting quality content to people who would be interested in it, you shouldn’t feel bad about promoting your own content. As a small business owner, it’s your job to get the word out about your business and to make sure that the right people know about the product you’re offering. As long as it’s quality and targeted, self-promotion shouldn’t be a dirty word. It’s just marketing.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

20 Reactions
  1. You are so right.

    If you don’t promote yourself and your product/service, you deprive the people who need what you have to offer.

  2. The best form of self-promotions happens naturally as you express your passion about your product or services. If you’re passionate most people will give you a pass for self-promoting (within reason of course because even the greatest virtue, when taken to extremes, can become a vice).

  3. In a perfect world, quality products and services would promote themselves. Since this world falls short of the perfection mark, small business owners have to invest the time and effort to promote their businesses if they hope to grow.

    Even if you have designed a better mousetrap, the world will not beat a path to your door if they don’t know you have a mousetrap or a door.

    Don’t be afraid to tell your story and, as Robert points out. “express your passion.” Balance your sales message with useful content and engaging social media campaigns. Invite your potential customers to become part of your community and give them reasons to come back again and again.

    On a final note, don’t just tell your story, listen to their their stories and, with their permission, share those stories. Promoting your community can reinforce your self promotion efforts and, over time, increase your sales.

  4. Thanks, Lisa,

    I’ve learned to back-off a bit on my self-promotion. It’s not always easy, though.

    I agree that if you have something really valuable to share-share it!

    The Franchise King

  5. Nothing wrong with self promotion or how often you do it.. its how you do it that matters.

  6. Valuable perspective, Lisa, and one that I agree with.

    Many of the small business owners I work with suffer from this problem. Many have a “public speaking” type fear where they are insecure about promoting themselves publicly.

    And others, especially former corporate execs, have been so well-trained to be a faceless part of a bigger machine that they have forgotten how to speak in the first person entirely!

    Thanks for this post.

  7. Great Article Lisa. As a small business speaker and business owenr.. I find that there are tons of self promotion opportunities in almost every media and about most things we do. The message just has to be formed to fit the type of media. Simply because every media has its own process of courtship, culture. Its just being creative enough to figure out how to do that creating the right communication for media culture.

    anyway…thanks for the great content.

  8. I don’t do many craft shows but when I go I share the booth with my friend who is a ceramic artist.
    I found it very easy to sell her beautiful ceramic bowls just as she finds easy to promote my art work.
    It really is interesting that as soon as I am selling somebody else’s work I am the best saleswoman.
    Now I need to learn how to apply it to my products. It is hard, because your emotions are tied to your work.

  9. Great article! I truly believe that my jewelry is unique and back it 100%…. just have to figure out how to get my line in the public eye… I have a facebook page, twitter page, and a blog. I understand that there are many talented people out there doing the same thing I am, now just have to figure out how to find the right shows to take my jewelry to 🙂

  10. Very useful information. I am comfortable with the fact that not everyone likes that I do self-promotion and it was useful to get validated for what I do. I also know it’s important to remember when it’s time to stop and take a step back. Very good advice.

  11. Thanks for the useful reminders on the need to believe in your efforts enough to want to share them with others (in a manner that will benefit those that you are evangelizing to). From my perspective the key is to be credible and offer value enough that people will want to come back after getting that initial exposure.

  12. I agree with Robert. Passion speaks volume and is the best form of self promotion. Success breeds success, enthusiasim breeds more enthusiasm. Nothing wrong with self promotion as long as the proof of is there and the passion. Thanks

  13. Nice vision, many people makes just mass promoting.

  14. I got around my reluctance to self-promote when I decided to treat myself as a product. When I no longer thought of myself as a person it was much easier to market my expertise. So when I blog or do online marketing, networking etc., it’s “Ed Roach” the product out there.

    It’s a mind-set and it works for me.