Hello, my cubicle clerks, open space salespeople, corner office connectors, home den dealers and coffee shop peddlers. My name is Brock Armstrong, and I am not the workplace hero. Let’s face it, these days I am more like a landlord who just checks in every once in a while to make sure everything is ok. You are the real heroes around here.
I am going to come right out and say it. Right off the bat. I am going to be totally upfront with you. The reason I chose the topic of Self Promotion for this episode is that I have something to sell you (and if you listen to the audio version of this episode I will give you a discount code for $50 off).
I know you have heard me talk about my fitness coaching at brockarmstrong.com before and I have also directed you to my other full-time podcast the Get-Fit Guy at (the newly renovated) quickanddirtytips.com but at the time that this podcast is being released (June of 2018), myself and my business partner Monica Reinagel are neck deep in promoting our year-long lifestyle change program called Weighless.Life
If you didn’t guess from the name, Weighless is a fat loss program. And as you can also probably guess, with the millions on other fat loss programs out there advertising themselves as the next big diet, it is very difficult being heard above the noise. So, in our endeavour to rise above all the noise (especially the cacophony of Social media), we have been forced to become self-promotion ninjas… of sorts.
Self Promo Ninjas
In the past little while I have read a ton of articles and blog posts about Self Promotion, including…
The article called The Art Of Self-Promotion over at Fast Company, where they give you 6 Tips For Getting Your Work Discovered, had a couple of good points. In particular, I like the part about “not being Human Spam” by building trust with your audience before you have something to sell them. I also like their point that reminds us we’re “only as good as our last post, so share something every day.” And while I personally struggle to do that on a daily, I have set up some slick automation that helps keep me on people’s radar.
The Forbes article cleverly titled Why Taking The Self Out Of Self-Promotion Is The Best Way To Promote Yourself, had a few good takeaways as well. As someone who has worked on developing a strong ethos and an elevator pitch, I was particularly drawn to the section that says “Leave the elevator pitch at home and instead ask people what they do and what challenges they have. You get their attention by connecting the dots between your value proposition and their needs, keeping the focus on them, not you.” Keep the focus on them, not you. Oddly enough that is also how you make yourself immediately more likeable.
Have you ever been at a party or conference and met someone who you just immediately like? Chances are, that immediate likeability was a result of them asking you about yourself, appearing interested in what you had to say, and then asking you for more info. At risk of sounding like a robot who has been programmed to learn the ways of the human, that is definitely an art that I use. Especially in those awkward networking situations that we Workplace Heros often find ourselves in.
But as we will find out soon, from our special guest hero, there is more to it than that. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Another article that caught my attention was on Entrepreneur.com called Why Self-Promotion Is a Terrible Idea. If I am honest with myself, I think it caught my attention mostly because it seemed like it was going to give me an out. A reason to pack it all in and save my sanity for something more immediately gratifying than targeting an ad on Facebook, crossing my fingers, and hoping for the best.
Sadly, that is not at all what it did. But it did, once again reinforce the idea that the focus should not be on you. The article summed it up somewhat snarkily like this
”Truth is, when it comes to business, nobody gives a crap about you. I don’t care if it’s your boss, a hiring manager, or a potential customer, if you spew a bunch of BS about why you’re so great and wonderful, you’re not going to get the promotion, the job, or the business. What they might be receptive to, however, is what you can do for them.”
In the final article I want to highlight today called These 4 Techniques Will Turn a Good Article into a Value Bomb (bomb being a good thing in this case) they give this advice: “Putting Lipstick on a Pig – nobody has time to read fluff content. If your content isn’t high value, no amount of formatting will help you to turn it into a useful piece for your content marketing strategy.”
In other words, “value” is king. Anything you create has to be worth the time of your readers. That means it can’t all be a sales pitch. Your email, blog, social post (or whatever) needs to provide value as well as direct your viewer to your offering.
Here’s an example that just landed in my inbox this morning. A newsletter that I subscribe to with the subject line “most important thing I’ve learned” told me a lovely and lonely story of a man who was so deep in thought that he missed an opportunity to interact with a friend on the street. This small incident prompted him to create a few simple steps, to share with us folks on his mailing list, that can help us avoid that same trap of being so isolated by our business that we miss out on meaningful interactions with other humans. Then, at the very end of the email, it said “PS: this is your last chance to get 38% off the Product Validation Checklist, or $50 off Marketing for Developers!”
Only after I had read a moving story, learned how to avoid a pitfall and why I should “invest in people,” did I get a very small prompt to go and purchase a product. Nicely done!
Guest Hero Time
Now, I could go on and on about all the articles that I read and bore you to death or I could introduce you to our Guest Hero for this episode. And that is exactly what I am going to do – because he is the guy who wrote and sent the email I just told you about.
Hey I’m Justin Jackson and my company MegaMaker helps software companies get more customers. I’ve been doing this for the past two and a half years. Before that I was a consultant for startups, tech startups in Portland, San Francisco, London, and before that I worked with Brock at a company called Mailout.com as a Product Manager.
So, Justin works for himself now but like me, he has also been an employee.
One of the things I thought about a lot when I was an employee was, what’s my backup plan? Meaning if I lose this job, if this company fails. If you know, something happens, and I have to find something else how am I going to do that?
This hit home particularly hard when I was consulting and visiting one of my clients. It was a tech company, and they had run out of funding and one day in December, right before Christmas, of course it’s always before Christmas, a bunch of people got fired, and I remember specifically this one person, this was a designer who had poured their heart and soul and really contributed a lot to this startup’s identity. They had felt like they were a core part of this company’s DNA. Part of the family. And that day, they got let go.
Yikes! I have been there too. A rapidly growing company I worked for about a year and an half ago went through a major shift in focus and let a ton of people go all at once. It wasn’t Christmas but still… many of them were completely blindsided and wholly unprepared for being unemployed.
And I remember thinking what’s that person going to do now? How are they going to get their next gig? Because unfortunately they had spent so much time investing themselves in this startup they hadn’t really been doing much to promote themselves outside of the company.
Nobody really knew who this person was. And awareness isn’t something you can just build overnight. It’s something you have to cultivate over months and years and so when this person found themselves in a need for a new job, nobody was thinking of them as an expert.
Here’s what I urge you to do whether you’re an employee, a freelancer, a consultant, it doesn’t matter. Start promoting yourself, and the work that you do, the expertise that you have right now and make it a regular practice.
If this sounds similar to something we have talked about before, that is because it kind of is. At least somewhat. Way back in the episode about “asking for a raise” this idea of tooting your own horn, so to speak, came up. The idea that no one is sitting there watching and counting all the times you stayed late or went above and beyond the call of duty or had a particular skill at X, Y or Z. You need to be your own champion.
But I am getting a little off topic. Back to Justin.
A recurring problem I see with my clients is they haven’t defined what they want to be known for. You might want to think about it this way. If someone was going to recommend you to a friend or to a colleague. Maybe it’s at a party or a social gathering. What would they recommend you for? What would they say? “Oh you really need to talk to Janet, she’s incredible at this.” Or, “You really need to talk to George he’s an expert at this.” “You really need to talk to Hannah, this is what she does for a living.” What would that thing be? If you can’t think of something specific, now’s the time to articulate it.
Remember when Justin said that he and I worked together at an email marketing company, well what he just described is exactly how we found the amazing office manager at that company. This stuff works people – it really does!
I asked Justin to explain how to get started.
Here are three steps to defining who you are and what you’re good at so that you can promote that thing on line.
Number one, talk about the frustration that you solve for people. For example when people ask me what I do I say, “Most software companies have a hard time acquiring new customers.” That’s the frustration I help people with.
Step two, define how you help them. What you’re good at. So continuing with my introduction I would go, “So what I do is I help them increase their brand awareness, get more traffic to their website, convert that traffic into email leads and then take those email leads and turn them into sales.”
Third, paint a picture about how you’ve made people’s lives better. So for me I say, “My work with clients helps them to increase revenue by up to 30%.”
These three pieces, defining the problem you solve, how you solve it and the outcomes you give people are the cornerstone of your self promotion strategy. In his book StoryBrand, Donald Miller advocates this approach. And he says, “Once you know your story, you can go tell people about it instead of trying to promote yourself like a slimy salesperson, you’re telling folks how you make people’s lives better.”
Oh ho ho! Did you notice that? We’re back at the notion of “not making it about yourself,” but making sure you focus on what you can do for the potential customer.
Here’s one little step you can take to start promoting yourself online. Whenever you discover something new. A new tactic, a new hack, something that worked really well. Share it online. Maybe it’s on LinkedIn, maybe it’s on Twitter, give folks a quick tip that they could go and apply right away in their lives.
For example, my friend Ben Orenstein recently Tweeted, “Here’s a pair programming tip. If you’re navigating, questions are your friend. Here are some of my favorites.” And then he gave sample questions that a senior developer could ask a junior developer. It’s bite sized, it’s something that people could apply right away, but it also helps people see Ben as an expert in this field. When I think about pair programming I’m going to think about Ben. You need to do the same thing for your field.
I am going to think of Ben too… If I knew what pair programming was… anyway, thanks for the insight, Justin. Before we let you go, where can people find you, if they have a way that you could make their lives better?
Awesome stuff. And I am going to admit something here (two admissions in one podcast, what is this?). When I asked Justin to be the guest hero on the podcast, I had already written the majority of the intro section of this episode. I had no idea that he would latch on to the same idea.
Putting it into Practice
So, in the spirit of the serendipity of what we just learned, I would like you to check out a couple of articles that Monica and I put together to promote our July 6, 2018 launch of the next round of the Weighless.Life program.
The article that Monica wrote titled The case for super slow weight loss fills the critera:
- Let’s the reader know what kind of expert Monica is.
- Introduces the reader to a particular problem that she can solve for them.
- Explains the problem further and establishes her understanding of the problem.
- Offers a useful and immediate action/solution (aside from purchasing the product).
- Makes the product offer.
In the same vein, the article of mine that has been ripping it up on social media for the past few days called Why You Should Move More (but not to burn calories) takes a similar approach. But it does it this way:
- Establishes what I am an expert on.
- Makes a bold statement that goes against common wisdom.
- Explains the issues that lead to the bold statement.
- Gives the reader a science-backed solution to the issues that caused the statement (other than the product).
- Offers the reader the product as an option.
Whether you are promoting yourself to future proof your life or promoting a product that you are selling (which is probably you – you are the product) it really does come down to the same-ish idea. And I think if you repeat the mantra in your head “don’t be human spam” and remember Justin’s three steps, you will be firmly on the right track.
Workplace Hero is researched, written, narrated and recorded by me Brock Armstrong in “summer’s finally here” downtown Vancouver. Artwork by Ken Cunningham. Music by my old band, The Irregular Heartbeats. Today’s guest hero was Justin Jackson and I encourage you to sign up for his newsletter at justinjackson.ca/newsletter. You will learn all kinds of great stuff, if you do.
Now, you know what to do – go make this week count!