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Recently, a client of mine complained, "I'm really good at what I do. I shouldn't have to market myself." In fact, he is quite good at his profession, but the problem is that not enough prospective clients know about him. Like many professionals, he is reluctant to talk about his accomplishments. "It feels like bragging," he says. "Doesn't it make me seem unprofessional?"
If thoughts like these often cross your mind, ask yourself this -- who are the biggest names in your profession? In your line of work, who might be considered unquestioned experts, those with maximum credibility? Now, how did you get to know about those people's work? Did you read an article or book they had written, hear them interviewed, learn about them on the web? Or perhaps you were told about them by others who had heard them speak or read their words.
The point is that these well-known people became well-known because they showcased themselves, usually in multiple ways. They shared stories, examples, and ideas about the work they had been doing with a wider audience than just their friends and family. You know about their work because they showed it off. And I'll bet it never occurred to you to call them unprofessional for doing it.
Showing off your work doesn't have to sound like, "Ta da! Aren't I great?" It doesn't have to contain even a hint of bragging. There are a host of very dignified and appropriate ways to let a wider audience know how good you are without ever saying so. Here are a few you might try.
1. Writing articles - Putting your expertise in writing and sharing it with publications your audience reads is a powerful -- and very professional -- way to let more people know about your unique talents. Submit your articles to both print publications and web sites that serve your niche and watch your visibility grow.
2. Public speaking- Appearing as a speaker allows you to broadcast your expertise with three different audiences -- the people who attend your talk, the people who are invited by the sponsoring organization but can't attend, and the people you tell about it before and after. If standing in front of a room makes you too nervous, serve on a panel of experts instead. You'll get to sit behind a table and speak from notes.
3. Media interviews - Being interviewed by magazines, newspapers, or on radio and television can spread the word quickly about your capabilities. Landing interviews is not that hard to do if you remember to start small. Begin by approaching easy targets like association newsletters, neighborhood newspapers, and local cable programs or talk radio.
4. Telling stories - One of the secrets to effective articles, talks, and interviews is to tell stories about your clients. When you describe their challenges and accomplishments, you reveal the value of your role in helping them without having to boast about it. You can use the same technique in a client presentation to boost your credibility without being arrogant.
5. Testimonials - Whenever you do a good job for a client, ask them to write you a simple thank you note describing what you did to make them happy. Then make their words available on your web site, brochure, or other marketing materials. Let them tell others about your value, and you won't have to say it yourself.
6. Building a portfolio - It's not just artists that should capture their best work to show off in a portfolio. You can collect photos, examples, and other evidence of your accomplishments and display them on your web site, in a marketing kit, or with a PowerPoint presentation. You don't have to sell people on your abilities when they are seeing for themselves what you can do.
7. Creating products - Packaging your work into merchandise that prospective clients can take home and sample gives them a compelling way to discover your real value. Products like ebooks, white papers, and audio recordings allow you to showcase your expertise and increase your credibility. They can often be advertised more widely than your services can, giving you another avenue for getting your name known.
Pick just one of these ideas to pursue and make a plan to showcase what you can do for a wider audience. If you truly want to spend less effort on marketing yourself, start letting your clients know how good you really are.