I recently had a chat with a client in the transportation industry about dressing up his website, which had languished for many years as a do-it-yourself effort and was ripe for refurbishing. The client that he needed a more professional online presence, but getting him to talk about his accomplishments, or his company's advantages over its competitors, was like pulling some seriously impacted molars with a pair of eyebrow tweezers. I did finally manage to extract some good nuggets of information that would help me sell his services, but only after hearing him say several variations of, "We don't really like to go around bragging on ourselves."
Um, you don't? Because that's pretty much what marketing is all about.
If you're not going to tell the world about your company's virtues, who will? Word of mouth will only take you so far, partly because you have so little control over it. You can ask for testimonials right and left, but guess what -- you still have put those testimonials up for public view, and that means including them in your marketing materials. If you want your business to succeed, you can't be a shrinking violet; you have to talk it up. And if, like so many entrepreneurs and small business owners, you're the heart and soul of your enterprise, then you have to be willing to talk yourself up as well.
Granted, nobody wants to come across as an egotistical braggart, but like the old saying goes, "It ain't bragging if it's true." One of my clients is a business coach based here in Austin who works with sales teams both in person and via phones conferences. This means that he helps the occasional client in Canada and the UK. So does he market himself as an "internationally known business consultant?" Absolutely -- because that's exactly what he is! It's not pretentious or self-aggrandizing to state a compelling fact that demonstrates your experience, success and popularity. Even so, I know plenty of folks who would hesitate to use such a phrase in their own marketing: "Oh, that sounds like I'm blowing my own horn." Well, sure you are. If you've got the legitimate chops, then go, Satchmo, go!
Sometimes business owners don't actually understand just what makes them so special, so they simply neglect to broadcast it in their marketing. I worked with an industrial equipment client once, and once again the metaphor the frustrated dentist reared its ugly head as I tried desperately to obtain some juicy tidbits that might reveal the client's UVP (unique value proposition). The conversation just went on and on...
Me: What makes your products superior to your competitors' products?
Client: Oh, we all really use the same industry-standard stuff in this industry.
Me: Well, do you offer better or longer warranty protection?
Client: Not really. It's all the same.
Me: Are your prices more competitive?
Client: No, everybody charges about the same.
Me: Are you faster? Harder working? More skilled at installation?
Client: Well, there's only a few ways to install these things.
...and on. Finally I asked, "Look, is there anything that sets you apart from the other guys?" The client replied, "Well....we actually sort of invented this industry about 30 years ago. We were the first to introduce any of these products."
Self-promotion isn't bragging; it's selling. Do you want to sell? Then get out there and blow your own horn!