You’ve decided to take the leap and step out on your own in this new iteration of the New Normal. Fantastic. You’re creating, you’re posting, and wondering why nobody’s coming to see it. You built it, but they’re not coming. Why?
Well, let’s start with a hard truth. The only place “If you build it, they will come” works is in that movie. I don’t know how that got translated from a film about a baseball field into creative work or entrepreneurialism. Still, it’s the worst fantasy anyone can have when they’re beginning this journey. Think about it; If that saying were true, we’d live in a world without billboards, commercials, print ads, and infomercials. I’m a child of the Eighties, and to say that my generation was a target demo is like saying a hurricane leaves things a little damp. They made damn sure we knew they built it. They went so far as to let us know they built it that companies made several cartoons solely because there was a toy they wanted to sell. That’s what I call effort.
I get it. I’m just like a lot of creatives. I love the creating part; I hate the promoting part. Partly because the social media people have convinced me there are magic beans involved, and I don’t have them, and partly because I hate being THAT GUY.
I was at a Christmas party for my wife’s place of work about ten years ago. While the party itself was just fine, I have very little memory of it that didn’t involve a person who was just there to hand out business cards and practically projectile vomit his resume at people. Once someone mentioned that I was a podcaster, I had a friend for the rest of the night. He was enough of a bad example that I swore that I wouldn’t be THAT GUY, ever. Instead, I think I’ve gone too far in the other direction, and if it’s happened to me, it must be happening to somebody else who is nervous about self-promotion.
So how do we, the nervous promoter, tell people we built something for them? Here are a few things that helped me get over some of the anxiety.
First, to get to the point that you can sell yourself, you need to have a good product. In the creative person’s case, that’s your writing, photos, video, graphics, crafts, or whatever you are shipping. There’s a school of thought in creative work that amounts to “The heck with it, ship it.”, and I don’t think that serves you as well as you might think. We used to live in a world where “Good Enough” was good enough. I don’t think we live there anymore, and all the promotion in the world isn’t going to help if your product sucks.
Second, it’s helpful if you don’t think of it as a sale. Unless you have a product or a service ready to go, you’re not selling anything, and even then, I wouldn’t think of it as a sale. I don’t think I have ever sold anything in my life, and I never will. What I have done is educate someone to the point that they have decided to buy something of mine, and that process has lessened my anxiety quite a bit.
Third, how you educate someone is just as important. I’m a storyteller, so when I choose to promote something of mine, I decide to take a prospect on a little journey. I’m not just telling them what I made, I’m telling them what led me to make it, and if they’re interested, I might even tell them how I did it. I’m not going to read War and Peace to them, and if I get the feeling they’re just polite for my sake, I’ll cut it short. It’s vital to get a good read on who you’re talking to because if you bore them to tears, you’ve lost them.
Third, don’t go low on any competitors you might have, people you’ve dealt with personally or professionally, and not on yourself. I have witnessed a person promoting their podcast, and when another podcast name came up, the promoter went negative and lost that person immediately. Why? They were related to the other podcaster. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, keep it civil. As far as being self-deprecating, that can be funny at the right time. But if it’s all you do, you’re just going to sound depressing, and that’s a turnoff in any scenario.
Promoting your creative work can be nerve-wracking. I know. If you remember to make something that you can be proud of, educate people about it by telling a story, and not going negative, you might find promoting that work a little less frightening.