The Blue Kite Blog

How to Promote Your Business Without Becoming a Used Car Salesman

By | September 14, 2015

A lot of entrepreneurs and business leaders have a tough time selling themselves. They don’t want to sound like a used car salesman who is constantly peddling the latest deal on the lot.

And, because overselling is so rampant on the social web, businesses often get gun-shy about touting their services for fear of being categorized as a spammer or arrogant jerk.

However, this creates a converse problem – underselling.

When you don’t let people know about what you’ve got to offer, opportunities can pass you by.

What do you do, anyway?

A while back, my friend Gini Dietrich blogged about how her friends would often ask her for recommendations on a good PR firm.

Her response? “Uh…us?”.

After all, she does own a PR firm.

I’m sure she’s not the only one who has encountered this. In fact, I’ve had friends in a variety of industries tell me similar stories. Or worse, I’ve heard stories where people hired someone else because they didn’t realize their friend or family member could help them.

Has that ever happened to you?

It’s amazing how sometimes our own friends and contacts don’t think to send work our way for a variety of reasons.

The thing is, we all assume everyone knows what we do and who we work with. We think that people take the time to read our bio page or list of services, but chances are, they don’t. I know I’m guilty of this. I assume that people know exactly what we do.

Although you can’t avoid selling entirely, the good news is there ARE ways to tell people about what you have to offer, you just have to do it in a way that feels right to you and shows how your customers will benefit.

How to Promote Your Business the Non-Spammy Way

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Showcase your expertise through your blog posts.

Writing a short case study on your blog or website is a great way to showcase your experience and past success without being braggadocios. Or, you can even write about an issue in the news or a hypothetical problem to show how you would solve it. Any of these options are great ways show what you’re made of while helping your readers in the process.

2. Solve your prospect’s problems.

Do you know what keeps your prospective clients and customers up at night? If not, ask them. People buy because they have a problem that needs solving. Make sure that this shines through in your web copy and blog posts. If you do that, then you won’t be able to stop the rush of business that comes your way.

3. Remind your readers.

Although your blog should be used to inform and help readers, you also need to leverage your blog as a key sales tool. Don’t be afraid to use your blog to remind people how they can work with you. You can do this by linking to your sales pages in your blog posts or using a call-to-action at the end of your posts (see point below). These are great ways to let people know what you do without being overly in-your-face.

4. Use a call-to-action.

In the blogosphere, we have a tendency to ask questions to encourage comments at the end of blog posts. However, have you considered a call-to-action instead? I wouldn’t do it on every post, but on occasion, let people know that if they want help on the topic you discussed, that you are just the person for the job. Another option is to encourage sign-ups for your e-mail list or promote a product that corresponds well with the topic.

5. Use that email list.

You do have an email list, right? If you don’t, now is the time to start building one. Like your blog posts, you want the emphasis to be on providing useful, helpful information. But the reason you have an email list is to ultimately let people know about your services and help drive sales. Don’t be gun-shy about this. You are in business, after all.

6. Make your “hire us” info easy to find.

Unfortunately, it often takes users a number of clicks to find out how to work with you. Make sure it’s easy to find on your website. In fact, consider using “hire me” or “work with us” in your primary navigation or as a button on your blog. This makes it crystal clear what people need to do to take the next step.

7. Ask for qualified referrals.

Referrals are a business owner’s best friend. Don’t forget about this often under-utilized business tool. If you have clients and customers that love you, ask them to let you know about others who might benefit from working with you.

My friend, Erica Allison, openly let people know on her blog when she was looking for more work and explained exactly the types of clients she was looking for. Although you don’t have to go that route, you can definitely help your friends, family and professional contacts make an educated referral by giving them the information they need to do just that. That way, when they refer people your way, they are the RIGHT people.

8. Meet new people and serve them. 

One of the best ways to grow your network and demonstrate your expertise is by serving others. When networking with people, quit thinking about what you can sell, but instead focus on how you can serve them. Not only does this feel less spammy, but it also makes people want to help you because you were so generous with your time.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully, these ideas will help you get your creative juices flowing and help take some of the anxiety out of putting yourself out there and letting people know how they can work with you.

What has worked for you?

How do you sell your business without overselling? Or, if you struggle with this, what’s your biggest hangup? Share your thoughts in the comments and let’s help each other out!

NOTE: A version post was originally published on July 26, 2011. But, because the tips are still so relevant today, we’re dusting it off from the archives to bring it back to our newer readers. We hope you enjoy it!

26 Comments

  • Really, really good tips here! I’d add that our friends and family know how busy we are so they assume we’re not taking work. That’s a big no-no. So talk about your new hires and what your team does so they’re comfortable sending you referrals without thinking they’re going to see less of you. 

    You also made me think of an extension of your second idea. Why not solve your prospect’s problem via a blog post so you’re educating your readers, too? You don’t have to give away everything…just enough that the prospect can see how you think before you submit a proposal.

    • You’re right, Gini. I think we all tend to give the default response of “I’m busy, but good” when people ask how we’re doing. I know I do. While that may seem harmless, it can definitely send the wrong message.

      Your second point is right on. Blog posts are great ways to talk through your prospect’s problems. It gives people tangible ways to see how you work. Even if you provide all the answers, many will still want someone who can do the work for them. 

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Great info here, Laura! It’s hard to find new information on a widely covered topic, but you definitely did just that!

  • Erica Allison at July 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Laura, thanks for the link love and using my experience as a tip! I still get hits on that video…and even though saying what I said in that video was a tad painful and humbling, it did lead to new business.  Lesson there and throughout your post here: if people don’t know what kind of work you do or want; that you need more work; or, that they can hire you to do the work, then you’re left sitting in the corner wondering why no one calls!

    • Amen! Preach it, sista! I thought your video post was very bold, but it clearly worked. The bottom line is sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone if we want to move the needle with our businesses. I know that’s something I need to work on myself. 😉

  • Lol, now I don’t have to write the sequel to my post, Laura, thank you! Working on every single tip here. Thanks so much for the link back–I’ll add this link to my post as the go-to-after-reading.

    • This is teamwork at it’s finest, isn’t it?! 😉 Thanks for helping inspire this post. I know a lot of people struggle with this (myself included). It’s definitely a work in progress!

  • Laura provides solid suggestions that help some agency heads overcome their humility complex (believe it or not, it exists) as well as provide some steps that all agency employees can take to get involved with new business.

  • Your post really shouldn’t appeal to me Laura, I don’t provide a product or service, I’m not trying to sell anything and I don’t even really have a business. (Just a vague notion to have fun blogging, build a community and see where I go!)

    But the strange thing is that it does have messages for me and reminders of why I am blogging and the things I need to remember to be doing to get to my, as yet unknown, destination.

    I need to show with my blogging efforts that I do have some expertise and attempt to provide useful information to readers otherwise I won’t see them very often. I too need to ask a question or have a call to action to try to engage readers and have some reaction and comments to my posts. I too need to ask for referrals by way of shares and ReTweets to build a community.

    So thanks for the good reminders Laura, they are relevant even for a humble blogger like myself. (And I have the added bonus of knowing to come and talk to you, Gini and Erica  when I do have that business to grow!)

    • Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful comment, Tony. You are always so nice to stop by!

      You’re right – these tips can be useful whether you’re promoting a blog or a business! I think you do a good job already, Tony, but we all have room for improvement. (Myself included.) Sometimes we all need a reminder that we have something of value to offer – and that definitely includes you! 🙂

  • Being in my line, I am never not looking how to link people together. I get the calls and make the calls to help people find what they are looking for.
    being indispensable as such is crucial 

  • Great tips Laura, and timely for me, as I am working on a site “refresh.” Aiming for a little more focus and more direction with site elements. I think the call-to-action is incredibly important. If you know what you’re selling and the purpose of the site, it is pretty easy. As you said, you just have to find that balance between selling and being “salesy.”
    I think it’s important to note, that if you openly sell at all, a certain percentage of people will have a negative view of it. And to remember that it’s okay if that happens.

    • Good points, Adam. Yes, you have to have a clear understanding of what you offer and what problem you solve. If you don’t, then your prospects won’t either. And you’re right – there are always people who won’t like what you have to offer or that you’re selling at all. And that’s ok. It just means it’s not for them. After all, we shouldn’t be a solution that’s for everyone, right?

      Can’t wait to see your site refresh!

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