Effective marketing has the capacity to take your business from obscurity to unimaginable heights.

The Oxford dictionary describes marketing as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services”. Shy, small business owners might describe marketing as the feeling of a feint whistling in the ears, the inability to speak or think coherently and any other symptoms associated with unbridled terror.

Like olives and tripe, I don’t find many people are on the fence about marketing their business. They either love it or they hate it. Even so, regardless of which side you’re on, if you’ve decided to start a business or work as a freelancer, avoiding it altogether isn’t an option unless starvation is your primary goal.

Before you despair, there are many ways to find new customers without ending up a wobbling mess. Here are five of them:

Start small

The best way to promote your business is to start with the things you’re good at and work towards the things you’re not.

If you’re shy, blogging or writing an ebook can be a good place to start . Can’t write? Find someone who can help you with the words. Don’t have the budget? What about video, with you behind the camera instead of in front of it?

You don’t get extra points for suffering, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you only ever see the edge of your comfort zone through a pair of high powered binoculars.

Be nice

Introverts are often helpers and the sort of people who are more comfortable giving than taking.

Find opportunities within your local community to be helpful as a volunteer and before long, you’ll be associating with others requiring your particular area of expertise.

Within your business, create things like helpful blog posts, explainer videos or workshops to give potential clients the chance to get to know you better. Once they’ve seen you in action, they may begin to see you as an expert.

Silver linings

The things about yourself that you perceive as limitations can often be turned to your advantage.

Say for example, you’re really shy. By focusing your marketing efforts on clients who are equally introverted and appreciate gentle handling, you can turn a perceived negative into a positive.

How to do that? Provide information about the process of dealing with you, costs, timeframes and other frequently asked questions, so that shy clients don’t have to ask. Include time within your processes for one-on-one consultation either in person or by phone, where you have the opportunity to put potential clients at ease. Use non-threatening visual elements and language on your website and other marketing assets, to give clues about your own gentle personality.

Share the love

Think about some of the service providers that you’ve used in the past that you really liked or found helpful. How would things have been different or less convenient for you if you hadn’t found them?

Now think about your ideal clients. How much more convenient would it be to your clients if your business message found them quickly? You’re not being boastful by helping them find you. If you market yourself in an honest and truthful way, you’re giving people a red-hot go at getting something they’re actually looking for.

Have a plan

To get a business loan, the bank expects to see some sort of business plan so it can see you have thought out where you see your business is going over the next few years. It’s the same with marketing.

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be a bound tome with a forward written by Richard Branson, it could be handwritten notes in an A4 exercise pad. The main thing is that you have given some thought to a strategy and that you follow it – at least a little bit.

Don’t be scared if you find that it has morphed after a while, a marketing plan should be fluid and organic, it should reflect both your business and your personality as they develop and grow.

Don’t let being bashful hold you back

Whether you’re a bobcat operator or a graphic designer, finding new clients can be challenging if you’re not big on blowing your own trumpet.

By focusing on the VALUE that you can provide to potential customers, rather than how you compare to everyone else, you might find the whole process less confronting and maybe even a little bit more fun.

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