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October 1, 2022

How to Promote Your Small Business Without Bragging


As uncomfortable as it may be, you must promote your small business to raise brand awareness, let others know how you can help them, and gain customers and connections. Plus, you’ll build trust and respect with others by positioning yourself as a helpful expert in your field.

But there’s a fine line between marketing your business and bragging about yourself, and it’s easy to cross over to the cocky side. A 2020 Morning Consult poll found 53% of U.S. consumers think companies (and those who run them) should “stick to what they do without bragging about their successes.” So, how can you talk about your services without being sales-y, or share your successes without sounding arrogant?

If you want to raise brand awareness and promote your small business without bragging, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

 

Do:

Lead with empathy.

People don’t care about your business, products, or services until they know you care about them⁠—not just your bottom line. Buyers want to ensure their potential business partners show them empathy (or understand what they’re going through) before investing in products or services. You can do this by saying, “I understand you’re frustrated with strategies that waste time and don’t get results. I’ve been in your shoes, and it’s tough!”

Your listeners can tell if you’re interested in relating to them and helping them solve a problem, not just talking about how great your company is. And if you’re an empathetic speaker who takes the time to connect with your audience, they’re more likely to become paying customers because they feel like they can trust you.

 

Include others in the conversation.

When you promote your small business to potential customers or interact with other professionals in your industry, you should have a dialogue, not a monologue. Take breaks while speaking to allow others to share their thoughts and ask you questions. Using your listeners’ names is another great way to include them in the conversation and keep them engaged.

People will appreciate the reciprocity of this two-way conversation, as you’re showing an interest in them after they’ve patiently listened to you. This will also let you share more about your business, get feedback or advice from colleagues, and help customers overcome any buying objections.

 

Get excited about your wins.

Contrary to what you might believe, you can talk about your successes without bragging. After all, it’s human nature to be excited about your wins! Whether you talk about high points in your personal and professional life, or failures that you’ve overcome, people love hearing a success story.

To avoid sounding conceited, try framing your wins in the context of making a difference in others’ lives. When you’re telling a story about your successes, use positive and confident language, and share how you’ve enjoyed helping people solve problems, eliminate frustrations, or achieve their goals.

 

Let reviews and statistics speak for you.

If you hate talking about your wins, you’re not alone. The good news is positive reviews and solid numbers can do some of the talking for you! For example, if you just received a $20,000 grant for your nonprofit, or a customer gave you a glowing review, you can share this on your website, in a social media post, and while talking to donors or industry professionals. Hearing figures and testimonials like these will show more credibility to potential buyers or supporters than bragging about your company.

This tactic works well during a presentation, where you can share testimonials and stats on a screen, but you can also talk about these in sales conversations where appropriate. For instance, you can tell a prospect about how happy a current customer is with your products and share a quote from her testimonial to back up your claim⁠—and let your customer’s success speak for itself.

 

hands typing on laptop keyboard

Don’t:

Spend the whole time talking about yourself.

We know this is basically what our entire blog post is about, but it bears repeating! You’ll annoy people if you only talk about how good you are at what you do⁠—especially if there’s no proof (besides your word) to back it up. And people can tell if you’re overstating your skills or accomplishments, making them even more likely to tune out.

Instead of bragging about your successes⁠—or spending an entire conversation talking about yourself⁠—give listeners the chance to tell you about themselves first. Listen to what they’re saying, then share how the other person could benefit from working with you. For example, we let small business leaders tell us about themselves, their mission, and their goals. Then, we share how we can help them reach those goals with our science-based marketing strategies that have been tested and proven over the past 20 years.

 

Forget what your target audience needs.

If you aren’t keeping your listener’s wants and needs in mind while promoting your business, you probably won’t connect well with them. Simply telling people how great your products or services are won’t be relevant or helpful to them because the conversation will be all about you⁠—not how you can help them solve a problem.

Whether you’re in a sales discussion or a conversation with a colleague, you should put your target audience’s needs first and concentrate on helping the other person find a solution. You can do this by asking yourself questions like these:

  • What problem is this person dealing with, and how does it make them feel?
  • How can I relate to and empathize with them? What professional expertise or life experience can I share with them to let them know I’ve been there?
  • How could my products, services, or advice help them solve their problem?
  • What objections (if any) do they have to my products or services? How can I help them overcome those objections and find a lasting solution?
  •  

Start with all of the things you can do for them.

While you should focus on helping your customers or colleagues, don’t immediately give them a long list of details about your products, services, or business. Sharing too many facts too soon will overwhelm your listener. That’s because people tend to make decisions based on emotions and connections, then back up those decisions with facts.

If you begin the conversation with how much your business can help someone, it’ll come across as a sales pitch⁠—and nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold to! But you’ll have a much better chance of connecting with your listener if you start with empathy (like we mentioned earlier). Once you take the time to understand where your customer or colleague is coming from, then you can suggest a product or service that might help them, or share more factual information about your business.

 

Use complicated or wordy messaging.

Many of us overstimulate and confuse people with industry jargon—and we don't even realize it! As a small business leader, you know a lot about your work and get excited about sharing it with others, but it’s easy to forget that customers may not understand all the terms you regularly use. Or, if you’re simply too long-winded, your listener may struggle to pay attention and just check out. If you confuse them, you’ll lose them.

But when people have to use fewer brain “calories”—or when they don’t have to try as hard to understand what you’re talking about⁠—they’ll have a much better time following the conversation and actually want to listen to you. You’ll better engage your customers and colleagues while telling them about your business by using clear, concise language that doesn’t overwhelm them.

 

By following these dos and don’ts, you can promote your small business without bragging and share helpful, valuable information with others. By empathizing with your audience, including others in the conversation, and avoiding the temptation of talking only about yourself, you’ll be able to form genuine connections with your listeners⁠—and maybe even inspire some of them to become happy customers.

Writing Your Marketing Guiding Statements. 7 videos to help you clarify your messaging so that your marketing will actually work!

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Treefrog Marketing is an agency focused on small business and located in Lafayette, Indiana. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, please visit our website. You can also connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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