Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Self-promotion: How to do it right [Guest post]

I'm excited to be guest posting for The New Professional! A reader asked, "If I'm talking to a client about a management issue they face which I'm helping to address (i.e. managing priorities), and they identify that there is a service they need (i.e. some graphic work), and my company provides that service, how do I tell them without sounding overly self serving / self promoting?" It's a great question, and as a marketer who's done some freelance work as well, I've tackled it a few times myself.

First, recognize that the client has a problem, and they've openly discussed the problem with you. Therefore, they are most likely going to be open to any solution you might be able to offer. It's not self-serving or self-promoting if you can offer a legitimate solution to a problem that they've mentioned to you. If it were completely off-topic, you might run into this problem, but since they're related, the client will most likely be appreciative of you mentioning that your company also offers XYZ service. I’ve found this to be generally true if you already have some type of business relationship.

Second, offer the additional services in the course of conversation, instead of bringing it up separately. For example, when they mention that they need graphic design work done, you might say, "I can help you work that into the management strategy we're creating. If you don't already have a firm in mind to provide these services, our company offers graphic design services. Would you like me to get a quote for you (or have the account representative send over some information if it's in a completely separate department)?" This gives them an out if they already have someone in mind, but it lets them know that you can meet their needs. This information is completely relevant to the strategy you're working on, and a problem that they currently have, so it won't seem like you're trying to "sell" them a new, unnecessary service. Again, generally true that as long as you bring it up without pressure or making them feel like they can’t say “no”, most potential clients are open to at least hearing your pricing or seeing your work.

Finally, if you're still concerned that you'll come off as self-promoting, you might offer to send them a few recommendations about companies that can meet their needs. You can certainly include your company in this list, but giving several options will re-enforce that you are trying to do what's best for the client, not increase leads or commission for yourself. Since you've established this level of trust, the client will be more likely to choose to work with your company. Working with you on an additional portion of a project will be easier for the client, since the billing is already set up, they already have a trusted contact, and you already know about their strategy and other needs. If you decide to go this route, I think you can include some portfolio samples from your company, and links to the other companies. This will help your company stand out, since the visuals are always more eye-catching than verbiage or links. This might be the most preferred method if you are trying to establish a new client relationship, or bringing up your services for the first time. It offers a no-pressure situation, and builds the relationship for future endeavors.

While it may sound counter-intuitive, I don't think bringing up your firm's offering to meet an overtly expressed need is overly self-serving or self-promoting. I think you can mention it casually as one of many options, so that your client won't feel uneasy if they do not wish to use your firm's design services. However, when you do a lot to provide great service to your clients, I'm sure they'll be happy to hear that you can offer a solution to meet their needs!

Ashley Faus is the blogger behind Consciously Corporate. A marketing professional by day, Ashley's blog discusses the intersection between personal and professional.


  1. I think this is a particularly female struggle. Not to be too generalizing, but there is nothing wrong with self-promotion. If you don't promote you, who will? Most of the men I know would have no problem simply saying "We can do that for you"; Whereas I think women are less apt to self-promote for fear of admonition for boasting or sounding arrogant. If you have a good product or service and someone expresses a need for it... tell them!!

    Thank you Ashley for phrasing it in a way that is professional and approachable.

  2. This was a great read! As part of our preparation for the work-term I'm in, we were given seminars on things like this. I got a lot more out of this post than those hours where the coordinators droned on forever!

  3. Glad you liked the post!

    @ebisabes, I completely agree that women get sniped by these feelings more often than men! I often find myself wanting to be "polite", and later realizing that I've got a solution, so I should share it!

  4. @ ebisabes - I have known a few guys to be just as shy or unwilling to promote themselves as women. It is certainly a growing process, though. A little confidence goes a long way.

    @ Sam - that's awesome! I'll have to grab Ashley back again. :)

    @ ashley - Thanks for the great post. You really hit the nail on the head!


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