Today I’m going to discuss one of the big ideas from my book, Renaissance Business.
Lets say you’re a consultant, a nutritionist, web designer, babysitter or some other service professional. You decide to promote yourself online in order to attract more clients.
You might be well-established in your geographic area or among a small group of people, but to the wider world, your name is relatively unknown.
And so you set up a website. You use your full name as a title and domain, and your site features all the essential information: your background, the services you offer, prices, testimonials, etc.
You sit back, and wait patiently… as zero new business roll in.
How Come Nobody Cares?
Do you need to work on your SEO or get on social media? Should you look for promotion in different press sources or write guest articles? Should you hire a marketing consultant?
All of these tactics are secondary. They may help a little. But the real answer is something a lot more fundamental. Do this, and the strategies and tactics will work. Ignore it, and you’ll keep struggling.
Here’s what’s likely going on…
You’re Focusing on Self-Promotion, NOT on Building a Community
Not everyone needs to build a community. If you’re already an established authority in your industry, then it might not be necessary.
However, if your name doesn’t instantly bring up images of awesomeness in the mind of potential clients, then you’re going to have to prove yourself– or rather let others prove your credibility for you.
The Magic of Social Proof
Someone who’s looking for a service you offer should arrive on your website and walk in on a thriving community. They should see other people who are excited about what you’re doing. They should see people commenting on your blog and sharing your work.You’ve created a hangout spot. You aren’t just you saying, “look how great I am!” Other people are talking… enthusiastically talking.
This must mean you’re important and know what you’re talking about.
Build Your Website around an Idea, Not Just You
Self-promotion is necessary, but it shouldn’t be your first priority. Visitors go to your website, not because of you (though they may connect with your personality), but because of something within themselves.
You aren’t hanging out on Puttylike because you like me (though hopefully that’s true too… ;) You’re here because you’re a multipotentialite. You have a desire to embrace all your interests and integrate them into your life. You don’t want to be pigeonholed or forced to choose one direction in life. You’re here because of something within yourself.
Focusing on your people isn’t just a matter of listing out benefits for them. It’s about creating a home where they feel safe and understood– a space where they can learn about themselves and discuss the ideas that you all share and believe in. It’s about the ideas.
Your Overarching Theme is this Idea
As a scanner, you’re going to want a way to talk about many different topics on your website so that you don’t get bored. This is where the overarching theme comes in. I discuss how to find that cohesive theme– the pattern that runs through all your interests– in Renaissance Business, and I’ll be getting into it on the blog in the upcoming weeks.
But another reason that you must know your overarching theme, is that your theme is the reason people participate in your community.
Your theme is what you believe in. It’s what drives you. But it’s also what drives your community members (be it multipotentiality, gratitude, confidence, evolution, non-conformity, art, etc.) and so they stick around, post comments and share your content.
See what I mean about your site not being about you? Your site is about an idea– something bigger than you. You are not your theme, just an example of it.
Self-Promotion as a Byproduct of Community
Self-promotion sometimes flows naturally out of building community. For example, on Puttylike I sometimes talk about my day when it’s related to “multipotentiality and lifestyle design” (my theme).
Occasionally I mention some web design work I’m doing, not at all as a means of self-promotion (I’m actually not looking for any new design jobs), but just as a detail in a story related to my theme. However, after publishing these posts, I invariably get emails from people asking to hire me for design work. This always surprises me. It’s not my aim at all.
If you focus on your theme and not on yourself, people who believe in the same ideas, will want to work with you.
Do Promote Yourself, but Make it Secondary
While self-promotion shouldn’t be the primary focus of your website, it should absolutely be included. Dedicate a page to products and services. Include all of that information I mentioned at the top: rates, services, testimonials, etc.
Here are some examples of lovely folk who include both community and self-promotion on their websites. Note how different they are from the typical self-promotional website:
Focusing on Your Theme Doesn’t Mean Hiding Your Personality
If you want to stand out, you must inject your personality into everything you do.
This may sound like it contradicts everything I just said, but it doesn’t. You can express your personality and still stay focused on your theme, as long as you position yourself as an example of your theme, and not the theme itself.
Throw photos of yourself on the sidebar, make your design real quirky (assuming you’re a quirky person), write about your experiences, open up, be vulnerable. Do all this, not as a means of self-promotion, but as a way of communicating a bigger truth– that overarching theme that you and your people all have in common.
Has building an online community helped you get more clients? Is there anything about this process that worries you?
If you’d like to learn more about turning all of your interests into one business, check out Renaissance Business.