Have you ever been at a social gathering and met someone who seems to have self-proclaimed themselves as the most interesting man (or woman) in the world? Nobody likes that person — after a few seconds of conversation anyone stuck talking to them develops a sudden need for the restroom, spots a “friend” across the room, or just suffers through by downing drinks.
On the flipside, do you know who everyone does love at a party? The connector. That person who asks thought-provoking questions, deeply listens, then uses the information gained to brag about one new acquaintance to the next.
But as much as we despise the self-promoter, most of us are that person (at least some of the time). Research shows that we spend 60 percent of conversations talking about ourselves — a number that jumps to 80 percent when you look at social media conversations. Everyone’s favorite topic is the person looking back at them in the mirror.
The same goes for businesses. As we strive to keep up with the constant call for content, we talk on and on about ourselves in our tweets, our blogs, and our Facebook posts. But this isn’t always the best approach.
Give the Conversation Away
The reason we love to brag is scientific. Talking about ourselves releases the same chemicals in our brains as food or money. It’s a natural upper, and just like your bad diet habits, it’s hard to give up.
But that’s exactly what smart salespeople and marketers do.
You’ve heard the saying that people will remember how you made them feel, more than what what you’ve said or done. It makes a nice motivational poster, but it’s also true. Business leaders including Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Howard Schultz all noted the same notion as a secret to their success.
Giving away some of your bragging rights is scientifically-proven way to leave others with a positive feeling. Share someone else’s content, and they’ll be grateful. That warm, fuzzy feeling will become attached to how they think of you. They’ll probably even share something of yours in return — which will help spread your name to a new audience.
Don’t Fear the Competition
When you refuse to acknowledge your competition, it makes it seem like you have something to hide. Bad-mouthing the competition is even worse, as it creates the perception that you’re afraid. But when you artfully (and not overly) talk about the competition, it showcases your confidence in what you have to offer.
Consider Progressive Insurance. In the early 1990s, they became one of the first carriers to share competitors’ rates with leads. The technique helped them become one of the top five carriers today. They do it because they are confident enough that they can beat out the competition the majority of the time through lower rates or simply better marketing through transparency. And they knew that even if they lost some leads to lower rates, the shine of sharing spotlight would bring them more leads in return.
Does this mean you should constantly retweet your competitors’ successes or post their press releases to your blog? Of course not. Use competitors doubly to your advantage by sharing their content that’s both useful to your industry overall, and showcases your confidence. For example, you could share an interesting infographic put together by a competitor or tweet something enlightening their leadership spoke about at an industry conference.
Become the Expert
Content marketing is top of every marketing team’s to-do list, yet few organizations know how to truly do it well. That’s because most organizations focus on sharing content that’s useful to themselves versus content that’s useful to their audience. The sweet spot where the two intersect is where content marketing works, and one way to do it is through content curation.
Just like you, your leads are busy people. And busy people like anything that makes their life easier. Consider sending a monthly newsletter to everyone in your CRM or posting a link round-up on your blog once a week that curates the latest and greatest industry news your customers should know about. Curating content in this way positions you as the industry expert. It’s also an easy path to pulling in and warming up new leads. If you become the go-to resource for industry news even for those not currently in the market for your product, you’ll be the natural choice when it does become time for that lead to shop.
Choose a Hard Truth Over a Lie
You could have pages upon pages of positive online reviews, but people will still remember something negative they heard about you more than the positives. That too, is science.
One surefire way to garner a negative review is by selling a lead a product or service they don’t need. This can be tempting to do — you have someone far down in the funnel, and you know with a little careful wording, you could lock them in. But you also know you’re not quite the right fit — maybe you better serve larger organizations and they’re a small business or maybe their main needs better align with a competitor’s product features than your own. In those circumstances, you might just want to suggest they try the competition.
It’s hard to let go of a fish on the line, and harder yet to hand it over to another fisherman. But the money you earn from a bad sale will soon be counteracted by negative word-of-mouth when they don’t like your product. On the other hand, the money you lose from passing a sale to a competitor will be gained back (and then some) when that lead shares their positive experience with others who do fit your ideal profile, or comes back when their priorities are more aligned.
Sharing others’ content may not be as intrinsically gratifying as talking exclusively about yourself, but do you know what is? Money. You can earn more (and get ditched less at parties) by avoiding being entirely self-promotional.