Marketing for Introverts
By Carol Reed
Tony Robbins is an alien. Or maybe I am. I’m not sure.
I was recently in Las Vegas for a conference related to my husband’s business. Thankfully I didn’t have to attend the presentations on the metal heat treat industry, but I did attend the final open session, in which a motivational speaker delivered a Tony Robbins-style pump-up for business owners, interspersed with gymnastics, juggling, tricks on a six-foot unicycle, and the obligatory audience participation. It was entertaining, but left me feeling like, well, a different species.
When indexers talk about marketing and growing our businesses, we’re not like the gregarious juggler–gymnast. We get quietly confessional: “I know I should spend more time marketing, but. . .”
It’s not a surprise. The characteristics that many indexers share—attention to detail, the ability to focus on highly analytical work for hours on end, a preference for working independently, a passion for excellent written communication—are common traits of introverts. Marketing skills, on the other hand, we tend to associate (incorrectly) with extroverts.
Are you an introvert?
To talk about extroverts and introverts as separate extremes is a gross oversimplification, of course. We’re all somewhere on the continuum between the extreme introvert and the extreme extrovert, and we often “fake” characteristics that don’t come naturally, simply because we have to. But it’s fair to generalize that many people who are passionate about indexing lean toward the introverted end of the spectrum. For the sake of this article, I’ll use “introvert” to refer to those of us who lean that way, not to a false dichotomy of extremes.
It’s worth acknowledging that the term “introvert” carries some negative baggage. Author Susan Cain argues that Western culture has created what she calls “the extrovert ideal,” in which charisma, influence, and social fearlessness are the qualities we celebrate, even idolize. When the extrovert ideal becomes our measuring stick for the successful, well-rounded person, introverts come out lacking. Cain wrote her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, to draw attention to the disservice the extrovert ideal does to all of us and to give introverts a sense of entitlement to just be ourselves.
Negative baggage aside, what does an introvert look like? External appearances can fool you. Many successful performers, public speakers, and CEOs describe themselves as introverts. According to personality psychologists, introverts tend to be drawn to the inner world of thought, feeling, and meaning more often than to the external life of people and activities. We recharge by being alone, whereas extroverts recharge by socializing. We feel most comfortable in environments that aren’t over-stimulating, preferring an in-depth conversation with a close friend over superficial interchanges with many acquaintances at a cocktail party. We work more slowly and deliberately and have mighty powers of concentration. In short, we’re rarely the life of the party, but we bring depth to relationships and powerful assets to a wide range of careers.
I love indexing, but. . .
If you’re an introvert, you may have found freelance indexing to be a great fit for your skills and personality. It may be work that you find meaningful, manageable, and not unduly stressful. It may be work that offers you a quality of life that your cubicle-bound friends envy. Unfortunately, many indexers don’t stick with it because they don’t market themselves enough to bring in a steady flow of work. Or they continue indexing sporadically, wishing they could boost their earnings.
If you love indexing and the work-at-home lifestyle, it’s an occupation worth venturing out of your comfort zone for. Marketing is an integral part of making a freelance career work.
So instead of viewing marketing as a “should-do” task (really, why not just make a list called “Things To Procrastinate On”?), we can think of marketing as an intentional task that empowers us to create our own work environments and to do the work we love.
“Nice idea,” you might be saying, “but if I feel like I have to put on a used-car salesman persona to sell my indexing services, it’s not gonna happen.”
I’m with you. The first book I read, years ago, on writing website copy, was all about “push.” Apparently that style of web copywriting is like telemarketing and reality TV. It sells, for reasons I can’t understand. Pushy is just not my voice, and I bristled as I tried to write the way the book advised me to.
How introverts can rock a marketing strategy
Since then, I’ve been relieved to find marketing advice that’s more in line with who I am. Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up:
Is it an exaggeration to view introversion as a marketing strength rather than a disadvantage to overcome? Susan Cain doesn’t think so. She cites Jon Berghoff, who was the kind of socially awkward high school junior you’d find hiding in the library at lunchtime. Uncharacteristically, Berghoff started selling Cutco knives by personal appointment after school, which required a great number of cold calls. Berghoff earned over $135,000 in commissions by his senior year. He managed to transform his natural inclinations—an affinity for serious conversation and a preference for advising rather than persuading—into a kind of therapy for his prospects. Berghoff, who now runs his own personal coaching and sales training business, explains his approach: “I discovered early on that people don’t buy from me because they understand what I’m selling. They buy because they feel understood.”[i]
If you've thought of marketing as the extroverts' arena, it’s time to shift your paradigm. Marketing can be empowering rather than energy-sucking. Marketing really doesn’t require us to be anything but ourselves. And while marketing might force us to leave our comfort zones, Gymnast-Juggler-Unicycle Guy would tell us it’s okay: getting comfortable with discomfort is the KEY to SUCCESS! (Yes, he said it like that.)
At least I don’t have to juggle machetes and tell bad jokes in front of hundreds of people to get new clients. By comparison, follow-up emails don’t seem all that bad.
[i] Quoted in Cain, Susan (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Random House, page 239.
© 2013 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.