Public speaking—appearing before an audience—is one of the greatest fears people have. Most of us have the feeling, at times, that we are “faking it”—that we may be unmasked, or have it revealed that we are not as competent as we represent ourselves to be (regardless of our actual competence). It evokes the image of the Wizard in the “Wizard of Oz”—“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” This “performance anxiety” causes us to wish we could avoid the attention in the first place.
The idea of “putting yourself on display” before the public is uncomfortable, to say the least. By extension, for many small businesses owners, the idea of putting their business “on display” is no less frightening. After all, they, the owners, are their business—especially those entrepreneurs who provide personal services.
It is no surprise, then, that small business owners often struggle when it comes to developing and executing a marketing program for their businesses. We refer to this as marketing and social media “stage fright.”
To market your business is to put your business and, by extension, yourself in the limelight, to put your competence to the test. Entrepreneurs are left with a paradox—she wants sales but doesn’t want to market or sell “herself.”
Along with notoriety and interest comes scrutiny and potential criticism. This is particularly true in the world of social media. The fear of scrutiny and criticism, coupled with the ease with which scrutiny and criticism may be dispensed in social media, undergirds the “stage fright” associated with resistance to an entrepreneur’s marketing efforts. Like stage fright for a performer, the business person may well experience similar physical effects when promoting their business, and resulting inability to “perform.”
That is to say, stage fright can:
- Block your ability to find the words to describe your business; and
- Inhibit your ability to speak or write about your business.
In addition, stage fright can be compounded because, as a business owner, one lacks perspective.
Every business owner is personally, financially, and emotionally attached to his/her business. This is a normal attachment, but it can further increase the difficulty of expressing “why your business” in a way that resonates with others.
The ability to formulate a clear marketing message is integral a business’s success.
10 Steps to overcoming stage fright in your marketing plan by gaining perspective and finding “the words.”
- Pretend you are talking about your business to a close personal friend. Write down the answers to: What excites you about your business? What are your proudest achievements in your business?
- Ask others with whom you do business what they like best about working with you; why they use you rather than someone else; what is the one thing they find most valuable for them about your business?
- Imagine your competitors—then write down those things you know you do better than your competitors
- Focus on the best customer service you have provided in the past and describe it.
- If you have the courage, then ask your clients, “what is the one aspect of patronizing my business you would like to see improved?”
- Can you make changes that would allow you to make the appropriate improvements, or remedy the situation if it were to happen?
- Ask your clients, “If you were to refer someone to my business, what would you emphasize as a reason to use me?”
- Invite some friends and/or clients to meet with you and discuss your business.
- Develop your message around the positive remarks, and begin to improve on the areas that your clients describe as “needing improvement.”
- Think of yourself and your business as a host who is inviting others to an “event.” Write an invitation to do business with someone.
Taking the time to gain some perspective is the first step in overcoming marketing stage fright.