In a small town, you aren’t supposed to brag about yourself, whether personally, at work or in business. One of the unofficial small town rules.
Take you for example. You’re probably uncomfortable talking about your accomplishments. When you have a project or business to get out the word about, you try to walk the fine line of letting people know without being overly self-promotional.
Hint: small town people seldom cross that line. You can stop worrying.
OK, so you’re still going to worry. When you find yourself agonizing over whether you’re “tooting your own horn” too much, here are four ways to promote while staying low-key.
1. Answer customer questions.
The easiest way to strike the right balance is to answer customer questions. (And even if you’re with a nonprofit or NGO, think of the people you serve as your customers. I’m sure they have questions, too.) Whatever people ask you, or you wish they would ask you, turn those answers and solutions into your promotional messages. You’ll be talking about what you can do, but in the most helpful, friendly, small-town way possible. Use answers in all your promotions online, in old media ads, in every communication you send out of your hands.
2. Talk about your people.
You’re proud of the people you work with. Maybe that’s your employees. Maybe it’s your parents who inspired you to go into business. Maybe it’s local suppliers who help keep you in product. Maybe it’s the people who use your services. Talk about them. Tell their stories. Once again you’re indirectly sharing about yourself.
3. Boost your community.
Instead of promoting yourself, promote your town. Talk about what makes you proud. Make and share lists of things to do in your town. Re-share the updates from your chamber of commerce and tourism groups. This is a great antidote for community organizations who find they are always talking about themselves. Promote even things that have nothing whatsoever to do with your business, as long as they promote your town as a whole. When your community prospers, you’ll prosper, too.
4. Let your cause take over your marketing.
You are involved in local causes and organizations. Instead of using your marketing to talk about you, let your cause use that space or time. Talk about what they are doing for the community, tell their stories of making a difference, share their photos. Let them write and fill the space themselves. (Sure you can edit, but I bet you won’t need to.) Put your business name and “proud supporter” at the bottom. That’s enough.
Can nonprofit organizations do this? Of course! You have other groups and causes you work with. Your board members and staff personally support causes. Why not let them feature in your promotions?
What this approach isn’t:
This is not a “humble brag” where you mention someone else only to make you look better. We’ve all seen people who re-share every compliment, or mention where they are just so they can show off their busy business schedule. When your purpose in sharing is just to promote yourself, we notice. I see a lot fewer small town people trying to get away with this, because it just doesn’t pass our smell test.
What this approach is:
This is an honest and deep mindset of sharing, one that forms the foundation for all your marketing and promotion efforts. Instead of putting the focus uncomfortably on yourself, put the focus on the people and organizations who make you and your place great.
Think about your next marketing message (whether online or offline, social, email or in person). Decide now which of these four approaches you’ll use to talk less about you and more about them. Then hit reply and tell me about it.
Keep shaping the future of your community,
PS – Two highly relevant links for this week:
One reason you’re getting low turnout at community engagement events and 10 things you can do about it
7 Big retail tricks that small town stores can use (Ideas I stole from Amazon)