On Monday we put the latest issue of the newspaper to bed and sent it off to the printer. It’s always so gratifying when that happens! Tuesday was supposed to be my “day off” but you can probably guess what happened instead: LIFE. I would have liked to turn off my brain and refill my reserves but the day involved an ortho appointment, grocery shopping, a photo shoot, writing and web work. I am still behind on my emails! (Gah. Sorry EVERYONE.) Mark and I, however, did get to squeeze in a nice bit of distraction. In the evening we went over to Mill Street Brew Pub to attend the launch of their new West Coast IPA. (Fruity! Hoppy! Serve it with cheese!) It was fun.
This past weekend I attended the BConnected Conference. I hosted a series of roundtables on Saturday but managed to get in some learning and networking as well.
One of the highlights for me was Julie Cole’s breakfast keynote. I’ve seen Julie speak at other conferences and I always enjoy hearing what she has to say. If you’re not familiar with Julie and her history with Mabel’s Labels you can read more about it here, but to summarize: four mothers hit a breaking point in regards to their children’s constant stream of misplaced shoes/water bottles/mittens and decided to make labels. Worth noting: what started out as a basement business was bought by Avery earlier this year.
Julie’s presentation was primarily about the growth of the brand and how central customer service is to the company. (I can vouch for this. What’s more, the labels do exactly what they promise to do: (a) hold fast and (b) help recover lost items. We’ve even started using them on our yard and garden tools (!) but I digress.)
One of the conference attendees asked Julie a very good question and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. I am paraphrasing here, but it was essentially this: How do you spread the word about your business to your friends and family without sounding like a jerk?
Julie laughed and told us that she had NO PROBLEM hitting up her friends to buy labels and help spread the word. I thought this was really interesting. So many entrepreneurs (and I’m including writers, photographers, and other creative types here too) are reluctant to toot their own horn for fear of offending their friends.
Here’s where I confess that I don’t think I talked very much about my work – my writing or my blog – to fellow parents at daycare or later in the school yard. I never wanted to dominate a conversation or draw too much attention to myself. That’s rude! I also never want to appear braggy.
So the question remains, how do you talk about your business with other people who, let’s face it, may or may not help you achieve your goals? Actually, I take that back. ANYONE can help us achieve our goals, and do it in ways we never even considered. It might be as simple as a mom at daycare telling her neighbour about you and your services… a neighbour who happens to own a large company doing Exactly That Thing That Fits Your Goals and Needs.
Related: As I am tapping out this all out I am remembering something I posted awhile back about The Ask. What I’m writing about today is essentially the same thing. If you need something, just ask. It sounds simple, but as we know it’s never that simple. We don’t ask, or don’t talk about ourselves, because we’re afraid of looking weak or needy or rude.
So, going back to the blogger who asked the question during the conference, I am assuming she wants more people reading her blog and she’s reluctant to bring it up to the other parents at her kid’s school. I definitely think there’s a sincere way to slip it into a casual conversation without seeming overly aggressive about it, don’t you? It can be something as simple as: “Hey, since we’re on the topic of clothing for kids, did you know I’m a blogger and I write a lot about family life? I posted a review of some really great children’s shoes on my blog the other day and I think you’d find it interesting.”
I’m a big fan of business cards for this purpose. So, if you’ve just introduced the idea of your blog and the other person asks for the web address, instead of scrambling in your bag for a pen and a scrap of paper you just serenely pull a card out of your pocket with the URL already on it. (The small MOO cards are perfect for this.)
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re a blogger or entrepreneur. On a scale of 1-10, how good are you about talking about your business and services? What holds you back?
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