Marketing yourself isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be scary either. The trick is to find ways to market yourself that are authentic and aligned with who you are and what you stand for. And if you have no idea what that is or how to get there, it can feel pretty hopeless. But don’t lose faith just yet! There are plenty of inspiring people out there who also struggled with marketing themselves when they first started out… People like Simon Sinek, the famous business consultant, speaker, and author of the New York Times best-selling book “Leaders Eat Last”
Who is Simon Sinek?
Before we get into it, I can’t stand Simon Sinek. I don’t know exactly why I react so badly to him. But I do. So writing something positive about him is a challenge.
That said, the guy is a machine. And he has achieved far more than I have.
So with an open mind, let’s quickly get to know Simon.
Simon Sinek is an American author, motivational speaker, and business consultant who is known for his books on inspiring leadership and his TED Talk, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”, which has been viewed over 27 million times. He’s also worked with some of the biggest companies in the world, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Pfizer, General Mills, and Airbnb. Simon is often called the “thought leader” of the “gig economy” and is credited with jump-starting the popularity of the “entrepreneurialism” movement. His books “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last” have been translated into 26 languages and are used in over 150 universities around the world.
I’ve read “Start With Why” and while it was certainly thought-provoking, it wasn’t exactly rocking my world. But it shook enough people that it’s now a standard read when it comes to starting a business or growing an existing brand.
Why Should Any of Us Care About What Simon Has to Say?
When it comes to marketing yourself, Simon Sinek is “the guy”. His story is a great example of how to go from struggling to find work to build a career that impacts millions of people. But beyond that, Simon’s advice is also highly actionable and practical- something that’s helpful when you’re lost in the dust of confusion surrounding how to market yourself.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to be some super special snowflake that’s unique in so many ways. That you need to be the next Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey. The truth is, you don’t. You just need to be you- the real you. And finding ways to market yourself that are authentic will set you up for success.
And I suppose that this is the core message of Simon. Be you. Share that. Authenticity wins every time.
Other methods of getting yourself out there can include the methods of Andrew Tate. But after getting so much attention earlier this year, his flame is already burning out. Aggression and constant manufactured controversy don’t last long in the world of influence. When all the noise and bluster has passed, the quality of what you provide is what’s left.
So how does all this relate to marketing yourself?
A Short Guide to Marketing Yourself Like a Pro according to Simon Sinek
Much of Simon’s work around marketing comes from taking a deep look at yourself before you start marketing.
– Know who you are and what you stand for: This is the starting point for everything else.
– Be authentic: Be yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not. People can smell that from a mile away and you’ll come off as inauthentic and untrustworthy.
– Find your superpower: What’s the thing that you’re really good at? The thing that makes you stand out above the rest? That’s your superpower.
– Figure out your message: This is what you want to say with your superpower. What is the message you want to convey?
– Create content: Once you’ve figured out your message, turn it into content. This is where you’ll figure out what is the best way to convey that message.
None of this, except for the last point is generally taught in marketing. We’re usually filled with tips and techniques to trick people into buying our things. But the Simon Sinek approach — and mine — is to flip this into, first asking ourselves who we are.
Without that very first step, we can’t understand what is authentic about us as a personal or business brand. We won’t have any idea what our superpower is. We certainly won’t know what to say. And that will hold back our ability to create content.
In this, Simon and I are in perfect alignment. Perhap I shouldn’t be quite so anti-Sinek after all.
Stop Networking and Start Being Friendly
Networking is often seen as a necessary evil in the business world, but it’s also something many people are very uncomfortable with. That doesn’t mean that you should just avoid networking like the plague, but it does mean that you have to approach it with a new mindset and be careful not to fall into some common pitfalls. First, stop feeling you have to “network” with everyone you meet. Networking isn’t about collecting business cards from everyone you come across like you’re trying to win a business card collecting contest. It’s about meeting people and starting genuine relationships. Next, don’t try to “sell” yourself whenever you talk to someone. You don’t want to come across as desperate or thirsty. Instead, try to be friendly and interested in others. Ask questions and be curious.
That’s the most fun part of networking for me. The curiosity. If I see someone I don’t know, I’m immediately curious about who they are. I love stories, so I’m always hungry for a new story from a new person.
This has turned networking events from a struggle for an introvert like me, into a fun adventure of hearing new stories, finding new connections and introducing people to each other who may have something in common.
When you stop attempting to network for yourself, and you start networking for others, the whole thing takes on a new life. You become a better networker for yourself by making networking about finding success for the other people in the room.
Tell Your Story — The Key to Authenticity
Everyone has a story. And while not all of us have the type of story that will resonate with millions of people, there is value in sharing your story with others. It’s a great way to connect with people and show who you really are. There’s a reason that every reality TV show starts with “In a world where….” — Why is your story important? Why does it matter? These are important questions to ask yourself when you’re putting together your story.
– How do you want to tell your story?
What medium do you want to use to share your story?
Are you going to write a blog post?
Start a podcast?
Create a video?
Or something else?
– Who do you want to share your story with?
As important as it is to tell your story, it’s also important to find the right audience for your story. If you have a story about entrepreneurship and you want to share it with a bunch of CEOs, you may want to re-think that.
I recently had a conversation with a colleague about how she doesn’t have a traumatic backstory. So she finds that she has nothing to add to her own personal brand because of that lack of a backstory.
Yet when I talk with her, I hear about someone who has travelled extensively, networked across the world, created incredible projects and worked alongside thousands of people.
And she has shaken hands with celebrities, sports heroes and world leaders.
No backstory? No way!
Whilst it is very trendy right not to air our traumas and newly diagnosed behavioural disorders, you don’t need to have a sob story to explain yourself or to market yourself.
In fact, these things, while they might feel authentic, are often something that we hide out authentic selves behind, because we feel that it makes us different.
Authenticity isn’t about what makes us different to others. It’s what connects us to others. Something in me that connects below the surface to something in you allows us both to feel like we understand each other.
We don’t need a common disease, behavioural disorder, race or disability to share some common ground.
I didn’t need to be an Indigenous Australian to sob almost uncontrollably whilst sitting with an Aboriginal person upon hearing how intergenerational trauma has torn her family apart for nearly eight decades.
All these things are valid points of connection. But the ability to authentically connect with only those who share our backgrounds is just the start.
Sharing our stories of being humans, workers, business owners, students, women, LGBTIQA+ or simply people who have lived a life on this little blue ball in a vast universe is enough.
If it’s our truth, our story and our experience, it’s authentic.
Make it Visible — Show, Don’t Tell
From reading a bit of Simon’s work, I understand that actions always speak louder than words.
You’ve written your story, you’ve figured out how you want to tell it, and you’re ready to share it with the world. Success! But before you press “post” on your blog or send that email to your list, there are a few things you want to keep in mind.
First, make sure that the content you’re creating is valuable. Don’t just write whatever comes to mind.
Make sure it’s something that your audience will find helpful and interesting. If you’re not sure what to write about, look at your story and think about the most important parts.
What are the moments or parts of your story that are most important? Next, make sure that your content is authentic.
Don’t just write something because you think people want to hear it. Write something because it’s something you truly believe in and want to share with the world.
Sharing valuable insights, lessons and ideas is selfless action.
You can tell someone 100 times that you are all about sharing actionable insights with those who need them. But if you’re not actually doing that in person, online or anywhere, then you’re a hypocrite and liar.
And that will be noticed very quickly.
First, do the thing that shows you are that person. Then you can talk about how you do that thing.
Action first. Talking about your actions come after that.
Keep Growing — Always be Learning
One of the best ways to stay authentic is to keep learning and growing.
It’s important to keep an open mind, be open to new ideas, and be willing to let go of the things that aren’t working.
It’s also important to find mentors and be a mentor. It’s a great way to learn from the people who have come before you and are further ahead on their journey than you are.
Again, marketing yourself isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be scary either. The trick is to find ways to market yourself that are authentic and aligned with who you are and what you stand for.
And if you have no idea what that is or how to get there, it can feel pretty hopeless. But don’t lose faith just yet! There are plenty of inspiring people out there who also struggled with marketing themselves when they first started out… people, ironically like Simon Sinek, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brené Brown, Oprah Winfrey — the list goes on.
The Bottom Line
Marketing yourself can feel weird, but it doesn’t have to be weird. The key is to be authentic and find ways to market yourself that fit with who you are and what you stand for. That’s something that everyone struggles with when they start out. So don’t be discouraged if you feel lost in the dust of confusion surrounding how to market yourself. Instead, use these tips to find your way out. There are plenty of inspiring people out there who also struggled with marketing themselves when they first started out. People like Simon Sinek… and me.
Turns out that Simon and I might not be too different from each other.
Well, apart from the international fame, books, millions of views, millions of dollars… yeah… I’ll stop there.
Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Meta Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Meta Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.
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