I believe self-promotion starts in your head—and I learned this lesson in college, a very long time ago. While I was studying advertising and design, a life-changing opportunity presented itself—and I almost said "no". At the time, I was the owner of a surf shop, worked part-time in the promotion department of the number one radio station in San Diego—and went to school all afternoon. So, when the Dean of my school came to me and asked, "You work in radio, right?" I nodded, and he went on to ask. "How would you like to work a few days a month for free?" My initial reaction was, "Are you kidding me?" However, before he walked away I asked, "Who would I be working for and what would I be doing?" The Dean said, "You would be working with Paramount Pictures promoting films." I took the gig.
The internship was really an amazing opportunity. All I had to do was set up free screenings for upcoming films and coordinate promotions with area radio stations. I could go on and on about all the things I learned about promotion from Paramount Pictures, but there was a bigger lesson to be learned than the marketing specifics. Alan, my contact (and later, one of my mentors) at Paramount Pictures taught me something that would forever change my life—and I want to share it with you.
The minute I met Alan I knew we were going to get along great. He LOVED marketing—and not just for films, but everything. He was also able to come up with a dozen ways to promote anything, anywhere, at any time. He would come visit me at my surf shop and walk around and throw out ideas left and right. I followed him with a note pad and implemented as many of his ideas as I could—and they all worked. One day I asked him, "How do you do it?" He looked at me and said, "Do what?" I told him, "Just pull these amazing sales and marketing ideas out of thin air?" Then he explained how he did it.
1. Be a student of all kinds of marketing and promotion. Watch television for the commercials, drive around looking at billboards, visit the websites that have won awards, and pay special attention to print ads in magazines and newspapers. The secrets to self-promotion success are all around you. All you have to do is look for what works (and why) and notice what doesn't do it for you (and why). Start a notebook, scrapbook, file, or bookmark the best sites and then when it comes times to come up with your own stuff, you can borrow from the best.
2. "It's never about you, it's always about them," was something Alan instilled in me early and often. He never let up with this theory: "People buy benefits. Turn everything around to be about them. Tell them why they should buy it—what's in it for them if they do buy. Don't make them guess. Don't make them wait. Connect the dots between what you are offering and what they want and need." He went on to say, "People are busy, lazy, and not that bright. So, keep it simple and make it easy for them to understand and act on your offer—tell them what to do, how to do it, and make it seem urgent."
3. Don’t think too much, and trust your gut.
Lastly, after you have spent enough time doing steps one and two, you will have internalized the core elements of promotion and are ready to start throwing out ideas off the top of your head. The secret, he said, is to not think too much, just say what pops into your mind because that's where the core idea is, and it's pure. You can go back and hone it, but if you try to be perfect too soon, you kill your creativity. Trust your gut and go for it.
LEE SILBER is the best selling author of 15 books, including "The Wild Idea Club" just out from Career Press.
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