May was an interesting month for me because I was asked to speak at 2 events. The first event was a forum where I was a panellist speaking on women entrepreneurship (will share about that in another post) while the second was a little less formal, where I spoke on the importance of marketing oneself.
The Incitement is made up of a bunch of young people – I say young because comparatively I feel so much older in their midst! They’re in their mid-20s with lots of passion and fervour for life.
I like their spirit. I like their concept for an event where 3 speakers each speak on something that aligns with the theme of the month. At the end of it, we all hang out and discuss ideas.
I decided to speak on marketing because I have been involved in marketing for a while now. Back then I didn’t know what I did was marketing.
I wished someone told me back then that it was important (far more important than everything else) to learn and cultivate a mindset of marketing. I learnt it my way, from observation, from starting my own women entrepreneur association, from talking to my clients, from reading business and marketing books.
I learnt it slowly, making the connections in my own way. I am that kind of learner. I need to stuff all the data into my brain, let it percolate and one day, I am all the wiser. I know. It’s like my brain needs its own time and space. I can’t hurry it.
The thing is, along the way I became a super connector.
I don’t know how it occurred but my own shyness helped. I started becoming the host, the event organiser, the go-to person.
Friends started saying things like, “You need anything, you go to Krista cos she seems to know everyone in Penang!”
(When I was 8 years old, I was already willing to help out my fellow classmates especially when it came to homework! My mum often chided me that my friend, A, should learn how to do her own homework than phone me and ask for the answers! I know. I was too kind for my own good.)
I make it my personal goal to know people and to be helpful and to find the goodness in everyone. That’s what marketing is to me. And it has helped me tremendously in getting known, being known and more.
So in my talk, I want to spread the message that the art of marketing is simply the art of un-marketing oneself.
When you’re not focusing on you, your own business, the products you want to sell, your own selfish motives, you stand out. You’re different, unique, special. Most people just want to sell you their stuff, without caring about what YOU want. That’s why marketing is always a game of shoving your stuff down someone’s throat.
That’s why most people proclaim to hate marketing. They think it’s sleazy, sale-sy and gives out connotations of snake oil sales men and such.
I think it’s tragic. It’s tragic because once you learn how to un-market yourself, you become a better marketer!
Below is the talk I presented at The Incitement Penang at Hin Bus Depot, an art gallery on Jalan Gurdwara (opposite Neo Hotel).
If your goal is to get ahead in your life and career, you must learn to market yourself.
When you market yourself authentically, you will be known, liked and trusted by friends and family.
You will be on the receiving end of opportunities of all kinds because friends and family will happily refer you, connect you to interesting people and projects. Most of all, people will be at hand to help you succeed.
But here’s what marketing yourself isn’t. Marketing yourself isn’t about being a boastful, annoying, irritating pest. It isn’t about you talking about yourself on and on at parties and boring half the room. It isn’t about you and what you do or have or accomplished. In fact, the power and the art of marketing yourself isn’t at all about you! Strange right?
By the way, I am sure you know someone like that. Someone whom no one wants to talk to because he or she is always talking about herself! They think they’re having a dialogue when in fact they are having a monologue!
So you must be thinking – if marketing myself isn’t about me, what is it then and more importantly, how do I do it if I want improve myself and be more successful?
I learnt how to market myself by not marketing myself. You see, I was a shy girl growing up in a small town in Selangor called Banting.
What I am going to share with you today comes from my personal experience over the years. Looking at me now, you wouldn’t think I’m shy. But I have learnt over the years how to market myself.
Marketing myself has opened doors like never before. For instance, I’ve met lots of interesting people. I have wonderful friends and amazing clients. I have contacts from eclectic, diverse backgrounds. I learn new things from all my contacts and I get help from them when I need help. When I organise events, I am never short of sponsors or helpers. When I send out emails, people pay attention and read them. When you go online, you can google my name and find out a lot about me. When I need help, friends rally around to help me.
Is this because I am extraordinary or special?
No. It’s because a long time ago, I learnt how to use my shyness to work in my favour. And I am going to share 3 important tips with you. I hope you will take this to heart because if you practise just 3 tips in your life, you will have all the people, resources and ideas you need.
The first tip is to be memorable. Being memorable gets easier if you start by remembering others! Whenever you meet someone, make an effort to remember their name. There is nothing sweeter to another person than the sound of their own name! The next time you meet them again, start by calling out their name. Plus learn how to spell people’s names. Nothing is more annoying that acquaintances who misspell your name!
For a lot of people, meeting people is all good and wonderful but nothing happens beyond that. When I say memorable, not only do you remember the person and details about him or her, but you’d also want to be memorable to that person.
When you remember them, they start to remember you! It’s odd but it works!
Here’s a story. As the co-founder of WomenBizSENSE, a women entrepreneur association, we hold monthly meetings where networking plays a big role. Our members attend so that they can meet new friends or potential business contacts.
But I have also observed that most people go for quantity. You can’t remember everyone you’ve met if you’ve just said hi and bye to 20 people.
I advocate going for quality contacts. When you go for quality contacts, you will meet fewer people and exchange fewer business cards but you will have a chance to know someone better. When you know someone well, you have made a connection.
But most people leave it at that. They go to a networking event, collect a couple of business cards and absolutely forget about the people they’ve met.
No one has ever told us what to do with the contacts we’ve met at a networking group.
Let me share with you an invaluable strategy. Whenever you meet someone, ask if they’re on Facebook or LinkedIn. If they are, add them as friends.
Continue that conversation online. That’s what social media is for.
From time to time, be useful. Email them to say hello. Email them helpful articles. Don’t spam them. Above all be the friend that everyone wants to have.
The second tip is to be mindful. Being mindful is about paying attention. It is about paying attention to your surroundings, the people and being present in all your senses.
Why is this important in marketing yourself? It helps you notice little things that most people gloss over. It helps you to be more present when another person is speaking. When you are more present, you listen and absorb.
There is nothing like the gift of attention in today’s attention-starved world.
When you are present, you look people in the eye and give them your full attention. People notice little things like this. The give of attention that you give to another person, just by being fully present, makes you a star, whether it is at work or in business.
The third tip is to be a matchmaker. I learnt how to be a matchmaker precisely because I was so utterly shy. I remember in my early years of networking, I’d feel so out of place walking into a roomful of strangers. I didn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t know the right questions to ask and I didn’t want to feel like I was butting into someone’s conversation.
But I am a huge fan of learning. Whatever I don’t know, I know somehow somewhere out there, there is a book for it. And the book I found was this book by Leil Lowndes called How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships.
It’s an amazing book which you can learn how to ask the right questions at events and parties.
But one tip which she gave and which I love is this: imagine you have a spotlight on your chest. When you meet someone, shine that spotlight on him or her. This means encouraging the other person to talk about what they do and all that good stuff.
I’ve taken it one step further. If you’re the host of the event, you must play matchmaker.
You scan the room and look out for that lonely guy or gal sitting in a corner, feeling all self-conscious and shy. They don’t know anyone and they don’t know how to start.
You go up to them and introduce yourself and then, you tell them, “Come and let me introduce you to this friend of mine.” No one says no to such an invitation.
You slowly bring this shy person to another person and introduce them. If you know enough about the other person, add in some details. Say things such as “Oh Elisabeth here has 2 young children just like you.” This gives them a sense of shared familiarity. They now have a common topic to start with.
Do enough of this and you will soon be well-known. You become the hostess with the mostest at events. In fact, if you know enough people and your social circle is large enough, you can play matchmaker at events that aren’t even your own! I’ve done this at events where I’ve connected friends from different industries together.
What I’ve shared with you is my personal 3M’s of self-marketing. I want to share one more – I consider it my 4th and most powerful M.
The 4th M stands for magnanimous. It comes from the Latin word – magnus which means great and animus which means soul. Put together it means great soul but to make it simple, it means being generous.
Being generous is what we all strive towards. We want to be kind, compassionate, benevolent, charitable, bountiful and big-hearted. If you want to be someone generous, start sharing and giving unconditionally.
This could mean passing along a helpful email or surprising people in good ways just because you can. This is the ultimate in being a star in selling yourself.
Everyone loves a generous soul. Don’t expect anything in return. If you expect something in return, you end up being calculative and motive-driven. And you become a grouch!
When people know they can count on you without you having an ulterior motive, they will happily refer you, recommend you and help you. Good karma begets good karma.
You didn’t need me to tell you that you should be memorable and mindful in order to stand out in your industry.
You didn’t need me to tell you that your job is to be a matchmaker at events you go to.
In fact you probably know all this by heart. I am just here to remind you that these are some of the important things in life that we all should remember if we want to live up to our highest potential.
All this is easy. What’s hard is this – implementation.
It’s easy to listen and nod but it’s really hard to put it into practice because we’re busy, we’re humans, we’re forgetful and we love doing easy things.
But nothing and no one gets very far in life without some form of doing.
Think of exercise. We know it’s good for us but sometimes it’s so easy to feel lazy about waking early for a morning jog. How about eating right? We know we should avoid fried chicken but it’s so easy to eat fried chicken, right? And so it goes.
But self-marketing is about having the discipline to put into practice what you’ve learnt.
It is only through practice that we all get better. I was a shy girl at 9 but I braved myself to join debates and speak publicly even though I was so scared inside. But to overcome our fear, we need to face it head on. When you face your monster head on, the monster shrivels and dies.
I’ve reminded you about some things and I hope I’ve ignited your interest.
So here are the questions only you have answers to:
How will you be memorable starting tonight?
How will you be mindful starting tonight?
How will you be a matchmaker starting tonight?
And finally, how will you be magnanimous, starting tonight?
P/S: Why do I speak? I speak to spread my ideas and message. Most of all, I speak to improve my presentation skills. The more I speak, the better I get. Who likes speaking especially public speaking? Everyone has jitters, even the most seasoned ones. But I like challenges – and I am quite the Type A sort and like a friend told me, I am the Tiger woman (born in the year of the Tiger). Tiger women are damn ambitious. Nothing wrong with wanting to challenge myself. I am my own best competition. And I love pushing my limits and seeing how far I can go. If you’re asked to speak, always say yes. It is an incredibly interesting experience!