Of Ducks, Books & The Dreaded M Word

I met Alex of Bunnysprints last week for matcha latte at Secawan Hutton (a fabulous cafe by the way) and she reminded me that I have not been updating my blog. Thanks Alex for keeping me on my toes!

Anyway, she was up in Penang for work (she’s writing lots more business-related projects now and she sighs that people still think she does a lot of travel and food articles). I also wanted to meet her as I wanted to present her my book! (*doing a proud little jig*)

Yes, my book has been published (you can buy the print version or ebook version here). It hasn’t been launched yet. See how narcissistic we authors are these days? The book isn’t debuted properly until it has been launched, usually by some VIP because when VIPs come, so does the press. And that’s when we all get the five minutes of fame in the newspaper.

krista goon with alex wong
Alex and me in front of Secawan Hutton

So yes, my book’s all done and published. Nic and I are heaving huge sighs of relief! It was a project that we undertook because we figured that it was the last frontier. If you want to know all about the book, titled Web Wisdom (I know, I love my alliteration to death), go check out this blog post on my business blog. I tell you all about the ramifications of a writing a book and self-publishing it.

Back to Alex and our tete-a-tete.

Sometimes conversations can be startling. People often remind me of the things I told them years ago. I forget half the stuff I say but you never know how people hold on to some nuggets or words that resonate with them.

(Just like I read Alvin Ung’s book called Barefoot Leadership – an excellent book on Malaysian heroes, btw – and remember this about Helen Read, the founder of the fashion label, Ms Read. Helen Read endeavours to leave a public washroom clean so that the next person using it won’t be disgusted. I hold this in my heart each time I use a public restroom. I flush properly and sometimes even use the water hose to hose down the floor of the toilet cubicle so that there are no nasty footprints etc. I think that’s true consideration and empathy for the next user of the loo! You see, I remember things like these. Things that others may scoff at and say, well, that’s why you have people who wash loos, right? At least I can make the world a better place, starting with the public loo!)

At our women entrepreneur showcase last week, a KL friend attended and then told me in a Facebook comment that I’d once told her that a duck may glide effortlessly on the lake but underneath the surface, the legs are paddling furiously. What looks successful may have taken lots of effort; effort that most people do not see and assume immediately that success is easy for others.

I was touched she remembered these words of mine.

web wisdom book
Nic and I with our KL friend and book-buyer, SY Phang

Because it certainly took years for me to produce a book despite being a seasoned blogger, copywriter, and communicator. It took me and Nic some time to decide what type of book to write. In my younger days, I fantasized that I’d be writing fiction.

How life turns out. Our first book is non-fiction. It’s about websites and how to use them for effective marketing. It’s meant for small business owners.

When I was talking to Alex, she reminded me that I told her years ago that she should focus on marketing. She said that back then, she thought I was the literary sort and those words coming from me didn’t seem to make sense.

It now makes sense to her and bless her, she took action (many people may listen but never take action at all). She learnt marketing. She learnt how to position herself and her writing and price her services like a true business professional. She is now reaping the rewards of taking herself seriously as someone who can help business owners communicate better.

I told her that there is no need to be starving writer, just like there’s no need to be a starving artist if only the writers and artists marketed themselves. There is nothing wrong with marketing one’s skills. There is everything wrong if you have a damn good skill and you’re not marketing yourself, hoping that people will find you on their own!

I’ve never been too literary for marketing, that’s for sure. I don’t know when I started to be a convert of my own beliefs and philosophy of marketing but I know that I am all the better for it. Without marketing, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have today. Like right now.

Even Audrey, my book editor, told me that I made marketing something that’s not sleazy. I see so many experts of their field who remain just that – people full of good knowledge but without the knowledge of marketing themselves in positive ways.

That’s why I am such a huge advocate of marketing without cheesiness or sleaze. I call it authentic marketing. It’s making sure people know about your skills and abilities in good ways and remember you when they need your skills the most (especially if they’re ready to hire you or work with you).

Writers who only know how to write and expect the crowd to beat a “lorong” to their door won’t be able to see much happening. As a writer (or any other profession), you need to get out there and tell the world what makes you special or worth working with.

Having the attitude of “I’m a writer, not a hustler” and that “my work sells itself” won’t cut it today. And never, ever call yourself a freelance something (freelance artist, freelance writer, freelance designer).

Adding the word “freelance” just tells people that your prices can be bargained down to a pittance and you don’t have a union to complain to (and they can bully you however they want). If you need to have a designation, call yourself a writer. Only you need to know you’re a freelancer.

Alex illustrated the need for marketing accurately when she told me that she had been a regular patron to this cafe in KL (around her neighbourhood). The woman would bend over backwards to serve her customers well. She cooked well.

But she didn’t pay attention to marketing. Dear Alex with her heart of gold hinted multiple times about helping her do some marketing but the lady said she didn’t have time for marketing. Eventually, her business fizzled out. She lost her cafe and Alex lost a place for good food! When a small business collapses, it isn’t just one person’s loss. The entire neighbourhood could be pining for what could have been!

So there. I’ve said my piece about marketing. I hope to say more but I don’t want to be some old broken record.

(If you’re wondering why the long silence, my mum passed away in August. I didn’t feel like writing much after the funeral though I did journal. I cried pots of tears. I still get a bit pensive when I think of my mum. You can read this post on my other blog to find out more.)

p/s: I must be getting famous. Just last week, a friend whatsapped me saying that she got an FB friend request from a profile page with MY photo but the person apparently was named Shin Ching. I quickly reported it to FB and in 2 minutes, the profile page was deleted by FB. Still, it was such a weird feeling knowing that someone just took my photo and started a FB page! Unfortunately for that impersonator, I have friends who know me and alerted me before any damage could be done. Quick tip: there’s no need to confront the impersonator. Just complain to FB and they will take care of it.

The Art of Marketing Yourself

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.

incitement penang hin bus depot
Here’s me, the first of three speakers at The Incitement Penang on 29 May 2015 at Hin Bus Depot

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.)

incitement penang hin bus depot
An interesting night for me

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).

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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?

Thank you.

incitement penang hin bus depot
The Q&A session at the end of the 3 talks

 

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!

More Books From My Fave List

Here are more books from my fave list. In case you missed out my first book list, you can check it out here.

11. Waiting for Your Cat to Bark by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg
This is for website junkies only. When I read this book, I totally understood what they said because that’s what we practise here in Redbox Studio. It’s all about communication, psychology and logical design. It does not matter how many hits you get if your hits don’t convert.

12. The Greatness Guide by Robin Sharma
Yes, I met Robin Sharma recently and yes, I bought this book for Nic (had it signed by Robin himself too). But I started reading it and found it enthralling, with short reminders about living a great life. With 101 stories, I found that I could pick it up, riffle through a few pages of stories and continue another day.

13. 1434 by Gavin Menzies
I did not manage to read his first book, 1421 but that didn’t stop me from buying this second book. Gavin writes non-fiction so this is a book about how the Chinese ignited the Renaissance in Italy. So now we know it wasn’t really the brilliant Italians that started it all – they copied off the Chinese! The Chinese, led by Admiral Cheng Ho, brought with them the tools and technology to share with the Italians. All of a sudden, dear old Leonardo da Vinci seems redundant! If you’ve never liked history, after reading this, you’ll want to be a historian. (Update: I read that “Doing Da Vinci” the documentary that gets a few engineers together to build some of the machinery which Da Vinci wrote about but never built will be shown on ASTRO. Hah. For all we know, Da Vinci copied those OFF the Chinese. Look at the similarities the Italians have with the Chinese. Noodles/spaghetti?)

14. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
I don’t have to retell the story of why I love this eye-opening book. It throws all you know about money and finances out of the window. See my little story of this book.

Other equally notable books by Robert are: The Cashflow Quadrant, Retire Young Retire Rich. All teach you how to take control of your financial future. It’s one of the best and most influential reads of this century!

15. Brand You 50 by Tom Peters
Tom Peters’ book is about branding but written in short, quick quips and tips. Formerly from McKinsey, Peters’ books can be a shock to your visual senses. He loves using typography and colours to underline his points and boy does he have plenty of them. I can only take so much of Peters’ books before my eyes get tired. His ideas are radical and cool though. I suggest dipping into them maybe 3 pages a day!

16. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T Harv Eker
I read this book before I saw the man live on stage. I much prefer the book to the real man, sorry to say. I’ve even bought his books for friends because what he says is true – if you don’t change your blueprint for money success, it does not matter how much money you have, you won’t be able to keep it or do much with it. Starting with the right money attitude and blueprint is essential if you want to live well and rich. Most of us live with the money blueprint of our parents. We inherit the blueprints and if we are not careful, they could ruin our chance at success. This book is a life-changer. A must-have on your bookshelf.

More excellent books:
Seeds of Greatness by Denis Waitley
The Little Red Book of Sales Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer
Success Built to Last by Porras, Emery & Thomson

Coming up: My best-loved fiction list!