How to market your startup as an introvert

You might be surprised at just how many introverts choose to set-up in business for themselves. If you were to believe all of the myths and misconceptions about introverts and introversion, you’d picture us hiding in a corner afraid to say boo to a goose!

According to the FSB, (Federation of Small Business) SMEs account for three fifths of the employment and an estimated 4.2 million of them had no employees. And with introverts accounting for around half of any population, it’s fair to assume that introverts also account for a significant proportion of those owner-managed businesses.

But let’s back up a bit in order to understand why introverts make such good small business owners or entrepreneurs. Given that we’re over-stimulated mentally, fitting into a busy open-plan office environment can be overwhelming. Introverts tend to be overlooked and undervalued when it comes to promotion and opportunities as they are judged as unambitious. So, what are the options?

  • Bend yourself out of shape in order to fit in and get on in our business world biased towards extraverts? That’s what many choose to do but pretending to be something you’re not is exhausting and can lead to introvert burn-out. And that’s before we consider the incongruence and inauthenticity.
  • Stay in the shadows, quietly complying with those commonly held myths? This is a better choice for mental health and wellbeing but means that far too much talent is left unrealised.
  • Leave traditional employment behind and start up a small business? Why not? It worked for Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Russell Brunson. And the thing that all 3 have in common is that they found their passion and purpose in life and created their businesses around them.

Unsurprisingly, many introverts who leave the corporate rat-race choose to set up online businesses. And since the pandemic, when so many of us realised the benefits of working from home, or at least away from a busy office, becoming our own boss seemed more achievable.

There’s one obvious problem though; owner managed businesses still need marketing to get sales. It’s not that introverts can’t network or sell, in fact, introverts can excel at these business activities because they listen really well and invite people to buy rather than going for the hard sell. What introverts do need is sufficient charge in their mental batteries for activities that take them to the edge of, or outside their comfort zones.

I coach my introverted clients to develop their skills and confidence through ‘Purposeful Networking’. Introverts are famously reluctant to attend networking events because the idea of ‘working the room’ and spending time expected to engage in small-talk is particularly unappealing. When we do attend, we’re often standing awkwardly on our own, wondering how to break into the conversations. The thing to remember is that it’s called networking, not ‘netlurking’, so having a plan is essential. Many networkers forget that the purpose of networking is to have starter conversations that leave people saying 'I’d really like to schedule time with you to talk about this some more.' It’s not about closing a sale, telling someone everything you offer or simply handing out business cards. Its’ a starter.

Ideally, your plan for each event involves the following:

  1. Determine your objectives for attending. Be discerning.
  2. Ask the organisers for the list of potential invitees. Who do you want to engage with and why?
  3. This next one is courtesy of Jon Baker. Comment on LinkedIn that you’re looking forward to attending and you may well find other attendees’ comment and connect. That means there will be a familiar face at the event. 
  4. Pre-charge your mental batteries so you have enough charge to see you through the event.
  5. Plan your post-event recharge so you recover sufficiently.
  6. Make notes as you meet your desired people so the follow-ups are easier. People are often flattered that you’ve taken the time to do this.
  7. Stay as long as needed to meet your objectives, but no longer. There are no prizes for staying to the bitter end.  

I’ve found that when it comes to an introvert networking and marketing their own business, it’s a totally different ball-game, partly because they are more invested in the outcome. I developed a mantra that has served me well when I’m expected to market myself and my business and it’s this: 'Purpose plus passion trumps fear.'

Reminding myself of that mantra enables me to remain calm in those situations, ask great questions rather than talk at people, so I get to understand how what I offer might solve a problem they have before inviting them to a more detailed conversation.

The important thing is to enable introverted small business owners to play to their strengths, such as their resourcefulness and independence, their ability to ask relevant questions and really listen to the answers, their ability to focus and get into flow, their ability to stay calm and defuse dramas, and their ability to research and prepare.

So, don’t allow the common myths about introversion to persuade you that setting up and running a business is not an ideal option for you.  Running a small business is a notoriously lonely occupation, but one to which introverts are ideally suited.