How to Promote Your Business and Win Clients

Nothing feels better than impressing someone else. No one wants to be the ugly duckling, after all. What you want to hear in business often sounds just like this:

“Wow, that’s a fantastic website!”
“What great products!”
“This service is the best I’ve ever tried…”

Yeah, hearing compliments like that feels good. It’s validating. It makes us feel that our hard work and efforts have paid off.

When you’re first starting out, though, these compliments don’t exist. You haven’t built up a client base or referrals. You may lack testimonials. So you have to toot your own horn and tell people how good you are.

It’s Tough to Promote Yourself

It can be tough to tell people how good you are. At first, you might think, “I’m just a regular person… nothing special really.” You might know that your product is really good or that your service is tops, but conveying that doesn’t always come easy.

It’s important to do, though. Force yourself to believe that you really are the best and learn to tell people that you offer great stuff. Why? Because psychologists say that if a person hears something often enough, that person starts to believe it.

When your potential customer or someone in your target audience starts to hear about your business, they may not think twice. But when they hear that you’re very good, continually and constantly, they’ll start to believe it – and they’ll be more likely to choose you over an unheard-of competitor.

The Problem with Self-Promotion

When you get into the habit of some self-promotion, you find it gets easier. Hey, you tell everyone how great you are! You may even have some clients by now, and they’re backing up what you claim.

That can pose a problem. Self-promotion may quickly turn into bragging, and that’s just bad for business. People may get tired of hearing you talk about how you’re the best. No one likes to feel inferior, and if your customers get the impression that you’re some big hot shot, they might look elsewhere for someone less lofty.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Who does he think he is?” If you start going on about how great you are, that’s exactly what might happen. It’s important to recognize when it’s time to stop telling people about your business, and it’s important to have a sixth sense about how much self-promotion is just enough.

Learn Less is More

A good way to figure out the right amount of self-promotion balanced by client testimonials is to know when to stop talking.

Opportunities to slip in a little bit of self-promotion usually happen on a fairly regular basis. A good way to appear as modest while still getting your business recognized as one that can help is to simply mention, “You know, I can help with that.”

Less is more. Once the person perks up with interest, mention how you can solve their issue with your product or service – and then leave it at that. Hand them a business card. Don’t push the matter. Let people make their own decision and never come off as someone who doesn’t shut up.

Remember You’re Not Perfect

Part of being successful in business involves the transparency you may have. Think of cleaning products – do you truly trust those who claim to clean any room of your house, any amount of dirty and any type of stain?

Come on. Don’t we all buy one product for the bathroom, one for the kitchen and one for the laundry room? Nothing truly does it all – and we know it.

Your product or service isn’t perfect either. People aren’t going to trust you if you claim to resolve all their worldly issues – so be specific. Mention that your service helps them cook meals faster, yes – but that it won’t clean their dishes (and laugh.) Mention that your product won’t help them earn more money – they have to do the hard work – but that it helps give them the boost they need.

False claims and misleading clients are a fast way to losing customers. They’ll buy once, maybe, but they won’t be back if they feel that your product or service didn’t do everything you said it would.

Transparency breeds trust. Use it. Tell people how great you are, but do so in moderation. Tell them how fantastic your service or product is, but remember not to mislead them. Be open, honest, and trustworthy – and stand out as a business with good ethics.

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Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. James,

    You have a good point. You don’t have to be good at everything, and they won’t believe you if you act like you are especially when you are new. But in a sales presentation, or when speaking with potential clients I think it is important to highlight the strengths you do have rather than focusing on your modesty too much or your weaknesses.

    Crystal’s post on this yesterday was right on I think. When I started out in Real Estate I was going up against some huge heavy hitters with lots of clients. The one thing I had that they didn’t have was lots of time. So I *sold* my time. I sold the fact that I had time to give them. Personalized attention, focus and energy to be sure the job got done right. I had five clients in the first week. Who doesn’t want personalized attention? The important thing is that I ment every word of it. After that business works best when it comes from referals.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..Twiddling Thumbs

  2. Brett Legree says:

    Just to add to what Wendi said, Naomi had talked a while back about being “good enough”. Maybe what people need isn’t “the best”, but something that does the job.

    All of us are good at many things, perhaps not #1 in the world, but better than 99 percent of the people out there.

    So then, knowing that, you can use the things you’ve put forth here to get more business, and keep it.

    Brett Legree’s last blog fridays – the unwise man.

  3. You don’t have to be perfect. Being considerate, thoughtful and following through is more than enough.

    Yesterday I had an unhappy customer who wanted to return a product I had sold him through eBay. I immediately refunded his money (it was a PayPal transaction so that was easy) and then sent him $15 to cover shipping and another $20 for his aggravation. Why? Because that’s how *I* want to be treated. It’s damn annoying to buy something that isn’t what you thought it was, especially when its a $400 item.

    I was also at another customer working through some problems he was having with a mailserver I sold him. It was mostly lack of understanding and 99% of it was straightened out in minutes. Then he asked “How do I do X?”. It was a small thing, nothing critical, nearly unimportant.

    I paused, thought for a second, and said “I don’t have a clue”.

    He laughed. “You’re the expert!”

    I shrugged my shoulders. “Ayup, but I don’t know everything. I’ll find out, and I’ll get back to you.”

    After I got back to my office and waded through the two dozen other emails and returned calls to the half dozen phone messages, I dug into his problem. At 4:30 I figured it out and sent him an email. That’s “follow through”, and customers really appreciate it.

    Treat your customers like you want to be treated and you’ll do fine.

    Tony Lawrence’s last blog post..Twitter Types by Anthony Lawrence

  4. James,

    “You know, I can help with that.” That sounds like you. Even though technically I don’t know what you sound like, that is such a casual intro, as I’d expect from you. I think knowing your own style and being natural is the real key. If you have to be somebody else to sell yourself, it’s going to be an uphill climb.


    I sold a lot of my time cheap for the year I was “in” real estate. I felt inauthentic! I was young and energetic, I learned so much, and enjoyed it all immensely, but I watched heavy hitters who were comfortable like you and I never could match that. Buyers and sellers sensed it. I did more interior design on the side than I did house-selling, and finally light dawned on marble head. 🙂


    I never could make up my mind when she said that. I hate when people beat themselves up (point for Naomi), but I hate when people settle, too. Better than 99% is a good compromise!

    Even at this early hour, I love the comments almost as much as the post.



    Kelly’s last blog post..Brand Propheteers: Part One – Golden Opportunities and “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

  5. Brett Legree says:


    For me it goes back to what an old engineering professor of mine used to call “optimum sloppiness”. If you are framing up a wall in your basement, being accurate to 1/16 or even 1/8 of an inch is probably okay. No need to get it to 0.001 of an inch when measuring.

    So really that’s my take on it. I would agree with you though too, never settle. Get the best that you can afford, that does what you need it to do fully. But don’t settle for less.

    For the person offering the service though, I think it is key to know in your mind – to *know* – that you are the best at what you do. It is a powerful tool, and can make all the difference. Confidence is a big motivator.


    Brett Legree’s last blog fridays – the unwise man.

  6. I have a severe mistrust of people who boast and brag about being the best. They make me smirk, arch an eyebrow and think, “Yes, eh?” And mentally, they go down two points in my esteem.

    It’s much more appealing to see a confident company that is so good, they don’t need to brag – they just know they’re good, and I can see it and sense it. That’s the kind of company I want to work with.

    And most often, the people themselves are fairly modest. They’re fun, friendly and real. They know they’re not perfect but very confident about their strengths. That feels right.

    But that said, you *do* have to sell yourself and take advantage of flash-moment opportunities. Be there. Be present. Be ready in an instant to step up to the plate. It’s a delicate tightrope to walk, but it’s highly possible and just gets easier each time.

  7. Nice post. It’s so true that blow-hard know-it-alls are irksome and usually aren’t near as talented as they think they are. For me, sometimes I have to work a bit on promoting myself, because I can be TOO low-key. I am out there networking like mad though, and that’s really helpful to building a name in the community. It makes me appear accessible (I think!) It’s even better when you get a referral standing right there. It happened to me last night. An ad I created for a local business generated alot of response, and the owner is thrilled. I was talking to a new potential client last night at a networking event – very casual – and this aforementioned business owner came up and started bragging on how great I was! I actually turned red and they both got a laugh. But I was also thinking, dang, this is cool! I couldn’t PAY for better advertising than that!

    Christie’s last blog post..Don’t look cheap – part two

  8. I was going to comment on the repetition of “Another great post from Men With Pens! Copyright 2008 Men With Pens” on every post but I’ve just realised that it’s only on the RSS feed – er, the people least likely to need reminding how great your posts are? I guess the point is to get your name in to dodge scrapers (I do this on a content site) but I have to admit reading it on the bottom of “less is more” made me blink.

    Sylvia’s last blog post..Sylvia’s Sentence

  9. @ Sylvia – Yep, that’s for the scrapers. Um, I’m not sure that it does much good but it makes us feel better. Point noted about the “‘nother great post” bit and it’s been removed.

    On the other hand, part of our marketing strategy involves the way we (read: James) blatantly promote cocky confidence, even if we don’t really mean it and think we’re just a couple of hacks. Somehow, that comes off as charming. Or something. It works.

    Besides, we are great 😉

  10. I think modest and quiet confidence goes a lot lot further than constant bragging. There is nothing wrong by being self confident, but the secret lies in the measure of which we present this confidence to the world.

    @ Wendi: giving time was a very smart move since many of us lack exactly this attribute. This allowed you to stand out and once you do you get noticed for your real talents. In the end you’ll get what you wanted and most likely you will end up with a much higher score than having been hand picked from dozens of others.

    @ Brett: exactly that, people are so over “the best”. They fee much more confident and self empowered amongst equals and the best way to be equal is to be ourselves. It just shows that we are human and our clients love us for it (including mistakes we make)

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Writing Queries – Freelance Writing Guide

  11. Hey – another great post from Men with Pens! hehehe, ok I just had to 😉

    Your post is right on, though. There is a line you don’t want to cross when it comes to letting the world how great you are. I think part of the trick is when you’re talking about how great you are, you need to show the client how you can benefit them. Never lose site of that.

    I think you guys handle this well because although your perception of Men with Pens is a little cocky, yes I said cocky along with the phrase Men with Pens, the two of you come off as cool laid back dudes.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..How To Buy A House Like A Real Estate Investor: Part 3 – More On Dealing With Down Payments

  12. Contrarian point of view: I like the “repetition of ‘Another great post from Men With Pens! Copyright 2008 Men With Pens'” at the bottom of the posts. I always thought that was good branding. The only thing I wish is that in my email-sub it would tell me who wrote the thing. Not that I wasn’t going to click over, but while I’m contemplating it I’d like to know who I’m reading.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Brand Propheteers: Part One – Golden Opportunities and “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

  13. Well, now, people, make up your mind…

    @ Kelly – Yeah, that was branding. Now let’s see where the popularity vote lies and we’ll either leave it off or put it back. As for authors… sorry. Feedburner limitations?

  14. Yeah, I survive the no author thing pretty well. It’s not like you were wondering if I’d be coming over to comment on your blog… 😉

    Kelly’s last blog post..Brand Propheteers: Part One – Golden Opportunities and “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

  15. James:

    Stop reading my mind. It’s weirding me out.



    P.S. – I’m referring to your article in general, but specifically this comment:

    “I have a severe mistrust of people who boast and brag about being the best. They make me smirk, arch an eyebrow and think, ‘Yes, eh?’ And mentally, they go down two points in my esteem.”

    It’s like you pulled that thought right out of my brain.

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..Catch the brainwaves of Patricia Mayo

  16. @ John – ‘Never lose *site* of that?’ Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I love geeky typos.

    I agree that there are so many ways of saying “I’m awesome!” without actually opening your mouth. I always admire the people who are totally confident but never come across as arrogant. That’s a really tough feat.
    Another option for self-promotion: bring your mom with you everywhere. 🙂

  17. One of the best ways to self promote is to describe how you solved a client’s issues in a blog post – that way you can continue to position yourself as an expert while still focusing on delivering value to your readers (i.e., by giving them insight on how to do something).

    That’s why “How to” posts are so effective, right, James? 🙂

    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..Are You Building An ?Empire Of Dirt??

  18. Why does my favorite scene from Indiana Jones come to mind. I’ll take the guy with steady revolver and accurate aim over the flashy blade waving idiot every time.

    I love this, ” I can help with that.”

    And Tony- follow through, you nailed it.

    James, I saw a bit of that flash when the Ad Contrarian said the “best in the business” were hired to do those new media websites . Quebecois had the revolver out , target acquired, trigger released..:)

    Being comfortable saying, “I am good at what I do”, very important. Demonstrating it consistently, that gets around.

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..The Function of Form

  19. I love this after I wrote a post TELLING people to brag. But that’s for us low men on the totem pole who to be reminded to project confidence, not you cool savvy folk over here at the MwP forum.

    I suspect there will always be a line between calm confidence and assholishness. It’s not really a fine line, though. It’s like a road. An interstate. Like the border between New York and England. You know, that big blue thing? What’s it called? Like that.

    “I’m the best at this,” counts as arrogance to me.

    “I’m really damn good at this,” counts as confidence.

    “Another great post,” is the latter, dudes. They are pretty great. And you didn’t say they were the BEST. Because that would have been arrogant. How would you know they’re the best? Did you CHECK? Nah. But you don’t have to check to know it’s great. You’re the experts, you know from great.

    The ATLANTIC. That’s what it’s called. I knew it had a name.

    Tei’s last blog post..Option Bonk

  20. @ Janice – Ha! Yes, that was the perfect example… that heckler on Copyblogger was pulling out the “the auto industry pays the for the best names in business to market and you’re saying that they use outdated methods to reach their audience?” or (something like that) and my immediate reaction was, “Who says they’re the best?” Touché.

    @ Dave – You are indeed correct, Mr. Navarro. The trick is to find the best words to follow that “How to” so that we all don’t come off sounding like dweebs.

    @ Mary – I fully believe that you can convey confidence without being arrogant. Arrogant is just nasty.

    @ Mark – But I like playing in your mind and freaking you out… 🙁

    @ John – And if cocky, cool and laid-back is the image we convey, then we’ve hit the target dead on. Now go read Copyblogger’s latest post and you’ll see why we’re Robin Hood shooters for targeting our audience.

    @ Monika – Everyone makes mistakes. Being able to admit them openly is a great sign of self-confidence.

    @ Christie – Ha, word of mouth is the best marketing you can have, and the perfect reaction is a winsome blush. Well done! (It was winsome and not beet red, right?)

    @ Tony – Why do you always end up in my spam filter?

    One of the first things that I learned in customer service is to admit that you don’t know the answer and immediately follow through with, “But I’ll find it for you and get back to you.” One, you show the customer willingness to help. Two, you learn from your research. Three, you follow through and resolve problems. Win win win. Doesn’t get any better than that.

  21. Brett Legree says:

    @James – I agree, too much confidence externally doesn’t come across as sincere.

    Yet, one should be surpremely confident in one’s own abilities, while simultaneously knowing that they may fail, but can recover.

    To get to the moon, shoot for the stars.

    What you project externally is somewhere in between, and that is for each of us to figure out. The right amount of confidence, humility, and honesty goes a long way.

    Clear, concise communication, and delivering on committments, on time. Also important.

    (I’m not sure why Tony keeps ending up in the spam at my blog either. I want Tony’s comments!)

    Brett Legree’s last blog fridays – the unwise man.

  22. Always be honest about your limitations. Candor builds trust — and repeat clients!

    Rebecca Smith’s last blog post..SPELING EXPIRT

  23. It’s best if you can never say “no” to the customer, too, though it’s not always possible. Instead of saying no, tell them what you can do.

    Ok, off to Copyblogger, though I sorta been feeling lately I’m reading the same stuff over and over again over there – just told by different people using different examples.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..How To Buy A House Like A Real Estate Investor: Part 3 – More On Dealing With Down Payments

  24. @ John – I promise you something new and very interesting.

  25. @ James – read my comment over there. After reading your article my head turned and I said, “holy; what the; who the; where in the heck did that come from, man?”

    Awesome post and I wish there were more like that there rather than 101 different ways we can learn from these kind of people.

    I did leave a thought on there, though. Curious what you’re gonna say.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..How To Buy A House Like A Real Estate Investor: Part 3 – More On Dealing With Down Payments

  26. @ John – I’m all smug now. Told you it rocked. Skeptic. 😉

  27. Show off! Ya cocky sun’a’bitch! 🙂

    Great freaking article.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..How To Buy A House Like A Real Estate Investor: Part 3 – More On Dealing With Down Payments

  28. SoftwareSweatshop says:

    I started an authority blog ( poking fun at the outsourcing industry. It’s been great at helping me get clients.

    Here’s how I promote myself via cold calls and emails. I use humor, sarcasm, and honesty to make myself standout.


    I read about XYZ and it seems relevant to work we’ve done in the past. I own a Chicago-based offshore development firm and I think we might be a good fit, but I can’t say for sure. I’ll have to talk with you before I can say we can help.

    You probably get 100 calls from “Bob’s from Bangalore” but most companies we talk to have gotten burned when going offshore, or are disgruntled to say the least. We’re not for everyone and we only work with clients that demand high quality and are willing to pay for it. I created a silly blog making fun of the entire outsourcing industry ( Finding good developers isn’t hard, but finding reliable developers is.

    Outsourcing is about high value, not low cost. We don’t take our selves too seriously but are dead serious about what we do. Give me a shout if you think it makes sense to chat.


    Raza Imam”

  29. @ James- It was a really nice moment, like a falcon pouncing on prey…:)

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..The Function of Form

  30. @ Raza – May I make a suggestion? The first couple of sentences are okay, and then I hit this:

    I think we might be a good fit, but I can’t say for sure. I’ll have to talk with you before I can say we can help.

    Click. I’m gone. You just lost me. You’ve shut the door on your client and basically told them flat out that if they won’t call you, you don’t want their business. My instant reaction would be, “Like hell…”

    Plus the bit about “willing to pay for it” comes off a little condescending.

    I think you can find a better approach than that to leave doors open and sound friendlier – without sounding arrogant.

  31. @James – yeah, but you don’t know where my mind’s been… 🙂

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..Catch the brainwaves of Patricia Mayo

  32. I don’t know why I end up in spam. I suspect Askimet – I think someone, somewhere, probably didn’t like some comment I made and flagged me. I assume they have a central database?

    It’s damn annoying.. I went to Askimet’s site but don’t see anyplace where you can tell them “Sheesh, I’m NOT a spammer”.

    So I guess I AM a spammer.. at least from now on. Anybody want to buy some Viagra?

    Tony Lawrence’s last blog post..Linux Lunacy by Anthony Lawrence

  33. I am fucking *laughing* my ass off, Tony. That comment? Viagra and all? Never hit the spam filter – and that’s the first time in WEEKS.

  34. Brett Legree says:


    It is the revenge of Microsoft. They’ve hacked the Akismet ruleset and anytime a *nix guy leaves a comment, it gets relegated to spam. Unless the *nix guy tries to sell Viagra…

    Maybe you should try that at my blog next time 🙂

    Brett Legree’s last blog fridays – the unwise man.

  35. Great post James. In fact, when you know what you are good at, and what you tend to suck at, and you are honest and upfront about it, I find people want to do business with you. They know you will give them the straight goods about other things too, and not simply try to put yourself in a good light.

    Harmony’s last blog post..Are You BIG Enough To Take Up Space?

  36. Meryl K. Evans says:

    Finding middle ground between confidence and arrogance is tricky. Many bloggers and writers start off as a joy to read and then slowly make us think, “They’re full of themselves.” It happens to nice people and they don’t realize it. I always fear crossing that chasm (that is, if I haven’t — I hope).

    That’s why I ask my clients how I am doing after working with them for a little bit. Then at the end of an engagement, I ask for a testimonial (even from a client where things didn’t work out).

    Recently, a writer sent a newsletter telling everyone to check out her new blog — comments were pouring in. Maybe I read too much into it — to me, it came off as arrogance. Here was this writer who had just started a blog bragging how popular it is.

    Or maybe as a long-time and tired blogger… it’s a case of green-eyed syndrome. But hey, I really have green eyes.

    Where’s the line between promotion and information?

    Meryl K. Evans’s last blog post..Pocket PC Magazine Accepting Nominations for 2008

  37. I’m super new to the real estate game because I have owned a carpet cleaning company for so long. At first I found it really hard to promote myself but then I just realized I had skills which a lot of other agents didn’t. I knew about construction, carpet, tile, and floods. On top of that I am a specialist in odor removal. Once I got my confidence up with that I was more confident in promoting myself.


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