Hi, I’m Andy, and I’m an introvert.
I gain energy from my ideas and thoughts, as well as conversations in small groups.
I’m not a naturally talkative person. Actually, I was born with what was known at the time as semantic pragmatic disorder. I also developed severe social anxiety, something that I still work through.
On most days, I feel like I am learning how to confidently communicate with people. And I am almost 37 years old.
So naturally, the profession that I have dedicated the last decade to learning and pursuing with every ounce of my energy is….marketing.
Why marketing is a natural fit for introverts
Modern marketing is all about connecting with people and helping them succeed on their journeys.
We live in a noisy world. You experience on a daily basis how many people are trying to get your attention. Your phone keeps buzzing with notifications from your inbox, Facebook, and countless other apps.
Your Facebook feed is filled with boosted posts and ads from companies trying to reach you. Your Instagram and Twitter feeds are starting to fill up with ads as well.
Companies are still trying to interrupt your TV viewing experience with ads. Now that you’ve gotten around that with your DVR, they have invaded your YouTube viewing experience.
We have so many stimuli coming at us at all times. And the people that you’re trying to reach have the same problem.
So what do we do?
Here’s what not to do
We should not, under any circumstances:
- Try to yell more loudly to gain people’s attention
- Try to yell more frequently to gain people’s attention
- Try to figure out new ways of interrupting them to put what we’re selling in front of them
There will always be people and companies who can yell more loudly and frequently than you can. Plus, many of them have the added benefit of being extroverts.
Here’s what to do
Now that you and I have the same tools to reach out to people that big companies have; including email, websites, and social media; there’s only one thing we can do:
Connect with, and build relationships with, the people you are trying to reach.
We may not derive energy from large crowds, but we sure love conversations with small groups or just one-on-one. When it comes to connection, we don’t thrive on volume. We thrive on depth.
In order to get people’s attention, we have to speak to them in a way that resonates. We have to speak to their hopes. Their dreams. Their fears.
Whatever their problem is, we have to speak about it in a way that shows them:
- That we understand what they’re going through
- That we can help them overcome it if they connect with us
That is the introvert’s advantage. The appropriate depth of connection between us and our customers is what will get their foot in the door. And our job as marketers is to get the appropriate people’s foot in the door.
Developing your career as an introverted marketer
Being an introvert and going into marketing can seem daunting. You may work at a company full of extroverts who have no problem throwing ideas out during brainstorming sessions.
You may also go to conferences that are full of extroverts who seemingly have no problem networking and talking to strangers.
I have now been developing my career as a marketer and going to conferences for the past decade. I finally feel like I’m starting to get good at it.
Hopefully, you can benefit from my experience and maybe have a slightly shorter learning curve (only slightly, though).
Becoming an effective marketer at work
This assumes that you work as part of an organization, either as full-time staff or a contractor or otherwise.
Whenever you have one-on-one’s with your supervisor and others, listen to them. Listen to their concerns. Listen to what they need. Ask clarifying questions to get more information from them.
The more of an understanding you get from them, the more you can connect with them and provide solutions and support.
Become a person they trust. Become their right-hand. Help them succeed.
When it comes to big group meetings, you don’t always have to contribute. If you don’t have anything to say that day, or simply can’t bring yourself to say it, that’s ok.
Keep having the small group and one-on-one conversations. Keep up those lines of communication.
Once enough people consider you someone they trust, and someone who could be their right-hand, it will become easier for you to contribute during big meetings.
Maybe you don’t contribute now because you’re afraid of looking stupid or getting a negative reaction.
However, if you have established yourself as a person of trust, and you believe that internally, it’ll be much easier for you to contribute during big meetings.
Becoming an effective marketer at conferences
You need professional development in an industry that evolves as quickly as ours.
Yes, you can learn just about anything you want online. Mostly for free, too.
You can take the approach of going home after work, closing the door to your place, and learning in peace and quiet.
However, conferences offer huge benefits which you can’t find in the comfort of your living room:
- Networking opportunities to help you advance your career
- Meeting vendors that may be able to help you do your job better
- Speakers that go deeper into topics at a level that we can’t get for free
- Really cool swag….we love swag, don’t we???
Yes, conferences are incredibly beneficial, and incredibly daunting for us. Many of them are in big rooms full of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people; many of whom are extroverts.
So, how do we deal with this?
Introvert networking tip one: look for small groups and quiet corners
You thrive on small group and one-on-one conversations, right?
So, look for small groups and people who are also there alone.
You don’t have to work the entire room. You don’t have to try and jump into a conversation in a big group if it doesn’t seem like there’s room for you there.
Simply observe if there are small groups and quiet corners at the venue where you can more easily and naturally connect with people.
That’s what you’re there for. Just to connect with people.
You don’t know what kind of opportunity the next connection you make can bring. Maybe it won’t bring you anything. Maybe it’ll get you a job five or ten years down the road. Maybe you’ll hit jackpot right away.
You just don’t know. The only thing you do know is that if you don’t connect with people, absolutely nothing will happen.
So, what happens if you go for an entire conference without connecting with anyone?
Well, that’s ok. It happens to all of us. It has happened to me several times.
You simply acknowledge that it happened and then go to the next conference. And then the next one. And then the one after that.
I have gone to many, many conferences. In my tenth year of doing so, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin around other attendees. It will happen if you just keep at it.
Introvert networking tip two: use social media to facilitate offline interactions
Us marketers love using social media at conferences, right? I just finished attending Digital Summit Philadelphia, and like many other conferences for marketers and tech people, Twitter was on fire.
We can use hashtags to find other conferences attendees. We can use them to contribute to the conversation. We can live-tweet sessions. We can retweet astute observations, quotables, and relevant cat memes.
We can also use Twitter to utter the following:
- Would anyone be interested in a small group lunch today?
- Who is down for doing happy hour after the last session today?
- Who wants to do a tweetup at the big after-party?
That’s what I mean by using social media to facilitate offline interactions.
It’s much easier for you to tweet than to approach a stranger. If you get any bites to your offers on Twitter, then those people are no longer strangers and are now more approachable.
If you don’t get any bites from those offers, that’s ok. Congratulate yourself on having the guts to make those offers. The more times you practice having guts, the better you get at it and the more frequently you can summon the strength to do it.
Learn, process, and take time to rest
Though networking is an important component at conferences, you’re also there to learn, of course!
Dive into learning about the latest industry trends. Learn from the experience of others when they present case studies. Absorb everything you can that’s important to you.
Take the time that you need to process what you’ve learned.
A large amount of learning, processing, and networking in a short time span can sap anyone’s energy. Make sure to take the time you need to rest and recharge your batteries. If that means going out for a walk or going back to your hotel room or another private space, then do what you need to do.
You can’t learn, process, or network on drained batteries. You’re at the conference to help yourself and your organization, so play it smart based on your needs.
To be an effective marketer, you have to be noisy
I don’t mean noisier than the noisiest. I mean more noisy than you are used to being.
In order to get anywhere in your career, and in life, you have to speak up. As the famous philosopher Shawn Carter AKA Jay-Z once said, “a closed mouth don’t get fed.”
You have to speak up. You have to contribute. You have to make noise.
I can’t promise any particular result of when you do make noise. I can’t reassure you that it’ll be received well.
What I can say is that more often than not, the reaction of others won’t be nearly as bad as you think it’ll be.
Sometimes it’ll be good. Sometimes it’ll be neutral. Rarely will it be catastrophic or life-changing.
The manner that you use to make noise doesn’t matter. Whether through talking, tweeting, blogging, or otherwise. It all counts. Just make noise.
Put your ideas out there. Put your opinions out there. Put who you are out there.
If you do it over and over again, your ability to do so strengthens like a muscle. Sometimes, it feels like it gets easier. Other times, it still feels incredibly hard, but your muscle memory kicks in and you can bring yourself to do it anyway.
Be the brave, passionate marketer that you were born to be
You got into marketing because you want to help people succeed. These people include:
- Potential customers who can solve their problems by connecting with you
- Your colleagues who can benefit from you showing them how to connect better with your potential customers
You are the advocate for the customer. Without them, you have no money and therefore no company. Your ability to connect with them makes you a valuable, trustworthy person. To both them and your colleagues.
Your value comes from helping people succeed. As long as you focus on doing that, then it is much more difficult to be self-conscious.
We wonder if our ideas are good enough in comparison to others. We wonder if we’re being too quiet. Or if we should network more. Or any number of things.
We become self-conscious when we think about ourselves in comparison to others.
The more you focus on being of service to others, the less time you have to think about yourself and your wrong perceptions about yourself.
The more you serve, the less you shy away from moments where your contributions are needed the most.
Marketers are here to serve. That’s why you got into this business in the first place. To be of service.
So go do it. Do it bravely. Do it proudly. Do it passionately. Do it with every ounce of who you are.
This is an introvert’s game now. So come out and play!