I’m Boring or How to market yourself without being controversial

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This past week I was on vacation at the in-laws cottage. My son brought a friend and the two of them spent much of the week listening to music by the Arrogant Worms. They listened so much that every time I woke in the middle of the night I’d have one of their songs running through my head.I'm boring or How to market yourself without being controversial

One song has stuck with me, for a reason other than the sheer repetition. “I’m boring” is about a nerd who talks too much about boring topics so people run away from him.

While there was some joking around that this was about my husband who does like to talk about science a little too much, it does have a marketing connotation.

You may have noticed some online superstars – you know, the ones with thousands, if not millions of followers.

Many of them became popular because they are controversial. They say over-the-top things that get the online world buzzing. People reply, people argue about them, people visit their sites to see what all the fuss is about. They’re not boring!

One colleague of mine recently rebranded herself to be a little more “in-your-face”. She’s being more blunt and less polite all in an effort to be “more authentic”. This revamped version seems to be working for her.

And yes, being authentic online is essential, particularly if you’re using social media. And being controversial helps. If you can get people arguing about you and your ideas, well, as they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

But what if your authentic self is, well … boring?

I mean, what if you don’t go around swearing like a trucker? What if you just can’t bring yourself to talk about your bowel movement during a podcast? What if you don’t have opinions that are contrary to the majority?

Are you doomed to obscurity and business failure?

I don’t think so.

Remember Bill Mahr’s old tv show Politically Incorrect? It was wildly popular because people were speaking their minds. However, I often found the show tedious. Many guests were on the show saying outrageous things not because that was their firmly held beliefs, but because they felt they needed to be outrageous to get noticed.

It’s the same with marketing. If you try to be outrageous, controversial or in-your-face just for the sake of attracting attention, you’re doomed to fail for two reasons. First, eventually people will see through your attempts and brand you as a fraud. They’ll wonder, if your marketing is a lie, what else is.

Second, if people don’t see through your façade, when they meet the real you to do business with you, you’ll have attracted people who aren’t an ideal fit. They won’t enjoy working with you and you won’t enjoy working with them. And worse, the people who would like to work with someone less controversial will have moved on to someone else.

You can successfully market yourself even if you’re polite, have moderate views and think some topics are off limits in public. You can be the milder, gentler marketer. You just have to know where to draw the line between gentle and truly boring.

Where many baby boomers fall short is including something of themselves in their marketing. We grew up in a more private time. Not everyone knew your business, even in a small town. And if you have corporate experience, you know that sometimes it pays to keep your mouth shut. Talking too much about your private life can hurt.

But when marketing online, you need to show you’re a real person. If you’re only talking business, you will be seen as boring (or pushy) and people will move on. You have a life outside of your businesses so share some of it.

If you do, you may not spark a flame war on the blogs, but you’ll gradually build a following who is genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Andrea J. Stenberg

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