3 promotional pitfalls to avoid in your personal brand business.

Janine Coombes looking worried in front of rocky terrain

As someone with a personal brand, you naturally want people to be convinced that they should work with you.

You KNOW you can help them. You KNOW they need you. Why isn’t it obvious for all to see what a precious pumpkin you are?

Unfortunately, telling people how fabulous you are doesn’t make for very compelling promotional copy. No matter how ‘right’ it feels.

Instead, you need to be able to explain the benefit of what you do and how you do it. Then the client can make up their own mind.

In this blog, I’m going to delve into the three most common pitfalls when promoting yourself and your services.  And what you can do instead.

Personal Brand Pitfall no. 1:

Talking about what you do

Here’s how most business owners go about promoting themselves:

‘Hi, I’m Emily and I do X. And the reason I’m so good at it is Y.’

People don’t care what you do.

They only care about themselves.

They want to hear how you can fix their problems. How you can help them reach their goals.

The awkward thing is, most people can’t even articulate clearly what their goals are.

How on earth are we meant to explain why they should work with us then? 

We’ll come to that in a bit, but for now…

Personal Brand Pitfall no. 2:

Explaining your unique selling point (USP)

There is merit in getting clear on your strengths and your USP, but that’s not so you can ram it down people’s throat at every given opportunity.

I know, I know, you wouldn’t do that! You’re a nice person who’s respectful of other people’s throats.

People are merrily in their own heads. They’re not interested in why you’re fantastic even if you try and relate it to how you can help them.

What should you do instead? Bear with me, it’s coming.

Personal Brand Pitfall no. 3:

Trying to sell what people need

You’re good at what you do. You know what your clients need to do to succeed. You’re the expert in your field after all, not them.

But people don’t care about what they need. They think in terms of what they want. If you start telling them about what they need without understanding what they want or worse, you’re not even aware of what they want, your messages will fall on deaf ears.

A classic example of this is Weight Watchers. Their communications don’t bang on about how they help people eat more sensibly, exercise more and stick to it. Because that’s what their customers need to do.

They talk about what their customers want. To be happy and confident and to go on that journey with the support of a like minded group of people. So that’s what they focus on in their comms.

How you can make this work for you

The tripwires at the top of these common pitfalls are assumptions.

I want that to be said in a scary, horror movie voice.


Basing your messaging on assumptions is a one-way ticket to Time-Waste City. It’s horrible there, you wouldn’t want to go. It’s a desolate and confidence-sucking place to be.

You probably know what your ideal customers need.

But are you absolutely sure you know what they want? Or are you assuming you know because you need to get that sales page out now, now, now!

Get clear on what your dream client WANTS. In their words. Expressing their exact situation. Where they are sitting right now.

The technique I’m going to take you through now is really hard-hitting and mind-blowing.

Strap yourself in…

The best way to check whether your assumptions about your ideal customers are correct or not is to…


I know. Earth shattering stuff.

Three ways to do this:

1. You know those amazing clients you’ve worked with?

The one(s) you wished you could clone? Think back to them. What did they say to you on their sales call about what they were struggling with? What lightbulb moments did you give them and what issues did you solve for them while you were working together? Jot them all down. Use them.

2. How about that person you’d love to work with.

You see them wrestling with something. You want to reach out through your laptop screen, grab them by the collar and yell ‘let me help you for goodness sake!’. Ask them if they wouldn’t mind a 15-minute call with you to talk about what they’re trying to achieve.

3. That person you were so convinced they were going to work with you but they said no.

Take a deep breath, and ask them for some feedback. The biggest insights often come from people who’ve turned you down. Why did they say no? If they say it was the price, dig deeper. People only say no to the cost of something when they don’t see the value in it. What did they hope that you were going to say on that sales call that ended in a no?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to send out surveys to get feedback from people.

The best market research, for the purpose of defining what your ideal client wants, involves getting a few of the right people on the phone for a chinwag.

It’s likely to yield better insight because you’ll be able to ask them follow-up questions. Probing their issues delicately. You’re more likely to uncover precious keywords and phrases that they use to describe their situation. USE THOSE WORDS. Unadulterated. Right back at them on your website, in your sales copy and your content.

Worked with any non-ideal clients?

You can flip this and use phrases that your non-ideal clients say in your sales copy and content.

I had a client who was amazing at what she did, but she kept saying ‘give me ideas’. I duly emailed her ideas crafted to her and her situation, but she didn’t even look at them let alone act on them.

I decided then and there, if people want ideas, they can use Google. If they want insight and personalised strategies for success, they come to me.

I started putting ‘we won’t work well together if all you want is a list of ideas’ in my sales copy. I haven’t had a client like that since.

Do Need Want: examples

Here are a few examples worked through so you can see for yourself how more compelling the wants are versus the needs and the do.

NameWhat you doWhat you know your dream client needsWhat your dream client actually wants
Janine (me!)Business and Marketing coach and consultantTo get clear on their goals.
To streamline their activities.
To focus on the few things that are going to yield the most income and that they’re going to enjoy delivering.
To have a business they can be proud of.
To know they are living up to their potential.
To earn the money they deserve that gives them the freedom to live their life how they want.
EmilySystems and automation expertTo focus on what they do best rather than tasks they’re not good at and that they could automate.To magically produce more time.
To free up a whole day a week to be able to grow their business and move it to the next level.
BiancaChild nutritionistTo give their child a balanced diet so they grow up healthy and strong.To be a normal family and to not dread meal times any more.

So let’s revisit that list of pitfalls:

> Don’t talk about what you do.

Instead, talk about their struggles in the words they use themselves. Lead them into your explanation of how you can help.

> Don’t explain why you’re good at what you do.

Once you can show them you understand what they’re going through, illustrate how you fit into that picture of success. Ways to do this include testimonials and case studies that show that you’ve helped people reach where your ideal client wants to go.

> Don’t be tempted to tell people what they need right off the bat.

People will either feel patronised or simply won’t relate to it at all. Instead, show them that you understand what they want. Only then is it appropriate to explain that you’re the person to get them there i.e. showing that you know what they need and how to do it.

Purchase decisions are always made by emotions first. Rational thought comes in second, to back up the first instinct to buy. By selling what your audience want but giving them what they need, you’ll be providing the best value you can.