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Marketing for introverts: Tips for growing your business as an introvert

In many ways, being a founder (and particularly a solopreneur) is a dream gig for introverted folks. After all, you'll spend plenty of time alone. But one thing you'll hear over and over again when starting a business is the importance of building an audience — and for good reason. So what does that mean for introverts?

I'd say I lean toward introversion. Self-promotion is difficult for me. And social media just isn't for me. A few years back, I made myself post daily for a period of about six months and it always felt forced. I didn't feel authentic and I burned out.

So I did a little research on how introverts can thrive as indie hackers, and I'll break it down below.

Introversion vs. social anxiety

A quick note before we get into it: Introversion is not the same as social anxiety (though the two certainly can exist together). Introversion is all about how people gain and lose energy, while social anxiety is a condition that usually involves fear of socializing or being seen and judged by others.

If I'm being honest, much of my introversion could very well be social anxiety — I haven't quite figured that out yet. But I think it's an important distinction to make because social anxiety can often come from trauma and therefore may be something a person can work through in therapy, etc. But introversion isn’t something to fix or heal from (unless it’s causing you suffering). It’s actually a part of how a person has been wired since birth — essentially, introverts are more sensitive to dopamine (a chemical that surges during socializing and novelty) and can easily feel overstimulated by crowds or lots of socializing, while extroverts have low sensitivity to dopamine so require larger amounts of this type of stimulation. And they both have their benefits.

Benefits of being an introvert in business

In many ways, our world is built for extroverts. But there are a ton of advantages to being introverted — even as a founder. In fact, according to a study by Harvard Business Review, companies tend to perform better financially with introverted CEOs.

Here are a few traits that you might be able to use to your advantage:

  • Introverts tend to listen more than they talk. Conveniently, running a business and marketing requires a lot of listening. In fact, HBR says that thanks to their better responses to feedback, introverted CEOs yielded 14% higher profits.
  • Similarly, introverts have been shown to be keen observers, with a better understanding of their social environments.
  • Introverts tend to think before they speak.
  • Introverts are often more creative.
  • Introverts are often deep thinkers and researchers. And that makes them good at making decisions.
  • Introverts are often introspective, and can have a deeper understanding of themselves.
  • Introverts can be more level-headed in stressful situations.

Not bad — and that's barely scratching the surface.

Marketing tips for introverts

As I said above, being a founder is a sweet gig for people who lean toward introversion. But marketing can be a big hangup. So here are some tips on how to market, grow, and thrive.

Be yourself

Don't try to be someone else — even if that person is an extroverted marketing genius. People can smell inauthenticity a mile away. Just be (and market like) your authentic self. Do what you enjoy. Play to your strengths.

Of course, you'll probably have to do some kind of marketing, so try to identify what feels good. Here are a few marketing efforts that may feel comfortable for some introverted folks:

  • Content marketing — here's a guide.
  • Email marketing — here's a guide.
  • SEO — here's a guide for beginners.
  • Ads
  • Social media — I'm skeptical of this one, but I saw a few people arguing that social media is a perfect place for introverts, despite its name.

Whatever it is, find a medium that works for you. And don't stop there — figure out what else works for you (and what doesn't). For example, only distribute as much content as feels right for you. That might mean that you post infrequently, and that's okay as long as it's super valuable. And share only what feels comfortable — you don't necessarily need to bare your soul.

Tip: Some people recommend posting as your brand instead of yourself to ease the discomfort.

Get out of your comfort zone

Yes, it's kinda the opposite of what I said above, but both are true — and it's important to find a balance. In my research, a number of introverts said that it was helpful for them to repeatedly put themselves in positions where they had no option but to interact with people. So test yourself and see what you can do.

If you have a really strong aversion to a specific marketing task, it can be helpful to think about whether your hesitance is due to fear (in which case it might be a growth edge) or if it's just good, old fashioned introversion (in which case, it'll just be draining).

Pace yourself

Start slow and easy. If you push too hard, you might burn out, and that won't help your business. Dip your toe in. Take breaks when you need to. Challenge yourself in small increments. And check in with yourself frequently to see how you're doing. The goal is to catch yourself before you go over the edge instead of trying to recover after you go over it.

Recharge frequently

How do you recharge? Is it a good book? Meditation? Conversation with a close friend? Have that resource on hand and ready to go whenever you need it.

If you need something to lean on to get through tiring activities, focus on your "why" and take energy from your conviction about what you're doing.

And plan ahead. If you know you've got some stressful marketing tasks coming up, make space in your schedule for recharging afterwards.

Outsource or team up

There will probably be a few tasks that you find exhausting. That's a good reason to find a cofounder with different strengths, or simply outsource the tasks.

Create a structure (schedule, office, etc.)

Batch difficult marketing tasks and set a routine for when you'll work on them. This should be uninterrupted, independent work time. And try to schedule social commitments for days where you don't have these difficult tasks.

Of course, it's also important to take advantage of inspiration. So if you're suddenly feeling really social, jump on your platform and spread the love.

In addition to time, set aside some space. Make sure you have a physical space where you can work uninterrupted. Your office should be a sanctuary where you can recharge. For info on optimal office setups, check out this article.

And speaking of interruptions, if you're working with co-founders, employees, clients, stakeholders, or anyone else who might expect immediate responses, set expectations proactively. Let them know when you're available, when you're not, the best way to reach you, and how long it might take you to respond. To put their minds at ease, consider giving them a way to reach you in case of emergency — this has the added benefit of prioritizing their communications so that you don't always feel pressured to respond right away. Keep meetings and other draining (and arguably unnecessary) activities to a minimum. And of course, know when to say no.

Reduce your support load

Reduce your support load and the number of emails you have to respond to with proactive tactics like thorough onboarding, documentation, knowledge bases, tool tips, and FAQs. Chatbots can also be helpful in this regard.

To dive deeper into the possibilities, look into conversational support funnels.

Supplement with growth tactics

If you feel like your marketing efforts aren't going to be enough, you can supplement them with growth tactics. Growth involves marketing but it goes beyond it to include product strategies, monetization models, and so forth. It should help you to bring in more leads and make the most out of each one. Check out Growth Bites for a long list of tactics, many of which are great for introverts.

Remember your value

If you're marketing right, you're offering value. You are helping others. It can be helpful to remind yourself of that from time to time.

Tip: One thing I read again and again is that it gets easier.

What other indie hackers have to say

Let's drive it home with what some fellow introverted indie hackers have said on the topic.

  • According to the venerable (and self-proclaimed introvert) @rosiesherry, "Too many people try to participate in too many places and it becomes overwhelming. Focus on quality relationships and discussions over anything else. It will give you practice...and practice makes permanence."
  • @BartM gives us an important reminder: "Also, don't forget that you and your business are not the same thing. People will reject your business. That doesn't mean that they are rejecting you. Even though you put your heart and soul into a project, don't take it personally. No business is truly universal."
  • A solid tip from @Kevon: "The best way is to find 5 people you admire on Indie Hackers, and follow their journeys, comment, joke, ask questions etc. on IH or Twitter. You should be having fun because you like what they're doing. Just do that to start building up a habit of engaging with real people online. Then go from there. Don't push yourself too hard."
  • Another solid tip, this time from @jasraj: Focus on connecting 1:1 with people, this feels a lot more nourishing and manageable for us introverts (and you can find others on Indie Hackers to do that with, right here)." Also, "Start journaling. Just getting your thoughts out could really help you find 'your voice', and help you with your own journey; then, you can decide if you want to put anything 'out there' as such."
  • On the importance of creating structure so that social behavior feels less out of place, @slideswithfriends said: "...make rules! Would you act like a monkey in the middle of a meeting? Would you act like a monkey in a game of charades? Rules & structure can set us free."
  • @louisbarclay says to follow your enthusiasm: "Respond to things you find interesting. Don't fret about creating great tweets or posts out of nothing. It's OK to be quiet proactively and engaged reactively."
  • And if you want to create a structure that challenges you, @johith schedules two hours a day where he gets on instagram to promote and interact. While there, he has specific rules about what he will and won't do (so that he won't get distracted). Then he's done with social media for the day.

Famous introverts in business

And lastly, some reassurance. If you're an introverted founder, you're in good company. I looked through lots of IH posts trying to find advice for founders, and I noticed something: TONS of indie hackers lean toward introversion.

Even IH fave @patio11 calls himself an introvert. And of course, there are the 800-pound gorillas who are famously introverted, like Larry Page, Marissa Meyer, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and (somewhat surprisingly) Elon Musk.

I guess the internet has made it way easier for introverts to make it in business. Not easy, necessarily, but easier.

How about you?

What do you do to get the word out as an introvert?

  1. 7

    I came in here prepared to be annoyed but this was a great article. Nice to read about introverts when the author actually understands what being an introvert means.

    I am introverted in the extreme and definitely have struggled with the "put yourself out there" aspect of running a company. However I've always stuck my guns and did things my way and it hasn't done any harm.

    1. 1

      Glad it wasn't annoying 😂 I actually saw an old comment from you while I was searching IH for conversations about introversion. If I remember right, you were saying that building an audience isn't actually necessary. Kudos for making it work in a way that feels right for you, that's awesome.

      1. 3

        Thanks and I mean yeah that's my stance. Because when you think about it OF COURSE you don't need to build an audience.

        Think of all the companies out there, young and old; Does every founder have an audience? Of course they don't.

        No-one knew who Zuckerberg was until after Facebook was gigantic. Same with the founders of Uber, Airbnb, Lyft etc etc. In fact even now I couldn't tell you their names.

        However, forget those massive unicorn companies. There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of companies whose founders didn't build an audience.

        So fellow introverts, you don't need to build an audience, just build a good product.

        1. 3

          Hi Mick,
          This is very true - There are tons of successful companies & products out there who's audience is practically non existent - I'll start reminding myself of this next time I start putting pressure on myself 'To build an audience.'
          Thank You

        2. 1

          Those companies you mentioned were all aiming to get funding. (Funding means they had the network but let's put it aside.)

          We as indie hackers are not aiming for funding, which is why it matters to put ourselves out there.

          I don't think anybody can make it online without an audience (in the short term). Like have an audience launch on ProductHunt, become product of the day and reach many more. Then there's not have an audience, launch on PH, fail miserably and write what I learned from PH failure.

          1. 1

            Those companies I mentioned are an exclusive subset, yes. That's why I qualified the statement with the next paragraph:

            However, forget those massive unicorn companies. There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of companies whose founders didn't build an audience.

            And I stand by this. So many companies launch everyday and probably of all those that go on to be successful, are you really trying to say they all built an audience beforehand?

            1. 1

              Just launching is different. Take PR for example, 5 good contacts from previous experience is all it takes. They don't necessarily have to build an audience for this.

              However, launching in a platform where it to takes an audience to succeed is different. Eg. Twitter, PH (this is what most IHers use). If they launch and don't have an audience on these platforms, they're basically talking to themselves.

              1. 1

                So is your point, if you don't build an audience then you can't have a successful company? Is that what you're saying?

                1. 1

                  Short term - little to no success

                  Long term - succeeding in the long term without an audience is possible

                  1. 1

                    I agree with this simplification a little more with the caveat that most businesses see little no success in the short term.

  2. 4

    Thanks for sharing this article. Glad to hear I'm not the only one on the same boat trying to figure out marketing as an introverted indie hacker.

    I've been actually putting marketing to the end, in the back of my mind I have this voice that tells me I need to validate my idea before I continue. To my credit, I'm scratching my own itch, so surely I'm not the only one having the problem... I hope.

    All in all, I plan on putting 100% effort into marketing once I have an MVP to get user feedback. It's actually exciting, but I have no idea how to get customers, I think what's been helping is building in public on Twitter. As I write about my progress I've noticed a number of engaged people so I think there's an interest.

    1. 1

      Hah, yeah you're definitely not! Nice work building in public — that's not always easy but it's super valuable.

      Building your audience and validating your MVP before getting into full marketing mode sounds like a good approach to me. Good luck! 🚀

      1. 2

        Glad to hear it’s not a bad approach. I’m really hoping to wrap up MVP soon! And excited to go into full marketing mode!

  3. 4

    Interesting article. Thanks for that.

    I think the ideas work for someone like me also. Someone who is not a complete introvert, but at the same time, not an extrovert.

    Funny, you should mention social media as an option for introverts. I find social media the hardest thing to deal with. It reminds me of a boisterous party where everyone is trying to get attention. Especially now with the whole "grow your audience" hype. I find it fun to sit in a corner and watch, but getting involved is hard, atleast for me.

    I am giving Twitter a try, but it is a struggle. Does anyone else find social media to be a struggle? How did you'll get comfortable with it?

    1. 2

      Thanks for weighing in! I hope it helps.

      Yeah, social media is a tough one. A few months back, I decided that Twitter was the least-worst option so I created an account. I had high hopes for it. I've posted a grand total of four times now 😬😂.

  4. 2

    Wow, very thorough and great piece this, James.

    I also can't recommend enough Lauren Sapala's book Firefly Magic: Heart-Powered Marketinf for Highly Sensitive Writers.

    I feel like this book is written for introverts (Lauren is one, herself) and it's one I intend to re-visit. It really spoke to me and there are a bunch of great tips in there.

    ps. Lauren's giving away the e-book version for those who join her newsletter.

    1. 2

      Also - I wonder if you might enjoy the #buildinginpublic community on twitter, James. I see other friends from there in this thread, actually (Kevon & Miguel). It feels v. introvert-friendly :)

      1. 1

        Sweet, thanks for the heads up! 👍

    2. 1

      Thanks @jasraj! I appreciate you weighing in with a good book — always a solid bet for introverts 😃

  5. 2

    Super useful tips! I've worked with many introverted people over last year on getting out there in public and I can say that it is not easy, so really happy you're helping on this end.

    Also I love that most tips are around "being okay", there is no need to follow aggressive marketer's style.

    And thanks for including me, my pleasure really!

    1. 1

      Thanks Kevon! Glad you liked it. And thanks for the good tip — I was happy to include it 🙌

  6. 2

    Thanks for this stuff, another thing that helped me a lot: don't take things too seriously, this mindset can reduce fear when its time to go on cold water :)

    Cheers!

    1. 2

      How do you maintain this mindset? Do you have any practices that help?

      1. 2

        This work for me: i try to do things instead of learning them. Learn and apply after was a mess for years for me... But go on the fire and learn by fire give me an excellent way to remember things in my brain (since all issues are way more memorable).

  7. 2

    Another super insightful post 🙂 I especially liked the concept around setting up a good support load, I've not came across that before. Plus the idea of supplementing marketing with growth tactics << This I did know, but its nice to know I'm on the right track.

    1. 1

      Thanks Janinah! Glad you found it helpful 😃

  8. 1

    Hey James, great and insightful post! And just the read I needed. Social media is one of those things that has to be done and well these days if you even want to stand a chance. My team and I have been working on a new toolkit (called GrindZero Social) that makes the whole social process that you describe much easier and more straightforward. Cheers 🍻

    1. 1

      Thanks! Sounds cool, good luck 🙌

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