WCSEA 2015: Eric Amundsen — An Introverts Guide to Marketing Your Web Business

I’m at WordCamp Seattle today and will be post­ing notes from ses­sions through­out the day. These are posted right after the session, and could be a little rough.

This is a talk from Eric Amundson, team lead at IvyCat. Find Eric at @sewmyheadon on Twitter and at ivycat.com on the web. Here is the WordCamp.org session description.

I distinctly remember first meeting Eric at WordCamp Portland’s Developer Day three years ago. Eric was quiet, but knew what he was talking about when he spoke up. He came across to me as intensely smart and credible. It’s fun to imagine what he might’ve been thinking at that moment, given what I learned about his perspective in this talk.

What is an Introvert

Introverts generally favor solitude and alone time, live a lot in their heads, and find social gatherings draining.

Extroverts in contrast are very outgoing, don’t like being alone much, and prefer to be among people. They tend to obtain gratification from things outside of themselves. They’re energized by social gatherings.

There are many introverts within the developer community, which makes sense because it’s a solitary activity. There are many companies employing hugely talented introverts all over the world. There are many introverts among us.

Eric at WordCamp San Francisco

About four (I think) years ago Eric felt that IvyCat was at a cross roads. He was in debt, and needed more business. He needed some new employees. He thought he needed to do more than just learn more, or he was at risk of shutting down and folding.

His best idea for what to do about this was to take two days to drive from Gig Harbor, Washington down to San Francisco. During the drive he enjoyed being by himself and “making progress on his audiobooks”.

But once he arrived at the venue, he was completely overwhelmed by so many people. He kind of closed down. He wasn’t rude, but he left early, and kicked himself on the two day drive back for not taking more advantage of the opportunity.

These things are really hard for shy, introverted people. They’re scary. Extroverts should realize many people are like this. Introverts should realize they aren’t alone in this, but they can overcome it without changing themselves but by engaging more to build profitable, growing businesses through relationships — like Eric has.


Marketing is relationship-building. It’s trying to build enough trust to get to do business with people.

Seek to build relationships with people with complementary strengths.

Marketing Tactics for Introverts

One on One

One on one in-person interactions are always more efficient. When you meet in person, you can use all of your senses to get to understand and know them, and be more focused on a meaningful interaction.

You can tell so much more about someone from this kind of interaction than from group interactions.

View conferences as rich opportunities not to interact with everyone, but to find people to have meaningful one-on-one conversations with.

Keep it simple

Eric had spread himself too thin, and been the “jack of all trades, master of none.” Growing out of this, and finding focus, was very difficult and painful. But it’s been worth it: Clients don’t want generalists, so more focused bidders tend to win contracts.

So, build one-on-one relationships with people who’ve focused on things you choose not to focus on, so that your focuses can be mutually complementary. You can share meaningful referral relationships.

Have an elevator pitch

Have a simple one-sentence answer to the question “What do you do?”

Introverts hate it when people are on the hunt with their pitch, trying to give as many business cards out as possible in a “target rich networking environment”. Not because they hate people, but because it’s a trust issue. You get one chance with this approach, especially with introverts, and you probably blow it if you’re more focused on giving out cards to the next person than focused on the person you’re talking with right now.

Instead, give people your pitch in casual, natural conversations. Build relationships over time and you can build trust and come to rely on people over time.

Have a goal (or two)

Make a game out of having a checklist to focus on, for what you’d like to accomplish at events — rather than focusing on how nervous you are.

Be Engaged

It takes time to be available to people in this way. Put in the time.

Put down your devices. Despite what you think, you really can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. People see how you interact and what you’re doing with your time, so if you’re on your phone, that says something to people — about how you’re not interested in them.

Write down peoples’ names if it helps. Take notes on their business cards, so you can remember.

Business cards are important still. They allow you to take notes to remember people later, and they also give introverts something to fiddle with if they’re feeling nervous.

Embrace the small groups you find yourself in.

Ask questions. It’s hard to find the courage, but it’s a very effective way to break the ice: Ask hard questions first to get them out of the way. And then, ask open-ended questions. They get others talking, which an keep the focus on them instead of yourself.

Volunteering to help others is easy to do and build cred.

Look Stupid: it’s the new Smart

Imposter Syndrome: Living with the fear of being found out. Both introverts and extroverts deal with this, but extroverts tend to live it out loud, which is the right way to deal with it, whereas introverts ruminate it, which can sink them.

Eric’s story of breaking the fear of looking stupid

At an event with breakout groups, Eric noticed the user and blogger group were chatting up a storm, loud as heck, while the developer group he was a part of was quiet — introverted.

So he said: “Hey, I’m not too proud to ask a stupid question”, and asked one of his developer group cohort a question. This had neat side effects:

  1. He got an answer to his question! Which is what he wanted.
  2. It got people talking — and then it kept people talking. It began a conversation that’s kept going.
  3. Other people attributed smarts to him.
  4. It made the experience fun. It was a great experience.

Keep an Open Source Attitude

Marketing isn’t about making sure everyone knows your name, etc. It’s about building relationships. Contributing. Showing up and trying to help others. If you put good energy out there, it comes back to you.

So many good things come out of it, including: Mutually profitable friendships that you can strike up just by sitting down next to someone and saying hello.


Watch wordpress.tv for an engaging and moving story at the end that I’m not going to try and capture here.

This talk has been a positive emotional highlight so far for me today — a feel good victory for everyone in the room. :)