If you are a professional who needs to sell yourself and your service, then your clients and your target market are truly buying the brand of ‘you’. Whether we realize it or not, we all have a personal brand already. So the real challenge lies in creating, controlling and then promoting the brand you want others to see. In fact, in today’s extremely competitive marketplace, it’s more important than ever to create a brand for you and service that is memorable – and seen as indispensable to your target clients. A strong brand builds the real value of your firm and the perceived value of your service in your client’s mind. Here are the answers to FIVE key questions surrounding personal branding.
Question #1 – What is Personal Branding? Let’s begin with marketing guru, Seth Godin’s definition of a brand in general. “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists.” Personal branding is simply the process of marketing yourself by establishing a prescribed image or perception in the minds of others. It’s a promise you make about the value clients will receive from working with you.
Question #2 – We Have a Great Firm Brand Already – Why Do I Need a Personal Brand? When you first start out as an attorney or financial advisor building your practice, it can be helpful to be a part of a larger, well-established firm. Even if people do not know you yet, they will trust your firm’s name or brand. For associates and junior partners, the stronger the firm brand, the easier it will be for them to build their own books of business. A strong firm brand can help a lesser-known professional get the better speaking gig, appointment to a prestigious nonprofit board or be quoted by the media. However, as you become more established in your practice and want to bring in more clients of your own, you want your clients to trust you to deliver the service they need – not the name of your firm. You want to be seen as the expert and someone they cannot function without. Again to quote Seth Godin from his new book “Linchpin,” “The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.”
Question #3 – How Do I Create My Own Personal Brand? First you need to decide ‘who you are’ and ‘what you want to be known for.’ Some questions to consider as you are creating your personal brand are:
- What services do I offer?
- Who is my target market?
- What value do I provide my clients?
- What is unique about my service – or what do I do better than my competitors?
- What concerns do I alleviate for my target market?
- What do I want my clients to tell others about me when they are referring me?
We recommend answering these questions yourself – and then even better – ask these questions to some of your “A-Level” clients! You can do this by surveying them, asking them yourself or by hiring a marketing firm to call some of your best clients and ask them.
Question #4 – How Do I Communicate My Personal Brand? Once you have compiled some information about yourself, your target market and your unique value, you will then want to consistency communicate it. You can do that by first writing a ‘brand statement’ about yourself which you will use to direct your on-going marketing strategies, decisions and daily activities. You will also use this information to create and communicate a strong elevator speech as well. A brand statement, simply put, is defining who you are – and who you help. This should be a one-sentence statement about yourself to use as a basis for your conversations with prospects and referral sources and also as a basis for your marketing strategy as well. Then build that out a bit more into answering 1) who you are 2) what you do 3) who you help 4) the value you bring. From there, you can begin to promote your unique value to your target market, both of which clear now… if you have done your homework.
Question #5 – How Do I Promote My Personal Brand? Let’s remember what the word ‘promote’ means: to change the rank or position of (someone) to a higher or more important one. Once you have created your personal brand, now we need to ensure that your brand is being remembered and recalled more than your competitors. There are essentially two ways you can do this. One is through your own personal marketing efforts, which we commonly refer to as ‘push marketing.’ This means as you network with others and talk with your clients and prospects, you are being mindful of your personal brand statement. Stay focused on the experience you want others to have as they interact with you – and stay focused on providing value to them. The second way you can promote your personal brand is through your ‘pull marketing’ efforts. A strong pull marketing strategy takes more time to create – but ultimately has a high return. Pull marketing is essentially creating a content marketing strategy that will allow your thought-leadership (and your value) to be communicated to your prospects, clients and referral sources in outlets where they can find it themselves (as opposed to you pushing it on them). You want to make your expertise and your value accessible to them in multiple places and multiple ways in which it’s easy for them to find you on their own. Some examples of this strategy are:
- Sharing articles of value on social media outlets (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc.)
- Writing blog posts with content that is of value to your target market
- Creating and posting client stories (case studies) on your website
- Writing articles for trade associations where your prospects are
- Distributing a newsletters with valuable content
- Presenting at a symposium or conference where your target market is – on a topic that is of most concern to them
In summary, creating and promoting your personal brand is essential to your success as a professional services provider. It will take some time, thought and effort to do, but the results will make all the difference in whether you ultimately experience long-term success in your chosen profession.