This is a quiz.
What’s the best definition of “brand?”
1. Noun – A type of product manufactured by a company under a particular name.
Verb – Mark with a branding iron.
- Noun – mark, stamp, sort, kind, make, trademark
- Verb – stigmatize, stamp, mark
2. “….While many people refer to a brand as a logo, tag line or audio jingle, a brand is actually much larger. A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.“
I used to think that it was Definition #1. I thought a brand was a visible symbol for a consumer product, i.e. the Nike swoosh, McD’s golden arches, etc. I certainly didn’t think branding applied to consultants and other professionals.
I was wrong.
Your clients and colleagues expect you to deliver something. That is your brand.
You know you have a brand if two things happen regularly:
- Clients and colleagues refer you to great opportunities.
- Out of the blue, people contact you about your services.
What Is a Brand, Anyway?
A professional brand has very little to do with appearances: logo, business card, color pallets, etc. It’s all about perception. The real benefit of a brand is its ability to generate referrals and new business.
Your brand consists of the following:
Expertise + Credibility + Visibility = Brand
- Expertise—Your Services, Your Target Market, and the Problems You Solve.
- Credibility—Your Message, Your Reputation.
- Visibility—Awareness in Your Marketplace.
You build a brand by doing three things:
- Making your clients evangelists by doing terrific work for them.
- Having an niche and explaining it clearly.
- Showcasing your expertise via networking, social media, speaking, and writing.
What Do You Do?
Start with your expertise/niche: what you offer, whom you serve, and the problems you solve. If you don’t get that right, you’re toast.
Clients and referral sources won’t know how to refer you. And you’ll send a very fuzzy message to your larger target audience. You’ll spin your wheels.
Your prospects and referral sources want to do business with specialists, not generalists. They want to understand what you do and how to differentiate you from your competitors. If you position yourself as someone who can do anything for anybody, you’re in big trouble.
First, define the services you offer. Get very specific: new product launches, marketing strategy, branding, etc. Don’t just say you’re a marketing consultant.
Next, what is the market you serve? Break it down very specifically:
- Company size.
- Title of decision-maker.
Then put it together in a sentence. Something like—“I help Fortune 500 companies launch new beverages in international markets.”
Your next challenge is to create a compelling message. This is where many professionals fall short.
They not only fail to explain what they do. They don’t stress the results and benefits of their work.
I think this is the main reason some professionals don’t get more referrals. Their colleagues simply don’t understand what they do and can’t identify opportunities for them.
I think this is a good example of a market researcher’s elevator speech. It clearly explains what he does, whom he serves, and the results he produces.
“I help large packaged goods companies (Target Market) understand why consumers decide to buy one brand over another (Specialty). For example, just last week I presented findings to a client where we uncovered X, Y, Z (Results). It’s…likely to lead to $200 million in new sales (Value) over the next three years…”
OK, now you’ve got a well defined niche and a great message. But you can’t just tell your five best networking buddies and expect the business to pour in.
Certainly, you want to be in regular contact with key clients and referral sources. You also have to showcase your expertise to a wider audience.
The best way to do this is by speaking and writing. Find venues where your target market hangs out. Then get some speaking gigs.
I publish a biweekly newsletter and send it to some 700 contacts. This has generated numerous speaking engagements for me and also produced some new clients.