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In the professional services world, dozens of businesses make the same lazy marketing mistake:

They use commoditized statements to advertise their brand.

  • “We have the best customer service.”
  • “We offer the best value for the price”
  • “We really care.”

The marketing teams at these companies are so entrenched in the business that they forget to step back and evaluate these statements as an outsider. Perhaps you truly have the best customer service, but saying you do does not prove anything.

If anybody can say it about their business, it’s a commoditized statement, and it does nothing to differentiate your brand.

Most professional service businesses — banks, law firms, accounting firms, etc. — offer essentially the same services. So how can these companies differentiate themselves? By shining a spotlight on the people who work there.

To differentiate yourself, you have to identify what is unique about your business. And the only thing that is truly unique about your business is the people who work there.

Personal branding enables service businesses to differentiate themselves from all of their competitors.

How do you do personal branding at a corporate level?

The first step is to empower your employees to tell their own stories on social media, especially on LinkedIn. Any time they invest in building their personal brand while working for your company is time spent building the company’s brand. If you’re still shaky on this point, read my previous blog post about the fears that keep people from developing their personal brand.

The next step is to use your corporate platform to tell your employees’ stories. Why do they do what they do? What makes them proud? Why do they feel that their work at your company is critically important?

In my work providing social media marketing strategy for law firms, banks, and financial services organizations, I’ve seen many examples of companies that embraced personal branding and leveraged it to grow their business, as well as companies that have missed great opportunities because they weren’t ready to try something new.

Here are two examples of how to apply personal branding strategies to a business:

The big anniversary:

Most companies build some kind of publicity campaign around their big anniversaries — 25 years, 50 years, 100 years, etc. Surviving in business for multiple decades lends credibility to a brand, and is absolutely worth celebrating. However, this anniversary also gives you permission to do something very few are.

Drawing on the principles of personal branding — shining a spotlight on the people who make your organization unique — here are two ways you could approach celebrating that anniversary:

  • Invite your employees to share their own significant milestones that they will celebrate that year: 20th wedding anniversary, 30th high school reunion, finally becoming debt free.
  • Invite your clients who are celebrating a significant anniversary to share their stories on your social media and blogging platforms. What lessons has a small tool and die shop learned from 45 years in business? How much has the printing industry changed in 30 years and how has a local printer adapted? How has a local construction company survived to the third generation?

And let’s be clear, the point of these campaigns is NOT to go to your clients or employees fishing for compliments. You’re not trying to end each anniversary story with a quote such as, “And there’s no way we would have survived as long as we have without an amazing relationship with our banker/lawyer/advisor!” You’re not trying to position yourself as the savior.

By making your clients or your employees look good, you look good. That’s all you have to do.

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The big award:

When businesses win impressive awards from industry associations or publications — like Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, or a local business publication’s Business of the Year award, or a construction trades association’s Contractor of the Year award, etc. — they often throw a big party, print a few banners and plaques to display around the office, and then call it a day.

They’re missing a big opportunity. An award like this creates an opportunity to provide value to your current and potential clients.

  • Share how you did it.

Business awards usually require a complicated application process that may involve surveying your employees or your clients and assembling materials to submit to a panel of judges. If you have won an award multiple times, you may have developed some time-saving tricks and learned some lessons about the best ways to guarantee consistent performance.

The expertise that you have gained is knowledge that your clients could benefit from, even though it may seem completely unrelated to your core business function. An insurance company or a law firm will gain credibility in the eyes of its clients and potential clients by sharing its own case study of how to win a prestigious award.

In the example of an award recognizing you as a top place to work, you can take that opportunity to put whoever is responsible for maintaining your company culture, which is probably not the CEO, in the spotlight.

  • Share the impact the award is having on your company.

If the awards you win are truly meaningful (and thus worth promoting), they will have a lasting impact on your company. Perhaps the awards serve as motivation to your teams to work harder all year long, and winning the award gives them pride in what they do. Or perhaps the award reflects the culture that you have created by treating your employees as well as your clients. When you share how you won the award, you should share the impact it has had on your employees. Now that we won this award, we want to show you how you could win it too and why you should want to.

An award gives you an opportunity to speak from authority. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Personal branding can guide your corporate marketing strategy and help you differentiate yourself by providing real value to your clients. Start both embracing and implementing these ideas now.