Building brand YOU

Many service providers are one person shows with the principle doing everything from booking appointments, farming leads and emptying the wastebasket. In other words, it’s a business in which the owner is – the brand.

So, when you’re the star attraction, how do you go about branding yourself?

Here are some tips to help you build a personal brand.

Establish your expertise. A small financial planner started a weekly column on the basics of investing. He owned a small, independent planning business with a couple of assistants.

Within six months, the planners business had increased significantly. However, this was only the beginning.

He spoke at any available event. He spoke to Rotary and other service organisations, and with each speaking engagement, he gathered a few new clients.

There are other ways to build credibility. Teach a class at the local TAFE on your area of expertise. Write a book, build a web site that allows visitors to submit questions that you answer. Post to topic-specific blogs online. Becoming a “figure” on the web works extremely well in building local business. Now the brand is “recognised”.

Manage your hard-won reputation. Reputation management is often misunderstood. It’s much more than being honest with clients. That’s an expectation. It’s like saying “This house even has a roof.” You don’t score extra points for meeting client expectations.

You do earn points for exceeding client expectations. That means different things to different people but certainly includes:

  • using your expertise to deliver value and benefits to the client
  • truthfulness
  • responsiveness
  • reliability
  • personal attention and empathy
  • professionalism in all transactions

The importance of these attributes simply can’t be overstated. When you over-deliver, your reputation grows by word of mouth. There is no better salesperson than a happy client.

A happy client not only sends referrals, he or she also becomes part of your expanding client base. So, reputation management is much more than being honest and keeping things clean. When you’re the brand, you set the standards of quality for your business. Exceed client expectations and your sales force grows with each new client.

Build market recognition. Back to my friend, the financial planner. He produced a weekly video tip. His name and picture appeared weekly in a trade magazine. He spoke at least once a week and he blogged his way to online recognition.

Then he repurposed the content by uploading spots to YouTube, his own web site and Facebook.

Personalise everything because everything is personal. Add your picture to all adverts, business cards, business stationery, website – put your face in front of prospects. Take the time and pay to have a professional photo done. It’s amazing what a good photographer can do.

Show pictures of staff members. Encourage your staff professionals to engage in public speaking at local business events.

Hold a local seminar. Your out-of-pockets can be limited to promotion, the rent on the venue and the cost of a large pot of coffee and some pastries. Chalk the costs up to promotion. Better still find a complementary business that can invite guests and share costs. It’s a great way to get face time with prospects. Be sure to provide useful information. That’s what attendees want.

Build Trust. Without it, you might as well close up shop and move on. Trust develops over time based on honest, ethical, transparent interactions with clients but in the meantime join the local chamber of commerce and attend meetings, and join professional groups and associations.

Branding yourself happens quickly in this age of high-speed, information velocity. Join LinkedIn and start answering questions with authority. Become a expert by answering questions. Offer a free review, analysis, examination, inspection – something of value to your potential clients.

And finally, never walk away from an unhappy client. This falls under the heading of reputation management but deserves its own headline because of its importance.

An unhappy client may not say anything to you. The job is paid for, the client got something – but s/he’s not doing handsprings. That client needs some shoring up. Additional services. A redo at your expense. A refund of payment for services rendered. Whatever it takes, even if it hurts in the pocketbook.

An unhappy client is a lost opportunity. However, if you can turn that unhappy client into a happy client, well there’s no one more fervent than a convert. Make it right. Make it good. And keep the client satisfied at all costs.

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