People like to buy from people who they know, like and trust — especially on non-transactional services. The advent of professional social media sites opened the possibility to showcase what we can do for our clients using an authentic, genuine personal brand. How can we disrupt the information overflow in the age of the well-informed buyer?
According to Los Ellis, Personal Branding is “the process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others”. This is actually less about the individual, rather about the perception of prospects and customers.
Distilling the term further, “personal” stands for art and story of the professional while “brands” shows the packaging. As Nicolas Cole mentioned, “a long-lasting personal brand cannot exist without both parts: art and marketing, expression and distribution.”
Creating a personal brand for service professionals in smaller companies requires more detailed work and regular adjustments to cut through the noise compared to corporate employees with their internal marketing departments. Well perceived differentiation becomes the ultimate goal.
Here are seven ingredients for a sustainable personal branding.
Which problems do you address to move your customers from solved pain points to a state of comfort and are willing to refer you further? Defining the target group is critical to find your niche where your unique selling point turns into a passion. A generic approach without specific focus won’t work. Take the challenge to tell your story with a limited set of characters on the right platform to the right audience at the right time.
Stand out within the crowd by applying visual elements of your brand for the website, collaterals and the social media profiles. LinkedIn allows to add rich media and creative case studies. Videos are a huge hit to show the real person behind the message. You can and more videos in the recently updated LinkedIn summary and in regular posts. Creativity helps to differentiate the value proposition compared to others. A great example is the boutique law firm Lawthentic who celebrate being different for the bonus of their clients.
As the competency is created around target audience groups, it is necessary to get to know the audience and find out how to reach them. Many professionals rely on successful methods of the past such as word of mouth or referrals. They might work well today, but in the age of the well-informed buyer, it is necessary to address prospects at the earliest possible timing in their buying journeys. Constant learning about the changing drivers of target audience groups in vertical segments shows genuine interest.
Once the brand elements are created, they need to be executed with consistency in mind to maintain a similar voice. Reserve possible names on all social platforms and setup a Google Alert for the own name to see search performances accordingly. Ongoing blogging on the own website and on other platforms helps to position with thought leadership as long there is no break after a good start. Setting goals and milestones in the brand development helps to compare the brand expectation with the perceived reality and to adjust where possible.
Many professionals still create their website offering and LinkedIn profile just about them and their activities. Only a client-centric presentation can reach the chosen target audience because it is all about their perception. Quoting book author Tony J. Hughes: “Everyone needs a strong and authentic personal brand and your LinkedIn profile must attract and engage those aligned with your professional purpose and values.”
To serve ideal customers you need to reach more channels than any TV station provides. Sticking to the old way of prospecting is missing out current and future routes to find and engage with the audience. This is not a generation conflict! A mobile responsible website presence should obviously include an immediately visible “work with me” section, otherwise the future client will click away. Depending the type of business, a Twitter or Instagram presence helps to spread the word and to find out what the relevant industry is actually talking about. Important is the right channel mix depending where the target audience hangs out.
The chosen communication styles attract the target audience accordingly within those channels. Charles Fairlie suggests validating the personal brand by listening how others introduce yourself. That can happen on networking event introductions or also in a referral message on LinkedIn. An important element online and offline remains the elevator pitch which should demonstrate the provided value in the eyes of the target audience. Different pitches can accommodate various introductions at events or in a 1:1 situation with a client.
Creating a consistent personal brand is the first step towards sustainable success, both as a corporate employee and as an individual service professional. It is vital to look beyond the own offering and provide perceived value to the target audience on a regular base. Connecting with influencers helps to gain higher visibility. Social Selling can advance the business agenda successfully when the personal brand represents competency and creativity with curiosity into the concerns of the target audience, paired with a routine of communicating respective activities through relevant channels. It is a rewarding marathon, not a sprint.
About the author: Gunnar Habitz helps Small Business professionals to improve their Personal Branding and Social Selling capabilities. In his role as partnership manager at Australian software vendor Noggin, he uses these skills to build successful channels using Noggin Risk Management Software. As a Chartered Manager at the Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML), he mentors the next generation of leaders. Find more content about leadership, networking and sales excellence on www.gunnarhabitz.com.au.