Your brand is how you distinguish your service from others who are also seeking to attract the same type of client. If you can’t communicate a brand, you are offering yourself as a generic commodity and that is no way to attract high-paying clients.
On a cattle ranch you mark your cows with a branding iron (many now use chemicals on the brand instead of heating it up) to differentiate your livestock from those of the other ranchers. Many a cowboy movie has a scene with branding the cattle. This is a practice that began much earlier than the Old West, with the ancient Egyptians branding cows almost 5,000 years ago.
How can you brand you (and obviously not with hot metal) when you are the product? Every independent consultant and service business is different, and all can benefit from a mix of the ten ways to communicate the brand, which are, in alphabetical order:
1. Advertising. Controlled media channels that you pay to get your branding message out in collateral, print ads, radio ads, internet ads, and TV ads. This can include advertising in directories published by associations representing your target audience.
2. Direct Mail. Sending email and snail mail to a targeted list of prospects with an offer. The best is direct mail invitations to events you host.
3. Networking. Attending business events with the intent of meeting others and offering to be of service to them. You should network at events that are target-rich environments. You need a defining statement that makes clear who you serve and the outcomes they obtain.
4. Proprietary process. This is a trademarked way of solving client problems. Give the process a name and take the steps to trademark the process, which communicates this is a key part of your brand.
5. Proprietary research. Conduct periodic research about the frustrations, concerns, and wants of your target audience. Publish the results.
6. Publicity. Obtaining exposure through articles and interviews in newspapers, websites, blogs, books, trade journals, magazines, social media, radio, and television. Have prepared sound bites ready to deliver to communicate the brand.
7. Showcases. These include speaking engagements, self-hosted workshops, webinars, teleclasses, online videos and live webcasts. Be generous in providing information on how prospects can solve their problems in general; they are more apt to hire you for the specifics.
8. Social media and websites. Social media, like LinkedIn and YouTube, should supplement your brand marketing, not be your marketing. A website should build credibility by demonstrating your expertise.
9. Telemarketing. Making phone calls to prospects. As one author buddy of mine says, “Pick up the dang phone.” I call the registered attendees of my workshops the day before the workshop, just to tell them I am looking forward to meeting them.
10. Trade Shows. Purchasing space to set up a booth or table at a sponsored product and service expos. If this works in your world, this is a great way for prospects to experience real live humans that embody the brand.
In marketing a service, the term branding has been extended to mean the strategic personality you communicate about your service to make it distinctive in the minds of prospects. Some call it the promises you are making that they can buy into.
As a best practice, that means understanding your target audience and making a choice about the personality of your brand. A business brand personality might be known for the words generosity, caring, or innovative. What words describe your brand? Once you know that, communicate it to the world.