These days there is a lot of talk about branding. Marketers and brand strategist push the message of brand clarity, brand distinction, brand alignment, brand this and brand that. Personal branding is a hot topic too, with suggestions on ways to protect you the individual as a brand.
When I work with clients, I’m quick to tell them that their brand isn’t so much about the colors on their site, their logo or stationery. These are cool, necessary elements to sit and strategize over, but to me, at the heart of it all, branding is what comes to mind when people think of you, your company or your service. It’s more of a heart and emotional connection and not so much a visual one. It’s the image, perceived or real, that exists of you and your business.
When I think of certain businesses and professionals, some keywords come to me. The Range Rover Sport (my dream car, please get me a white one on pretty rims), to me, epitomizes class, ‘having arrived’, old money. When I think of my favorite lady comedienne Mindy Kaling I think funny, smart, likable, hard-working and savvy businesswoman. If you ever read this Mindy, do know I want to meet you and interview you on my blog. Steve Harvey (love this guy) makes me think of good times, someone to hang out with, great laughs and dressing snazzy. Apple makes me think of sleekness, good product design, and innovation.
I suppose you’re thinking those are some odd choices for examples. Actually, this was purposely done because I wanted to show you that even individuals could be brands and since you, my target audience tends to be a solo professional or a small business owner, I wanted you to start seeing yourself as the driving force behind your brand. All that other stuff is just the coating.
Rapper JayZ is quoted as saying, I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man. The first time I heard this I made a mental pause. Sure, he produces and creates music, clothing and all that jazz but at the end of it all, he is the face of a business. He is the business and a businessman. He sees himself as a business. The world sees him as a businessman and yes, a business – brand JayZ.
Remember the heart and emotional connection I mentioned earlier? I think this should be the aim of all small business owners and solopreneurs. Your brand is really about what you offer and how it impacts. No one will talk about how cool your logo is or the popping colors on your site, not really and chances are they are not going to hire you solely based on that. What they will talk about is how you’re knowledgeable you seem about the work you offer. They will talk about how your service or good has impacted them or not. They will share how they connected with you, how you helped them to think of new ideas to implement in their business. And on the flip side, they will talk about how they were disappointed in your approach to problem-solving and what you did and did not deliver what you promised and when you said you would.
At the end of the day, it really is about you the provider, what you give, how you give it and how they, your customers, feel about what you provided and how it helped them. Everything else is shiny objects.
To be clear, I’m no branding expert. I offer branding to clients but I wouldn’t say I know everything there is to know about the subject. What I do know after being self-employed for almost ten years is that no one has ever hired me because of the look of my site. Even before I had a site I had clients. They never hired me because of my tagline either. Yes, it promises to ignite their brand and increase their visibility but every business must promise something to their customers. I’ve been hired because I was liked, I came across as knowledgeable and approachable, I did good work, I helped clients to make sense of something seemingly too large for them to understand, I delivered solutions for their problems. And then these fine folks did something, they told others. They helped build my business and they created brand exposure.
Look around in your space and see the professionals who have sites that to the average eye seem boring, dated and a bit blah. Yet, they are booked solid for the rest of the year. Some don’t even have a site or do social media but word of mouth keeps them busy. I know many of them. Those carpenters, electricians, plumbers, freelance accountants and pc repairmen that don’t have any web presence but are booked solid, constantly turning away work. Their work, customer engagement, how they deliver what they deliver and the experience it brings to their customers is the cause of this.
Make yourself desirable like the Range Rover Sport. Work hard and be passionate about what you do like Mindy Kaling. Look smart while you’re crushing it but do it with a cheerful spirit like Steve Harvey. Be in tune with the needs of your customers and market and think one step ahead of Apple. This is the way you build a brand. Not by changing your logo annually, redesigning your site every six months or purchasing every Google product out there you feel will send you to the top of the search engines. I’m not saying don’t do these things. I’m saying realign your focus for a bit.
So before you blow your budget on a web presence, expensive coaching or on a logo and some fancy stationery, have a look at what it’s all about. What you deliver, how you deliver it, how it makes your customers feel, how it helps them do better, be better and see results. Of course, get all those stuff – the logo, the great color scheme, the cool web domain, and an attractive and effective website. But don’t let them be the first place over great work and incredible customer experience.