How is your personal brand holding up in the noisy and competitive marketplace?

Is it still as fresh and distinctive as it was when you launched it? After several years, most brands start to look tired and outdated. The colors and artwork that were stylish when they were introduced eventually take on the appearance of relics from the past.

What about your brand promise? Does it promise clients the benefits that your services deliver today? Or is it a reminder of how you used to help clients?

Few of us deliver our services the same way we did 5 or 10 years ago. As a result of a continuously changing market, clients need and want different kinds of help from us. In response, most of modify our services and how we satisfy clients.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that even though we continue to enhance and upgrade our services to maintain and perhaps increase client satisfaction, these improvements are not always reflected in our personal brands.

As a result, our services can be stronger than our brands. That’s good for existing clients, but not so good for your marketing.

If you haven’t thought about your brand recently, maybe it’s time to evaluate how strong your brand really is. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • What are you and your firm best known for?
  • Relative to the competition,
    • How strong is your personal and professional reputation?
    • How visible are you in your market?

The best and most helpful answers come from the market. Ask the same questions of clients, contacts and others who might have an opinion on your brand.

You might not like all the answers you hear. But if you don’t know there’s a problem, how are you going to fix it?

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Do you dress for success?

Back the day before the Internet and when dressing casually was reserved for after work and weekends, dressing for success typically meant business suits for professionals, both male and female.

The concept of ‘dressing for success’ enhances and helps project the image of professional competence and personal trustworthiness.

Along with change in how and where we do our work came a shift in standards of appropriate business attire. Apart from large professional offices, business suits, shirt and ties are no longer the norm in today’s more casually dressed workplace.

Certainly a casually dressed workplace can make it more comfortable for us to do our work. It does however make it more challenging for us to project an image of professional competence and personal trustworthiness.

In today’s incredibly competitive marketplace, it is more important than ever before not only to present ourselves as competent and trustworthy, but also to to distinguish ourselves from others who also appear competent and trustworthy.

The key to meeting both of these challenges lies in effectively communicating your brand. And this communication includes dressing your brand in person and electronically.

Dressing your brand in person starts with dressing like your clients. From there, use your own judgment in deciding how far you can move away from this standard without creating any client discomfort.

Dressing your brand electronically is less straight forward.

This process starts with ensuring that the look and feel of your website is consistent with the benefits that your services deliver to clients. Ideally visitors to your website will get a sense of what it will be like dealing with you in person.

A busy, noisy and poorly organized website will offer little help in projecting professional competence and personal trustworthiness. Similarly, aggressively self-promotional email and social media marketing hardly demonstrate the ability to focus on client issues.

Whether in person or online, dressing your brand is about reinforcing the story of what makes you different from all other service professionals. It also helps reassure potentially ideal clients that in hiring you they are making the right decision.

For service professionals, dressing our brand is as critical to success as was dressing for success four decades ago. It’s a competitive marketplace out there, so we must use whatever tools we can to stand out from the crowd.

To continue to stand out from others both online and off…continue to dress for success by dressing your brand.

Guess what? Spring’s here…and our winter-weary landscape is starting to refresh itself. Kind of like getting a new lease on life.

After a long winter, almost everything was starting to look tired and world-weary. Definitely time for renewal and refreshment.

Speaking of looking tired and world-weary, how is your personal brand surviving the wear and tear of the marketplace?

Is it still as fresh and exciting as it was when you developed it? Or like the out-of-kilter picnic table, has it seen better days?

If your brand is basically sound, but has lost its shine and sparkle, maybe it’s time to refresh it.

Provided your brand continues to distinguish you from the competition, you do not need a total brand makeover. Some minor tweaking to the visual elements of your brand can refresh your image, just as a new spring wardrobe helps us look, and feel better.

If you don’t have a logo, try adding an image to present a more contemporary look. Or maybe modify the look and feel of your website and marketing materials.

The purpose of refreshing your brand is not to reinvent yourself. Ideally, refreshing your brand will confirm your brand promise while boosting your profile in the marketplace.

Sometimes the simplest modifications make a huge difference.

Once upon a time, professional service marketing was unnecessary.

Clients and potential clients generally knew what kind of help they needed. They also knew the people in their local community who provided this help.

As long as service professionals continued to do what they had always done, they could remain reasonably confident that clients would find them when they needed them.

But that was then…only a few decades ago…and this is now.

In today’s global marketplace, consumers face a staggering array of professional services, from traditional accounting to newer areas such as website and mobile marketing. And within each service area, there is an equally staggering array of individuals seemingly qualified to deliver the professional services that they promote.

Putting aside the question of how individuals find and choose the right service professional to help them, how can we as service professionals distinguish ourselves from the competition and stand out from the crowd?

The best, in fact the only way to distinguish ourselves and stand out from the crowd is to continue to innovate in everything that we do.

Effective innovation starts with a clear understanding of what it is…and what it isn’t.

Innovation is something that is really new and different for you and/or your business.

Innovation is not unique in the world.

From this perspective, there are six main approaches to innovate:

  1. Combine existing things in a new way.
  2. Learn something new from a different business and apply it to yours.
  3. Challenge the usual assumption of continuing to do things they way they have always been done.
  4. Learning from the competition.
  5. Collaboration with customers.
  6. Experimentation, trial and error.

Choose and apply as many of these approaches as will work for you and your business.

If however, you ignore all of them, you will probably remain lost in the crowd.

In response to my post The Win-Win Benefits Of Collaborative Professional Service Marketing, Anne Galloway commented:

Never view the competition as the enemy!
A couple of years ago I met someone who I first believed was competition (of course she wasn’t because of our individual skills and experience) – we now run successful workshops together, in addition to our own businesses. It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off and our workshops are far more dynamic than if we presented them alone. We have since tightened up on our individual niches and focus the workshops more towards these niches so we both get more clients. So collaboration is definitely a win-win.

Gotta love collaborative win-win scenarios like the one Anne helped to create. Thanks for sharing your experience Anne.

I really like the first sentence of her comment. Among the question that it raises for me is ‘who is your competition?’

Everyone Is Your Competition

Realistically, our competition can can include any business from the largest multinational corporation to the neighbor running a yard sale. In one way or another, they are all competing for our attention and income.

Take for example, my experience of partnering with one of the largest Canadian banks as outlined in the post about Collaborative Professional Service Marketing. Each of us in our way was competing for the attention and money of owners of small businesses.

However, by partnering on the book and speaking tour, we were able to help each other better serve a small slice of a common market.

No One Is Your Competition

On the other hand, since each of us is unique, no one provides the same kind of service, the same way that we do. Given this individual distinctiveness, none of us has any competition.

Anne’s experience confirms the distinctiveness of seemingly competing service professionals…and the benefits of collaboration.

As Anne pointed out…Never view the competition as the enemy! Let’s reframe our perception of the competition. Instead of seeing other businesses as chasing the same potential clients as you, try thinking of them as potential allies working together to better attract and serve more clients.

 

Yesterday I raised the question: is your self service as good as your client service?

Strange as both the question and the timing may have seemed, it was not a random act of weirdness right out of the blue.

Last week, I had lunch with a service professional whose main business activity is helping owners of home businesses become and remain focused on achieving their goals. Instead of lunching at one of the great restaurants in her neighborhood, she requested that we get some take-out fast food and have lunch at her nearby apartment. She explained that she was feeling broke.

Over lunch she told me about the book that she had prepared over the past few months. Turns out that the book had absolutely nothing to do with her professional service. After listening to her talk about her book, I quickly realized that it’s one and only strength was her passion for the project. There was little to suggest that the book would be marketable, let alone profitable.

To make her financial situation even more problematic, a training workshop that she was planning for a social services agency was at risk of being cancelled. Like her book, this workshop was not directly related to her professional services. Although the topic was within her area of experience, the primary purpose of the workshop was generate revenue.

As an author, I certainly understand the appeal of writing about a passion. And as a speaker and trainer, I know how hard it is to resist the allure of a paid speaking gig.

However, as a coach I recognize the importance of helping clients remain focused on achieving their business goals. And as a marketing coach, my role is to help clients attract more ideal clients.

To best serve my clients, I must walk my talk. How can I be in position to help clients, encouraging them to act focused and purposefully, when in my own business I pursue whatever interest seems more relevant at the time?

If there is any good news about my friend’s situation, it’s that she is not alone. From my experience, it seems that many service professionals also act from the position of “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”.

What a disservice to their clients …and themselves.

 

 

 

The lawyer who acts for himself or herself has a fool for a client.

No, that’s not a commentary on all lawyers. It’s a warning about the hazards of trying to serve yourself with your own professional services. In most cases, it just doesn’t work.

In addition to our professional training and experience, as service professionals we also bring our objectivity to the services that we deliver to clients. It is this objectivity that allows us to identify factors that are so familiar to clients that they overlook them. In most cases, these familiar factors are identify counter-productive habits and practices that prevent clients from achieving the results they want.

Having identified our clients’ counter-productive habits and practices, we then work with our clients to figure out how to change their counter-productive habits and practices. At this point, we draw upon our professional training and experience to offer alternative and more productive approaches.

Whenever we self-serve, we are like our clients whose counter-productive habits and practices are so familiar that we don’t even notice them. And since we have missed the very factors that prevent us from achieving the results we want, how can we possible develop better, more productive behaviors and habits?

In other words, is the service that you provide to yourself as good…i.e. as objective…as the professional service that you deliver to clients?