Brands are typically thought of as products (iPhone) or services (Gensler). But you should consider yourself a brand as well. A compelling personal brand will help anyone that wants to stand out and thrive. To paraphrase Tom Peters in his seminal Fast Company article, A Brand Called You, start thinking of yourself as the Chief Marketing Officer of Brand You. Here are three steps to build Brand You.
1. What’s Your Story?
A brand is a story told in the marketplace. So step one is to unearth your story. Since people buy with emotion and justify with fact, a compelling story is what helps you to persuade. So, what is it that makes you unique and valuable? What are you most passionate about or proud of? What would your clients or colleagues say is your greatest strength? Think back to the last few times someone complimented you about your work. Is there a pattern of consistent praise that is unique to you? If you can’t remember, start a victory journal that records your accomplishments and compliments. Still stumped? Do a little market research by asking your friends, family and co-workers. It’ll boost your self-esteem and provide insight. At this point, don’t worry about the exact words of your story. We’ll address that next.
2. Brand Positioning
A brand’s positioning is the mindspace you occupy in your audience’s head. It is the articulation of your story highlighting what you do that adds remarkable, measurable and distinctive value. This positioning statement becomes your networking introduction when someone asks “what do you do for work?” It should be 15 words or less and ideally be something that only you can claim. It should include the following elements: “I am a [occupation] providing [range of services] to [categories of clients]. My [unique selling point] provides [specific benefits].” My sounds like this, “I am a consultant providing branding guidance to AEC firms. My visual and verbal story expertise helps clients win new business. Like the premise of a good movie, your positioning must be clear and compelling so others will spread your story via word-of-mouth.
3. You Deserve Promotion
Brand awareness is the final step in building your brand. Your target audience needs to know you exist and what you can do for them. I’m guessing that Superbowl ads and billboards aren’t in your personal budget so here are some tips. If your employer allows, do some moonlighting (either freelance or volunteer). I learned a ton about e-mail marketing and met many contacts as Marketing Chair of USGBC. Try teaching or making presentations to demonstrate your expertise. If you are verbally challenged, writing for trade publications is excellent visibility. As long as you are learning, growing, building relationships and delivering on your brand promise, both Brand You and your company will benefit.
For those looking to stretch their marketing budget, I can’t think of a more cost effective way to attract clients than Thought Leadership. The more a prospect can experience your thinking, writing or speaking, the more they perceive you as an expert, and the less “selling” you have to do. Content Marketing is effective for Thought Leaders because prospective clients can get to know, like and trust them in a no pressure, non-sales context. Here are some tips on how to position yourself, or Principals within your firm, as Thought Leaders.
1. Designate Ambassadors
Designate someone in your firm to be the Thought Leader for each market sector in which you seek work. For example, our client Aquatic Design Group is a market leader in designing and engineering competitive swimming pools (a market sector). They happen to have an Associate who is a former collegiate All-American swimmer. Combined with strong writing and speaking skills, he has instant credibility within this tribe.
2. Discover Where Your Audience Gathers
Ask your best clients which market specific trade publications they read and which conferences they attend. Then introduce yourself to the editors of these journals and offer your Thought Leader as a resource for journalists. Journalists constantly need credible references to interview for stories. Once the relationship is established, inquire about submitting an article or offering story leads. For national conference speaking opportunities, you’ll need to respond to a RFP a year in advance. But there are plenty of local trade organizations hungry for great speakers. Your Thought Leader doesn’t even need to speak. For example, I have put together panels and have emceed for SMPS, Pecha Kucha and USGBC events. This allows me to benefit from the halo effect of being onstage moderating the speaker panel. While it’s tempting to write or speak to your peers (fellow professional service providers), remember to focus most of your efforts where potential clients, not competitors, congregate.
3. Create a Content Ecosystem
Start with writing to develop mastery in articulating your subject matter. Then move to speaking using content you’ve written about. Give away free samples of your knowledge. Leaders demonstrate confidence by sharing their abundant expertise, not hoarding it. Tell real success stories and don’t be afraid to offer up your failures and share lessons learned. This is what makes you human, and will draw people to you. Communicate that you care about your audience’s world and challenges, and you will be invited in.
Thought Leadership requires an investment of time. This guide should help you get started. Be sure to promote your speaking or writing using the power of Social Media. Also, find multiple channels to distribute your content to maximize ROI. For example, this blog post began as an email marketing letter. It has also been broken down into a series of tweets. It could be made into a short video or podcast. Don’t overlook print to distribute your writing. You can a create a 1-page printout of a relevant post to pass out at events where you attend or present.
Whether writing or speaking, Thought Leaders are perceived as experts. Clients like to hire expertise. What are some methods you have used to demonstrate expertise? How do you promote your Thought Leadership activities? Has it ever led to new business?
I’d like to share with you a few tips and techniques that make e-mail marketing a successful part of the LecoursDesign promo mix.
1. Have a Strategy
It’s wise to have a goal for the overall campaign and for each individual e-mail blast. For example, my overall intent is to position myself as a marketing thought leader in the A/E/C industry. I do this by consistently sharing actionable knowledge and success stories. My goal with this particular entry is to share specific expertise so that you will consider hiring us to create your next e-mail marketing campaign.
2. Building Your Mailing List
Dedicate time to building a mailing list of readers within your target market. It’s best to ask people to opt-in before you show up unannounced in their in-box. I do this by having a link in my e-mail signature to our website that has a sign-up form. Also, when I meet potential clients, I’ll ask either in person, or via e-mail, “may I send you free marketing advice on a monthly basis as an e-mail?”
3. Getting People to Open Up
In an in-box full of messages, a compelling Subject line entices the reader to open your e-mail. Six to ten words and 35-55 characters is best. For continuity I always include “LecoursDesign:” as the first part of our Subject lines and the topic of the e-mail as the second part. Using “David Lecours” for the From field lets readers know this e-mail is coming from an actual person. A good e-mail service provider will provide you with metrics to measure how many people open your e-mail. According to MarketingSherpa, good open rates are 20% and higher. I’ve found that sending e-mails on Tues. or Wed at mid-day improves our open rates. I always send a test to myself and my Office Manager to check spelling, formatting and links before sending to our entire mailing list.
4. Juicy Content Creates a Connection
The first 4 vertical inches of an e-mail often gets shown in a Preview Pane which can determine the fate of your message. I include a branded The Marketing Voice masthead for credibility and a headshot to let the reader know this is written by a real person. If readers only view a sea of lengthy text, then it feels like work and thus decreases open rates. My goal is that our e-mail content offers something of value. The more actionable the content, the more value we are providing. I want to continually be making deposits in our relationships with past, present and future clients. I make the content personal and I’m not afraid to let people know what I believe. I try to keep our messages brief but if more than 800 words, I’ll include a bridge link like “read more on our blog.”
I hope you’ll consider e-mail marketing as another tool to connect with your audience. Let me know if you need assistance in creating a custom, branded e-mail campaign for your firm.
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Recommended E-mail Marketing Providers: Emma, Constant Contact. We use:Vertical Response
Archived Webinar: If you missed our live Social Networking Webinar, it is archived on CD and .PDF. Click here to purchase
Here is a simple guide to Social Networking.
Social Networks like Linked-In and Facebook are part of Social Media, the hottest sector in marketing today. Social Media is different than traditional media (like advertising) in that the conversation is two-way. This includes blogs, microblogs (like Twitter), viral video (like YouTube), podcasts and photo sharing (like Flickr). For this issue, we’ll focus on Linked-In but the advice is relevant on any social network. My goal is that you will learn a little about this channel and decide if it supports your overall marketing strategy.
If you’ve ever attended a Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) event, you know that A/E/C Marketers are social animals. The foundation of our industry is built on personal relationships. People (and firms) hire people (and firms) they know and trust. People will also hire, or team with, people (and firms) that have been recommended by trusted peers. So your personal network of contacts is an incredibly valuable asset. The bigger your network of quality connections, the more influence you wield. Linked-In is a great way to build and maintain your network.
People want to connect. The 36 million people on Linked-in enjoy being part of micro-communities around shared interests. Specialization will separate firms that thrive versus those that merely survive in the new economy. Narrowcasting is the future. Broadcasting your message as a wide net and hoping to catch a client is futile in our industry. When’s the last time you’ve seen a TV ad for an architecture firm? People listen to and trust their friends, not TV ads.
WAYS TO UTILIZE LINKED-IN
• Post presentations (.ppt, pdf., etc.) about what you are working on
• Do research on job candidates by querying their connections
• Post examples of your work: project photography or case studies
• Explore teaming opportunities with likeminded firms
• Incorporate your blog into your Linked-In profile
• Research competitors or new market sectors
• Use the Answers function to request help from your contacts
• Create a link in your e-mail signature to your Linked-In profile
• Dedicate 1 hour/week to building relationships and connections
• Practice random acts of kindness: write recommendations for others
• Treat your followers and connections as VIPs with special offers or advice
• Survey contacts about your company’s performance or image
WHAT NOT TO DO
• Lifecasting – we don’t care what you had for breakfast
• Appearing like you have no life outside of updating your profile
• Too much self promotion or sales pitching (Balance giving with getting)
• Not having a strategy (know what are you trying to accomplish)
• Not synchronizing your social media strategy with traditional media
• Letting IT establish your social media presence. This is a marketing function.
• Thinking you are broadcasting when it’s really all about narrowcasting
• Being too stiff and using corporatespeak
• Behaving like an ass and thinking you have some sort of on-line immunity
If you, like many, are wondering what to do with a Linked-In account, register for my upcoming webinar: Linked-In for Marketers: a tour and tips
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