It's Thursday morning and I'm in my seventh airport this week. Only two more to go! Airports, that is. This either means I'm traveling too much or I need a new travel agent. Anyway, as I sip my coffee and look around the gate, I suddenly realize I'm relaxed. (Something I'm not used to.)
I'm early. Real early. In fact, my flight is not even boarding for another hour or so -- maybe that's why I'm so relaxed. I've had a pretty tremendous week so far, that could be a factor. As I joke with the bartender (the one serving me the coffee), I realize that there are actually birds flying around the terminal and tweeting (not on their iPhones) the softest of sounds. The bright sunshine gazing through the windows offers an energy that almost demands a great mood and the start to a perfect day. The walls are 3 shades of blue (as opposed to 50 shades of grey) that sets a unique tone and convinces me that this is by far the nicest gate I've been in all week. There's plenty of comfortable chairs, stations for laptops, great wireless access, and upbeat music. And then there's the nice bartender with the bright smile pouring me the coffee. What a morning!
Other than my flight being cancelled, nothing can ruin my great mood and appreciation for the day. Luckily, I feel this way a lot. But I especially feel this way every time I fly jetBlue.
And that's branding!
As a service provider or business owner, other than painting the walls blue (or the town red!), what can you do to "brand" yourself so your prospects, clients, referral sources, and friends all get the same feeling (hopefully a positive one) every time they see you? Talk to you? Get an email from you? Read about you? Hear about you? Do business with you? Spend time with you? Refer you?
Let's make this easy. How do you want everyone that you come in contact with to feel when they, well, come in contact with you? Here's a better question -- how do you not want them to feel?
Effective branding takes more than just writing a clever mission statement. Like many things, branding is action speaking louder than words. A deliberate attitude. Driving a deliberate behavior. Branding is the look and feel of your business or practice. How are you differentiating yourself from the other producer in the corner office? And what are you doing to make what you're doing cool? Cooler than your competitor? Cooler than every other person that does what you do? Or what you're trying to do?
As a you may have noticed, my brand is all about boxing, networking and helping sales producers make great "connections". I try to eat, drink, sleep, talk, write, think and act the "sweet science" of networking. Or was it boxing? And all while perfecting the jab, keeping my elbows in, and not getting hit.
Let me weigh in with eight "knock out" branding ideas that can almost immediately make your business more memorable, more profitable, and maybe most importantly, more fun!
Can you create a theme, activity, or metaphor that can relate to your business? Maybe it's based on an interest (golf, jazz) or a style that you have. Is there a characteristic or quality that differentiates you from other business owners? Do you have a specific marketplace that you serve best and therefore wish to serve most? Do you happen to be a magician? Does it require a magician to help make your brand appear? Or disappear? Anyway, ask your clients what they feel differentiates you from other professionals. Ask others in your office. Those that come in contact with you may see something interesting in your attitude, style, and approach that you don't see. Remember, it may not all be good so keep your left up!
Your attitude is your mindset and thought process about a person, place, or thing. Your attitude impacts your brand. Whatever your attitude is toward something drives your language or behavior about that something. And that behavior will drive other results both positive and negative. What is your mindset about your work? Your firm? Your prospects? Your clients? Your attitude often reflects your voicemail greeting, response time to emails, calls you don't return, writing style, follow up, reliability, timing (are you always early or late?), and pretty much everything you do. As I share with students in the college class I teach, how you go about your business in here (the classroom) is how you will go about your business out there (as in the business world) so get into good habits. What are some of yours?
Your process is your system for achieving an outcome. It's your action (or reaction) based on your attitude. Is your process deliberate (this is our process) or is it reactionary (we'll see!)? Often, if you have a deliberate process and can effectively communicate it, it tells clients, associates, and referral sources how you go about your business. And that can help others get to know you and understand who you are and what you stand for. If you can do this well, you may have a powerful brand to work from. Or not!
I had dinner with a client last night. I've worked with his firm for years and always look forward to seeing him when I travel to his neck of the woods. We laugh about the same things and nothing that we say to one another is much of a surprise. In fact, when others within his company talk about him, their comments are consistent with how I think of him. (He's a great guy. Very funny. Reliable. Professional.) I mentioned that I like his voicemail greeting which states that he promises to return all calls within 24 hours. I mentioned this to him and his response was, "Doesn't everyone do that?"
How quickly do you follow through on assignments and projects? When people ask you for something, what is their expectation? Are you typically early for meetings? I remember years ago showing up for a business meeting just in the nick of time. I was surprised that the woman I was meeting was late since she seemed the type that would always be early. She showed up five minutes later. I asked if everything was alright and commented that I knew that she tended to be on the early side when it came to attending meetings. She said that's true but I know you're always late! I've been focused on being early for everything ever since.
You don't have to be Shakespeare to be a good writer. And you don't have to be in the business of writing books, articles, and blogs. But with every email, every post on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and every question and answer you post though social media, you're giving readers a snapshot to your thoughts, your actions, and your brand. And that's why they may (or may not) click through to read your profile, visit your website, or look to make a more personal connection. How does your writing (both formal and informal) reflect your brand? Feel free to touch gloves with me in the middle of the ring and let me know!
How do you speak with your prospects, clients, and referral sources when you see them? When you're on the phone? Is it similar to how you write to them in an email or text? What is your speaking style when you're in front of an audience? Do you use metaphors? Tell stories? Refer to quotes? Use statistics? Use colorful languages? Reflect on past experiences? Do you tend to be humble? Does your language and speaking style reflect how you work with your clients? Does your speaking style help attract the type of clients you want to work with? Do you even have a speaking style? What are you waiting for?
Types of Clients
Who do you want to work with? Is there an industry, profession, market segment, niche, or demographic that you would want to represent the majority of your book of business? Do your clients represent your brand and how you want to be viewed by others? Do you operate in a way that attracts the type of clients you want? If you're not sure, ask your clients. If you're looking to capture a new market, ask people that you know or meet in those new markets what it might take to attract people like them to you? If you can do this on a regular basis and consistently attract a specific type of client to you, you may have a brand! In fact, if you have a specific marketplace, it can help you with the many aspects of your business that I've been discussing including attitude, process, social media, speaking, and even writing. Heck, you may have stumbled onto something. Everyone gets a lucky punch in every now and then!
The sun is bright. The birds are singing. Can you smell the coffee?