Why Personal Branding Is Important For Independent Consultants
We live in an era of hype, noise, clutter, and distraction. If you aren't remarkable, it is very difficult to break into the market and make a difference. You must stand out. But how do you do that? What makes you different? How does someone know who you are?
Personal branding is one of the most important things you can do to help build your reputation and differentiate yourself from others in your field. It's about communicating what you stand for and why people should care about you.
In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by HubSpot, 93% of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family over paid advertising. And while social media plays a big role, research shows that word of mouth marketing is still the number one form of referrals today.
Personal Branding can be confusing.
Personal branding is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory, but it's really hard to do in practice. We've talked about how to build a professional reputation online, but what about offline? What does it mean to "brand yourself"?
Most people don't know where to begin. They think it's some mystical thing you just naturally do because you're good at something. But it's actually a set of actions you take every single day to show up and make sure you're known.
The goal here isn't to tell you how to become a rock star consultant. Instead, I want to give you a framework for thinking about how to position yourself as someone who helps others succeed in life and career. If you're looking to join a team, you'll probably want to focus on building relationships with clients and potential employers.
Here are six steps to help you build your personal consulting brand:
1. Define Your Mission Statement.
Your mission statement is one of the most powerful ways to communicate your values to others. A mission statement defines what you stand for and why you do what you do. If you don't know where you're headed, it's hard to make decisions about how to get there.
Think of a mission statement like a compass. When you set out on a journey, you want to know exactly where you're going. You could simply follow the path of least resistance. But that might lead you astray. Instead, you must choose a direction, pick up your compass, and head off in the right direction.
Mission statements help you find your way. They provide clarity and focus. They give you a sense of purpose and a reason to wake up every day. They put you on track toward achieving your goals.
So how do you write a mission statement? Start by thinking about what matters most to you. Ask yourself questions like: Why am I doing this? Who benefits from my efforts? How does my life change because of what I'm doing?
Once you've identified your reasons for being here, start writing down everything that comes to mind. Make sure each item is specific enough to answer the question "Why?" Be honest. Don't worry about whether something sounds good; just keep writing. This exercise forces you to think deeply about your motivations.
After you've written down your ideas, read over what you wrote. Think about whether anything needs to be added or deleted. Does anything seem too vague or too specific? Is there anything else you feel strongly about?
If you still aren't satisfied, take a break and come back later. Maybe someone will offer some great insights. Or maybe you'll realize that you're missing something really important. Either way, taking the time to reflect on your mission statement is worth it.
2. Craft Your Power Message.
A value proposition is a short sentence that describes what you do and how you help others. You might say something like "We're the world's leading digital agency." Or, "We're a boutique firm specializing in web design and development."
Or maybe you'd tell people why you're different. Maybe you'll say, "Our team is small, flexible and collaborative, delivering outstanding customer experiences."
Whatever you choose, make sure it's clear and concise. If you don't know what to write, ask yourself three questions:
1. Who are my ideal customers?
2. What does my product/service offer?
3. How do I differentiate myself from competitors?
Once you've answered those questions, you can start crafting your value proposition. For example, here's one that works well for our consulting practice: We're a boutique firm specializing on agile software development practices.
3. Create an offer your target clients will love.
In order to build a profitable business, you need to have a product or service that people are willing to buy. But the hard part isn't just coming up with a good idea; it's finding out what people actually want. Your best chance of making money is solving a real problem for someone.
For example, if you're trying to start a blog, think about how many blogs there are online that don't really do anything. They might write about things like travel destinations or food trends, but they aren't offering any value to anyone. If you wanted to create a successful blog, you'd probably focus on topics that people care about. Topics like "How to Start a Blog," "The Best WordPress Plugins," or "Best Practices for Social Media." These are problems that people have, and they are problems that you could potentially provide solutions for.
Once you've identified your ideal customer, you'll need to figure out what makes him or her tick. What problems does he or she face? How much would he or she be willing to pay for a solution? Once you know those things, you can begin to craft an irresistible offer. An offer that solves a problem, and that provides a benefit to your customer.
An example of an irresistible offer would be a free eBook that teaches readers how to use social media effectively. While most bloggers struggle with social media marketing, this ebook gives them the tools to succeed. The ebook doesn't cost anything, but it offers some great value to potential customers.
3 steps to creating an irresistible offer
1. Once you've identified your ideal client, think about what he or she needs. Is there a problem that you can solve? An opportunity that you can exploit? Something that you can provide that no one else can? Once you identify this, you can start thinking about how you might solve it.
2. The first step to creating an offer your clients will love is to position yourself as an expert. You must convince your clients that you are the person who knows how to solve their problems better than anyone else. This requires a clear understanding of your area of expertise, and the ability to communicate it clearly.
3. Next, promise your clients a very specific goal. For example, "I'll teach you how to use social media to increase sales." Or, "I'll show you how to make $10,000 per month online." Specific promises are much easier to keep and inspire trust. If you don't know exactly what you're promising, ask your customers directly.
4. Be Consistent.
Consistency is one of the most important aspects of building a successful consulting brand. If you want to stand out, you have to make sure people know what you do, how you do it, and why they should care about it. You have to be able to answer questions like: What makes you different? How are you better than everyone else? Why should I hire you over anyone else?
If you aren’t providing quality information, you won’t be seen as an authority. And if you don’t provide good information, you won‘t get great results for your clients. So consistency is key. But being consistent doesn’t mean just doing the same thing every time. Being consistent means making sure that whatever you’re doing is producing results.
You can’t just throw up a blog post once a month and call yourself an expert. You have to keep writing consistently over time. You have to produce content regularly. You have to work hard to build credibility and trust.
And if you’re not working hard to build credibility and establish trust, no amount of consistency will matter.
5. Build your online network.
The world we live in today is very different from the one we grew up in. We no longer communicate face to face with our friends and family members, nor do we send handwritten letters anymore. Instead, we text, email, call, and use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., to keep in touch. In fact, according to eMarketer, there are now over 2.2 billion monthly active users worldwide on social networks. This number continues to grow each year.
So why stop at building relationships offline when you can also build them virtually? After all, people will still see you, follow you, and even buy from you – just without ever meeting you. But how exactly do you go about doing this? How do you become someone whom others want to engage with and learn more about? And how do you ensure that they actually remember you once they've left?
Once you have found your unique positioning to your services, there are the two more steps to creating personal brand success online. They include:
1) Build Relationships - People don't connect with strangers; they connect with people they already know. So start connecting with people online who matter to you and let them help you define who you are.
2) Communicate Your Message - When you're out networking, you're not selling anything. You're simply sharing information and making connections. As long as you're authentic and genuine, you'll develop meaningful relationships with people who will eventually become your fans and followers.
6. Personal branding is a marathon. Find your fellow runners.
Personal branding is not a quick way to generate leads. You must establish yourself over time. Start small and build up. Build trust. Be consistent. Don’t just talk about it; show how it works. Make sure you know what you want to say and why.
You don't have to do everything alone. Find others who are willing to join you on the journey. Share ideas. Help each other. And never stop learning.