Everyone in business recognizes strong brands and understands their importance. Coca-Cola. Nike. Apple. These brands represent certain values. Their branding helps drive sales by keeping their products or services fresh in the consumer’s mind.
Independent consultants need to think the same way. You need to be top-of-mind when the need for your expertise pops up so the client thinks to call you, or their colleague thinks to refer you.
In our field this is called personal branding. It’s not about creating a fancy logo or website; it’s about being known for something and consistently emphasizing your expertise. It’s about your reputation. It’s about your image, how you’re perceived in the workplace and online. It’s how you promote yourself and “go to market.” And it’s an ongoing effort.
Personal branding is not just some touchy-feely, trendy idea, or something that just happens. It takes conscious thought and repeated attention.
Every self-employed professional should consciously create their brand and have key elements in place.
Even if your plan is to build a larger firm, in the beginning it’s your personal brand that will matters. Consider personal branding as a foundational step in building your business.
Personal branding is about truly knowing yourself—your values, your strengths, your sweet spot—and having the confidence to highlight and leverage that information. Start by answering some basic questions:
Use the tips and worksheet in the related article, to help you.
This concept is borrowed from advertising. A tagline is a catchphrase or slogan that helps people remember the brand a certain way:
A tag line should not be your job title or occupation. Instead it should be about what you do or what makes you special. For example: not “Management Consultant” but “Leadership for Companies in Transition.” Be descriptive but keep it short.
Be consistent: use the same wording across all mediums.
Be concise: it needs to be easy for other people to remember. This is the whole point!
Especially in social media, think about your brand before you comment or share something, especially if you’re shifting the type of work you want to do. For example, PICA’s chief advocate used to be known as an expert at creating organizational change strategies for complex, global system implementations. As she shifted her career from “organizational change strategy and implementation expert” to “champion and coach for independent consultants” she stopped commenting on articles that pertained to her old personal brand. The point is, always be thinking about how you want others to perceive and remember you.
Consulting guru Alan Weiss states in his book, : “A brand doesn’t have to be totally unique and singular. It must simply serve to drive people with a particular need to your particular alternative.” For example, Intel Inside® tells us exactly what it is, the Intel chip inside the computer. Simple. Basic. Memorable.
Most of us don’t have the funds to hire a branding agency or marketing coach; we have to create our brand with what we have. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you get stuck on any of the steps outlined above, phone a friend or work with a professional coach. You may also want to try some of the free tools endorsed by personal brand guru
The important thing is to do something. If you don’t consciously create your personal brand, Google will do it for you whether you like it or not. Be proactive. Be your best.