There’s much talk of an ongoing recession and the possibility of a dreaded double-dip. Growth is slow for those fortunate enough to be experiencing business growth at all. In times like this, personal branding and marketing is especially important to businesspeople in client service based businesses.
In recessionary times, your competitors are working even harder to lure your clients away; and even those who might not previously have been deemed competitors may widen their nets and set their sights on your clients. Competition will increase exponentially, even among colleagues at the same company.
In tough times, you need to prove that you add value. You also need to be inventive in finding ways to stand out from the crowd.
Creating a strong personal brand and marketing it effectively is a good way to differentiate yourself. In this way, you will become memorable and be perceived as a value-adding brand.
Here are my top strategies for developing and marketing a personal brand in recessionary times:
1. Understand what your personal brand represents and what it doesn’t.
Think about your greatest strengths and talents and about how you would like to be perceived by people. Keep your personal brand focused on those things. Often, in tough times, we try to be everything to everyone. Resist the temptation – trying to spread yourself too thin will dilute your impact
2. Be unique in the way you do things.
By challenging the way things are ‘normally’ done, you can stand out from the pack. For example, if your colleagues normally send clients a bottle of wine, rather take your best clients to the first wine tasting of a boutique wine that no-one has been exposed to yet. Doing things in a unique way doesn’t mean that you need to spend money – it means thinking creatively about ways to interact with your clients that add value for them.
3. Become an invaluable resource.
Go beyond what your client requires of you in terms of the service you provide. For example, every once in a while, send your client useful white papers, special reports, articles of interest, links to useful websites, industry trends and developments that help your clients to think of you as more than just a service provider. You need to demonstrate to your client that you understand his business and want to help him make it successful.
4. Plan strategically and be prepared beyond what is expected.
It’s important to do your research thoroughly before meeting with a customer, prospect or networking contact. Think of questions you should ask or questions that will be asked of you. Package what you are delivering in the best way possible and ensure the benefits of your service are well articulated.
5. Spend time marketing your personal brand.
I’m the first to admit that marketing your personal brand is not a natural activity. This is why you need to set aside time to make sure that it happens. There are huge benefits to increasing your personal visibility. Understand your strengths and start getting visible – write articles; engage on social media; develop presentations or join key associations and industry bodies.
6. Take time to build and leverage yours kills and knowledge.
You are your greatest asset and there is nothing more important than enhancing your competitive advantage. Make sure you build your knowledge. Read more; attend talks and seminars that elevate your position. For example, I recently attended the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit week and listened to Ricardo Semler give an outstanding address. I picked up one awesome tip: ask ‘why?’ three times. I have started applying it in my business and with my clients’ businesses and the value it has added is incredible.
7. Prioritise connecting with clients.
Marketing is a contact sport and when your competitors are talking to your client in tough times, you have to up your game and make sure you’re top of mind to avoid losing business. If the last time your client heard from you was when you emailed through an invoice a month ago, you need to pull up your socks and start connecting. Touch base frequently and use the channels available to you, like face to face meetings, phone calls, emails, SMS, bbm, social media interaction – whatever works for your client. Be careful, however, to ensure that your communications are purposeful and that they add value. Nobody has time for fluff, so make sure your connections are useful to your client and that they build relationship.
Building and enhancing your personal brand is an effective way to take on challenging times, but it does require discipline and focus. Start today and be consistent in making time to develop and market your personal brand.