Whether you’re an independent consultant or a Fortune 100 company, branding is integral to your identity. From your name and logo to your company slogan and reputation, it’s how the public knows you. As an independent consultant, you are your company, and establishing a strong personal brand is essential to the growth and success of your business.
The conversation around developing a personal brand to land new clients is constantly thriving, and we recently hosted an exclusive session with Amanda Miller Littlejohn at our hands-on branding webinar.
Potential clients should never have to search for the basic information that defines your company or business goals. There are three main questions that potential clients will have that your branding should answer:
Some brands are instantly recognizable, even without words. Consumers around the world recognize Nike’s ubiquitous “swoosh” logo, or the iconic golden arches of McDonald’s. These brands, however, represent rare exceptions—even Starbucks faced criticism recently over a logo change that removed their name. For the vast majority of businesses, the key to effective branding begins with directly telling people your name. When contacts or potential clients can quickly establish who you are, you’ve made an important first step in developing a connection.
Your branding should also clearly explain what it is that you do. Some independent consultants address this by establishing a legal business name, such as “John Smith’s IT Consulting,” but whether you use a business name or your own, your overall branding should reflect a message that promotes and aligns with your area of focus.
If you are able to answer the first two questions with your branding, then you’ve managed to achieve the first goal of branding: awareness. To be truly impactful, however, your branding should take the message a step further by demonstrating the value or benefits you offer that set you apart from your competition, such as offering innovative techniques, a unique specialization, or industry-leading expertise.
Your personal branding should create an impactful message that helps you stand out from the crowd - for the right reasons. Over-the-top branding that includes gimmicks or stunts may be effective in helping people remember you, but it can come at the cost of your professional reputation. There are a number of ways to create a memorable and positive impression through branding. For example:
All of your branding efforts—whether part of networking, marketing, or any other area that increases visibility—should express a consistent theme and message. Visual components, design elements, key information, and especially overall messaging should not vary from one place to the next.
In addition, as an independent consultant you are often viewed as representing your brand—even in your personal life and actions. Keep this in mind in your public non-business communications and actions, including social media networks; differing messages promoted by your personal and professional actions could create a perception of dishonesty or lack of trustworthiness.
A well established brand also needs a well-established online presence, not just in social media, but on their own professional website. We go into further detail about professional websites, and the reasoning behind them, here.
Handing your business card out to everyone you meet or advertising in every trade publication you can find may help people learn your name, but without a reputation, it can be difficult to make a true impression. That’s why it’s important to make establishing expertise and value a core part of your personal branding message. Here are some ways you might approach this:
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