You Are the Brand
How many times have we heard "Xerox this", when the copier involved may not be a Xerox brand at all? What brand do you think of when you hear the words "Just do it"?
Branding is a powerful tool in our business lives. While Nike and Xerox are prime examples of this idea, all businesses can benefit from branding.
The key factor in branding is this. On the most basic level, the level where clients live and work, your company is represented by a person. In your business that person may be you.
Here is a seven step formula that will give you a great start toward establishing yourself as the brand of choice.
- Know where you stand now. What name pops into your customer's mind when they need what you do? If it's not your name, why not? Do you have a name or slogan that is easy to remember and clearly describes what you offer?
- Know where you want to go. What do you want to be known for? Like it or not, customers will define us if we don't define ourselves. Do you want to be the low-price leader? Do you want to be the value-added vendor? We can't (as much as we might like to) be everything to everyone. Choose a theme for your business and promote that theme at every opportunity. Soon, you will become associated with the *One* benefit that is your strong suit.
- Narrow your niche. Be such an expert in your field that you are the natural choice to call when what you do becomes what they need. Marketing, either offline or online, creates the greatest impact when it frames YOU as the only smart solution to a client's problem.
- Give away some work. If giving away your expertise means increasing your exposure, strongly consider it. You are *building* a reputation. There is nothing wrong or manipulative in trading work for exposure, rather than cash. Sometimes a good word from an influential customer pays bigger dividends than the best advertising.
- Be everywhere at once. Oh, if only wishing made it so. The Internet can get you close. If you market online, participate in several question and answer forums or newsgroups where decision makers and people of influence hang out. Choose your answers very carefully, but answer every question you can, always bringing home the message that you are the best choice. If you market offline, consider adjusting your budget to have a presence in each medium (TV, radio, print, billboard) to reach the widest possible audience.
- Listen and follow up. If you give your product or service (or even advice) to someone, follow up to see how it worked out. Be brief and humble, but follow up to make sure you are on the mark. When you do this you not only evaluate the quality of what you have given, you have an excellent opportunity to see how it effects real people in the real world.
- This should have been the first point, but make sure you *know* your stuff. 'Nothing' can replace the good will you create when you do your very best work for every client or friend.
If you really know your stuff, and are willing to invest some time, you can become the natural choice for solving problems that arise in your field. When those calls come, you can begin to build an endless chain of referrals that will carry your business to new heights.
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