As Consultants, we place a lot of focus on our sales and marketing strategy. Without clients, there is, of course, no business. Without sales and marketing, we run the risk of becoming (or remaining) the best kept secret.
Interestingly, marketing of professional services was not embraced until the 80’s. In 1981, the American Marketing Association (AMA) launched its first services marketing conference in Orlando, Florida. The AMA had been founded in 1953 & although industry-specific marketing conferences were common, the AMA did not even recognize services marketing as a stand-alone category for nearly 3 decades.
It was also in the 80’s that London Business School launched its first services marketing course, developed by John Bateson who was serving on the marketing faculty of London Business School while simultaneously serving as Senior Vice President of Gemini Consulting in London.
By the mid 80’s, consultants were launching newsletters, press releases, and other public relations tools as part of their marketing strategy aimed at new client acquisition. The goal was to educate clients and to “comfort” them. Marketing did not, however, eradicate the need for relationship building or diminish the key role individual consultants played and continue to play in generating new business via client acquisition. After all, expert services are bought on reputation, referrals, and relationships.
Business development conducted by senior consultants through networking in country clubs, on golf courses, and over pricey meals might have been put on hold during the pandemic – but is surely coming back as the country begins to reopen.
At the core of selling professional services lies the ability to inspire client trust. Undoubtedly, the brand of the firm that a consultant is employed by plays an important role in inspiring trust among prospective clients. But what about independent consultants? What about those of us who do not work under the umbrella of a recognizable corporate brand?
Enter personal branding.
Personal branding has become a true buzz-concept in the last five years, and yet it remains enigmatic to most Consultants. What is a personal brand really? How do you build one? Where do you start?
The most common misconception about a personal brand is that everyone has one. This is not quite true. We all have a reputation, but we do not all have a brand. The difference? A reputation gives us credibility, whereas a brand gives us a differentiator and an ability to stand out. To Consultants, having a differentiator is of particular importance because competition is high.
A personal brand positions us as thought leaders or authorities within our areas of expertise. Ultimately, purchasers of professional services are acquiring a Consultant’s hard skills – but they’re also acquiring a Consultant’s unique perspective and thought leadership.
When creating your brand positioning, it is better to be niche rather than casting a wide net. Who is your ideal target audience? Why do these clients choose you among the myriad of other providers of the same service? What one specific thing do you do better than most?
The easiest way to find answers to these questions is to survey your existing clients. Don’t try to guess; ask them and you will receive a lot of clarity that will in turn guide your positioning.
My positioning is “Personal Branding for Gen X Entrepreneurs,” and my differentiator is that I grew a business to 7-figure revenue while developing a strong personal brand. I am relatable to my clients as I have walked the walk, understand their reality and speak their language. This is why they choose to work with me. Why do your clients choose you?
Answers to these questions are crucial to have before you start marketing yourself and promoting your services. If your branding and your positioning are not clear, you are commoditizing your service and clients choose between other providers of the same service and yourself fairly randomly. One of my favorite quotes says: “Marketing is asking someone out on a date. Brand is the reason they say ‘yes’.”
Interested in having a discussion about your personal brand and getting clarity on the next steps to take to develop your own brand positioning? Let’s speak.