For all consultants and those in professional services firms, your personal brand has always been of the upmost importance. Your credibility and reputation help you to develop and grow a sustainable network of clients. With the recent lockdowns, return to lockdowns, and the continued economic uncertainty, personal branding has arguably become even more important for consultants.
As the market tightens, those individuals who are respected in their particular fields, who clearly articulate the areas they can help their clients in, will stand out. In any market, standing out from the crowd is a great place for any consultant to be in.
“Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself”
So, what is personal branding?
Most people are familiar with the concept of a company brand. It certainly is powerful to have a strong brand that people easily identify with behind you. It can help open doors and get meetings.
But notice I used the phrase “it can help.” It won’t guarantee that. People have always bought from people, and in the world of consultancy, clients will want to meet and understand the person that they will be engaging to do the work.
This means who you are, how you work, what you deliver and, in a business and consultancy aspect, what you stand for is important to them. In short, your clients are interested in your personal brand. So, if you haven’t thought about it before, now’s the time to start thinking about it.
The first question to ask yourself is: “What do I want my clients to know me for?”
For those like me who are fans of Simon Sinek, this is you understanding your “why” (If you haven’t seen it before I’d recommend this inspiring TED talk Simon delivered). You need to understand why you do what you do, and the benefits it brings to those you do it for.
“You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it”
How do I start building a personal brand?
Every market facing activity you engage in helps to develop and build your personal brand. Every client interaction. These are the ‘moments’ from which people will form an opinion of you. Alongside these, there are two different ways of building and developing your personal brand – offline and online. We’ll tackle these briefly below.
This is any personal branding activity which is not carried out digitally. As a first example, perhaps the most effective way of building your personal brand is through public speaking (which, pre-lockdown, was usually done at seminars and conferences).
These are effective as you get to set the agenda of what topic you speak on, and have a captive audience. Quite often, when people have an issue or need in the area you talked about, they will remember you and contact you.Offline activities also include being published in print magazines (those that still exist!) and networking.
Clearly this is anything that is carried out digitally and online. Your profile or bio on your company website is a great example. However, this bio is now quite often trumped by your LinkedIn bio. If someone ‘Googles you’ and they will before any first meeting, it is likely your LinkedIn profile will rank higher than your company bio.
Other social media accounts will also have an impact, however, for consultants and those in the B2B and professional services environment, LinkedIn is number one. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, then I urge you to get one. If you haven’t looked at, or updated your LinkedIn personal profile, then this article will give you basic steps on how to do so.
The online tactics to develop your personal brand will include publishing online articles or blogs, posting comments or participating in online conversations (e.g. comments on LinkedIn posts), producing video content, and increasingly, running webinars.
The reach and popularity of webinars increased dramatically during lockdown, and in most cases, recordings are made available after the event so the audience reach is significant. These mediums allow you to tell a story, and stories resonate with people.
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”
Why your personal brand is important for clients
Firstly, it helps them to understand who you are. It gives you a point of differentiation. It is important for clients and potential clients for many of the same reasons that traditional branding is important. As an example, when you are in a store and have to purchase a new toaster to replace your broken one.
As you look down the aisle, you may see two brands you recognize and then one you have never heard of. The chances of you buying that one, are probably slim, even if it’s the cheapest. In fact, if it is the cheapest it may be that you are even less likely to buy it!
Clients want to work with people who they know are credible, and experts in what they do. The development and increased meaningful exposure of your personal brand will help them believe you are a credible expert. You’ll still, of course, have to back that up with the work you deliver.
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.”
Edward R. Murrow
How it can help you win more work
Put simply, when buyers make purchasing decisions, before they contact a company or a consultant, they will have undertaken research. Increasingly, they will do this online and search for those people and firms who deliver the services they need. If you aren’t in this mix or top of mind when they hunt for a provider, you have lost a potential opportunity.
The other aspect to it is that as your profile grows, more people will talk to you outside of the work you do for them. One aspect many consultants struggle with, is maintaining client contact when not actively employed. An active personal brand helps you to do this. Through providing informative and educational content to the market, it is more likely the market will engage with you.
Webinar: How to develop a client centric personal brand
Watch the recording of Ben Paul’s webinar hosted by Paul Evans from ACE New Zealand, on how to develop a client centric personal brand.
In this video Ben goes into detail with ideas on how to understand your personal brand, and how to promote it. A lot of the content focuses on LinkedIn, and examples which you can easily follow are provided. Get more insights and advice on our YouTube channel.