By Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Business Owner
Building a brand for yourself or your business should be the question that keeps you up at night. If you get your brand right, leads will convert to prospects and your cash flow will steadily increase.
If you work as a(n):
- Independent sales pro (real estate, insurance, cars, software, etc.)
- Small business owner (any goods or services sold in a store, by phone or online)
- Coach, consultant or strategist
- Artist, craftsperson or artisan
- Author or speaker
Then your brand is critically important, even though it may be the thing you think about the least.
Brand building comes down to one simple question:
“What can I do to give my customers the best possible experience when they interact with me/us?”
Before you say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah” and roll your eyes, here’s the deeper truth behind that broad statement:
People do business with people they like and trust.
You choose which places to spend your money based on reputation, image or prior positive experience with that establishment. Your customers do precisely the same thing. In fact, the smaller or newer your company, the more important it is to provide them with what they seek.
The first step is to take a moment to think about your ideal customer. “Anyone with money” is popular with small businesses, but that isn’t something you can take action on.
Let’s imagine a newly-minted CPA wants to set up her own firm. She is clever enough to start with defining her ideal customer.
“I’d like to deal with nice people who will take my advice; pay me on time; and whose taxes are not all that complicated. People who will be loyal year after year so I don’t have to always be out there swatting the bushes. Ideally, I’d like to work with young families, because I’ll have more time to be their CPA during their careers.”
What’s your dream for your ideal customers? If you’ve been in business a while, who do you most enjoy working with? Write it out.
Once you know that type of person – called an “avatar” in marketing circles – you can customize your business for that ideal person.
Following with the new CPA, she next needs to think about what kinds of things will be important to that young family.
Convenience? Not requiring too much paperwork? Being easy to get a hold of, even in the evenings when the kids are finally asleep? Sending a reminder list to help them prepare what they’ll need – months in advance? Being in a convenient location with plenty of parking? Having no bright shiny expensive knick knacks in her office? Baby-proofing the office? Setting up a play area with clean new toys? Giving kids a balloon or sticker? A bowl of animal crackers on her desk?
She would do well to invest her energy in creating a customer experience. If she provides the same benefits consistently, and her customers continue to value what she’s giving, she will grow steadily, even just based on referrals.
The “trick” is to think about what’s most important, convenient, interesting, appealing, and valuable to your ideal customer.
That one simple step will give you the ability to create a competitive advantage and a compelling brand that will give your company a strong niche in your marketplace.
A real estate agent who knows he wants to only work with clients who will spend at least $_____ on a home needs to ask himself, “Am I driving the kind of car my future clients are likely to drive or be impressed by? and “Am I wasting their time (a precious and recognized resource for all clients at a certain income level, not so much of a factor for others) by showing them “everything” or am I really putting in the time to show them only those houses that meet their stated criteria?” Customizing the buyers’ experience will lead the new home owners to share your good service with their friends.
An author could apply this strategy by getting clear on why he or she is writing the book. If it is to build a business, will the customer be more impressed if your book is published by a “real” publisher or self-published? By a big glossy photo of you from 20 years ago on the cover, or by a tasteful, professional cover designed by a pro? Will rehashed, hackneyed ideas from eons ago make them have more or less trust in you as a reliable advisor?
An artisan may think, “People either love my work or they don’t” but are you mixing socially with the right types of people – your potential buyers, gallery owners? The people who buy Thomas Kincaid lithographs are not the same people likely to buy a “similar to Kandinsky”. Your shop, the galleries, the networking you do, should all be aligned with this important rule of business:
To catch more fish, go where the fish are.