I started a global marketing and branding firm 18 years ago. My advice to build your brand and find new customers is to go on a Listening Tour! Politicians do it all the time and it is great for business too. Make a list of the movers & shakers, people you admire and prospects, ask a few smart open-ended questions then sit back and take notice. They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind.
If you listen to what they share with you there will be plenty of opportunities to help them. I did it when business slowed and picked up several new clients but you can do it any time. It is a great way to connect and a lot of fun too. Start listening with no strings attached, you’ll be amazed at what you find. It does not cost much, for the price of a few coffees and meals you will get an earful.
I had no idea what to expect and got a lot of new work as a result. I did my listening tour the old fashioned way by sending out e-mails & picking up the phone then brought a pad & pen, asked a few open-ended questions then shut up and started taking notes.
Social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but you do not have to let it run your life! My advice is to pick a few things you enjoy doing and do them really well. You cannot be everywhere all the time so choose high impact activities that work for you and play to your strengths.
For example, Content Marketing and Thought Leadership are great ways to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients/customers. Activities like speaking at a conference, writing articles, building your following on social media all contribute to increasing your awareness with potential customers and building your credibility with a larger community. Instead of trying to start your own blog or newsletter, try contributing regularly to existing well-trafficked! blogs in your industry or newsletters of like-minded organizations reaching the same target audience as you. Make sure you put your URL or contact info on it so they can find you and follow up.
When your articles or talks become available online, make sure to send them out via social media to all your friends, followers and contacts. Don’t let social media drive you crazy, you do not need to be everywhere, it does not matter which platform you choose just pick one or 2 that are authentic to you. It should look and sound like you and the brand you have built. Whether yours is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through.
Everyone is not going to like you or hire you but for the ones who would be a great fit for you make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that when they need your help they think of you first. Start small and build as you go. For me, I started speaking at local events and then submitted proposals to speak at industry conferences and trade shows nationally and eventually global events too. The same advice goes for writing start with small publications then moves up the food chain to reach bigger audiences.
People need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found too. It adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with knowledgeable people in common. LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or Rolodex, it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. You do not need to blog or be on all social media platforms but make sure you are active on the ones where you are. If your customers do not use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find you then you do not need to make them a priority. For many professional service businesses like mine, LinkedIn matters the most.
I believe branding is very important to growing any business because if you do not brand yourself then the market will brand you instead. The single most important ingredient in creating a great brand is authenticity and ˙here are a few tips from my experience to help establish an authentic brand without spending a lot of money:
- Be original. What makes you unique or special?
- Be creative. How do you want people to think & feel after interacting with you vs. your competition?
- Be honest. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source.
- Be relevant. Brands aren’t created in a vacuum.
- Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day.
- Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting.
Authenticity is the key, it has to be and feel real for it to work I think. This has helped me grow my business.
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