We hear a lot these days about brand building and how important it is to have a strong and recognisable identity. Sure, if you are volume selling to consumers then having a company brand that people recognise and trust will ensure that your product goes into their shopping basket rather than the one next to it – but is that relevant in professional services?
I am not convinced that it is. I find that people buy from people they like, trust and feel valued by, which comes down to establishing a strong personal relationship. No room for branding there, just good old fashioned rapport-building and affinity. But wait; there is another sort of branding that does have a huge impact on relationships: your personal brand.
Why bother building a strong personal brand?
Recently, I was thinking about a good friend of mine, John Ashcroft, who had an incredibly strong personal brand. He had established this without the usual cost and time involved in building one.
At a time when we complain that it is hard to differentiate ourselves and even harder to persuade people to use us instead of our competitors, the answer is staring us in the face: develop a strong personal brand that our clients will want in their lives.
John was a private driver who did everything from arranging his work, driving his clients around and attending to his finances. So how could somebody who did all of those things still have time to build a strong, and I mean really strong, brand?
A brand as a business tool
From a man who did not care for branding, this is how John built his personal brand into a fearsome and very profitable business tool:
- He always made sure his clients were delighted with what he did for them. It was not enough to tick the box and shrug if it did not turn out right – he was only happy when his clients were happy no matter what that took
- He lived his favourite quote: “The answer is ‘yes’, what is the question?” In these ‘enlightened’ days, this is frowned on as being unproductive because we end up taking on more than we can handle, but having somebody in your camp who believes this is incredibly attractive
- He never let a client down – ever. He did whatever it took, including offsetting work he had arranged and was responsible for but from which he made no money. If John said he would do it then you could rely on the fact that it would get done – from returning a call to driving my daughter to an important interview
- He was always able to react to the last-minute changes his clients subjected him to. Because the world is a fluid place, being inflexible makes you part of the problem. He would always listen, understand the new situation and then deal with it
- He always made his clients feel special. In ways too numerous to mention but here is a clue: he listened to our interests, preferences and wishes and then acted on them
- He was always cheerful, happy to listen and open to anything new. The ability to be a great listener is a crucial aspect of building relationships and personal brands but so is an open and enquiring mind. He had both and used them incessantly
- He was never late and so never needed an excuse. He always built ‘emergency time’ into his schedule. I was often early but only late once: the combined effects of a tube strike; road-works and a serious traffic accident. He took this personally and absolutely refused to invoice me for the day. We paid him anyway but he didn’t like it.
In our world, brands are not about logos, mission statements, elevator speeches or straplines; they come from doing what John did: consistently exceeding expectations and always putting his clients first. If you do the same your brand will take care of itself.
Mike Ames is a Sales Consultant at Flair Business Growth Consultancy.
*Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net