For a great many people, a word like “brand” is easier to associate with a tangible product like cars or detergent. People who provide a service rather than a product don’t always think of themselves as a “brand” because the dots are sometimes harder to connect for them.
The reality is that there is absolutely no reason why a person or company that provides a service shouldn’t think of themselves as a brand because they need to stand out. There are other reasons but that’s pretty much the biggest one. You need to stand out, get customers, make money, etc. Do you plan on simply saying that you’re an accountant and expect the people to flock to you in droves? Ha. Good luck.
When it comes to branding a service, I always like to make my client think of their customers and how they’d like that customer to feel. Because when it comes down to it, do any of us really buy services? Do we buy companies? Not really. We buy people. We buy the emotions we want to feel from dealing with certain people. It may sound a little heady, but stay with me.
Plain and simple, beyond capabilities and resources and technology and fancy offices, customers want to deal with other people they like. People they can relate to. Why? They have to not only “live” with them but actually be excited at the thought of a long-term relationship with them.
Then and only then do they buy services.
I say this in response to anyone in a professional services-oriented firm who thinks they don’t need emotionally-based selling as a core part of their brand.
Take lawyers, for example (I’m about to generalize, so don’t bite my head off, legal eagles). Lawyers are some of the worst offenders of uninspired, unemotional branding. Whoever told most of them to go on television was clearly not giving them good advice. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that they’re unattractive. It’s that they don’t know how to speak like real humans when you put them in front of a camera. They give a stiff and cold aura – which exactly plays into a big fear of a prospect who is worried that the lawyer they choose will talk over their head rather than acting like a partner.
Then, many of them list things that they may think are unique but really, in the customer’s mind, isn’t. Years of experience. Areas of specialty. Office location. Blah, blah, blah. What else have you got that’s interesting, counselor?
See, I think a lawyer should go on the air and say, “Hi, I’m _____. Yes, I’m another one of those lawyers who will help you if you’re injured in an accident. But I was also injured in an accident once. I know what it’s like to feel helpless and angry at my situation all at once. And I would have done anything to have a helping hand to get me back on my feet. So if you’re in the same situation I was, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. Call me and let’s talk about how I might be able to help.”
It’s just an example, but I think you can see where trying to empathize with your audience and providing a real solution (rather than simply talking about what service you provide) goes much farther.
My point here is that when it comes to building your personal brand, humans appreciate, well, other humans. Establishing that connection isn’t so much about a one-sided promotion of yourself but more about having a conversation with somebody else. As you have that conversation, it’s not about just the claims of what you can do but also expressing the honesty of what you can’t do. In fact, using that honesty, think about what you can’t do. Think about the one true thing you can say with 100% certainty that might entice someone to hire you versus your competitor. And think about how you want to convey a real relationship, not a provided service.
I didn’t say it would be easy. But it’s a good starting point. Let me know if you need a hand.
Dan Gershenson is a Chicago-based consultant focused on brand strategy and content marketing. Dan has guided a variety of CEOs and Marketing Directors at small to medium-sized companies, providing hundreds of strategic plans to help businesses identify their best niches and areas of opportunity. Dan blogs on Chicago Brander, mentors advertising students and cheers relentlessly for the Chicago Bears. Dan graduated from Drake University with a degree in Advertising.