Next to finding your niche, figuring out how to brand yourself might be the hardest process to tackle. Branding is about presenting a consistent message that communicates the value you bring to the market place. The power of branding can mean the success of an organization, and the lack thereof can mean its death. The use of imagery, linguistic pictures, and relationships all play a powerful role in communicating your value to those who would use your products and services. How does someone begin to build this channel of communication? And what are the important aspects on which to focus? In addition, what are some of the pitfalls and traps? All of these topics are up for discussion as I move from finding your niche to defining your brand.
I am by no means suggesting that the wheel needs to be reinvented concerning the process of branding, but the question you must answer is “Do I bring a unique value proposition to the industry?” If you answer yes to this question, then you need to do the work of defining that unique value proposition and bringing it to the market place of ideas. I think this is the most challenging aspect of business. People are naturally skeptical. One famous financial coach said he had the gift of cynicism. He believed everyone had an ulterior motive. When you are entering a market as a relatively unknown quantity, you will fight this natural behavior.
As a new entry into the market place who seeks to play by the established rules, you must create a distinction between what is already out there and yourself. As a pioneer, someone who is creating something new, you have to define the new product or service as well as create a distinction between you and someone else who might be trying to establish a similar product or service. Why should someone stop doing business where he or she has always done business to give you a chance? Why would someone choose to support your efforts over supporting someone else’s efforts? You must present a compelling reason for someone to purchase your products and services. This is where branding comes in.
Once you have defined the broader market and you have identified your niche, you have to begin to think about how you want to be perceived by the market place. You have defined your niche, but to the market place, you are still an unknown quantity. Therefore, your personal and organizational branding is critical to establishing your position in the market place and your target audience. The key to personal branding is developing the ability to communicate your value and uniqueness to your target audience.
With the proliferation of the internet and social media into everyday life, there are millions of voices vying for the attention of those who would benefit from your services. My previous nine part series on identifying your niche provided you with a lot of information about what makes you unique. Now, you need to translate that uniqueness into a personal brand that adds value to those who would seek out your services.
Determining your brand starts by asking some basic questions. What do I offer that sets me apart from my competition? How do my products or services increase the ability to achieve the results that my customers are pursuing? In my previous series of articles on finding your niche, you answered several questions that helped you understand you. Questions such as “What am I passionate about? What are my gifts, talents, and knowledge base? What motivates me and what drives me? In other words, what are my skills and strengths?” This is just the beginning of developing your brand.
It took me a couple of tries before I figured out how to communicate what makes me unique as a strategic personal development and financial stability coach. Although I believe that each person must take all of the elements discussed in my previous articles and apply them to the branding process, it takes more than just telling the world who you are. Your brand needs to communicate to the broader audience what you bring to the market place in the way of ideas and processes and of what value it is.
Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one, who is younger than you.” But being you does not communicate the value you add to the market place of ideas. There are, as stated, two overarching messages, which need to be communicated. First, what makes you unique and second, what value do you add. Don’t take these two messages lightly. After all, how you package your message and how you communicate it will be one of the most influential aspects of your branding.
Your brand has to include the visual and auditory senses and the imagination in order for it to be powerful. When you consider the most recognized brands, every one of them has strong visual and auditory impacts and causes you to use your imagination. A brand should evoke emotion on a positive level. It needs to give the viewer a sense of empowerment that he or she can enjoy the pleasures associated with the product or service. The visual and auditory senses create an emotional response to a product or service. That is why television marketing is so powerful. Since most of us cannot afford a thirty second ad, we have to use print media or online imagery to evoke emotions.
This is where branding begins. What does your website say about the product or service you offer? What does the imagery of the cover of your books say about the story that is told between the covers? What does the wording of your communications express about the benefits of your product or service? How does your brand relate to your target market? Your brand is a way of communicating to your target audience, but it has the potential to shut out other audiences. Are you aware of the markets you are closing down based upon the brand you are developing? All of these questions need to be answered by your brand and the strategy you use in communicating your value.
Over the course of the next four articles, I will look at several aspects that will help you in the branding process. I also hope to give you some tools that will assist you in establishing and building your brand. This is not theory, this is practical application. Nature hates a void. When you fail to proactively define your brand, the marketplace will define it for you. An error in this process can have you wasting precious time doing damage control instead of maximizing profits, creating sustainability, and promoting growth.