As a consultant, your name ultimately becomes your brand. People experience you and form opinions about you and your work. Those opinions will determine whether or not to hire you again or refer you. So who are the best people to help you define and build your brand as a consultant? The people you serve! My clients have not only helped me define my brand, they have honed my brand.
In a prior post I talked about knowing your “fizz” – what your unique DNA and passion drive you to do so well that if needed, you could do it with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back. This is the start of thinking about your brand. The next step is to find out what impact you have on others, what results they have gotten from your work together, and how they would characterize what you do. Before I started my business I interviewed colleagues with whom I had worked with in the past, and asked them bluntly to tell me what value I brought to our work together. I then asked if it was something for which they would pay. Their feedback helped confirm my “fizzy” and “flat” parts, and gave me ideas and words to consider.
I then tried to fashion “elevator speeches” although truthfully, I am not sure about their value because they sound so canned. I prefer to use my 30 seconds with a potential client to ask a question, and then key off their response. I believe that if you are clear about your own “fizz” you can demonstrate your brand versus talk about it.
Today I use customer feedback to check and hone my company’s brand. I conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys, in which I ask, “What value did we provide?” and “What could have been different?” The first question provides information to check our brand. The second provides the feedback needed to improve it. Now when people hire me or my company, I know they are looking to get focused, get organized, and get actionable results. 95% of my business comes from repeat customers or referrals.
My challenge today is to sustain my brand in a world in which information, news and posts flash by at speeds of light. While I am just wading into this realm, I still know that it is the relationship and experience that someone has of you that really counts.