If you’re a solopreneur, then you are your business. Customers aren’t just buying the services you provide; they’re buying what you represent, based on their response to, or relationship with, your personal brand. That means, building and maintaining a favorable brand is essential for solopreneurs.
Think of it this way: your personal brand is a shiny red sports car. Under the hood is the engine, your most prized and functional value. It’s the heart of what you do. Everything else—from the plush, hand-stitched leather seats to the gently sloping curves and racing stripes—is your personality and trust factor.
So, your functional value powers you through the turns, getting things done, while your trust factor looks good doing it, leaving people with a joyful thrill as you streak past in an exhilarating red blur. The two were meant to go hand in hand.
To help get your brand up to speed, here are five tips every solopreneur should leverage:
1. Positioning Defines Your Business
Positioning sets the course for what a business should do to market its product or service to customers. For service providers, such as consultants, writers, photographers, graphic designers and others, positioning is all about defining your niche or area of specialization.
As a rule, specialists get paid more than generalists. It’s also easier to market your services to a niche audience than trying to be all things to all prospects.
So, choose a niche and stick with it. Instead of saying you’re a freelance photographer, for example, you could position yourself as a photographer who specializes in commercial real estate shoots. Or, instead of being a generic publicist, you could specialize in doing publicity work for technology companies whose goal is to be acquired within the next 18 to 24 months.
To settle on a niche, you’ll need to figure out what real-world problem you can solve for a specific type of customer or client. Is there something about your approach to the problem that sets you apart from your competitors? If so, you now have a proprietary system to incorporate as part of your brand. Better get the word out.
2. Messaging Spells out Your Value
Once you’ve identified a niche, you’ll want to start communicating with prospects and customers right away. Just be sure that any messages you craft are clear and compelling. Imagine you’re the customer. You’d expect any messages from your business to support its positioning claims, right?
Also, you’d probably expect your business to offer some idea of whatever’s driving the need for your services. Your brand’s messaging is where you’ll lay out all the great reasons why prospects should buy from you.
Heads Up: Your messaging will resonate better and be remembered longer if you weave it into a compelling story.
3. Strategize for More Effective Branding
With your functional value and trust factors firmly in place, it’s time to hone your brand strategy. Begin branding your business by acknowledging what’s nearest and dearest to your heart: your core values and passions. Add your personality, strengths and image until you arrive at your brand promise, which is what customers or clients expect to get whenever they interact with your business (you).
Although you may be tempted to gloss over this exercise, building your brand outward based on your core values is the best way to ensure the authenticity of your brand. Customers and clients place their trust in authentic brands; if yours is found to be lacking, they’ll take their business elsewhere. So, the time you spend getting this right will directly affect your profitability.
4. Cultivate Your Circle of Influence
As a child, you may have learned that people judge you by the company you keep. In business, customers and clients judge brands by the influencers who reflect favorably upon them.
For example, if you’re a marketing consultant to dental practice owners, there are trade organizations, media outlets and social media groups that specifically address the interests of dentists. If you ask your top clients and vendors who the key influencers are among dental practice owners, you’ll soon have a short list of key contacts whom you can educate regarding your positioning and brand.
As you cultivate these relationships, you’ll be in a great position to ask for introductions and endorsements—and customers and clients will seek you out because your proximity to a key influencer reflects favorably upon you.
5. Make a Plan and Implement It
Think of your brand as a living thing. You can nurture and grow it but for optimal results, you’ll want to have a brand improvement plan in place to guide its growth. And you’ll need a brand communication plan as well. This plan should reference how you represent and message your brand, so there’s consistency across all written, verbal and visual communications.
As you develop your action plans, think about all the ways you can help your customers or clients find you—both offline and online. For example, they may find you offline because of positive word of mouth, or they saw you give a talk at a local event.
Of course, there are many ways they could find you online: search engines, social media sites, review sites—its all about connecting with your community and engaging people through your brand.
Building and growing a strong personal brand takes commitment and consistent effort, but it’s an essential undertaking for solopreneurs.
The good news is that, with the right mix of positioning, messaging and influencers, you can build a brand that will differentiate you from your competitors while bringing business and new opportunities to your door. Branding is well worth the effort.