Before you worry about personal branding, you must identify your position to stand out in the market. Business speaker and best-selling author Steve Brossman shares how he helped a client achieve this.
In the world of big business, companies often spend tens of millions of dollars on what they call brand awareness marketing, with seemingly little direct and immediate benefit to them. Why would a company do this, you may wonder? The reason behind it is that they are creating their position out in the market.
You may have noticed the buzz for the past few years around personal branding. I agree that, as professionals, we should each have our own personal brand that clearly identifies us and is consistent. However, to me, branding is a reflection and communication of your positioning, so creating and clearly identifying your positioning in the market is the first step.
Case in point: A developer stuck in a brown box
I've written previously about the Brown Box Syndrome. This is when a professional or business is positioned the same as everyone else (aka a plain brown box), and it is not till a prospect or customer really gets to know the business that they realize it has some uniqueness and is a good business to work with.
Let's take the very competitive IT industry. This industry is huge and broad, yet so many within it simply say they work in IT. Not that long ago, I worked with someone who called himself a web and app developer. He was selling websites and offering his services to build apps.
Let's look at his perceived position. You can get websites built offshore for a few hundred dollars and even take courses to build your own apps for under $100. So, he was competing at the low end of town and was, unfortunately, a very brown box.
If all we did was give him a personal brand, we would simply need to give him a funky logo and possibly look for a unique selling point to communicate, and he would probably be seen as a very good web and app developer. He would then be a decorated brown box.
To achieve real personal branding, however, we needed to look at his positioning. We looked to discover what it was that he did differently, what his real uniqueness was and how we could communicate it – a real repositioning.
It turned out that he spent time really working out what a business needed and designed a complete solution. Yet, instead of focusing on and selling the outcomes like many professionals do, he was focused on talking and selling the input.
Brown box to blue box
Once we changed his language of focusing on the solution and benefits to the business that the solution provided, clients saw greater value, as they were investing in their business growth, not spending on a technical necessity.
It was time to reposition him away from the brown box of web and app developer to the blue box of "digital business solutions specialist." That's still just four words, but in using them, he was now perceived to be more of a specialist and provide a more valuable solution.
To change your position, you need to understand the positioning pyramid. The base of the pyramid is Generalist. This sea of brown boxes is where most professionals and businesses exist. As a generalist, you are fighting for clients and often competing on price.
Just jumping up one rung on the positioning pyramid to Specialist means you will stand out, attract better clients and boost your profits. This is progressively true for the next rung, Authorities, then Celebrities at the top of the pyramid.
The financial gain from the new positioning
As a result of moving from web and app developer to digital business solutions specialists, my client no longer gets inquiries for cheap websites; he only talks to business owners who want to invest in a solution for the growth of their business. His conversations with prospects revolve around providing a solution to help the company grow, not just websites and technical jargon. The conversion rate is consistently 95 percent, and, in his words, "the other 5 percent I don't want to work with." He has reported that this has easily added six figures to his business.
So, your perceived position does indeed predict your profits. If you are perceived as a generalist (brown box), you will be paid as a generalist and spend too much time and money fighting for clients. If you are perceived as a specialist or above, you will attract higher clients and get paid accordingly.
Once you have created your unique authority position, that's when you can create your personal brand to communicate it.