“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Elizabeth Harr
“Whether a solo entrepreneur or part of a large organization, professional services executives would do well to be mindful of their personal brand.
In particular, a personal brand that is rooted in a reputation for niche expertise can propel not only the expert behind that brand – but also the firm that expert is associated with – to higher levels of growth.
One of the most important things we learned from our research on how to become highly visible as an expert was which marketing tools have the greatest impact on an individual’s personal brand. Without this data, we’d have to select our tools based on unreliable anecdotal evidence, trial and error, and intuition. But this gives you a better option: hard data from scores of real-world professionals.
Here are the top tools from our study, rated on a 1 (least impactful) to 10 (most impactful) scale:
Total Impact of Personal Branding Tools
The ten tools shown in the table above can be grouped into seven critical tools you will need to include in your personal branding strategy:
- A book. Whether you do it yourself or enlist a ghostwriter, you will need to produce a book that addresses your area of expertise. A book is a critical credibility builder. Your book can be traditionally published or self-published. Traditionally published books can deliver instant credibility, but self-published books (for which you can set the price or give away for free) offer more flexibility. Either way, you will also need to promote it, since even name-brand publishers rely on their authors to do most of the marketing. A book can be a heavy lift, so don’t feel like you have to tackle it right away.
- Speaking engagements. Public speaking is an important platform for building your reputation and personal brand. In fact our referral research shows that the No. 1 reason behind expertise-based referrals is that someone saw the person they referred speak.
- A website. If you are part of a firm, you’ll want to focus at first on your bio page. It should present sufficient credentials to convince people that you really know your stuff. Here are a few of the things it might include:
- Detailed personal bio
- Links to social media profile (LinkedIn being the most impactful)
- Academic degrees
- Important projects
- Speaking videos
Once you’ve begin cultivating a regional or national reputation, you may want to consider developing a personal website, too. You can use this site as a platform to promote your books and public speaking.
- A blog platform. To be sure, the professional services ecosystem is filled with a lot of junk that purports to be informative content, and for some execs, admitting they read blogs is akin to admitting to watching trash TV. Make no mistake about though: Every expert should be blogging. It’s the most accessible way to demonstrate your expertise. Done properly, it’s also one of the easiest ways to start building a loyal following. And when you apply search engine optimization (SEO) principles to your posts, you open up a whole new world of prospective clients who, for the first time, will find you through online search. A blog is an essential tool if you want to spread your wisdom quickly and widely – wisdom being the operative word here.
- Email marketing service. Part of the benefit of a blog is getting in front of people who don’t know you. Email marketing is how you turn many of those people into loyal followers — even raving fans. Using offers to download valuable educational content such as guides and whitepapers, you can entice a certain percentage of your blog readers to opt into your mailing list. You can then feed these followers a steady diet of free educational goodies, as well as additional offers that deepen their engagement.
- Search engine optimization (SEO). If you think SEO plays no role in your line of work, you are almost certainly wrong. Every year, more and more organizations use online search to find and vet their service providers. But even more relevant to your journey up Mount Expert, business people today instinctively fire up Google whenever they encounter a thorny business problem. In many cases, they research the problem and possible solutions themselves — before they seek out professional help. In other situations, professionals use search to find thought leaders in their field. SEO is the tool that connects you to the people who are intensely interested in the problems you solve. And you would never meet 99 percent of them without it.
There’s one additional tool that you will need, one that will save you a lot of time and headaches:
- A media kit. Experts get requests for bios, credentials and photos all the time. So it makes sense to have those things ready to go at a moment’s notice. Even better, put them up on your website bio page where interested parties can find them without asking. Every time a last-minute request comes in, you’ll be glad you have it at your fingertips.
This list, of course, just scratches the surface. There are dozens of tools that you can use to engage your audience. Think webinars (which are just a different take on public speaking), advertising, public relations, SlideShare, video and web analytics, to name just a few. As your personal branding strategy begins to reap dividends, you may want to introduce and test a handful of new tools and techniques.”
Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.