In 1997, the legendary Tom Peters predicted in his “Brand Called YOU” manifesto for Fast Company that in the future, career-minded professionals will need to think and behave like brands to be successful. Well, the future is now, and that prediction has been realised throughout the past couple of decades. Today, personal branding is more important than ever. Everyone who cares about their career success and seeks a work life that’s meaningful and fulfilling needs to actively build, manage and grow their personal brand. And for online accountants, attorneys, consultants and others in professional services, it’s absolutely essential.
The world of branding takes on special significance when it comes to professional services firms. That’s because the product being sold is not some widget; it’s your people. Personal branding is the ideal branding strategy because it maximises the power of human relationships—the currency of business. It’s vital for increasing visibility and building loyalty with clients. After all, relationships that consultants establish and nurture will translate directly into firm revenue, valuable word of mouth promotion and ultimately competitive advantage. Here's why:
Clients make decisions based on emotion
Research from Gallup found that about 70% of decisions are based on emotional factors and only 30% are based on rational factors. And who better to create emotional connections with clients than the real human client service professionals themselves. The rational elements of your firm are the table stakes that get you considered, but human interaction with prospective clients is what seals the deal. Despite this, many professional services firms focus their branding efforts almost exclusively on their expertise and accolades and not on the unique value each of their employees can bring.
Clients are discerning
Prospective clients research the LinkedIn profiles of those who have invited them to a pitch. They’re not checking out your company page; they’re researching the consultant to decide whether they want to invest time in them. So if you have spent your branding budget on building a beautiful website and creating comprehensive whitepapers but you have ignored helping your people craft compelling online profiles, you’re limiting your ability to impress and convince.
Clients believe your people
LinkedIn tells us that only 3% of employees share their company’s content with their followers, but that 3% accounts for 30% of all social actions. Yet few professional services firms are leveraging the power of their people by helping them become digital brand ambassadors. Those that do, amplify the message to the marketplace and create a more human, connective voice for their firm along with a way. Staying visible, available, and valuable to clients and prospects is a priority for them.
So how do you help your people build their brands in support of the firm brand?
First, be crystal clear about the firm brand. Your people will be building their brands while getting to know your organisation’s mission, vision and values. Then, each employee and Partner/Principle needs to understand the firm brand and the connection to their personal brand.
To do that, of course, you need to help your people uncover and express their personal brands. That means integrating personal branding into your culture through all stages of the employee life-cycle from recruiting and onboarding through separation and alumni networking.
When you let them know that their personal brand is important to the firm brand, you’re acknowledging that they have something unique and valuable to offer the organisation and that you’re giving them the mandate to use their individual strengths to simultaneously increase their success and the growth of your firm.
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The key to effective personal branding is to build compelling learning programs that help your people uncover what makes them exceptional and build an action plan to use that unique value to fuel their personal goals and the goals of the firm. Since effective personal branding is based in authenticity, the place to start is with brand discovery—helping your people unearth what’s real, compelling and valuable about them.
Personal branding for your people delivers a competitive advantage for your firm, sustaining the long-term relationships that help you thrive.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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