Building your brand has now become a full-time obsession with many professionals. Many prospects who come to me start their conversation with this in mind: “How can you help me build my brand and how can you help me make it stronger?” is the most common way those curious about building their brand start this conversation with me even before we engage. In fact, in my Client Intake Questionnaire this is one of the questions they need to answer to complete that questionnaire, and many fail to properly respond to it. Typical response to this question, which asks, How do you define your brand, ends up with responses like, I am not sure what my brand is or a number of diverse responses depending on their own view of how others see them.
There is no mystery to a brand statement: It is what first jumps out when you see that name or a product that bears that name: Tiffany: High-end jewelry; Singapore Airlines: Top-notch service; FedEx: Guaranteed Delivery, etc. The reverse is also true of damaged brands; they broadcast what they are NOT. These branding statements are not achieved by clever marketing campaigns and a blitz of PR stunts, but are carefully secured through years of repeated brand impressions that those who come in contact with these brands repeatedly experience. This is the power of a true brand! The power of a good brand is that it sells itself.
So, how do you translate this practice into your professional career and life? Here are 10 branding “hacks” that are worth practicing if you are also creating a highly recognized brand in your own ecosphere. This applied equally well to an individual and to a business delivering a product or a service:
- Honoring Commitments: This is one of the most basic tenets of a career professional: When you agree to do something you must always deliver on that promise. This may sound simple—even easy—to do routinely, but most come short on this front. They often find some way to dodge their obligation by blaming something or someone, or simply even are oblivious to such commitments. In my book commitment is a sacred obligation you take on in your personal and professional life and you must do whatever it takes to honor once you commit. A commitment is not merely what is given in writing, but it is also what is stated in a conversation. So, before you take on your next obligation make sure that you have accounted for all the contingencies that can impede or frustrate your efforts to meet that commitment and allow yourself the margin to protect your brand.
- Saying “No”: One of the main reasons people feel stressed, overloaded, and feel caught in an endless cycle of incomplete tasks is that they take on too much. They are afraid to say No to tasks that pile on in their plate and are constantly chasing missed deadlines and obligations in a breathless way. This is the single most common cause of stress in one’s professional life. So, before you take on yet another task, even from your boss, learn how to say No and learn how to re-prioritize what you have if you cannot say No in such cases.
- Influencing Others: Your ability to influence others with compelling arguments and cogent facts is one of the most important skills you need to develop as you grow in your profession. Influencing others requires first understanding their agenda and then presenting your argument to them that serves that agenda by “subordinating” yourself to get what YOU want. So, if you want a piece of test equipment from another area, but the person holding that equipment may see its need in the work that they are doing, one way you can get them to loan that equipment to you is to show them how by getting this “loan” they can speed-up their own project, which is dependent on your delivering the test results to their group.
- Exceeding Expectations: This is also yet another “hack” that requires you to hold yourself to higher standards than others do to theirs. One of the basic rules for this to become your reality is to always under promise and over deliver. So, if you think that your task is going to take five days to complete then promise that task next week and beat that deadline. If you can achieve a consistent test yield of 92%, promise them an 85% yield and surprise them with the higher result. This consistency in exceeding expectations requires diligence, hard work, and uncompromising work ethic, all of which are ingredients for building your top-notch brand for yourself.
- Showing Integrity: Things do not always go right or go your way. When they do not go the way you wanted or predicted then the outcomes are not what you wanted or what your customer expected. Everyone understands this, but how you deal with it defines your brand. So, rather than giving many excuses for what went wrong, taking responsibility and making right for the customer speaks to your professional integrity, which is central to your brand. When you feel defeated avoid trumpery at all costs and accept the blame to make it right by your customer.
- Delivering Excellence: Merely exceeding expectations does not result in customer seeing you as someone who delivers excellence. Excellence requires you to excel at what you do in quality, standards that you hold for yourself, and how you create the total customer experience. So, learning how to excel others in your outcomes and knowing how the customer experiences that excellence are at the heart of this factor.
- Anticipating Needs: It is never enough to merely meet your “customers’” requirements. You must go above and beyond that and anticipate what their emerging needs are by looking ahead of their immediate needs-horizon and showing them what they need to keep their business ahead of their competition and in winning their This requires staying customer intimate and having the confidence of your customer to be able to listen to them and influence their mindset to keep them ahead of their competition by listening to your point of view. For a provider to reach this state of a relationship with their customer requires someone to have achieved all previous six stages of their relationships with their customer.
- Disabusing Customers: There is a mistaken belief among many providers that the “customer is always right,” and this comes from a school of thought that customer always knows what they want. Nothing could be further from the truth. Customers think that they know what they want, but as the expert it is your duty to show them what they know and what they do not know. Customer are often happy wallowing in the state of “unconscious incompetence,” which means they often do not know what they do not know. As the expert it is your obligation to disabuse their state of incompetence and educate them to move into the state of “conscious incompetence.”
- Respecting Competition: No matter how good you are at what you do and no matter how much you have earned the respect of your ecosystem to be the “top dog” in your field, someone is always trying to beat you at your game. Be aware of this force and respect it to challenge your status quo. If someone does something better than you do send your customers their way without hesitation and learn from you customers what they experienced by going to your competitors. If you do this right your customers will always return back to you!
- Managing Change: In a high-velocity environment that we encounter, especially in technology-driven change you must learn to master this force and learn how to stay ahead by managing this change. Mastering change requires knowing what to change and also knowing how to manage this change to keep on top of your game.
Building a powerful brand, both personally and in a business, is hard work and there are no shortcuts to achieving the required status. Start practicing these “hacks” and see how your own brand grows with time. Be patient!