Recently my business partner, Matt and I had just come out of a sales call and were reflecting on whether the potential client would sign up for a project with us or go with another brand consultancy.
We both felt great on the call, but now that it was over, I could feel the anxiety seeping in. In my conversation with Matt, I began talking faster, taking shorter breaths, and making arguments in my head as to why we were better than other firms. This went on and on for awhile. Why? This was happening at a time when we were in between larger client engagements.
The Challenge of Being in Between Projects
My inner dialogue was saying, “We need to get this bigger project or else that’s it! No other possibilities out there. How will we pay our bills and keep the consultancy and our more independent lifestyles going?”
Know the feeling?
Then Matt asked, “Remember what Steve Jobs said in the movie ‘Jobs’?” My ears perked up. “You don’t need to be better. Just be different.”
And in that moment, my overly-active mind stopped churning. I had one of those “ahh, that’s right…” moments. The kind when someone has to remind you of that thing you already know really well, but you just had a little brain freeze.
Knowing Your Value
In that instant, I took it in. I paused, took a deep breath, and remembered our unique approach and value in the marketplace. I remembered my own strengths, my values, my personal vision. I remembered the impact I’ve had on my past clients (and in my past work experiences), particularly, when I’m of genuine service and in the flow with my unique talents and skills.
After a few minutes, I was back and more present again. Relaxation seeped back into my mind and body. Anxiety went away.
Even if this client didn’t sign up with us, it was ok.
I trusted that the value we offered was going to attract more sales opportunities again. I knew that if we continually made our true value known in the marketplace and continued to stay in conversation with people, it would happen. Ken Chen covered this in the first part of this series, “When In Between: Practical Ways to Re-Engage.”
Now, as a consultant, how can you truly know your value and uniqueness in the marketplace?
The Building Blocks of a Personal Brand (and a Company Brand)
Having deeper clarity around our brand can have a profound impact on how clearly, naturally, and confidently we can speak when introducing who we are and what we do.
Below are the four elements along with starter questions to get you reflecting on it for yourselves. Knowing and integrating all four of them into a cohesive whole is what makes up the uniqueness of our brand, whether it’s our personal brand or an organizational brand.
- Know WHY you do what you do.
What do you believe in strongly (OR what are you passionate about) and why is that important to you in work and/or life overall?For a great talk on the power and importance of knowing of your ‘why,’ in the context of your business, check out this article, which includes a TED talk by Simon Sinek. Spend 15 minutes watching it — it may reshape the way you think about your own brand.
- Identify WHO your customers/clients are.
Who do you like working for? What kinds of companies? What kinds of teams? What kinds of projects? What circumstances and challenges are these clients generally in before they hire you and which challenges do you gravitate towards?
- Understand WHAT you offer and the benefits/impact.
What service, or services, do you offer and what are the benefits for your customers/clients and the impact you have?
- Know HOW you go about doing what you do.
What are the skills, unique talents, and approaches/processes that you bring into your work to get the job done?
In essence, all four elements serve as the building blocks of your brand. It’s like having an architectural plan before starting to build a home. When you have one, it’s a whole lot easier to build your house. Learn more about these four key elements in depth.
Focusing Too Much on Others, Instead of Ourselves
Without our brand clarity, we can also move into the land of “I’m better than that company or that person because <fill in the blank>.” Trying to be better (although that’s a worthy goal) can lead to a lot of wasted energy in the end and just create more stress.
At its best, being “better” can help us sign up new clients, but we may always feel a gnawing sensation in the back of our minds… “what if someone ‘better’ comes along and takes my job over?” Or, “what if someone wins that next job that I’m interested in while I’m in transition?”
At worst we can end up competing with people who could be our potential partners and collaborators on future projects. Even more, we could miss out on their support (and having them keep their eyes open for us) when we are in transition.
On some level, Steve Jobs understood the challenge we get into when we’re too focused on trying to claim we’re better. People and companies end up in small feature wars and forget the bigger picture around what truly builds deeper engagement and loyalty with potential customers and clients.
Turning a brand strategy into messaging
Brand clarity and messaging may not come easily at first. It takes time and often requires support of colleagues, a mentor and/or a brand coach to really get it to a place where it feels right for you.
Even if your brand elements look similar to others at first glance, there’s always something truly unique about you — your story/past experiences, a quality that makes working with you much different than others, and/or a combination of your talents and skills that create a unique experience for your clients.
Be different. Be yourself. Over time, and with practice, it’ll go a long way to meeting the kinds of clients you want and doing the kind of work that uses your skills and talents for the benefit of everyone. Including yourself.
May you be personally and financially prosperous on your journey as an entrepreneur.