“I can’t hear your words, because your actions are too loud!” A very pretty classmate in business school said this to me while complaining about her boyfriend. Considering that I was not involved with her, I was confused why she shared this with me. Eventually, I understood that she shared this point with me because she trusted me. I was trustworthy and compassionate in a culture of analytical cut-throats. I was there for her. That was my brand.
Branding is tightly aligned with marketing. It drives business growth by communicating value even before transactions happen. Branding is not what you say, it’s what you deliver. Regardless of the company, employer, or product, effective business development professionals present their personal brand. Consequently, personal branding represents, then demonstrates, an individual’s characteristics that reflect the organization. When successful, the resultant story communicates to three types of audiences.
The easiest audience to engage is groupies. Consider that personal branding first reflects how an individual communicates beyond the organization or team. The personal connection precedes delivering goods and services. The good news regarding groupies is that they are passionate about the personal connection. The bad news is that they shift allegiances quickly. The target audience acts as a groupie when enjoying the individual’s cute characteristics. But, groupies are fickle. An affiliation with a low-cost solution attracts groupies. Unfortunately, when a better deal appears, their allegiance shifts. An effective personal brand reinforces consistency and credibility. Price can become less of an issue when the relationship provides more value than a lower price can save. To keep a groupie for the long-run, the brand needs to deliver a personally unique benefit. The marketing does not merely state the benefit. It clearly articulates superior value so that the buyer wants to be with the brand.
The next step up the customer food chain believes that the offer features something specifically for the individual representing the customer. Theater tickets or high-end gift cards are often good enough to make an advocate. The challenge becomes, is this purchase in the best interest of the buyer’s organization? The advocate compromises the chance for a long-term relationship because the benefit clouds the exchange’s true value. When the seller realizes that the buyer may have slipped into an ethical gap, the brand now must start again in building a relationship… with the next buyer. Advocates facilitate progress to achieve a deal, but the personal brand still needs to deliver consistent, long-term value. Optimally, both sides work together to further their individual needs.
These buyers achieve the highest level of customer relationships. True believers are customers because the brand consistently demonstrates value and long-term benefits. The customer connects because they believe wholeheartedly in the brand’s message. Credibility, personal attentiveness and integrity are hallmarks of creating a true believer. A great offer still must be made. The offer may even stretch credibility regarding quality and performance. Then, the offer is accurately delivered which reinforces credibility and the desire to extend the relationship. Ultimately, the customer wins and will continue to win because their belief in the brand has been properly rewarded.
All these types of customers can lead to business growth. But, effective personal brands successfully move down this list to generate true believers that lead to financial success. This level of loyalty can only be earned. Such branding credibility must be embedded throughout the organization’s culture and at every connection. Then, aligning marketing activities with professionals that demonstrate a worthy personal brand enables customers to get their full reward from the buying relationship. These customers willingly advance the brand’s strength through referrals, in addition to leading the seller’s storytelling. At this point, the brand successfully dictates who is with them. This strategy’s execution ultimately fulfills the profitable mandate of Walt Disney, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond