We are surrounded by big brands – Levi’s, McDonalds, Kleenex, Heinz Ketchup – they are all around us. How do we, as coaches, benefit from having a brand? Is it possible to create brand without spending lots of money?
In this article, we’ll talk about brands and how to create one that authentically represents you!
First, let’s examine what a brand is. Contrary to popular belief, a brand is much more than a logo and a tagline. David McNally and Karl Speak, in their book “Be Your Own Brand,” provide one of the best (and meaty) definitions of brand I’ve come across:
“A brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by a buyer or prospective buyer, describing the experience related to doing business with an organization or consuming its products or services.”
In other words, a brand is something felt by your clients or potential clients, and they feel it when they work or talk with you. A brand doesn’t require fancy logos or slick marketing materials or lots of advertising. Instead, it’s the lasting and consistent impact of how you are being when you are in relationship with others; it’s the mental and emotional “image” they have of you during and after your interaction. You can develop a strong brand without spending a penny!
So how can a coach benefit from having a brand? Stop and consider a brand that you feel positive about – perhaps your Toyota Camry, your Hewlett-Packard printer, or your Lands End sweater. If you think about just the brand (and not the specific product) I imagine that positive words and feelings will come to your mind. Reliable, comfortable, easy to use, well made, good quality – these might be your perception of that brand. Here is one of the benefits of branding: you, as a consumer, associate positive thoughts and perceptions with the brand, and so all the various products offered under that brand are viewed in a similarly positive fashion. Experiences with one brand’s product will “rub off” onto other products of the same brand. (Be aware that this works with both positive and negative experiences.)
You might be thinking “But I’m not ketchup nor a sweater nor a car. How can I brand my services?” As coaches, we provide personal services that require a high level of trust and vulnerability and personal chemistry. Your coaching services can’t be separated from who you are since you are a major part of the services. Therefore, the simple fact is that YOU are your brand. Once you get clear on your personal brand, your services will be branded as well.
It’s important to realize that we are subconsciously branded whenever we meet or talk with someone. Be honest. How many times have you met or talked with someone and walked away with some type of emotional reaction or impression or judgement? It happens all the time; it’s part of being human! So why not use this natural tendency to your advantage? Instead of letting chance decide how people feel about an interaction with you, take steps to positively shape their perceptions and feelings. That is the core of how a brand works – being consciously proactive about clearly and consistently communicating your uniqueness and value, and thereby influencing how you’re perceived and remembered.
Strong brands begin when your clients and potential clients trust you, like you, remember you, value you, and relate to you. So how is a brand different than being a nice person? The added ingredient in a strong brand is the clear and consistent identification and communication of the qualities or characteristics that distinguish you from everyone else. A brand helps your clients and potential clients more easily “classify” you in their mental Rolodex (yet another brand!)
Below are three broad steps to create your own personal brand:
- Create an inventory of the unique characteristics relevant to your coaching niche.Look closely at yourself and determine what sets you apart from other coaches – your values, passions, personality traits, experiences, and areas of expertise, to name a few. Uncover those attributes that you might have taken for granted or not previously recognized. Examples include: honesty, connection, respect, humor, creative, physical action, intelligent, vibrant, organized, energetic, compassionate.
- Select those attributes that are both relevant to your niche and that also represent your true essence. It really helps to have friends, colleagues, clients, and family help you with this step by asking them to share what they see as your essence, your core being. Ask them to describe you in four to six words. What attributes do they see as your core characteristics? You will see patterns in the feedback that will help point you toward your essence.
- Choose six to eight of these essence words that really represent who you are.(Note: not who you want to be, or “should” be, but who you really are.) Using those words, craft a personal branding statement. How would you succinctly describe yourself and your value to the world? Remember, you aren’t describing your services, or your niche, but you. Keep working until you’ve developed a statement that reflects who you are, how you want to be and be seen, and the value you bring to your clients. Here’s an example: “I’m a seasoned entrepreneur and compassionate partner who brings clarity, humor, and creative intelligence to help calm the whirlwind of your life.” This branding statement is the foundation for your brand.
Armed with your branding statement, you can put it to work in a variety of ways.
First, and most important, put it to work in your heart and thoughts by really owning your essence words and statement. Step fully into that place and be your essence more fully.
Second, in your words and behavior, by being able to easily talk about your brand, your essence, and your value. I’m not talking about your elevator speech here (which is focused on your services), but rather on how you talk about yourself, how you act, and your impact on the world.
Third, in your business vision. Does your brand integrate easily with your vision? Do they complement and support each other? If not, revisit both elements to create a compelling business vision that works well with your personal brand.
Lastly, in your marketing materials. Although this is what most people think of first, it’s the final step, not the first. You may want to incorporate a logo or image or tagline into your marketing materials to further support and strengthen your brand. Be aware that this step is icing on the cake. Without the brand being firmly present in your heart, thoughts, words, behavior, and business vision, the overall impact of the brand will be minimized.
The secret to a successful brand includes the following key elements:
- It is relevant to your target audience (your niche)
- The brand message is clear and easy to grasp
- It is consistently communicated in a variety of ways (including your behavior and words and being, as well as your various marketing materials)
So without spending a penny, you can develop and put in action a brand that will strengthen your position in the market and help you be more positively memorable in your client’s and potential client’s mind. Remember that branding is more about how you are being and your impact on those around you, and less about your marketing materials.
If you want additional information and exercises for creating your own brand, I invite you to purchase my bookset, in which I have a whole chapter devoted to developing a brand for you and your coaching business.
As always, if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear about your brand, how you developed it, and how you’re putting it to work for you!
Wishing you a fun with your branding efforts!
Dorcas Kelley CPCC CMC PCC