From time to time, someone will ask me whether they really need to worry about branding their company. It’s usually asked by the leader of a B2B enterprise that markets to a select few customers and where the sales relationships are one-to-one, very personal. If I’m basically selling to my golfing buddies, goes the reasoning, why do I need to spend money on a logo or a website or whatever? Well, that may be true but improving sales is not the only advantage to having a brand. In fact, there are eight economic advantages to developing a strong brand. See link at the end of this article.
A variation on the question is: Do I really need a personal brand? The reasoning here is: The people I work with know who I am so why should I have to formalize it in any way? But personal branding, as a deliberate activity, sprang from the need to be noticed in the first place. It is difficult to gain recognition in a working world where people have been commoditized. Bankers, lawyers, accountants, carpenters, nurses – anybody – seem interchangeable on the surface. It’s not till you get to know people that you appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. I wrote about a perfect example of personal branding in A Brand Of One. Again, there’s a link at the end of this article.
But how to answer the original question? The best way to determine if you really need a brand is to first review what, exactly, is even able to be branded.
Ask any couple that’s been in a successful, long-term relationship. How do you make it work? The answer always includes honest, open and frequent communication. That’s what it takes to make love work between two people. And that’s what it takes to make a market fall in love with a brand. If you want your customers, your employees, your vendors and everybody else to have a positive relationship with your brand, you have to communicate. And if you want them to actually fall in love with your brand, your communication has to be plentiful and authentic. Easy, right? Well, not always. Just like in personal relationships, it’s sometimes difficult for a business to find the right words with which to woo qualified clients, talented employees, etc. And what if the messaging used to attract one actually repels the other?
Personal branding has now become a cottage industry. Libraries of books have been written on the subject. Webinars given. Conferences convened. Executive coaches are springing up like wildflowers in spring. I’ve even participated in a few personal branding workshops, myself. I’ve counseled bankers, attorneys and accountants who all work for much larger brands. How do you stand out when you’re one of 300 vice presidents at First Behemoth Bank, and have to wear the same suit as everybody else, and are not allowed to create a social media profile? Individual personal branding challenges can be very interesting but, the truth is, this kind of work makes me a little uncomfortable. A colleague of mine calls brand strategists “shrinks for businesses” and, for the most part, that rings true. But if so, then working with individuals comes perilously close to being an actual shrink. And I just don’t feel qualified for that.
I’m thinking about personal branding, this week, because, at the end of September, the beloved Vin Scully, the best ever example of a brand of one, will be drawing his phenomenal career as sportscaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers to a close.
The National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) recently conducted a survey that found the very top internal concern for middle market managers was attracting and retaining top talent. I’ve heard it again and again, “We can’t grow at a decent pace because we can’t find employees with the right skill sets”. I even heard the owner of a successful west coast restaurant chain complain they couldn’t open their first east coast location because they couldn’t find enough waiters! Not long ago, you could entice someone to work for you by offering:
1 – a competitive salary
2 – a decent benefits package
Today, those two offerings are just the starting point. The modern employee – especially the superior employee – expects nothing less. These days, the 21st-century employee looks at four additional factors:
3 – The mission and purpose of the prospective employer
4 – The meaningfulness of the work
5 – The quality of the co-workers
6 – The corporate culture
You’ll notice these are all branding issues.
Last week, I attended the 5th Annual Next Practices in Healthcare Forum, held at the Children’s Orthopaedic Institute in Los Angeles. Much of the audience was comprised of VPs of Human Resources who, these days, are facing an ever-growing avalanche of new products and services from which they must fashion benefits packages that will attract and retain the very best employees – without breaking the bank in the process. The message they heard? Good luck …
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