What Does Branding Mean as a Thought Leader?
When you think of well-known brands, successful companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Disney come to mind. You know what to expect from these organizations, their products and hopefully their leaders. Every encounter, from online to in-person, reinforces your belief about the company and its value to its customer base. This relationship, built on trust, fuels the growth of these organizations.
Why not fuel your own growth, as a business owner and as an entrepreneur? By developing your own personal brand you too can achieve a solid level of empowerment that creates growth opportunities. Becoming a thought-leader (well-respected expert on a topic) will allow you to develop a network that supports your personal and professional goals.
The notion of branding has been popular for a long time. However, it’s important to understand exactly what personal branding means as a thought leader. Many people associate a brand with a logo, tagline, and design. While that’s part of a brand image, it’s far from being the whole story. Your brand represents the impression that you personally leave with customers, prospects, investors and business partners. It infiltrates every contact point and requires a daily, ongoing commitment to delivering your brand promise.
Begin by determining the actual value you provide (this is different than the service or product you offer). You don’t have to hold an advanced degree to be seen as a thought leader in your field. This concept applies to anybody, from painters to builders to scientific experts and everybody in between. For example, if you are a great painter and you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, then you need to first acknowledge what your ‘unique value proposition’ is. While you may paint interiors (that’s the service you offer), the value you provide customers is that you ‘make their homes beautiful environments.’ Therefore, your position as a thought leader should feature YOU as an expert in ‘home beautification’ versus painting (since painting is ‘how’ you achieve your value but not the actual value).
You must consistently communicate your brand value through your expertise. Every individual has a brand, some good, others not so much. Your brand is the impression you leave with every customer and prospect, even if it’s not the statement that you want to make. Your brand is communicated through every touch point – from phone to the Internet and via email, social media, networking and speaking events, direct mail, advertising, and every other opportunity you have to communicate with your target market(s).
Your brand can positively impact your bottom line if it satisfies three key criteria. If any of these factors misfire, you put your reputation at high risk:
- Leaves a positive, lasting impression
- Is aligned with your customers’ needs
- Is delivered consistently, as promised
Assess Your Brand Value There are several questions you need to address to ensure you’re delivering a brand value and can establish yourself as a thought leader. Once you have answered these important questions, spend time considering the implications of your responses. If they don’t satisfy the definition of the unique value proposition that you want to deliver, create a plan to make changes so your brand and position as a thought leader becomes an asset that will fuel growth.
- Align Customer Needs with Your Unique Value
* What is the true value I offer?
* Do I SOLVE problems or CREATE opportunities?
* Do I align my unique benefits with customers who value it?
- Focus on Your Competitive Advantage
* What sets me apart from the competition?
* Am I just-as-good or better than my competition?
* Am I unique enough to command a premium?
- Communicate Your Value at Every Touch Point
* How do I communicate my brand value to others?
* Is my value clear and consistent?
* Does my message reach all of the individuals who need to hear it?
In a global economy, individuals continue to evolve and become more dynamic and competitive. Your success is predicated on your ability to define or redefine how your message and value is experienced in such a way that makes you unique and relevant in today’s marketplace. You might need to redefine your value, your message and even customer touch points in order to succeed. This can lead to a unique opportunity to either create or reinvent your brand and position you as a de facto thought leader.