The great advertising executive David Ogilvy had plenty to say about advertising, but some of his most insightful advice was on building a brand and marketing yourself. Ogilvy’s advice on this topic was simple – “First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to go get on with it.”
In order to market yourself, you must always position yourself to be a person of authority – the one people continually turn to for advice in your niche. But, as you will find, relying on the support and advice of others is vastly important in self marketing. Surrounding yourself with intelligent people familiar with your product is the first step to any successful marketing campaign. But there are other ways to market yourself effectively in an increasingly fast-paced business world.
Connect With Your Industry
The most important way you can market yourself is by connecting yourself with your industry, convincing clients that you have so much experience in the industry, that you have become its major brand (think of how far John Chow has come to be the literal face of the “Dot Com lifestyle”).
But this doesn’t mean that you have to set out to build a multi-million dollar brand, becoming to your industry as McDonalds is to fast food. You simply need to show your clients your connection with your niche, and the little things make all the difference.
For example, you operate a company that manufactures metal tools and scaffolding for construction projects, and need business cards to properly market your services. Think of how much more interesting your marketing approach could be with something like metal cards, rather than the plain old paper business cards that everyone expects. You might have to spend more money, but those metal cards truly reflect your connection to your product, and help you stand out from your competition.
How do people become experts in a field? Most of the time, luck plays an important role in putting experts’ ideas in front of the right people at the right time. But if you don’t market yourself as an expert, luck never has a chance to come into play.
Start marketing yourself as an expert now, even if you are still new to your field. For example, you might prepare a speech or presentation, then volunteer to give it at some local nonprofit organizations or business clubs. These communities are always looking for speakers to share their ideas. Although you might not get the immediate buzz you’re looking for, you will begin brand recognition with a small audience, which could bleed into larger exposure.
You could also force this in an online environment, using referral exchanges with other experts (an agreement where both participants advertise each other’s services). If you also use blog comments to advertise your services or authority, remember that you don’t need a link to your website in every comment you write. Only add the link when it makes sense, when it adds to the conversation taking place.
Treat Your Employees Well
One of the biggest contributors to the success of the Starbucks brand is their reputation for being one of the best companies to work for. So good, in fact, that unions have consistently struggled to sign Starbucks employees, while companies like Walmart spend millions of dollars actively preventing their employees from organizing. While both companies are successful, Starbucks enjoys brand loyalty difficult to match, and it’s tough to find a bad comment about the company from an employee’s perspective.
When marketing yourself, don’t put anyone in a position to criticize you, especially those that work for you. A disgruntled employee can still push a button that slams out thousands of identical products. In the service industry, a disgruntled employee can single handedly destroy a product. Clients understand this too, and will respect a personal brand far more if they know that the workers that have built that brand are treated well.
Worry About What Your Audience Wants, Not What You Want
I was once told by a friend that works as a programmer at a large video game company that the reason so many first person shooter driving levels turn out poorly, is because they’re more fun for the programmer to design than the gamer to play. And this translates a great deal to the online services world. As a writer, I often have to ask myself if I’m choosing a topic because it would be fun for me to write, or if it would be fun for my audience to read. Far too often, it turns out that some changes need to be made to make my product more interesting.
When marketing yourself, always remember that you still have to address your audience’s expectations directly, at least until you’ve built a powerful enough brand where your audience knows what to expect. This means that you might have to tweak your services to cater to some clients, and should be willing to compromise when necessary. You might even need to change some things about your brand to cater to your audience. David Ogilvy once again had some advice for a group of people that hold a special place in my heart, writers obsessed with proper grammar. “I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”