You’re Ignoring This Client The Most.

There’s a popular excuse that many agencies make for themselves when it comes to developing their own brand that has to do with “the cobbler’s shoes” and basically how we’re all like a shoemaker who makes shoes for every customer except his own children. I should know. I used to make this excuse myself. But with a semi-embarrassed grin that was actually more of a badge of courage, gosh darn it, you’ve got to service those clients that pay the bills!

I’d keep making this excuse over and over as if someone would take pity on me, “Wow, it’s so admirable that he services all those clients but doesn’t do anything for himself.”

Yeah. That pity party’s not coming.

That’s when I realized: You ARE a client that helps pay the bill.

Think about it. What helps register a powerful impression that in turn helps generate leads? Your business card. Your website. Your blog. Your social networking. Your “real world” networking. Your own professional development. These elements and more help your agency’s brand grow. So why would you kick all that to the bottom of the list every time?

We have to stop viewing ourselves as the last priority because we technically speaking don’t pay the bills via our own brand. That’s a huge mistake.

View your own brand as a client. 

This is the only way an agency can treat its own brand with any measure of respect. If you see your own agency’s brand development as another client among your roster, you will make it more of a priority. If you see it as something you should get around to doing, it won’t go anywhere.

There will never be a good time to work on your own stuff. Never.

There may be peaks and valleys in the workflow, but something else will come up. And then your own stuff will be pushed again. The new rendition of the website, a brochure, videos, whatever is part of your self-promotional strategy. Easy to do? Oh no. Not by a longshot, trust me. Right now, in fact, I’m in the process of updating my own company website. Is that pulling me away from other client work? No. I’m not suggesting you ignore them for one second. You bet that makes for an interesting juggling act when it comes to incorporating agency self-promotion. Still, there’s something about adding your own brand to the list of other client brands on the traffic list that keeps it front and center.

I do know that when you add a new client, you make time for that new client, don’t you? You add it to the roster, give it the attention it deserves, meet with key people, strategize a plan of attack, execute for them. You find a way to make it work. So the whole “We don’t have enough time” song and dance is covering up for the fact that you don’t see yourself as a high priority.

Sure, this integration is a work in progress. I get that. But the key word is progress. Kicking your own brand to the bottom time after time isn’t progress. It’s treating your own client – one of your most satisfying, rewarding clients – like an afterthought.

Would you treat any other client with so much potential as an afterthought? I seriously doubt it. Then think about how you’re going to service the client within so much better on a regular basis.

A thought to help you begin? Don’t spew out a bunch of tactics that you’re going to start doing tomorrow. I don’t recommend that for my own clients (Facebook! Twitter! LinkedIn! And more!). Instead, consider this change in mindset as your very first step. Because if you don’t truly view yourself as a client, your effort will go nowhere fast.

Once your head is in the right direction, your strategy and ultimately, your tactics can follow.

Congratulations on your new client.

You Are Not Your Business Card.

There’s a question we all seem to get in networking situations – “What do you do?” Invariably, we answer with“I’m a (occupation) and I work for (company).”

I started thinking about how this defines so very little about why people find our personal brands memorable. We lead with what’s on our business card. But when people talk about you to others, what will they say?

Having just finished the excellent Guy Kawasaki book, “Enchantment,” I’ve realized that likability and trust make for a more compelling position than simply relying on where you work and what you do to bowl people over. Primarily because it shares so little of you as a person.

“He’s a great accountant.”
Not bad, I suppose. But I’ve heard the beginning and end of the whole story.

“The guy oozes talent and niceness from every pore. He made the process of working with him a complete and utter joy.”
Wow. I want to know more. Why was that process so enjoyable? Can I meet him? And by the way, wouldn’t we all want to be described in this way instead?

How does one get to a description like the second option?

A good place to start is to de-business card yourself. I don’t mean actually trashing them all but mentally learning to strip away the contents. All of it. The company. The title. The e-mail address. The phone number. Even the occupation itself.

Imagine all that going out the window. What’s left?

If you find yourself grasping for an answer, don’t feel bad. The first time I thought about this, I called myself a “content marketer” or “brand strategist.” But I knew I was so much more than that. So I became excited by the challenge of conveying myself as a brand and who I envisioned myself to be. This led me to consider the best places to express this personal brand:

Some good places to start:

Your LinkedIn Profile
So many people consider just the summary and work history of LinkedIn. But think about the applications you can add that convey other factors, like what you’re reading (Amazon Reading List), what your interests are (don’t just list the professional ones) and Groups (boards, country clubs, etc.). Assuming you’ve had positive connections, those Recommendations will inevitably help people see the side of you that’s a relationship builder – so don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and clients for them!

I can’t say enough about how a blog will help you develop an original voice that’s helpful, humble and eager to share content. Building credibility is important, but the reward isn’t in trying to be an all-knowing authority that never gets a response. The reward is in inspiring conversation that grows beyond a post and takes on a life of its own (all the while, the positive attributes of bringing a “community” together are credited back to you).

People are feeling you out to see if you’re someone worth following. Here lies an opportunity to prove your thought leadership and show your passions on a topic unique to your industry that extends far outside just “what you do” and “who you work for.” One tool I like to use to add depth and context to my tweets is PeerIndex. The broader my PeerIndex “topic fingerprint,” the more it overlaps nearby related topics and the more I tend to garner interest. For example, if you tweet about a new piece of technology, you may expand your authority by conveying how that technology has implications for media or science rather than commenting purely on whether or not you like it.

It takes some practice to get comfortable in front of the camera, but if you do, it can go a long way toward someone visualizing taking a meeting with you. As you do engage in YouTube videos, however, I encourage you not to picture yourself merely as “VP of…” Again, think above and beyond your current status and instead picture yourself as a leader, resource, a helpful ally in a peer’s search to find answers. Think of how transparent you can be on a topic that stirs your passions. Then keep a schedule of when you can consistently record and upload videos.

We’d all like to think we’ll be at an employer that makes us happy for quite some time – and perhaps we will be. But even so, developing your personal brand beyond what your business card says you are enables you to define yourself as something so much more than a title and occupation – a likable, trustworthy personal brand that people can’t get enough of.

(This post originally ran in