When first starting out, most coaches, consultants and service-based businesses struggle to get their first paying client. At this point, anyone with a credit card will do. They’re just happy someone is interested in what they have to offer.
A year down the road, however, they may find themselves dissatisfied with their business, frustrated by their client base, and confused about who they serve. Even more confounding, they wonder how they even ended up in a niche far from where they envisioned themselves going.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Early on in my entrepreneurial journey I started a business with some ideas of where I wanted to go, but no real strategy to get there. I was like a sheep that wandered from one tuft of grass to another, until one day I looked up and realized I was lost and far from home.
It was then that I realized that I needed to be intentional about where I wanted to go and who I wanted to serve. In order to accomplish that, I implemented a strategy that helped me to clarify my identity, positioning and messaging. This set me on a path of success that lead me to where I am today.
Since the entire strategic process is too complex to include in a single article (and video), let’s just start by talking about the initial step – creating your brand identity.
Identify Who Needs Your Services
First, you have to determine who may be interested in the service you offer. This takes some market research and analysis. This may include surveys, focus groups, interviews, social listening, industry reports, etc. You can read more about how to conduct this type of research in this article.
Decide Who You Want to Serve
After you have identified a broad group of prospective clients, you can decide which of these are your ideal clients – those you want to work with. You may prefer to serve a specific gender or age group, or you may choose to focus on individuals in a particular industry or with a specific need. Whoever you choose as your ideal client will set the stage for all of your brand development efforts and will be a determining factor for your niche.
Develop Client Personas
It is important to not only know who your ideal clients are, but what drives them. Creating a detailed description of your clients, including demographics, psychographics, communication preferences, etc., will help you to gain a better understanding of the behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, needs, desires and goals of those you wish to serve and engage with.
This may take some time, research and consideration, but it’s a necessary step that shouldn’t be overlooked. It creates a foundation for your brand messaging, brand persona, communication efforts (like advertising, social media, and email campaigns), and much more.
Establish Your Brand Vision
Your brand vision is the aspirational intentions and ideas behind your brand. It is what you want your organization to stand for, especially as it is perceived by your target audience.
According to David Aaker in his book, Aaker on Branding, “When a brand vision clicks – is spot on – it will reflect and support the business strategy, differentiate from competitors, resonate with customers, energize and inspire the employees and partner, and precipitate a gush of ideas for marketing programs.”
Having an aspirational vision will attract clients who are like minded. Additionally, it will help you stand out from competitors that follow the status quo and are satisfied with merely exchanging a service for money.
Determine a Higher Purpose
Beyond establishing your aspirational vision, aligning your business with a greater cause is one more step in developing a meaningful brand. A higher purpose can attract clients that share or identify with the ideas that the brand stands for.
Having a higher purpose is a strong differentiator since it is something that is difficult for competitors to copy. It would be impossible for another shoe company to use TOMS’ buy one give one model without looking phony, and it certainly wouldn’t have the same impact or attract the same attention as it did for TOMS.
Like many of the elements within the brand essence, the higher purpose should be more than just words in an ad campaign or quote from the CEO. It should be authentic and backed by action from the company. Words and sentiment without programs or activities that prove the organization’s commitment to a cause will be viewed as hollow rhetoric by the public.
Develop Your Brand Personality
A business or individual’s brand personality is a set of traits or characteristics that produces relatability and personal connection with the audience. This includes the look (images, colors, fonts) and messaging (voice, tone, vocabulary) the brand uses to portray itself.
Intentionally molding your brand’s perception by crafting and reflecting distinct personality traits will allow you to attract the specific audience you wish to work with. And just like the other brand elements, it will help you distinguish your business from your competitors. Additionally, a well-defined brand personality will help to guide communication efforts that speak to the target audience on an emotional level.
According to David Aaker, a brand should be strategic about how they develop their personality by first determining its intention.
“The final judgement about the nature of the desired brand personality will depend on what roles the brand personality will play,” states Aaker. “Will it be to represent and communicate attributes, to provide energy, to define a relationship, to guide decisions that affect the brand, or to have another defined purpose, such as to soften an association standing in the way of gaining loyalty?”
Beyond establishing your brand identity, there are other brand elements you will need to develop in order to attract and connect with your ideal client, differentiate yourself from your competitors, and build a brand that matters. This includes your positioning, messaging, brand story, and visual identity. But those are topics for future articles.
Developing your brand identity is a good starting point for strategically designing a business that resonates with your ideal client. You get to choose who you work with because you determine who you attract, target and appeal to.
Are you struggling to attract the kind of client you want to work with? I’d be happy to help.
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