I used to think the same thing. I run what’s called a “boutique business” with a select clientele and most of my business comes from word of mouth referrals.
Why do I get referrals?
Because I have a reputation. (No, not THAT kind of reputation.)
People I had worked with referred other people to me because I did solid work, whether I had edited their book, coached them through the writing, or had actually ghostwritten their book. They had experienced working with me and it was (thankfully) a good experience.
(And full disclosure: there have been one or two client relationships that were rocky. Sometimes we don’t mesh…)
My point is that reputation is to some extent your brand. It is the brand OTHER PEOPLE give you, not the one you control.
And that’s the problem.
You Need to Take Control of Your Brand
While you may enjoy a good reputation, you have little to no control over that reputation. You are allowing other people to define you and your business. And how many people understand just exactly what it is you do?
Years back, I got tagged by a client and event promoter as a copywriter. I was introduced at events as a FANTASTIC(!) copywriter. The problem? I HATE writing copy. Which means I wasn’t all that fantastic at it. But because of that reputation I had lots of requests to write copy. And I wasn’t getting a lot of requests to write books which is what I actually do.
That’s when I learned how important it is to control your message. I became VERY clear on who I wanted to work with and what I wanted to do for them. And then I made sure my messaging was clear. New result: I work with clients I like, doing what I like and getting paid well for doing it. It has allowed me to take on fewer clients and make more money.
But first I had to take charge. I needed to define my brand. And to do that, I needed to define my ideal client. I thought long and hard about who I wanted to work with, what I wanted my business to look like, how I wanted my days to play out.
And it cost a bit of money. I bought books, attended seminars, hired professionals to make me look more professional. (Yes, that’s a job in itself!)
It’s a process and it takes work. It didn’t happen overnight.
But it happened.
How did I know it was working? Because I got emails like this:
“GIRLFRIEND YOU ARE DEFINITELY THE BOOK BOSS. Your new online presence is amazing. What happened? …I don’t know what you’re doing but it’s amazing. You definitely look like the expert and can play with the big boys. What changed?” (Thanks Gaye!)
What changed was I took control of my message and the way I presented myself. And I “up-leveled” my business.
I’m a one-woman shop with a minimal number of clients per year. Branding has already helped my business. So, NO: Your business is NOT too small to brand.
Start Your Branding Now
If you’re not working with the right clients, if you are doing work that doesn’t fit your vision just to keep the lights on, then you need to take charge. Whether you have 1,000 employees, 100 employees, or it’s just you and a houseplant that seems to enjoy your company, you need a brand.
Big or small, having your brand firmly in place—that includes knowing your target market and the format and language they prefer to have their messages delivered—makes your marketing more efficient and effective. Your marketing is no longer scattershot: You know who your people are, what they want, and how they want it.
In addition, brand gives your writing focus. It is much easier to stay ON message when you actually HAVE a message. Even your writing “voice” should be a reflection of your brand.
Flat out, branding makes your marketing easier and increases your conversion rates.
Start by asking how you see yourself, how others see you, and what exactly it is that you do for people.
Then ask why you’re not attracting the clients you want.
Sometimes we stand in our own way. Maybe you have doubts about yourself and your abilities. Here’s a secret: Most people, even those at the top of their fields, do. You have to know deep in your heart that you belong in the top tier of your field. Or maybe you just have to be so mad that your competitors are passing you by that you finally DO SOMETHING.
But you need to carve out some time and you may need to get some advice.
If you want to put yourself on the fast track to up-leveling your business, check out Branding, Books and Beaches, a 3-day event I am hosting with Sharon Vornholt in Louisville, KY, Jun 22nd – 24th. We have two pre-event webinars scheduled plus 90 days of twice a month follow up accountability and coaching to keep you on track.
It’s time for you to step up your presence. Join us.