Branding was the overarching theme of last night’s SparkHer forum, hosted by WIN members Stephanie Hansen, Wendy Blomseth, Katrina Hase, and Cari Spears and introduced by Teresa Thomas-Carroll of Women in Networking.
You are the Brand
“You are the brand,” explained Stephanie Hansen, the first speaker of the night. She encouraged us to think about what our personal brand is, and then to consistently and confidently project that image as we go out and make new business contacts.
Knowing our audiences is key to understanding how to present ourselves. Stephanie, both a radio personality on FM 107.1 and owner of Printz, explained that she needs to consider her audiences when selecting what part of her image to present. “You, as business associations, need to know that I know the printing business,” not the personal details she shares with her radio audiences.
Stephanie gave some tricks of the trade when it comes to presenting your personal brand in a networking situation: have a firm handshake, wear your name tag on your right side for better viewing, and have a good 30 second commercial. “About 10 of you had good commercials as you introduced yourself this evening,” Stephanie shared with us. “The rest of you, I’m not sure what it is you do!” Being clear about what you do versus giving descriptions that sound good but are less to-the-point was an important take-home message.
For people who attend networking events that are going through a job transition, Stephanie cautioned that instead of sharing your personal story, to instead be clear about how people can help you do your business. Because even when you’re between jobs, your image is your brand and you need to present a consistent and confident image.
Your Image in Photographs—An Important Branding Tool
Wendy Blomseth of InBeaute Photography specializes in helping business owners, professionals, and “sales divas” present themselves to potential and existing clients with professional portraits. Keeping in front of your clients with photographs has the impact of making people become familiar with you in way that goes beyond just words, she explained.
Professional images fit in with achieving or enhancing several aspects of your strategic marketing plan. “Try reading your marketing plan and add the words “WITH IMAGES” after each action item. You’ll probably be surprised that there are few strategies in your plan that are not supported with high quality images.” For example:
- Define your mission WITH IMAGES
- Identify the products or services that you provide WITH IMAGES
- Identity your target buyers/end users WITH IMAGES
- Illustrate the unique characteristics of your products or services that distinguish you from your competition WITH IMAGES
- Illustrate your brand and/or identity WITH IMAGES
Wendy suggested strategically using images to tell your story on your website. For each page that describes what you do, illustrate it with a photograph. “Here’s you meeting with a client or your product. Here’s you with your team hard at work. Here’s you rolling up your sleeves and getting things done. . . With five clicks, a potential client has a good visual story of what you do in less than a minute,” which is about the time spent at an average website.
Take inventory of your current images. Ask yourself if they are current, good quality, or hold viewers’ attention. Consider having three to five images with different facial expression and clothing changes to represent you in different media: blogs, websites, brochures, business cards, and other sites.
“You and your prospective clients are being visually bombarded with 1,000 to 3,000 images every day,” Wendy explained. Make sure to make your image memorable.
Defining your Business’ Brand
Katrina Hase of Mix Creative spoke about the process of defining your company’s brand.
In a crowded marketplace, having a defined brand that speaks directly to its target audiences is key. Without this, your products and services will be lost among a sea of competitors.
So what is a brand?
“Your brand is a combination of the words, images, and tone or personality you present to your audiences,” she explained. “It conveys who your company is, its history, its mission, who you sell to, how you’re different from your competitors, and your company’s personality.”
Katrina passed out a worksheet to help define your company’s brand. The different sections of the worksheet take into account your company’s history and objectives, audiences, competitors, inspirations, and personality.
The bottom portion of the worksheet defines a company’s personality through metaphors. “This part is the most fun,” Katrina said, “and I find that it’s often the most revealing in illustrating who your company is.” Katrina interviewed two participants, asking if their company were a flower, what would it be? For another, if her company were a car what would it be? Their answers revealed small details about their companies and even their business philosophies that may have been missed by more standard questions.
Katrina demonstrated the process using the example of a foundation she recently did work for. Using key words from the worksheet, she assembled an inspiration board of images, each of which visually represented an aspect of the company. Next, she demonstrated how those images inform different design approaches and ultimately the finished brand.
You can download the branding personality worksheet here.
“Once you’ve defined your brand, it’s important to be consistent in presenting it to your audiences,” Katrina reminded. “Don’t be tempted to make changes here and there because you’re bored with it. It’s just when you’re starting get bored with your brand that people are starting to get the message.”
Keeping your Brand in Front of Audiences
Cari Spears of Eagan Shirtwerks shared an experience that led her to reconsider her company’s marketing approach. “Oh, I’m so glad we found you!” one of her clients told her over the phone, “We used your company once before, but we couldn’t remember your name, so we kept calling around.”
What’s wrong with this picture? Cari asked us. Even though her company is in the business of selling promotional products, they had forgotten the importance of keeping their company’s name and brand in front of audiences.
Cari corrected the issue by coming up with a marketing plan for sending promotional products throughout the year to different segments of their audiences. She summarized the plan in a table. Along the Y axis was Target Market, Product to Send, Slogan on Card, Cost, and Item to Order This Month. Along the X axis was the month of the year.
Using her marketing plan, Cari was able to specify which audiences to reach out to during which months, what kinds of products to send and how to plan for the next month. Planning the entire year at once helped Cari to allocate her budget in chunks and make her dollars go further.
And breaking up the audiences allowed her to send pricier items to a small number of their best customers, and less expensive items a large number of new prospects.
Cari can review your company’s budget and make suggestions for promotional items that will have an impact and keep your brand in front of audiences.
Talk to our panelists
If you have further questions or would like reprints of materials from the seminar, feel free to contact our panelists:
Stephanie Hansen, Printz
Wendy Blomseth, InBeaute Photography
Katrina Hase, Mix Creative
Cari Spears, Eagan Shirtwerks and Promotionals