Having a professional brand will go a long way to creating a good first impression with prospective and existing clients. And the good news is, it’s pretty straightforward, and won’t cost you the earth.
As a business owner, you’re going to have a better chance of winning business if you have a memorable, recognisable and professional brand.
For those of us who’ve moved from the public sector into consulting, thinking of ourselves as a ‘business’ might be counter-intuitive, and the concept of ‘developing a brand’ for our business, daunting. But while you might think of yourself as a ‘consultant’ rather than a ‘business owner’, you do need to embrace this and invest your time in developing a brand.
As a new business owner I know there’s so much to do and you don’t want to get overwhelmed with a vast branding project when you’re also going through the long list of other tasks involved in setting up a business. But developing a brand for your business doesn’t have to be extensive or expensive, so you can avoid sinking into overwhelm.
When we think of ‘brand’ our first thought is usually visuals (logo, colour palette, fonts), but a brand is also, and just as importantly, about how you sound and the messages you communicate.
If you’ve never had to do this before then here is my checklist for the essential tasks all new consultants need to do to develop their business brand.
1. Choose a business name and register it
The easy option is to use your name. Many consultants do this, and as a solo consultant it works particularly well – when a client hires you, it’s always going to be you that shows up to take on the project. But some people are not comfortable with this option and prefer to choose a ‘company’ name. This is also totally acceptable, but think about it carefully and make sure you’re confident it’s a name you feel you can live with over time. Don’t forget to check if the name is already in use, and then go ahead and register it. It’s easy to do – just google for the relevant government site in your jurisdiction. Another thing to check before you decide your business name is whether the domain name is available. I cover this in the next step, but it could influence your decision, so do this before you register a name.
2. Purchase your domain name and email address (with your business name in)
Once you’ve decided your business name, you should purchase the domain name and then set up an email address with the business name in it. Domain names are simple to buy – a simple google search will connect you with suppliers. And unless the name is in highly desirable [e.g., ace consulting] or very common [e.g. ‘john smith consulting’] it’s likely to be pretty cheap. Once you have a domain name you can use it to set up an email address – e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. Most email platforms have a paid version that will support this. I use Gmail and for around $6 per month, not only will you get your email service, you’ll also get easy access to Google drive for file storage, sharing and document collaboration.
3. Create a simple brand story document
OK, so this is a bit of jargon, and those of us who are new to business might not be familiar with it. But we are all familiar with the concept of a ‘brand story’ for organisations we have worked in, even if it hasn’t been termed this way. Just think mission, values, target populations, etc., and you’ll get the gist of it. Here are four tips to get you started:
- Decide on your brand/business values – what do you stand for, what do you want to be known for?
- What tone of voice will you use in your marketing materials –first person, formal, casual, friendly, knowledgeable?
- What’s your value proposition – another jargon business term which essentially means from the client perspective, what value will you add?
- What are the key messages you need to communicate to your audience – about you, your background, your skill set?
4. Have a simple visual brand created – logo, colour palette and fonts.
Think about a colour palette that you feel you can live with over time and build your logo around it. It’s easy to find good quality graphic design at very reasonable prices online. Try Fiverr or Upwork to find freelancers who’ll produce this for you cheaply and quickly. Once you have the visual brand, you’re all set for steps 5 and 6.
5. Create essential business templates
Set up PowerPoint and Word templates using your business brand. As a consultant, you’ll need a consultancy proposal template, a report template and a basic PowerPoint slide deck. Also, have business cards designed and graphics for your social media profiles created. That’s all you need to start with. Again, these can be done quickly and at minimum cost by freelancers.
6. Create a website holding page/coming soon page
Setting up a new website from scratch can take time, so if you want to have a web presence in the meantime, just create a ‘coming soon’ page that includes your contact information and utilises your new branding. That way people can still find you if they search.
Having a professional brand that resonates with your target audience (and is consistent) will go a long way to creating a good first impression with prospective and existing clients. And the good news is, it’s pretty straightforward, and won’t cost you the earth.
Jacq Hackett provides expert consulting services to public health agencies. And as a veteran of over two decades of consulting, she now provides coaching and development for other consultants. She is passionate about supporting the next generation of public sector consultants to become very good at what they do.
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