Freelance Marketing – Branding

This is the first article in a five-part series that details exactly what you need to market your freelance business and make it a success.

Freelancers know that marketing can be tough. With few budgetary resources in comparison to competing corporations, every marketing effort must be meticulously calculated for success. Just because your freelance marketing budget is tight doesn’t mean you should skip the basic tenets of laying a sound marketing foundation. Quite the opposite, in fact, it means that you have to be nearly perfect to build your business to the next level. And no matter whether you’re a freelance designer, writer, developer, attorney, virtual assistant or other contractor, success begins with branding.

Importance of a branded image

Customers make purchases based on emotion, and they justify with logic. Your brand image sets the tone for that emotion. If your branded image tells customers that you’re the best person to provide a particular service, if it makes them feel comfortable doing business with you and confident that you’ll produce the results they’re looking for, you have crafted an excellent brand that’s primed for success.

How to identify your branded image

It’s important to identify what, exactly, your brand represents from the onset – before you do anything else. You can develop a branded image for your freelance by first listing the benefits of hiring you. This could be a guarantee, proven past results, service-specific superiority, low pricing and many other qualities.

Next, compare your list to your competitors to discover advantages. What can you do better than your competitors? Shortlist these qualities, and compare them to the qualities your target audience is seeking. If you can find a quality that: a) you exhibit exceedingly well; b) your competitors can’t compete against; and c) that your target audience wants enough to leave your competitors; you have your brand image.

Branding through design

Graphic design takes your freelance businesses’ branded concept and morphs it into a visual motivator through the use of colors, fonts, logo and layout. These traits are universally applied throughout your identity package, which consists of business cards, brochures, flyers, pocket folders, posters, your freelance work and other materials. All of your advertisements, including banners and rack cards, will carry your brand image. With dazzling brand design, your customers will come to instantly recognize what you stand for at a glance.

Choose a skilled graphic designer to develop your brand identity, and you’ll be on the fast track to success. Never skip this critical phase – your brand is what sets you apart and uniquely identifies you from the competition. It builds customer loyalty and ultimately increases sales. When you do it right, your return far outweighs your investment.

The Oldest Tea Merchant in the World is Still a Marketing & Branding Phenomenon

Any traveler to London is naturally overwhelmed with the many sites, sounds, history and majesty of this glorious ancient capital, especially first time visitors. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Thames, Big Ben the Horse Guards, 10 Downing Street, St. James Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Old Bailey and Hyde Park Gate are only a few of the famous must see locations tourists consume in the vast spread of this vibrant metropolis. The greatness of the British Empire is vividly on display in the streets, buildings, history and traditions that travelers can share with the British citizenry.

As a marketing consultant by trade I am particularly absorbed by the many ancient commercial establishments that are based in London. Harvey Nichols, Harrod’s, Fleet Street, Saville Row, Claridges, Hamleys, and hundreds of independent specialty shops that trace their provenance back centuries are more bountiful in London than in any other city in the world. Adolph Hitler did not refer to the British as “a nation of shopkeepers” for no reason.

One of the must visit shops I always include in my itinerary while in London is Twining’s. This venerable purveyor of tea is quintessentially British. The original tea shop is still the Companies base and the address at 216 Strand near Westminster has been in constant use for over three centuries.

The founder of Twinings, Thomas Twining was born in 1675. He moved to London as a young man and worked as his father did as a fuller (wool processor). At that time, having a trade was a necessary precursor to becoming a Freeman of the City of London. Unless designated a Freeman it was impossible to start a business in the city. Twining became a Freeman in 1701 and began to work for the East India Company, then the preeminent merchant trading company in the world.

The East India Company, piggybacking the dominance of the British navy, became the largest importer and exporter of luxury goods, spices and foods from the many corners of the globe where the empire had planted the British flag. Twining worked in teas and became absorbed in all things having to do with tea. His mentor, Thomas D’Aeth, would prove particularly valuable for the young entrepreneur.

By 1706 he was ready to open his own business. The Strand Street location he chose for his shop was fortuitous, as this area became the neighborhood of choice for the London upper crust after the horrific Great Fire of London. Politicians, merchants, military leaders and royalty began to come to enjoy the service, superior selection and top quality tea products available at Twinings.

Then as now, competition was tough. Coffee and teas houses were commonplace in 18th century Britain, and tea was not yet the ascendant national drink. Thomas Twining, however, under the important tutelage of Thomas D’Aeth had a powerful advantage over his competitors. He was not just a buyer, or server of tea, but having worked for the East India Company as an importer, with important connections on distant tea plantations, he knew more about varieties and newly developed types of teas than almost any other Englishman of his day.

Twinings became famous very quickly for the vast selection and high quality of the teas sold and served in the shop. The shops reputation for handling only the finest product, and its introduction of Earl Grey tea to the public cemented the Twining legacy. Thomas died in 1741, but miraculously the family continued to operate the shop and expand the business well into the 20th century. The Company holds a number of Royal Warrants, sells hundreds of types of tea and Twinings tea assortments are sold in over one hundred countries.

If you enjoy the great good luck to visit Twinings at 216 Strand Street in London today please closely note the door before entering the tea room. It is one of the most distinctive branding vehicles in the world, and the oldest in continuous use. The famous doorway was unveiled to the public in 1787. Two distinctively carved Chinese figures and a lion are at the crown of the sill. The Twinings logo, lacking a grammatically correct apostrophe, is written in the firm’s unique font, exactly as it appears to this day on every Twining product.

Thomas Twining created a brand that has become synonymous with highest quality and British excellence. After 300 years of continuous service to the tea consuming public, his star still shines ever bright at 216 Strand Street, London.

Keyword Domination – Niche Market Branding

The slinky, wacky-clackers and hoola-hoop were all words we’d never heard of before the mid 1950’s. But now everyone recognizes the genius behind those winning crazes.

Those words were created and became an ingenious craze that struck the nation and overtook the world, but… they could just as easily have been long tailed keywords that meant something and led folks to some incredible opportunity too.

Any concept can fill a niche market if there’s a need.

Long tail keywords offer niche domination with identifying brand labels. When your brand identifies what you do using keywords, your recognition factor on the search engines becomes instantly greater. A craze that takes off online can bring you to the top of the Search Engine with Page One Recognition.

A new idea, a concept, or a precept created with a specific product in mind erupts with power when a niche market is found. A niche market assumes a paradigm relevant to a specific group of people expanding to broaden and envelop a market of consumers. If the idea includes a catchy title, a coined phrase, keywords, or a specific dynamic the consumer can grasp and share easily, the niche market is born.

The creator of a specific niche becomes a recognized guru. His product becomes the talk of the planet and the Internet waves with delight as another successful business is born.

Can you imagine sweeping the Internet with a craze such as the Hoola Hoop?

Do you need some help creating a long tail keyword brand for your business?

Your Personal Photo Is Your Marketing Brand

Since I’ve been concentrating on LinkedIn, I notice something totally disconcerting. So many people, even professionals, use snapshots rather than professional photos. I see images where people look surprised they are being photographed, or worse, wacky. Images of you with your kids, hugging your partner in front of the Grand Canyon, your dog, or no photo at all… what on earth do you think you are doing posting a photo of yourself like that?

Photos are a language that speaks volumes. Rule #1 of branding yourself as a successful what-ever-you-are is Increase Your Visibility. All things being equal, the more visible competitor wins.

Viewers read things into photos that you never even considered. Here are some points to keep in mind:

Your photo says lots about you. Do you look friendly, confident and capable?

If you have a professional photo, it implies you can afford to hire a professional. If you don’t you’re either too cheap, unsuccessful, stupid, or don’t care. That’s what people think.

  • A professional photo can make you look active and engaged.
  • Your photo should imply you are a leader in your field.
  • A professional photo builds your credibility.
  • Perception is reality. An amateur photo makes you look unprofessional and NOT what you say you are.
  • Logic loses out to emotion. Photos speak to emotion.
  • No glamour shots or Olin Mills images with lots of light blown into your face. (Thus showing my pre-Photoshop age history)
  • Use props that are relevant to what you do. Or hold a pen or reading glasses in your hand. This makes you look active.
  • Nobody cares how old you are, what you weigh, or if you have a zit. A professional photographer can make you look spectacular.
  • A professional photographer can pull out your personality and make the viewer feel they know you.
  • Wear something relaxed and appropriate. Stiff, uncomfortable clothing will make you look stiff and uncomfortable.
  • Don’t wear prints, jewelry, scarves or anything else that will distract from your face, or be dated in a few years.
  • Be who you are. A great photo of yourself should last you several years. But, don’t use your photo from when you were 22 and now you’re 52.
  • Once you invest in a great photo, put it everywhere including on your business cards.
  • An excellent photo should cost you under $300. If it is too inexpensive, you may not be working with an experienced photographer who can make you look great.

There are a few things you need to invest in to be taken seriously as a business owner. One of them is a professional photo. I know not everyone is enthusiastic about having their photo taken. I have actually seen people cry during a photo shoot. But, I’ve also seen what appear to be shy people “bring it” to the party. Remember, a good photo can be used for many years.