Welcome to another episode of Brand it! With Petchy. Today, I’m lucky enough to be joined by Aditi Jajal-Newey – a Brand Efficiency Strategist. She works with successful, busy and overwhelmed coaches, consultants and service-business entrepreneurs who need to optimize their brand and draw in more clients.
She uses a bold, unconventional approach to create a powerful brand core and a minimal yet effective marketing engine around that core.
Drawing from over 10 years of marketing and branding experience with businesses of all sizes, she has learned what a brand needs to do and just as much, what it does not need to do to create impact and revenue. In 2020, Aditi hit burnout as a consultant who tried to do it all. She stepped off the marketing hamster wheel and saw the one truth she carries in all of her work today: In today’s noisy business landscape, the only way to get your brand heard is by speaking directly and explicitly to your customer, and making them feel seen and heard. No best practices and strategies – brand-building is intimate relationship-building.
Aditi now helps other coaches, consultants and experts build those crucial relationships and create exponential results for their businesses.
I’m so thrilled to be welcoming Aditi on as a guest, and you’re in for a treat with this episode as we dive into what it takes to build a great brand in the consultancy and coaching space. Aditi also shares about her personal experience of overwhelm, and the clarity that came to her from that.
TL;DR – here’s how to connect with Aditi if you want to learn more from her:
Disclaimer: The following transcript has been auto-generated and then edited by me and while the general flow of the conversation is there, it’s most certainly not 100% accurate.
P: Welcome, Aditi! I am super excited to be welcoming you to the show , and I’ve really been looking forward to this conversation that we’re going to have today because geeking out with a fellow brand strategist is definitely high up on my list of good ways to spend my time.
A: I am very with you on that Petchy. Thank you so much for having me, I have also been looking forward to this conversation – since Monday this week, when I looked at my week plan, I was like, Friday afternoon is where the gold is at. So thank you for having me.
P: It’s certainly a nice way to round off the week for me! So today we’re going to be talking about… Well, I guess we’re gonna be talking about a lot of things… But our starting point today is around what it takes to build a great brand in the consultancy and coaching spaces, and specifically, we’re going to be dissecting the pressure within these industries to constantly show up and create value – and the overwhelm that can lead to. I know that you’ve got some personal insights for us on the clarity that you gained after experiencing that overwhelm yourself. So please start us off by painting a picture of that overwhelm and what it looked like for you? How would you say it’s affected your approach to the work that you do?
A: Such a great place to start Petchy because I think starting with a story is always a good place to start. And we love a good story, absolutely just going to get us flowing. But I started my brand consultancy, my agency, about 3.5 years ago and I stepped out of a very toxic work environment. And it was the push out of the corporate world that I needed, I suppose, in many ways. I stepped out and decided, OK, I’m gonna build this thing. I’m going to start doing something on my own. All I knew was I could write fairly well and I understood branding. I knew a few things about marketing and I had to package all of that and sell it to people who needed some help. When I started off, I started working with anyone that needed any of that help. I lived in Dubai for 25 years before I moved here to Oslo, so I knew the landscape in Dubai and there’s a lot of budding businesses and startups around the corner. And I tapped into my network and found some of them, and I just did work for absolutely everyone – and that grew and word of mouth grew. And I started to feel this itch to build my brand as a consultant, and I chose not to build my brand as a consultant. Instead, I built my agency’s brand because I had dreams of expanding and growing this thing and scaling up. And when you step into that world, when you set up your own business, there’s always people who’ve done very big things that you look up to. And you think, Oh, someday I want to be there and it’s only after doing it for a while do you realise what you really want and what you don’t want. And I realised I didn’t want this big agency. I didn’t want to scale this up. I loved doing the intimate one on one, or one to few, work that I did. And so that was one sort of turning point for me, or I’m not gonna call it a turning point; I’m going to say it was an evolution step. It was a point where I had to think. Okay, what do I really want to do? And where do I really show up to serve in my best light? And so I narrowed down my focus a little bit to the kind of clients I like to work with. And then everything was kind of uprooted because I decided to pack my bags and move here to Oslo, Norway, where my husband lives. So there was the temperature change to adjust to and the cultural change. And I had to set up shop in a whole new market, which was a challenge in itself. But then I fell into a whole different niche over here because I was a marketer and I couldn’t speak the local language. And I realised, well… the only people I can work with are people who need to market in English and not in Norwegian. So I started to focus on businesses that want to go out of Norway or out of Scandinavia and into English speaking markets. And I found a few and started to work with them and then once again, my ambition created this tide that I got swept away in and I was like Yes, fantastic, I can do more of this and every invoice grew bigger and as every invoice grew bigger, my ego around what I did grew bigger and it drew me further and further away from the things that I love to do. I think all of us go through this and that’s why, when I hit that point, I realised that this wasn’t just my story, it was so many other people’s story – and I had to start sharing it and doing something about it. In the middle of last year, my business was doing fantastic, and in the middle of the pandemic, when things were difficult all around I was still doing well and I counted my blessings.But at the same time I knew something was missing and so I took a little bit of time out and started to build a programme, a digital programme that would connect me back to the small businesses and the solopreneurs that I really liked working with. And then I made this fatal mistake of jumping into what I call the marketing hamster wheel. Because when you build a digital product, which is where a lot of coaches and consultants go, you start to feel this pressure to be online, to be everywhere, to have thousands of followers and it’s ah… it’s all consuming. It sucks you right in. And I looked up all of these things, got on programmes and courses… For my 30th birthday I asked my sister to buy me a speaking to inspire course by Lisa Nicholls, and I asked my husband to buy me an instagram course and I asked my mom and dad to buy me another programme that I wanted to pick up – because all of this was going towards building my brand. And I got to this point where I was building this massive brand and doing less and less of the things that I really wanted to do. I wasn’t putting any time into mastering my craft, and so I realised that there’s something going wrong. I continued ignoring the signals and went on and on and on. And I hit burnout because at one point I had an Instagram live show, I had two brands under me, this digital school as well as my agency. I was still doing all the client acquisition myself, had one or two people supporting me, and it was like 16 hour days and weekends and just all of it. So I stopped and thought, I need to stop. And that’s where I just turned everything down Petchy. And now I do what I do, which is I just turned the volume down on all of the marketing. Really looked at the few pieces that moved the needle for myself and figured that’s all I want to do. I don’t mind if I put out one piece of marketing a week as long as it’s speaking to the people I really want to impact, and I help others do this as well.
P: Thank you so much for sharing that story. I think it’s going to be something that resonates with a lot of the people who tune in. I know it certainly resonates with me. And I’m so glad that you said that thing about, you know, peeling back the layers and going back to the core and realising that, you know, you don’t have to do all of the things, but it’s so easy to get sucked into that. When you see all of these other, bigger brands, everything they’re doing, you forget that these bigger brands have teams behind them that are actually helping them do all of these things. And here you are if you’re a solo business owner or the owner of a small business and you’re trying to do all the things on your own… it’s just not sustainable, right?
A: Yeah, and really, the truth is that if you are going to have this multi channel social media presence, if you’re going to be doing events, if you’re going to be speaking on stages, there’s a machinery that it takes to be able to measure the impact of each one of those activities and getting sucked into the hamster wheel and kind of just doing it all will never leave you enough time to actually measure all of it. So even just measuring the impact of every post on one social media channel. Just that takes hours to do. So if you have to do it for multiple channels and the speaking career and a book and a programme and your email marketing… it’s just… there’s not enough hours in the day to do it.
P: So what is your different approach? What do you do now that you didn’t do before? How did you make that switch and what’s your approach now?
A: So I peeled back all the layers. I took a break. First, I took a complete break from publishing and showing up anywhere, and I did some… I took a taste of my own medicine, and did some very deep brand strategy work – in the sense of my brand platform, what I really stand for and what I want to do. I think a lot of clarity for what channel to choose for the people you want to speak to and how you want to speak to them, and what you want to say to them, comes from that brand platform. Most of us don’t spend enough time there because it’s in our head. The mission; we know what we want to do and we think we don’t really need to put it down anywhere. But putting it down somewhere brings up this process and this thinking behind it that helps you realise: OK, hang on. If my goal is to impact this particular type of person, why am I chasing that 10,000 follower goal on instagram? And you see the disconnect between the things that you’ve been doing on a day to day basis, and the impact that you really want to make. So for me the first step was taking that big break and doing this brand platform work, getting very clear on what I wanted to do, reconnecting really with my reasons for stepping out of the corporate world and setting up my own business. When you do that exercise, you realise there’s a lot of stories in your past, in your life, that are connected to your purpose that you didn’t even know were fuelling it, which was a big reason for me. I realised that both of my parents failed business attempts. It’s a big reason for me to want to help others make sure their businesses succeed and so only when I reached back and quietened down and did that work, did I see that that was a cause for me and, and I went very simple in the sense of; what is the sales conversation that I’m having that is helping me to book a client today? And I picked up the phone and started talking to 10, 20, 30 people who were in my target audience. I just started to have more of those sales conversations. Then I realised OK, hang on. I know now the people who were saying yes, they want this particular service. I know the people who were saying no. Let me just look at what the people who are saying yes are doing, where they are spending their time. And I realised the people who are saying yes to me hardly spend any time on social media. So I was barking up the wrong tree there, trying to build a social media following because they’re really busy. They’re overbooked, usually, and they don’t have time to deeply consume social media to make any meaning out of it. They might scroll through, but they don’t take action on anything they see on social media. So I realised I need to tone down myself, maybe completely. It doesn’t need to happen for me. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have this influence because that influence wasn’t going to be a needle mover for me. It might be at a later point in my business, but not right now. So I realised, for me it was a lot of meaningful conversations and creating spaces for my clients to be able to relate and share and feel heard. And so my podcast is where I thought I’m gonna put my energy. So that’s what I picked, and I have an email marketing effort that I make consistently and that’s about it. And I have a website. I have zero social media. I have a Linkedin page. It’s there. I have no commitment to showing up. If I show up to say something there, it’s because I want to say something. it’s not because my client acquisition engine needs it. So my client acquisition engine has really become just putting my podcast out there. I use my email list and I get people to my website. I show up in a few different places myself. Clubhouse rooms, events, stages where I know I’ve got something to say that’s gonna help. And I just drive people from there straight to my website. So there’s one call to action. Even at the end of our conversation, you asked me where do we send people? And I said to my website. There’s just one place that I need you to go. So I just made the path to purchase very, very clean. And if I ever add a marketing layer, it will be to enhance that path to purchase. And that’s it.
P: Thank you so much for sharing that approach with us. I think it’s gonna feel like a relief to a lot of people to hear that you’re “allowed” to ditch things, you can just go all in on the things that you find work for you or that you find enjoyable. You don’t have to be in all the places. And what I especially liked is, right at the start, when you were saying you peeled it back to the core and you looked at the brand core and the foundations. And, you know I like to talk about these things, and it’s like at the core of everything that I do, too. But again, like you, I also have that sort of same feeling that yeah, we think that we know these things and therefore we don’t have to write them down or to elaborate on them or to work on them. And that, I think, is stopping so many people from really figuring out who they are and what they want to do because they have this kind of feeling in their head of; yeah, roundabout there, that feels right. But have they really stopped to think about it? And I’m guilty of this myself all the time, even though I am a brand strategist and this is what I work with people on! I started off much like you – just, you know, starting off doing all kinds of things for all kinds of people. And then I did the exact same thing that you did; Okay, I need to sit down. I need to swallow my own pill, and I need to sit down and really have a good hard think about what I want to do in this world and who I want to work with and what makes me happy. And so even for the small business owners who are most likely tuning into this podcast: brand strategy might sound like this lofty big thing that only the huge corporations need to worry about. But in reality, it’s important for every size business to have these core foundations and to just get that feeling for what kind of impact you want to make in the world, because that’s the driving force. And that’s what will keep you going.
A: I think… For people like you and me, especially because we work with brand strategy, we tend to do our own strategies in our heads, and the problem with that is we don’t articulate it and put it out there in the world in the right words. When someone asked me what I did, sometimes I’d say I’m a brand strategist. Sometimes I’d say I work in marketing… I mean, it was all over the place. It depended on the project that was on the table that day, so many times for me, and I realised that I was majorly reducing my potential for impact by not being articulate about what I could do for someone. And I saw that the second I started to practise my pitch in the mirror. It’s such a basic piece of advice, but it seems so silly. And when you actually do it, you’re like, Oh, do I really need to do this? And I hated myself for doing it. I was like, how vain is this… standing in the mirror and like repeating how I introduce myself. But then I did. I made myself do it because a coach guided me to do it. And then when I went out there and introduced myself the next time after – I said what I wanted to say, it was the words that I had rehearsed and they just came out. And I can see people’s eyes lighting up because they relate because I haven’t said something vague. I haven’t just tried to explain what I do. I’m crystal clear, so I believe in… I say this all over my website as well: you need to cut out and cut through. If you’re this massive mass, this big thing that’s moving in, you can’t cut through the noise. It’s really hard. So when you get sharp, you cut out and you cut through. And that’s the minimal. Those of the brands that are powerful, that last and those are the messages that get remembered.
P: Absolutely. And I think it’s so easy to fall into that trap, especially if you’re fairly new in business, to want to say all of the things. You know, you daren’t really narrow it down to just that one message to say; this is what I do – because you do other things too. And you just want to tell them about that. And then you can’t not tell them about the other thing that you do because what if they want that… and then you get this watered down message that leaves everyone confused. What is it that she really does? So instead of being scared of laser focusing your message and your mission. Just own it. And everything will become a lot clearer.
A: So I have a balancing piece of advice to that. I’m all about getting clear about your message. And I think it does a lot of great things for you, as well as for the people around you. But for those people that are still in the generalist space and they feel like they need to stay in the generalist space. Because some consultants, some cultures, some businesses need to. They still don’t know precisely what their target audiences are, precisely what services they want to cut out and what they want to keep – and the bills need paying. So you want to do whatever it takes. And in that case, it’s best not to define yourself and ask questions instead. So I would say, before I knew what I really wanted to do, if I just said I work in branding and marketing and turned it quickly around and said; what is your business? What are your challenges? And if they said, Yeah, we’re really looking for someone who could do content for us – then pick up on that and say, Hey, guess what I do that. That’s a great way to not lose that conversation because you’re either too afraid to get specific or too afraid to be generalist. I’ve seen a lot of people who are just like I don’t know if I’m ready to cut things out yet, and I think that’s a fair place to be, because you need to explore before you figure out what you like and what you don’t like. And I learned that the hard way, which I think you did, too.
P: Yes, I did. I started out as a generalist as well. Most of my career was spent as a generalist, not really by choice, but because it was expected by employers and business partners. It took a while after I started my solo venture…. It took a while for me to figure out what I actually wanted to be doing. I kind of knew inside what I wanted to specialise in or focus on, but it took a good couple of years before I felt confident enough to say that this is my area of expertise. This is what I am bloody good at. So absolutely there is the need to have that transitional period for some people. I mean, some people are just like snap. I’m gonna be doing this. Good for them. But for most people, I think it’s more like what we’ve been through, where we have had to figure it out. And kind of feel our way into it. Yeah, it’s a journey.
A: It’s a bit of a discovery process and you sharpen up the skills that you know you want to show up to deliver with, and it just happens. And one day you wake up and you realise, OK, I think I’ve gone very far in this direction. Do I want to stay here or do I want to switch tracks? And the great part about doing your own thing is you can make those choices.
P: Yes, you’re the boss and you’re in the driver’s seat. So we talked a little bit about niching down and finding your focus. I also know that we’ve spoken before, when we’ve not been recording, about how to niche down and what niching down means. And it doesn’t have to mean the same for everybody, you can niche down in different ways. And to bring my personal perspective on this, I knew that if I have to say, I will only work with this type of client in this specific industry for the rest of my life or my career – that would drive me absolutely crazy. And so I chose a different approach and I niched down more in what I deliver and the personalities of the clients that I serve, their purpose and their values rather than the industry they’re in. So what would you say are right fit clients? What would you base that on in your biz? What’s a right fit client for you?
A: So I have been through this process not just for myself, but a lot for my clients. Where they look at the word niche and they think industry. What industries do I want to serve? And I want you to know that a niche is not necessarily an industry. Your niche is just a segment or a slice of people that have something in common that you want to serve or solve or take care of, or a particular pleasure that you can provide, a joy that you can provide to one particular type of person. That is your niche. And other people like that are all in that particular niche. And so many businesses, especially early on, make this massive mistake of niching down so hard and thinking only one industry or only one particular sector, or they’ll decide ; we’re public sector only, we only serve clients in the public sector. And then this really interesting client comes along from the private sector who’s doing very meaningful work, and suddenly you’re like, oh… Your identity and your sense of identity takes a big hit when that happens, because you grounded yourself in what you are not what you’re becoming, and what you really want to do is ground yourself in what you’re becoming and what you’re becoming is an expert at serving XYZ problem or taking care of this particular situation and coming in as the expert. And if you’re doing that… so I like to think you want to be outcome focused rather than demographic focused or psychographic focused right? I don’t have to always serve happy, chirpy, nice people. I don’t have to always serve solopreneurs. Sure, I don’t have to always serve clients in the golfing industry or the sports world, I could just choose to serve clients who have brand challenges. They don’t know how to get their message out there. No matter what kind of business you are in, I’ll have a conversation with you and see if I can help you achieve that outcome. There might be a focus area where I can do that really, really well, and there might be some clients or some industries or some sectors were I can’t do that so well or some kind of people that I can’t do that so well for, because my particular work requires a creative energy and I don’t find that with everyone. But by being outcome focused, the whole conversation changes. The whole sales pitch changes because then it’s just okay: You’re here. You want to get there. Do I have what it takes to get you there? And if every business thought that, niching wouldn’t really be a thing, it would just be; Okay. Let’s go out there and look for this particular problem, and maybe it exists in a niche. But maybe it exists across nations, across sectors, across industries. And then you just become that problem solving expert, not a niche expert.
P: Now this is liberating because I think, maybe it’s specific to the online business world, but there has been this tendency of all of the advice that’s being pushed out there is niche, niche, niche. You need to do work for this specific person in this specific industry because then you can tailor your message specifically to them, and then everything will become easier. And I’m like, well, what if I don’t want to?
A: It is a tailoring of the message. We’ve butchered the message so close to the bone that there’s nothing niche left to it, you know? And it’s just… I understand there’s merit in being super specific, and in talking to one particular type of client, I get that. But once again, if you just put the lens of outcome on that particular approach, if you think all I want to do is help you get here and the conversation is to anyone who’s facing that problem that wants that outcome, you’re still going to be very specific. You’re still going to do all of those jobs that the niching down exercise promised that you would be able to do so. Clarity is at the base of all of this, and clarity is important, so you can’t go out there and say, I’ll do anything for anyone. I know some people say, Well, I don’t want to niche down. I just want to show up and say I can help and that’s not gonna help either, because then you’re not showing anyone where you can take them. So just get clear on what you can do, what outcome you can create and there’s tonnes of people out there who want those results.
P: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. I can’t say how much I love this approach because it’s finally like someone else is thinking along the same lines as me. And it’s really nice to find people who you can resonate with. And hopefully this will be true for our listeners today as well. So we have been talking about how to build that brand core and that it needs to be really powerful. Shall we go into a little bit more detail about that and get really geeky about this brand strategy thing? So I know we all have our methods. I have my framework, and you probably have your framework that you take your clients through. So, how do you guide your clients through building that powerful brand core, what are the steps?
A: So, interestingly, I used to do the whole mission, vision, values… because it was a framework that you got taught everywhere and I learnt it. And I realised over time that what it came down to was this essential document. This brand core document that I ended up putting together for all of my clients. And I always start with just brand essence and DNA. If they exist, as a brand already, then I really go out there and look through everything. Their business cards, their work, before covid I walked through their office spaces. I would sit down with them and get a feel for how they talked about their brand and really read between the lines of everything to find this essence. Because it exists for most businesses and brands, even if they haven’t identified it yet. There is a quality about them that is very them, that kind of staring that they just haven’t articulated yet.
A: And by not articulating it, they’re losing out on a lot of opportunities to be able to highlight it more and more, especially if it’s a quality that you can position well and that could take up a good spot in your ideal customer’s head. Then it is a quality that you should be highlighting more. So I really look for that brand essence first, and I work on articulating that essence and then from there, I don’t go into mission vision and values. Yet I still stay with that brand core. The core message is the things you want to say when you show up, so one big exercise I do in a workshop is to ask: Your brand has a microphone and the world is listening. What are you going to say? And we spend hours crafting that message. It’s like you’ve got one opportunity to say something, and from there we then create a brand manifesto. So it’s building brands that are very idealistic in this sense of; What do we want to be? How are we showing up in the world? What is our vision for ourselves and what is our vision for the world that we want to create around the brand? And then it just changes the approach from being methodical about mission and vision and values, which have this almost a scientific formula around the way they’re done. You know, there’s formulas for brand positioning statements, and I’m just like, Oh, I feel too constricted by formulas. And so I always work from here. I build that brand essence, that brand core. And then out of those pieces, we create a hypothesis. And this hypothesis statement is “I help blah, blah, to do blah, blah. And we do it by doing this.” And there is an essence. There is a brand essence in that statement as well, because the way we say things, the order of the information, all of that is affected by what is most important to us as a brand. And then we put out a survey to 30-50 people to see if that hypothesis holds true – and only if these 30-50 people who are in the right fit audience for my clients resonate with that message. In the survey, we test the resonance of the problem. We test the resonance of the solution. We test the resonance of the DNA that we’ve identified. Do they understand the words that we use when we say our mission is blah blah or this is what we stand for? Do you understand that word? What does the word value mean to you? What does the word profit mean to you? So the questionnaires are different, depending on the industry and depending on the involvement of the client in the purchase decision overall. And then that’s what we use as the foundation to build messaging, to build collateral and move on from there. So I don’t use a lot of the frameworks that I started off using, which were taught to me as theoretical frameworks for marketing and brand building. Those all went away over the years.
P: I think, in a way they’re probably still somewhere in the back of your mind. But you know this so well, so now you have the expertise to be able to run with it and do it your way and tailor it to your clients.
A: Absolutely, which is another thing that I think is really important to think about when you’re working with someone to create your brand strategy: you’re not just hiring someone to come in and do the heavy lifting for you. You’re paying for someone to come in and guide you.
P: Because it has to be co-creation. And this is what I try to explain to every client: I can’t sit down and make up this brand strategy for you. This is your strategy. We need to work on it together. I need you to give me input and information about your company, about your brand, about where you wanna go, what you want to achieve, what difference you want to make in the world. And then together we’re going to pull out and extract that brand essence. And that becomes your brand strategy. So I think it’s really important that you said that you get to know your client, you really dig in. And it’s a personal thing. It’s not like you just show up, put a finger in the air and say; here is your brand strategy. You follow that. And I think that’s really important to get across, because I think a lot of people think that strategy is just like someone who’s going to come in and tell you what to do, and that’s just not it at all.
A: And that is almost a qualifier for me to see if this is someone I can work with or not. If they’re not willing to be involved, if they feel like as a brand, it doesn’t come from me. Just build it. I know that I know straight away that that’s a client who… sure, I can deliver something for, but I’m not gonna be able to deliver something impactful for. I suppose there are service providers out there who think about things differently than you and I, who are willing to do this as a completely practical theoretical exercise without the input or that emotion of the founder or any of it. So it’s just a matter of finding the right fit provider. But it’s a two way thing. You’re always going to find a range of different ways of solving a problem. Especially today. One Google search is probably going to connect you to 500 companies who all have completely different approaches. And in this space particularly, I don’t think two brand strategists approach things the same way. What works for some people won’t work for other people. Something could work for some brands, and the exact same approach couldn’t work for another brand. So it’s one of those fluid exercises that you kind of take as you go. But the core of it, like you said, is just distilling the essence of it. And that’s what we’re trying to do with all of our work with mission exercises, envision exercises and purpose and platform and core. What we really want to do is cut through everything and find that something that makes you you. And that’s what we then put out in a visual strategy, put out in messaging, put out on websites, put out everywhere.
P: And then, when you’ve got that essence, that is kind of like having a little bit of a magic elixir, I guess. Because you can sprinkle that on everything. And it will become so much easier when you are going to put your message out there, when you’re going to create your visual brand identity, when you’re going to create your… whatever content that you’re putting out there. Because you have this brand core, this essence of your brand that’s guiding you in everything that you do, and so you don’t have to constantly be, you know, struggling to come up with new things – because your foundations are there and you can lean on them. You should lean on them, and I see it often when something bad happens to a brand or a company, like they have to navigate some rough waters. That is where the true value of having a values-based brand lies, because you can lean on your values to get you out of these tricky situations. Okay, so maybe you’re not going to be super popular with everybody. But at least you can say you stayed true to, you are grounded in the essence of your brand and what you stand for, and so your right fit clients, your people are going to see the way that you’re working yourself out of this tricky corner you’ve put yourself into, and they’re going to respect you for it. And they’re gonna still like you afterwards, most likely. And the other people, who are not your dream clients or your perfect fit clients… They might take themselves elsewhere. But that’s fine because you’ve shown to the people who are your true true fans that you are what you say that you are.
A: I have to share a little story with you because a client shared this with me and it’s just stuck with me. And since then I’ve been itching to step into a sales conversation or a proposal where I can use it. So I’m just going to use it here. So this client of mine is a very, very sharp coach. He’s a business coach. He’s been doing it for years. He’s been coaching CEOs and really high level executives, but his approach to business is just extremely like, no frills. So he’s like, Let’s remove all of the complications and all of the theories and all of the things that you think are your business and look at it for what it really is. So he was talking to one of his really high level clients, and these guys have just been off to a big workshop. So they’ve done like a core values and mission/vision alignment workshop, and this was a fortune 500 company. They probably dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars on this thing. And they come back. And my client, that coach, asked the CEO: So what are your brand values? And the CEO is like, Okay, so we had integrity… we had… And then he gets stuck listing his values. My client was like, Okay, so you just spent six weeks kind of learning and feeling and putting down these values, how can you not remember them? So he was just like, Hang on… And he came up with one or two more. And then the coach said, Okay, but where do you live? And this guy rattles off his address, and the coach is like, Okay, I see the problem. Your address, the place you live, is where you dwell – and your brand values, the reason you don’t remember them is because you don’t dwell in them. Because you don’t forget where you live. You can tell anyone where you live. Any time you can say… in the middle of the night, someone wakes you up and you’d rattle off your address because it’s in your subconscious. But with values and and with a lot of mission and vision exercises and a lot of theoretical exercises like that around marketing and branding, that’s all they ever remain. They remain these pretty words that you put on paper. And if you don’t live them, if they’re just plastered on the wall, if they’re just in your brochures and you forget to really live in them, they’re completely meaningless. No matter how much time and energy and money and what experts came in tow help you put this together. It has to come from within.
P: Yeah, it has to come from the heart. I’ve had a similar thing where… Well, I actually did a podcast episode about it a few weeks back. It’s like if your brand values are just generic words, they’re meaningless. It’s like a brand value is not just a word that could be anyone else’s brand value, too. I dare say that even integrity is like, not really a very strong brand value. Because shouldn’t we all have integrity?
P: And professional is one too. That’s my favourite. I kind of expect everyone to be professional. So I think it’s like… pick something that makes you stand out rather than blend in.
A: Even if it is professional, even if it is integrity, how do you make that identity yours? How are you? Why is it integrity that it’s so important to you and not another word? And if you can really pull that string across everything you do like well, you know, integrity, to us means this. And we operate by it because it means this and because it’s always been a part of our story – that’s different. If you can form that strong bridge and that strong connexion to your value, even if it is a word that so many other people use, that’s all right.
P: But don’t just take it out of the word cloud.
A: Exactly. And I’ve seen that. I’ve seen a lot of people go like, Okay, five brand value words. Honesty, integrity, trust, honour.
P: And innovation!
A: Oh, my God. That’s my pet peeve!
P: And the one that’s very popular now, sustainable. We could go on and on about this.
A: Yes, absolutely.
P: So basically, yeah, dare to stand for something other than just making money. I guess that’s what I’m saying with the brand values and that.
A: Yeah. I mean, and if it is making money, if that is extremely important – then own that and make that your priority for your clients. I think it’s a matter of just getting really clear about it internally and then figuring out how to very clearly put that out there as well. I always say brand is what people think, say and feel about your business. And marketing is what you think, say, and feel about your business. When those two are aligned, that’s when your brand and your marketing engines are working.
P: It’s so simple, yet so hard. I know we said as we started out our conversation today, that we were going to focus this chat on the consultancy and coaching space. But I think what we’ve been talking about today is really something that could be applied to any industry, actually. But I know that you specifically wanted to work more with, you know, consultants and coaches. So what is your top tip for anyone who’s setting out to build a strong brand within those industries?
A: Yeah, so I think with consultancy and coaching brands, and service business entrepreneurs – people who show up as their own product – for them, it’s extremely crucial to be their brand and to be as close to it as possible and to be able to ensure that it reflects not just what their company stands for, but what they stand for because they are their product. And that’s why those brands, when they’re not authentic and well thought out, when they don’t come from within the heart of the creator, you can see the disconnect right away. So they’re in many ways also fragile brands, because they’re in the hands of one person in most cases, and that person can get sick, that person can need a break. That person can decide to do different things. And somehow this brand has to remain malleable and strong enough to support them through basically the ebb and flow of life. Because when you brand a person, that’s what it’s like. It’s just very dynamic. It’s not this sturdy organisation that somehow is gonna last 100 years and be handed over from one CEO to the next to safeguard. And so when it’s your brand, you just have to be so so close to it. And outsourcing that part because you don’t like it or trying to bring in a consultant and shoving that piece of work over to someone else is just never going to do you the justice that you need to do you in the long run. So to all coaches and consultants out there, I’d say keep it really, really close to yourself and be involved in the process. If you feel like you need help from someone else, be really, really involved in the process and let it come out of you. Sit down and think about this a little bit. Meditate. Give yourself some quiet time to think about what you want to put out there and if you just always come from the place of; if I have a microphone and the whole world is listening, what do I want to say? Your brand is in that message. So look for it there.
P: This is very much about the whole personal brand versus a business brand and that kind of scenario, and I guess for us who are both very personal brands, it’s easy to just fall into the trap of only talking about personal brands. I do know that there are coaches and service providers out there who take a different approach, and they want to remove themselves a little bit more from their brand. I just want to point out that that’s absolutely an approach that you can take too. But again, I would say to go back and think about that before you grow your business, like, do you anticipate that you want to have an agency like business, or will it be just you or will you create a signature method that is so you that even others can deliver it, and it’s still you. And I think it comes down to defining it before you start, so that you can make those decisions as you create your brand.
A: I think there’s also a lot of insecurity around putting yourself at the centre of this. A lot of people think it’s not humble. “Oh, I don’t want to be that person in the spotlight.” It is what I hear from a lot of really great coaches and consultants and experts. Or “I’m too shy. I can’t be the face of this thing.” That’s fine. It’s perfectly OK to go that route as well. To try and build both is difficult, so I always say, If you’re a one man, one woman show, then build one brand and if you are really just one person in the operation there and you don’t your vision is not on scaling at this point in time, just build it around you because that is the person who shows up in the room to sell, and that is a person who shows up in the room to solve the problem and to deliver. So building a brand that’s not you is counterproductive in those cases, and then the second you feel like Okay, I want to like you said, trademark this process and train other people to deliver it. Or I want to diversify a little bit into a different model. I want to have digital programmes. I want to have a business around this thing. It’s always easier to build the business brand on the platform of your personal brand, as opposed to having built a business brand like I did and then feeling like, Oh, this business is not what I want anymore. And then I had to backtrack and kind of restart this year when I realised I want to be my own brand because I am the consultant that’s showing up and so but my business brand had gone a whole other direction by this point. So the work that it’s taken me to kind of turn all of that down and even just a simple task of switching my email address over to what it’s going to be when it’s on my new domain, as opposed to my company’s domain. It’s little shifts, but I found it to be counter productive for me to build my business brand first and then come back to my personal brand. I think a personal brand is a great base.
P: Ah, when people talk about these three brands that cost several millions to do – a lot of people, and the media, they blow it out of proportions with these big headlines “such and such brand spent X amount of millions on their rebrand” and people are like “What? Oh my goodness, now that’s a lot of money. This is my tax paying money!” if it’s like a government funded organisation. What I don’t think a lot of people realise is that the brand strategist and the brand designer probably aren’t left with a heck of a lot of that money, because what takes money is all of the changes that you have to make… so all of the collateral that you have to change, all of your… like you said, changing your domain, changing your website, if you are a brand that has a lot of physical instalments, like signage or… Recently the Norwegian train company rebranded, and can you imagine, like, you have to replace all the foil, and the seat coverings and everything, like, everything has to be changed. And that is where all the money goes. There’s a lot of money to be saved if you do it right the first time.
A: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I just can’t even imagine. I mean, like you said, this strategy piece is a small piece that happens in the beginning. There’s some thinking involved. You pick your new direction, your new messaging, and then and then that’s the end of that. But then it’s the manifestation and the execution of that entire piece of thinking. It’s time consuming. It’s expensive, even if you just have to call back a small 10 person company brand. It takes a lot of work. So doing 1000 person company, 10,000 person company, those are hard pieces to execute.
P: Yeah, absolutely. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, if if you haven’t yet been thinking about your brand strategy and you haven’t got your brand foundations, it’s a really, really good idea to get them right before you start really building traction in your brand, because if you have to backtrack later, it’s a much bigger job. So invest that time and effort and a little bit of money into having someone guide you through that process and get it right so that you can build your brand on a solid, solid foundation.
A: Agree completely. You don’t want that to be shaking and changing too often, but you do want to revisit it every once in a while. And I think that’s important, which is something a lot of companies don’t do. If you could just go back and look at that foundation you’ve built, it’s just going to help you see. You’re going to evolve and change very fast in the first few years, so it’s gonna help you see if you want to change anything in that foundation, see if there’s updates or upgrades, or maybe just a realignment to those things that you put down. But definitely do the foundation work.
P: We’re going to round off any minute now. But before we do that, I would love it if you could give our listeners one simple tip. You know something that they could take away and implement today. What would that be?
A: If you’re struggling to convert with your marketing, which is what most people struggle with, how do you get that customer to buy? I would say turn down the marketing a bit and just go out and have 10 or 20 sales conversations and listen really closely to what is working in those conversations and what isn’t. What you want your marketing to do is just amplify the sales conversations that worked. So if something hooked someone to say yes, tell me more about that. That’s what you need to use as the hook in your marketing as well. If you said something that got someone to say, you know what I’m in? That’s what you need to use on your landing pages. So listen for cues and real conversations between people and then take those pieces and think about how you can implement them in your brand universe and in your marketing universe. And that’s where conversion happens.
P: Awesome. So if anyone now is listening and they’re like, I need to connect with this person and learn more from her – where is the best place to find you? Where can they connect with you?
A: I’m a simple woman, so my website is the best place to go. Just head on over to aditijn.com. You can find me on Linkedin as well. I don’t always show up with a post, but I’m always there in my DMs.
P: Brilliant. Thank you so much for being here and geeking out over brand strategy with me today – we’ll have to do it again sometime.
A: Absolutely. Always fun. Thank you so much for having me.
Until next time,
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