” 5 Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand” with Fotis Georgiadis & Elizabeth Harr

“The only person you’re destined to be is the person you decide to become.” I live by this quote. For me, this quote is about personal accountability. You are in your own driver’s seat. By using this as a personal mantra, you’ll feel exhilarated at accomplishments (YOU achieved what you achieved because you made a […]

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“The only person you’re destined to be is the person you decide to become.” I live by this quote. For me, this quote is about personal accountability. You are in your own driver’s seat. By using this as a personal mantra, you’ll feel exhilarated at accomplishments (YOU achieved what you achieved because you made a conscious decision to achieve it — no one did it for you!), but it also serves as a moral compass that keeps you in check when you might want to blame others for any personal or professional failures.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Harr, Partner at Hinge.

Elizabeth (Liz) Harr, a nationally recognized expert in high-growth marketing, leads Hinge’s business development team. Liz is also actively involved in developing high-growth strategies for clients and delivering expert advice.

She writes regularly on marketing, branding and high-growth strategies for top industry publications and Hinge’s blog. She is co-author of two groundbreaking books: The Visible Expert® and Inside the Buyer’s Brain. In addition, Liz speaks at conferences around the country. She has produced a 10-hour course for Hinge University, The Visible Expert.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One story that comes to mind: we were working with a client to brand an event. They had come up with the even name, and our team was to create an entire brand around the event, making it a nationally known entity that would occur every year. So, this was a big deal for them. The name they presented to us seemed harmless. But after a due diligence check, we found out it was the same name as — how do I say this — a group of adults engaged in some rather unsavory activities. During our next call with the client, we couldn’t bring ourselves to tell them what the group did. Instead, we directed them to the website. The sound of the client’s collective gasp was priceless! We all had a good laugh together — and while the mistake wasn’t ours, we have since then gone the extra mile to check any names or concepts clients come up with knowing full well they likely won’t have the time or inclination to do it themselves!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We drink our own kool-aid. Meaning, we research what works best in terms of marketing practices for professional services, we try those techniques out ourselves, then measure, test, and refine. We do all of this before we ever take a recommendation to our clients. Just this week, I received a call from a prospective client who had just attended a webinar we hosted and told me they wanted to learn to market exactly the way we do it. Prior to signing up for the webinar, they had seen different types of valuable content from us in the form of emails, blogs, podcasts, social media posts and downloadable guides. This content compelled them to sign up for the webinar. At the end of the webinar, they were invited to a phone consultation — which is what this phone call was all about. I hear this all the time. Our clients — and our prospective clients — appreciate that we aren’t asking them to blindly follow or trust our expertise. We prove our expertise, time and again. And we have data to back it up. That’s what makes us stand out.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

If a firm’s overall reputation is its brand, its reputation as a place to work is its employer brand. Our upcoming Employer Branding Study will help companies understand what elements of their brand are the biggest draw for talent across different generations and demographics. The pandemic hasn’t eased the shortage of top talent in certain industries. Firms looking to recruit the best talent will appreciate the study’s insights into what truly matters, and how to achieve it. Just as important, the study’s special section on COVID-19, will reveal how employees view their firms’ response to the crisis.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

In the world of professional services, your expertise is your brand. Brand marketing centers on key tools and techniques to tout that expertise. How? Largely by educating your audiences with content that helps them rethink how to address their problems. You educate in order to sell. Every piece of content is like an audition for an advisory role — it’s about earning people’s trust in your expertise in order to win their business.

By contrast, product marketing is about selling features and benefits.

Once you’ve earned people’s trust, the advertising — the sell — is much better received.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

In a crowded marketplace, you must be distinct and visible. And, with 42% of the labor force working from home1, you must be easy to find online. The reality is, if you can’t be found online, you don’t exist. Being any industry’s “best kept secret” is a poor revenue strategy. Businesses must be visible and findable for the things their audiences care about — and that’s what building a brand is.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Prioritize Content Marketing

In a time of crisis, promoting your brand or giving the “hard sell” can feel uncomfortably self-serving. But, if you give your target audience informative content to, say, keep their business afloat or find a job, your content marketing efforts become your service to the community. What is Content Marketing? It is marketing that involves providing your audiences with a steady stream of useful information in a way that showcases your expertise. Over time, distributing insightful, practical information builds brands that people can trust and will want to buy from.

Develop Visible Experts®

Speaking of trust — in professional services, people trust experts. During a crisis, when the stakes are higher and trust is at an all-time low, applying techniques to promote your expertise in the issues that matter to your audiences will help build trust in your brand. The key is to make your expertise visible.

In order for a firm to build up its umbrella brand, it must raise its experts’ collective profiles and transform them from advisors known and trusted only by their clients into “Visible Experts”. In fact, 62% of respondents in our research into experts and their buyers confirm that Visible Experts help to build the strength of their firms’ brand. How? Through a psychological principle called the “halo effect”. In the same way that a sports team gains more prestige when they recruit star athletes, a firm enhances its brand by having visible experts on its team.

Cultivate Prestigious Partners

Navigating a crisis market isn’t easy for any business. As budgets shrink, joining forces with another entity through partnership marketing makes sense. It can bring more visibility to a brand for less since the costs are shared. And if you partner with an organization that enjoys a higher profile, your comarketing efforts will give your firm’s brand a powerful boost. You can co-produce webinars, podcasts, and even bodies of research. The idea here is to find partners that target a similar audience, have greater visibility, and provide no competing services.

Promote Case Stories on High-Profile Clients

In this crisis market, I hear a lot of clients talk about having no “mistake money”. There is little to no room for spending error, as every dollar counts. Case stories that feature high-profile clients and demonstrate success will put earning your audience’s trust on a fast track and reaffirm your reputation as an expert. They make you the smarter, if safer, investment at a time when all businesses are wary of risk.

Dialogue in Social Media Channels

Stay-at-home orders have put most if not all in-person networking to a halt. Firms that have traditionally relied on such activities to meet and nurture prospects have had to pivot to online platforms. This pivot has given social media channels a significant bump in use among businesses looking to remain connected with their audiences. LinkedIn, Twitter, and to a lesser degree YouTube are the channels of choice in professional services circles. Even before Covid, social media was home to important industry dialogue. But there’s a caveat to using social media as a brand building strategy. If your posts are overly promotional and only about you, you’re likely to do more damage to your brand and be viewed as promoting spammy content. It’s ok to post about awards and accolades, job openings (particularly now), or community service events, but firms would do well to prioritize posting educational thought leadership. Post articles written by your firm and your experts, and share articles written by other influencers in your space. Creating digital goodwill will help build the right visibility — and trust — in your brand.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Measuring a brand’s success is largely predicated on the company’s goals. We like to think of measurements in three buckets: (1) metrics that gauge your brand’s visibility; (2) metrics that assess perceptions of your expertise, and (3) metrics that measure true impact. Here are some examples of each:

Visibility metrics: search traffic to your website, social media followers and activity, keyword rankings, website domain authority, email list size

Expertise metrics: virtual or in person speaking engagements, publishing slots, conversions on your website, email click through rates

Impact metrics: number of proposals delivered, number of wins, revenue, profitability

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

See question 6 — it should be a top priority. Professional services firms with no LinkedIn profile are viewed as out of step with a world that’s increasingly digital and dependent on technology. In today’s economy, if you don’t have a digital presence, you simply don’t exist. Social media is the digital corollary to in-person networking. Believe it or not, you can build great relationships — and brand trust — through social channels.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Build a culture of planning, doing, and measuring. If you jump right into the “doing” phase with little or no planning, you’ll no doubt burn out from reacting to outcomes and putting out fires. Planning rooted in what and how your audience buys will help you choose the right techniques, channels, frequency, and message. Pay attention to shifts or trends that affect your audience, so you can adjust your plan accordingly. Then, continually measure results as you execute your plan. If you’re not getting the results you want, what should you do differently? Repeatable cycles require discipline, but discipline helps avoid burnout and helps you thrive in difficult times.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d really love to see wide scale and formalized adoption of mindfulness training — for leaders and their employees — that would in turn inspire empathetic interactions in the office place. Particularly when so many companies are moving to a model where their employees are distributed across the globe, even before Covid entered the scene, and we lose the ability to do the quick “stop by the desk” or “check-in at the water cooler” kind of interaction. I know everyone likes to think they are leading with or interacting with empathy, but I don’t know that we’ve really given enough attention to how to really pull this off. To be sure, there is much written on the downside of leading with empathy — that it leads to ineffective or biased decision making. Mindfulness training would change, or at least challenge, the way people begin and end meetings, ask each other questions, hold their colleagues accountable, or give feedback. Imagine the performance indicators we would see if companies spent as much time focusing on their team’s collective mental health as they do on their financial health. Soft skills are indeed the hard skills companies and their employees need to thrive!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The only person you’re destined to be is the person you decide to become.” I live by this quote. For me, this quote is about personal accountability. You are in your own driver’s seat. By using this as a personal mantra, you’ll feel exhilarated at accomplishments (YOU achieved what you achieved because you made a conscious decision to achieve it — no one did it for you!), but it also serves as a moral compass that keeps you in check when you might want to blame others for any personal or professional failures.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Michelle Obama. Hands down.

How can our readers follow you on social media

Twitter: @ElizHarr

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eharr/

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