Think back to the last time you had a service company over at your home to do work. I’ll bet you’re like most people I talk with who seem overjoyed to talk through the fiery details about their hellacious contractor experiences where hopes for good services are incinerated by severely, underwhelming contractors who still somehow render work for top dollar.
Unfortunately, many of us have similar stories to share when it comes to less than stellar service experiences. Our dismal experience with service provides can be boiled down to a lack of two characteristics: passion and care. In my most humble of opinions the reason why we experience poor service is because those providing it fall short in the areas of being passionate about what they do and caring to deliver a great experience. I thought I would forever be in the service abyss until two guys from a mobile window screen company completely changed my perspective on what’s possible.
My wife and I recently decided to finally deal with some house repairs we’ve been putting off for a couple years and without a referral went online to find some help. I, my typical skeptical self, wasn’t expecting anything special. Frankly, I just hoped they would actually show up and not break anything in the process. Yes, we’ve experienced much of this in the past. Were we doomed to be saddled with lackluster help? I certainly thought so.
Until these two guys showed up!
Tony and Saul of T&S Mobile Screen Services arrived on the scene ready to up the ante and deliver a service I’m still trying to comprehend in all of its majestic glory. I’m writing this article because it needs to be said and perhaps recognized that good service DOES still exist in the world. I also own a services business myself that was started primarily because of this very issue – there seem to be endless companies offering bleak services which fall short of delivering a ‘Wow Factor’. That said, as a quick disclaimer, I’m not an employee of T&S, this isn’t a paid advertisement nor was I asked to write this. I’m simply just a happy customer wanting to share a good word about a great small business.
So, what did T&S Mobile Screen Services do which made such a phenomenal impact on us? Let’s go through the experience start to finish:
The guys at T&S Mobile Screen Service put on a class on how to run a business that produces both great results and customer experiences. These guys should get a freakin Emmy Award for their performance!
As the day went on I couldn’t stop thinking about the experience. For Tony and Saul it may have just been another job and another satisfied customer but for me it was something altogether quite different. It changed my entire mindset about what’s possible. Now that I’ve experienced this type of service, something akin to a Nordstrom’s experience – maybe even better, I now know this type of experience with contractors and service professionals is possible. What it really comes down to is being passionate about what you do (whatever that may be) and caring enough to put in a great effort. Since then I’ve probably told a half dozen people this story, my father and I have now done a podcast on it and I’m writing this article you’re reading now. If that doesn’t tell you the power of good service I don’t know what to say other than this…
I would happily pay good money to have more experiences like this with service providers and contractors who are passionate about their craft and care to leave a positive lasting impression. Thanks again to Tony and Saul from T&S Mobile Screen Services, you guys made me a customer for life.
The gig economy is growing. Growing rapidly!
I recently stumbled upon a publication put out by MBO Partners on an annual basis which compares the state of our economy to the rise and decline of independent workers. It’s a fascinating read, especially with the growth of the gig economy rapidly changing the face of the employment landscape as we know it. MBO indicates 52% of the U.S. adult workforce within 5 years of 2019 will either be working or will have worked as an independent consultant or contractor.
That’s huge! Literally half of those employed in the US in one form or another operates as an independent ‘gig’. Furthermore, it’s estimated that 90% of the US workforce says they would be open to the idea of freelancing or consulting.
In one way or another that just about includes everyone in the workforce, or close to it.
If almost everyone you and I know are, or are interested in being, a gig [consultant] it will only lead to one inevitable outcome. The gig space is going to start to getting highly competitive.
Being a freelancer or consultant isn’t uncommon anymore. Long gone are the days where an individual branding themselves as such makes a unique statement which in turn gives that person a competitive advantage.
We may not be there yet however rest assure that in the coming years the consulting, gig and freelance field will become much more congested with new players trying to take a piece of the pie. As such, it will be paramount for gigs to learn how to brand themselves accordingly to ensure they remain at the top of the pecking order.
Branding is crucial!
It’s more than adding a tagline to your business card which creatively says in a couple words what you do. It’s more than building a LinkedIn profile hoping it does the work for you with a serene picture of a bamboo forest behind your mug shot.
Branding, a crucial part to any business, is indeed the next wave of importance for the consulting and gig community.
What does branding do?
Branding does a lot of things. For starters, it helps to build an identify, one people begin to learn over time is synonymous with you. Branding is all about strategic messaging to an audience about who you are, what you’re all about, and how you make a difference. When branding is done right, it can take on a life of its own, far beyond the company, product and original intent.
Take for example the Q-Tip. The handy little cotton based product invented in 1923 by Leo Gerstenzang allows us the delightful pleasure to clean the crap out of our ears, keeping them nice and tidy to prevent health related issues and even perhaps hear better. What’s fascinating about Leo’s Q-Tip is that the word itself, ‘Q-Tip’, is a brand specific to one product now made by Unilever Corporation. The branding for this product has been done so well over the years that we all refer to every cotton swab based product as a Q-Tip, regardless of the manufacturer. This my friends is called an eponym.
In fact, Unilever even has on their website “Q-TIPS® is a registered trademark of Unilever and is NOT a name for just any cotton swabs. The Q-TIPS® trademark can only be used to refer to the specific cotton swab products manufactured and sold by Unilever and should not be used to refer to cotton swab products of other companies or to cotton swabs generally.”
Even Unilever is aware of how well their branding has done in the marketplace, giving credence to their competitors similar products. There are plenty of other products that fall into this category like Kleenex, Post-It Notes and Xerox.
Branding creates buzz while giving recognition to a person, company or thing that people can recognize and associate with. It’s powerful stuff these marketing genius’ have dreamed up and we as consumers just love to eat it up.
So here’s the rub and what this means you for, my wonderful Mrs./ Mr. Gig. It means you need to learn how to brand yourself asap, before the girl or guy next to you beats you to the punch causing you to become second fiddle in your own back yard.
Don’t have experience marketing and or branding yourself? Want to learn? Here are the seven (7) steps to successfully brand yourself as a consultant (freelancer, gig, independent consultant, etc.) in no particular order:
1.Tell Your Story
People work with people they like. This has been proven time and time again and I’ve seen it myself many times over throughout career. People also naturally gravitate towards a good story, especially if that story gives them a reason to ‘act’. Spend the time to think through and write out your story. This is the ‘WHY’ you’re a consultant in the first place. WHY you do what you do. What propels you to be you, the inner workings. Once you learn what this is write it down and develop a narrative that shares a story about who you are and why you do what you do. Once you have that done the next step is to share it with the world.
2.Know What Problems You Solve
Customers don’t want benefits or values. They don’t want long winded sales presentations that promise them everything under the sun. Customers want solutions! Once you understand what your customers problems are, you can then create information which talks about your ‘WHY’, mentioned above, along with your ability to solve your customers problems. As you start to brand yourself via social media, print, publications, website, etc. make sure this is one of the first things your customers see. It’s all they care about – how you can solve their problems.
When you begin to brand yourself through the various avenues of social media, web, print, etc. it’s vital all of your information communicates the same message, look and feel. This consistency gets viewers accustom to your approach, look and feel. If every time you put something out in the world it looks completely different from one to the other you’ll never get people to connect to your product, service or company. They’re to busy being confused and lost in the process. Keep your message and content simple, yet highly directed to your intended audience.
Consistency also refers to the amount you brand yourself. If you only do it once a month you’ll never get anywhere building a brand, however if you do one post, one article or one activity every day the results you’ll see are dramatically different. Just remember, it takes time, so invest in branding yourself now.
4.Speak Like Your Customers
When you’re putting together content to put out in the world make sure you put yourself in your customers shoes. Think like them, act like them, be them. If you don’t know how to do that simply ask them. The more you communicate and speak like your customer the better chance you will have in getting their attention. If you’re trying to catch a whale, don’t pretend to be a shark. Instead, be plankton, that’s what whales eat. (I think)
5.Focus on the Solution
When branding yourself and or your consulting practice focus on what results you create, provide or give. The journey along the way is of course important however in the consulting/ gig world its all about execution. If you can’t execute and successfully complete a project it doesn’t matter what you may have done along the way. Results are all that matter, brand yourself accordingly.
6.Create a Website
I suppose this suggestion falls equally into the general marketing category however in this day and age if you want people to take you seriously having a website is a bare minimum. There are plenty of tools available to create cheap, or even free, template based websites that give any size business or person the ability to compete with the big girls and boys. Check out Weebly or Wiix. That said, keep the website simple and in line with your customers needs. Focus on your story and the problems you solve on behalf of your customers. Also, make sure you buy the online domain names of your consulting practice and any taglines you plan to use for branding purposes.
7.Create Visual Content
No one’s saying you need to turn into a graphic designer, but it would help greatly if you could quickly edit and adjust images with your logo and brand to reflect your consulting work. This can be easily accomplished via Microsoft PowerPoint and Paint programs. One can buy stock photos online from dozens of pre-approved imagery galleries and edit them to your hearts content. PowerPoint is a relatively easy to use program to do basic image editing with text, enough to at least get some content out to the masses that is custom and specific to your target audience. Paint is a dumbed down version of PowerPoint, yet effective for small projects.
Key Take Away:
Don’t wait until your field gets over saturated before you start thinking about branding yourself and or consulting practice. The best way to brand yourself is to start with you, your reason for being a consultant in the first place, and then the problems you solve on behalf of your customers. Your branding should reflect all of this and be consistent across any platform you put it on - your website, social media, print media, publications, etc.
Does this sound like a lot of work you aren’t interested in getting involved in? If so, don’t feel bad, branding yourself is no easy task. Find a local marketing and branding expert and get help. Ask them to work with you to develop your brand, your approach and customer facing appearance. The money you spend upfront for this help will be well worth it down the road. If you aren’t in a position to pay for help, set aside 3 hours a week to dedicate to your branding efforts. It won’t be much in the beginning but at least it will get you on the road to ingraining this practice in your weekly operating rhythm.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.