If you want to gain a competitive advantage online, you need to paint a picture for the people you will be connecting and engaging with. The picture that you paint should provide an in-depth view of who you are, who you help, and why you are different.
Your fee structure, business platform, and service model will be relevant at some point in the sales process, but these are not the lead differentiators that will cause someone to work with you.
The process for how consumers get to know you has forever changed. The process has completely flipped. It’s no longer about you discovering them, it’s about them discovering and learning about you.
As you are discovered online through search and social media, potential clients who may or may not be interested yet in working with you will get to know you through your being consistently visible and valuable in the online channels where they spend their time. They will also get to know you through their friends (your clients perhaps) who are sharing your value messages online.
As potential clients get to know, like, and trust you through their online exposure to you (and further researching of your background, knowledge, insights, hobbies, and interests) perceptions and opinions will be forever formed.
For these reasons, it is critical to present a complete and “human” view of yourself online. Otherwise, you’re not going to be different than any of your peers and competitors.
Through blogging and social media, you have a tremendous opportunity to paint a masterpiece that will attract your ideal clients.
Here are 5 Ways to Differentiate Yourself Online
A picture speaks 1000 words. The images of yourself that you choose to upload to online channels are extremely important for first impressions. If consumers see redundant head shots of dark suits and red ties, they can’t tell the difference between you and any other professional in your industry.
Do something different. Work with a professional photographer to capture a headshot (or several) that are professional, but that also show that you’re different than all the rest. Perhaps it’s the background/setting of where the photo is taken, the clothes you decide to wear, or the various poses and expressions you show on your face.
A good photographer will know just how to capture the essence of you! To see an example, take a look at my About Me page. It’s an “in your face” image on that page, but I use this same image across most of my professional web and social presence. Not only did I want to be different than anyone else (because I am), I wanted the image to capture the true me.
As my friend Susan Weiner of InvestmentWriting.com states, “your personality is the only thing someone else can’t duplicate”. She is right. To the extent that you can bring your personality into everything that you do online, it’s going to help you attract the right relationships that are a good fit for you.
If you have a sense of humor, inject humor into your engagement. If you are passionate about what you do or what you’re involved in, that passion should shine through. If you are a positive person who takes on everyday with a smile, we should know this about you! If you love spending time with your kids, we should get that about you. If you enjoy music, running, or dancing, share it.
Your personality and passions should be present in all of your online channels; your blog content, social media profiles, and social networking interactions.
One of the first questions we ask our clients is “describe yourself in 3 words”. Those 3 words are the most valuable information that we can gather. It is at that point that we know the kind of person we will be working with.
What you share is the foundation of building online influence.
You must think critically about your angle on all of the topics and issues that affect your clients and members of your target markets in order to create thoughtful messaging that will resonate with them.
For example, we can all write about current events and happenings. How can you take those current events and make them unique to your style? You can accomplish this by injecting your angle and your opinion, and making content relevant to your followers.
Content marketing through blogging and social media is all about crafting your personal thought leadership messaging. If you’re publishing and sharing without adding your personal insights, you are missing an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t be afraid to give away what you believe to be your best kept secrets in your industry. The more you can share to help others make better decisions, the more likely they will be to think of you when they need the kind of help you provide. It seems counterintuitive, but this is what works in the digital age.
I’ve personally struggled with this and have slowly come to embrace it as truth. The more of your insights that you give away, the more business you will attract. Tell your target markets exactly how to be successful by giving them the roadmap. At the end of the day, most of us want help and we can’t do it on our own.
Being a “thought leadership” marketer is being a smart marketer.
In professional services, we tend to want to present a corporate look and feel. This can be viewed as stuffy and rigid today as we are able to relax a bit with online social networking. In other words, it is very much okay to show your personal side and engage with others on a more personal level.
I’m not saying lose the coat and tie as “image” is only one component of what you showcase online, but don’t be afraid to also get personal in your online messaging and engagement.
When you engage with new connections on social networks, be human and have conversational dialogue. Get to know the people you connect with on a personal level and let them get to know you as a person.
What this means is that you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
When we speak to potential clients at Wired Advisor, we can get to know so much more about them from just a single conversation. Many times what we learn in that single conversation does not match our online perception of that individual.
With your online engagement and with your content, you want potential clients to feel as if they’ve had that conversation with you. That just by viewing your online presence and messaging, they feel as if they know you and what you’re all about.
It’s a bit challenging to achieve and it takes time, but the more of the “personal you” that you can show online, the better your opportunities for building the right relationships.
Let’s face it, we all have competitors. When I launched Wired Advisor in early 2009, there wasn’t a single firm or person (outside of Zack Miller) covering blogging and social media marketing in financial services. Now, there are hundreds. Eventually there will probably be thousands!
Positioning is a key differentiator. I go to great lengths to separate myself and my firm from competitors by frequently adjusting my positioning in the marketplace because I don’t want our potential clients to perceive us as just like our competitors, because we are not at all like our competitors.
For example, we’re not just a marketing firm or website design company, we are real people helping real professionals to build online influence. That is the essence of what we do and what our unique blend of tools and strategies are designed to do for our clients.
Don’t do what the crowd is doing. Don’t be a follower, be a leader in the industry. Set yourself apart by really thinking about your positioning and don’t be afraid to adjust it over time!
Hopefully you’ve learned something about how to differentiate yourself online. It’s going to be critical to your future success in acquiring new clients and strengthening relationships with existing clients.
Your online presence will define you in a wired world.
Points to Ponder
How are you different? How will you go about showing that to the world with your online presence? Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client and look at your current online presence. Can you see more than just a person in a business suit? What are you showing to the world that is compelling and different from anyone else who does what you do?Learn More About Wired Advisor Digital Marketing Programs