Thursday, September 17, 2009

UP FROM DOWN: Building personal brand during the downturn

By now you're probably fed up with everyone moaning and groaning about the economy, but that doesn't stop it from being in a down swing. Jobs are scarce for 2009 college graduates, the housing market is ridiculous, and consumer confidence is still low.

For those in business for themselves, the aftershocks of a slow economy are easily palpable. Companies may be cutting what they consider to be extraneous spending on the exact service that you provide, whether it’s consulting, marketing, design... You may be doing the same, cutting back or eliminating marketing, PR, and design plans. But this is a mistake whether you have a few dollars to squeeze or not. Your name is the most important thing your business owns.

Be savvy with your downtime during the downturn and build personal brand recognition through smart, targeted strategies. If you have found yourself solvent during these times, your marketing dollars can go further, negotiating lower rates, category exclusivity, and placements that will resonate louder than ever before. Especially since there’s less competition. It’s easier to cut through the noise, assuming you’ve already streamlined your personal brand.

Your competition probably isn’t spending money, so now is the time to forge ahead with targeted, smart exposure that will help your consumer base remember your name and stay loyal. You may even possibly find new consumers:

1) Target your consumer better:
If you’re already pretty established, staying visible in front of your consumer will maintain brand loyalty. If you’re fighting to compete, you can use the lack of competition to get your message front and center.

Find events and press opportunities that effectively target the consumer you need. These events will still need sponsor dollars, and the economy will allow your sponsor dollar to negotiate farther.

A financial planner helps sponsor an opera event for young professionals. These young professionals are probably making money and worried about how to invest in the recession. Target audience realized!

Connect through community philanthropy:
Reaching out contributes to consumer trust and when consumers trust a brand, they will usually pay for it and even pay extra for it despite the economic atmosphere. They'll also forgive mistakes if a company has a fundamental reputation of integrity and good works.

3) Evolve:

You may need to offer a smaller service or product that still distinguishes your brand but fits people’s price ranges more easily. When McDonald’s launched their $1.89 flavored coffee, Starbucks had to respond with a more reasonable priced coffee blend called Pike Place Roast, available in grande size at $2.

Ex. A graphic designer that offers a low-price logo design service for startups

4) Create brand alliances:

Alliances can increase image and public profile and can lead to more interesting, lucrative projects. Seek out others with competing or complementary skills for possible collaborations.

. Two comedians with decent followings join forces to create an improv show or pitch a TV show.

5) Establish yourself as an expert in your field:

Contact local media (newspapers, news, etc) about your availability to comment on certain topics relevant to your business or skills.

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