Understanding executive branding is like unlocking the secret to getting picked first in middle school dodgeball. It centers on two things: being good and being liked. Similarly, executive branding verifies your value in the field and creates familiarity that enhances trust between you and potential customers.
As Bryan Kramer puts it, people want a natural human-to-human connection with brands. Unfortunately, companies now have less time to form that bond. In fact, most B2B buyers don’t talk to a sales rep until they’re 57 percent of the way through their purchasing decision.
With executive branding, however, the audience feels connected to the individuals behind the company long before the first point of contact. You can spark conversations with prospects and influence their decisions before they’re ready to reach out to you.
Forging a Connection Through Executive Branding
Thought leadership has been a core part of Influence & Co.’s success; we’ve consistently shared this information in whitepapers like this one. From the start, we’ve positioned our leaders as subject-matter experts. And we’ve seen firsthand how executive branding can build the company brand, dissolve trust barriers, attract and nurture leads throughout the marketing funnel, and keep us top of mind when prospects and customers are ready to buy or provide a referral.
We recently had a large account sign up for our services because its leader read one of my articles, “Be A Leader In Your Industry: Help Others.” It was a simple yet transparent view of what I had done to help grow the company by helping people.
I received several emails from readers who have attracted more opportunities since adopting this mentality. But it also begs the question: Would people have related in the same way if the “help others” message had come from my company?
Looking at it from the other extreme, a company that blasts out a PR blitz to confess its wrongdoings won’t have the same effect. By openly discussing Target’s struggles, Jeff Jones has helped humanize the brand because the audience can sympathize with him in a way that doesn’t translate with brand-sponsored messaging. I use this example a lot because there just aren’t other brands that will take the leap like this, so there aren’t a lot of examples out there.
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Hone Your Executive Branding With These 4 Strategies
Executive branding doesn’t just draw you closer to your audience; it also positions your company as an authority in its industry. Some companies do this through product development, but when a company can monetize key employees’ expertise through content creation and speaking engagements, the brand-building effects are astounding.
Beth Comstock and Dave Kerpen are two illustrative examples of executive branding done right. Dave has combined consistent publishing, paid speaking engagements, and book writing to fuel both his Likeable Media brand and his growing startup, Likeable Local. Beth has also positioned herself as a prominent figure in the marketing world by offering valuable content online and makingmemorable speeches.
As a result, both have become revered industry leaders and have driven continuous opportunities back to their companies. There’s a huge size difference between Likable Media and General Electric, but the results are the same. Having leaders who authentically engage with your target audience makes a big difference.
You, too, can reap the benefits of a comprehensive executive branding strategy by promoting your key employees through these four strategies:
1. Create thought leadership content. Publishing guest-contributed content is the core initiative that nurtures every other executive branding opportunity. If you’re consistently building a web of content that keeps you top of mind, it will be a catalyst to more speaking, networking, and publishing opportunities.
2. Secure speaking engagements. Speaking is one of the best ways to authentically engage your audience. From the moment you walk into a conference or event, others perceive you as an authoritative figure. If you tailor your speech to the right audience and have the content to back it up, your audience will walk away with a renewed level of trust in you that will drive valuable opportunities your way.
3. Network. Every leader can verify the brand-building ripple effect of strategic networking. The more connected you stay within your industry, the more your brand will shine. The cornerstone of any effective networking strategy is treating people well, helping them achieve their goals, and connecting them with other valuable people.
4. Publish books. The notoriety that comes with authoring a book can feel tempting, but this strategy should be last on your executive branding list. Until you tackle thought leadership content, speaking engagements, and networking, don’t try to justify the time it takes to write a valuable book. However, when you’re ready, there are some unique opportunities that come from publishing a book.
The objective of any branding strategy boils down to establishing a human-to-human connection. People don’t want to have a conversation, eat dinner, or share secrets with a company; they
want to do those things with real people. Executive branding is the secret ingredient that will position you as a likeable industry figure and encourage prospects to always choose you first.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that specializes in expertise extraction and knowledge management that are used to fuel marketing efforts.
Forbes.com | May 3, 2015 | John Hall