When I was fresh out of corporate life years ago, my ideas of branding were shaped in the mold of that culture — that it was more professional to be “vanilla” in one’s marketing copy. In promoting my coaching business, I was careful to not offend anyone and worked to craft the perfect balance between formality and friendliness.

A wide variety of people would inquire about my services, and about 1/3 of them were ultimately not a fit. I spent a lot of time with each prospective client trying to see if I could help, and if someone didn’t jump at the opportunity, I would invest in the classically recommended followup calls.

The net result in those days was that marketing felt like a lot of work, requiring a lot of hustling and convincing.

Does that sound familiar? Are you hiding the essential you behind a “professional” brand and working hard to overcome people’s reluctance to buy? It’s no wonder most solo entrepreneurs dislike marketing!

The problem arises from trying to apply old-world marketing techniques, which assume that being real would lose the game.

But the truth is that when faced with choices that appear equal, people use the know/like/trust factor to make a purchasing decision. Whether it’s knowing the business owner personally or liking the look of a website, subconscious affinity becomes the determining factor.

The problem with vanilla brands that offend nobody is that they also don’t inspire anybody either! So no wonder the urge is to roll out the hype.

One dramatic example is what happened with my colleague’s audio products website. The original website was very edgy and wacky, and she enjoyed quite a following with great sales. Then she let a consultant convince her to “upgrade” to a more “professionally polished” site. Her sales plummeted!

That was enough to convince me, and I haven’t looked back since. Rather than having people call and ask how I work, I now get comments like “Your website really spoke to me.” Or, “After reading all the ads, you were the only one I wanted to call.”

It’s not that I’m the only quality coach in town, it’s that my personal style is so visible that people immediately know if they like me or not. I no longer need to chase after those who aren’t motivated to enroll, because I know that they aren’t a fit. Now nearly everybody who contacts me knows that they want my specific approach.

What’s needed to accomplish this is to explore what experience people have when they use your services or purchase your products. Once you understand those qualities, the point is to create that same experience in those reading your promotional materials.

One client who I’ll call Joan needed help writing website pages to promote her business as a yoga teacher and fitness coach. She had assembled all the important information about her services, credentials and background, but felt it needed something more.

Joan was a very bubbly and playful person who knew how to make exercise routines fun for her clients. Once she shifted her writing style to show those qualities, the sparkles starting showing on her website. She shared her love of windsurfing on her bio page, and it totally came alive. Joan was thrilled with the result and with the calls from prospective clients who loved it too.

By expressing the specific and unique essence of you in your brand, you will accomplish several things:

  • Your marketing materials will be much more interesting and appealing than the formulaic ones.
  • You will draw more of those you’d most like to do business with.
  • You will draw less of those who aren’t a good fit.
  • You’ll save time because the people who contact you will be pre-screened and pre-sold.

What is the essential brand of you? The best place to start is by listing those qualities which are inherently part of you. Some examples of essential qualities to consider are playful, brilliant, wise, peaceful, vivid, comforting, safe, analytic, spacious, intriguing, fresh and timeless.

Have fun and let the real you out to play!