Stake A Claim
Be clear! Stake a claim! Define your niche! You’ve heard all of these statements as battle cries, because that is what they are. They are fierce. They are bold. And if you’re not a pro at branding, they’re also confusing. Or at least, they can be.
This is where the world of photographers, graphic designers, brand identity designers, web designers, and branding or business coaches collide. And while each may have their own way of handling it, the overwhelming agreement between everyone is straightforward.
You’re not likely to find any professional in the branding world that can answer this question succinctly. And the reason for that is also simple: branding isn’t a stamp you can apply to everyone in the same way. There’s no pretty box you can wrap up your brand in that would also fit the next brand. For a solopreneur, a small business with a handful of employees, all the way up the line to companies like Target or Zappos, branding is a nuanced and involved process.
That’s the uncomfortable news. Here’s the bright light at the end of the tunnel: it doesn’t have to be hard even though it is a process.
There are few key things you can do to clarify your brand quickly, and the first of these is to stake a claim in your industry, even in your niche.
I’ll take myself as a great example. I’ve been a full-time professional photographer since I was 20. I began as a wedding photographer because it was fun and the easiest way to make some money quickly to fund my camera gear acquisition. Wedding photographers joke seriously that they have to be good at many genres: journalism (all the moments), portrait photography for the family formals, product photography for the bridal details and food. That is all true of course, but a true food photographer would laugh at the idea that a wedding photographer rivaled her skill level.
When I moved to personal branding photography, the way in which I photographed changed. The way I marketed, networked, wrote. It all changed drastically. Then when I added brand strategy to the mix, my business changed even more. My wedding photography claim was that I captured memories in a beautiful way. My personal branding photography claim is very different: I photograph the business you want tomorrow, today. Branding isn’t just about being visible, it’s about being visible to the right people.
My business as a brand strategist that also offers personal branding photography takes that to the next level:
When you get clear, you become visible.
It’s an important distinction. Online entrepreneurs struggle with visibility in a sea of sameness. So many coaches, so many practitioners! How do you stand out from the crowd?
You stake a claim. You are very clear about who you help and how you help them. And then you don’t deviate, you do stay consistent with that.
Even the pros and experts at the top of their game forget this at times. Back when we had cable, I often watched the show Chopped. I’m a foodie and happily amateur cook, so shows like this inspire me. And early on in the show, famed chocolatier Jacques Torres was a contestant on the show. As a big fan of his Brooklyn chocolate shop, I was excited to see what he did with “real food” on the show.
But here’s the thing that I should have realized (and that I think he did a little too late). He was going to fail. I don’t know his full chef pedigree, but I assume he had culinary training beyond chocolate. Yet he’d worked for more than 20 years as a pastry chef and the first two rounds were appetizers and entrees, not dessert. I was hoping he’d make it to the third and final round so I could see him craft a dessert. Instead, he cheated in the first round and got himself disqualified.
Jacques wasn’t willing to put himself out there. His claim is the best chocolatier in the world, the first to create chocolate himself straight from the cocoa bean all the way to you. And then he chose to compete on a different playing field, one in which he realized he was out of his element. I think he cheated so he wouldn’t lose, so if it were ever brought up, he could claim it was an accident and he could have won if only they had good chocolate in the pantry.
Staking a claim requires you to commit fully to a defined niche.
I help small business owners be visible. I help online entrepreneurs show what it feels like to work with them in photos. I help female coaches in transformational fields move beyond fledgling business to up level into thriving business with visual branding that consistently sells. They’re all true, but each more specific than the last.
If you look at your messaging and it can apply to many different people, then the reality is it probably doesn’t attract any of them. The more specific you are, the more people you turn OFF… that is the goal.
Attract the BEST clients into your business. And perhaps, if you’re a renowned chocolatier, don’t try to compete against chefs. It’s not your zone of genius.
If you’re looking for a way to up your game by getting crystal clear in your messaging, you need to join my free, 7-day email course. You’ve already