It’s tempting—especially as a soloist—to put all your branding emphasis on producing: writing, speaking, publishing, engaging in social media.
And of course those are all critical to build your authority and your business.
But there are times when the right next step is actually research—study before action.
Because strategy without research (like tactics without strategy) can send you off in the wrong direction. You wind up spinning your wheels vs. grabbing traction from the get-go.
Think of the research you need to grow your consulting brand in three buckets:
Positioning guides your strategy, typically for years, which is why getting it right is so critical.
Positioning begs for solid research—how can you position yourself, your firm and your ideas if you don’t truly understand the marketplace for them?
And yet consultants do it all the time. They do a few google searches and call it a day, making decisions on hope rather than facts.
But your clients and buyers have choices (including the decision to do nothing) that you must understand to create your highest value options.
Typically that means you want to know:
Who is competing in your space? Who is serving your target clients, even if you don’t think of them as conventional competitors?
What niches already exist? Are they adequately serving the existing/future market or are there holes for new entrants?
What are their messages? When you dig down, are they after a different segment or are you truly competing for the same audience?
Are they doing it better than you, worse than you or about the same? This can give you clues on how to move forward, provided you’re being candid with your assessment. (This is also why it can be helpful to get an outside perspective).
Research won’t give you all the answers, but it will give you a clear-eyed view of the ideal positioning for your work.
Staying relevant—especially if you’re in the market, listening and publishing regularly—may not feel like a huge challenge.
But if you allow yourself to get so busy with client work that you’re not staying up with current content and trends, you’re at risk.
The simple solution: build a little research into your routines.
Maybe once a quarter you take a look at the current landscape in your niche. You go down a rabbit hole (or two or three), considering what impact the world at large might have on your ideas and your business. For example:
How does the working from home trend impact you and your clients?
If travel and meeting restrictions continue for another year, what does that mean for your business?
What upcoming technology shifts might give you an opportunity to pivot into a new specialty?
And let’s not forget your current and future clients and buyers. Ask them how they see things and listen closely. It’s all good input and yes, it’s research.
You want to keep learning and that means research.
Sure, learning helps keep you relevant, but it’s also about keeping you, your ideas and your business on track for the right kind of growth.
Even once your positioning is clearly working, keep studying how others (not just those in your space, but those in your brand neighborhood)go to market.
What is their core message? How are they using social to amplify their public platform? How do their email marketing funnels work? How are they building their authority with their audience base?
Learning is about paying attention and absorbing what others are doing. Never to copy them, but to translate the moves that feel right for your audience into your style, your brand of delivery.
So while research may not be the sexiest part of branding, ignore it at your peril.
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