November 03, 2007

No Branding Required

Recently, a colleague in my business network (let’s call him Mike) came to me and suggested that as my regular pitch to the group made sense, he would like to hire us to work with him to build his brand. I was delighted. Like anyone else, I love a new piece of business and the opportunity to work with a colleague that I greatly admire was hugely appealing.

But as we teased out his reasons for branding, it quickly became apparent that he had no real need of our services. Mike has built a successful business around his very personal delivery of a professional service. For his customers, Mike is the brand. They love the way he does business. They trust his personal touch, his obvious commitment and attention to detail. They feel safe with him, which is terribly important when it comes to the nature of his work. Given the choice, they would deal with nobody else.

For many business owners, this state of affairs would leave them feeling trapped and unable to grow the business. But it suits Mike down to the ground. He likes working alone. He wants to grow his business piece by piece and has no wish to hire someone else to work alongside him. He has secured the financial future of his family by taking out insurance against serious illness or death. He is largely irreplaceable but that seems to work for him.

I quietly wondered whether his being irreplaceable worked as well for his customers as it does for Mike (what if he falls under a bus and they are obliged to deal with someone else?). He agreed that, as extra insurance, he would identify a colleague who might make a very good ‘second-best’ and could pick up the pieces in his absence, if the unthinkable happened.

Apart from that provision, we agreed that it made no sense for Mike to go to further trouble and expense to build his brand. The truth is, he would get little return on his outlay. It would probably amount to a vanity project.

There’s little point in investing in branding services if yours is a business best delivered by you personally and you have no wish to grow beyond that. For your customer, you are the brand and it is likely that you, and you alone, know best how to deliver it.

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