A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
~ Seth Godin
Corporate America knows something that professional services providers have been slow to adopt. Emotion drives behavior. Logic and reason then follow to justify a buying decision. According to Dr. Peter Noel Murray, fMRI neuro-imagery shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).
A disconnect exists between selling based on emotion and the marketing strategies of professional service providers, which often include a technical list of competencies. I had the privilege of delivering an Attorney Branding and Business Development seminar for a women’s initiative at a Boston firm earlier this month and, as I explained buyer behavior, one attorney challenged me: this branding stuff is cute, but how I am supposed to use emotion to connect with potential clients when my clients are middle-aged men in finance? That’s where the disconnect exists.
Selling based on emotion doesn’t mean that you need to be emotional in doing so. And, especially when gender dynamics are at play, you probably shouldn’t be. It also doesn’t mean you need to be “cutesy” in advertising your services. At all. Instead, the point to learn from Corporate America is that tapping into your potential client’s emotional centers to drive buying behavior works.
As a generic example, the emotional driver that attorneys are typically most comfortable using to develop a relationship with a potential client is trust. Trust involves credibility and reliability, sure, but it also requires intimacy and focus. A client must know that he can feel comfortable talking with you about his highly confidential legal issues, and that you are more focused on his issues than another client, or worse, yourself. You can achieve this through story. You should have sanitized client stories that highlight how comfortable your clients are discussing their confidential legal matters with you. In sharing these stories, you address and build the intimacy element of trust while showing how focused you are on your clients (as opposed to just saying it). Furthermore, in sharing them at a networking event with a pool of your middle-aged financier clients, you are adhering to ethical standards while building trust and selling your services.
To most effectively target and tap into the buying behavior of your potential clients, however, you need to know your clients really well. You need to know everything about their business needs, but also what is important to them personally. You can then create a brand strategy and storyline that addresses their priorities and fits in with their values. Ultimately, your brand isn’t about you. It’s about your clients.