Although you will most likely be working independently, you are aiming to create a highly professional image with your client. Competition is tough and standing out from the masses is critical in order to get a meeting with a potential client, let alone an assignment. Simply having the skills, expertise, track record, experience and ability to do the work isn’t going to get you the work. Like all products (even superb ones) you still need to market yourself effectively.
Developing your personal brand, which Tessa Hood, personal branding and reputation management expert at www.changinggear.net defines as "What people say about you when you are not there!" is critical to your success. Of course, people may say nothing about you; they may not even remember meeting you! That’s not a great outcome for your marketing campaign.
So how do you want to be remembered? What do you want people to say about YOU, when you’re not there? What will make you unique, distinctive and memorable for all the right reasons?
If you were selling a global product of your own, how would you sell it? You’d make sure you were in the right marketplace, you’d price it in the right bracket, you’d promote it well, and you’d make sure it was packaged up brilliantly to catch the eye of the potential buyers. This is just what you have to do for yourself. This mindset of thinking of yourself as ‘for sale’ just as much as any brand you know, like and trust, means you are setting out with the right attitude. This ‘productisation’ of your offering is vital to differentiate yourself and show ‘promise of value.’ However, you must be authentic. Don’t attempt to be what you are not. Any doubt about your authenticity will result in your brand being shot to pieces and of your being labelled a fake.
The following are some of the key influencers of your brand.
First impressions are far more important than people usually realise. Your first impression on others when you walk into a room is made up of three values (these figures come from research done at the University of Southern California). 55% of the impression that your appearance makes on the viewer comes from your facial expression (remember to smile), hair, clothing and body language. The next 38% of impression comes from your voice alone – not what you are saying, but pitch, pace, tone, volume, and accent, and the final 7% is just for your message. These figures are a guide only, but they are really useful. Get the first 93% wrong and no-one is listening to what you have to say, they are on the back foot and your chances are already limited. People rarely change their opinion over an average, or worse a poor first impression. Yes, I can hear people saying,” Who cares about what I look like, it’s my expertise that matters”. Not any more I’m afraid. There are too many people out there now who do look smart, professional and business ready who will be allowed to present their case without prejudice over their appearance. People really care that their business is being represented to the best of its ability. Maximum effort should be taken over grooming and a tidy, business-ready appearance from head to shiny shoes, as a less than perfect personal presentation will only lead to assumptions that you are a less than perfect specimen. Not only that but it is perceived that you are showing respect to your interviewer and that you really care.
This is your primary piece of marketing material when working with interim providers. Whilst everyone has a view on what a great CV looks like, there is rarely total agreement. You will find guidelines for writing your CV that have been put together in consultation with many prominent interim service providers in our section on Writing an Interim CV.
Many interims simply use their own name plus Associates e.g. John Smith and Associates. In reality, your company name is not vitally important unless you are planning to break out and start selling product other than yourself or building a consultancy practice. You may want to use a strap line to make it clear what you do and who you do it for if you can sum up your specialisation in this way.
Logos can add interest to your marketing material. It is tempting to try and put one together using PowerPoint but these usually look very amateurish. It’s much better to get a professional to develop one for you. There are many logo developers who will create logos, letterheads and email templates for you for less than £100. They may not be the most creative but they do look professionally produced.
The simple rules here are high quality card and high quality printing. As an interim manager you need to be ‘on call’ pretty much all the time. Between assignments people may have an urgent need and if they can’t contact you immediately, they may pass you over, so make sure you include all ways to contact you. You may want to use the back of your card for further information about what you do and who you do it for or for some information or model that their target market may find valuable and encourage them to carry the card around.
Website and e-mail
Whilst it is unlikely that people will find your website through a search (searches tend to find the larger interim providers or associations), it’s important to have a website to make it easy for people to pass on your details/refer you. It does not need to be a huge and complex website, 3-4 pages should be enough – a home page, a past employment page (for newcomers particularly), a past projects and testimonials page and a contact page. If you have done some original research or have written white papers on your specialist subject, you should also include these. When registering a domain you should register a .co.uk (or the code for your own country) and a .com version wherever possible. If you will be working primarily from a single country then the local code is the most important.
The other major benefit of registering your own domain is that you have a personalised email address, which looks a great deal more professional than, for example, a Hotmail or Google address. It may also pay to have a customised email template developed (see ‘Logos’ above).
Technology and communications
Being contactable is critical to success as an interim manager and there are a host of technologies to make this possible. A landline with call forwarding gives you a professional edge even if you work primarily from your mobile phone. A telephone answering service like Moneypenny, Answer or Frontline can both enhance your image and improve your effectiveness by seamlessly answering calls, setting up appointments, taking messages and even working outside of your normal business hours if needed. Skype can offer free international calls and conference calls (including video) with other Skype users and free meeting/webinar services such as Yugma and Google Plus can make online meetings incredibly simple, cost effective and time-efficient.