In our product-oriented culture, people are encouraged to define and exploit their “personal brand.” I have always resisted the idea that individuals should come up with a self-definition that parallels Disney or Apple. People and careers are much more complex and fluid than that. You do, however, still need to articulate the attributes and characteristics — not to mention skills — that make you stand out from the crowd and offer value to a client.
Making the Case for Yourself
Developing your personal value proposition is an alternative way to make a case for yourself that doesn’t have to include a logo. It requires introspection plus the ability to articulate that value through a series of short but powerful statements to a prospective client.
Here are a few suggestions about how to approach it:
- Create a list of successful engagements. At first, you may want to make an exhaustive list, and subsequently organize it by content, subject matter or industry. The point is to provide a customizable list that you can send to clients in advance of a meeting, or preferably as a follow-up to let them know you can handle their matters successfully. (Make sure you redact confidential information.)
- Provide demonstrable evidence of “soft skills.” This is a way to articulate how you achieve results. Are you particularly gifted at negotiating, making progress with difficult counsel on the other side of a matter, or being relentless about finding that all-important smoking-gun document? Make sure that a prospective client will be aware of your work style and attributes.
- Focus attention on language. What are your strengths, and how will you describe them in a way that is most attractive to your target audiences? This may vary depending on whether your desired client is an individual, small business or large organization. Remember that you want your value proposition to be customizable for your specific audience. While your best outcomes may not change, the way you talk or write about them needs to be focused on the specific needs of the potential client.
Once you generate your personal value proposition, you’ll need to decide which parts are most relevant for your target audiences, and how to deliver that message across a variety of platforms. These might include how you introduce yourself at events, the content you use to create proposals, how you follow up after potential client meetings, and your best ways to make a pitch for getting a piece of business.
Remember, first and foremost, to ask questions before pitching your worth. One of the many ways your value proposition differs from a brand is that it is not just about your view of yourself as product, but how it matches the very specific needs of the client. Until you are aware of what problems the client needs to solve, or the problems they want to avoid, you cannot craft a compelling document that will convince them you are the perfect fit for them.
You must be able to articulate what you bring to the table in language that homes in on the specific issues the client is facing.
Keep Your Value Proposition Fresh
To have a compelling value proposition that builds on your experience, you have to keep the material up to date.
- What new matters have you been handling?
- What new skills have you generated?
- What compelling stories do you have to tell about your unique abilities and how you fix and handle problems?
When it comes to hiring legal talent, your client is far more interested in the value you bring to meet their needs than what you see as your personal brand.