I've been in marketing for years—products as well as services. I have seen some great marketing and some not-so-great marketing. When I think of great marketing companies, BMW, Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, and select others usually come to mind.

Though you don't have to have a great brand to have great marketing, it helps. We would all be hard-pressed to name a successful company with bad marketing or an unrecognized brand. The point? Brand matters.

I have always been interested in brand and decided to do some sleuthing on what brand means. So, I checked in with Mr. Webster. The definition that stuck out for me was "a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic."

Although I've been successful in promoting and extending corporate brands, I entered into another chapter of my life a few years ago: re-energizing my acting career. So, I had to don a new hat—promoting my actor brand. My new product is me—Susyn: film, TV, and stage actress.

I thought about the "rules" for how I needed to market myself and the "rules" for how I needed to market myself according to the entertainment industry's idea of the rules. As a result, I ended up spinning my wheels, becoming frustrated, stressing myself out, and throwing everything against the wall to see what stuck.

When I let go of all that pressure, I was able to see the light—marketing myself as an actor is the same as marketing any other product or service. I revisited common-sense ideas on how to extend my brand, which is helping me on my acting journey.

These common-sense ideas, usually known but put on the marketer's back burner, should always be top of mind to help you get noticed and extend your brand:

1. Treat a brand for what it is

The uniqueness that makes you who you are today is what helps bridge the gap between today's you what you want to become tomorrow. Branding is communicating how only you can help potential buyers solve their dilemmas and become more effective. Everyone has a "brand"—their uniqueness—and it is what you do with it that separates you from the real deal vs. a wannabe.

What is your uniqueness? Run a SWOT analysis—what are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? If you're still stuck, ask customers, colleagues, vendors, suppliers, and the like how they would describe you to someone.

Then, craft your message. What are three things you want to convey about you? Develop your 30-second pitch so you will be ready when asked. And remember the three Cs of messaging—clarity (do they get it?), concise (is it short enough that they'll remember it?), and consistent (is it the same so they will identify you with it?).

2. Network, don't schmooze

Whether you are networking online via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other social-media tools or networking in person, be a great listener and a great helper, and stop the urge to promote yourself or whip out your business card before being asked.

Ask for advice. You will be remembered. Remember when someone last asked you for help? Didn't you feel good?

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is your network. It takes time to build—so replace the need for getting the gig today with helping a colleague. It's OK to tell them about yourself, but remember that the No. 1 goal in networking is to gain a colleague's trust—not merely promote yourself. Most important, be honest and genuine; that will lay your foundation.

3. Follow up

Following up, otherwise known as Networking, Part II, is crucial to your success. When you meet someone online or at an event, stay in touch regularly. Forward that person information of interest; ask how he or she is and how you can help; and, yes, then let him or her know what's going on with you. Don't be a pest. Be professional, and gauge the appropriate frequency of follow-up.

4. Be in the same place as your target market

Research where your target customer is and go there. Look at your current marketing channels and tweak them as necessary. When you are there, don't just lurk and leave; stay there a while. Remember, it takes a new buyer at least 10 times to see you before he or she will even remember you. Be creative. If you don't have a social-media play, get busy and develop one. A recent article on Twitter stated that extending brands would be one of the Top 10 effective ways to use Twitter.

5. Be visible

Promote yourself as a subject-matter expert (SME) by writing a blog, articles, and whitepapers, and by being quoted in articles. Other ideas include writing press releases, contributing to blogs, contributing to industry-specific message boards and distribution lists, and attending and participating at events. Again, be creative; the sky's the limit.

6. Be a problem-solver

Instead of putting all your energy into your "About Us" page, focus on treating your buyer as your employer and answer these questions: "What keeps my customer up at night?" and "How can I help my customer positively affect his or her company's bottom line?" This requires thoroughly researching your prospective buyer. Remember to look at the tangibles and intangibles.

7. Test, test, test

Test different ways to extend yourself. Capitalize on the ones that worked and tweak the ones that didn't work out as you planned. Be creative, and look for ways to make yourself stand out.

* * *

We interrupt this scheduled program to bring you important news about—your website. Remember the website Power of Five:

  1. Make your website user-friendly.
  2. Use keywords in your website copy that a prospective buyer would use to find you in a search. Make sure your website appears high up in search results pages.
  3. Offer tools, resources, and other nuggets that your buyers can use to help them on the job.
  4. Always be tweaking your website to make it better.
  5. Be approachable. List all the ways customers can contact you (your physical address, telephone number, online contact form, email address, etc.).

And, above all, understand that brand extension begins and ends with the following mantra: "I am a trusted source that adds value to whoever I come into contact with."  

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image of Sue Duris

Sue Duris is president of M4 Communications Inc., a Palo Alto, CA-based marketing strategy and communications firmthat helps technology, entertainment and nonprofit organizations build and extend their brands. Reach her via sduris@m4comm.com.

Twitter: @M4_Comm
LinkedIn: Sue Duris