Early in my career as an advertising executive, I was given a piece of valuable and, at that time, unwelcome advice. I was about to give a major presentation and after my boss and I went over the last minute details he turned to me and said, "And remember, none of this is about you."
As a young professional my primary focus was dedicated to building a name for myself, being recognized for my achievements and, as a result, earning a few more digits on my paycheck. So how could my work not be about me?
I bring up this incident because it was a turning point for me in understanding what it means to be a brand steward. It isn't about me. It's about serving my client. It's about creating a trusting, cooperative, forward-thinking relationship that builds my client's business and, as a result of that success, builds mine.
It's all about the long game. It isn't about skimming along the surface, absorbing the superficial essentials and collecting a check. It's about a deep dive. Having a depth of knowledge of your client's business and industry they never expected you to have. Finding pockets of opportunity they have overlooked; introducing them to networks of clients, former colleagues, friends and other business owners they have yet to meet. It's about using your experience, relationships and knowledge to expand your client's reach.
Keep your ego outside the door. Ironically, keeping your ego outside the door actually puts it to better use. Even in these economically challenged times, generosity of spirit is something we can all afford. It costs me nothing to advocate on my clients' behalf after business hours. And they not only notice, they reward us.
Anyone can be a vendor. You can be a partner. My belief in brand stewardship attracts clients who are looking for a long-term partnership rather than a quarterly fling. They are well aware that building a brand doesn't happen overnight. They understand that we are in it together. They know it takes trial and error to find the right solutions. And they know that over the course of this process trust is forged and dedication is revealed.
Building your client's business helps build yours. Brand stewardship is not exclusively the domain of advertising and marketing. If you have a client, you should think of yourself as an ambassador for their brand. Do you serve on boards that are relevant to your client's business? Is there an opportunity to promote your client in your professional associations? Who among your former colleagues would be an asset to your client's bottom line? Is your newest client someone your oldest client should know? Are you including your client in relevant off-sites such as meet-ups, seminars and lectures? At the end of every week, can you say you've done something to add value to your client's business?
I will admit that from time to time my ego does start clamoring for attention. I can't help but get drawn into that old question, "Hey, isn't this all about me?" But then I look at the success I've had and the means by which it happened and the question quickly becomes, "Hey, what can I do for my client today?"