Personal branding is more than just a 30-second elevator pitch used to introduce yourself. While it is important to explain quickly and concisely who you are and what you can bring to the table, personal branding goes much deeper than that; it is a vital key to small businesses and entrepreneur success. In this article I discuss the what, why and how of personal branding.
What is Branding?
The definition of brand has evolved over time, from its use to identify where a product or service came from to its more elusive meaning tied with a company’s image. Today, when most businesses talk about their brand, they are referring to how people associate with it and what image they are trying to achieve with their target audience. Brand marketing is a way companies promote their products and services in order to attain a desired perception, distancing themselves from the competition and creating a bond with their customers.
What is Personal Branding?
Just as a business’ brand is a representation of the company’s image as others see it, personal branding is the way others see you. It is what sets you apart from the world, what makes you uniquely you. Let’s take a moment and think about the people we work with. Can you name someone who gets stuff done, no matter what? How about a person who is always late to meetings? What are their names? It probably didn’t take you long to visualize who these individuals are in your life. As you can see, these traits are linked to their name, becoming part of how you value and perceive them. Plain and simple, your name is your personal brand.
Why Personal Branding is Important
Now that you understand what personal branding is, you may be wondering why this is important. The name we create for ourselves can have a large impact on how successful we are. As small business owners and entrepreneurs, your personal brand can be the strongest marketing tool in your pocket. It can get your foot in the door with potential clients and help you establish a reputable standing in your industry. HubSpot’s article, The Ultimate Guide to Personal Branding, explains why personal branding should not be ignored; here are three reasons.
1. Your business is tied to your name.
When it comes to new businesses, especially as a sole proprietor, your name can be more valuable than the business itself. Think about it: who would you rather do business with? The company whose owner is constantly missing deadlines or the owner who goes above and beyond to deliver what is promised and then some? By having a strong, positive personal brand, you are setting your business up for success.
2. It answers why someone wants to work with you.
Being transparent with your views and opinions helps potential clients easily decide if they can envision working with you. If clients can easily establish that their values are aligned with what your name represents, they will feel confident in their decision to work with your company. More than just your views and opinions, your brand is a way to show what you know. Making your brand stand out as knowledgeable will also increase a potential client’s confidence in your offerings.
3. It sets you apart from competitors.
By taking the time to define your personal brand, you’ll stand out from competitors. Even if you offer similar products or services, through personal branding you can highlight what makes you different and better than anyone else. Ask yourself why you’re unique, and build on that with your brand.
How to Build Your Brand
Everyone has a name. While your name is how your brand is identified, building the reputation to go with it requires time, hard work and endurance. A great article from Entrepreneur has five steps on creating your unique brand, which I have built on here.
1. Define who you are.
Two of the first things you need to ask yourself when starting to build your brand is, “Who are you?” and, “What do you believe in and stand for?” If you have never sat down to think about the answers to these questions, now is the time. There is no one else in this world like you. Honor it, own up to it and use it to your advantage in your branding. Just as with businesses, people want to connect with what is real and honest, not fake. By being true to who you are and owning your strengths and weaknesses you build trust. Once you have opened yourself up and accepted who you are, you’re ready to share it with the world.
2. Speak up and share your knowledge.
Once you know who you are, the next step is sharing what you know. Don’t be afraid to speak up and offer your experiences and insight. By speaking up and being open to answering questions, you will start to build yourself, and your brand, as an authority figure people will look to for answers.
What this does not mean, however, is being closed off to people who have different opinions and views than your own. Remaining open to feedback can help you increase your knowledge of the topics being discussed and become a stronger communicator.
Don’t miss opportunities to be heard because you feel unsure of yourself. You don’t have to start at the top. Build your communication skills and confidence by starting small and finding an audience that wants to listen.
3. Get your words out there.
Another way to share your knowledge to build your authority is through written word. Writing articles and participating in interviews will help to establish your industry credibility. A great resource for finding interviews is through Help a Reporter Out (HARO). This tool is a way to connect with reporters looking for what you have to offer. As you build your coverage and are quoted in more articles, your brand’s credibility will also increase.
If interviews are not your style, that’s okay. Blogs are a great tool to share your knowledge with the world in written form. What makes blogs even better is that writing with keywords in mind has the added benefit of making it easier for potential clients to find you through SEO. Find more tips on how to blog with SEO in mind here.
4. Get connected online.
Most consumers’ first thought when connecting online is through social media. There are many rules of engagement when it comes to proper social media use for professionals and businesses. As you begin building your personal brand, make sure your message throughout the different platforms is clear and consistent. This includes making sure what you provide, whether your bio, phone numbers or contact info, is the same across the board. By keeping your message and information uniform it will be easier for people to find and follow you; this adds to your online credibility. While social media is a strong online tool for personal branding, it is not the only way to connect online.
When was the last time you searched for your name online? Do you remember what came up in the results? Everyone is linked to the internet. It is the go-to spot to find information not only on products and businesses but also on people. It is vital for your brand’s success that you are aware of how you look online so you can make sure what you want people to see is what is out there. It is a continual process of monitoring and improving.
While not everyone needs a personal website, having one can give you more control over your online presence. Obtaining a domain and creating your own website does not have to be expensive or difficult, but like everything else with branding, it will require work and dedication.
5. Never stop learning
The world is constantly and swiftly changing and evolving; don’t let it leave you behind. Stay on top of the latest trends and new technologies for your industry to increase your personal brand authority. If you are not striving to move forward, you’re sinking in place. Subscribe to trade journals and popular industry newsletters that will help you stay on top and remain a valuable go-to person
6. Share the conversation.
This is probably one of the most important ways to build your brand. While you want everyone to know who you are and what you are about, it shouldn’t always be about you. As in social settings, you don’t talk only about yourself; the same should be applied to your personal branding efforts. A great way to help you maintain a balance between yourself and your audience, is the 80/20 rule. This means 80 percent of your content should engage with your followers through material that is not related to yourself or your business. Ask questions, show interest in others and be genuine in your contact. The remaining 20 percent should be self-promotion, allowing you to inform individuals of what your brand is. By sharing the conversation with others you open up the floor to engaging and interesting topics, meeting new people and creating a positive environment for people to follow.
Hopefully, now you understand how personal branding is more than an elevator speech and why it is important for yourself and your business. By using the tools I have armed you with and trusting the process, you will be able to see an improvement in your credibility and become a go-to leader of your profession.
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