Make no mistake, if you want to be successful in business, you have to discover that one thing you do best and how to effectively promote it. That’s what personal branding is – marketing your best asset. As customers gain more access to general company information via the Internet, they also develop a greater demand for details about a business’ founder. This is why you need to take the time to craft your reputation in order to create a personal brand parallel to your company’s brand.
What is personal branding?
Some say that personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their career (Wikipedia). I prefer the definition that relates to the process of developing a “mark” that is created around your personal name or your career. You need to view your personal brand a trademark; an asset that you must perfect while continuously shaping it. Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos said:” Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” The term personal branding is believed to have first appeared in the August 1997 issue of Face Company Magazine in an article by management guru and author Tom Peters, who wrote: “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called “You”.
Who needs a personal brand?
If you think only celebrities need personal branding, think again. Every one of us is a brand. Building a recognizable personal brand opens professional opportunities. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them. The difference between today and over ten years ago when it was first mentioned by Tom Peters, is the rise of social technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but within reach.
Why do you need Personal Branding?
Personal branding is becoming increasingly important because modern audiences tend to trust people more than corporations. People trust people more than advertising. Furthermore, people want to do business with other people, not with companies. Putting a strong personal brand on the frontline of your sales process can dramatically improve conversion rates. The purpose here is to differentiate yourself to stand out of the crowd by identifying and articulating a unique value proposition and then leverage it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve your professional and business goals. Personal branding can enhance your recognition as an expert in your field to establish a reputation. Having a personal brand is a leadership requirement. It enables you to be a better leader, a more authentic leader that can create greater overall impact. Questions to be answered evolve around who needs to know about you, what need are you best positioned to fill, and what differentiates you from others in your field of expertise.
How to build a Personal Brand?
Step 1: Know who you are
First, you need to determine what makes you special and how you would like to be perceived. The market is flooded with those who choose a general field like “marketing” or “human resources”. Your area of expertise has to be a specific niche that will give you more opportunities to prove you know what you’re talking about, which entails having a narrowly defined target audience that will be much more relevant to your offering. Your brand needs to set you apart. You need to stand for something that is more meaningful not only to you but to your audience, as well. If you have more than one message to your audience, you run the risk of confusing people about what you are all about.
Step 2: Networking
Connecting with people is the best way of building your personal brand and getting your name out there. When people know you, like you, trust you and know what you can offer, they are more likely to do business with you or recommend you to other people. Remember, networking isn’t about selling; in fact it’s not even about talking. Networking is about listening. Listening to people’s frustrations in your area of expertise will help you refine and reshape your point of view to fit your target audience. The best networkers are the ones who are able to build relationships and invest time finding out about others.
Step 3: Don’t be afraid to self-promote
Once you have built your brand, don’t be afraid to self-promote. Building a good, strong reputation is best achieved by having the confidence to share your vision and your brand with audiences, without being salesy. Creating a plan about how you are going to help people connect with your personal brand is vital for your success. Take the time to understand how you can successfully pitch your professional knowledge to business contacts or a journalist. When dealing with journalists, a media release is a great way to pitch your story and build your personal brand. You should also consider looking for speaking events in your area, which will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise while connecting with new audiences.
Step 4: Create an Online presence
Never before has there been such a fantastic opportunity to create, market and manage your own personal brand.Thanks to online and social media, you are in control of what people see when they search your name, what they know about you and what your opinion is. A personal website can act as an online hub for all your information, such as your biography, speaker profile, blog, and contact information. Blogs allow you to easily publish your ideas; readers can interact with those ideas and you can build relationships with your readers. If you can become a trusted source of information through your content, over time you’ll become collectively known as the expert of your specific field. Likewise social media — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — is critical in developing your personal brand as it allows you to communicate directly with your audiences, unfiltered by anyone else, including the media.
Step 5: Managing your reputation is critical
While building your personal brand is essential, managing your reputation online and offline is equally as important. Warren Buffett famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Reputation is everything to your brand. You need to be mindful of what your social media activity says about your personal brand as a whole. Your behavior online is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for, so use your social media with care. Just like a corporation, you need to manage other people’s disagreements with your point of view. You have to be prepared to address their concerns in an appropriately diplomatic and professional manner.
Step 6: Maintain consistency
Many entrepreneurs tell me that maintaining consistency is a challenge when marketing their businesses. The same goes for building your personal brand. Consistency is the key to building your personal brand and reputation. Just getting noticed, let alone remembered, takes incredible persistence. Investing the time to build your brand is only half the battle, you need to make sure you are continually monitoring what people say about you online and in the media so you can manage it. Consistency also means that your message needs to be consistent across all platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
Step 7: Show proof
As the saying goes, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ You need to show results, numbers and success stories of what you have achieved for others to back up your claim. Reviews and testimonials are fantastic tools for building trust with your audience. Marketers call this social proof. Social media platforms such Facebook and LinkedIn allow your audience to post their reviews and recommendations. Having a website will also allow you to post those testimonials and reviews. These give your value claims more legitimacy.
As an entrepreneur, your personal brand is everything.
Just as so with a traditional brand, personal branding requires you to find a signature image, a unique voice, and a recognizable standard that your readers, fans, and customers can grow to recognize. The power to build an extraordinary personal brand rests within ourselves.