Though the topic of personal branding may seem like it has little to do with your business, the truth is the two are closely linked. How you portray yourself with your personal brand can be seen as an extension of your company. Customers may make decisions about using your business by what they see and hear about you.
“A lot of business owners don't realize that the public looks them up more than their companies," believes Patrick Ambron, CEO and co-founder of BrandYourself, a platform that provides software and services to help businesses and individuals manage their online reputations. “As a business owner, you're likely to get checked out by potential customers, employees, investors and partners. If you don't look good, you could miss out on opportunities."
Is Personal Branding a Necessity Now?
If you think having a personal brand is an extra perk that you can concentrate on when you have time, think again, advises Karen Leland, founder of the Sterling Marketing Group and author of The Brand Mapping Strategy.
“In today's wired world, having a personal brand as a business owner is not a luxury, but rather a requirement," says Leland. “For many business owners, the key is to create what I call a parallel brand, which is the perfect blend of an owner's personal and company brand. While remaining distinct, these two brands should work in concert."
It may be just as important for business owners to brand themselves as well as their companies, agrees Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of DXagency, a digital marketing and advertising firm. “
—Karen Leland, founder, Sterling Marketing Group
Of course, potential customers want to know that the company has the ability to provide excellent work or products," Rubinstein says, "but ultimately the client is buying you, the leader, champion and heartbeat of the company."
Your brand can follow you throughout your career, notes entrepreneur and author Ian Balina, who wrote How to Make Millions with Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
“Personal branding stays with you, even after the success or failure of a business, and it's the most important thing you can build as a business owner," he says. “Most businesses have been commoditized, but personal branding creates differentiators that are tougher to copy."
Must You “Show Off" to Get Attention for Your Personal Brand?
In order to build your personal and company brand, do you need to employ over-the-top tactics—the kind often seen online and in the media? Fortunately, such extreme marketing tactics aren't necessary or even advisable.
“Repeatedly leveraging extreme behavior to get attention can frame your personal brand as outlandish, which usually isn't suitable," says Balina. “Quiet people get attention by sharing unique and fresh ideas."
Low-key individuals who take the time to develop strong reputations embody brands that people trust, agrees Ross Kimbarovsky, founder and CEO at crowdSPRING, a marketplace for crowd-sourced logo, web, graphic and product design.
“Entrepreneurs we most admire, such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett, are not known for extreme behavior to get attention," says Kimbarovsky. “Flashy clothing and an attitude may initially seem more effective, because it may get attention on social media, but such behavior isn't sustainable for most people. Building reputation over time ensures respect for your personal and company brands."
Tips for Building Your Personal Brand
Developing your own respected personal brand can be accomplished by presenting a consistent persona over time. The following steps can help with that process.
1. Identify your unique value.
Determine exactly what you wish to offer your audience or industry, says Ambron.
“Once you know your goal, such as being seen as an innovator in your industry or a thought leader," he says, "you can build your brand in a targeted way that includes a strong online presence showcasing your value."
2. Understand your product/service and how it relates to your target market.
When you're building your personal brand, it's important to research and know your audience. How you present your brand image will depend on your market, says Brent Wilsey, president of Wilsey Asset Management.
“An asset management firm is going to produce a much different brand than an extreme sports company," Wilsey says. "Whereas an asset management firm must convey trust in its brand, an extreme sports company needs to be edgy and create excitement."
3. Pay attention to what you say rather than what others say about you.
“Most people spend far too much time worrying about what others say and write about them and not nearly enough time thinking about what they say and write," says Kimbarovsky. “For some, a blog article or post on Twitter is solely a soundbite to generate controversy and followers with little regard for the impact their words might have on others. Thoughtless comments follow you indefinitely."
4. Manage your messages.
You may want to make certain that your profiles and messages are consistent across all of your platforms, including social media, website, bio and blog. If you do public speaking in person and online, having all of your messages echo a similar theme helps project consistency between your personal brand and your professional brand.
5. Be accessible.
A large part of building a brand can involve relating with your customers. How you interact with your followers and what you say can speak volumes to them. If you're not accessible, all of the work you've done to manage your brand may be in vain.
“Make it easy for your customers to talk to you," says Kimbarovsky. “Be available by phone, email, in social media and in person. Be open to customers giving you suggestions, complaints and compliments, and then make sure to respond. People want to know that someone is listening to them and that if they make a suggestion, it will be considered and acted upon."
6. Avoid complacency.
“Complacency lulls people into laziness and inaction, crushing curiosity and creativity and promoting irrelevancy," says Larry Light, a global brand revitalization expert and CEO of the business-consulting firm Arcature. “Never stop looking at the changes in the world around you and in your specific market segment." You can then react to those changes with your brand in mind.
7. Portray reliability, sincerity and patience.
Well-respected brands usually elicit a feeling of trust. This can come from offering great products and services over time.
There really are no shortcuts. Displaying a consistent brand image to your customers that shows your sincere wish can help and educate them. Follow these steps and you may eventually be viewed as a reliable brand worth listening to and supporting.
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