When people choose the businesses they work with, they usually do it because they have a feeling about them. It’s a combination of many factors, but when pressed, most people will say something along the lines of, “You know, I just get a good sense about them.” That feeling is your brand, and if you create an effective personal brand for your business, you will leave an imprint on customers that will turn them into raving fans of yours.
To be sure, that feeling customers get includes a variety of things – price, timeliness, trustworthiness, quality of craftsmanship, and many others. But at the end of the day, customers make their choices because of the overall experience they have, and that is precisely the essence of your personal brand. You can have a major impact on the success of your business by synchronizing your personal brand with your business to instill a sense of trust and support. When you are the face of your business, your name and personal reputation are on the line; customers feel comfort knowing that you’re going to give everything you have to establish and maintain an impeccable reputation.
Think about the great brands in business history. Sam Walton became a billionaire, yet drove an old truck and inexpensive jeans; his Wal-Mart stores were no-frills affairs because he wanted to pass cost savings off to customers. When you think of technology, you might get an image of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, both of whom are personally aligned with their respective companies, Microsoft and Apple. Debbie Fields was a mother with a great cookie recipe; she created Mrs. Fields Cookie stores all over the country with an image of wholesomeness for baking “just like mom used to make.” For these and so many other business owners, their alignment with their business gave them a competitive advantage over others who remained as faceless companies without a personality behind them.
The elements of a good personal brand:
Mark Twain said, “Live your life so that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry.” Not a bad philosophy of life, eh? Someone like that is memorable, and that’s exactly how you should approach marrying your personal and business brands. Your personal brand boils down to those things we value in people, things like admiration and trust. When it comes to business, people have a choice and they prefer to work with companies that they can trust and feel good about interacting with. Some say it has to do with likability, and that’s part of it, but you have to back it up with something more than that.
What do you like about your favorite people? I’m guessing they are honest, kind, supportive, and fun to be around. They’re also there for you when you need them; they have your back, and people seek out the same qualities in the companies they give their businesses to. It’s nice to be around people like that, and when given the choice of working with a business, you’re probably going to seek out vendors who act like those awesome friends of yours. This even extends to things like your marketing material, logo, and advertising campaigns.
You have to remember two key things: one, you may have great ideas about what type of branding works, but you have to actually test them with potential customers to know if they truly work. Do your messages really resonate with them? What’s the feeling they get when they see your tag-line? Do they really get the sense that they’d like to buy from you? Their opinions and feedback can help you massage your image and messages into something that stands out and relates your business to you.
Secondly, you need to be genuine in your messages and in how you present yourself. Don’t advertise that you can do things you aren’t actually equipped to do. Your brand should stick with you for a long, long time; this part of your marketing strategy is not about just quickly getting customers. It’s about establishing yourself with a strong personal reputation that you’ll be able to continuously backup and attract more and more customers over time.
Your personal brand, however, is about more than just being rewarded for being a good guy or gal. You have to work at establishing your brand in a way that draws potential customers to your business.
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Here are some strategies:
Focus on value
Teenagers obsess over the number of followers they have on their social media accounts; in their minds, volume equates with success. While there’s something to be said for having a lot of loyal followers, quality is more important than quantity. We all know it’s easy to click “like” or “follow”, but it’s more meaningful when our followers actively engage with us and genuinely care about what we say and do. They seek value because we know we deliver value. That is ultimately what you want – social media, website, and just all manner of branding that gets people interested in learning more and staying connected to you.
TIP: Be an authentic person in your brand messages, and deliver to your followers information that is entertaining, valuable, and something they can act on.
We all have an interesting story, and people connect with stories. Especially when it comes to you and your business there’s something compelling that should be communicated with your customers. Maybe it’s funny – like the time when you were a little kid and your little brother clogged the toilets which caused flooding in the house, but a competent plumber came in and fixed everything, which led to you becoming a plumber. Or maybe it’s more heartfelt – your favorite customer stories are the ones where you get to visit with elderly clients and hear their stories over a cup of coffee after you’ve completed your work for them. You will find that people may connect their own stories with yours; with a connection, you’ve made a far bigger and more lasting impression than a funny jingle in a commercial.
TIP: Remember that your personal story helps to differentiate you, and it is an important way to connect with customers.
I wish I had come up with a slogan like, “Just do it,” but Nike beat me to it. Now, I could try to copy Nike’s story and their brand, but people would easily see it as a copycat, and I would lose credibility. The better thing to do is to just simply be authentic and establish yourself for who you are. You can learn from competitors and use their success as a model for how you can shape your own message, but ultimately your story, your vision, and your brand have to be true to who you are and what you stand for. To do that, never lose sight of those things that make you unique and will contribute to a memorable story in the minds of your customers.
TIP: Always, always, always be yourself in your marketing and branding. This gives customers a way to get to know you and connect with you.
Win with stories
While Warren Buffett is identified as one of the world’s wealthiest men, he’s also recognized for living in the same modest house since the 1950’s, and for eating inexpensively at McDonalds. He’s at heart, a simple guy, and he tries to run his multibillion dollar empire in a simple way. We connect with him because his life and his business seem to make sense to us. The genius in all of that is that we root for the people we understand and feel like we might enjoy as friends and colleagues, and that can work for you too. Use your brand to emphasize how you are like the people you serve and work with; that kind of connecting is a huge advantage.
TIP: Skip the bullet points and tell a story. People will remember it and connect with it far more than your resume.
Connect through sharing
At this point, you’ve probably already figured out how important your personal story is, but now you have to tell it. If you want your brand to develop, you must share it as often as you can with as many people as you can. This is how you can use social media, email marketing, your website, and all your marketing collateral. You don’t need to constantly provide all your details, but weave your story into all your marketing channels and tools. As people see your name and story more in their lives, they’ll bake your name and story into ways they can connect with you. This will happen because in their minds, they will have already validated that you are the kind of person they want to work with. But to do that, you need to constantly share yourself, your story, and your brand.
TIP: Use social media, email marketing, and your website to remind people who you are and what your story is.
Leverage your community
We can’t just create our brand in a vacuum. By being around others and learning from them you get a better sense for what works and what doesn’t work. Join industry groups, go to regional meetings, meet up with other professionals both in and out of your field; these peer groups are great for guiding you through your brand development and helping you test out how your brand strategy can be excellent.
TIP: Talk with people inside and outside of your field to brainstorm ideas for your brand. Learning from people with experience is better than reading it in a book or going it alone.
Align your marketing
Once you have honed in on your mission and your brand, every marketing channel that you use to project that brand has to be aligned for you to be effective. This is critical to your brand strategy, and to do it correctly, you have to catalog everything you do and apply a consistent story and brand elements to it:
TIPS: Let’s get tactical about this, and do the following:
- Make all your logos consistent and ensure they reflect your brand.
- Images on your website and the pictures you use in social media should be consistent with your brand. Don’t waste time with goofy, quirky images if you’re trying to communicate a serious tone.
- Tag lines and descriptions need to be direct and communicate something that is unique just to you. “The best tiling specialist in the Tri-County” doesn’t tell a customer very much, whereas, “My home is my sanctuary, so I did the tiling myself. With 22 years of experience and a staff of experts, I’d like to help you make your home special too” leaves and impression.
- Use the bio and profile sections of your social media channels all consistent.
People work with people in whom they feel a connection. Your personal brand is the best, easiest, and most effective way to create and maintain a connection with your customers. Use it wisely and consistently, and you’ll begin to see how impactful it can be.