Understanding and Developing Your Personal Brand

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos


In the modern world of 3 second attention spans and instant communication, the value of your personal brand (i.e. the way people feel about you, the emotions they connect with you, the expert status you command, etc) has never been more important.  Yet, so many business owners shy away from controlling their public image – or worse, they completed screw it up!

Personal relationships have always been one of the most important elements in a purchase decision.  Think about somewhere where you are loyal to – perhaps a sandwich shop, a florists or a restaurant … a degree of your loyalty is almost certainly because of a feeling of ‘relationship’ with the people who serve you … the way you are welcomed on entry, the ‘extra’ filling you always seem to get in your buttie, the sparkles in the flowers!  It’s very hard to be loyal to a business where you don’t achieve this kind of personal relationship.

In retail environments, your personal brand is generally controlled in a face to face way but for business to business (B2B) organisations, your personal brand is something you have even more control over.  This allows you to strategically develop your brand and to build confidence and trust for the benefit of your prospects – often even when you’ve not yet met!

Your personal brand in the digital world

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In the digital world of email, LinkedIn, social media and Google, buyers are increasingly in charge of the buying process and don’t want to interact with the ‘business’ until they’re ready.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t start building your relationship with them, you just need to control your personal brand.

HOWEVER … the digital world makes this process easier than ever, so long as you approach things like a professional marketer: start with the needs of your client and understand their requirements … make your message appeal to these needs … communicate this message across all the available platforms your prospect is likely to access.

Platforms for your personal brand

Here’s a quick overview of the ‘marketing tools’ you can use to create your personal brand:

  • Linkedin – this shouldn’t be seen as an online CV … you should strategically approach your Linkedin profile to ensure it conveys the right message to the right client.  Your Linkedin profile should build up your expertise and ability, you should overtly seek endorsements and recommendations from friends and existing trusted clients to create your personal brand persona.  You should be connected to the ‘right groups’ and publishing articles with the right message.
  • Personal blog – a genuinely personal blog is a great platform to share your ‘personality and views’.  This should genuinely be separate to your corporate or business website – it can certainly carry the corporate branding but this should be secondary to your personality, name and image. Within a large organisation, senior personnel should all have their own personal blog websites and this allows each person to build up their own personal expertise – then when you present all this expertise to the world, we can’t help but be impressed.  It is important that you blog regularly rather than frequently – monthly would be fine.
  • Directory profiles – many B2B businesses are members of organisations – networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, Trade Body Associations, etc.  These memberships often come with the ability to create an online profile and this profile should follow your personal brand strategy.
  • Social media – people often naturally assume that Facebook, Twitter and all the other social platforms are a natural environment to build a personal brand … well they are, so long as you do it in a sociable kind of way!  Social platforms are really not a place for sales messages but they certainly can contribute to your personal brand if you choose to engage with them in the right way – you must consider them noise generators more than selling platforms and that way you have a chance of socially building your brand image.

Elements needed to build your brand

  • A marketing strategy!  If your business doesn’t have a formal marketing strategy with goals and visions, how can you possibly then create a personal brand.  The two should, of course, go hand in hand.
  • Profile photo of you.  Get this done professionally (or at least ‘well’).  Unless you are a travel agent, holiday photos, cocktail in hand are NOT suitable for your profile image on Linkedin or other platforms.  Getting a professional portrait is not an expensive process so do it right rather than DIY!
  • Consistent description.  Your profile and descriptions should be formed as a result of your marketing strategy – it should be consistent across all platforms and should reflect the ambitions of the personal brand strategy.
  • Openness and a snapshot of your character.  You are not a machine – so you do need to allow some of your character through into your personal brand or it’s simply a corporate brand plastered onto a person.  You can obviously ‘manipulate’ this image but you should be sensitive to the fact that, eventually, your prospect is likely to meet you!
  • Activity – regular activity builds a brand – sporadic or extremely occasional activity suggests you’re not really in control.  Building a brand for a corporate or a person take time, dedication, persistence and commitment.  However, you can vary the activity to include various outcomes such as;
    • Invitations to events – networking, exhibitions, product launches, seminars, etc.
    • Comments while at these events can then help build your profile – this is one area where Twitter is genuinely effective.
    • Post event promotion – follow up activities, invitations to demonstrations, options to trial products or engage in a ‘taster programme’, etc.
    • Cross linking different platforms – think about using multiple platforms to push out your messages – email invitations can be backed up by Linkedin personal notes, supported by a blog article on the event, boosted by PR in the local newspaper?

Further suggestions to develop your personal brand and make more noise

  • Networking – go networking as this allows you to meet people face to face.  You can then feed these new contacts into your sales funnel to drive nurturing activity.
  • Exhibiting – taking a stand at an expo or exhibition provides tonnes of opportunity to promote your personal brand – pre-event and post-event marketing both contribute if done well.
  • Speaking engagement – we’re not all natural speakers but running an event where you share your expertise and knowledge is part of a personal brand strategy.  If done well, you will eventually get invitations to speak where you are introduced as the ‘expert’ and this is when you know you’ve established a strong personal brand.
  • Publishing industry ‘white papers’ – this allows you to be the ‘expert’ on a subject.  A ‘white paper’ is simply an authoritative report based on delivering an ‘opinion’ on a subject – it doesn’t have to be scientific or governmental.  Indeed, this article could be ‘presented’ as a white paper if we chose to do so!
  • Commenting on other relevant posts – this might seem cheeky but if you notice someone posting a genuinely interesting comment or article, there’s no reason why you can’t ‘share’ this with your own opinion attached as an expert opinion supporting (or even criticising) the piece.  This simple act essentially establishes your opinion as ‘superior’ to the original author’s own voice and is an excellent mechanism for presenting your own personal brand.
  • Blogging / PR / Expert opinion – as the point above but in reverse, why wait for someone else to publish an opinion – you can do it yourself to be the ‘first to market’.  Indeed, making yourself available to the media for comments on your area of expertise can be an extremely powerful mechanism.
  • Being seen – sometimes, you simply have to be somewhere to be seen in the right context.  This might be at expos or exhibitions, Chamber dinners or networking events.  If your personal brand is aimed at being a business leader and influencer then you have to be seen to be living up to the brand!

The goal in all this activity is to ensure your personal brand establishes you as the ‘leader’ in your field – to achieve this you need to control your own brand in the same way a company controls its corporate brand.

Powerhouse tip: It can be challenging to be clear and dispassionate about your own personal brand.  If in doubt, seek the expertise of a branding expert, consultant or coach who can help guide you and your personal brand to work in harmony with your corporate ambitions.

Blunt thinking on personal brand strategy from Yorkshire Powerhouse
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