When we talk about branding, we tend to think of businesses. We think of the big brand companies such as Coca Cola, Macdonalds, Nike and Apple. However, as a small medium enterprise (SME), building your business brand starts with you. You ARE your business. Your business IS you! Building your business brand is therefore also about building your personal brand. As your business grows, however, you can start to develop a distinction between the two. The main difference is that when you sell your business, the business brand is passed on to the buyer, but your personal brand stays with you.
What do we mean by branding? At its core, your brand promise should define your entire business – it should define HOW your do business. Let’s look at two of those big brands. Apple’s brand promise is two-sided – their guarantee to create products based on seeing the world a little differently, and their promise to inspire their customers to do the same. Nike’s brand promise goes further than just their famous tag line “Just do it”. Their brand promise is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” and they go on to say that if you have a body, you’re an athlete!
Let me bring it closer to home for you. How do you go about building your personal brand?
If you think you can start a business and hide, then think again. Let’s come back to the tried and tested marketing strategy that works EVERY TIME. People buy from those they know, like and trust. They cannot know, like and trust you unless they first know who YOU are. We can no longer try to hide behind “the business”. Kevin Stimpson said, “Having a personal brand is important for an entrepreneur because now more than ever, it’s important for CEOs and founders of companies/brands to come out to the forefront and connect with their audiences. People connect with people.”
Building your personal brand is therefore about developing that persona around your name that says who you are. You must be proactive about how you perceived in the marketplace or others will do it for you! If you think that doesn’t happen, just look at the headlines in some popular magazines. I feel sorry particularly for those targeted by the paparazzies.
I made that mistake. I didn’t want to be “out there”. I certainly didn’t think I should be telling people about my private life on the internet. But when you think about, it is really the wrong premise. Take it back to the “good old days” when business was done face to face. Business, especially for the Chinese, was often done over a meal where we get to know each other better. The bigger the deal, the more “touches” or meals were shared prior to closing the deal. You may even invite some of them to your home for a meal with your family. Business has not really changed. The medium might have changed – but the message remains the same. With most business now being done over the internet, how do we get to “know” the other person? You can only do that by sharing the same sort of information you would share over a meal with the other person.
Think about it. When you have a meal with someone, you actually get to see what sort of food they like (so all those photos of the different dishes serve a purpose after all!), you find out a bit about their family, where the live and what they do. You also possibly even found out what their political and religious beliefs are. And given that most people cannot put up a front for long periods of time, you start to get a glimpse of their character and who they are when no one is looking.
What image would you like your customers to have when they google your name?
Have you ever googled yourself? A survey conducted on behalf of BrandYourself.com showed that nearly 50% of adults who did that didn’t like the results they saw! We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability. 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more with 65% saying that online search gives the most trusted source of information about people and companies! I certainly found this to be true when I operated my Bed & Breakfast business. Businesses today live and die on its online reviews.
When I decided to finish up the Bed and Breakfast business, I closed every single account I had opened in that business name … or so I thought. 4 years later I am STILL getting phone calls from people wanting to book into my Bed & Breakfast. Websites I had never heard of had grabbed my information and posted my details. Trying to remove that digital footprint has been almost impossible. I stopped trying after the second year … It had good reviews and there was nothing to hide. The information on my Bed and Breakfast merely served to confirm to my current customers that I am who I said I am.
Whether you like it or not, Google knows everything and Google NEVER forgets. If you have ever posted anything on the internet including commenting on someone else’s social media account, you can be found simply by typing your name into a search engine. What was cute and funny at a party where you got a little drunk at 18 years old is not so cute and funny when you’re wanting to project yourself as professional and ethical. Don’t think that your potential customers or employers won’t check you out online first.
Can you ever delete your online regrets? The answer is … with difficulty! Is the answer therefore to just not have a digital presence at all. Not at all. People now expect you to be visible on line. A business without a website is often perceived as just a “hobby”, not a real business. In fact, some banks will not even lend you any money unless you have a website, or as a minimum, a Facebook Page. We’re now at the stage where people don’t trust you if you don’t have an online presence!
Let me come back to this question – how do you go about building your personal brand?
1. YOUR ONLINE FOOTPRINT
Once you’ve googled yourself, and you have found information on yourself that you don’t want people to see, the very first step is to clean up your online footprint. Zdnet wrote an excellent detailed step by step guide on how to reduce your digital footprint online. The aim is not to completely remove your online presence off the face of this earth. Building your personal brand is therefore about removing the information that is no longer congruent with who you are today and the personal brand you wish to project.
2. CLAIM YOUR PLATFORM
Decide on the platform you wish to use. If it’s a website, then you need to buy up your name as your domain name. Now, even if you don’t want to set up a website, buy up your domain name anyway. If it’s on social media, go and claim your URL now. You may not be ready to use it, but don’t wait till you are or you will find it almost impossible to get it. One of the things I’ve done for my kids and grandkids is I have bought up their names for them as a “gift”. When you think of it as their virtual real estate … it’s a very small price to protect their “property”. Do you know that some names are really expensive to buy? Have a read of this article … it will make you think twice about what your virtual real estate is worth https://www.hover.com/blog/find-out-domain-name-value/
3. CLAIM YOUR TITLE
Become THE person the world goes to for your chosen field … Well, maybe not the world, but at least in your chosen marketplace. Learn everything you need to know about your chosen field. You want to OWN that space. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill said that knowledge is only power when it is specialised and organised. I would go one step further and say that it must also be shared – in other words, teach it. It is not enough for you to know it. I recall being told ages ago that if you can’t teach it, you don’t really know it. By logical extension of that argument, I would therefore have to say that unless I can teach it, how can I say I really KNOW it? And if I don’t really KNOW it, then I definitely cannot be said to have the necessary specialised knowledge! Nobel winner Richard Feynman understood this and created the Feynman Technigue for learning.
4. EMBRACE THE EULOGY STRATEGY
How do I want to be remembered? I know what I want to be known for. I know what values I want to represent. Today, I know what my priorities are – I didn’t before. Will I be missed? Will someone want to pick up my legacy and continue to carry that message out to the world? Or will people say “Good riddance! The world is a better place with her!”. Unless you want to be known as a, say, John Maxwell copycat, you have to find your own style. Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. Use your own particular style and your own unique qualities to attract the customers you want. Create new footprints in the sand. Who knows what legacy you can leave behind. You could become the next Zig Ziglar or the next Jim Rohn.
5. WHO’S YOUR EDNA
Decide what you want your personal persona to look like. Why are people attracted to me (when it comes to doing business)? Why do some people enjoy working with me and others can’t stand me? Let’s face it, we’re never going to place everyone. Winston Churchill said “You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.” What do the people I love to work with want me to do for them? Understanding all these will help you to figure out what your personal brand looks like. I have a feeling that my alter ego Edna will be making a greater appearance in my life – the Edna persona appeals to my sense of humour. One of my friends even said that I must change my name to Patsy “Edna” Lim. LOL.
6. WHY ME?
And finally, tell the world – why am I UNIQUE? Why are YOU unique? Why would I want to do business with you? What makes you so special? Bring this closer to home. Why do you go to a particular restaurant? For me, it’s about the service I get. For example, in Perth, I have 2 Chinese restaurants really close to my home. One is more expensive than the other; both the food are equally tasty. I frequent the more expensive one because the owner greets me like a long-lost friend each time I go there; the other doesn’t appear to care whether I buy from them or not. It’s never about the price! That’s why the Business Mastery course I teach covered the HOW you can claim your uniqueness in the first module.It is the most important thing you must do if you are to be successful in business.
It does take a lot of time and effort and energy to buy your personal brand. You may not think so. Trust me. It is worth the effort. Building your personal brand is about becoming a thought leader. It’s about becoming an influencer in your chosen field. It is something that you must continuously work on because it affirms to everyone that you are who you say you are. You see, no one can take your personal brand away from you. AND even if you change career, it’s still YOUR brand. You can use it to promote any other business you choose to do. Nothing shapes the opportunities you attract and opens more doors than the personal brand that you project.