For people to do business with you they need to understand who you are, what you do, and what you stand for.
Who are you and what do you stand for? What are you an expert at? How do other people benefit from your expertise? These are all questions that relate to your personal brand. Your personal brand is just as important as your company brand, especially if you are a business owner, company president or CEO. Even if you don’t run a company, your personal brand is what you take with you when you change jobs.
Your Personal Brand: Analogy of Brand Image for a Product and a Company
To fully understand personal branding, it is critical that you understand product and company branding. Development of a company brand starts with your product and how your company goes about doing business. Let’s start with the product. In my book, PLAN COMMIT WIN®, I talk about the total product concept, which can be visualized as a set of concentric circles with the actual product that you sell as the center circle.
- Core Product: What you actually sell, and how you generate revenue. The core product includes price, warranties, delivery dates, packaging, any essential updates, and any product revisions that are supplied to customers.
- System: This is a product commercialization model, including your go-to-market plan, branding, promotion, and other marketing activities. It includes your customer support model, or the set of things you do that customers require or desire in support of your product.
- Support: How you interact with customers, include support by your sales channels. Support, at its essence, is how you support your customers in using your product or service.
- Infrastructure: Includes your sales funnel tools, your online platform, and your partner ecosystem. It also includes the personal relationships that you need to complement your current products and your product roadmap.
These concentric circles combined make up the total value proposition of your total solution.
For a product to sell, it must solve a critical problem for a customer and do it in a unique way. This is the unique value proposition of your product or solution. To solve a problem for a customer, you need to know who your target customer is. What product-market segment are you servicing? What problem are you solving for them? Why is your product better than what the competition is selling today or in the near future? That is your sustainable competitive advantage.
Most companies have a flagship product and focus market space. Every company started with the first product that established the brand presence. The brand is how people ‘feel’ about that product and your company when they think about it. Some of the worlds most well known and powerful brands include Apple, Google, Facebook, Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Disney, Toyota, GE, Samsung, Microsoft and AT&T. However, there are much less well known brands that service very targeted niche markets, but their customers know what they stand for, and they love doing business with those companies.
As an individual, just like a product or a company, you also need to have a unique value proposition and a sustainable competitive advantage. You also need to have something that you stand for, and have ecosystem partners that work with you and complement what you are providing. What do you value? What gives your life meaning? How do you want to change the world in a positive way?
Your Personality As It Relates to Your Personal Brand
People buy from people. For people to know you and like you, they need to get a taste of your personality. I’m sure that you’ve heard this many times: “For people to do business with you, they need to know, like and trust you.” This is a statement about you, your company, and your product. Any person doing business with you needs to answer this question in their own mind: “Am I making a good decision by working with this person?”
Your Reputation As It Relates to Your Personal Brand
As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”
Your personal brand is not just your reputation. However, people will not trust you and they surely will not buy from you if you don’t have a solid reputation. A person of integrity and credibility will have a better reputation, and a more reliable personal brand.
Branding: When I Think About ______, This is What I Think About
When people think about you, they need to know what you do and what you stand for. You have to be an expert in something. If it’s too broad people can’t “hook” onto it. People will usually just think, “This person is an interesting person, and I’d really like to know them and work with them, but I am not sure how.” Does this mean that everyone needs to know about every aspect of your personal life? No, it doesn’t. But, it does mean that a person should be able to get a feel for you, your personality, and what is important to you. What you value?
You need to describe and then demonstrate your expertise in your area of specialization for people to trust you and use you for their projects or buy your products and services. You must find a hook to get in the door and close any business.
Social proof is also critical. What do other people say about you? Do you have solid testimonials? Do you have strong case studies that demonstrate your expertise?
Not everyone loves what he or she does. If you’re looking to re-brand yourself, you’ll need to refine your personal brand, just like refining your product strategy as a company. It is best if you can move into an adjacent product area in an existing market where you have a brand, or an adjacent market where you have an established brand. In other words, if you hate your current area/focus, can you do something that is similar where you can use your expertise to move you forward?
This is not to say that you can’t do something totally new, but it will take more time to establish your reputation and brand if there is no leverage from your prior experience. Just make sure that you can bring something unique to this new area, and that you can sustain a competitive advantage. Otherwise you will just be another commodity in an overcrowded market.
Your Audience and Your Target Customer Base
Who is your audience? Your audience includes your customers, influencers and potential ecosystem partners. The ‘whole world’ is not a target audience. Every single company on the planet is not a target audience. You have to find something where you can reach a critical mass of people that can be potential clients, but also focused enough that you can establish your brand.
Next, you need to identify where your audience hangs out. What do they read? Are there podcasts that they listen to? What types of videos do they watch? Find those channels and use them.
What About Online Businesses?
In the online world and the era of the internet, this concept of people buying from people can sometimes get lost or diluted. So, I’ll say it again, people buy from people…not from bots.
So how does Amazon sell so much stuff? First, Amazon has an amazing reputation as an online marketplace. They are reliable and trustworthy. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder and CEO has a reputation of hard work and fair dealing. One of the most important parts of the Amazon marketplace is the customer recommendation section. People read the reviews from other customers, especially if they have never purchased from that supplier. When the integrity of these recommendations was challenged, sales dropped-off and Amazon had a massive crackdown to ensure the credibility and validity of reviews.
Potential customers also get a feel for you and your personality based on your online content. People will read your blog, watch your videos, listen to your podcast, and monitor you on your social media channels, before they do business with you. This is especially true the more your personal brand overlaps with your company brand.
As Howard Hughes said about making movies, “This is a business. The purpose of a business is to make money. If it happens to make art, too, that would be secondary and accidental.” That said, these days many people are looking for a way to instantly monetize everything that they do. When building a brand, especially online, you need to give away a lot of content for free. In fact, your goal should be to make your free content more valuable than the paid content from your competitors.
Use your free content to develop and promote your audience, reputation, personality, network, and ecosystem. Ultimately this will build your brand. That said, you should have a goal for your free content. Are you getting testimonials? Are you developing case studies? Are you building your audience and your network?
At the end of the day, you need to develop a personal brand to create authority and thought leadership within your audience. What you stand for is just as important as what you sell. This is becoming even more true as more millennials and Gen Zers gain purchasing power and enter the workforce. Focus on developing your personal brand consciously, or you might end up with a brand that you don’t want.
This is Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, with the Real Deal…What Matters.