Living Your Brand
A great deal of time and energy are expended to create memorable brands that add value to company marketing strategies and--in the case of public companies--pique the interest of the investment community. While company brand equity is certainly important, the significance of making yourself an integral part of your company's brand shouldn't be overlooked as a key to success.
Here's a simplistic example that underscores the importance of personal branding. Let's say you own a franchise of a well-known quick printing company. Your logo's recognizable, and the attributes of your parent organization are well-documented through a dynamic national marketing campaign. While you may gain first-time business based on name recognition alone, if customers don't like you-if you're unable to positively establish your personal brand--you may never see them again.
As would be expected, personal branding is most important in service businesses, because customers demand a high level of personal attention. Your ability to establish and maintain rapport with your customers will result in long-term relationships as well as coveted referral business. And when customers know and like you, they're more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if anything goes awry.
The Defining Process
The most important step to creating your personal brand is defining yourself. This includes taking stock of your strengths, values, goals and personality to determine the personal messages you want customers to take away from their encounters with you.
When you consistently present yourself based on the messages you've identified, you'll have created an effective personal brand. Those who interact with you will have a strong sense of who you are and what you stand for, and that can be any number of things, both inside and outside of the business realm.
The beauty of personal branding is its uniqueness. While some of your personal brand attributes may overlap with others', your overall messages should be one-of-a-kind--that's what'll differentiate you and make your personal brand stand out.
Components to consider for your personal brand include: your leadership abilities; your special strengths, talents or achievements; your personality traits; and your distinctive qualities. Think outside the box, and be as specific as possible so your brand doesn't mirror anyone else's.
Getting the Message Out
Once you've determined your personal brand messages, you need a strategy for broadcasting them to your target audience. Visibility and persistence are key to ensuring that your personal brand is communicated to your customers. That means you must live your personal brand at all times; if that's challenging, then you probably weren't honest during the defining process and need to think a little harder about who you are and what you stand for.
While there are endless options for getting your personal brand message out in the world, the most powerful is face-to-face communication. Personal interactions provide the greatest opportunities to make memorable impressions. If your customer base is too large or too spread out for that to happen, you can use other communications vehicles-including e-mail, direct mail and personalized letters-to get your messages across. Remember that all the choices you make, from your language to your font, can enhance or detract from your personal brand, so choose wisely.
In the best circumstances, when you're able to successfully project the image you've defined for yourself, you'll become the most important part of your company's brand. And that's critically important for entrepreneurs who wish to differentiate themselves from their competition.